You are browsing the archive for 2014 July 12.

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How Non-Believers Can Counter That Annoying Religious Dogma That Life Without God Is Meaningless

July 12, 2014 in Blogs

By Hari Kunzru, The Guardian

In our lazy contemporary conversation about faith, the faithless such as myself are rarely heard.

Of all the jargon words that get thrown around in British political discourse, “faith” may be the one from which I feel most alienated. If you listen to politicians, “faith” seems to be a nebulous goodness, a state of mind that leads citizens to behave in certain convenient ways. The faithful perform charitable works, like running food banks or homeless shelters – great for reducing the departmental bottom line, or indeed for shifting the burden of dealing with the poor (not to mention the weak, the halt and the lame) from government altogether. The faithful lay down rules for their sexual relations and have prohibitions against socially problematic behaviour such as stealing things or (up to a point) being violent. In general, “faith” makes people much easier to govern – after all, they're already being governed by God, who has panoptical security cameras and already knows what's in everyone's browser history. No wonder politicans line up to praise it. If only everyone possessed this salutary quality!

None of this seems to have anything to do with the actual experience of faith, which I have been struggling to understand since I was first exposed to organised religion as a child. I'm not talking about the kind of religious adherence that's mainly a badge of belonging. Going to a holiday service or getting married in a church or temple is, for many people, no more than a way of asserting their identification with a tradition or their membership of a cultural group. For me, coming from a family that includes both devout Hindus and Anglican Christians, that kind of allegiance was never straightforward, and the assertion of a religious identity was left up to me. Belief would have to come, not as a comforting experience of group belonging, but as an individual choice. As a child, I waited for faith to make its necessity felt in my life. It never did. The plethora of contradictory rules and prohibitions in the major world religions appeared at best confusing, at worst …read more


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Rand Paul’s Twisted Race Lies: His New Views on Civil Rights Are as Phony as the Old Ones

July 12, 2014 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg,

He claims his views have evolved. Not so, if you dig into what he actually says.

If you Google “Rand Paul Civil Rights Act,” the first prompt that comes up is “unconstitutional,” so it was definitely heartening to see his apparent about-face on the act’s 50th anniversary, whenhe attended a local commemoration at the Shelbyville, Kentucky, home of Dr. Maurice F. Rabb, a prominent civil rights activist in the 1940s and ’50s. “Every major civil rights activist that came to the South stayed with my parents,” Chris Rabb said. “They were not allowed to stay in hotels.”

Paul has previously voiced his objection to the Civil Rights Act precisely because it put an end to such private-sector discrimination. But on this occasion, he released a statement saying, “’It is simply unimaginable to think what modern America would be like if it were not for the brave men and women who stood up for the rights of all Americans. The legislation changed the future of our nation by enforcing the belief that all men and women are created equal.”

The next day, Rachel Maddow duly noted Paul’s change of heart. “Rand Paul went to Shelbyville yesterday, and he sang the praises of the civil rights movement and the civil rights activists and specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” she said, going on to repeat Paul’s statement, even displaying it on screen. “Rand Paul coming out in full support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” she said afterward, “which is nice, and I don’t mean to be raining on the parade, but I have to point out that this marks something of a shift in Rand Paul’s position on this legislation.” She then replayed a clip of her famous May 19, 2010 interview with Paul, in which he repeatedly refused to say he would have supported the bill. Specifically, she played a segment in which Paul said, “There’s 10 different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10 deal with public institutions, and I’m absolutely in favor of. One deals with private institutions, and had …read more


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5 Pathetic Failures of the American Media This Week

July 12, 2014 in Blogs

By Nina Burleigh, AlterNet

Here's a rundown of some of the worst media howlers of late.

It was another week of mainstream media disasters and right-wing outrages, from sexism to good ol' fashioned Bush-era WMD lies. Here's a recap:  

1. In praise of bald and gray old guys who rank women.

Esquire and its ASME award-winning writer Tom Junod win the week’s “Oops, My Sexist Underwear is Showing” award for their “In praise of 42-year-old women” article (illustrated with Sofia Vergara in a black maillot with her legs bent and Photoshopped into perverse plastic doll-like curves, like Barbie’s).

They probably thought they were doing “older” women a favor this year, and I bet they don’t get why this whole ranking thing is insulting. 

Here’s a snippet of Junod’s dulcet, if patronizing, prose: “A few generations ago, a woman turning forty-two was expected to voluntarily accept the shackles of biology and convention; now it seems there is no one in our society quite so determined to be free. Conservatives still attack feminism with the absurd notion that it makes its adherents less attractive to men; in truth, it is feminism that has made forty-two-year-old women so desirable.”

Esquire has “occasionally” rated the hottest age of women for more decades than any of us have been alive, but this year the tradition got some deserved blowback. New York Magazine’s “The Cut” posted mug shots of Tom Junod and his boss at Esquire, aging baldy David Granger. “Meet 2 Men Who feel Entitled to Weigh In On Women’s Hotness.”

Running their mugshots was brilliant, economical commentary. My only beef with NYMag’s female-centric column is that it has a rather offensive name. Feminist observations should be shared by men and women, and served up in a gender-neutral format. Otherwise, all the male-written columns out there should be renamed Cock and Dick.

But we take what we can get from the dude-itorial desks.

2. Poor Israeli zoo elephants.

The brilliant PR machine that is Israel reached for the bleachers but slammed a foul ball when someone provided the world with video and pictures of an Israeli zoo elephant shielding its baby from air raid …read more


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Five Libertarian Ideas #20 – Mexico, the Border, and California

July 12, 2014 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

Local militia to government force
Mexico’s self-defense militias have been reorganized into the Rural Forces with government oversight. They may still succeed, since most of Mexico’s federal police are Sinaloa Cartel agents, not Knights Templar. However, given the rampant infiltration of the federal police and army by criminal insurgents, I expect casualties to rise for the Rural Forces. God help those patriots. -6/24

The National Guard and the border

California needs a governor who isn’t afraid to mobilize the National Guard and state defense force to bolster border security. It doesn’t bother me that people come here illegally to work (and frankly, cheap labor keeps prices down for consumers like us). What BOTHERS me is that there’s a civil war south of the border and criminal insurgents are freely crossing the border to kidnap and murder, and to intimidate/extort law abiding small businesses and LEGAL marijuana collectives. -6/28

No foreign aid, period

I agree with Senator Paul’s idea to cut off all US aid to the Palestinian Authority, especially since Hamas just murdered three teenagers, one of them a US citizen. However, I believe the government should cut all foreign aid, period. If tax dollars must be stolen from American taxpayers, let those dollars be spent on American infrastructure rather than backing sides in foreign wars. -7/2

LGBT adoption

As a Christian and a libertarian, I would much rather see a child adopted into a loving home, even by a same sex couple, than for that child to remain in the foster system as a ward of the state. Children deserve a loving home and if the adoptive parents are capable of providing that, who are we to stand in …read more


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Public High School Is A Failure

July 12, 2014 in Economics

By David Howden

Over at Mises Canada, I address the question of why college tuition has increased by so much over the past few years. Turns out it might not have anything to do with the University system itself, but is the result of an increasingly failing public school system leaving its graduates with few options.

Long story short, University degrees don’t cost so much because the

salary earned from a job available to University graduates is particularly great. It’s mainly because the alternative is so much worse.

The failing of the public high school system, which accounts for 90% of high school graduates (and the vast majority of people who don’t even make it out of high school), has reduced the opportunity cost of going to University. Since high school diplomas no longer open any doors, students are “forced” to continue their education further if they want a better life. This increases the price that Universities charge in tuition, partly in response to the increased number of students willing to pursue a degree, and partly in response to a greater willingness to pay.

If someone is upset that University costs so much, they really don’t have to look any further than the failure that is the public high school system. If you want lower tuition rates, the best solution is to shore up the quality of high schools. Of course, with public school teachers now perennially striking any time someone tries to do just that, this task is easier said than done.

Read more here.

…read more