Recent Articles

The real risk of terrorism – compared to other risks

| June 11, 2015 | 3 Replies

What is the real risk of an American dying of terrorism? This article presents numbers that put things in perspective. The numbers are based off these statistics offered by the CDC.

Comparing the CDC numbers to terrorism deaths means:

– You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

– You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

– You are 4,311 times more likely to die from diabetes than from a terrorist attack

– You are 3,157 times more likely to die from flu or pneumonia than from a terrorist attack

– You are 2,091 times more likely to die from blood poisoning than from a terrorist attack

– You are 1,064 times more likely to die as your lungs swell up after your food or beverage goes down the wrong pipe.

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Environmental Working Group – Sustainable Food Guide

| June 10, 2015 | Reply

Environmental Working Group’s Sustainable Food Guide is here, free.

Find sustainable stores, farmer’s market’s, CSA’s, co-op’s, restaurants and more in your choice of zip code.

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On leaving Islam: A skeptic explains why

| June 7, 2015 | Reply

A woman who formerly practiced Islam explains why she left Islam.

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The belief in inevitable progress as magic thinking

| June 7, 2015 | 3 Replies

From Chris Hedges at Truthdig:

The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.

The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it, to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse, and may soon get much worse, is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture. The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels, potentially dooming us all.

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Eric Barker: How to learn a new skill quickly

| June 6, 2015 | Reply

I’m trying hard to implement many of Eric Barker’s ideas into my life. “How to get smarter” is an especially good collection.

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On the notion that Bernie Sanders in “unelectable.”

| June 2, 2015 | Reply

I agree with FAIR that it is outrageous that any news outlet could be announcing what candidates are “serious” or “electable” prior to any vote being cast. Bernie Sanders is being attacked whenever a media outlet concerns itself with money rather than a candidate’s ideas. FAIR considers Sanders’ views on many big issues, pointing out that his views are far more popular than those of conservative Republicans, whose “electability” is rarely questioned, merely because they have lots of wealthy supporters. Here are some examples from the FAIR article, “NYT Reports Large Crowds for Sanders in Iowa–but Isn’t He ‘Unelectable’?”:

It sounds like it’s the New York Times that’s hoping to persuade Democrats that Sanders is unelectable.

As we’ve noted (FAIR Blog, 4/20/15), the idea of raising the taxes of the rich is quite popular with the US public. Gallup has been asking folks since 1992 how they feel about how much “upper-income people” pay in taxes, and 18 times in a row a solid majority has said the rich pay too little. For the past four years, either 61 or 62 percent have said the wealthy don’t pay enough; it’s hard to figure why Iowans would conclude that Sanders is “unelectable” because he takes the same position on tax hikes for the wealthy as three out of every five Americans.

Meanwhile, the position that upper-income people pay too little in taxes has never been endorsed by more than 15 percent of Gallup respondents—and it’s usually 10 percent or less. Yet you won’t see the New York Times declaring Republican candidates “unelectable” for advocating tax cuts for the wealthy.

Cutting the military budget isn’t as popular as taxing the rich, but it’s by no means unpopular. It’s not a question pollsters often ask about—almost as if levels of military spending aren’t seen as a fit subject for public debate—but in 2013 Pew asked which was more important, “taking steps to reduce the budget deficit or keeping military spending at current levels.” Fifty-one percent said reducing the deficit; only 40 percent chose maintaining the military budget.

In February 2014, the last time Gallup polled on whether spending “for national defense and military purposes” was “too little, about the right amount, or too much,” a plurality of 37 percent picked “too much.” Only 28 percent said “too little”–but again, you’re never going to see the New York Times declare a candidate to be “unelectable” for proposing to raise the Pentagon’s budget.

As long as the commercial news media keeps focusing on money instead of a candidate’s ideas, the claim of “inelectability” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The failure to cover a candidates ideas, exploring them seriously, and instead trying to harpoon a candidacy based on how much money they’ve accrued is journalistic malpractice at the best. I am convinced it is FAR WORSE than that, however, and it is strong evidence that the media is taking sides based on where rich people are putting their money.

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Hillary Clinton: Friend of Big Banks

| June 2, 2015 | Reply

Hillary Clinton is working hard to present herself as caring for ordinary people, but this article by Nomi Prins of Truthdig makes it clear that she will never cut the cash pipeline from her banker friends, and she will never stop doing whatever is necessary to keep those same bankers happy. Here is an excerpt from “The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, 1992-2016″:

When Hillary Clinton video-announced her bid for the Oval Office, she claimed she wanted to be a “champion” for the American people. Since then, she has attempted to recast herself as a populist and distance herself from some of the policies of her husband. But Bill Clinton did not become president without sharing the friendships, associations, and ideologies of the elite banking sect, nor will Hillary Clinton. Such relationships run too deep and are too longstanding.

To grasp the dangers that the Big Six banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) presently pose to the financial stability of our nation and the world, you need to understand their history in Washington, starting with the Clinton years of the 1990s. Alliances established then (not exclusively with Democrats, since bankers are bipartisan by nature) enabled these firms to become as politically powerful as they are today and to exert that power over an unprecedented amount of capital. Rest assured of one thing: their past and present CEOs will prove as critical in backing a Hillary Clinton presidency as they were in enabling her husband’s years in office.

In return, today’s titans of finance and their hordes of lobbyists, more than half of whom held prior positions in the government, exact certain requirements from Washington. They need to know that a safety net or bailout will always be available in times of emergency and that the regulatory road will be open to whatever practices they deem most profitable.

Whatever her populist pitch may be in the 2016 campaign—and she will have one—note that, in all these years, Hillary Clinton has not publicly condemned Wall Street or any individual Wall Street leader. Though she may, in the heat of that campaign, raise the bad-apples or bad-situation explanation for Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis of 2007-2008, rest assured that she will not point fingers at her friends. She will not chastise the people that pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop to speak or the ones that have long shared the social circles in which she and her husband move. She is an undeniable component of the Clinton political-financial legacy that came to national fruition more than 23 years ago, which is why looking back at the history of the first Clinton presidency is likely to tell you so much about the shape and character of the possible second one.

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The downsides of heaven

| June 2, 2015 | 1 Reply

I don’t believe in an form of afterlife except for shelf life: For a short time after I die, my body will not stink of death. But if I DID believe in heaven, I wouldn’t want to go there, for many of the reasons set forth by Valerie Tarico of ALTERNET. Here’s one of her many reasons why she wouldn’t be excited to spend time in heaven–endless worship:

Your celestial day (and night) job is to sing God’s praises. What do the faithful do in Heaven? The same thing the angels do. They worship God and sing his praises. The writer of Revelation even offers us a sample song. In one passage, 24 elders “fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:10-110).

As one graduate of Evangel College (Assemblies of God) observed wryly, “Having spent some time in N. Korea, where the incessant praise music and propaganda were required and all-pervasive, I sometimes wonder if the dynastic leaders there somehow lifted a page from an older playbook.”

It has been said that the only god worthy of worship is one who neither wants nor needs it. What are we to think of a deity who creates the earth and her inhabitants—in fact the entire universe—so a few bipedal primates, most of whom were never born, can spend an afterlife in this posture of praise and adulation?

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About internet privacy

| June 1, 2015 | 3 Replies

Excellent discussion here, Amy Goodman interviewing Julian Assange of Wikileaks. This addresses an issue that repeatedly occurs to me: Unless we can know what the spy agencies are actually doing, how can we know that any legislative enactments are having any effect at all? Even if Congress passed a law stating that the NSA should cease collecting any information about any person in the absence of probable cause and a warrant, how could we possibly know that the NSA is obeying that law. Even if the NSA is sued, how do we know that the NSA would honestly comply with subpoenas or discovery?

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to Germany and what you’ve revealed there, I want to stay with the U.S. for a minute, because President Obama famously said that the debate over privacy and surveillance would have been had without Edward Snowden. Can you respond to that?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Oh, I think it’s obvious to everyone that that is false. How can you have a debate with secret interpretations of the law? How can you debate them? They’re secret. Similarly, what are the actual actions that are occurring, not just in policy, but what is actually happening? What are these bureaucracies actually doing? If you don’t know, how can you possibly have the debate? Information is classified, no debate is possible.

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