Category: Culture

How to stay classy after a breakup

| July 26, 2015 | Reply

Good article by Seth Borkowski. Points to the frailty of all relationships.

However, watching “Annie Hall” after my relationship ended was unexpectedly different because I felt as if I had grown with Alvy. I felt comfortable with my understanding of the madness and the irresistibly addictive nature of relationships. With that understanding, I discovered the closure I had been searching for. Of course, it wasn’t entirely satisfying.

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Pushback against anti-GMO

| July 15, 2015 | 1 Reply

From Slate, questions about the integrity of the anti-GMO food movement:

That’s the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement. It only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement’s fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won’t fit on a label.

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Alan Grayson’s new Declaration of Independence

| July 4, 2015 | Reply

I received this new Declaration of Independence in a mass emailing from Alan Grayson:

We need a new declaration of independence. FDR took a stab at this, with his “Four Freedoms.” Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear. That’s a good start.

But now, eight decades later, we need to declare our independence from other forms of oppression.

We hereby declare our independence from bigotry, in all its evil forms. We declare our independence from racism, sexism, homophobia, language discrimination and chauvinism. Everyone has equal rights, no matter where you’re from, what you look like, what language you speak, and whom you love. Everyone deserves respect.

We hereby declare our independence from narrow-minded, extremist or violent religious fundamentalism. We live in a land where church and state are separate. Religious belief, no matter how sincere, is no license to dictate to others whether to terminate a pregnancy, whether to use contraception, or whom to marry. Earlier this year, I placed my hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution; I didn’t place my hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

We hereby declare our independence from the greedy. Malefactors of great wealth have no right to buy and sell elected officials thorough the legalized bribery of “independent expenditures.” They have no right to despoil our land and our water, the air we breathe and the food we eat. They have no right to manipulate or gut our laws in order to increase their lucre. They have no right to jack up the price of what we buy, or determine what we see on TV or on our computer screens.

We hereby declare our independence from “1984”-style surveillance. Neither the Government nor a private company has any reason to monitor the activities of innocent people, without their express, informed and freely given consent. Who I’m with, what I say, what I buy, what I read; that’s none of anyone else’s business. Privacy – the fundamental right to be left alone – is an essential part of what it means to be a human being.

We hereby declare our independence from exploitation. Bad bosses are today’s King George. They want to work employees as hard as they can, and pay them as little as possible in return. They call the difference profit. If workers are organized, they can fight back. But if not, then they need legal protection from exploitation. If you have a job, you should have a living wage, and time-and-a-half for overtime. If you have a job, you should have health coverage. If you have a job, you should have paid sick leave. If you have a job, you should have a pension. As John Mellencamp would say, “Ain’t that America?”

We hereby declare our independence from misinformation. Fox News is a lie factory. Special interests used to lie to us about the dangers of smoking; now they lie to us about the dangers of pollution and climate disruption. They claim a right to “free speech,” but we have a right to honest speech. We have to be part of what a Reagan aide once dismissed as the “reality-based community.”

We hereby declare our independence from hubris. No, we can’t bring peace through war. No, we can’t force our way of life or our way of thinking on seven billion other people. No, we aren’t going to end the 1200-year-old civil war between the Sunnis and the Shia. No, we aren’t going to go and kill everyone everywhere in the world who harbors some harsh views of us. And no, they won’t greet our soldiers with flowers, bake apple pies for them, and salute the American flag with a hand on their hearts. They want to be them, not us. We can care for victims, protect ourselves and help our friends without sticking our nose into every else’s business.

We hereby declare our independence from a rigged system of fake trade. We buy their stuff, creating tens of millions of jobs in other countries. But they don’t buy an equal amount of our stuff. Instead, they buy our assets — $11,000,000,000,000.00 of our assets. They not only rob us of our jobs, but they drive us deeper and deeper into debt. When did Uncle Sam become Uncle Sap? If we don’t declare independence, the endgame is national bankruptcy.

And me? I hereby declare my independence from the corrupt system of campaign finance. I will not carve up the law into little pieces, and sell it to the highest bidder. I will not make “friends” with lobbyists and special interests and the minions of multinational corporations, and then “help” those “friends.” I will not forsake my real job – doing something good for the 700,000 people who chose me to be their Congressman – in favor of begging millionaires and billionaires for a few crumbs from their tables.

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Stop attending your kids’ organized sports games

| July 4, 2015 | Reply

Why shouldn’t you attend your child’s organized sporting events? It’s a form of helicopter parenting:

Compared to other parts of our children’s lives, sports are bizarrely parent-centric. We don’t gather in the back of algebra class and watch students solve quadratic equations. In music and dance and theater, we don’t attend every single practice, lesson and rehearsal. We just show up for an occasional performance, keep our mouths shut and applaud like crazy when it’s over.

So, here’s a better idea, especially for the legions of paunchy, stressed-out, middle-aged souls out there. Let’s banish parents from youth fields, courts, and diamonds, and let’s arrange for moms and dads to play soccer, softball, basketball, whatever, themselves when their children have a game.

Our kids would get more freedom, we parents would get more exercise, and all of us would remember why we love sports.

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About “race”

| June 21, 2015 | Reply

On FB, someone recently complained that race is not a legitimate concept. The writer claims to be Libertarian and wants to dismantle all government laws protecting citizens on the base of racism. Here is my response:

It is my position that you are overstating the role of Obama in peddling of “race” as a legitimate concept. The peddlers of racialism are ubiquitous, all stripes of people want to believe that they can use the skin color and body features as a proxy for a personality type. It’s been going on for many decades and centuries and, in my opinion, it’s time to put this stupidity to a stop. That said, I have no idea of how to do this, but the first step would be to say “Halt!” to everyone, all the pundits, social workers, media reporters, judges and every one else who claims that there is some scientific or social basis for claiming there to be sub-races to the human race. It’s much like climate change. There is no basis for the belief in race (or the denial of human-caused climate change), yet the stupidity has taken on a life of its own. Careful scientists with expertise in biology have weighed in, almost entirely in unison.

There is no “black” or “white” or “Chinese” race. Belief in race has no more basis than the belief in phrenology, and if there were big money, careers and xenophobia making use of phrenology, that silliness would still be with us too. Skin is an organ. It comes in different shades of brown. If skin were transparent, we’d be manipulating/exploiting/threatening each other on the colors of our livers, kidneys and lungs too. But I write this with a caveat – There are still many bigots running amok, much of this caused by the widespread misconception that there is such a thing as race. I would not outright eliminate all laws that protect people from racial discrimination. I would not make it an element of these laws that one is of a particular “race,” however, because I don’t believe in race. Rather, the protection would be given to anyone who is fired/excluded on the basis that they are perceived to be of a certain “race,” even though there is no such thing as race. In short, there can be racism even though there is no such thing as race, and people should be protected from racism, because it is a pernicious belief that causes widespread harm to society, in addition to causing specific harm to specific people.

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Genocidal Libertarianism

| April 15, 2015 | Reply

How much collateral damage are libertarians willing to accept as the price for implementing their policies? In my experience, they avoid this topic by refusing to recognize the existence of collateral damage. Instead, they speak of the Promised Land on the horizon – – the utopian society that will simply occur once government packs up and leaves.

At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser discusses the foundation principles of libertarianism set forth by Herbert Spencer. Here’s an excerpt:

Herbert Spencer was a popular author during the nineteenth century who supported strict limits on the government and even opposed many forms of charity towards the poor. Nature, Spencer argued, “secures the growth” of the human race by “weeding out those of lowest development,” and he also believed that neither government nor private charity should interfere with this process of natural selection. Though Spencer was not a eugenicist — he actually argued that the poor should be treated much more harshly than nineteenth and twentieth century eugenicists did — he was both a social acquaintance of Sir Francis Galton, the father of the eugenics movement, and a significant influence on Galton’s thinking. Spencer also shaped many of the policies developed by some of the most powerful judges and lawmakers of his era.

Reading Spencer’s many works today is an uncomfortable experience — the man devotes hundreds of pages to establishing a philosophical justification for a kind of neglect that most Americans would now view as a moral atrocity. Yet Spencer is also one of the foundational thinkers in the development of the economically libertarian philosophy that drives politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). . . . Not long after we published this piece, two of the libertarian movement’s flagship institutions leaped to Spencer’s defense. Over at Reason, Damon Root does not contest our description of Spencer as one of the foundational thinkers in the development of Rand Paul’s economic libertarianism. He does, however, contest our description of Spencer as a genocidal libertarian. Though we quote Spencer’s 1851 book Social Statics, which opposes “[a]cts of parliament to save silly people” and argues that if a man or woman is “not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die,” Root claims that Spencer “never advocated anything remotely like letting the poor die in the streets.”

Miller quotes Spencer on the roll of charity:

Instead of diminishing suffering, it eventually increases it. It favours the multiplication of those worst fitted for existence, and, by consequence, hinders the multiplication of those best fitted for existence—leaving, as it does, less room for them. It tends to fill the world with those to whom life will bring most pain, and tends to keep out of it those to whom life will bring most pleasure. It inflicts positive misery, and prevents positive happiness. . . . ”

Miller comments on Spencer’s disparagement of public (governmental) and private charity:

Spencer called for a near-blanket prohibition on “relief of the poor from public funds raised by rates,” but he also objected to charity administered by “privately established and voluntary organizations.” When a donor gives to such an organization, Spencer reasoned, the “beneficiary is not brought in direct relation with the benefactor” and this increases the likelihood that the money will ultimately be spent on “idlers, spendthrifts, and drunkards” or someone else that Spencer viewed as “worthless.

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The alleged benefit of an entire office working naked

| April 2, 2015 | Reply

I have nothing against nudity. I like creativity and camaraderie, which nakedness would seem to encourage. But I also like being productive. I’m wondering how much of this article about arranging for an entire office to work in the nude for a month is accurate and how much is spin.

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Owls are perceived to be more lazy than larks

| February 25, 2015 | 3 Replies

Even if Owls work the same number of hours as larks, they are perceived to be lazier. That is the conclusion of this article:

The belief that getting an early start to the day is virtuous is widely held. In fact, finds a forthcoming study, it’s so pervasive that managers rate workers who get an early start higher than those who get in and stay late, no matter how many hours they work in total or how well they do their jobs. And it could explain why other research has found that workers who have flexible schedules have less successful careers.

The study, from researchers at The University of Washington, highlighted at the Harvard Business Review, will be published later this year in the Journal of Applied Psychology. It finds support for the idea that managers have a “morning bias.” In other words, they buy into a common stereotype that leads them to confuse starting time with conscientiousness. They perceive employees who start later as less conscientious, and consequently less hard-working and disciplined, and that carries through to performance ratings.

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The alleged war against Christianity

| February 20, 2015 | 1 Reply

There is no war on Christianity, according to the hate crimes data kept by the FBI. Addicting Information reports:

The ‘war on Christianity’ is a propaganda war. It’s a war that is being waged in the minds of the people who listen to hate radio and watch Fox News. In 2013 there were 7,242 hate crimes committed in the US. In total, crimes against protestant Christians amounted to .0051 percent, a tiny fraction of a percentage point.

Right wing fear and hate-mongering makes people believe that they’re under attack, when it’s clear that they’re not. It makes them believe that others are threatening them, even when the facts tell a very different story. A large compilation of research released over the summer showed that conservatives have a much larger negativity bias than other people. The research also showed that conservatives also have a greater tendency to ‘perceive threats,’ whether real or imaginary.

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