Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top 25 Country Music Titles of All Time!

Don't get me wrong. I love Country Music, but these are just funny!

Counting Down the Top 25 Country Music Titles of All Time

25. She's Looking Better After Every Beer.

24. If I Can't Be Number One In Your Life, Then Number Two On You

23. Mama Get A Hammer (There's A Fly On Daddy's Head).

22. If I Had Shot You When I Wanted To, I'd Be Out By Now.

21. I've Got Tears In My Ears From Lying On My Back Cryin' Over You.

20. I Got In At 2 With a 10, And Woke Up At 10 With a 2

19. I Don't Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling

18. The last thing I gave her was the bird

17. She's my ex and I don't know why

16. I Ain't Never Gone To Bed With an Ugly Woman, But I Sure Woke Up With a Few.

15. She's Looking Better After Every Beer.

14. My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don't Love You.

13. I Wouldn't Take Her To A Dog Fight, Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win.

12. I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better.

11. I Liked You Better Before I knew You So Well.

10. I Keep Forgettin' I Forgot About You.

9. How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?

8. You Done Tore Out My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat.

7. She Got The Ring And I Got The Finger.

6. I'm So Miserable Without You; It's Like Having You Here.

5. My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend And I Sure Do Miss Him.

4. I Sold A Car To A Guy Who Stole My Girl, But It Don't Run So We're Even.

3. You're the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly.

2. Oh, Jesus, Kick me Through the Goal posts of life

1. Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth Cause I'm Kissing You Good-bye.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friedman calls on Americans to face "values breakdown."

We’re No. 1(1)! By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN Sept 11, 2010 Op-Ed Columnist

I want to share a couple of articles I recently came across that, I believe, speak to the core of what ails America today but is too little discussed. The first was in Newsweek under the ironic headline “We’re No. 11!” The piece, by Michael Hirsh, went on to say: “Has the United States lost its oomph as a superpower? Even President Obama isn’t immune from the gloom. ‘Americans won’t settle for No. 2!’ Obama shouted at one political rally in early August. How about No. 11? That’s where the U.S.A. ranks in Newsweek’s list of the 100 best countries in the world, not even in the top 10.”

The second piece, which could have been called “Why We’re No. 11,” was by the Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson. Why, he asked, have we spent so much money on school reform in America and have so little to show for it in terms of scalable solutions that produce better student test scores? Maybe, he answered, it is not just because of bad teachers, weak principals or selfish unions.

“The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation,” wrote Samuelson. “Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a ‘good’ college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he said. “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ ”

There is a lot to Samuelson’s point — and it is a microcosm of a larger problem we have not faced honestly as we have dug out of this recession: We had a values breakdown — a national epidemic of get-rich-quickism and something-for-nothingism. Wall Street may have been dealing the dope, but our lawmakers encouraged it. And far too many of us were happy to buy the dot-com and subprime crack for quick prosperity highs.

Ask yourself: What made our Greatest Generation great? First, the problems they faced were huge, merciless and inescapable: the Depression, Nazism and Soviet Communism. Second, the Greatest Generation’s leaders were never afraid to ask Americans to sacrifice. Third, that generation was ready to sacrifice, and pull together, for the good of the country. And fourth, because they were ready to do hard things, they earned global leadership the only way you can, by saying: “Follow me.”

Contrast that with the Baby Boomer Generation. Our big problems are unfolding incrementally — the decline in U.S. education, competitiveness and infrastructure, as well as oil addiction and climate change. Our generation’s leaders never dare utter the word “sacrifice.” All solutions must be painless. Which drug would you like? A stimulus from Democrats or a tax cut from Republicans? A national energy policy? Too hard. For a decade we sent our best minds not to make computer chips in Silicon Valley but to make poker chips on Wall Street, while telling ourselves we could have the American dream — a home — without saving and investing, for nothing down and nothing to pay for two years. Our leadership message to the world (except for our brave soldiers): “After you.”

So much of today’s debate between the two parties, notes David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment visiting scholar, “is about assigning blame rather than assuming responsibility. It’s a contest to see who can give away more at precisely the time they should be asking more of the American people.”

Rothkopf and I agreed that we would get excited about U.S. politics when our national debate is between Democrats and Republicans who start by acknowledging that we can’t cut deficits without both tax increases and spending cuts — and then debate which ones and when — who acknowledge that we can’t compete unless we demand more of our students — and then debate longer school days versus school years — who acknowledge that bad parents who don’t read to their kids and do indulge them with video games are as responsible for poor test scores as bad teachers — and debate what to do about that.

Who will tell the people? China and India have been catching up to America not only via cheap labor and currencies. They are catching us because they now have free markets like we do, education like we do, access to capital and technology like we do, but, most importantly, values like our Greatest Generation had. That is, a willingness to postpone gratification, invest for the future, work harder than the next guy and hold their kids to the highest expectations.

In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever. Right now the Hindus and Confucians have more Protestant ethics than we do, and as long as that is the case we’ll be No. 11!

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Philly Inquirer "Rich Man Poor Man" Labor Day Editorial:Telling it like it is!

Posted on Mon, Sep. 6, 2010

Editorial: Rich man, poor man

As the nation marks Labor Day, the plight of middle-class families demands greater attention.

The recession that began in December 2007 has not eased its grip on the average worker. Unemployment in Pennsylvania in July was 9.3 percent; it was 9.7 percent in New Jersey.

And too many of the fortunate workers who still have jobs are falling behind because of stagnant wages, lost home values, and dwindling savings.

The Keystone Research Council, a nonprofit group in Harrisburg, found that median household income in Pennsylvania fell $2,400 in the first seven years of this decade, even before the worst of the recession took hold.

Meanwhile, fat cats grow fatter. The CEOs of the 50 companies that laid off the most workers during the recession enjoyed salaries 42 percent higher than the pay of other corporate chiefs, one study found.

Former Schering Plough chief Fred Hassan led the list of shame, receiving $49.65 million in compensation in 2009. After his company's merger with Merck, 16,000 employees were laid off.

Johnson & Johnson's William Weldon was paid $25.57 million while the firm laid off 8,900 workers. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg took home nearly $17.5 million while laying off 21,300 employees.

Nice work if you can get it.

Compare those shocking salaries with the median wage for workers of $44,770 - for men, that is. Female workers still earn less, a median wage of about $36,600. Over her lifetime, a female college graduate will earn an average of $1.2 million less than her male peers.

Aside from the perennial gender gap, it's clear overall income inequality is growing. Corporate leaders know it, too, which is one reason so many are resisting a new law that requires companies to disclose the ratio between CEO compensation and the average worker's pay.

The KRC study found that, if a typical worker's pay had risen equally with the rate of top wage earners since 1979, middle-class families would be earning between $5,600 and $7,500 more per year in today's market.

While middle-class wages have stayed flat, families are paying more out of pocket for their health care, too. The Kaiser Family Foundation said family health premiums have risen 3 percent this year, but workers are paying 14 percent more on average as employers shift more of the cost to employees. That means the average family is paying $482 more this year for health care.

These factors and others, including higher taxes, are causing more families to raid their retirement savings early. Fidelity Investments, for example, has reported a sharp increase this year in the number of people tapping their 401(k) accounts for "hardship" withdrawals. They're doing it to prevent their homes from being foreclosed, or to pay for their children's' college education.

The Great Recession is almost three years old, but it could take many years before many workers get back on their feet.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

NY Times Opinionator: Mystery and Evidence (Religion in relation to Science)

September 5, 2010, 5:30 pm

Mystery and Evidence


The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless.

There is a story about Bertrand Russell giving a public lecture somewhere or other, defending his atheism. A furious woman stood up at the end of the lecture and asked: “And Lord Russell, what will you say when you stand in front of the throne of God on judgment day?” Russell replied: “I will say: ‘I’m terribly sorry, but you didn’t give us enough evidence.’ ”

This is a very natural way for atheists to react to religious claims: to ask for evidence, and reject these claims in the absence of it. Many of the several hundred comments that followed two earlier Stone posts “Philosophy and Faith” and “On Dawkins’s Atheism: A Response,” both by Gary Gutting, took this stance. Certainly this is the way that today’s “new atheists” tend to approach religion. According to their view, religions — by this they mean basically Christianity, Judaism and Islam and I will follow them in this — are largely in the business of making claims about the universe that are a bit like scientific hypotheses. In other words, they are claims — like the claim that God created the world — that are supported by evidence, that are proved by arguments and tested against our experience of the world. And against the evidence, these hypotheses do not seem to fare well.

Religion commands and absorbs the passions and intellects of hundreds of millions of people, many more people than science does. Why is this?

But is this the right way to think about religion? Here I want to suggest that it is not, and to try and locate what seem to me some significant differences between science and religion.

To begin with, scientific explanation is a very specific and technical kind of knowledge. It requires patience, pedantry, a narrowing of focus and (in the case of the most profound scientific theories) considerable mathematical knowledge and ability. No-one can understand quantum theory — by any account, the most successful physical theory there has ever been — unless they grasp the underlying mathematics. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.

Religious belief is a very different kind of thing. It is not restricted only to those with a certain education or knowledge, it does not require years of training, it is not specialized and it is not technical. (I’m talking here about the content of what people who regularly attend church, mosque or synagogue take themselves to be thinking; I’m not talking about how theologians interpret this content.)

What is more, while religious belief is widespread, scientific knowledge is not. I would guess that very few people in the world are actually interested in the details of contemporary scientific theories. Why? One obvious reason is that many lack access to this knowledge. Another reason is that even when they have access, these theories require sophisticated knowledge and abilities, which not everyone is capable of getting.

Yet another reason — and the one I am interested in here — is that most people aren’t deeply interested in science, even when they have the opportunity and the basic intellectual capacity to learn about it. Of course, educated people who know about science know roughly what Einstein, Newton and Darwin said. Many educated people accept the modern scientific view of the world and understand its main outlines. But this is not the same as being interested in the details of science, or being immersed in scientific thinking.

Taken as hypotheses, religious claims do very badly. Yet the striking fact is that this does not worry Christians.

This lack of interest in science contrasts sharply with the worldwide interest in religion. It’s hard to say whether religion is in decline or growing, partly because it’s hard to identify only one thing as religion — not a question I can address here. But it’s pretty obvious that whatever it is, religion commands and absorbs the passions and intellects of hundreds of millions of people, many more people than science does. Why is this? Is it because — as the new atheists might argue — they want to explain the world in a scientific kind of way, but since they have not been properly educated they haven’t quite got there yet? Or is it because so many people are incurably irrational and are incapable of scientific thinking? Or is something else going on?

Some philosophers have said that religion is so unlike science that it has its own “grammar” or “logic” and should not be held accountable to the same standards as scientific or ordinary empirical belief. When Christians express their belief that “Christ has risen,” for example, they should not be taken as making a factual claim, but as expressing their commitment to what Wittgenstein called a certain “form of life,” a way of seeing significance in the world, a moral and practical outlook which is worlds away from scientific explanation.

This view has some merits, as we shall see, but it grossly misrepresents some central phenomena of religion. It is absolutely essential to religions that they make certain factual or historical claims. When Saint Paul says “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain” he is saying that the point of his faith depends on a certain historical occurrence.

Theologians will debate exactly what it means to claim that Christ has risen, what exactly the meaning and significance of this occurrence is, and will give more or less sophisticated accounts of it. But all I am saying is that whatever its specific nature, Christians must hold that there was such an occurrence. Christianity does make factual, historical claims. But this is not the same as being a kind of proto-science. This will become clear if we reflect a bit on what science involves.

The essence of science involves making hypotheses about the causes and natures of things, in order to explain the phenomena we observe around us, and to predict their future behavior. Some sciences — medical science, for example — make hypotheses about the causes of diseases and test them by intervening. Others — cosmology, for example — make hypotheses that are more remote from everyday causes, and involve a high level of mathematical abstraction and idealization. Scientific reasoning involves an obligation to hold a hypothesis only to the extent that the evidence requires it. Scientists should not accept hypotheses which are “ad hoc” — that is, just tailored for one specific situation but cannot be generalized to others. Most scientific theories involve some kind of generalization: they don’t just make claims about one thing, but about things of a general kind. And their hypotheses are designed, on the whole, to make predictions; and if these predictions don’t come out true, then this is something for the scientists to worry about.

For the religious, mysteries are accepted as a consequence of what makes the world meaningful.

Religions do not construct hypotheses in this sense. I said above that Christianity rests upon certain historical claims, like the claim of the resurrection. But this is not enough to make scientific hypotheses central to Christianity, any more than it makes such hypotheses central to history. It is true, as I have just said, that Christianity does place certain historical events at the heart of their conception of the world, and to that extent, one cannot be a Christian unless one believes that these events happened. Speaking for myself, it is because I reject the factual basis of the central Christian doctrines that I consider myself an atheist. But I do not reject these claims because I think they are bad hypotheses in the scientific sense. Not all factual claims are scientific hypotheses. So I disagree with Richard Dawkins when he says “religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.”

Taken as hypotheses, religious claims do very badly: they are ad hoc, they are arbitrary, they rarely make predictions and when they do they almost never come true. Yet the striking fact is that it does not worry Christians when this happens. In the gospels Jesus predicts the end of the world and the coming of the kingdom of God. It does not worry believers that Jesus was wrong (even if it causes theologians to reinterpret what is meant by ‘the kingdom of God’). If Jesus was framing something like a scientific hypothesis, then it should worry them. Critics of religion might say that this just shows the manifest irrationality of religion. But what it suggests to me is that that something else is going on, other than hypothesis formation.

Religious belief tolerates a high degree of mystery and ignorance in its understanding of the world. When the devout pray, and their prayers are not answered, they do not take this as evidence which has to be weighed alongside all the other evidence that prayer is effective. They feel no obligation whatsoever to weigh the evidence. If God does not answer their prayers, well, there must be some explanation of this, even though we may never know it. Why do people suffer if an omnipotent God loves them? Many complex answers have been offered, but in the end they come down to this: it’s a mystery.

Science too has its share of mysteries (or rather: things that must simply be accepted without further explanation). But one aim of science is to minimize such things, to reduce the number of primitive concepts or primitive explanations. The religious attitude is very different. It does not seek to minimize mystery. Mysteries are accepted as a consequence of what, for the religious, makes the world meaningful.

This point gets to the heart of the difference between science and religion. Religion is an attempt to make sense of the world, but it does not try and do this in the way science does. Science makes sense of the world by showing how things conform to its hypotheses. The characteristic mode of scientific explanation is showing how events fit into a general pattern.

Religion, on the other hand, attempts to make sense of the world by seeing a kind of meaning or significance in things. This kind of significance does not need laws or generalizations, but just the sense that the everyday world we experience is not all there is, and that behind it all is the mystery of God’s presence. The believer is already convinced that God is present in everything, even if they cannot explain this or support it with evidence. But it makes sense of their life by suffusing it with meaning. This is the attitude (seeing God in everything) expressed in George Herbert’s poem, “The Elixir.” Equipped with this attitude, even the most miserable tasks can come to have value: Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws/ Makes that and th’ action fine.

None of these remarks are intended as being for or against religion. Rather, they are part of an attempt (by an atheist, from the outside) to understand what it is. Those who criticize religion should have an accurate understanding of what it is they are criticizing. But to understand a world view, or a philosophy or system of thought, it is not enough just to understand the propositions it contains. You also have to understand what is central and what is peripheral to the view. Religions do make factual and historical claims, and if these claims are false, then the religions fail. But this dependence on fact does not make religious claims anything like hypotheses in the scientific sense. Hypotheses are not central. Rather, what is central is the commitment to the meaningfulness (and therefore the mystery) of the world.

I have suggested that while religious thinking is widespread in the world, scientific thinking is not. I don’t think that this can be accounted for merely in terms of the ignorance or irrationality of human beings. Rather, it is because of the kind of intellectual, emotional and practical appeal that religion has for people, which is a very different appeal from the kind of appeal that science has.

Stephen Jay Gould once argued that religion and science are “non-overlapping magisteria.” If he meant by this that religion makes no factual claims which can be refuted by empirical investigations, then he was wrong. But if he meant that religion and science are very different kinds of attempt to understand the world, then he was certainly right.

Tim Crane is Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of two books, “The Mechanical Mind” (1995) and “Elements of Mind” (2001), and several other publications. He is currently working on two books: one on the representation of the non-existent and another on atheism and humanism.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Fr. Greg Boyle works another miracle! Saves Last Comic Standing!

Comic winner's life turned around after encounter with Jesuit priest

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- On Aug. 9, as television viewers tuned in to find out who would be the 2010 "Last Comic Standing," finalist Felipe Esparza was walking back and forth on an NBC stage, microphone in his right hand. The young man with an Amish-style beard was talking about his Mexican father who liked to patrol the neighborhood for discarded furniture. One day he returned with what young Felipe and his five brothers and one sister thought was the most humongous television set they'd ever seen with a dial that had 500 -- yes, 500 -- channels. "When I got older, it didn't have 500 channels," the stand-up comic deadpanned. "It was a knob from the oven. My favorite channel was 300 degrees. It was a hot show." The TV and online audiences voted Esparza the "Last Comic Standing," awarding him the $250,000 grand prize along with a one-year development deal with NBC. But Esparza's life has not been a laughing matter. He became involved with a gang "just for the drugs," started drinking at 15 and by 19, he said, he was an alcoholic. His mother went to the priest at Dolores Mission, their parish. Jesuit Father Greg Boyle came to the family's house and talked to Esparza, persuading him to turn in a weapon and telling him about a drug treatment center that had helped other youths. Esparza wound up staying at the center for more than a year and returned for another six months as a volunteer. While he was going through the 12-step program, the priest offered encouragement. Now, Esparza said he has been sober for more than 12 years, and he believes his time in the center helped him to realize what his dreams were.

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