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What Does Jordan Peterson Mean by “Equality of Opportunity”?

February 19, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The psychologist Professor Jordan Peterson is usually
exceptionally careful with his definitions and language. So it is
with trepidation that I challenge his commitment to “equality
of opportunity” as a desirable goal.

Yet in an otherwise excellent and thought-provoking EconTalk podcast with Russ
he repeated the assertion from his Channel 4 interview
with Cathy Newman that “equality of opportunity” is a
desirable societal ambition.

Perhaps I have missed some lecture where he has elucidated
further. But if listeners like me who share his disdain for outcome
egalitarianism are confused, it is worth pinning down exactly what
he has in mind. For it seems to me that someone who truly rejects
outcome equality should also regard “equality of
opportunity” as either trivially self-evident or wrong.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy definition of
“equality of opportunity”
starts by suggesting it
is the opposite of a caste society. It clearly would be undesirable
if all positions in life were determined purely by social status.
We want a dynamic society where individuals are able to rise and
fall to a large extent according to competitive processes, and for
hard work and talent to be a route to success.

Yet in truth “equality of opportunity,” as commonly
articulated, is much stronger than favouring a society where hard
work and talent can affect our positions in hierarchies.
Indeed, the very last part of the Stanford definition indicates the
potential expansiveness of the idea. It reads (my emphasis):

“In contrast, when equality of opportunity prevails, the
assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is
determined by some form of competitive process, and all
members of society are eligible to compete on equal

What does “equal terms” mean here? Is it the idea
that all people should be able to use their talents, absent
coercive state-imposed constraints, to pursue their ambitions? Is
it that any state actions or policies should treat all individuals
as equal under the law? Maybe, but sadly neither of these concepts
represent how it is used in wider political parlance.

No, the reason I oppose “equality of opportunity” as
an aim is because the “equal terms” part of that
sentence is instead widely used to justify a vast array of
government interventions, which often hinder the ambitions and
preferences of free people in ways very similar to the pursuit of
equality of outcome.

In UK debates, I have heard it said that the existence of
inheritances mean children do not compete on equal terms, as
justification for 100% inheritance taxes. Some claim that pushy
parents bestow unfair educational advantages on their children as
justification for rigid, state-imposed comprehensivisation …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Charles Blow: The Russians Exploited America's Racist Past to Swing the Election for Trump

February 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Ilana Novick, AlterNet

They used legitimate grievances to force young black men and women to lay down their best weapon: the vote.

The Russian government exploited America's shameful racist history in order to elect a virulently racist man as President. As Charles Blow writes in his Monday column, “the black vote was specifically under attack, from sources foreign and domestic. And this attack appeared to be particularly focused on young black activist-minded voters passionate about social justice: The 'Woke Vote'.”"

“The tragic irony,” he continues, “is that these young people, many of whom already felt like the American political system was failing them, were encouraged to lay down one of the most powerful political tools they have, thereby ensuring an amplification of their own oppressions.”

Of course, Blow is quick to admit, there was plenty of opposition to Hillary Clinton from this group of voters during the Democratic primaries. “Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed book “The New Jim Crow” — which has attained near Bible stature among some social justice activists — laid out a strong philosophical argument for “why Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the black vote.”

The Russian disinformation campaign used the legitimate grievances Alexander refers to, like Hillary Clinton's infamous “superpredators” comment in references to young black criminals, and other economic and crime policies enacted during the Clinton administration, which Bill Clinton may have written, but Hillary Clinton publically supported, to encourage black voters to stay home on Election Day. 

The evidence is in the indictments for the 13 Russian operatives announced by the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday: “On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Instagram account ‘Woke Blacks’ to post the following message: ‘Particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.’ “

This sentiment, Blow reminds us, was directly echoed by the Trump campaign: 

Just before the election, a senior Trump campaign official told Bloomberg Businessweek, “We have three major voter …read more


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Students Who Survived the Florida Shooting Are Stepping onto the National Stage to Demand Gun Control

February 18, 2018 in Blogs

By April M. Short, AlterNet

Five teenagers invite the nation to march with them to end mass shootings.

Seventeen people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14. Their peers and family members want this mass shooting to be the last one, and in order to drive that aim home, they are organizing the March for Our Lives, set for March 24 in Washington D.C. 

On a crowded podium the day after the shooting, Stoneman Douglas 12th-grader Emma González spoke to a crowd at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, surrounded by victims' family members and other shooting survivors. She recalled cowering in a closet for hours while she heard gunfire rain down on her friends. She shamed lawmakers for taking money from the NRA and refusing to take action on gun violence. 

“Every single person who is up here today, all these people, should be at home grieving, but instead we are up here because if all our government and president can do is send 'thoughts and prayers,' then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” González said. “We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn't just a mental health issue. He wouldn't have harmed that many students with a knife!”

González is organizing a national protest effort alongside fellow students David Hogg, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky and Jacqueline Coren, all of whom attend Stoneman Douglas and were there the day of the shooting. Their goal is to pressure legislators to implement stronger firearm regulations, and ideally, to restrict access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 that enabled the accused gunman to massacre people at the school last week.

“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” Emma González said to a roaring crowd at the gun control rally. “Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That's gonna be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook. And it's all going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members, …read more


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Are Dead Children The Price of Freedom?

February 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Christian Christensen, AlterNet

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These are troubling days in the United States.

There is a sickness eating at the body and soul of my home country, and it is on full view for the world to see.

When the news broke on Valentine’s Day that 17 people—mostly young students—had lost their lives in Parkland, Florida, one could be forgiven for being numb. Of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in US history, six have come after 2012. Of those six, three have occurred in the last 5 months, including the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that claimed 58 lives, the deadliest in US history.

While these events attract the headlines and outrage, the vast majority of gun deaths in the United States are not as a result of mass shootings. Over the past five years, there have been, on average, 12,500 firearm-related homicides per year. This number does not include accidental deaths or suicides.

Let’s put that number into perspective. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took 3,000 lives. At an average of 12,500 deaths a year, 200,000 people in the United States have been murdered with the use of a firearm since those attacks 16 years ago. That’s equal to 67 September 11 attacks. That’s equal to filling New York’s Madison Square Garden to capacity, killing everyone inside, and then repeating that process 9 more times. That’s equal to killing every single person in Salt Lake City.

200,000 people.

The most common question asked on this side of the Atlantic is: “Why can’t they see what these weapons are doing to their country?”

To answer this question, one needs to understand two things about the United States: the economics of fear, and the depths of paranoia many have about government intrusion into everyday life.

Since 1989, gun rights groups in the US have …read more


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Robert Reich: The Meaning of America

February 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

We are forgetting the ideals on which our nation was built.

When Trump and his followers refer to “America,” what do they mean?

Some see a country of white English-speaking Christians.

Others want a land inhabited by self-seeking individuals free to accumulate as much money and power as possible, who pay taxes only to protect their assets from criminals and foreign aggressors.

Others think mainly about flags, national anthems, pledges of allegiance, military parades, and secure borders.

Trump encourages a combination of all three – tribalism, libertarianism, and loyalty.

But the core of our national identity has not been any of this. It has been found in the ideals we share – political equality, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and of the press, a dedication to open inquiry and truth, and to democracy and the rule of law.

We are not a race. We are not a creed. We are a conviction – that all people are created equal, that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Political scientist Carl Friedrich, comparing Americans to Gallic people, noted that “to be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact.”

That idealism led Lincoln to proclaim that America might yet be the “last best hope” for humankind. It prompted Emma Lazarus, some two decades later, to welcome to American the world’s “tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It inspired the poems of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, and the songs of Woody Guthrie. All turned their love for America into demands that we live up to our ideals. “This land is your land, this land is my land,” sang Guthrie. “Let America be America again,” pleaded Hughes: “The land that never has been yet – /And yet must be – the land where every man is free. / The land that’s mind – the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME –.”

That idealism sought to preserve and protect our democracy – not inundate it with big …read more


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John Oliver's 6 Big Lessons on How to Report on Donald Trump

February 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Rachel Leah, Salon

The late-night comic has some sound advice for us.

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” returns to HBO Sunday, Feb. 18, for the British comedian's fifth season, after a brief hiatus. Though, as he tells a room full of reporters at the network's Bryant Park headquarters Monday, he and his team never stopped working.


It's certainly an eagerly anticipated return, as Oliver has become one of the leading and most celebrated voices in late night. Unsurprisingly, “Last Week Tonight” has been renewed for two additional seasons, through 2020.

While most of the late-night hosts do a good job of holding the Trump administration accountable in inventive and hilarious ways, with the weekly show format Oliver gets to go deeper and beyond the daily circus acts taking place in the White House. His investigative, yet unconventional reporting style and deep dives into often un-sexy topics has earned the show millions of weekly viewers, eight Emmys and the dubbing of “The John Oliver effect,” meaning once “Last Week Tonight” covers an issue, interest in it soars.

In a sharp gray suit, lavender shirt and eggplant tie, Oliver points to the fifth season's advert, with his glasses off, face pressed into his desk, one hand rests on top of his cellphone, perhaps mid-scroll, and his other hand signals that he just needs a moment. Naturally, on top of the image, it reads: “Everything is fine.” Oliver tells the room of journalists, that's how he feels all the time, even before this presidency, but especially now.

But save the usual sarcasm and biting jokes at the state of the world that keeps everyone in the conference room belly-laughing, Oliver has a lot to say about how to report on President Donald Trump. Given the daily onslaughts on the media from the White House, the crusade against facts, and the labeling of any dissent or critique as “fake news,” these lessons are critical and welcomed.

Number 1: There are other valuable things to report on besides Trump. 

“There's other things happening in the world, it can be hard to remember that, just because he's so all-consuming,” Oliver said, adding that of course, “There is some stuff you …read more


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Florida Student Survivors Announce 'March For Our Lives': Here’s a Time to Talk about Gun Control

February 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Charlie May, Salon

“This is about the adults. We feel neglected, and at this point, you’re either with us or against us.”

Surviving students of the Valentine's Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have set a date for lawmakers, and everyone else in the country to discuss gun control: March 24.

“People keep asking us, what about the Stoneman Douglas shooting is going to be different, because this has happened before and change hasn't come?” 11th-grader Cameron Kasky told ABC's “This Week” on Sunday. “This is it.”

“This is about the adults. We feel neglected, and at this point, you're either with us or against us,” Kasky said.


“People are saying that it’s not time to talk about gun control, and we can respect that. Here’s a time: March 24, in every single city,” he continued.

The demonstration set for next month in Washington D.C. is to be called the “March For Our Lives” Kasky explained Sunday, seated next to four of his classmates Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin.

In the wake of last week's tragedy that claimed 17 lives, the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been the leading voices in calls for action from lawmakers, and have boldly expressed frustration over a nation gridlocked on the issue of guns, as Salon has previously reported.

“We’re going to be facing this with trepidation and determination, and we have an incredible support system around us. We are going to be the difference,” Gonzalez said on CNN.

“This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats,” Kasky added. “Any politician on either side who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this. “At the end of the day, the NRA [National Rifle Association] is fostering and promoting this gun culture.”

Many have said that mass shootings in America have …read more


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'Scared' Trump Blamed FBI for Shooting to Deflect from the Russia Probe Says Ex-FBI Official

February 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Raw Story

“He’s scared out of his mind and playing with the parents of America.”

Appearing on AM Joy, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi harshly criticized Donald Trump for attacking the FBI over the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, in an attempt to deflect attention away from Friday’s bombshell indictments of 13 Russians accused of meddling in the election that put Trump in the White House.

During a panel discussion, Figliuzzi was asked about a Sunday morning tweet from the president which implied that the FBI “missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter” because “[t]hey are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.”

“Frank, I’ll go to your reaction to the President of the United States blaming the FBI, in essence, for the massacre at Parkland,” host Joy Reid prompted.

The former FBI official appeared furious at the suggestion.

“Joy, let’s distill down what that late night tweet really says after some cheeseburger induced coma after 11:00PM last night,” Figliuzzi explained. “The president puts this squarely on FBI. Here’s what he’s telling parents of America, ‘hey, our gun violence problem would go away if the FBI would just leave me alone.’ That is what he’s saying.”

“He’s saying the FBI is spending too much time on the Russian threat while he is spending zero time addressing the gun violence threat,” he continued. “He’s choosing to ignore what the FBI actually does for a living. He’s choosing to ignore the fact that the local police visited this guy 39 times in response to 911 calls. Social services for the county had to do an assessment of this. Everyone in the school saw the warning signs and indicators, yet he decides not to address the mental health issues, not to propose solutions on making it easier to deny an assault weapon purchase because you have mental health issues.”

“Instead he ‘s defending himself from the FBI,” the disgusted FBI man stated. “Why? He’s read the 32-page indictment Mueller issued on Friday and he knows there’s electronic intercepts of Russian officials. He’s scared out of …read more


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Watch: NRA-Backed Congress Members Refuse to Offer More than 'Thoughts and Prayers' as Student Survivors Mount Protests

February 17, 2018 in Blogs

By April M. Short, AlterNet

Their responses are telling.

A gunman killed 17 high school students last week in Parkland, Florida. A new video from NowThis shows the responses of NRA-backed representatives in Congress to a reporter who asked them for “any solutions at all, other than thoughts and prayers,” regarding gun control.

Their responses are telling.

After Rep. Masha Blackburn (R-TN) was asked, “Do you have anything besides thoughts and prayers to offer? Any solutions at all for this gun violence?” all she had to say was, “We are so concerned about those precious children and families.” Then she ducked into the elevator as fast as she could repeating, “This is a members' only elevator.”

The reporter pressed on, saying, “I know you’re concerned enough to pay for the funerals. Are you concerned enough to do anything else at all?”

She responded by crossing her arms over her chest and repeating, “This is a members' only elevator.” When pressed again for a solution, she said, “My heart breaks for these families.”

Rep. Ron Desantis (R-FL) responded to the reporter’s request for a solution to gun violence with “I gotta go,” as he scurried rapidly away from the reporter. The reporter walked with him and asked again, and Desantis responded with, “I mean praying for people, I don’t think you should diminish that.”

The reporter said he didn’t diminish it, just asked for anything in addition to prayers, referencing the Frederick Douglass quote: “I prayed for freedom for 20 years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

Other representatives slammed doors in the reporter’s face and flat-out ignored the questions.  

Each of the congress members in the video has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.

Watch the video below:

In response to the general inaction on the part of Congress and the president when it comes to gun control, Douglass High School students in Florida are calling for a widespread movement including school walk-out protests across the nation. They want this shooting to mark a turning point for the U.S. on gun control.


“We are going to be the …read more


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Because 'Nothing Has Changed Since Columbine,' Students, Teachers Call for Nationwide School Walkouts

February 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams

“The time to act is now.”

As families continue to grieve and hold funerals for the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., students and educators are calling for a nationwide day of action including school walkouts to protest lawmakers' deadly inaction on gun control legislation.

The day set for the actions is April 20, which will be the 19th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School.

The Twitter account National School Walkout, which was started Friday, declares, “We are the students, we are the victims, we are change.”

The April 20 walkout, it says, will be “polite, passionate, plea for peace.” petition, which has gathered over 6,100 signatures as of this writing, and is linked to the Twitter account, says, “There has been too much complacency on the part of politicians when it comes to gun violence. The time to act is now!”

“The violence of guns is being performed in our schools and our communities. Not the Senate floor. As the future of America, it is time for teenagers to speak their minds and put their frustration into action,” it adds. It also encourages people to sign on to take part in the action, saying,” Nothing has changed since Columbine, let us start a movement that lets the government know the time for change is now.”

The students' call-to-action comes days after David Berliner, an educational psychologist and Regents' Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, issued a call for a national teachers' strike if lawmakers continue their failure to enact “sane gun laws.”

Berliner's call, which he sent in a message to education historian Diane Ravitch, states, in part, “Almost all of America's 3 million teachers—nurturers and guardians of our youth—want sensible gun laws. They deserve that. But they have to be ready to exert the power they have by walking out of their schools if they do not get what they want. They have to exert the reputational power that 3 …read more