Recent Articles

About “race”

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.

June 21, 2015 | By | Reply More

The extent to which partisan thinking dominates politics

How much does it affect how you think about legislation that it was sponsored by YOUR political party? To a shocking extent, according to this article by The Hill.

We presented respondents with two different education plans . . . [H]alf the sample was told A was the Democratic plan and B was the Republican plan, while the other half of our national sample was told A was the Republican plan and B was the Democrats’ approach. The questions dealt with substantive policy on a subject quite important to most Americans — education — and issues that people are familiar with — class size, teacher pay and the like.

Nonetheless, when the specifics in Plan A were presented as the Democratic plan and B as the Republican plan, Democrats preferred A by 75 percent to 17 percent, and Republicans favored B by 13 percent to 78 percent. When the exact same elements of A were presented in the exact same words, but as the Republicans’ plan, and with B as the Democrats’ plan, Democrats preferred B by 80 percent to 12 percent, while Republicans preferred “their party’s plan” by 70 percent to 10 percent. Independents split fairly evenly both times. In short, support for an identical education plan shifted by more than 60 points among partisans, depending on which party was said to back it.

Thus, policy positions were not driving partisanship, but rather partisanship was driving policy positions. Voters took whichever position was ascribed to their party, irrespective of the specific polices that position entailed.

June 11, 2015 | By | Reply More

The real risk of terrorism – compared to other risks

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.

June 11, 2015 | By | 3 Replies More

Environmental Working Group – Sustainable Food Guide

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.

June 10, 2015 | By | Reply More

On leaving Islam: A skeptic explains why

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

June 7, 2015 | By | Reply More

The belief in inevitable progress as magic thinking

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.

June 7, 2015 | By | 3 Replies More

Eric Barker: How to learn a new skill quickly

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

June 6, 2015 | By | Reply More

On the notion that Bernie Sanders in “unelectable.”

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.

June 2, 2015 | By | Reply More

Hillary Clinton: Friend of Big Banks

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.

June 2, 2015 | By | Reply More