Recent Articles

Should Edward Snowden be pardoned?

| September 15, 2016 | Reply

Many viewpoints here, in this excellent article at the UK Guardian.

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Questions about moral equivalence by Chris Hedges

| September 12, 2016 | Reply

I do wish I could disagree with Chris Hedges, because the world view he paints brings me way down. Here are some of his questions, from a recent article at Truthdig called “Fooled Again”:

Is the Goldman Sachs commodity trader, who hoards futures of rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock to jack up prices on the global market, leaving poor people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to starve, any less morally repugnant than the drug trafficker? Are F-16 pilots who incinerate families in Raqqa morally distinct from jihadists who burn a captured Jordanian pilot in a cage? Is torture in one of our black sites or offshore penal colonies any less barbaric than torture at the hands of Islamic State? Are the decapitations of children by military drones any more defensible than decapitations of Egyptian laborers on a beach in Libya by self-described holy warriors? Is Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, who raised the price of the lifesaving EpiPen by 400 percent or more and whose compensation since 2007 has risen by 600 percent to above $18 million a year, any less venal than a human trafficker who sends an overloaded boat and its occupants to their doom on the coast of Libya?

What is the endgame?

History has amply demonstrated where this will end up. The continued exploitation by an unchecked elite, and the rising levels of poverty and insecurity, will unleash a legitimate rage among the desperate. They will see through the lies and propaganda of the elites. They will demand retribution. They will turn to those who express the hatred they feel for the powerful and the institutions, now shams, that were designed to give them a voice. They will seek not reform but destruction of a system that has betrayed them.

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Odds of getting killed by armed toddlers, terrorists and falling out of bed

| September 8, 2016 | 2 Replies

Excellent compilation of various risks of death.

risks

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Conflicting copyright instructions from legal research company

| September 6, 2016 | 1 Reply

Thomson Reuters (formerly West Publishing) sent me a DVD with Missouri Jury Instructions today. The DVD comes with a document called “Forms on Disc Guide.” That document gives me the following advice:

Although you may access the forms directly from the disc, we recommend you create a directory on your hard drive and copy the contents of the disc into that directory. The forms can then be accessed from your hard drive and the disc can be kept with the book for safe keeping.

Sounds like good advice. But wait! The Copyright Notice, another document on the same DVD, contains this warning:

© 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.
All rights reserved. The data on the disc is licensed by West, part of Thomson Reuters, and no part of the data may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred, or used in any form or by any means, including, but not limited to, use by multiple users on a wide-area network, local area network, intranet, or extranet, or similar method of distribution, without prior written permission. Any authorized reproduction of any part of the data must contain notice of copyright as follows: © 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.

Therefore, Thomson is 1) telling me to copy its jury instruction forms onto my hard drive AND 2) telling me that if I have “copied” or “downloaded” this information on my “retrieval system” I would be in violation of copyright laws, unless I have first obtained “prior written permission” from Thomson Reuters.

This second warning is especially silly in that the whole purpose of having jury instruction “Forms” is to copy them as part of the process of using those forms to prepare jury instructions, and then “transmitting” those instructions to a court and other attorneys for use at trial.

All of this not carefully thought out by one of the world premier providers of legal products to lawyers.

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Why we SHOULD talk to strangers

| September 4, 2016 | 2 Replies

Kim Stark has made a career of talking to strangers. She made it her task to try to understand why she does that, in this TED talk. She has decided that it is better to use one’s perceptions than to use categories, such as the category of “stranger.” Using this category means that we are not treating others as fully human. There are other benefits. Some studies show that people are more comfortable opening up to strangers than to people they believe they know. We expect that people we know understand us–we expect them to read our minds. Not so with strangers, with whom we start from scratch. Sometimes they do understand us better. Maybe we need strangers, but how should we interact with them, how do we balance both civility and privacy, which are the guiding rules in the U.S. In other countries there are other rules. In Denmark, many folks are extremely adverse to talking to strangers.

Stark offers and exercise that involves smiling, and then “triangulation,” commenting on a third person or a thing. Or engage in “noticing,” such as complimenting the other person on something (and you can most easily talk to a stranger’s dog or baby). Or engage in “disclosure,” sharing a personal experience, and this tends to cause the “stranger” to reciprocate.

Stark’s main message is that we need to stop being so wary of strangers and to make a place for them in our lives.

At The Atlantic, James Hamblin follows up with his own explorations on talking to strangers.

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Why we should distrust big media

| September 2, 2016 | Reply

Why should we distrust big media? I’m still sorely disappointed that much of big media rooted against Bernie Sanders, contributing to his defeat. But, of course, Big Media simply moves on, often taking sides rather than reporting. Check out this photo of the same paper, The Wall Street Journal, spinning the same story in two different ways to two different markets, trying to make Trump more palatable in two disparate places.

 

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Glenn Loury discusses racism with Sam Harris

| August 31, 2016 | 2 Replies

I found this discussion of race issues by Glenn C. Loury and Sam Harris to be a lively, challenging and candid discussion.

Consider, for example, this excerpt on “structural racism”:

This is one of the reasons why I think the term “structural racism” is so compelling to many people. But I, a social scientist, find the evocation of that kind of one-size-fits-all narrative—structural racism—inadequate to getting an account of what’s actually going on.

It’s not as if there’s a bunch of white people meeting somewhere deciding to make the laws in order to repress blacks. And it’s not as if the outcomes that people are concerned about—in the example at hand, disparities in the incidence of incarceration—are independent of the free choices and decisions that are being made by people, in this case black people, who might end up finding themselves in prison. They made a decision to participate in criminal activities that were clearly known to be illicit and perhaps carried the consequences that they are now suffering, didn’t they?

Sometimes the decisions they make have enormous negative consequences for other black people. Do we want to inquire about what’s going on in the homes and communities and backgrounds from which people are coming who are the subjects of this racial inequality? Or are we to assume that any such deficits or disadvantages that are causally associated with their involvement in lawbreaking, and that are related to their own community organization, structures of family, attentiveness of parenting, and so forth, are nevertheless themselves the consequence of white racism? Black people wouldn’t be acting that way if it weren’t for white racism. If there were greater opportunity, if the schools were better funded, if it hadn’t been for slavery, the black family wouldn’t have… So forth, and so on.

[more . . . ]

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What Deuteronomy says about a wife coming to the aid of her husband who is being attacked by another man

| August 31, 2016 | Reply

I hadn’t heard this one before. How absolutely insane. Here is the verse from the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible:

25:11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:
25:12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.

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Hillary Clinton’s Role in Honduras Coup

| August 30, 2016 | Reply

Here is another troubling story about Hillary Clinton’s willingness to interfere with other governments to serve the interests of U.S. corporations, at the expense of ordinary people. Clinton has eagerly embraced Henry Kissinger as her role model for Secretary of State.

The story was told by Dana Frank at Democracy Now, interviewed by Amy Goodman.

As Hillary Clinton seeks to defend her role in the 2009 Honduras coup, we speak with Dana Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras. “This is breathtaking that she’d say these things. I think we’re all kind of reeling that she would both defend the coup and defend her own role in supporting its stabilization in the aftermath,” Frank says. “I want to make sure that the listeners understand how chilling it is that a leading presidential candidate in the United States would say this was not a coup. … She’s baldly lying when she says we never called it a coup.”

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