Category Archives: Ideologue

Knowledge vs. Belief

I started to write this post after Jim posted Unknown unknowns over at Stonekettle Station, which was a post in response to the tempest in a teapot that represented the 24 hour news cycle reporting on the clinic standoff and shooting incident in Colorado Springs. I shelved it for various reasons at first, none of them really earth-shattering. Of course, a week later and we have the inexplicable mass shooting in San Bernardino, which instantly eclipsed the previous story.

I could easily spin this into an screed against the gun lobby and their paid cronies in Washington DC who won’t let the CDC even study gun violence in an effort to figure out how to address it, considering that we have had more than one mass shooting every day of this year (2015) which has to be some kind of record that no society on the face of this earth is really interested in breaking…

…but that isn’t the article I want to write. This isn’t going to be the article I started out writing, either. The issue is much bigger than the specific subject of what we know or don’t know about a specific person set on doing wrong, or having been caught doing wrong. It is even bigger than the problem that Jim was trying to address, the 24 hour news cycle, which I agree probably represents the greatest threat to human civilization in the modern age. The need to fill time, to produce facts and counterfactuals when no hard facts are known about the specifics of the incident in question, can lead to greater and greater flights of fancy.

I turn the TV off when that feeding frenzy starts. It is hard enough to separate the wheat from the chaff on good days.  On bad days like the two events above bring, listening to the news just feeds confirmation bias until you end up looking and sounding like an idiot.

I will include the specific arguments for the Colorado Springs incident in this post, but the point that I’m seeing come into focus now that the shooter has appeared in court and indicted himself is the argument about what we know vs. what we believe. How we can know what we think we know, and how is that different than belief?

That is the reason why the 24 hour news cycle is such a threat. Being not much more than the talking heads that sold soap in the early days of television, the current crop of news faces appear to have even less familiarity with what facts are and why fact-checking is important. They are after all just selling soap.  Keeping the most number of eyes on the screen is how they sell soap, and so the factual content of what they say isn’t the important part of the equation.  That they tell you things that reinforce your beliefs on a subject so that you will keep watching is.

Most of the white-looking people in the US trust the police intrinsically, for example.  Most of us older types were raised on police dramas portraying the cops as the good guys who enforce the laws and keep the peace.  It is very uncomfortable for most of us to be confronted with stories if entire police departments covering up the details of killings done at their hands. And yet, time after time over the last few years, we have been shown just how human police departments are everywhere in the US.  Be it Chicago, Baltimore or Saint Louis, just about anywhere USA, there are examples of police who brazenly violate laws and procedures who are then protected by their brothers in uniform.

This really isn’t news.  If you’ve been paying attention you would have run across stories by people like Radley Balko who have been documenting police excess for several decades now.  The police are after all only human.  If you were in their place you would act no differently than they would, because that is what humans do.  But that doesn’t excuse the excess, it is a point of data that needs to be accounted for when deciding what you know or don’t know about any given subject.

For the black or brown people who are almost always the bad guys in police dramas, the revelation that cops are only human really isn’t news either. They’ve lived with the reality of constant police scrutiny for generations. So much so that stories abound of fathers and mothers cautioning their children not to become police statistics.  So it is no wonder that the chant black lives matter resounds with them. The counter offered by clueless whites that all lives matter is heard by these same people as just another call for them to sit down and be quiet. How is this possible?  How can realities and beliefs about these realities be so widely separated?

When it comes right down to it, what you know with certainty is a very small number of things. Whether it is night or day. Whether it is cold or hot. You know these things because you can test them directly with your senses. Solipsists will argue that you can’t even know those things because we are all just brains in jars at best, but I’d like us all to pretend that the shadows on the cave walls actually represent something real, and try to make sense of that.  If that much can’t be granted, then there is little point in continuing to read this.  Even less in my continuing to write.

Beyond what you can test yourself (fire burns) there are grades of factual knowledge which you can probably safely rely on.  At each point where the facts exchange hands, the ownership of that data has to be documented to be trusted. This is why, when doing research, it is important to seek out source material and not just rely on wikipedia.  The more obscure the subject matter the less reliable secondary sources are.

When watching the news on television or reading news stories on any other site than AP, Reuters or UPI you are already dealing with information that has been through at least three hands if not dozens. When you’ve gone beyond the point where the witness is being interviewed in person, you are dealing with evidence that wouldn’t be accepted in court. That doesn’t mean it is without value, it just means the news you are being offered could be just this side of fantasy.

It might even be pure fantasy. Case in point, the FOX/conservative/anti-abortion counter-narrative about the Colorado Springs shooter.  When I logged on Blogger that night, the first thing I saw wasn’t the Stonekettle Station article. The first article that caught my eye was a piece over at Friendly Atheist in which Ted Cruz voices the notion that the shooter was some kind of leftist.  No, I could not make something that stupid up myself.  Let me quote a bit;

 Cruz is basing that characterization on a supposed voter registration form in which Dear was listed as a woman. Whether it’s a mistake, or Dear was just messing around, or simply not the right form, we don’t know, but no other evidence indicates that he was transgender.

There’s even less evidence that he was a “leftist.”

The problem that I had with Jim’s Unknown unknowns piece now surfaces. Jim mentions this story in opposition to the reports (which he attributes to Planned Parenthood) that the shooter was heard to say “no more baby parts” as he was being arrested.  But the contrast between the veracity of these two stories is as marked as they are in opposition to each other.

The statement no more baby parts was repeated by an officer to a reporter directly on scene, who dutifully passed it on to their viewing audience. While that is hearsay and not evidence admissible in court; the officer if he were to appear in court could repeat the statement and it would be admissible.  It would also be accepted by an overwhelming number of juries who trust police officers to be truthful (see above) even in the face of so much evidence that police will lie to protect their own.

Since this case isn’t about one of their own, and since the police showed remarkable restraint in bringing a cop killer in alive, I was inclined to believe the statement of the arresting officer.  That the shooter (not alleged, he plead guilty) repeated a version of the same statement at his hearing just confirms the motivation that lead him to commit the crimes he is guilty of.

On the other hand, the preferred story of conservatives/anti-abortionists is based on what? Essentially no evidence whatsoever, more wishful thinking than anything else.  And yet it is repeated by a Republican Presidential candidate as if it was the unquestionable truth.

That is the nature of belief. It doesn’t require facts.  Facts are counterproductive because they can be questioned. If facts are presented that counter a belief, it only takes the briefest scrutiny to discover or manufacture an anomaly which the believer will use to discard the entirety of the factual information presented. Ted Cruz wants to believe that the shooter couldn’t be one of his fellow anti-abortionists. Ted Cruz believes that leftists are dangerous people, and that LGBT people are a threat to his way of life.  The story he repeats is ready-made to fit into his preconceived view of the world, and it matters not one bit that the story makes no sense on its face.  That the average liberal and LGBT person would be in support of Planned Parenthood and consequently wouldn’t see a need to attack one of their clinics never enters into the mind of a conservative repeating this laughable story.

Given the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood, and the current cloud of controversy artificially created by anti-abortion activists faking videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts, the story of a shooter in a clinic almost serves itself up ready-made as a vehicle to attack the religious right and conservatives in general. Of course they would want to craft a counter-narrative (however flimsy) to give themselves an out, a way to disavow accountability for their actions over the last twenty years and more.

A conservative could easily counter all of the above (most probably will) with the adult equivalent of I know you are but what am I?  Since about the time that Reagan was elected, conservatives started to complain about the liberal media. Even I, for a time, fell for this notion that the media was somehow biased in general against conservatives. As the years have progressed, and conservatives have created their own outlets like FOX news, conservapedia, and uncounted news sites including the whacko fringe like prisonplanet and infowars, it has become clear that conservatives aren’t satisfied with simply presenting news from their point of view.  No, what they want is their own set of facts which are unassailable.  Unassailable because they aren’t based on anything real.

Another example is the softer, nicer language of pro-life and pro-choice adopted by the two sides of the endless argument over abortion. Having softened the language, pollsters can get majorities of citizens in the US to say they are pro-life. Who would be against life?  I’m pro-life, I’m also pro-choice; militantly pro-choice.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be legal gets lost in the conservative rush to declare the opposite, that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. This conservative view on the matter simply isn’t true as polling shows.

What has occurred since the creation of FOX news is the division of the US into two camps; one of those camps thinks they are right, and the rest of us are liberal.  In their attempt to prove that the rest of the media is based on a liberal conspiracy, conservatives have consciously created a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy where they tell lies which they know are lies, because the ends justify the means.

When you evade the truth, when you spin tales to hide your true goals, what you get are people who believe your lies so firmly that they will act on them as if they were truths.  You get what transpired in Colorado Springs yesterday, to the embarrassment of every single person who identifies as pro-life. Remember that the next time you hear the phrase liberal media.

Hillary for President?

I tuned in (very briefly) to watch Hillary Clinton testify before the latest of 8 separate investigations into #Benghazi, the most investigated event in US history and one of the most notable wastes of taxpayer dollars since whatever military weapons system was last funded by Republicans.

h/t to DailyKos

I say briefly because I had no stomach for listening to the latest Republican pretender attempt to justify yet another investigation into these events; as if the investigations weren’t patently politically motivated the last 6 times (at least) that they were embarked upon. So the minute that the look-alike for the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz started speaking, I tuned out and went on to some other news item.

The Republicans are running around in terror at the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton.  They’ll do anything, say anything to avoid the future where they have to acknowledge her (or any woman) as the leader of the United States. I myself have a pretty demonstrable hatred for Hillary Clinton, as a walk down the memory lane of this blog will easily demonstrate.

It bears mentioning that I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in the Democratic primary specifically to lend weight to the candidate most likely to be President that year.  2008 was the last year I pulled the lever for the Libertarian Party in the general election.  In 2012 I voted Democratic, only shifting my votes down ballot in an attempt to unseat local Democrats that I really don’t care for and have held offices for longer than I think is healthy. I voted Democratic because in 2012 it was an undeniable fact that Republicans were opposed to anything Obama did just because it was Obama who was doing it. It made me question how many other things Republicans are opposed to just because Democrats are in favor of them.

I changed my opinions in 2012; I confess, I’m a flip-flopper.  It’s the kind of thing that happens when you aren’t an ideologue, aren’t married to concepts that could prove to be unworkable in the real world.  Having seen that Obama was doing a pretty good job at being President, better than I myself had expected prior to the election, I had to revise my opinion of Democrats in general, and of Obama and his cabinet selections in particular.

That wasn’t the only thing that changed.  As the blog entry A Big Bowl of Crow goes into, I finally had to come to grips with some of the cognitive dissonance that I’ve been struggling with since I filed for and got disability.  The government has saved my family from ruin (albeit that it was dragged kicking and screaming into the effort) Accepting that fact meant that a number of other dominoes had to fall in sequence afterwards. Namely; that socialism is not a dirty word, that socialism is not opposed to capitalism but is actually opposed to feudalism (strange as that may sound) and  has never actually been credited for the benefits to the poor it has inspired since being introduced a few hundred years ago.

Part of this change has required me to revisit my beliefs about healthcare and other complex systems which rely on funding from government in order to do the necessary and valuable jobs that modern life demands.  Understanding that Hillarycare probably was a better plan than Obamacare has turned out to be. Grudging acceptance that Hillary Clinton was a damned good Secretary of State, largely because of the way she dealt with Republican criticism, rather than in spite of it.

So it is with some trepidation that I face 2016 and acknowledge that I really don’t have a problem with a President Hillary Clinton. No one is more horrified by this than the tiny voice in the back of my head.  It’s hard to argue against the logic of this. Let me spell it out for you.

When it comes to Presidents, for the foreseeable future, I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them.  I don’t see much chance of that since none of the more than 10 potentials vying for the nomination meet this criteria.

Third parties are a joke, in case you are wondering what about the LP & Greens? I’ve wasted far too long working on third party issues (again, look at the history of this blog if you doubt it) The experience was invaluable, but having the power to effect change means actually winning elections, something that third parties in the US have failed at doing in every election since the beginning of the country, with the notable exception of the one where Republicans became the alternative to Democrats.  From that time forward it has been D’s or R’s and it will remain that way until the next big shakeup on the level of ending slavery occurs.  I don’t see anything remotely on that scale occurring this year. Could be wrong, but I doubt it. I’ll be writing more on this subject in the future, if I ever manage to get my notes in order.

I’m not opposed to Bernie Sanders, given my revised opinion on socialism.  I don’t think the rest of the US is as willing to think outside the box as I am in large enough numbers to make a difference, so I don’t think his prospects are good outside of the primary process. What the Democrats have to avoid doing is giving away the election to the Republicans as they have historically done many times in the past. While a goodly portion of the young people on the street really do seem to feel the Berne, will they show up on election day in enough numbers to secure victory for the Democrats for the next four years? That really is the only question.

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the election among the betting public, in those areas of the globe that allow betting on Presidential races.  One of the mantras that I still hold to is follow the money, and the money says Clinton will win.  Of course, we still are a year out from election day, and a lot of things can happen in a year’s time. Barring the appearance of a really centrist Republican nominee (one that isn’t named Bush) or a bad fumble on the part of Hillary, we’re likely to see her taking the oath of office in the early days of 2017.

I’m sanguine with that fact.


I have said on several occasions on various social sites “no one can compete with Hillary in full campaign mode”. Many people may not remember the campaign that was run for Bill before his time in the sun.  These guys were fast on their feet.  The best that money could buy and they earned every penny.  Front and center in all of that was Hillary Clinton, and now she is the candidate herself.

Hillary’s South Carolina ad came out last week.  When I said “no one can compete” this is what I meant.

Hillary Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite to win amongst the betting public.  Bernie Sanders’ support is still high, but it isn’t as high as Barack Obama’s was when he won against Hillary, when she surrendered to public pressure and yielded the floor to the Democratic favorite.  That is one of the differences this time, her opponent is not a Democrat.  While I agree with much of Sanders’ goals, I don’t agree that he is deserving of the party’s endorsement just because he gets a majority of the popular vote.  The process is what it is, and if Hillary gets the nomination by working the process, that makes her the better candidate.  Perhaps Bernie should have joined the Democrats years ago and then he too could be a Democrat rather than just seeking the bona fides of the Democratic party.

Abortion; As Natural as Life Itself

I keep getting hung up on the fact that the subjects of abortion and when does human life begin? are still an issue. I am genuinely baffled by this because it has never (and I do mean never) been something I suffered moral quandaries about.  The reason it has never been an issue for me is the subject of my soon to be completed chapter on EPHN which goes into the murky world of what human life is and why most opinion on the subject is completely wrong, but since that chapter will not be about abortion but the distinction between life and human life, that leaves me with a ton of text that I’ve written over the years on the subject of abortion itself that really needs to be published or republished under its own heading.

I’ve lost several Facebook friends over the years because of this subject, largely because I cannot let falsehoods stand unchallenged.  This argument goes back to the dawn of my internet experience (much like the subjects of gender and homosexuality) and spans complete shifts in most of my other opinions on other subjects.  This one, though.  This one I know what reality is on the subject.  Reality is harsh, it is brutish, and it isn’t fair.
Reproduction slideshow

The natural world doesn’t worry about those things. In evolutionary terms, procreation is fundamental to an organism’s success. It really doesn’t matter how many of the species is killed just as long as a mating pair survives long enough to mate and produce offspring. That is the reason that sex exists, and that is the reason that sex feels good. Any other interpretation of the reasons for the process are a matter of individual delusion or group ritual (which is phenomenally about the same as mass delusion) there are social reasons to engage in sex outside of procreation (pair bonding as one example) but those reasons do not negate the actual purpose of the act.

After a similar fashion, the natural world has no problem with abortion.  Three quarters (or thereabouts) of all fertilized eggs do not produce live offspring.  Half of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. The vast majority of potential human lives never see the light of day with human eyes, because nature is a harsh judge of viability.

Until very recently in the civilized parts of the world, infant mortality was astronomically high. It was commonplace for women to have 8 to 10 children and yet only 3 or 4 make it to adulthood. In some parts of the world these deathrates still occur.

It is the mark of several decades of arguing this subject that I can rattle off these facts without having to consult reference material to back it up. The links to this information have long slipped my mind, and searching for the current location of it is time-consuming and largely pointless.  If you doubt the facts, please take the time to verify them. Here is your fair warning in advance; If your source has anything to do with the anti-abortion industry, I will reject it.  They have been shown to be lying time and time again.

So abortion and child death are the normal state in nature.  Predators single out the sickly young animals as their first targets for consumption. They are easier to take down, and the herd animals will leave them behind.  Predators that live birth large litters of young will frequently eat the smaller, sicklier young themselves. Nature is brutish in this way.

Into this world we too are born.  But as the lucky few of the lucky even smaller few, we exist in a world of science. We have science-based medicine to thank for the dramatic reduction in child deaths, mothers dying in childbirth, epidemics that halve the populations of entire nations of people. We have government to thank for civilizing the vast majority of the world’s population, enforcing laws that are (Hopefully. As the future continues to regress into the past I remain hopeful) grounded in common sense and science.

At the very least, the courts which try laws and the violators of law have rules based on solid science and evidence. Which is where we get to the issue part of the abortion issue.

Among the generally reasonable people who just want to get through their day so that they can have time at the end of the day to relax, there is a very large section of the population who don’t understand how much of our society is actually based on science; don’t realize that the very technology used to write this blog, the technology you used to get here to read it, means that science is based on objective reality.  That the existence of this technology means that the real world is as I’ve described it, for the most part.  These people are magical thinkers. I haven’t written that blog entry (one day I will) but for the purpose of this article suffice it to say that these people are not satisfied with reality as it exists. They’d like very much to believe that reality is something which can be bypassed or altered.

These people see that they want their children. They see that they love their children, and they cannot conceive of a world where children are not wanted at best, and are a liability at worst. They are outraged at the notion that people might engage in sexual activity without intending to have children. They are inflamed with righteous indignation that women are avoiding the punishment of having to raise the children that they’ve created because science and medicine have created an escape for them from harnessing the powers that nature already uses to get rid of the majority of offspring in the first place.

Largely the magical thinker is a member of a religion; and in the US that religion is overwhelmingly one of the hundreds of variants known colloquially as christianity. Christians are convinced that their god is opposed to abortion even though the natural world (which he also made if he exists) utilizes abortion on a much greater scale than we humans could ever achieve. Attempting to show these christians that their holy book makes no mention of abortion is largely a futile effort. Most of them accept Catholic dogma on the subject, even though the majority of US christians are protestants whose ancestors spent precious blood escaping from Catholic rule.

Most of them are also unswayed by arguments that Judaism (the precursor to christianity) rules the beginning of life as the taking of the first breath; that the soul enters the body with that breath of air. Why this argument doesn’t sway is anybody’s guess, because science tends to agree with the idea that breathing air allows for consciousness to occur. Consciousness which is the hallmark of human life;

…Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester. By this time, preterm infants can survive outside the womb under proper medical care. And as it is so much easier to observe and interact with a preterm baby than with a fetus of the same gestational age in the womb, the fetus is often considered to be like a preterm baby, like an unborn newborn. But this notion disregards the unique uterine environment: suspended in a warm and dark cave, connected to the placenta that pumps blood, nutrients and hormones into its growing body and brain, the fetus is asleep. 

Invasive experiments in rat and lamb pups and observational studies using ultrasound and electrical recordings in humans show that the third-trimester fetus is almost always in one of two sleep states. Called active and quiet sleep, these states can be distinguished using electroencephalography. Their different EEG signatures go hand in hand with distinct behaviors: breathing, swallowing, licking, and moving the eyes but no large-scale body movements in active sleep; no breathing, no eye movements and tonic muscle activity in quiet sleep. These stages correspond to rapid-eye-movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep common to all mammals. In late gestation the fetus is in one of these two sleep states 95 percent of the time, separated by brief transitions. 

What is fascinating is the discovery that the fetus is actively sedated by the low oxygen pressure (equivalent to that at the top of Mount Everest), the warm and cushioned uterine environment and a range of neuroinhibitory and sleep-inducing substances produced by the placenta and the fetus itself: adenosine; two steroidal anesthetics, allopregnanolone and pregnanolone; one potent hormone, prostaglandin D2; and others. The role of the placenta in maintaining sedation is revealed when the umbilical cord is closed off while keeping the fetus adequately supplied with oxygen. The lamb embryo now moves and breathes continuously. From all this evidence, neonatologists conclude that the fetus is asleep while its brain matures.

These same magical thinkers rail against the decision of Roe Vs. Wade completely oblivious to the benefit that they gain from having a right to privacy established in the Constitution (amendment 9) granting them the privilege of private conversation with their doctors and attorneys. They are equally oblivious to the biology behind why the third trimester of a pregnancy is the only part of a pregnancy which the government should rightly have any say over; and then only on the presumption that more inhabitants of the state are good for the state.

With the passage of the ACA, the argument about abortion has devolved somewhat.  Now it isn’t enough simply to think abortion murder (which it demonstrably isn’t. But I’ll get to that) Now the opposition to abortion has lost a bit of it’s holier-than-thou mask and completely endorsed the Catholic dogma against birth control, morning after pills, and women’s healthcare in general.  Conservatives and the Religious Right (once derisively labeled the Reich. They can have the word right and the right side of the aisle for all I care now) have become well-nigh hysterical on the subject of abortion and women’s health choices, largely because of the dual nature of a record decline in the number of Americans who attend church and the fact that most resistance to abortion is religiously motivated;

In spite of the small shift toward opposition to legal abortion, the basic contours of the debate are still intact, with most major groups lining up on the same side of the issue as they have in the past. For example, most people who regularly attend religious services continue to come down in opposition to abortion, while the large majority of those who rarely or never attend religious services still support legal abortion.

The survey also reveals continued polarization over abortion. Even as the public expresses support for finding a middle ground, most Americans are quite certain that their own position on abortion is the right one, with only a quarter (26%) saying they ever wonder about their views on the issue. This is a slight decline since 2006, when 30% expressed doubts about their own view on abortion. Furthermore, many people on both sides of the issue say that the opposite point of view on abortion is not a “respectable” opinion for someone to hold. Nearly half of abortion opponents (47%), including 62% of those who say abortion should be illegal in all cases, say that a pro-choice view is not a respectable opinion for someone to hold. On the other side, 42% of abortion supporters (including 54% of those who want abortion to be legal in all cases) say the pro-life point of view is not respectable.

 Attend church services weekly; 73% favor making all abortion illegal. There’s your pro-life movement, and that movement is shrinking at a regular rate; is already smaller than it has been at any time in US history, and is only going to get smaller as time goes on.

Their declining numbers leads to attempts to tie resistance to abortion being legal to humanitarian feelings, but that is a lie perpetrated by the desperate;

The current secular consensus, however, is that all stages of human life do not merit equal protection. As mentioned above, it’s an uncontroversially easy choice to allow a woman to live, not her fetus, when that choice is forced by a dangerous pregnancy. 

 Which also addresses why abortion is not murder; because not all stages of life are protectable or even demonstrably human in any way beyond basic genetic makeup.  Human life is governed by several necessary components; volitional will, conscious mind, corporeal existence, breath and heartbeat. That abortion stops a beating heart is only an observation that the autonomic functions of the brain stem have been established.  The brain itself is not functioning in any meaningful way until well into the third trimester; and even then the brain (if it even exists) is in a sleep state until after birth.

In the first trimester (when the vast majority of abortions and chemical interventions take place) there isn’t even a beating heart yet.  This doesn’t stop the punishment obsessed from inflicting the requirement for ultrasound examinations and various other forms of near-torture on the woman who is contemplating an abortion;

Halfway through my pregnancy, I learned that my baby was ill. Profoundly so. My doctor gave us the news kindly, but still, my husband and I weren’t prepared. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d been smiling giddily at fellow expectant parents as we waited for the doctor to see us. In a sonography room smelling faintly of lemongrass, I’d just had gel rubbed on my stomach, just seen blots on the screen become tiny hands. For a brief, exultant moment, we’d seen our son—a brother for our 2-year-old girl.

Yet now my doctor was looking grim and, with chair pulled close, was speaking of alarming things. “I’m worried about your baby’s head shape,” she said. “I want you to see a specialist—now.”

My husband looked angry, and maybe I did too, but it was astonishment more than anger. Ours was a profound disbelief that something so bad might happen to people who think themselves charmed. We already had one healthy child and had expected good fortune to give us two.

Instead, before I’d even known I was pregnant, a molecular flaw had determined that our son’s brain, spine and legs wouldn’t develop correctly. If he were to make it to term—something our doctor couldn’t guarantee—he’d need a lifetime of medical care. From the moment he was born, my doctor told us, our son would suffer greatly.

That is how you can get to the second trimester and not act to terminate a pregnancy. It isn’t laziness or inconvenience or even wanton disregard.  It is that these things take time to determine. This poor woman’s story isn’t even rare or particularly hard to sympathize with.  Nor was it over;

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart…”

I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.

When the description was finally over, the doctor held up a script and said he was legally obliged to read me information provided by the state. It was about the health dangers of having an abortion, the risks of infection or hemorrhage, the potential for infertility and my increased chance of getting breast cancer. I was reminded that medical benefits may be available for my maternity care and that the baby’s father was liable to provide support, whether he’d agreed to pay for the abortion or not.

Most second and third trimester abortions fall into this category.  In fact, only 5% of third trimester abortions occur because of delay, even delay with a valid reason.  95% of third trimester abortions occur because of a defect in the fetus that would be life-threatening, and that couldn’t be diagnosed until this late stage of pregnancy.  So the overwhelming majority of women seeking abortion in the third trimester are needlessly subjected to shaming measures in the misbegotten hope that they will carry to term and deliver a child which will die shortly after birth.  The best outcome for these pregnancies if they were not aborted is that the child produced will grow up into an adult who will always be a burden on society.

This makes third trimester abortion resistance nothing more than a smoke-screen, and a harmful one at that. The laws which the well-meaning have gotten passed have only served to torment women who want to have healthy children, but have been unlucky enough to have a pregnancy that tests positive for birth defects. Most of them desperately wanted to have their children but have finally accepted the inevitable. They are then subjected to torment by protesters outside the clinics they don’t even want to go to, and then tormented by law by healthcare practitioners who are chained to requirements over which they have not control.

When I said reality is harsh, it is brutish, and it isn’t fair I wasn’t joking.  And I wasn’t even talking about abortion then.

I was talking about the ease with which it is to find oneself pregnant. The notion that all children are wanted, or that all women see their pregnancies as a blessing (or even a potential life) is soft-headed bullshit, just to be blunt.  Ask any poor child starving anywhere in the world (even in the US) if they felt their existence was valued, that life was worth living, and you are likely to be shocked by the answer.

…And that is today, when abortion is legal and generally available.  If you travel to Southern Asia or Africa or South America to regions where women are still treated as property, you will run into the kinds of offspring that used to be common everywhere around the world.  Children that women were forced to have because no alternatives were available to them.  Unwanted children who turn into criminal-minded adults that are a plague on society as a whole.

This is a statistical fact laid out by the authors of Freakonomics. the wiki page describes it this way;

The effect of legalized abortion on crime (sometimes referred to as the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis) is the theory that legal abortion reduces crime. Proponents of the theory generally argue that since unwanted children are more likely to become criminals and that an inverse correlation is observed between the availability of abortion and subsequent crime. Not only that, but children born under these conditions are usually less fortunate as enough preparation was not put in place for their birth and upbringing. In particular, it is argued that the legalization of abortion in the United States, largely due to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, has reduced crime in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Opponents generally reject these statistics, and argue that abortion has negative effects on society or decrease in crime is brought about in other ways.

If you don’t believe this, read the book.  I have read the book, and several books after that.  I have researched the counters and the later revelations on the influence of lead in gasoline on violence in society.  Nothing seen so far disproves the hypothesis that abortion had a noticeable effect in lowering crime rates in the US; and it bears thinking that perhaps freeing women from chattel states throughout the parts of the world where they are still deemed property, and providing them with access to modern healthcare including abortion and contraception might lead to more stable societies in those areas.

Because reality isn’t fair.  It makes sex irresistible to the people among us (the young) who are least able to provide for the offspring sex produces. The cost of raising a child is astronomical (projected as over $245,000 in 2015) where is the average 16 to 18 year old going to find that kind of money? Are we, as a society going to foot that bill?  Anyone?  Ready to ante up the cost of raising all the unwanted children all over the world as a means of stemming the plague of abortion? where will we house the extra millions who need to be housed, feed them, clothe them, etc., when the world population already tops 7 billion and the maximum projected supportable population (with current technology) is 10 billion?

No, I really want to know! You want to stop abortion, but you don’t want to pay for the consequences of removing that option from the table. Tell me how we stop people from having children they can’t raise without allowing them to decide if they can afford children or not.  Because any plan that doesn’t include those calculations is just magical thinking, and this is the real world.


Now to the personal; a bit of proof that I do understand where anti-abortionists are coming from.

I have two children of my own.  So when I say that people who oppose abortion fail to grasp objectivity on this subject (barring rock-solid counter evidence) my subjective, anecdotal experience with my own children bears this out.  

My children were persons from the time I knew they existed, and I would have been devastated if anything had kept them from becoming the people that they are today.  No amount of knowledge concerning the limited nature of their selves while in the womb and even several years after their birth could modify the way I thought of them, treated them.  They were always going to become adults, people, responsible humans if only I managed not to screw things up.
I got lucky.  Or maybe it was just plodding, methodical planning.  In any case, they’ve grown up well and I’ve never had to make the kinds of choices that other potential parents have had to make.  We could have waited and things could have been easier, but you play the hand you are dealt.  That is a mantra I’ve lived with all my life.
As for the rock-solid evidence that counters my understanding of reality, I know what form it would take.  Prove the existence of the soul.  I don’t mean have faith that we have one, I mean scientifically prove its existence.  That is the evidence that would counter court decisions and scientific evidence accumulated to date.  Ensoulment is what believers hang their hats on when they talk about personhood being a part of the fertilized egg.  Most of them have enough caution not to bring that up as proof these days.
Believers have been trying to prove the existence of the soul since science was discovered.  All of them have come up empty, and there were a lot more scientists who believed when science was young than there are now that we have progressed as far as we have today.  
But that is also another blog entry.

The Strange World of TV News

Robert Reich is the highlight of my Facebook experience.  I look for his posts in my feed to inform me about what is really going on politically from a left-sided vantage point.  He rarely fails to get my political brain turning over. Sunday he posted this status;

I’ve just come from ABC’s “This Week,” where Newt Gingrich, Matthew Dowd, Donna Brazile, and I went from talking about “American Pharoah”’s Triple Crown win to the Republican and Democratic primaries. In other words, it was all about horse races. The media seems to have no other way to address American politics than to ask who’s ahead and who’s behind, rather than what the candidates stand for and what America needs.

Seven months until the first primaries, and 17 until Election Day, we have plenty of time for a national debate about the nation’s real challenges. Yet every Republican candidate is repeating the same platitudes (strengthen the military, lower taxes, and promote religious values) the GOP has been spewing for 35 years. Scott Walker leads the pack in Iowa, but on the basis of, what? Fighting unions, defunding Planned Parenthood, making it harder for students and low-income people to vote, blocking abortions after 20 weeks even in cases of rape or incest, and threatening a constitutional amendment allowing states to decide on same-sex marriage. Oh, and he rides a Harley. He’s a brainless knee-jerk conservative whom the media is celebrating because he happens to be up in Iowa, whose Republican caucuses haven’t predicted anything in years.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are discussing real issues. She wants to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and expand Obama’s executive order on immigration, roll back Republican state laws designed to suppress the votes of the poor, automatically register citizens to vote when they turn 18, demilitarize the police, and get rid of mandatory prison sentences. Bernie Sanders wants to bust up the biggest Wall Street banks, make higher education free, and strengthen safety nets. But as long as the media remains fixated on the political horse race, America isn’t going to be debating any of this. Horse-race reportage allows the Republicans to get away with their racism, homophobia, anti-worker economics, and total dearth of ideas, while burying the important initiatives Democrats are proposing.

So what’s the answer?

TV news? It’s come a long way from the days when I used to watch it with my parents every night. We never missed the 10 o’clock news. Dan Rather.  David Brinkley. The giant himself, Walter Cronkite.  Most people watched television news at least on a daily basis, especially if you didn’t take time to read a daily paper.  You couldn’t consider yourself well informed without reading at least one paper a day.

Today the newspaper industry has either moved online, or fallen by the wayside.  TV news, the baseline for an informed society through most of my life, has become a pre-digested wasteland of oatmeal reporting on one end of the spectrum, and a haven for the craziest of right-wing political views on the other. You could still watch the nightly news if you wanted to, but why bother?  Most of the events that will be reported on during that half-hour broadcast are old news by the time the TV reports on them.

But I am a news junkie, have been one all my life.  I don’t feel like I’ve finished my day unless I’ve had a dose of the day’s events summarized for me.  So I need news, and a steady stream of it works best. Since I spend large sections of my day with a laptop, that’s generally not a problem.  Still, I like my news to sometimes be delivered in a video format. I am constantly two-screening as the saying goes; writing or gaming on one screen, watching something on another one.

I watched MSNBC daily for more than a year (probably more like three years) I started watching back when Dylan Ratigan was brought on.  The TV would be on and tuned to MSNBC from mid-afternoon through most of the evening shows, pretty much every weekday.  During that time I felt more informed, but spent large segments of my day trapped watching repetitive news items.  As the hosts of the afternoon and evening programming changed, with Ratigan famously flaming out (a moment I’m glad I got to see live) Cenk Uygur being added and then hastily removed, the inclusion of Al Sharpton’s hour-long program (which inexplicably remains on MSNBC despite his lack of journalistic competence) Chris Matthews’ maddening insistence on reporting politics as if it was a horse race (echoing Reich’s comments) rather than something real, I found my interests waning.

For the last few months I’ve moved away from watching any television news and getting my news almost exclusively from the internet.  The news programming on television feels disconnected from the reality of living in the US today; All In with Chris Hayes & The Rachel Maddow Show being the few exceptions to this observation (and a shout out to MHP on weekend mornings for being worth getting up for) but not worth the time to record and watch daily.

The only TV news I still reliably take the time to watch is faux news (as opposed to FOX news which is fake but treated as real) The Daily Show and The Nightly Show (which replaced The Colbert Report earlier this year) studies have shown not only that most younger people get their TV news from these shows, but that people who watch these shows are more informed than people who watch real TV news.  Which is a sad state of affairs if you think that TV news is important and relevant.

The solution to this problem is to move with the times.  As other commenters noted on the status, television news is a largely dying industry.  They influence smaller and smaller segments of the population.  The Young Turks gets more eyeballs than television news, and other internet sites do even better than they do at communicating news through text articles; the way humans have consumed news since the invention of the printing press.

When you look at the problem from a modern perspective, people are more connected than they have been in decades to the events around them.  This fact doesn’t reliably translate into actual influence of events, doesn’t sway the actions of the political leaders, probably because of the corrupting influence of money in politics.  The solution is to target the sources of corruption and get them closed off through legislative action in the states. It can be done, but it won’t be a short process.

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008;

The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

 Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.

Courtesy Occupy Democrats

No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked, in a program as complex as Social Security is; and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails, it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I’ve said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I’ve expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it’s people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal. Socialist mechanisms exist within the system as it currently stands, have existed within the system since the first time shipping firms and international traders pooled their collective resources and insured themselves against losses, allowing them to venture out on the high seas without worrying about the loss of one ship bankrupting any one particular firm.

State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.

In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.


The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

Godwin’s law, the GMO Version

Of all the contentious arguments I’ve engaged in over the last few years, the most contentious has been the irrational fear revolving around GMO crops.  On this weeks Skeptic’s Guide the Universe they get into the latest example of the kind of rancor that occurs on the subject of GMO; namely, the targeting of people deemed sympathizers with the Nazi labeled antichrist of corporations, Monsanto.

I myself have been accused of being on the payroll of Monsanto.  I wish that were the case.  If any Monsanto executives are reading this and want to pay me, please let me know.  I am not a journalist, I do not care if anyone considers my opinion unbiased or not; I will gladly take your payola.

However, targeting people who rightly suggest that the phobic froth around the mouth of the anti-GMO crowd is just this side of crazy is completely uncalled for and really should be investigated;

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, besieged by complaints from targets and the science and journalism communities, immediately launched an investigation of Adams and the site, with Adams facing possible felony charges of inciting violence (if he lived in a Europe or a Commonwealth country like the U.K., he would probably already have been served).  

(GLP Article)

I’ve never had any use for Mike Adams or NaturalNews.com, although I have been vilified by many, many people who mistakenly go to his website thinking that his information is reliable, it isn’t; and with his death threats and targeting of science journalists he has finally crossed a line that I hope he will be punished for.

courtesy The Genetic Literacy Project

GMO is not Monsanto. GMO is not a thing. GMO (Genetically Manipulated Organisms) is many things, some of them quite beneficial; but that doesn’t stop people with a phobic response from loosing their shit over the subject. Nor does its beneficial results get recognized by the self-same phobic types who decry it’s very existence.  Case in point, this article offered by an anti-GMO friend on Facebook that I have since blocked due to his (Mike Adams like) insistence that I was a Nazi sympathizer for Monsanto.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic on May 14 announced a clinical trial that had been carried out in 2013, in which a Minnesota woman was injected with enough measles vaccine to treat 10 million people. Over the course of several weeks, the multiple tumors growing throughout her body shrank and vanished.  

After undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, Stacy Erholtz’s myeloma — a blood cancer affecting the bone marrow — had spread into her skull and other parts of her body. The virus she was injected with had been engineered by researchers for cancer therapy.

You read that right. GMO cured that woman’s cancer. That is just the tip of the iceberg.  Mexico has halted planting of a GM corn that was engineered specifically to address dietary deficiencies in their poor diet (which is largely corn) based on anti-GMO fears, and the threatened profit margins of competitors.

Mexico already imports tens of thousands of tonnes of GMO yellow corn each year, largely for animal feed, and permits planting of other GMO crops, mainly cotton and soybeans.

Supporters of GMO corn like Mexico’s corn farmers’ federation argue it can boost yields by up to 15 percent.

Their peers in the United States, Brazil and Argentina – the world’s top three corn exporters – are already producing large quantities of GMO corn. 

(Reuters Article

They could cross-breed corn in the traditional method of genetic manipulation for a thousand years and potentially never get the results that they achieved by simply taking the code out of one corn plant and splicing it into corn that grows in the Americas. It will end vitamin deficiencies in many poorer areas that rely on corn for sustenance in the same way that Golden Rice will potentially end vitamin A deficiency blindness in areas of Asia that rely on rice.

Because many children in countries where there is a dietary deficiency in vitamin A rely on rice as a staple food, the genetic modification to make rice produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is seen as a simple and less expensive alternative to vitamin supplements or an increase in the consumption of green vegetables or animal products. 

(from the Wiki article) 

Our first world fears should not be given more credence than their very real needs. I think we should let them decide if they want to eat or not, want to see or not. It is a lot like the fear surrounding vaccination. When your kids start dying, you’ll discover you like medicine after all. GM foods are not health risks in and of themselves, no matter how many times you say otherwise; but, ya know, Round Up ready corn! It causes cancer!  Except it doesn’t.

The biggest criticism of the study is the combination of two features – the small sample size and lack of statistical analysis. The entire study is premised on comparing various dose groups with control groups that were not exposed to GMO or glyphosate. And yet, the authors provide no statistical analysis of this comparison. Given the small number of rats in each group, it is likely that this lack of statistical analysis is due to the fact that statistical significance could not be reached.

In other words – the results of the study are uninterpretable. 

(ScienceBasedMedicine article)

Uninterpretable; read as “the essence of bad science”.

Let me see if I can explain what is going on here. There is a tendency to grant that something that is natural is good. This is fallacious reasoning.  Everything that is toxic is also natural; or nearly everything. That is aside from the fact that none of the other varietals that are being farmed are natural in a fashion that varies from the GMO varieties. The methods used previously to manipulate crops are hardly natural. Chemical and radioactive treatment to force mutation, as well as cross-breeding. If you compare food crops to their natural variants, you would be hard pressed to identify what they have in common.

So the fear of the unnatural really is a phobia, unsupported by science. Understanding that, you might get a feel for why companies that market products might not want to be subjected to labeling mandates that cover GMO content in their products.

GMOs are just one efficient tool that people using bad farming practices can also utilize. This is akin to arguing that because crop dusting huge volumes of chemical pesticides is bad, we should boycott airplanes. Herbicide and pesticide resistance were cropping up long before genetic engineering came onto the stage, necessitating much greater use of those chemicals or turning to more toxic alternatives. The introduction of Roundup ready crops actually began as a wonderful thing in this regard, since Roundup was less toxic than many of the alternatives being used previously, and could be used in much lower amounts. That happy state of affairs was mis-managed and now much larger doses are needed because of resistant weeds, but again, this isn’t the fault of the GMOs. 

(Scientific American Article on labeling)

The fearful just want to boycott, and the manufacturers don’t want to be boycotted. Consequently labeling mandates will continue to hit brick walls (even though full disclosure should include such labeling) until there is less unreasoning fear in the public at large.  In Other Words, educate yourselves and you might get what you want in return.

There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food. No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from ingesting GM food. Although labeling of GMO products in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA. 

(Wikipedia Article on GMO)

I hear you saying “But patenting of organisms! Evil Monsanto!”  If you want to change patenting, then change patenting. You won’t get much argument from me.  Patenting itself is a government subsidized monopoly on production, I much prefer competition.

Monsanto, separate from the subject of GMO in general, is its own worst enemy.  Every attempt that it makes to limit its liability through law, or to manipulate the media to cast itself in a better light ends up being picked up and used by its enemies to make it look all the more evil and manipulative.  It’s hard to imagine that you can make a company responsible for creation of Agent Orange look more evil, but that is a failure of imagination, as the article I lead off with should illustrate.

[Read this article about Monsanto and see if you can understand just how wrong the common knowledge about the corporation actually is. They didn’t create Agent Orange. That’s the start.]


Inquiring Minds, 98 Fred Perlak – Inside the Mind of a Monsanto Scientist

Digging into the issue of farmer suicides and various accusations leveled at Monsanto, it becomes hard to connect the dots reliably;

Studies dated 2004 through 2006 identified several causes for farmers suicide, such as insufficient or risky credit systems, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, a downturn in the urban economy which forced non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services. In 2004, in response to a request from the All India Biodynamic and Organic Farming Association, the Mumbai High Court required the Tata Institute to produce a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and the institute submitted its report in March 2005. The survey cited “government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, and lack of access to information related to agriculture as the chief causes for the desperate condition of farmers in the state.” 

(Wikipedia Article on farmers’ suicides) 

Over and over again I attempt to enlighten friends who fall for the natural fallacy offered by people like Mike Adams. Over and over again I’m told that I don’t understand the first thing about the subject.  Because they know. Monsanto is evil. GMO is bad. Never mind that neither of those accusations are true, as I (and others) illustrate over and over again. Humor doesn’t work.  Information doesn’t work.  Maybe the problem is psychological?

Orthorexia nervosa is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM-5 currently lists anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, “other specified feeding or eating disorder” and “unspecified feeding or eating disorder”.

Some clinicians argue orthorexia nervosa should be recognised as a separate eating disorder and have proposed clinical DSM diagnostic criteria. They note distinct pathological behaviours with orthorexia nervosa, including a motivation for feelings of perfection or purity rather than weight loss, as they see with anorexia and bulimia.

I don’t want to introduce fallacious reasoning into the mix, use the “Oh, you’re just crazy” dodge to dismiss the people who disagree with me. I genuinely do want to understand why people fear GMO’s as much as they do, and why.  Time and again, though, the answers are not quantifiable in any way that I can make sense of. I’m left with little else to explain the issue.


The Genetic Literacy Project is an excellent go-to site for information on GMO.  Here they offer up a TED talk that goes into exactly what GMO is and why we must embrace it if we are to feed future generations of people.

(h/t to SGU for the original link)

His central question in the video “Could the future of food production be genetically modified organic food production?” challenges us to understand exactly how misguided the current atmosphere is when it comes to the subject of GMO.  The video is a must-see.

…and Now for the Rest of the Story, the 9-11 Version

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Hanlon’s Razor

Paul Harvey dominated the radio waves when I was growing up.  It seems fitting to title a corrections post after his iconic radio narration; the hallmark of which was telling you teasing parts of the story in advance, then pitching you on whatever his advertisers told him to pitch that week, and finally getting to the truth of the story in the final segment.  Well, I don’t know that this is the final segment of the story or not, but I do have some corrections to offer on a particular subject which is bugging me at the moment, and it has something to do with truth.

Steven Novella is currently in a debate on his blog NeuroLogica with a 9-11 truther; and while I find myself completely unable to even bring myself to read the articles from the 9-11 truth side of the argument, I felt the desire to offer a comment for Dr. Novella’s excellent rebuttal of the truther argument.  So I wandered back over here to my blog, looking for the well-reasoned arguments that I’ve presented in the past, only to find that none of the reasoned arguments I remember on the subject have ever been posted to this blog. Every Single Thing I’ve EVER written on the subject of 9-11 on this blog is bullshit, up to this point.  No seriously, go look, I’ll wait. See what I mean?  I was (I might still be) completely clueless on the subject, far too gullible even still.  The entries are a blatant example of the malleability of the moment and one’s experiences in it.  When I wrote that crap, I believed it (well, the plagiarism-level cut and paste on the subject of the 9-11 mosque isn’t too bad, but then I didn’t write 9/10’s of that) and it’s only been my experience online in various threads and sites that have refined my thinking on the subject of conspiracy theories in general and the attacks on 9-11 in particular.  

If I had to point to a specific moment in time or a piece of literature in particular that affected my thinking on this subject, it was Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War suggested by Buck Field just as a passing side-comment while we were discussing the failings of the first Abramanation.  I’ve often marveled at how the apparently insignificant contents of conversational banter can have immense ramifications on the thinking of an individual (probably why I’m so fond of Connections and other works by James Burke) reading Deadly Decisions did that for me.  Suddenly all the conspiratorial thinking that fogged up my reason lifted, and I could just glimpse the million monkeys banging on keyboards producing, if not Shakespeare, then at least all the catastrophes of history that seemed to defy explanation. Humans as a group are not too bright, prone to make decisions that lead to very, very bad outcomes.

Case in point, the attacks on 9-11.  Paraphrasing the chapters in the book detailing the failings that lead up to the attacks, the attacks were ultimately successful because that is how human systems fail.  The CIA was tracking the terrorists until they arrived in the US.  Once they were on US soil, the FBI claimed jurisdiction and promptly flushed the investigation. Not once but three times President Bush and his cabinet were advised that attacks on targets in the US using commercial airliners were being planned. None of the signals were acted upon, and nothing more is needed to explain the inaction beyond the observation that human systems fail in this fashion.  The only way to end these kinds of failures is to alter the way we think about the systems we create.

Ultimately no one is to blame for the attacks on 9-11 beyond the 11 men who successfully hijacked the planes and flew them into the buildings, because they were the ones who took those actions.


Some of the content I’ve posted other places follows, starting with proper reference links;

The first debunking site I remember going to;
http://www.debunking911.com/firsttime.htm

There were a lot of firsts for the WTC. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been hit with a plane traveling 500 miles an hour and had its fire proofing removed from its trusses. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever had its steel columns which hold lateral load sheared off by a 767. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been a building which had its vertical load bearing columns in its core removed by an airliner. For Building 7, in all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been left for 6-7 hours with its bottom floors on fire with structural damage from another building collapse. Not the Madrid/Windsor tower did not have almost 40 stories of load on its supports after being hit by another building which left a 20 story gash. The Madrid tower lost portions of its steel frame from the fire. Windsor’s central core was steel reinforced concrete. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been without some fire fighters fighting the fires.

I find it amusing, reading the thread I pulled this reference quote from. So much crap in my head at that time; but I was starting to work through it, call it into question, laugh at it, then discard it. I wish there was something worthy of posting from that period that I wrote. There isn’t. Just more of what is already on the blog that I don’t need more of.  Well, maybe this bit;

I love the way they say “collapsed in their footprint” as if that’s even the case. Watch the full video of the collapse, and you will see the outside skin peeling away OUTWARD as the upper floors collapse through them. One can duplicate this effect with a couple of cardboard paper towel rolls. The upper floors landed in the footprint, because the perimeter structure guided those floors down onto it, as it sheared away and impacted the structures around it. Those ‘explosive’ puffs of smoke? Smoke and Air escaping through the fracture points as the upper floor forced the compressed air beneath them out (also replicatable with some basic home items) This is a pretty straightforward structural failure, and the engineer who designed it was devastated by it. Watch the video of him discussing it, if you don’t believe me. 

When the US shot down a civilian airliner, back around gulf war one, I first noticed this unwillingness of Americans to accept facts related to tragedies. There were all these theories about the plane being loaded with corpses and flown into restricted airspace, that it wasn’t the US that fired on it, etc. Silly complexifying theories that just got in the way of understanding what really happened. This 9/11 truth stuff is nothing but more of the same. Got no time for it.

That bit and the bit where I laugh at Alex Jones for claiming that he predicted 9-11.

Alex Jones lives in Austin. The syndicated radio show comes from the local AM station that I listened to (3 to 6 pm weekdays. Jeff Ward, best radio show in Austin) A couple of my friends from my time at the local LP were part of his blue windbreaker truth squad (or whatever they called themselves) They all believed what he said implicitly, but to me it’s a lot like professional wrestling. It’s real to them, but that doesn’t make it true. Has anything that he’s promoted breathlessly in the last 20 years come true? The secret prisons? Any of it? He’s playing to his market, and he’s pretty good at it. Like Coast to Coast, there’s just enough truth buried in the exaggerations to make you pause. But in the end it’s entertainment, not science. If he predicted 9/11, then I predicted 9/11. 

It was a common argument in LP circles that an attack on the US was inevitable, because of our military adventurism. Hell, it was a rare day that went by where we DIDN’T talk about what form of attack might occur, and how that would be the end of freedom in this country, because the average American was completely unprepared to understand the costs of our military adventurism, and wouldn’t realize that our foreign policy lead us to this place.

The last debunking article I’ve read;
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/trutherism/2011/09/the_theory_vs_the_facts.html

At a certain point, though, debating science and theory and ideas is an exercise in futility, because the hypotheses of conspiracy theorists are not grounded in any kind of a larger understanding of the real world. “This sounds really mean,” says Erik Sofge, a reporter on the original Popular Mechanics piece and an occasional contributor to Slate. “But really, it’s like arguing over the marching speed of hobbits.”

The NIST reports;
http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/wtc/wtc_finalreports.cfm 

The Commission report;
http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf

The final report from the NIST concerning building 7 including the modeling parameters (something I’ve been wanting to see)
http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=861612

AIA signs off on NIST reports, distances itself from Richard Gage, the man behind AE911Truth;
http://www.architectmagazine.com/architecture/architects-shy-from-truther-conspiracy-theory.aspx

All of Gage’s so-called evidence has been rebutted in peer-reviewed papers, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, by the 9/11 Commission Report, and, perhaps most memorably, by the 110-year-old engineering journal Popular Mechanics.

What is more interesting than these bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories is the way that Gage places his AIA membership front and center in his presentations. He seems to be attempting to cloak his organization in the officialdom of the venerable 155-year-old professional institution, even as AIA wants nothing to do with his organization.

Chris Mohr (this guy) is convinced that he has rebutted (not debunked but Rebutted, disproven, shown to be invalid, answered satisfactorily, etc.) Richard Gage, and was even featured onstage in a video with Gage that Gage’s own people refused to release, as he details in the opening seconds of the video playlist here.  The videos are as riveting as watching paint dry.  I don’t recommend them.

The Popular Mechanics article on the subject;

Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States. 

To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military. 

In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history. 

…and I need to mention Skeptoid.com, which started the last conversation I had on the subject of 9-11 truth with the episode The Pentagon and the Missle.

The rabbit hole of 9-11 conspiracies these days begins and ends with Building 7.   Because of the positioning of the building on the site, it’s odd construction, et cetera, proponents of conspiracy theories always seem to point to building 7 as the most inexplicable part of the catastrophe.

However, it really is explainable, and the explanation isn’t implosion; the buildings didn’t disintegrate into dust, nor did they fall completely in their own footprints. Building 7 did not collapse at free fall velocities. 18 seconds per seismic monitoring; twice as long in duration than ‘free fall’.  I’ve toured ground zero, more than once. As a former architect I’ve studied the damage around that area numerous times. If you understand the structures, then you will understand why they failed the way they did. There’s nothing mysterious or inexplicable about that day and it’s events, not even the fact that W. ignored warnings in advance of the attacks. That is also completely normal human behavior.

Thirteen years and still no defectors from the group that set the bombs? Not one shred of documentation from the (and as a former architect, I know what documentation is required) thousands of pages of diagrams necessary to pull off a job of this magnitude? No significant amount of explosive residue (I have to say significant, because there was all kinds of materials in the buildings including trace amounts of explosives. Not enough to bring down the buildings) that leads to the culprits who made it? Nothing? Whereas (in that book I’ve already linked) you can find references to the CIA program that tracked the hijackers. Documentation for the meetings at which W. was warned of plans to attack with planes. In the NIST reports you can find explanations of how the structures failed the way they did. Etc. Etc. Etc. Mountains of evidence that support the explanation that planes struck the buildings just like we all saw, and the resultant damage and fires caused them to collapse, and to bring other buildings down with them. And against that mountain of evidence you have…?

(“The NIST report has been altered!” I hear you saying. “It is full of errors”)

Anomaly hunting does not prove a counter argument; it simply points out anomalies in the data presented. In Other Words, because the government falsifies data, it doesn’t prove that the buildings were imploded, or the planes remote controlled, or whatever fanciful tale you prefer over the hard reality that occurred that day. In order for the data to be ‘falsified’ you have to prove intent to deceive, rather than simple error involved in a complex determination of structural failure.  Discounting all of the documentation accumulated on this subject because of errors in certain parts of the data is engaging in fallacious reasoning.

Anomalies in the data occur. That is reality not human nature. Seven fell the way it did because that’s the way it’s particular frame failed with the damage it received. The side facing the twin towers fell first because of the damage it sustained, and it pulled the visible portions of the building back and down with it, making the collapse look “odd” from the perspective of the street (the only perspectives available) but is quite well explained by the NIST reports if you care to actually read them.

We knew about Watergate within the year. MKultra within a decade of it’s ending. The NSA programs currently running stayed secret for less than a few years. The timeframes whereby secret operations remain unknown is getting shorter and shorter, and the more complex the operation, the less likely it will be able to remain secret for any amount of time.

The Manhattan project is another example of “open secrets”; like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in it’s own way. Anyone involved could have (and did) relate the incident when they felt they were clear of reprisal. Where are the confessions for the people involved in the implosion of building 7?

There is no magical waiver for illegal operations documentation, coordination and manpower. Complex operations must be documented and coordinated. The more complex, the more documentation and manpower. People talk, and documents will be found. That is what happens. The claim that this doesn’t happen in this special instance is completely irrational.

(But Thermite!)

The possibility of using thermite to cut steel does not equate to thermite being used to cut steel in this instance. I can cut steel with a cutting torch, it does not mean they used a cutting torch to bring down the WTC. Even if it were possible, there has not been enough residue found on the debris to conclude that it was used in this fashion. Once again, anomaly hunting is not evidence. Paraphrasing another skeptic; Making selective choices amongst competing evidence, so as to emphasize the results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.

I love this wikipedia page; heavily edited by truthers, it brings up and then dismisses with evidence every objection to the NIST report.  Truly, all of these arguments have been had before, by people more informed than either side of an imaginary argument between me and whoever is reading this.

The desperation in truther mentality is quite amusing. Conspiracy theorists in general go through the years convinced that there is some nefarious plot afoot that will destroy civilization as we know it if it isn’t revealed to the world.

…however, these same conspiracies have been floated for decades. The builderburgers, the Rothschilds, The JFK assasination, 911 truth, etc, etc, etc. Weirdly, the world just keeps on turning, never noticing that the plots go unchallenged by the vast majority of the population. How is it that these conspiracies have failed to take over the world? When these groups have been actively conspiring now since before the First World War?

(Column 79 held up the building?)

Column 79 in WTC7 being the first to fail (as suggested by the NIST report) makes perfect sense, since the penthouse which is seen to drop before the facade of the building does, has a corner on column 79. Had any other column been suggested to fail first, you would have to explain the kink in the facade (which is visible) and the premature disappearance of roof structures in that area.

Anyone who thinks therefore only 79 held up the building doesn’t understand structure or the phrase “progressive failure” (which, contrary to the internet meme, has nothing to do with Obama) wherein the tall buildings we occupy are carefully crafted latticeworks of interlocking support members, the loss of any one of which can lead to the entire structure collapsing. Any first year engineering student understands this theory.

…and if you have other questions, you might want to peruse this link for answers before postulating anything else that makes you look like an idiot.

Progressive Failure is the exact mechanism of crafted structures that implosion methods exploit in order to bring down buildings. All of the building collapses on 9-11 represented sobering problems for future engineers, because engineers specifically attempt to design buildings to not do what those buildings did anyway.

Anyone in the AEC community who clings to the implosion theory for the WTC structures is engaging in a well known psychological evasion technique, probably due to an emotional need to prove someone else is to blame aside from the engineering community. Consequently it’s actually surprising that so few architects and engineers are truthers. This speaks to the strength of the evidence, rather than the weakness of the individuals involved.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Conspiracy theorists rely on this while spinning their theories. There’s no room for the knowledge that things were different and seen differently before the incident; so the idea that you might not conclude that what we after the fact would see as a threat, would not be seen as a threat at the time. That there were vested interests denying that America could be attacked directly, and that attempts to investigate the conspirators before the attack were actively discouraged by these interests. That the government was warned multiple times prior to the attack, but then modified the narrative to remove these references after the fact, and that this is simply the way human systems have been shown to operate.

Third times a charm for this link; Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War I cannot recommend the book highly enough for sorting through the noise related to the 9-11 attacks. It is not an either/or question concerning the attacks. It is a question of just how severely our government failed us.

What brought down the buildings? Waiting for proof that it wasn’t planes, fire and construction techniques that lead to their collapse is waiting on someone to manufacture evidence. Because nothing of any credible significance has ever been found that says otherwise.

99% Invisible

Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version

Crazy shit of the moment I stumbled across on a BBS I frequent;

Jim Sanders, 45 of Mulberry, Indiana says that he is a “sovereign man,” who is not subject to the laws of Indiana and or his local governments, That’s why — after amassing over $900 dollars in fines for traffic violations and refusing to pay – his driver’s license got suspended. With no license, he says that his “only legal mode of travel is walking,” apparently making an exception for the law that requires a driver’s license.

Apparently he never talked to one of them, or he’d know (well, think. Believe. Something) that you don’t carry a drivers license, don’t buy a car with a title, don’t put tags on your car, etc. You just continue to drive without all that and when the cop stops you, you talk his ears off about all this kooky stuff until he lets you go before he breaks and shoots you.

This is one of those wacky but true stories. The kind of thing I only share when I’m enjoying my preferred spirits.

This whole “Sovereign Citizen” thing was making the rounds right about the time I bailed on the LP (at least  one prominent leader of the Texas LP, at the time, was into this) You never could nail down exactly what the system was, but it was purportedly to do with admiralty law, and yellow fringed flags, and your name in all caps on legal documents. You had the right to drive common vehicles without a license, because you didn’t have to have a license to ride a horse or drive a wagon; consequently all those laws didn’t really apply and so you could just ignore them PROVIDED your car wasn’t titled by and purchased from the state. So you had to buy a car from outside the country, essentially. Then what you get is a transfer deed (or some such) not the official title. You can drive that car without a license. So they claim.

Weirdly the cops never had heard of any of this when they stopped you, and these guys were always having to recover their vehicles from impound.

The tax- and fine-free driving was just one of the perks. You also could skip out on property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc. If you aren’t a subject of the federal government, then none of that stuff applies to you. Just as weirdly, the counties will still repossess your property for not paying taxes, no matter how many different ways you try to explain your exemption to them.

The article jogged my memory about the Sovereign Citizen movement, something I’d heard recently on a podcast or news show. Something to the effect that Sovereign Citizen is a known White Supremacist tactic/ideology (ah, the wonders of the internet) Low and behold, when I look on the SPLC website, I find this;

The strange subculture of the sovereign citizens movement, whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs, has been growing at a fast pace since the late 2000s. Sovereigns believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through West Memphis, Ark. 

The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism, though most sovereigns, many of whom are African American, are unaware of their beliefs’ origins. In the early 1980s, the sovereign citizens movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, mainly because sovereign theories originated in groups that saw Jews as working behind the scenes to manipulate financial institutions and control the government. Most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene, believed that being white was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. They argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed citizenship to African Americans and everyone else born on U.S. soil, also made black Americans permanently subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves. 

The Sovereign Belief System
The contemporary sovereign belief system is based on a decades-old conspiracy theory. At some point in history, sovereigns believe, the American government set up by the founding fathers — with a legal system the sovereigns refer to as “common law” — was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce. Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way. Some sovereigns believe this perfidious change occurred during the Civil War, while others blame the events of 1933, when the U.S. abandoned the gold standard. Either way, they stake their lives and livelihoods on the idea that judges around the country know all about this hidden government takeover but are denying the sovereigns’ motions and filings out of treasonous loyalty to hidden and malevolent government forces

I have never, NEVER been happier to be divorced of the LP than I am right as this minute. I think I’ll have another glass.

I also found this tidbit;

I don’t want to appear flippant, because the interviewer references a police shooting incident (actually, it’s the one before last, because the last one was the two crazies kicked out of the Bundy Ranch group) but I swear I’ve listened to about 10 guys ramble on like that for hours on the subject.



A small “l” libertarian acquaintance of mine took me to task for the observation of “many leaders” of the Texas LP following this ideology.  I had to admit that I could name only one, so I revised the blog entry.  Still, it bears mentioning that the LP (like the Republicans, and the Democrats) is informed by an even larger group of hangers on, like-minded individuals who won’t join the party per se, but feel that the party can benefit from their insight on the ideology; consequently there were many others who felt that the LP was on a fool’s errand, attempting to alter government.  That the true purpose of anarchists was to end government and assert the rights of sovereign individuals. 
The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.

A Freeloader In the Flesh

I have been accused of being a disability freeloader (by family even) in the past. I’d like to introduce you to a real freeloader.

Vanderboegh said he once worked as a warehouse manager but now lives on government disability checks. He said he receives $1,300 a month because of his congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. He has private health insurance through his wife, who works for a company that sells forklift products. 

(Democratic Underground link Washington Post link)

I can say for certain the man is a freeloader, because disabled people don’t make their way halfway across the nation and threaten a sitting Senator with violence,

One of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters did not hold back his disdain for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), hurling a painful threat in the process.

In a video posted by Right Wing Watch on Wednesday, Mike Vanderboegh warned followers that “we are still staring Civil War in its bloody face.” He pulled out a soap dish for Reid, calling it the “2014 award” for inciting such conflict.

“I will send it as a reminder, with the message ‘Don’t poke the wolverine with a sharp stick, Harry, unless you want your balls ripped off,'” Vanderboegh said, drawing boisterous “yeahs!” from the crowd.

(Democratic Underground link Huffington Post link)

I”m not too worried about Senator Reid, He’s proved he’s a scrapper. However, as a person who lives on disability himself, who only regretfully applied for disability (and received it after three years of fighting) after suffering from the symptoms of undiagnosed Menieres disease for at least a decade, I find this man’s hypocrisy particularly troubling and revealing. Troubling, because his activity proves there are freeloaders on disability. Revealing, because these types generally do assign their own ‘sins’ to everyone around them.

…My family and I are thankful, every day, that the government was there to keep us in our house, my kids in school, food on our table, etc, etc, etc. Had the government not taken the steps to insure me for disability, my children would be homeless, and I would probably be dead.

There is a reason *why* the government steps in to cover matters of public health, and I personally am glad, now, that they do. I wasn’t always this enlightened. Had I not been taken ill, I might very well have been as deluded as this guy, still believing that the government was my enemy. At least my sickness saved me from that mistake. If he was really ill, really had time to think about his predicament as I do, he might be spared his current hypocrisy. In any case they should probably stop cutting his checks. Clearly if he can take part in an armed insurrection, he can do some real work.

(h/t to Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station for bringing this to my attention)

Conservative? Liberal?

Posted originally here. I will personally drink a celebratory toast, when Rush Limbaugh finally goes off the air.  Not that I’ve posted on the subject of Limbaugh Lies before, or anything like that.


I live in the middle of a very angry red conservative state; by design, in the chill blue liberal heart of it. I find it funny when people from outside say “they”, and then misattribute what it is that “they” think.

I’m drowning in conservative (and religious) expression around here. You can’t escape it. What is going on is really rural vs. city life clashing; the reality of the fact that large groups of people working near each other can achieve more than a single person working on his own. The rural insight, the midwestern work ethic, is that you have to work hard to get ahead. Everything must be struggled for, including basic needs like shelter and food. The idea that something as complex as healthcare could ever be provided without cost to the end-user is as foreign a concept to them as having crops harvest themselves and bring themselves to market. It just doesn’t happen in the experience of your average ‘red state’ person. They are convinced that the poor get something that they aren’t entitled to, since they don’t have to work to get it. All forms of assistance are cheating (as a disabled person, I see this virtually every time I admit that I don’t work) because someone has to pay for that, and you didn’t earn it.

They are angry, and conservative outlets like Fox news and Limbaugh tell them that their anger is justified.

But it really is just manipulation. Of the top 1% who control 95% of the country’s wealth, how many of them go out and earn a days wage? Let’s go further down the food chain, though. Amongst the angry ‘red’ crowd, how many of you actually get out and sweat in the sun all day earning a living?

Some of the angriest people I know only have time to be angry, because they aren’t doing a job they are happy with and it doesn’t occupy them. But they get to stay indoors out of the sun. By contrast, some of the happiest people I ever worked with worked in the sun all day (oddly, a good portion of them would probably be deported by the angry people) actually doing the work that angry conservatives think they do themselves. The angriest conservatives are city people with a rural attitude that no longer reflects the reality of the lives they lead. Were they not sermonized to, at every opportunity, about the evils of the lazy immigrant and the poor, they might actually come to this realization themselves.

…and that’s the crux of the problem. When I point out to people (as I’ve done a few times) that you cannot know personally that every person involved in creating the products that you use has been fairly compensated for their work, and so consequently you cannot know whether the assistance beneficiary paid their ‘fair share’ and are simply receiving the benefits of someone who worked honestly to get it, they go through the roof in anger. It contradicts the worldview of the average conservative, that getting something without paying a fee for it directly is always going to be cheating the system. Before you disagree with me, ask yourself; if someone sues an insurance company and wins a big check, do you feel happy for them? How about if they don’t have to sue, but get a nice big payout anyway? Do you doubt they earned that payout? Really?

Is a liberal worldview better? No. Most liberals I know (and I am a liberal. Have been one all my life) have no clue how things get done. They just expect things to happen when they want it, and couldn’t begin to explain how the systems around them work. In my experience, the group effort’s resultant extra payout is in large part squandered by the ‘middle managers’ who really are the lazy people in the equation. They’re the ones who don’t want to do the front line grunt work, and don’t want the attention that upper management gets. It’s why groups like Romney’s company will slash that part of the workforce first. At worst upper management will have to deal with the front line directly for awhile (this is how you get a fiscal conservative like Romney running as a Republican. Strange bedfellows) a liberal sees these actions as detrimental, because they only see the loss of paid positions. Ask stockholders if they think cost cutting is a bad idea, though.

In the end, both sides of the spectrum are wrong; and they are wrong for the wrong reasons. The conservatives are convinced that a return to our roots is required (as if that’s even vaguely possible) and talk about morals and religion as if that’s the work ethic enshrined; it’s not. The liberals talk about safety nets and the rich, as if the rich didn’t get where they were by crafting their own safety net; as if they could simply print money until everyone has enough. There really does need to be a work ethic, and there really is enough wealth in this country that we can afford to keep people from dying on the streets (and don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. Happens all the time) I just wish the hate would stop. Tired of the stupid people hating. Bad for the heart, you’ll end up a burden on society.