Category Archives: Politics

Ebola Denial is Like Climate Change Denial

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-ebola-virus-seen-under-microscope-epidemic-sign-image43307466

The overwhelming majority of the public that denies either Ebola or Climate Change cannot check the facts.  Exciting conspiracy theory’s and reference to real and imagined evils can call into question any fact. This reason for doubt is not proof of falsehood as it is often treated. Example:

“I do not believe Ebola exists because none of my family members has been affected by it,” she says. “When you get sick of cholera, they say it is Ebola. When your body temperature rises, they say it is Ebola. So I honestly don’t believe Ebola exists. There could be a lot of other diseases killing people.”

Source: NPR.Org Skeptics In Sierra Leone Doubt Ebola Virus Exists by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

The argument of this African woman reminds me of a conservative pointing to a cold snap and denying climate change.

The ability to explain what we see in words is not hard. Germ Theory and Evil Spirits both explain a spreading infection but one is more fact based and leads to better predictions and prognosis.  Now let us look at an apologist for climate change denial from the popular Brietbart.Com.

“…if the climate establishment took the time to listen to what he had to say – especially on satellite data versus computer models – instead of just dreaming up emotive analogies to explain why he’s wrong maybe it might actually learn something.”

Sourse: Brietbart.Com – Climate Change Denial: Like Sending a Little Girl to Near-Certain Death… By James Delingpole

Ironically an article at Brietbart.Com calls attention to the denial of Ebola. I wonder if they are taking the side of the prevailing wisdom that Ebola is real. If so, would they drop that opinion if someone with credentials also denied the dread disease? What would be their standard for evidence?

When considering evidence and reasons we should envision a scale with competing explanations. At any moment in time the thesis that explains the most facts in a consistent way and leads to better predictions will be provisionally superior. Of course, a new fact might tip the scale.  The Conservative begging for authority that simply looks at credentials instead of weighing facts, reason and a more accurate power to predict outcomes pits professionals against professionals who can both site facts, but which facts are relevant? At any one point in time one side may have more logical content and evidence on its side and that has nothing to do with credentials or the respect of the masses or anyone’s desires. Once one explaination establishes itself as being more creditable based on content not credentials, that becomes the working hypothesis until better comes along.

I have little reason to doubt the fact that the woman who says nobody in her family died from Ebola is telling the truth. She may even be a very respected in her community. But is the fact about the family weighty enough to believe that Ebola is not real? No! Some people never got smallpox but that is not evidence that the disease does not exist. We may have a cold snap but that is not evidence that the countless metric tons of carbon we pump into the atmosphere every day has no impact on the climate. The fact that we, the general public and politicians cannot confirm the relevant facts ourselves is no argument in favor of a conclusion we prefer. This includes the deniers of Ebola and climate change. Erring on the side of caution while we resolve our doubts seems like a conservative idea to me. After all, it involves conservation and maintaining what is good about what we already have.

NSA Corporate Spying Creates A Civil Liberties Opportunity

The recent revelations by Der Spiegel about our NSA spying on big American corporations got me thinking about the current lay of the land. If we couple this with the federal judge indicating the NSA Program Is Unconstitutional and the conflicting ruling from a New York Judge currently appealed by the ACLU, we see the conflict.

The Fourth Amendment is clear and rather than giving some arbitrary FISA Court de facto veto over the constitution, I think we either change the Constitution legitimately through the Amendment process or the NSA should be scaled back within constitutional limits.

Sniffer The Satire Dog Now that my bias is in the open, I can understand why the NSA would use the reported tactics on American big business. This thesis (which is disputable) if correct suggests a very different set of problems in terms of balance of power.

Because we fallaciously treat corporations like people without giving them the responsibility AND big business now possess more power than many nations, what we have is a loosely confederated feudal-ish system that can become oppositional at any time. It may be blithe to think that Apple Computer or Exxon-Mobile possesses less power and influence than Poland or Tajikistan simply because they are businesses. If what I am saying is true then the balance of power is not shared by the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches but rather those three AND a list of corporations that have equal or perhaps even more influence and less accountability.

If corporations have more power than foreign states, why would not the NSA treat them with similar scrutiny?

I hold it as open question whether or not the public has a genuine interest in favor of such spying on, the centralized power, concentrated in the hands of corporations to use F. Hayek’s terminology. With this question, the large difference between a human and corporation becomes clearer.

Imagine the corporate executive who ordered his laptop online. The machine requires not only a password but also a fingerprint or other scan to access. This fellow must now wonder if his computer was compromised in route to him and that the NSA logs his activity both personal and professional. They know his porn, his mistresses and his mister’s.

Is that the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover howling in the wind?

I am stretching, but I do not think my suggestion should be summarily dismissed without good reason. Civil libertarians could add a strange bedfellow to their cause and if they work it to their advantage, the rights for all will become the beneficiary, not simply the rights of corporations. In this light, recent revelations could move mountains. The people controlling the most wealth (tax free and offshore) have an interest in line with the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations.

Don’t f>#k this up guys!

Opinion – EU Blocking U.S. Data Access After Spy Leaks

Original Comment on article at the Huffington Post

“It seems the EU uses more leverage than most Americans to defend privacy, particularly the French. I think it quite possible that the Europeans will end up with more privacy from the US Government than US citizens will.

4th amendment of the US Constitution: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The fact that “special court” called FISA was set up to circumvent this constitutional amendment doesn’t make it right. Just think of all the rhetoric from people in power calling disagreement or protests terrorism. People and groups who make those kinds of bad judgments should NOT have the kind of power currently being indulged in the name of security.
I wonder, if King George III would have had this NSA kind of powerwould America even exist? I can’t answer that but the implications are not to be dismissed. As the Declaration of Independence states clearly as King G3, amongst other things, was guilty:Ben FranklinFor depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html”

Support Elizabeth Warren

Original version posted at Truth Dig as a comment.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

Elizabeth Warren reminds me of Florence Nightingale the great reformer who changed hospital systems for the better during the Victorian era.

What Florence faced back then, Elizabeth now confronts, a phalanx of bureaucrats.  For every opponent that falters, one of a thousand will step into the breach. * Ms. Nightingale fought for every inch of ground, she had to educate people, and even become a vanguard for a new idea – the graphic representation of information.

Everyone who has entered a hospital since that time owes Florence a debt of gratitude. She lowered the rate of death in hospitals by 76%. ALL BEFORE WOMEN COULD VOTE!

When things are tough I think of Florence Nightingale. I don’t think of the Spartan King Leonidas. Yes he was brave and faced 500,000  men (+ or -) in battle with only 300. He had no choice. It was either fight or become subjected.

Florence in her era and Elizabeth now voluntarily faced off with entrenched interests; bureaucratic slaves of habit that resist change. The fight goes beyond the profiteers that make big money. The peon administrators are addicted to doing similar things everyday. It allows them to surrender themselves to an imagination that has been freed by relegating work to habit. Why effort when you can become and automaton and day-dream? “We always did it this way!” The battle cry of the mediocre.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Warren deserves our support in every way possible because these interests will resist in every way imaginable. The style in which Elizabeth fights with may not be pleasant.  She will certainly make mistakes. But just look at the foe she faces and try to understand.

 

 

* Paraphrase of Litton Strachy,  Eminent Victorians – Florence Nightingale

Good Writers and Bad Reasoning or When Liberals Shoot Themselves

Recent pieces by Matt Stoller at Slate and Chris Hedges at Truthdig are notable; both articles criticize Liberals who supported Barak Obama during the election. Each author lists important problems the current President failed to solve like erosion of civil liberties, the conduct of the war and climate change etc. I share their objections and insistence that these issues need solutions. Regardless I demerit their arguments.

Stoller argued the merit of voting for a third party candidate on moral grounds.

“It [the USA] is a country whose economic basis is oligarchy, whose political system is authoritarianism, and whose political culture is murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change”.

Later Stoller says.

“But first, let’s be honest about what voting for Obama means. This requires diving into something I actually detest, which is electoral analysis and the notion of what would a pragmatist do. I tend to find the slur that one need be pragmatic and not a purist condescending and dishonest; no one ever takes an action without a reason to do so.”

Having a cause to do something doesn’t make the action worthwhile or harmless. In terms of third party voting the overwhelming evidence against a Nader victory in the 2000 Bush v. Gore election suggests that Stoller’s idealism neglects such experience. Refusal to choose the lesser of two evils doesn’t account for a lack of real alternatives. Regardless of my preference for Nader, to dismiss a vote for Gore as a dishonest justification of means by ends absurdly assumes that Nader could have won and that he would have done a better job, which stretches even further.  Let’s throw Stoller’s reasoning into different circumstances and see the results.

If in the recent Guatemalan earthquake you happened to be injured somewhere remote and bleeding from your leg. A bystander might suggest a tourniquet. Someone else may say a doctor would give the best help. You would probably grab a stick and start twisting someone’s belt. Anyone who described you as a condescending, dishonest pragmatist for addressing the problem this way is delusional. Regardless of the truth that a qualified doctor would be better if you could find one but you can’t.

Why sacrifice a good you can actually have for something unattainable? Abandoning real choices for an ideal that can’t be achieved can be called immoral regardless of how wonderful the imagination. Weighing real alternatives and seeking the best represents moral responsibility.

I turn now to Mr. Hedges. Granting that without interesting language something urgent may go unnoticed. However when facts are interpreted into sensational distortions of meaning the author shoots himself in the foot. Hedges says

“It [the Liberal class] fights for nothing. It stands for nothing.”

The liberal class hasn’t effectively addressed the serious problems Hedges justly points out. Nonetheless, if someone contributes to protect their daughter’s right to abortion and sex education, it counts as something, regardless of any real or imagined cynical motives. Hedges omits mention of any current advances of liberal policy at the state level such as modifying the expensive and blunt three strikes law in California. This change came through a painful process of trial and error. He goes on to say of the liberal class,

“It [the Liberal class] exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents.”

The recent election brought advances for  the LGBT community, particularly when contrasted with a history of persecution. The suffering caused by unfair laws contribute to human misery. Why abase a reduction of hardship because other evils exist?  Later Hedges says,

Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become.

The evils Hedges rightly exposed above are serious and need solutions. His argument falters because he could have made exactly the same points if all Americans had voted for Romney or if Obama voters abstained. Maligning the electorate in a – pick one or the other – election fails to account that they were displaying a moral discrimination of value.

“The ’sentimentalist fallacy’ is to shed tears over abstract justice and generosity, beauty, etc., and never to know these qualities when you meet them in the street, because there the circumstances make them vulgar.”
William James

While being dragged underwater A Florida teen recently chose between sacrificing his limb to an alligator or drowning. The loss of an arm can truly be described as  an evil. Yet faulting the young man for choosing something harmful seems shortsighted. Similar decisions are made by firefighters and triage doctors about groups in response to disaster, they exercise judgment based on the circumstances directing attention to what can be done. When violent crime rates rise does that mean the voting population (who are also victims) must be complicit with criminals? The lack of knowledge or absence of any real alternatives should not be confused with lack of integrity.

Exposing human suffering and shaming Liberals for having about as much effect on a solution as his writing are different things. This constitutes a moral blind spot. When conservatives imagine a better world without abortion and suggest women hold an aspirin between their knees (abstain from sex) as a solution they have generally exacerbated the problem. Hedges conclusions are comparable to those of Rick Perry regarding sex education because of similar reasoning. Such argument essentially states that if facts were different, the problem would either be solved or wouldn’t exist. Why not end crime while we are at it? After all if people stopped breaking laws, then crime would disappear. I hesitate comparing Hedges reasoning with such insipid platitudes because it might make his valid criticism appear trivial which amounts to a real loss of what he offers. I separate his factual reporting from his judgment that assigns guilt by decree.

Hedges occupation placed the experience of human suffering before him in ways others can scarcely imagine.  He sees many problems of life and death from a different perspective. To be fair, mortality; what we hold in common binds us together, like chained prisoners working on a railroad. If in the midst of tumultuous labor a few notice a misguided train coming, the ones aware of the catastrophe insist others get off the tracks. The closer the tragedy the more efforts become frantic. If the means cause needless confusion or conflict they may be useless regardless of intention.

Clamoring for solutions to real problems I think a merit. However, the motive doesn’t justify suggesting that comprehensive health care for women, and more equality for minorities exists only to hide complicity with evil. Nor has he proved the liberal class is a corpse that stands for nothing. If it be true, then Hedges railing at a carcass amounts to ill-conceived futility; like trying to piss up a rope. He may despair in the awareness of human agony and blind corporate tyranny. His lament resonates in me. Still the fact remains that Elizabeth Warren won because she fights the corporatocracy responsible for some of the anguish Hedges exposes so well. This fact goes unseen in his description of liberals.

Yes, endowing people with imaginary virtues amounts to dishonesty. A deceit perhaps as wrong as denying a merit possessed. Let’s not blind ourselves to something good because real evils exist. Such all or nothing thinking invites a pessimism among the suggestible that helps even less.

Mr. Hedges best efforts may not have solved the problems he sees nor influenced enough people to make a difference. That doesn’t make him complicit with evil nor a corpse even if he did vote for Obama. Perhaps he could become more effective in the same way that liberalism should collectively improve, through the slow grind of testing new ways of doing things and keeping the best.

 

Conservatives Supporting Communism

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Women Are Watching What Men Do

Men will never face the risk of pregnancy themselves, thus the contrasts between the sexes are stark.

The gatekeepers of life carry responsibilities that males can ignore. With female reproductive issues clouded by controversy, men would be wise to examine carefully the unique difficulties women face. If we overlook the problems, useful knowledge will elude us. In a time of social change we must hold precious the facts and experience that can protect us from ignorance or blind idealism.

Surprisingly many women support the throwback to more chauvinistic times and work diligently to restrict access to abortion and even birth control. The intrusive limitations or denial of these advances have serious consequences. Conservative activism receives funds from powerful interests that stand to gain from a GOP administration. Men must find the courage to step out of routine and take action to protect reproductive rights for women. Liberty means little or nothing if the most personal life choices are arbitrarily determined by others.

Progressives should notice recent losses. Emboldened by every triumph and redoubling their efforts with every setback, republicans relentlessly launch propaganda, legal and political offensives. These are battlefield tactics modified for politics. If you overwhelm a stronghold with more opponents then can be eliminated you will win little by little.

The public and particularly men seem unaware of the need to fight to keep reproductive choices available. We need the arguments and votes of those who would be willing if they knew the facts. Don’t let matters of less consequence govern behavior. We might forget to vote, or have planned recreation or work or anything other than supporting women politically. Many guys would forgo a great deal to spare their lovers, sisters, and daughters the danger of a botched illegal abortion but not if they don’t think about it on Election Day. Civic blind spots are understandable but inexcusable in light of damaging consequences.

Economic theory, immigration or other philosophy places some gents in a camp with social conservatives. Like my father, many are “one issue voters.” He believes in a woman’s right to abortion but the right to keep and bear arms remains his pet issue. He votes against anyone he imagines will restrict gun rights. I pointed out the oppression of gun owner’s (predicted by NRA demagogues) actually hasn’t come to pass. Improbable future risks are outweighed by the harm being caused to women right now by GOP policies.

By opposition to birth control and abortion, conservatives have caused the reduction of vital health services to women . Their idealism has become, as Joseph Conrad said, “an angel without eyes.” Being blinded by their intentions they do not see the harmful consequences of their actions. In Texas, clinics that provided a vast range of services including breast cancer and STD screenings, among others have been defunded. This example proves the type of losses that women are presently enduring.

  •   Restrictions to reproductive services disproportionately affect financially stressed and working class women. We see abortion and birth control will always be available to the upper class who can afford it. Bob Barr, a GOP representative and hypocritical opponent of abortion paid for the termination of his wife’s pregnancy in 1983 with a personal check.
  • Imagine the horror of someone finding their mother, daughter, sister or wife writhing in pain, poisoned or dead from a hemorrhage, accidentally self induced in a desperate attempt to terminate a pregnancy. Remember, conservatives have no special protection against these tragedies. This fact demonstrates itself in the disproportionate number of unwanted teen pregnancies where conservative sex education polices are in force . Without access to legal abortion the agonizing and even deadly practices of quack doctors will always be available as a grim, unalterable fact.

Reproductive problems have been reduced with the help of organizations like Planned Parenthood. Giving women access to comprehensive health care embodies a moral response to human circumstances. Changing the facts or saying the problems shouldn’t exist diverts us from the reality. Moralists who sacrifice vital services in order to secure a victory for ideals lose any pretense of moral high ground. Don’t forget the awful problems to which abortion and birth control were the best solution. Any reasonable ethic should reach for attainable benefits rather than an unlikely ideal.

“After a decade of largely unrestricted access to abortion, the rate in Switzerland remains stable and is among the lowest in the world.”

We can grasp how important these issues are to all of us, our education, livelihood, children, and the mutual interests the sexes have in each other. The more reproductive choices women have available, the more chances to use reason to guide the course of action in different circumstances. Men can contribute to this cause with more then their votes; they can publicly withhold support from institutions that oppose these health services. The Komen Foundation reversed their decision to withdraw support from Planned Parenthood as a result of public disapproval that succeeded.

If a man overhears someone, particularly another male, saying something misguided about women’s issues, then a response like “I don’t think that’s true” can have an impact. Such a statement will probably lead to the question “why do you say that?” No thoughtful person can claim their freedom to either reject or accept reasons if they haven’t first encountered them. Respect that liberty and speak! If you want to know more just Google “reasons to keep abortion legal” or “reasons favoring birth control and sex education.” Speaking out creates a chance for dialogue on these important and often misunderstood topics. The intensity of the subject matter calls for situational judgment to navigate the sensitivities.

We should, without hesitation, clearly state the strongest reasons that support our judgment. It may seem contrary to etiquette but this gesture involves respect; it treats the other as an equal; as one who can understand. Don’t fear to challenge those women who cling to the belief that they and the rest of their sex would be better off with fewer choices. As men we should be defending women’s needs exactly how we would want them to defend ours, reasonably, boldly, and with love.

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UPDATE: 10/27/2012

Planned Parenthood won a state court ruling blocking Texas from cutting off public funds to its clinics that don’t provide abortion services the day after a federal appeals court refused to hear a related dispute.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Austin issued a temporary restraining order hours after the organization sued the state yesterday to void a Texas law that cuts off public funding for affiliates of abortion providers.

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