Category: American Culture

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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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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In favor of non-holidays

| December 1, 2014 | Reply

I had a wonderful visit with a friend yesterday. She and I have been friends ever since we attended law school together in the late 1970’s. We had an engaging conversation in her living room. I couldn’t imagine a more enjoyable visit. We traded numerous stories and observations, sharing more than a few laughs. As I was traveling back home, it occurred to me that we accomplished this without any of the following:

Handing each other gifts;
Dressing up in fancy clothing;
Blinking lights, ornaments or decorations;
A television turned on;
Singing or listening to ritualistic songs;
Eating special food or drinks;
Making unsupportable claims about events that happened 2,000 years ago.

Instead, we celebrated a friendship and took an active interest in each other’s lives. This is an activity that can be enjoyed simultaneously by small or larger groups of good-hearted thoughtful people. In fact, some of my favorite moments this year have involved

Recently, another friend of mine mentioned that her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it is the holiday most devoid of commercialism and religiosity and jingoism. I mostly agree, but even Thanksgiving has been clouded with commercialism, obsessions with spectator sports, and the perceived need to display ourselves through decorations, special clothing and special food. To be fair, I do enjoy the spread of food one encounters at Thanksgiving, but it is a secondary consideration to the occasion. What would be more meaningful as a Thanksgiving celebration: A big feast without anyone to share it with, or a room full of special people without special food?

I would like to nominate Non-Holiday Spontaneous Visiting as my favorite “holiday,” because it is this “holiday” that gets even closest to the core of the most important part of what makes us humans at our best.

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On Being Primed For Worse

| November 25, 2014 | 1 Reply
On Being Primed For Worse

Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Sure looked like we expected what we got. [More . . . ]

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Early Racism

| October 21, 2014 | Reply
Early Racism

They were marched into the classroom, single file, and lined up along the blackboard to face the roomful of white faces. It would be sheerest invention to say I remember everything about that day. The only things I recall had to do with questions about how my own situation was about to change.

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Cyclist getting wiped out by car door

| September 12, 2014 | 1 Reply

I’m really ambivalent about what happened in this video. Cycling is my preferred method of transportation. I’ve never yet been doored. I assume that every door I pass can open at any time and wipe me out. Therefore, I slow down quite a bit when in a hazardous situation. The guy in this video likes to take changes as part of asserting his rights. Check out the way he shot through the pedestrians before the crash. The narrow path right before the crash and his insistence at traveling at a brisk pace were accidents waiting to happen. That he was wiped out by a door thrown into the bike lane angers me, people should be more careful opening car doors. On the other hand, almost all people who open car doors do it blindly. It’s a fact of life, like the fact that the tides go in and out. Further, the consequences of riding fast through hazardous areas will be an injury suffered by the cyclist, not those who throw their doors open. Hence, my approach of riding very slowly in such zones, even though I would be legally entitled to go as fast as I want in the bike lane. I’m sorry to see this guy wiped out, of course, but the video leaves me quite ambivalent about who was the victim.

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John Oliver points out the scandal of for-profit colleges

| September 8, 2014 | Reply

The amount of accruing student debt is incredibly distressing.   John Oliver has produced this excellent expose on the debt, the politics and the long trail of victims.

Thousands of students are running up enormous debt, especially at for-profit colleges.    Thanks to the lobbying efforts of educational institutions, student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy regardless of how bad the track record of the institution for actually placing students into jobs in their fields of education.

The marketing strategies of for-profits are especially reprehensible.

Excellent job of exposing this dysfunction and fraud.  Once again, we rely on comedians to do the best journalism.

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