Thursday, October 8, 2015
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
from The New York Times
The subject of a new documentary, here's an early story that first brought attention to Malala.
A 2009 documentary by Adam B. Ellick profiled Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl whose school was shut down by the Taliban. Ms. Yousafzai was shot by a gunman on Oct. 9, 2012.
The subject of a new documentary, here's an early story that first brought attention to Malala.
A 2009 documentary by Adam B. Ellick profiled Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl whose school was shut down by the Taliban. Ms. Yousafzai was shot by a gunman on Oct. 9, 2012.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
from the LA Weekly:
Recently I was on the podcast You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. He’s an incredibly nice guy, and it was a good experience overall.
At one point, he moved the conversation toward the spiritual. I told him that I had no religious or spiritual beliefs but was too lazy for atheism. I was trying to be funny, but basically it’s true.
Many years ago, I concluded that people need leadership and rules to follow. Government, laws, the threat of incarceration, traffic lights. Freedom is great, but the freedom to drive over someone and go on your way isn’t.
I reckon that religion was an early method of keeping people from running amok. The act of worshipping an unseen force requires faith and strength of conviction — and that in itself is a profound concept. If you believe in what you can’t prove conventionally, you have to land on that very hard to beat back the doubters. Like when the Westboro Baptist Church people got pushback for their “God hates fags” signs, they just made bigger signs.
To be a person of faith, it seems to me, takes no small amount of work. This idea is succinctly addressed in the King James version of the Bible, John 20:29: “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” I had to look it up to get the words right, but I actually read a version of that in a hotel room once.
Since there aren’t enough resources for everyone to have a personal cop monitoring their every action, there must be a mega-cop so huge that his omnipresence is invisible and unquestionably powerful.
This is what I figure religion is. Try to be good. Being human, you will make mistakes, but all is not lost. You can ask to be forgiven; by meditating on your mistake, you will see that it would be unwise to repeat the behavior. Throw in the idea of punishment and reward and it’s a workable system.
I think the most brilliant part of religion, as I understand it, is what comes after you die — eternity.
In life, Martin Luther King had to put up with the boiling rage of Jesus-loving, God-fearing citizens who wanted to keep schools segregated. It had obviously crossed his mind that something bad might come his way. On April 3, 1968, at this end of his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, Dr. King said that he would like to have a long life, but perhaps that wasn’t what was going to happen. In spite of that, he was happy and not afraid of any man, because his eyes had seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
He was dead less than 24 hours later. I guess in his way of thinking, the everlasting good stuff and far bigger part of the picture was waiting post-life.
This is why I am not an atheist. If you believe that President Obama was born outside of America, no paperwork or witness testimony will convince you otherwise. If you believe in a higher power, then anyone trying to find holes in your logic causes you to stand your ground more tenaciously.
Basically, I believe that someone believes something.
Now and then, I get emails from religious people. They pity me and the life choices I have made. Some ask why I have covered my body with those awful tattoos and turned myself into such a freak. Others gently admonish me for not having a problem with anyone’s sexual orientation. They let me know that they will be praying for me.
Since they started it, I feel free to have a little fun. I reply, “Thanks, Gandhi!”
This often results in a long letter about the sinner and the sin. I wait a day or two and then write back, asking when they were first attracted to someone of their own gender. I let them know that I am just fine with their gayness and I bet the big guy is, too.
The benevolence usually starts to wear a little thin in the next reply. One of my favorite questions to ask is: In a fight, who would win, Jesus or Glenn Danzig?
It’s around then that the gloves come off. I have even gotten some of them to curse, which I love. There is nothing like being told to go fuck yourself by the same person who was, only days before, praying on your behalf.
When someone tells me that America is a Christian nation and all the laws we need are contained in the Bible, to me that is not a religious discussion. It’s about the notion of authority this person is employing in an attempt to control others. God might be real to this person, but what is as real to me is Article VI of the Constitution. All of our disagreements will end in stalemate, so why even bother? I have no interest at all in trying to “win” an argument like this, because to me the premise is bent to begin with.
Do I have beliefs? You bet! I will leave this now and be back in several hours to testify!
It’s 0107 hrs. on Feb. 17, 2015. I have just returned from the Griffin in Atwater Village. Fuzz and Thee Oh Sees played a free show. I am such a fan of these bands. I stood in a highly packed room. Both groups completely ripped it up.
I saw, I heard, I experienced — I believed. What did I believe? Same thing I always have: the here, the now, the Rock!
Monday, October 5, 2015
Sunday, October 4, 2015
from The Nation
The Journal wants to shock and awe voters with big numbers, but Sanders’s proposals would save America big bucks.
By Joshua Holland
his week, The Wall Street Journal dropped a terrifyingly large number on Senator Bernie Sanders’s upstart campaign, warning that his proposals would carry a “price tag” of $18 trillion over a 10-year period. It’s a number designed to shock and awe and discourage voters from giving the social democrat’s ideas a close look.
But according to the very data cited by The Journal’s Laura Meckler, Sanders’s highly progressive proposals wouldn’t cost the United States a single penny, on net, over that 10-year window. In fact, they’d cost less, overall, than what we’d spend without them.
It’s not hard to understand why. The lion’s share of the “cost”—$15 trillion—would pay for opening up Medicare to Americans of all ages. (Meckler notes that Sanders hasn’t released a detailed proposal, so she relies on an analysis of HR 676, Representative John Conyers’s Medicare-for-all bill.)
Rather than cost us more as a society, this proposal would only shift spending from businesses and households to the federal government by replacing our current patchwork system of public and private insurance with a single, more efficient system of financing.
But it wouldn’t be a dollar-for-dollar transfer from the private to the public sector. According to Gerald Friedman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who authored the analysis cited by the Journal, that transition would reduce American healthcare costs by almost $10 trillion over 10 years through economies of scale, better control of pharmaceutical costs, and savings on administrative bloat.
Friedman also projects that, as every American got coverage, we’d spend close to $5 trillion more on actual healthcare services. So we would get more healthcare and still end up saving around $5 trillion on net. In other words, Sanders’s Medicare expansion would cost $15 trillion, but without it American businesses and taxpayers would spend $20 trillion over the same period, while still leaving millions uninsured.
This shows just how badly we get ripped off under our current system. And as Friedman writes at the Huffington Post, “The economic benefits from Senator Sander’s [sic] proposal would be even greater than these static estimates,” because they don’t factor in “the productivity boost coming from a more efficient health care system and a healthier population.”
So let’s look at the rest of the Journal’s terrifyingly socialist buffet of policies:
As you can see, the $5 trillion we’d save on healthcare costs would more than cover the costs of the rest of Sanders’s agenda—offering tuition-free education at public colleges, expanding Social Security benefits, bolstering private pensions, repairing some of our aging infrastructure and establishing a fund to help cover paid family leave. That doesn’t seem so frightening after all.
If the study cited by the Journal is correct, all of those benefits would not only effectively cost us nothing, we’d still have $2 trillion left over to, say, cut federal deficits for the next ten years—something that should warm the hearts of fiscally conservative Wall Street Journal readers.
But the real challenge Sanders’s proposals present for the Wall Street Journal crowd is ideological. In America, our taxes are quite low relative to other advanced countries, but we shell out dramatically more out-of-pocket for social goods like healthcare, education, and retirement. In fact, in 2009 (before Obamacare’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion kicked in), Americans spent almost four times as much as the citizens of other wealthy countries buying social goods on the private market. As a result, while we know that a big chunk of our paychecks are going to Uncle Sam, we don’t see the same kind of benefits coming back to us as people in the rest of the developed world do. And that disparity makes Americans receptive to the right’s anti-government rhetoric.
So this isn’t really about costs, because the government is more efficient than private enterprise in providing social insurance and higher education. If, in some alternate universe, Bernie Sanders were able to win the presidency and enact his proposals in their entirety, it would pose an existential threat to the conservative project to convince Americans that their tax dollars don’t buy much—that government is all about bloat and corruption and giving their hard-earned dollars to the undeserving poor.
Seen in that light, it’s no surprise that The Wall Street Journal would drop this kind of bunker-busting number-bomb on the gentleman from Vermont.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
from The Daily Mail:
Controversial South Park episode shows Donald Trump being raped and murdered: Show attacks tycoon's run for President, his immigration policies and then kills him off in shocking final scene
South Park launched vicious attack on Trump and his election policies Shows character Mr Garrison pledging to 'f***' illegal immigrants to death Promise is in reference to Trump's real-world zero-tolerance approach Also brands Trump a 'brash a*******' and a 'joke' that got out of hand Garrison also pledges to build a wall between the U.S. and Canada But when Canada beats him to it, he travels into the country before carrying out his sick rape threat on Trump himself Trump campaign declined to comment on the show
Donald Trump was on the receiving end of a vicious take-down by South Park on Wednesday evening, which skirted the borders of decency and taste and arguably crossed them.In an almost unprecedented attack on a running presidential candidate, the adult cartoon lampooned the Republican and in a shocking finale, showed the billionaire businessman being brutally raped to death.The inflammatory episode of the satirical cartoon, created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, was supposed to attack Trump's immigration policies and mocked his oft-repeated promise to build a wall between the US and Mexico.
Shocking: Satirical cartoon South Park has aired an inflammatory new episode which mocks Donald Trump before showing the presidential candidate being raped to death in a shocking scene
Brutal: The episode - called 'Where My Country Gone' in reference to Trump's election slogan 'Make America Great Again - launched a scathing attack on The Donald and his policies
Safety Dance: In it, Trump is shown as becoming the President of Canada causing all of the Canadians to flee across the border into America, creating an immigration problem
The show had featured Trump briefly once before, back in 2001, but had largely steered clear of mocking him - until now.
Tycoon Trump's campaign declined to comment on the episode, which was entitled 'Where My Country Gone'.
The eye-opening episode showed South Park being overrun by Canadian immigrants, prompting high school teacher Mr Garrison to launch a political career aimed at getting rid of them.
Fired from his job at the school for referring to Canadian children as 'canucks', he begins running for election under the slogan 'Where my country gone' which he has printed on to a hat in clear reference to Trump's 'Make American great again' mantra.He then begins holding rallies, at which several people are carrying banners with Trump's actual slogan on, proposing a radical policy on immigrants.'I propose we f*** them all to death,' Mr Garrison tells a CNN journalist, as a shocking answer as how he would deal with the influx migrants.Asked what he means by the remark, Mr Garrison continues. 'We round them up, pull down their pants and f*** them 'til their souls leave their bodies. Then we build a wall.'However, his mood turns sour after the journalist informs him that Canada has already built a wall across the border with America - a clear riposte to Trump's supposedly simple plan to prevent illegal immigration into the US.
Angry: The influx of Canadians caused high school teacher Mr Garrison to launch a campaign to 'f*** them to death' in echoes of Trump's rela-life zero-tolerance approach to illegal immigrants
Supporters: At Garrison's political rallies, several supporters are shown waving banners with 'make America great again' - Trump's real-life political slogan - written on them
Made good on his promises: Mr Garrison pledges to build a wall between the U.S. and Canada, but upon learning that the Canadians beat him to it, he pledges to go into Canada and 'f*** them all to death' in their own countryAfter a furious press conference along the U.S.-Canadian border, where Garrison shuts down his more mild-mannered opponents with his harsh and insulting rhetoric, he promises to go into Canada and 'f*** them to death' in their home country.
In the meantime it transpires in the alternate world of South Park that the real Donald Trump has actually been elected as the leader of Canada which is what prompted all of the Canadians to flee to America.As one Canadian explains in a clear dig at Trump's rise to prominence in the polls this summer: 'There were several candidates during the Canadian elections. One of them was this brash a****** who just spoke his mind.
'He didn’t really offer any solutions, he just said outrageous things. We thought it was funny. Nobody really thought he’d ever be president. It was a joke! But we just let the joke go on for too long.'He kept gaining momentum, and by the time we were ready to say, "OK, let’s get serious now, who should really be president?" he was already being sworn into office.'We weren’t paying attention… We weren’t paying attention!'
Finding the entire country deserted, Mr Garrison wanders around until he finds Trump dancing in his office, at which point he launches his sick attack
With Trump dead, all the immigrants return home, promoting Mr Garrison to announce that he is running for the white house, along with running mate Caitlyn Jenner (pictured)
Front runner: Donald Trump spoke at the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce at the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston on Wednesday. He has yet to respond to the South Park episode
Desperate to carry out his threat against Canadians, Mr Garrison has launched himself into the nation in a barrel over Niagara falls, only to find the country deserted except for Trump, who is dancing in his office to The Safety Song.
Once inside the two begin fighting, before Mr Garrison strips his wrestling outfit off and brutally beats trump into submission before raping him to death.
Back in South Park, news that the Canadian president has been 'f***** to death' causes jubilation, and the Canadians return home.
Mr Garrison then decides to take his election campaign to the White House, along with running-mate Caitlyn Jenner, who drives off with him at the end.
However, in another controversial joke, she is shown running over a pedestrian - a reference to the real-life Caitlyn's fatal car crash along a Los Angeles freeway earlier this year.
'I'M A GAY FISH': SOUTH PARK'S MOST MEMORABLE CELEBRITY TAKE-DOWNS
Friday, October 2, 2015
from MacDailyNews:“Think before you selfie, you guys, because sometimes getting the right angle on those pictures can have serious (even fatal!) consequences,” Lindsey Caldwell reports for E! Online.
Darwinism at work.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
from The Guardian
The fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time. Tens of billions of sentient beings, each with complex sensations and emotions, live and die on a production line
nimals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history. The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals. Even tens of thousands of years ago, our stone age ancestors were already responsible for a series of ecological disasters. When the first humans reached Australia about 45,000 years ago, they quickly drove to extinction 90% of its large animals. This was the first significant impact that Homo sapiens had on the planet’s ecosystem. It was not the last.About 15,000 years ago, humans colonised America, wiping out in the process about 75% of its large mammals. Numerous other species disappeared from Africa, from Eurasia and from the myriad islands around their coasts. The archaeological record of country after country tells the same sad story. The tragedy opens with a scene showing a rich and varied population of large animals, without any trace of Homo sapiens. In scene two, humans appear, evidenced by a fossilised bone, a spear point, or perhaps a campfire. Scene three quickly follows, in which men and women occupy centre-stage and most large animals, along with many smaller ones, have gone. Altogether, sapiens drove to extinction about 50% of all the large terrestrial mammals of the planet before they planted the first wheat field, shaped the first metal tool, wrote the first text or struck the first coin.The next major landmark in human-animal relations was the agricultural revolution: the process by which we turned from nomadic hunter-gatherers into farmers living in permanent settlements. It involved the appearance of a completely new life-form on Earth: domesticated animals. Initially, this development might seem to have been of minor importance, as humans only managed to domesticate fewer than 20 species of mammals and birds, compared with the countless thousands of species that remained “wild”. Yet, with the passing of the centuries, this novel life-form became the norm. Today, more than 90% of all large animals are domesticated (“large” denotes animals that weigh at least a few kilograms). Consider the chicken, for example. Ten thousand years ago, it was a rare bird that was confined to small niches of South Asia. Today, billions of chickens live on almost every continent and island, bar Antarctica. The domesticated chicken is probably the most widespread bird in the annals of planet Earth. If you measure success in terms of numbers, chickens, cows and pigs are the most successful animals ever.Alas, domesticated species paid for their unparalleled collective success with unprecedented individual suffering. The animal kingdom has known many types of pain and misery for millions of years. Yet the agricultural revolution created completely new kinds of suffering, ones that only worsened with the passing of the generations.At first sight, domesticated animals may seem much better off than their wild cousins and ancestors. Wild buffaloes spend their days searching for food, water and shelter, and are constantly threatened by lions, parasites, floods and droughts. Domesticated cattle, by contrast, enjoy care and protection from humans. People provide cows and calves with food, water and shelter, they treat their diseases, and protect them from predators and natural disasters. True, most cows and calves sooner or later find themselves in the slaughterhouse. Yet does that make their fate any worse than that of wild buffaloes? Is it better to be devoured by a lion than slaughtered by a man? Are crocodile teeth kinder than steel blades?What makes the existence of domesticated farm animals particularly cruel is not just the way in which they die but above all how they live. Two competing factors have shaped the living conditions of farm animals: on the one hand, humans want meat, milk, eggs, leather, animal muscle-power and amusement; on the other, humans have to ensure the long-term survival and reproduction of farm animals. Theoretically, this should protect animals from extreme cruelty. If a farmer milks his cow without providing her with food and water, milk production will dwindle, and the cow herself will quickly die. Unfortunately, humans can cause tremendous suffering to farm animals in other ways, even while ensuring their survival and reproduction. The root of the problem is that domesticated animals have inherited from their wild ancestors many physical, emotional and social needs that are redundant in farms. Farmers routinely ignore these needs without paying any economic price. They lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly, yet they live on and multiply.Doesn’t that contradict the most basic principles of Darwinian evolution? The theory of evolution maintains that all instincts and drives have evolved in the interest of survival and reproduction. If so, doesn’t the continuous reproduction of farm animals prove that all their real needs are met? How can a cow have a “need” that is not really essential for survival and reproduction?It is certainly true that all instincts and drives evolved in order to meet the evolutionary pressures of survival and reproduction. When these pressures disappear, however, the instincts and drives they had shaped do not evaporate instantly. Even if they are no longer instrumental for survival and reproduction, they continue to mould the subjective experiences of the animal. The physical, emotional and social needs of present-day cows, dogs and humans don’t reflect their current conditions but rather the evolutionary pressures their ancestors encountered tens of thousands of years ago. Why do modern people love sweets so much? Not because in the early 21st century we must gorge on ice cream and chocolate in order to survive. Rather, it is because if our stone age ancestors came across sweet, ripened fruits, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many of them as they could as quickly as possible. Why do young men drive recklessly, get involved in violent rows, and hack confidential internet sites? Because they are obeying ancient genetic decrees. Seventy thousand years ago, a young hunter who risked his life chasing a mammoth outshone all his competitors and won the hand of the local beauty – and we are now stuck with his macho genes.Exactly the same evolutionary logic shapes the life of cows and calves in our industrial farms. Ancient wild cattle were social animals. In order to survive and reproduce, they needed to communicate, cooperate and compete effectively. Like all social mammals, wild cattle learned the necessary social skills through play. Puppies, kittens, calves and children all love to play because evolution implanted this urge in them. In the wild, they needed to play. If they didn’t, they would not learn the social skills vital for survival and reproduction. If a kitten or calf was born with some rare mutation that made them indifferent to play, they were unlikely to survive or reproduce, just as they would not exist in the first place if their ancestors hadn’t acquired those skills. Similarly, evolution implanted in puppies, kittens, calves and children an overwhelming desire to bond with their mothers. A chance mutation weakening the mother-infant bond was a death sentence.What happens when farmers now take a young calf, separate her from her mother, put her in a tiny cage, vaccinate her against various diseases, provide her with food and water, and then, when she is old enough, artificially inseminate her with bull sperm? From an objective perspective, this calf no longer needs either maternal bonding or playmates in order to survive and reproduce. All her needs are being taken care of by her human masters. But from a subjective perspective, the calf still feels a strong urge to bond with her mother and to play with other calves. If these urges are not fulfilled, the calf suffers greatly.This is the basic lesson of evolutionary psychology: a need shaped thousands of generations ago continues to be felt subjectively even if it is no longer necessary for survival and reproduction in the present. Tragically, the agricultural revolution gave humans the power to ensure the survival and reproduction of domesticated animals while ignoring their subjective needs. In consequence, domesticated animals are collectively the most successful animals in the world, and at the same time they are individually the most miserable animals that have ever existed.The situation has only worsened over the last few centuries, during which time traditional agriculture gave way to industrial farming. In traditional societies such as ancient Egypt, the Roman empire or medieval China, humans had a very partial understanding of biochemistry, genetics, zoology and epidemiology. Consequently, their manipulative powers were limited. In medieval villages, chickens ran free between the houses, pecked seeds and worms from the garbage heap, and built nests in the barn. If an ambitious peasant tried to lock 1,000 chickens inside a crowded coop, a deadly bird-flu epidemic would probably have resulted, wiping out all the chickens, as well as many villagers. No priest, shaman or witch doctor could have prevented it. But once modern science had deciphered the secrets of birds, viruses and antibiotics, humans could begin to subject animals to extreme living conditions. With the help of vaccinations, medications, hormones, pesticides, central air-conditioning systems and automatic feeders, it is now possible to cram tens of thousands of chickens into tiny coops, and produce meat and eggs with unprecedented efficiency.The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time, certainly in terms of the numbers involved. These days, most big animals live on industrial farms. We imagine that our planet is populated by lions, elephants, whales and penguins. That may be true of the National Geographic channel, Disney movies and children’s fairytales, but it is no longer true of the real world. The world contains 40,000 lions but, by way of contrast, there are around 1 billion domesticated pigs; 500,000 elephants and 1.5 billion domesticated cows; 50 million penguins and 20 billion chickens.In 2009, there were 1.6 billion wild birds in Europe, counting all species together. That same year, the European meat and egg industry raised 1.9 billion chickens. Altogether, the domesticated animals of the world weigh about 700m tonnes, compared with 300m tonnes for humans, and fewer than 100m tonnes for large wild animals.This is why the fate of farm animals is not an ethical side issue. It concerns the majority of Earth’s large creatures: tens of billions of sentient beings, each with a complex world of sensations and emotions, but which live and die on an industrial production line. Forty years ago, the moral philosopher Peter Singerpublished his canonical book Animal Liberation, which has done much to change people’s minds on this issue. Singer claimed that industrial farming is responsible for more pain and misery than all the wars of history put together.The scientific study of animals has played a dismal role in this tragedy. The scientific community has used its growing knowledge of animals mainly to manipulate their lives more efficiently in the service of human industry. Yet this same knowledge has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that farm animals are sentient beings, with intricate social relations and sophisticated psychological patterns. They may not be as intelligent as us, but they certainly know pain, fear and loneliness. They too can suffer, and they too can be happy.It is high time we take these scientific findings to heart, because as human power keeps growing, our ability to harm or benefit other animals grows with it. For 4bn years, life on Earth was governed by natural selection. Now it is governed increasingly by human intelligent design. Biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will soon enable humans to reshape living beings in radical new ways, which will redefine the very meaning of life. When we come to design this brave new world, we should take into account the welfare of all sentient beings, and not just of Homo sapiens.