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The Concept of Race Has No Scientific Basis

2017-10-17

 

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Dawn with sun partially obscured by smoke from forest fires 200 miles north

Here’s the thing: the whole concept of Negroid, Caucasoid, Asiatic, that is the whole idea of “race” is completely without scientific foundation according to a consensus of current-day physical anthropologists.  These are the people who would be expected to know what is a race and what races people are.  Here is a short summary of the findings of the scientific paper that established the consensus:

Abstract

Controversies over race conceptualizations have been ongoing for centuries and have been shaped, in part, by anthropologists.

Objective

To assess anthropologists’ views on race, genetics, and ancestry.

Methods

In 2012 a broad national survey of anthropologists examined prevailing views on race, ancestry, and genetics.

Results

Results demonstrate consensus that there are no human biological races and recognition that race exists as lived social experiences that can have important effects on health.

Discussion

Racial privilege affects anthropologists’ views on race, underscoring the importance that anthropologists be vigilant of biases in the profession and practice. Anthropologists must mitigate racial biases in society wherever they might be lurking and quash any sociopolitical attempts to normalize or promote racist rhetoric, sentiment, and behavior.

That’s right, you read correctly: “race exists as lived social experiences that can have important effects on health.”  And, “there are no human biological races.”

This may come as a surprise to some people.

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Article of the Day: Facebook Is Not Your Friend

2017-10-16

Sunrise in the San Joaquin Valley of California with smoke from forest fires obscuring the sun

An opinion article in the NYT Sunday Review called, “Silicon Valley is not your Friend” reinforces the aphorism that states, “If you’re not paying for the ‘product’, then you’re not the customer, YOU are the product.”  In other words, those “free” things like Chrome, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are actually using you as much as you use them.

The article mentioned a program that was all in vogue when I was in college in the early 70’s: Eliza.  This was a simple text-based program that pretended to be a psychiatrist.  It used the technique of repeating back to you part of your statements as a question, or if you had nothing to say, it would suggest something.  The following quote illustrates how it could fool the user into thinking that a sympathetic entity was on the other end of the line:

Call it the Eliza problem. In 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum, a professor at M.I.T., unveiled a computer program, Eliza, which imitated a psychotherapist. It would, by rote, inquire about your feelings toward your parents or try to get you talking by rephrasing what you said in the form of a question. The program immediately touched a nerve, becoming a national phenomenon, to the surprise of Mr. Weizenbaum. For example, The New York Times swooned: “Computer Is Being Taught to Understand English.”

Eliza understood nothing, in truth, and could never reach any shared insight with a “patient.” Eliza mechanically responded to whatever appeared on the screen. A typical therapy session quickly devolved into a Monty Python sketch. (Patient: You are not very aggressive, but I think you don’t want me to notice that. Eliza: What makes you think I am not very aggressive? Patient: You don’t argue with me. Eliza: Why do you think I don’t argue with you? Patient: You are afraid of me. Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am afraid of you?)

Imagine Mr. Weizenbaum’s surprise when his secretary looked up from her computer and interrupted her exchanges with Eliza to say to him, “Would you mind leaving the room, please?” She wanted privacy for a conversation with a machine! Mr. Weizenbaum, appalled, suddenly saw the potential for mischief by programmers who could manipulate computers and potentially the rest of us. He soon switched gears and devoted his remaining years to protesting what he considered the amorality of his computer science peers, frequently referring to his experiences as a young refugee from Nazi Germany.

As I mentioned before, I have “stopped using Facebook” although my blog is still copied there.  I did so because I was unsettlingly conscious of the “Eliza effect” every time I tuned into Facebook, allowed it to trigger some reaction, and expressed my reaction in a comment.  The other “people” who left comments may or may not have been human; I had no way of knowing until I was contacted by Ebrima Jallow, a young African man who wanted to be “friends” with me on Facebook.  I “friended” him, but I quickly realized that there was little resemblance to an actual friend in Mr. Jallow (although he is a nice young man, really.)  I’m pretty sure he is human, but having a conversation with him really made me feel bad.  He is, like 9/10 of the world, living on far less than I am, even though I am impecunious by American standards.  So there are several moral lessons here.  It’s not all bad, but it can make you feel kind of overprivileged.

Comment of the Day: White Anger

2017-10-13

Drspock

New York 1 hour ago

While the notion of white supremacy has ebed and flowed in America for the 150 years, this most recent upsurge also has an economic component.

White men in America were kings in the workplace and at home. Even with little education they could get well paying blue collar jobs and traditional patriarchy insured their place as provider, protector and recipient of female obedience.

But the civil rights movement has integrated some aspects of the workforce and the women’s movement has challenged patriarchy from the bedroom to the boardroom. The final blow for white manhood has been their loss of economic security.

With the decline in blue collar work white male privilege has been collapsing all around them. Economic needs demand that wives and daughters work to scrape together a fading middle class lifestyle. Hollywood heroes look increasingly like Idris Elba, not John Wayne.

The response by white men has on one hand been the rage captured by the far right and on the other despair and depression raising white male suicide rates to an all time high.

This rage takes many forms. The angry displays of white nationalism is one. But there’s also the internalized rage expressed by the American epidemic of mass murders.

Whichever direction this misplaced anger takes, it’s rarely directed at the corporate giants that orchestrated their job loss and depressed their wages. Scapegoats are easier to face than the shattered images of dethroned white masculinity. Dangerous times, indeed.

The Politics of Compassion, Part Four: Health Insurance, or Affordable Care

2017-10-12

There is nothing so compassionate as ensuring that everyone has full access to health care (that is, medical care.)  There are so many anti-compassionate features of society today that it is hard to know where to begin to describe them.

The first and most obvious health problem is that of the homeless population: about half a million people in the United States are homeless on any given day, and 1.5 million experience homelessness at least once in a year.  Many of these people suffer from psychiatric problems that would have guaranteed them a bed in a psychiatric hospital prior to the late 1970’s.  Through a series of errors, compounded by the government’s dropping the ball, the mental hospitals were mostly closed down in the seventies and eighties; replacement outpatient mental health centers were never adequately implemented by the responsible government agencies.  As a result, many of those housed in the community were unable to maintain their medication or therapy and relapsed into a psychotic state in which they were likely to be evicted or just wander away.  Roughly one-third of the homeless are mentally ill.

The medical problems of the homeless are compounded by their lack of shelter and thus treatment involves first, providing them with homes.  This is, unfortunately, a problem best solved by nonprofit organizations like the federal government.  Unfortunately, we can’t rely on Ben Carson as secretary of the Housing and Urban Development department to get anything done.

The second, more pervasive, problem is the inability to pay for needed medical care, usually due to a lack of insurance coverage.  The ACA or Obamacare has made some inroads into this problem– roughly twenty million more are insured than eight years ago.  The high price of copayments has limited the success of insurance, however.

The ideal form of healthcare insurance would be a program that covers all people in one insured pool.  This would reduce the price to a manageable average by including the young and healthy as well as the old and sick.  Current health insurances suffer from inadequate pool size in many cases.  The form of health insurance that would suit best is often called “Medicare for All.”  However, the price of copayments is still a problem, particularly in relation to drugs.  The Medicare Part D program suffers from a large amount of patient payments and appears to be a sop to the insurance companies that administer it as well as the drug companies that supply it.

The ideal way to provide health insurance is to insure everyone; all citizens would be covered and would pay a progressive tax for health care.  The tax would be graduated so that poor people would pay little but rich people would pay more… just as income tax is supposed to be progressive (although current Medicare and Social Security payments are not progressive and make up a large proportion of a poor person’s taxes.)  Non-citizens could pay a specific premium to be included in the health care system– or they could simply be taxed the same as citizens.  Costs for medical care, housing, and drugs have to be covered by this insurance; copayments must be limited to avoid burdening the poor, who are inevitably sicker and greater users of medical care.

Compassion for everyone is the best policy.  Dividing people into separate groups with different rights, privileges, and duties segments society and strains the social ties that hold people together.  In the past, historic governments have tried to manage people by separating them into distinct groups by their gender or race (a specific, inborn makeup) but the result has inevitably been tension and strife between groups with different interests.  The Democratic Party must be the party of unification: everyone should have the same rights, protections, and duties, regardless of their status as man, woman, white, non-white, straight,  gay, or transgendered.  Universal health care is an important part of this universal compassion.

Some conservatives say that liberals will fail if they stick to “issue politics” like LGBT rights, and by extension, the rights of blacks to not be shot by police.  These issues both involve compassion, and how much compassion you have will determine where you stand on them.  Lack of compassion is the primary error of the Republican Way; compassionate government must therefore over-rule Republicans at every turn.  Elsewhere I have described the ingredients needed to beat the Republicans: access to the ballot, turnout, propaganda, a good platform, and a charismatic candidate.  Turnout is the most critical aspect of winning.

Article of the Day: The Atlantic Explains Don the Con’s Kakistocracy: Donald Trump “Exposed”

2017-10-12

Today’s article comes from the Atlantic, a publication which I had thought was conservative but which is actually an alt-left conspiracy web site (just kidding) . . .

The article, published October 9, lays out the prima facie evidence for Donald J. Trump’s deliberate and on-going destruction of the Executive Branch of the United States Government.  Read it and weep.

Here is the peroration:

“Can’t anybody here play this game?” was Casey Stengel’s famous lament about his inept 1962 New York Mets. The same lament could apply to the Trump administration and its majority team in Congress—but the problem is deeper and worse when ineptitude joins with venality and recklessness, and when the stakes are far more than baseball pennants.

Don the Con and Adolf Hitler: A Comparison

2017-10-11

Some people have said, “Donald J. Trump is just like Adolf Hitler” or words to that effect.  Despite the similarities, there are important differences that make his presidency vastly different from the reign of the Chancellor of Germany and Fuehrer of the Third Reich.  One non-trivial similarity is intentional: Don has been said to have studied Hitler’s speeches, collected in a book that was seen at Don’s bedside… a book that was conspicuous because there were no other books there.

What follows is partly derived from a just-finished reading of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer– a classic book of history by a journalist.

Anyone who listens to Don the Con speak can see the similarities: demagogic appeals, malignant narcissism, a tendency to lie without compunction, authoritarian tendencies.  Behind the scenes, too, Don and Adolf are doing the same things to their governments: taking over departments that nominally oversee human services and regulations and installing political commissars who exercise veto power over normal government functions.  There is also a striking similarity in that both are/were prone to attacks of hysterical anger and both had a worldview that didn’t comport with reality.

There are significant differences: for one, Don the Con is much older than Adolf.  Don didn’t show the drive and single-minded pursuit of political power that characterized Adolf, nor his psychotic hatred of Jews.  Nor does Don blatantly incite his followers to violence; his approach is more suggestive.  Don’s approval of white-supremacy demonstrators is partial and limited to saying that “some of them are fine people” although their response and approval of his regime is enthusiastic.

Don’s hatred of those who disapprove of him and his attempts to suppress dissent are further similarities to Adolf’s behavior.  But Don is not so loyal to those who cleave to him; he has repeatedly betrayed his acolytes who aren’t useful to him anymore.  Adolf was loyal to many of his most bloodthirsty supporters, although he ruthlessly dismissed and humiliated anyone who disagreed with him, like Don.

Some of the differences between the two are an artifact of their social/economic standing: Adolf Hitler came from a middle class family, and never held a full-time job other than as a volunteer soldier in war(he was seriously wounded in a gas attack in World War I.)    He was a committed fascist and Jew-hater as a teenager.  Immediately after WW I, Adolf began to support himself through donations to the Nazi party he created.   Don the Con was born into money and lived luxuriously all his life; although he went to “military school” he never served in his country’s armed forces.  Don’s early life showed no tendency for studying nor any philosophical leanings.  For Don, politics was an afterthought based on years of  building his ego with one casino, golf course, and luxury hotel (funded with laundered money) after another.

Although some of Don the Con’s supporters are obviously fascists, racists, or neo-Nazis, his approach is to appeal to the average Republican moron, and he is more of a kleptocratic demagogue than a fascist mastermind.  The dangers emanating from Don’s presidency are real, however,  and the risk of a complete corporate fascist takeover in America is acute.  Reagan’s claim that “government is not the solution, it is the problem” is  a self-fulfilling prophecy by Republicans bent on destruction, rather than a statement of established fact.

Comment of the Day: Don the Con and His Deficiencies

2017-10-09

Peter Crosby

Anchorage, AK 6 hours ago

This is simply another Trump effort to keep his base returning to his rallies. The man has no other means of gratification. He has no moral compass, no empathy, no knowledge of history or even American civics. He is the epitome of bumper sticker politics and policies.
He has never led an organization, other than one which was subject to his unchecked whims. He continues to be responsible to no one but himself, confirmed by the rallies.
The Constitution, treaties, and decades of policies beneficial to Americans mean little, if he is even aware of them. His disregard for facts is staggering as is the disinterest in governing.
The Republican Party is beginning to reap the whirlwind, having no coherent policy to replace the “No” of the Obama years it lurches from one legislative failure to another while the Courts deal with Trump’s Executive Orders. It is in the process of fracturing.
This President does not pretend to represent the people, only those he believes voted for him and only then to the extent of his perceptions.
Remember: the Apprentice had writers, some poor soul is responsible for “You’re fired!”
Feel free to edit or trash this rant. I know change is difficult, but this isn’t the country I was drafted to “defend” in 1969.

This comment appeared in response to a NYT article about how Don the Con plans to hold Dreamers (the DACA program) hostage to his attempts to “build a wall” at the Mexican border and abrogate immigrant’s privileges.

Critics have pointed out that a wall at the Mexican border can’t stop the estimated 40% of illegal immigrants who enter the country legally on tourist visas then overstay.