Recent Articles

Children who don’t grow up

| September 27, 2015 | Reply

This article at Psychology Today suggests that today’s children are damaged by their parents’ helicoptering:

In previous posts . . . I have described the dramatic decline, over the past few decades, in children’s opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults. Among the consequences, I have argued, are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives. We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have. Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.

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Milgram experiment reenacted by the BBC in 2009

| September 26, 2015 | Reply

Consider whether we are capable of learning basic moral lessons. This in a reenactment of the Millgram experiment by the BBC. This video drives home the terrible things that human beings are capable of doing, even when not coerced, where they are merely requested to do these terrible things by an apparent authority figure. Massively unsettling.

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Make this train move with your mind

| September 24, 2015 | Reply

This GIF is a lot of fun. Just wish for the train to move in or out of the screen and it will happen.

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Bernie Sanders sticks to the issues

| September 1, 2015 | Reply

It’s extraordinary the extent to which “news” personalities are trying to bait Bernie Sanders to abandon the issues and engage in personal attacks or horse-race politics.   This recent interview with Andrea Mitchell is a good example of this approach by a interviewer and Bernie Sanders’ approach to bringing the discussion back to concrete issues.

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What is a Democratic Socialist?

| August 23, 2015 | Reply

Bernie Sanders characterizes himself as a Democratic Socialist. What does that mean? Here’s a well-phrased graphic I found on Facebook.

Democratic Socialist

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Why aren’t conservatives protesting fertility clinics?

| August 18, 2015 | 2 Replies

If life begins at conception, why aren’t conservatives attacking fertility clinics?

Good question. Here’s one disturbing possibility:

As it stands, IVF patients are primarily wealthy and white, while women who seek abortions are disproportionately poor and women of color, you know, “the least of these” that the Republican anti-choice crowd has always had a penchant for regulating and condemning. These women bear the brunt of abortion restrictions far more than wealthy whites. They are more likely to use Medicaid for health expenses, which federal law prohibits from covering abortion. Travel expenses and lost wages due to time away from low paying jobs are the results of mandatory wait periods. Kaplan says.

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Bill Nye on the foolish concept of race

| August 18, 2015 | Reply

I completely agree with Bill Nye on the issue of “race.” We should all reject the concept of “race.” It is wholly and completely unscientific. We are all of the same species: We are all human beings. Yes, we humans come with different skin colors and we have various features that differ based on our ancestry, but we are all human. In rejecting the concept of “race,” I would urge that we maintain and vigorously enforce laws that protect people from other people who foolishly continue to believe in “race” and act on that foolish belief. If we keep clinging to unscientific unsupported notions of “race,” though, we will FOREVER be divided for an idiotic reason, regardless of how well-intentioned our belief in “race.” Unfortunately, the belief in “race” has long been widespread; and it has long been institutionalized and repeatedly used as a tool for oppression, power and financial gain. Rooting it out of every little corner of the planet will be an immense task requiring that people listen closely to those who do careful science on this issue, and then do their utmost to recognize that every person is of the same species.

Nye does not reject that there are such things as social tribes but warns that they can be destructive: “There have always been tribes . . .but what we have to appreciate now is that we live in a global community. Tribal loyalties are fun when it comes to the Superbowl but they are not relevant when it comes to our future. We are all in this together.”

We can fully recognize the need to protect people from racism and racialism while rejecting the concept of race. In my view, we should all be fighting a two front war. Deny the existence of race while at the same time protecting people from the ravages of racism. To anticipate objections to this post, yes, race is social construct that is as real as any social construct. But it is inevitably and ultimately a destructive social construct. It’s time to dismantle it while carefully protecting people from bigots.

We can fully recognize the need to protect people from racism and racialism while rejecting the concept of race. In my view, we should all be fighting a two front war. Deny the existence of race while at the same time protecting people from the ravages of racism. I thought I made this clear. Yes, race is social construct that is as real as any social construct. It is an ultimately destructive social construct. Time to dismantle it while protecting people from bigots.

I’m too impatient to wait for those who embrace “race” to wear each other out with insults, wounds and killings. I’m certainly not willing to wait for an interplanetary diaspora. I want the stupidity (and consequent mistreatment of innocent human beings) to stop NOW. There is no need to wait any longer. We can get entirely rid of the notion of race while yet embracing friendships, communities, extended families and extended ancestry, as well as 80,000 types of diversity rooted in real life things. And let’s keep in mind that ALL of us have ancestry that undeniably extends to the same place: Africa. We are all ultimately African. Starting now, let’s seek diversity only in meaningful things, such as the content of our character.

It will take many people immense effort to break out of the racialist matrix. One of my early steps out was reading about Star-Bellied Sneetches, a book demonstrating that even young children understand the problem. The concept of race is poisonous–used for mischief wherever it is used What I propose is that we embrace people while rejecting race.

this topic really frustrates me because we are all victims of this “race” scam yet we all continue to cling to this empty dangerous concept that you can use a smattering of physical characteristics to judge an entire person. And why is it that a President who has a “white” mother and a “black” father end up being called “black” or “African American”? Are we that low on brain wattage that we oversimplify like this? Why do so many of us cling to race? Ask cui bono, to whom does it benefit? It benefits many in many ways. For some it provides evidence-free victimhood. For others, an instant community. For others, evidence free scapegoats. And for most of us, “race” is a concept born out of laziness – we don’t want to do the hard work of really getting to know each other

Addendum 9-8-15

Path dependence plays into this issue big time. If people had been getting along, oblivious to skin color or other trivial physical characteristics we associate with “race,” and if someone came along and suggested, “Hey, let’s start generalizing about what kind of person we are dealing with on the basis of ‘race,” a totally unscientific and incoherent concept that I have invented based on trivial physical characteristics of humans. As people with geographically correlated trivial characteristics intermarry over time, it will become more and more absurd to determine who is of what race. I propose in fact, that a President who has a “white” mother and a “black” father will be deemed “black,” and this will invite people to treat him/her with unwarranted presumptions as to what kind of person he/she is.” If someone had made that proposal in this hypothetical scenario, it would (or at least, in an intelligent world) SHOULD be immediately rejected as absurd, divisive and dangerous.

My conclusion: the only reason we continue to divide people by “race” is because ignorant people from long ago started doing so, and they did it for horrible reasons related to power-mongering and economic advantage.

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More evidence that Bush and Cheney intended to mislead the nation into the Iraq war

| August 18, 2015 | Reply

When you think in small enough chunks, everything becomes moral or amoral, never immoral. Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil is illustrated below, with regard to the behavior of CIA briefer Michael Morell. The conduct and motives of Bush/Cheney are a different matter entirely.

Host Chris Matthews asked Morell about a statement Cheney made in 2003: “We know he [Saddam Hussein] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Here’s the conversation that followed:
MATTHEWS: Was that true?
MORELL: We were saying—
MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?
MORELL: That’s not true.
MATTHEWS: Well, why’d you let them get away with it?
MORELL: Look, my job Chris—
MATTHEWS: You’re the briefer for the president on intelligence, you’re the top person to go in and tell him what’s going on. You see Cheney make this charge he’s got a nuclear bomb and then they make subsequent charges he knew how to deliver it…and nobody raised their hand and said, “No that’s not what we told him.”
MORELL: Chris, Chris Chris, what’s my job, right? My job—
MATTHEWS: To tell the truth.
MORELL: My job—no, as the briefer? As the briefer?
MATTHEWS: Okay, go ahead.
MORELL: As the briefer, my job is to carry CIA’s best information and best analysis to the president of the United States and make sure he understands it. My job is to not watch what they’re saying on TV.

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Living without air conditioning – again.

| August 17, 2015 | 1 Reply

I was happy to see that my electric bill for July in St. Louis was a relatively low $120. That includes all of my electric bill, which heats my water and runs the air conditioning. Some would say that I don’t do a very good job of air conditioning. When I’m living at my house without any guests, I never set it lower than 80 degrees (far higher than many people I know), and I supplement that 80 degree setting with fans. It feels great in here, and it all makes sense to me–if someone said that the high temperature was going to be only 80, that would be a wonderful day. Further, when I’m going to be mostly in my office for the day, I shut off the AC entirely and use only a small window unit.

When I got my recent bill, I was in a mood to congratulate myself, but a recent article in The Boston Globe suggests that I’m not doing nearly enough. Here’s an excerpt:

But although there are a handful of anti-A/C crusaders out there, the idea that we need to be using less of it hasn’t become a touchstone of environmental enlightenment, like recycling or hybrid cars. This may well be an indication of how deeply it has shaped our world: While we can imagine giving up plastic bags and Styrofoam, living without climate control seems unfathomable, especially during a heat wave.

Until recently, however, civilization was humming along just fine without this costly convenience—and going back might not be as impossible as we think. The human body is quite well suited to deal with heat if we let it, and if we back away just a little bit from our assumptions about what it means to be comfortable, it’s easy to picture an alternate reality in which, instead of flipping on the freon at the slightest provocation, we learn to cope with the air we have. The human body is surprisingly adaptable, and by weaving together techniques from the past, ideas from hot-weather countries, and new findings from building design experts about what people actually find comfortable, we can see a surprising portrait emerge of what life might look like if we, as a society, decided we could no longer afford our addiction.

A lot would have to change. We’d wake up earlier, and nap in the middle of the day to make up for it. We’d ride bikes and scooters everywhere, and swimming would replace running as the preferred form of exercise. Maybe we’d see the return of porch culture—of screened-in card games and flowing iced tea. And maybe we’d start taking pride in tricking out our finished basements. After a while we’d get used to it, just like we got used to the artificial indoor chill we take for granted now. And who knows—eventually we might even come to like it.

Oh, and my favorite quote from this excellent article: “We’re not cartons of milk, after all; we will not spoil, even if we do sweat a little.”

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