I Think, Therefore I Am...Someone who Writes

I'm Dave, I'm 24, a college graduate who clearly does not have a job.  This blog contains my writing about the things I consider important in life, including but not necessarily limited to politics, philosophy, religion (from an academic perspective), science, economics, etc. Also, included are links to my views on each major political issue. If you know me and were expecting a bunch of funny derp takes on life I'm sorry to disappoint but this is where I write very unintelligently about the serious topics running through my brain.

Rand Paul Really Disappointed Me By Playing Into People’s Unwarrented, Ignorant Fears From His Position of Authority When He Knew Better

      You know, I tend to view Rand Paul as my favorite Republican, because of any prominent member of today’s GOP he seems the most reasonable, and talks some good shit when it comes to stuff like drugs, drones, police brutality, etc, while even seeming to have a genuine desire to reach the GOP’s brand out to blacks and Latinos even if he’s yet to come up with a sufficient strategy to do so. There’s plenty I don’t like about him, mainly his continued bowing to the traditional business powers, his disregard for the environment, an unwillingness to explicitly extend his libertarianism to social support for groups like gays, atheists, or women to do whatever harmless stuff they want, and that his ideology is that he should be in government to help government do exactly nothing in all situations. Still, on the whole, while there’s probably not a 2016 Democratic candidate that wouldn’t get my vote over him (aside from possibly Hilary’s, whose Wall St and fossil fuel shrilling, war mongering, and support of groups like gays for political convenience only, all gives me great pause), he’s, relatively speaking, my “favorite Republican.” That’s why I was so disappointed to hear what he’s been saying about Ebola.
             Part of what makes Rand Paul “respectable” in mainstream eyes is that unlike most politicians who come from the worlds of law and business, he comes from the world of medicine. There are actually a surprising number of male OBGYN’s in Congress for the GOP, and I’m sure you can guess what their agenda is, but Rand’s not one of those either. He’s actually an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Not the most prestigious line of medical work, but he’s a doctor, and more importantly not just another lawyer, businessperson, or abortion crusading OBGYN, which makes him seem all the more logical and respectable amongst a sea of scumminess where people have been trained to weave words and numbers to win trials, settlements, profits, and mergers. An eye doctor seems like a really smart, logical person who went through medical school to go on to help people. For those from the authoritarian mindset, trusting what Rand Paul (so ironic since he’s the face of libertarianism) has to say about something, especially his general field of expertise (a medical issue) appears like a more trustworthy option than any other from Washington. I’m not an authoritarian person, but rather an investigative, logical, evidence driven person, so my views about the level of danger from Ebola and what the most appropriate responses to it are, come from my evaluation of actual evidence rather than what some “trusted source” tells me to think from his position of authority. But for those who are authoritarian minded Rand Paul just did a whole lot of people a great disservice in the name of strategic partisan politics.
          So here’s what Paul said: “The Obama administration has downplayed how transmissible it is…they say it’s the exchange of bodily fluids which makes people think, oh it’s like AIDS, it’s very difficult to catch…if someone has Ebola at a cocktail party they’re contagious and you can catch it from them; the administration should be honest about that….They say all it takes is direct contact to get this. If you listen carefully, they say being three feet from someone is direct contact. That’s not what most Americans think is direct contact….You start to wonder about a basic level of competence.” First, let’s break down everything that’s wrong with what he said. For one, the “Obama administration” is not deciding how transmissible Ebola is, virologists determine that and political leadership like the American President relay that information down to the American society at large. Either Paul is insinuating that Barack Obama has personally decided to say something different than what scientists say for some unknown reason (he hasn’t) or that scientists themselves are lying about the nature of this disease (they aren’t). Secondly, it is indeed spread by the exchange of bodily fluids, which does very much make it just like AIDS, but in fact less dangerous because with the HIV virus asymptomatic people can pass it on, and they are asymptomatic for a long time, sometimes years, after being infected with the virus, whereas with Ebola patients get sick in just 2 to 21 days after being infected and are only contagious once they show symptoms. Third, if someone with Ebola was at a cocktail party they would either be in their presymptomatic non-contagious incubation period  or if by some miracle they were already symptomatic with Ebola, which sickens and kills rapidly, and still walking around a cocktail party it would be so fucking obvious they were very, very sick that you wouldn’t dare get so close enough to them that they could bleed or vomit all over you. Fourth, the reason “direct contact” is defined as being within three feet of someone is because it’s a rough estimate of how far someone could spew a fluid out of their body directly into an opening on yours. Projecting shit, blood, vomit, urine, spit, sweat, or some other fluid further than 3 feet directly into someone’s eyes, mouth, or some open cut on their body would be an incredibly impressive feat. What Paul seems to be trying to insinuate is that the virus is actually airborne and the ‘gubment and wicked scientists are lying to you about that, which is just not true; unless a fluid flies directly from them to you (which the CDC figures 3 feet is the farthest you could be from someone for that to happen), you won’t get sick from a symptomatic Ebola patient you aren’t touching, no matter how much they cough or sneeze (which are not symptoms of Ebola by the way). No virus has ever mutated from non-airborne to airborne.
            What then, does Paul have to gain from saying what he said? Basically, Ebola is a tool of fear, and fear works in the favor of conservatives since their voters are more easily spooked by stuff (not a criticism, just a reality that is backed by both structural neuroscience and behavioral psychology; liberals have their weakness, but spooking too easily is not one of them, that’s a conservative thing). This means a more afraid general population is more likely to turn out more conservative voters that would have otherwise stayed home when society was not on edge about something. Manufacturing fears (war on Christmas, government is coming for your guns, illegal immigrants are terrorists, etc) and overhyping things that deserve very small amounts of fear (ISIS, Ebola, etc) are a way to get more people to come out and vote for the people (i.e. the GOP) who appear afraid just like them and “ready to take the problems seriously.” So, as a general rule of thumb, playing into any kind of general narrative about something like Ebola gives a boost to conservatives heading into an election.
      However, on a more specific level, his comments serve other purposes. His opening statement about “the Obama administration” (i.e. Barack Obama) “downplaying” the threat of Ebola plays into that conservative fear that Obama is too intellectual to act on threats and too American hating to fight to protect the American people, and would rather ignore and downplay dangers. (Basically the Benghazi arguments all over again) His statement as a whole also plays into the conservative distrust of the scientific process. Whether it’s scientists saying something like burning lots of fossil fuels or owning lots of guns is a threat to public health when conservatives don’t want to agree to the reality, or scientists talking about things like evolution or the effectiveness and importance of contraception that threaten their religious beliefs, or scientists telling them paranoid fears of things like Ebola are unwarranted, there’s just a general conservative distrust of science. They dislike and distrust the whole way of acquiring knowledge and making decisions based on such knowledge that involves testing hypothesis, analyzing the results of the tests and adjusting your views to the evidence. It is too uncertain, too emotionless, and too often in conflict with their intuitive views, and they much prefer rigid authority prescribed dogma that airs on the side of paranoia wherever possible.
         Thus, the conservative response to something like Ebola is, “grr, I don’t trust scientists, science itself, or the government reporting scientific findings to me. I feel in my heart this must be a more dangerous disease than people are saying, so there must be some gross incompetence or lying going on here; plus this came from Africa and that sounds exotic and I think Obama likes “them” more than “us” so he must be working with government scientists to downplay this and make it seem less dangerous so we relax more than we should an a bunch of us Americans he thinks are evil get it and die to help him bring down the global population that he probably thinks is too high.” Rand Paul understands that, and he also understands that thoughts like that are crazed and ignorant. Yet, he’ll play to them by doing things like suggesting the threat is being “downplayed” by “Obama” and that there is a level of “incompetence” with scientists or government or something. He’ll do that because it helps his political brand even if it hurts society at large, leaving people misinformed, fearful, and hateful. Fear is a tremendous motivator in scummy industries like politics and it’s a shame to see one of the few people in politics who came from somewhere other than the scummy worlds of law and business playing to that fear as part of a covert partisan game.

Someday Conservatives Will Fear Monger and Liberal-Blame About Climate Change Like They Are Doing Now With Ebola

    Conservatives have big amygdales (fear center in the brain) and horrible conceptual abilities. The best real world proof of this is what happened with Ebola. For months the Ebola outbreak in west African nations was just something super scientific liberals and big hearted liberals were talking about. The sciency ones were all fascinated about the potential for this to be the next virus that goes the HIV route of being a super deadly disease that could infect millions around the globe, despite not being airborne, and the big hearted ones were going on and on about how the western world should be showing more compassion and taking a more active role to help contain the outbreak instead of slashing up health funding and acting totally disengaged. Conservatives only attention paid to the matter would be to occasionally mock some brainy or compassionate liberal talking about the threat of disease or  helping Africans when there were “real threats” out there like little brown Guatemalan children crossing our border that clearly worked for ISIS or something. That was their failed conceptual ability; to see how Ebola could come to affect them.  Then, all of a sudden a dude brings it from Africa to a Texas hospital and a couple nurses get infected and….OH MY GOD, OH MY FUCKING GOD, EBOLA, EBOLA, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. OBAMA WANTED IT TO COME HERE, HE LET IT IN, THE CDC FAILED, THE WHO FAILED, BIG GOVERNMENT DIDN’T WORK, THEY DIDN’T PROTECT US, WHY DIDN’T WE DO MORE TO STOP IT? CANCEL ALL THE FLIGHTS, BUILD A HUGE WALL AROUND THE COUNTRY, SLAUGHTER PEOPLE WITH FEVERS, GIVE US AN EBOLA CZAR, CALL THE SCIENTISTS, MAKE A VACCINE, DO IT NOW, THIS IS IN AMERICA, DO IT NOW!!! This is their amygdala overreacting.
          Basically I fully expect the same thing to happen with climate change. Right now it’s this vague concept that is mostly impacting very poor people, and will have a much worse impact in future generations, so conservatives only reference it as some kind of hoax, or some overblown issue a bunch of scientific and empathy minded liberals complain about in order to expand the evil ‘gubment. Then, all of a sudden when the crops on the Great Plaines are withering away, there’s an endless stream of Sandy like storms battering the East Coast, Miami is going underwater, there’s drinking water shortages in California and stuff like that it’s going to be…OH MY GOD, OH MY FUCKING GOD, CLIMATE CHANGE, CLIMATE CHANGE, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. (LIBERAL BOOGEYMAN OF THE DAY) WANTED IT TO HAPPEN TO US BECAUSE HE/SHE HATES AMERICA, THE EPA FAILED, THE DEPT OF ENERGY FAILED, BIG GOVERNMENT DIDN’T WORK, THEY DIDN’T PROTECT US, WHY DIDN’T WE DO MORE TO STOP IT? KNOCK DOWN EVERY COAL PLANT, STOP ALL CAR TRAVEL, THROW THE FOSSIL FUEL CEO’S IN PRISON, APPOINT A CLIMATE CHANGE CZAR, CALLL THE SCIENTISTS, FIGURE OUT A WAY TO GET CARBON OUT OF THE SKY, DO IT NOW, THIS IS AMERICA, DO IT NOW!!! Once again, they’ll be overreacting, becoming true alarmists after all that time calling the people wanting to talk about the situation at all an “alarmists,” and they’ll be blaming every liberal leader, policy, and aspect of government for having not done enough to “fight the enemy” sooner and more spectacularly. I swear, you don’t believe me, but someday conservatives will turn global warming into their own fear mongering issue, another mortal enemy they want to overact to and fight, along the way blaming liberals, minorities, foreigners, and big government for somehow causing the problem in the first place. It happened with Ebola, it will happen with climate change.

Sorry, But In Spite of North American Shale Gas Fracking Boom, Climate Change Will Still Have Fucked Us Over By Mid-Century Unless We Grow Some Political Will To Fix It

      The shale gas boom brought on by technological advancements in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is viewed by many free market fundamentalists as a godsend. That’s because, at first glance, fracking appears to release them of the very uncomfortable burden of having to convince society that science is a sham, in order to keep the masses from demanding legislation that would be necessary to preserve the future quality of life for generations to come. With fracking, the free market fundamentalist can continue to call for government to do nothing about climate change because the free market already saved us from it, rather than having to suggest it’s a hoax we need not be saved from. At least that’s how fracking has been presented to the world by business and political leaders whom have all risen to power within a very corporatist, free market world. It’s not a Republican or Democrat thing, for the only difference is that while Republicans deny the problems that threaten free market orthodoxy, Democrats give lip service to their existence and then enact the same free market orthodoxy legislation and business practices as the Republicans. Both are disgusting. The problem is that fracking didn’t save us from climate change, it doesn’t even help the fight against climate change at all, and it didn’t even buy us any time in that fight.
        The fracking narrative says the following three things:
1.) We can keep using the fossil fuel energy model and be okay, because we found a way to get lots more of the “good” fossil fuel.
2.) A technological advancement (the L shaped fracking drill) developed in the private sector saved us from further rising temperatures without the help of that evil government.
3.) Because natural gas produces less CO2 emissions than coal, using bunches of natural gas in place of coal for electricity buys us a huge bridge period where temps won’t rise all that much we can wait around forever for the unfettered free market to run its long natural course away from fossil fuels and onto renewables instead of having the evil government speed up that process under the pretense we don’t have lots of time.
        As you can see it’s very appealing to the very conflicted western world that’s having to come to grips with the fact its business practices that make it so rich today are on the verge of fucking up the world’s future. It’s why the Obama administration has gotten behind the fracking induced North American shale gas boom (most notably the state department when Hilary was in charge, so yippe 2016…gag me) as its legacy on climate change. It’s a private industry development they had nothing to do with, but its presence allows them to sit back and go, “eh we don’t need fossil fuel taxes, regulations, fossil fuel subsidy cuts, and huge government investment in renewable energy, we did fracking; that’s how we are fixing climate change.” It’s given Democrats the chance to spew progressive rhetoric and publicly accept science, but avoid having to fight any political battles against the many big industries (coal, oil, gas, pipelines, meat, manufacturing, electricity, automobile, etc) that would be pissed about a legislatively driven fight for a swift and massive energy infrastructure transition.
          Unfortunately, a massive increase of cheap natural gas over the next several decades will literally do nothing to help combat or even slow down climate change. Without even taking into consideration the methane leaks from fracking for gas, the most comprehensive study to date on the impact of a huge natural gas increase on the global market shows that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 2050, the amount that moves the GHG climate forcing warmer, and the amount temperatures would increase from that climate forcing are literally not affected by all that extra cheap gas being used. The study used two different models, one in which the fracking boom never happens and the world produces shale gas only on the level it can with older technologies, and the other where gas supplies shoot up and the cost drops as fracking technology developed in the US spreads across the globe. The latter model has the world burning 170% more natural gas than in the former from 2015-2050, but that would have no effect on the amount of CO2 that ended up in our atmosphere by 2050, with the end result being anywhere from 2% less to 11% more than  in the no fracking model. In other words, we are talking about a 35 year period in which we’re expected to add another 82 or so ppm’s of CO2 to the atmosphere and the shale gas boom merely means hey we could have anywhere from about 1.6 fewer ppm’s to 9 more ppm’s. Basically, the whole fracking boom, the thing that was supposed to have either saved us from climate change, or at least bought us all kinds of extra time, is going to slow down climate change by less than 1 year’s worth over 35 years, or speed up the process by 3 or so years over 35 years. It literally has no meaningful impact. Obviously, after the CO2 figures they have what that means in terms of W/m2 as a climate forcing and the associated temperature change in C. In the end we are talking about it either making climate change a little worse or a little better to the tune of hundredths with a “th” of a degree over several decades. Under either model by 2050 we’d be pretty much right up against the tipping points where the feedback loop factors would trigger runaway warming.
      The reason having 170% more cheap natural gas on the energy market doesn’t slow down atmospheric CO2 increases is twofold. First, the presence of all that cheap gas would cause investors and utility companies to move away from, yes coal, but also renewables. The study’s economic models found that the fracking boom would take away 18% of the coal we’d use without it, but also take away 17% of the renewables we’d use without it. Coal might have 50% more carbon than natural gas, but renewables have zero, so for natural gas to cut out a nearly equal portion of both the coal and renewable market share would have a wash effect. Think of it with this number anaology. Without the fracking boom there is 100% of the no fracking world coal and renewable market. Thus for coal we have 100 X 100=10,000 and for renewables 100X 0=0. If natural gas, which has 50% the emissions of coal, but 50% more than renewables takes up 18% of the no fracking world coal market and 17% of the no fracking world renwables market, you have 82 X 100=8,200 for coal, 83 X 0=0 for renewables, 18 X 50=900 for natural gas’ share of old coal, and 17 X 50=850 for natural gas’ share of old renewables. That adds up to 9,950, or 99.5% of the CO2 from electricity that would exist without the shale gas fracking boom.   Additionally, all that extra shale gas from the fracking boom would be cheaper than the coal and renewables that would be used without it, causing the global population to consume more electricity over that same time period than they would without the fracking boom. Thus, the study came to the conclusion there’d be a slight increase in atmospheric CO2 with fracking vs. without. As I said at the beginning, this all doesn’t even start talking about how fracking leads to higher methane emissions, not to mention that it wastes and poisons water.
        So, with the study concluding that fracking for tons of natural gas ends up basically having a wash effect on the climate change situation, we have to ask ourselves how we will end up solving the problem. This study assumed as part of the conditions that no regulations, taxes, or subsidies would be different than they currently are. Regardless of whether you frack or not, the situation will play out in the same bad way unless you do things that help drive money, production, and consumption away from fossil fuels and onto renewables. The fracking innovation didn’t change anything, which doesn’t mean some future innovation won’t, but it does mean that as of right now we can either sit around hoping something pops up and saves us, or we can actually legislate the world onto renewables. It’s our choice. Whatever the case, political and business leaders shouldn’t be allowed to point to fracking as a way to punt on the issue as already solved or one that we have ions of time to figure out latter. They had better either get back to straight up denying the problem’s existence, or start working on legislating our way out of it.

          


Pervasive Ignorance Is Allowing Broken Media and Political Systems To Exploit Our Inherent Predisposition to Irrational Fears With Ebola

   Ignorance pisses me off. It leads to fear and fear is an unreliable emotion that leads people to say, think, support, and do incredibly stupid things. Corporate media also pisses me off, because the goal is to get more people to watch, and dispassionate reporting and analysis of an educated reality doesn’t draw large audience, who draw bigger advertising dollars, the same way out of context statements, half-truths, bold faced lies, lies of omission, and demagoguery does. Our deregulated political campaigning system also pisses me off, because when you are allowed to get as much money as you want, from whomever you want, to spend in whatever way you want, to spread whatever 30 second bit fear mongering propaganda you want, advertising of politics becomes less about informing people of your views and ideas in contrast to some opponent,  and more about gimmicks, fear mongering, and lies flashed over and over on TV to a large, incredibly disengaged and ignorant audience. This combination of wide reaching societal ignorance, the financial motivation of the news industry, and the political motivations of politicians has led to a fucking virus becoming the most overhyped fear mongering tool I’ve seen in a long time.
        Ebola is not a new virus (it’s been around since 1976), it is not the world’s most deadly virus (that would be the Marburg virus), it is not transmitted by air (like the flu), it is not all over Africa (believe it or not that gigantic continent is comprised of many countries you’ve never heard of and this particular outbreak of the virus is concentrated in three of them on the west coast) and no American who hasn’t either traveled to west Africa, or been working as a nurse sticking tubes and needles into a dying Ebola patient in a hospital has ever gotten Ebola. Much like the once feared, media hyped, and politicized HIV virus, you cannot get Ebola through the water, food supply, or air. Instead, you have to have somebody’s bodily fluids come in direct contact with an opening on your body, be it your eyes, mouth, a cut, ears, or through sexual transmission. Unlike HIV, which you could contract from someone who was asymptotic but had the virus, which took years to begin showing symptoms, with Ebola the person’s fluids are not contagious until they are actually showing signs of being very sick. Much like HIV, the virus cannot be transmitted by mosquitoes. While HIV is highly transmittable through sex, there’s a very low risk with Ebola, which tends to only transmit at a high rate via blood, vomit, or feces. In all those ways Ebola is either the same as HIV or even less dangerous.
         Also, just like HIV, the Ebola virus is not going to mutate to become airborne, waterborne, mosquito carried, or something like that. Literally no virus in history has ever mutated from being airborne to non-airborne or vice versa (and the same with food, water, and mosquitoes). It’s theoretically possible, but if you are shitting yourself over that theoretical prospect with Ebola, you mind as well be equally afraid of HIV starting to spread through the air, mosquito bites, drinking water, and food. Neither is going to happen; there is zero precedent for it. The only way Ebola could be seen as more dangerous than HIV is that the virus is found in low quantities in the saliva, sweat, and tears of infected people, so theoretically if you were to make out with a symptomatic Ebola patient, have them spit into you eyes, cry into your mouth, or sweat directly into some cut you have or something there’s a small chance you could get the disease. Additionally, unlike HIV which dies very quickly on surfaces if an Ebola patient bled or vomited all over some surface and it wasn’t properly cleaned up disinfected and you then touched it and put your hands in your mouth there’s a small chance you could get the disease.
           However, what people need to keep in mind is that the only way those incredibly small chances of making out with a sick person or touching the remnants of a pile of shit or vomit from an Ebola patient making regular Americans sick could come true is if first someone who traveled to west Africa was either brought back to be treated for Ebola and second, was being treated in a hospital where some healthcare workers then contracted the virus from direct contact with the blood, feces, and vomit of that patient, who then third, after being symptomatic themselves, began bleeding, vomiting, making out with, spitting on, or shitting/pissing on other non-healthcare workers who began doing the same after they later became symptomatic. That is the only incredibly far-fetched way that a true “outbreak” of the disease could take hold in America. Why then, some will ask, have outbreaks of thousands of people taken hold in Serra Leone, Liberal, and Guinea? The answer is that people over there touch the bodies of the dead in ways we would never dream of dealing with Ebola corpses. Their burial rituals lead to all kinds of bodily fluids from the deceased family member getting on other family members. From there, the complete lack of sanitation in the third world takes over. As the sick wander the streets vomiting and bleeding, piles of those fluids sit around and inevitably some others come into contact with them, which leads to more getting infected, and then more people handling more dead Ebola bodies in irresponsible ways, and the cycle goes on and on. Our sanitation, the way we dispose of highly infections corpses, and our hospital system basically ensure that any American Ebola will be contained to a small group of brave healthcare workers that are taking blood, cleaning up feces and urine, and sticking tubes into the few Ebola patients that get come to our hospitals from western African nations. Lots of nations, including Nigeria, Uganda, Spain, Germany, and yes the United States have had a few isolated patients get sick or be flown in already sick, and yes, a few healthcare workers around all those body fluids also got sick, just like healthcare workers sometimes contract HIV from the blood, feces, or vomit of very sick AIDS patients they are treating. But in terms of a breakout in the thousands, affecting non-healthcare workers and people that haven’t traveled to areas with a full breakout, the risk is basically zero.
         That’s why all this fear mongering talk of building big walls, innacting air travel bans, executing Ebola patients, imprisoning the sick nurse that got on a plane to Ohio, saying Obama wants Americans to get Ebola because he loves the idea of African redistibution, and all sorts of other stupid, weird shit going through the media, connecting this incredibly difficult to contract virus to terrorism, immigration, Obama, black people, and a million other emotionally charged fear issues is really pissing me off. This is the kind of shit the CDC deals with every day. There’s always some deadly virus somewhere in need of tracking. Right now in America alone there’s that EV-D68 polio like virus that has sent hundreds of kids to the hospital and even paralyzed and killed a few, a big outbreak of chlamydia, the antibiotic resistant MRSA, the last bits of the annual West Nile Virus situation, the upcoming flu season, which always holds the potential to produce a 1918 style pandemic that would kill millions, etc, etc. Meanwhile, around the world there are all kinds of very rare, very hard to contract, but very deadly viruses much like Ebola (Marburg, Dengue Fever, Lassa, Hantavirus, Machupo, etc, etc) that could at any moment have an outbreak like this Ebola one pop up. Just because CNN and Yahoo News keep telling you to run for the hills because there’s a couple nurses who got infected treating a sick Liberian man in a Texas hospital, and a bunch of politicians and pundits telling you somehow a Mexican member of ISIS is going to come running over the border with Ebola to bring down America on the orders of imperialism hating Obama unless you vote for them in some meaningless state legislature race doesn’t mean you should be afraid, or that this is any different than another of many bad situations the CDC and WHO are constantly having to monitor. Seriously, America, get yourselves better educated and less emotional.
            

Supporting America’s Support For Grabbing Land On Religious Claims Requires That You Literally Believe In Historical Mythological Characters

   America’s foreign policy endeavors are fully instructed by religion and oil. Today I want to talk about how ridiculous the religious component of that equation is. America, the land that was theoretically developed on secular principles (as democracy means leaders are voted for rather than supposedly appointed by religious divine right), had to include freedom or religion and separation of religion and state in its founding, because self-governance through democracy was the primary goal. Unfortunately, America never developed freedom of religion or separation of religion and state in practice. If we had there would be a diverse mix of all religions (and lack of religion) throughout our population, rather than a near Christian monopoly that continues due to cultural conditioning, much in the same way other societies have a particular religion with a monopoly on their culture. Accordingly, with nearly everyone being Christian, the American people require Christian belief in their elected leaders, who in turn enact Christian motivated policies. One such policy is our undying dedication to Jewish occupation of a certain geographical area described in the Judeo-Christian Bible as belonging to Jews.
          Christian America has a complicated relationship with Judaism. On one hand it’s long been hated because of the stigma that Christian texts depict Jewish society executing the Christian savior, Jesus. In pre-American history Christianity was selected by the Roman Empire, which meant long after the collapse of Rome, the western world would be dominated by that faith. As such, western kingdoms always persecuted the Jews, the killers of the Christian savior. This lead to Jews being kept out of most industries, except for those that dealt with things like the financial sector, or secular law, which were taboo in the Christian faith. That in turn led to Jews becoming increasingly good with money, numbers, and words, which set them up for great financial success once in a free theoretically secular society. In the end, the group Christians hated for being the killers of their savior became dominant members of American capitalist business society. This made matters more complicated because now there was both religious and class resentment. Later though the Holocaust, as well as the rise of Evangelical fundamentalism, along with increasing worship of wealth helped bring Judaism and Jews into much higher esteem in Christian American culture. It was all very complicated. Jesus was a Jew, but Jews killed Jesus. Wealthy people were resented as greedy and slimy, but wealth and business acumen were also adored. There was a temptation to persecute, but how could you go after people who had been slaughtered by the millions in Europe? But perhaps most important, with the rise of Christian fundamentalism in place of more moderate Protestant religion a few decades after the Holocaust, there was suddenly a great love of Israel, even if not necessarily Judaism, the Jewish people, or their successes.
         With Christians sharing much of the Old Testament with Jews, a fundamentalist reading of the Christian Bible says that the Christian God who was the father of the Christian savior Jesus had literally promised a particular piece of land to the descendants of a particular person (Abraham). Most intelligent people are able to understand that Judaism is simply the world’s first great organized expression of monotheism, originating somewhere in the Mediterranean region several millennia ago. The notion of monotheism was written about and even believed in by various writers that predate Judaism, but obviously no large society of people ever began to all collectively believe in monotheism prior to the Mediterranean people that would ultimately become Jews. At some point long, long after Judaism itself had been around (because there are records of the organized movement dating far further back than any of the dates various Biblical stories were written) various monotheistic people wanted to create a narrative that told the story of their history as a people. Thus, they created a mythological series of characters and events that gave them definitive origins, purpose, rules, structure, and destiny. This is not at all unlike how hundreds of other ancient cultures that believed in various forms of religion or belonged to certain tribes, or lived in certain locations created their own mythological stories and characters to explain their past, purpose, and future. It’s a very human thing to do. In the ancient world you could be living in some tribe, or on some strip of land, or under some government, or worshiping some religion that so far as you and anyone else alive could remember had always been there, but there was no official history of how the movement started and developed, so you got to work creating fantastic historical dramas to explain your existence.
       Most of these other culture’s stories are long lost, although some like the Greeks’ and various others from some of the larger and more recent groups have survived and we read them as the fun myths they are. The difference with the Jewish myths written thousands of years ago is that much later a secondary sub-cult that combined pagan notions of gods sending a human-god child to save the world with the one true god mantra of monotheism (the Christian story of Jesus) developed, and later that particular sub-cult was adopted by the western world’s most expansive empire (the Romans), which led to the Jewish people’s historical myths from which it branched out to become central to the future of modern western society. Had the Christian cult never developed off of the Jewish historical myths and then been adopted by the Roman Empire we’d have never heard of them any more so than any other ancient Mediterranean people’s historical myths.
      With the rise of Evangelical Christian social and political power in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st century America, the aspect of the Jewish historical myths that says there really was some dude named Abraham, from whom later on a real dude named Jacob had 12 real sons, from whom all Jews  biologically descend from, whom are all promised to be given the particular geographical space described in the Old Testament became widely believed in by Americans. The real story of Judaism is much less exciting. It’s one of various little isolated tribes deciding to experiment with believing in just one deity rather than many and that idea slowly taking off in rather sporadic, disorganized fashion over countless generations until suddenly the belief was held by a large enough group of people throughout the region that they began to centralize and write mythological stories about their past that sound much more exciting. Later, people believing in monotheism that didn’t at some point get scooped up by either the Christian or Muslim religions that branched off from it spread around various parts of the Middle East and Europe, and then later some immigrated to America, and along the way many people who were Jewish dropped the religion, while others who had not been Jewish married a Jew, became Jewish and started producing children identified as Jews. While it is true that both the Roman Empire various Christian and later Islamic kingdoms that existed around the Middle East and Europe were so predjudiced against Jews that they tended to only marry with each other, eventually turning them into a sort of ethnicity not that unlike a secular ethnic group like “German” or “Scottish,” or whatever, it’s hardly true that everyone who is considered an ethnic Jew today originated from one of 12 mythological historical characters that came from that original mythological guy Abraham that are promised some strip of land.
         In order to believe that America has a moral obligation to help Jewish people gain and keep control of a particular piece of land through our military and political might, you’d have to be a fundamentalist reader of the Bible that literally thinks all Jews are distant descendants of original characters described in the dogma as being genetically entitled to that land. Christian fundamentalists are very politically powerful people in America and thus America’s foreign policy is very much dominated by a fascination with getting a group thought to be genetically related to mythological characters control of a piece of Middle Eastern land, despite the fact that Christianity as a whole is none too happy with Jews based on another mythological story about Jewish people executing a character named Jesus.  Astonishingly, many Christians who don’t believe in some literal interpretation of the Bible as actual history and science continue to think the very ambiguously defined “Jewish people” are entitled to a strip of land and love the idea of using vast military might to help them get it. Why this is the case is unclear, but it seems that a very fundamentalist reading of religion has become more subconsciously mainstream than is imagined.

Thoughts I’ve Had About The Fact I Eat Meat

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about why I continue to eat meat. Really, I’ve wondered why for a long time. A few things in particular have been making me think lately. About a year ago I saw some movie about the incompetent defense team for some kid accused of a brutal murder that really hadn’t done it, which got him easily convicted in court. His attorney was some former hippy who got his clients from those lawyer infomercials that run during stuff like Jerry Springer. What stuck with me was this one scene where he was describing how he once lived on some hippy farm and he would name the animals they had there after food, like oh this guy here is named Mr. McRib, and stuff like that. He said it made him finally be able to give up meat, because the cows, pigs, chickens, and other things we eat suddenly had names, personalities, and emotions to him, just like how we view our dogs, which is why we would never in America eat dog meat even it just came from nasty strays. I guess changing your view of chicken as some innumerous food product no different than each ear of corn you consume to a real things with emotions is achieved just by naming and vaguely interacting with them. So that stuck with me. Another thing was this past summer when I was watching one of those TV talent shows and some guy came on with his pig who could do all kinds of tricks with a soccer ball and stuff. He was treating the pig like a pet, letting it give him kisses, petting him, dressing him in a little pig shirt, and all that. The pig seemed emotionally attached to the guy, and the guy seemed to love the pig. It really didn’t seem all that different from watching someone with their dog, and it made me think about how that animal, which someone loves and treats like a pet that seems to be able to reciprocate, is from a species I eat all the time.
      The thing I’ve thought about the most when considering the eating of meat is how I approach abortion vs. how religious people tend to approach abortion. Religious people believe in dualism (i.e. souls), where somehow your genetics resulting in the particular structure, function, wiring, and interactive processes in your brain is not what makes your personality, but rather some invisible soul that will fly off to an afterlife heaven or hell based on how well you followed a bunch of cryptic ancient superstitious dogma is actually “what makes you you.” Religious people also believe in hierarchies of life, feeling that all different types of living things were instantly brought into existence together by some purposeful creator that only made everything else so we could have food and ascetic entertainment. This contrasts with a scientific understanding of speciation, where all living things can actually trace back their roots to the RNA based bacteria that later spawned into everything with DNA/RNA/proteins we see today, over billions of years, with geographic barriers driving evolution in different phenotypic directions for creatures on either side of each barrier, leading to great enough genetic differentiation  that if reunited the creatures would no longer be able to reproduce with each other. Thus, while I merely see other species as the descendants of creatures that grew genetically different enough from my own that we can no longer make offspring together, but are still distant relatives, a religious person says humans are a special, separate, superior species, and one way they say we are superior is that the creator gave us those magical souls that make us who we are instead of our brains, while animals have no souls. Because of these views of souls and species, traditionally religious societies have been perfectly okay with killing animals that have emotions, social abilities, and the ability to be petrified of being killed and feel pain as they are being killed, while at the same time being horrified at the thought of killing a human fetus that has no brain function, no self-awareness, no emotional capacity, or ability to fear death or feel pain in death. The rationale is that you are killing a soul when you kill a fetus, something that was going to develop into the chosen, superior species, but when you kill an animal you are just offing some soulless toy of amusement the magical creator placed next to humans for their pleasure.
       It’s made me think about my views as an evil atheist in a religious world. I’m okay with someone killing their fetus because that fetus isn’t a self-aware, thinking, feeling creature, and I’m not into ancient myths about souls and human-centric hierarchies. Thus, shouldn’t I be equally not okay with killing an animal that is self-aware, thinking, and feeling, given that I would oppose the killing of a fetus if it possessed those traits? If notions of souls and species hierarchies aren’t driving my view of whether I’m cool with abortion, why would I go along with the killing of animals just because I grew up in a culture that was cool with it precisely because they believe in shit like souls and species hierarchies? I mean, I strongly get the impression that if American society was like 90 whatever percent atheist instead of Christian, killing animals would not have been the socially permissible norm I grew up with. Just because it’s viewed as no big deal by my society I’ve always viewed it as no big deal, but the reason it’s not a big deal in my society is because most people hold a bunch of superstitious views I don’t share. I don’t think eating meat would be illegal if society was 90% atheist, but much like abortion I think it would be one of those things that a majority of people said they personally would never do, but if someone felt comfortable doing it or felt it was necessary for them to do it, they’d be cool with them doing it, since you can’t really come to a substantiated absolute conclusion on whether it’s right or wrong (basically a “pro-choice” meat eating position). The really crazy thing is that if I knew someone who was considering abortion and they asked me for advice I’d probably try to talk them into adoption or something because I’d be afraid that they’d be haunted by their decision to abort later in life and wouldn’t want them to live with that. Yet, I’d never try to talk someone out of eating meat because I’d be afraid that they’d be haunted by what they ate for the rest of their life. Why is this? Why is it that a great many women probably would feel very haunted by having ended the developing potential of a human being when it was still an emotionless, unthinking, un-self-aware, non-pain feeling group of cells, and I’d even feel afraid of being haunted by encouraging them to abort a fetus that wasn’t even mine, but every single day I can bite into meat that came  from an animal that lived a torturous life in some crowded dark meat farm house, pumped full of steroids, and then one day watched as others were slaughter, grew terrified, and then was painfully slaughtered itself, despite containing the emotional capacity to be an affectionate pet like that pig on that show if it had been lucky enough to have been born in a different situation?
         In the end I’ll continue to eat meat, but at least I’m getting to the point where this decision haunts and disturbs me. Below I’ve outlined the pros and cons of meat eating.

 Cons       
1.) Animals perceive their own existence: While an animal can’t perceive their own mortality, it can perceive it’s life. It knows that it is alive and other creatures around it are alive. It’s not just some animate object that isn’t aware of its existence.
2.) Animals have the emotional abilities: Certainly it varies by species, but they most definitely can feel things like fear, sadness, happiness, pleasure, excitement, and even love, if not always towards humans, at least towards their offspring.
3.) Animals raised for meat live shitty lives: Long gone are the days of an animal living its normal animal life and then being killed by a pack of human hunter gatherers, which could be as fast as a split second, or in a worst case scenario cause them to feel fear and struggle to run evade the humans for a few minutes. Even the days of the family farm where animals were not necessarily loved, but at least kept in good conditions out in the sun often times with their mother, getting fed, and protected from other predators and diseases until the day it came time to kill them for the meat are long over. In the past few generations the large agricultural giants have taken over virtually all the farms and turned meat into another mass commodity, where the animals is born on a mass birth line, immediately stripped of its mother, thrown into crowded buildings with darkened drapes over the sides, living amongst tons of filth and animal germs, periodically fed and shot up with steroids by some worker, and then eventually, if it didn’t succumb to some weird disease or attack from a fellow animal in the darkened house, picked up thrown into a dark truck and taken off to be slaughtered by a machine in some assembly line.
4.) Animals feel physical pain: In addition to feeling emotions along the course of their shitty life as a commodity they are self-aware enough to perceive living, the animal also feels pain as it is actually killed. This has been true for all of time through the family farm and hunter gatherer days, but it doesn’t make it any less disturbing.
5.) Antibiotics are pumped into animals: Because the new corporate agricultural industry has tons of animals stocked in close quarters (because it’s cheaper) and doesn’t clean the facilities they keep them in (because it’s cheaper) the risk of infection is high. In order to not lose large amounts of animals to disease prior to slaughter, the industry has invested in antibiotics, absolutely pumping animals full of them as a precautionary measure. This is horrifying for humans, because as more and more antibiotics are exposed to animals they begin to adapt to animal bacteria, meaning over time more and more bacteria becomes resistant. Instead of spending the extra money to buy more space and keep it better maintained when storing animals waiting eventual slaughter, this money saving gimmick brings people cheaper meat now in exchange for an inevitable future human health crisis that will cost much more than lives and dollars. I don’t know why we don’t seem to fear the return of bacterial disease resistance the same way we would viruses. If someone told us some practice in raising meat animals was potentially going to make the polio virus vaccine stop working we’d freak out and demand they stop, but when we hear that someday strep throat bacteria might be lethal again because of how we raise our meat animals we shrug our shoulders.
6.) Food is wasted to feed animals instead of humans: Growing up I often wondered where all the different types of food came from that I was eating. I seemed to be eating a lot of different stuff, but whenever I would be driven somewhere downstate all I’d see was field after field of corn. I ate more than corn, so what was up with this? What I’ve come to find out as an adult is that virtually everything we eat today is basically either some mostly grown in the lab semi-food that is made to taste super good because it is infused with tons of high fructose corn syrup (basically all the chips, breads, juices, soups, sodas, candy, cakes, etc), which is where about half that corn goes, and the other half goes towards feeding tons and tons of bloated animals hidden away in those darkened storage houses you don’t see as you drive down the interstate, which comprise all the meat we eat with those chips, breads, drinks, and deserts. That’s why, aside from the rare apple, orange, carrot, grape, or whatever that tend to grow in very specific locations that didn’t happen to be anywhere near Illinois, virtually everything you eat can be traced back to corn (as well as all the wheat grown on the Plaines for the bread). The massive waste of farmland to grow a single crop that is mostly used to feed tons and tons of animals to make them extra fat to drive up prices actually hurts humans. If we were using that land to grow lots of diverse crops, that humans were going to eat, instead of a bunch of pigs, chickens, and such, the human diet devoid of meat would be much cheaper.
7.) Meat is horrible for climate change: Raising lots of meat contributes big time to climate change, because it’s a very carbon intensive process. First you have to feed all those animals, which means you need to clear more land (fewer forests to soak up carbon from the air) and plant more on that land (less exposed soil to soak up carbon from the air), which also happens to mean you’ll need to apply more fertilizer (another fossil fuel intensive process). Then, you have the matter of all the methane release that comes from all sorts of cattle waiting to be slaughtered (methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas). Once you are ready to actually kill the animals, the automated process of killing them requires more fossil fuel energy. Then there’s the matter of having to store the meat in refrigeration once its packed and ready for transport, which takes up more energy than non-perishable meatless food. Meat cannot generally be “grown locally” and thus unlike some other foods, the transportation process is generally much greater, which requires further fossil fuels. After that, the process of cooking defrosting and cooking the meat is a much more fossil fuel intensive process than is preparing other types of food. In the end it’s a major, major contributor to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
8.) Meat causes more organ problems and cancers that other types of food: While lots of artificial sugars certainly cause all kinds of diseases (diabetes, cancers, etc), eating lots of meat can much more easily clog your arteries increasing the odds of heart attack and stroke, two of the major killers of humans. On the cancer end of it, all the steroids, antibiotics, and fertilizer covered corn they’ve been pumping animals with seem to be increasing people’s odds of developing various cancers, as well as various types of organ failure, and even problems like asthma and allergies. Overall, while eating tons of bread and candy is more stereotypically linked to bad health because it more easily produces the visible effect of obesity, meat tends to fuck with more organs and set you up for increased risk of all sorts of very common, deadly issues than anything else.

Pros
1.) Animals would eat us: You could make the argument that animals would gladly eat humans if they were a hungry carnivore in the vicinity of a human, so we shouldn’t be burdened with abstaining from eating them as hungry omnivores (we eat meat and plants) just because we happened to have evolved to have the intellectual capacity to feel empathy towards living things not from our species.
2.) Protein helped humans develop intelligence: In the course of evolutionary history our ability to walk upright was the big turning point, because we were suddenly really good distance runners that could tire out much larger animals, allowing us to eat meat instead of just plants. The protein from this new meat-rich diet is thought to have been one of the key things that helped further develop our prefrontal cortex, which eventually led to us getting so smart that we stopped being hunter gatherers altogether, developing agriculture, technology, culture, religion, nations, governments, industry, etc. While vegetarians and vegans certainly don’t seem to be intellectually lesser than meat eaters, suggesting that you need not eat meat to maintain optimal brain function, most who become such do just that rather than growing up that way, so it’s unclear if having children in their brain formative years abstaining from meat would be akin to bringing back poor sanitation or not getting them vaccine, resulting in a lower adult IQ. Furthermore, it’s hard not to fear that your intellectual function wouldn’t decrease if you suddenly stopped eating meat no matter what the anecdotal evidence might describe.
3.) Sudden change in diet could lead to health issues: Whenever the body adapts to a certain diet and it is suddenly changed it could trigger some kind of health issues. The Simpsons episode where Homer and them get sick when Lisa tries to feed them healthy food is closer to the truth than we might think. If you suddenly stopped eating meat could it actually trigger some change in your physiology that resulted in the later development of some disease you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten? It’s a concern.
4.) Too much pressure to not mess up: Because our society doesn’t view eating meet as immoral we’ve all been raised to view grabbing a chicken strip, a burger, a piece of bacon, or whatever as no big deal. If you were to suddenly declare yourself a vegetarian or vegan and people around you were always making all kinds of accommodations for you, and then you suddenly had a slip, and starting eating some piece of chicken or something out of pure habit, it would come off looking like your giving up meat wasn’t genuine, but rather just some sort of attention grabbing scheme, or some way to make yourself appear more righteous than you really are. I mean, if we all grew up thinking it was totally normal to eat dead people’s corpses, and then for some reason you reasoned out that such disturbed you or was immoral in some way, making you give up that part of your diet, you could very easily just like forget a month in and start eating some human hand or something like you always had and then everyone would be like “oh look the little self-righteous prick was just looking for attention, he still eats humans.” Obviously, nobody thinks its normal to eat humans, so we don’t, but if we were raised to believe it was normal and then later decided it was bad, we’d end up looking like some attention seeking hypocrite the first time we slipped up and ate something we were used to eating. It’s almost not worth the social risk of declaring a vegetarian or vegan for this reason.  
5.) Putting another social target on my back: I have enough social targets on me already. I do all kinds of things that are very frowned upon in our society like saying America has a fucked up history, and isn’t so great at lots of stuff today, or not believing in the Judeo-Christian deity and religion, or saying abortion is okay, or accepting the science for climate change and evolution, etc, etc. I’m one of those evil, atheists, non-America loving, arrogant, science accepting, jobless liberals. To give mainstream society another reason to look down on me, hate me, ridicule me and all that wouldn’t be very smart. I mean, I remember the looks and comments of disapproval, scorn, and mockery my mom’s side of the family when one of my cousins tried out vegetarianism a few years back, and I don’t want that kind of judgy pressure, waiting to feel delight when I’m exposed a fraud attitude to be moved onto me.
6.) Financial cost of avoiding meat: Having to avoid meat products while still meeting all your nutritional needs would probably cost an amount of money people like me just don’t have.
7.) Ending up wanting to convince people of its merits: I know how I am. If I feel that there is logical evidence demonstrating that something should or should not be morally accepted I would try to convince others of my evidence and have it challenged by theirs. Given that this is just another one of those things like gayness, abortion, various sexual acts, welfare programs, educational spending, climate change policies, the rejection of religious dogma, and lots of other stuff that most Americans would be appalled to hear an argument for, I don’t really want to commit myself to it, since I’d get constantly verbally beaten up about it.

Liberal Is Just Another Tribe

Something liberals take pride in is their lack of tribalism. While tribalism may be evolutionarily imprinted in our social personas due to the nearly 190,000 years we spent as small nomadic hunter gatherer groups prior to our much more recent agricultural and industrial advances, liberals try to resist the temptation to create separate caricatures of identifiable groups of people differentiated by some physical trait, belief system, geographical location, or ancestral heritage. Yet, what we tend to forget is that “liberals” might actually be one of the most rigidly defined tribes of all. Most people fulfill their tribal impulses by identifying with others living in the same arbitrarily defined land (nationalism) or those with the same skin color (race), or those who believe the same things about a particular deity somewhere in the sky (religion), or even those whose ancestors happened to belong to the same arbitrary nation or tribe (ethnicity). That’s why most people are so inherently patriotic, racist, religious, and to a lesser extent, at least in America, into their ethnicity (America is unique because rather than focusing on the differences in what kingdoms and tribes our ancestors belonged to, we divide off by what skin color we happen to have living within a racially mixed nation. Most nations have one skin color but multiple ethnicities, so while there is the same collective national prejudice  against foreigners in other nations as there is in America, their intra-nation tribalism is divided along ethnic rather than skin color lines).  This unfortunately lends itself to fascism, racism, and sectarian hatred amongst diverse ethnicities and religions.  Liberals like to try and be above all that division, adopting a coexistence, multiracial, globalized, multicultural, religiously diverse stance. Yet, people have a need for identity and tribalism, which is why the very opposition to all these divisions actually becomes a form of tribal identity itself.
              In a lot of ways this helps to explain why liberals are always viewed by non-liberals as the most intolerant, self-righteous bunch they’ve ever encountered. A liberal will accept anyone and anything so long as that person, institution, or idea is not into identifying by their nationality, race, religion, or ethnicity, and promoting theirs while putting down others that they view as competitive tribal rivals. Basically, this ends up meaning that liberals won’t be able to accept anyone but other liberals, since all non-liberals do identify in those ways and self-promote their tribe while denigrating other tribes. To be intolerant of intolerance means you have to be intolerant of everyone except other liberals. Ultimately, no matter how well intentioned or enlightened you are, it’s inevitable that you’ll be a very intolerant person, whether it’s in the tradition tribal sense, or the liberal tribal sense. To view a great example of this in practice go look up John Stewart’s team interviewing people at the 2012 Democratic convention asking them about tolerance and acceptance.
            

Tom Tillis’ Idea That Anti-Poverty Spending Is Slavery Reparations Encapsulates Why Fighting Poverty Is Harder For America Than Other Developed Nations


      Tom Tillis is the Republican candidate running against Kay Hagen in that incredibly close North Carolina Senate race. Currently, he is the Speaker of the House in North Carolina’s state legislature, the one that provoked the “Moral Mondays” protests due to their draconian voter suppression laws. He’s an interesting figure to me because he is quite specific in his explanation as to why he opposes help for the poor. While most American conservative politicians stick to rhetoric about the inefficiency of anti-poverty measures and/or the idea that the best way to fight poverty is to not fight it, so as to maintain an image of care for the poor, where they make it seem like they really want to help them and just so happen to think that anti-poverty spending fails or that poor people don’t need help but rather a kick in the ass, Tillis cuts through the bs and says what the rest are thinking but would never say in public. He says that anti-poverty measures are a “subset of Democrats ceaselessly calling for de facto reparations.” He’s literally on the record, unashamedly saying that the war on poverty is really just about some liberal idea to pay black people reparations. To quote him, “federal and state governments have redistributed trillions of dollars of wealth over the years by funding programs that are at least in part driven by their belief we should provide additional reparations.”
        Presumably, Tillis thinks all poor people are black, and that all anti-poverty spending goes to black people, all the revenue spent on anti-poverty programs comes from white people, the only reason black people are poor is because they are inferior, lazy, and entitled, and the only reason money is spent on any poor black person is because some white liberals are pushing some bizarre ongoing reparations scheme. Actually, I don’t believe Tillis personally believes all that, as most politicians are blank, power hungry slates who allow the people that could put them in power to write their personal views, but what it shows is that the open political musings of a guy like Tillis encompass why America has such a tough time, far tougher than any other developed nation, in dealing with helping our poor. The reason is race. Yesterday, I wrote some stuff about some of my experiences growing up, and how I developed a view of the world that said poor people were poor because they were lazy and all poor people were black, and all black people were poor. Generally speaking I feel as though most of grown up America thinks about poverty in the ways I did as a child. They don’t understand that poor people can be white, black, brown, or yellow, not all black people are poor, and people who are poor, (black or otherwise) aren’t necessarily lazy or entitled, and in the specific case of blacks it’s overwhelmingly likely they are poor due to racist societal factors out of their control rather than laziness. Thus, in America when you are white, as most Americans are, you view poverty as a “black thing.” Most whites don’t live anywhere near black people, and if they don’t live around poor white people they think all poor folks are black, but if they are a poor white person or living around poor white people they assume they and their community are a rare exception, not at fault for their poverty, and probably some of the first and only poor white people somehow made poor by black people and those liberal white people from one of those big cities on the coasts having done something to them they can’t quite pinpoint but are sure is there.
            America is notorious for having a horrible social safety net system, educational system, and healthcare system when compared with other nations. We outdo our European, Japanese, Canadian, and Australian peers in things like inequality, gun deaths, pollution, military expenditure, and unabashed patriotism, but are near the bottom of the list when it comes to things like education, healthcare, welfare, disability, etc. Yet, somehow a great portion of our citizenry thinks that we spend way more on poor people than elsewhere and say we go way too far. How can we have our poor be so much poorer than elsewhere in the developed world, do so little to help them, achieve such shitty results, watch all our first-world peers destroying us in these matters, and somehow think we are the enabling nanny state of the entitled? Race, that’s how. Tom Tillis encapsulates the American view that poverty is some uniquely American, singularly black problem that plagues our good, hard-working, moral white society. We are the only first world nation burdened by a history of long lasting, far reaching African slavery. Other Euro nations did horrible things to people of color in foreign lands they once occupied through colonization, but we are the only place those Europeans  went that imported masses quantities of Africans to be treated shittily in our country, whose descendants have since had to continue to be born and live in that country by the tens of millions.
        It’s created an awkward situation. In any capitalistic society there will be major wealth, but also major inequality, meaning you can either blame the economic losers and refuse to help, or you can pity and help them. In our particular capitalistic society people with white skin disproportionately get to safeguard themselves from poverty, by virtue of the assurance that the laws and social structures would fill up the poor class with as many black descendants of slaves as possible. While a British, French, Swedish, or Dutch person will look at the poor in their society as one of their own who tried and failed within a free society in which some have to fail for others to succeed, and thus want to help them, in our American society we look at our poor as  foreigners,  descendants of our slaves whose race has been so dehumanized by our culture that we assume them to be lazy and violent by nature, and thus look at their situation as probably their fault, making us less likely to want to help them. From that flows the idea that anyone who does want to help them must be some sympathizer with the dehumanized race of slaves (today they are called “liberals” in such a growling way that it’s meant by the conservative as a slur; in the past they would have been more brazenly called something like “nigger lover”), idiotically suggesting we help the poor, whom in the views of most, are nothing more than inherently lazy people of a different kind.
       Tom Tillis says out loud what “conserving tradition” is all about to white America. He once in a public speech compared the Latino and black population of his home state with the “traditional population.” At its heart opposition to aid for the poor, and a romanticizing about traditional times and ways by whites in America is nothing more than contemporary, coded political racist messaging. Because as Lee Atwater famously said he figured out for Reagan, “you can’t get up on the stump and say nigger, nigger, nigger anymore, but you can talk about welfare queens.” Exactly.           
         

Our Unsustainable Wealth Generating System Is The Only Thing That Stops The Whole Planet From Being Like ISIS Which Is Why I’m So Happy I Won’t Be Around a Few Centuries From Now

       Recently I watched a documentary on ISIS. It was actually filmed back in 2013 before any of us had ever heard of ISIS, and it followed around their escapades, capturing their ideology along the way. What was very apparent was that these people had come to really, really believe that a dude named Mohammed had been given the one true deity’s precise commands as to how to live, and these instructions would have to be followed by all people in all corners of their society in every way, and they were absolutely willing to kill anyone who wouldn’t comply.  I also recently read an article about some guy in Tennessee who runs some sort of secular meeting house for people who received a bunch of death threats from some local Christian fundamentalists, who seemed to feel that the mere presence of people openly going around not believing the stuff they do was a threat of cosmic proportions that made them want to take extreme measures to stop it. What so-called Christian and Muslim “extremists” have in common is a full-fledged belief in holy texts and religious stories as historical/scientific textbooks that contain the absolute legal structure under which everyone must live. It’s not really “extreme” but rather simply taking religion at face value, refusing to do what most modern western people do, which is to ignore most of the words in holy texts, viewing them not as a historical or scientific history and the unquestionable law, but rather a lot of symbolic fables, parables, and subjective philosophy. Why is it that westerners generally refuse to keep taking religion as a literal thing in the 21st century, while people in places like Iraq and Syria continue to do so? The bottom line is that it all comes back to money.
         Look around America; where there is poverty there is deeper religiosity. Whether you go down to poor southern states, Appalachia, or urban ghettos, wherever poverty has a wider and deeper grip on communities, the religiosity of those communities is likewise heightened. By contrast, go into America’s richest communities, and you’ll find far more secular people (i.e. atheists and agnostics), “cultural” Jews (i.e. basically ethnic Jew atheists that practice traditions without believing in their religious context just for the fun of it to connect with heritage), Buddhists, Humanists (which are really  philosophies more than a religions with a deity and all that), and completely “disengaged” people (those that have never thought much at all about what they believe because they don’t care) than you would in the middle class. The reason religion in America is very literally believed in within poor communities, practiced in selective interpretation/watered down ways in the middle class, and relegated largely to the sidelines in exchange for deity-free philosophies, atheism, and complete disengagement in rich communities, is because the more wealth you have the less you need what religion has to offer and vice versa. Religion offers purpose, meaning, hope, answers, guidance, and identity.
      If you have no money, no possessions, no job, no opportunities, and are sitting around in suffering, hearing that there are these books that offer you a purpose in life, hope for a good afterlife, answers to everything you don’t know, an identity to be proud of; well then you’ll probably want to very much believe that these writings are literally true historical, scientific, and legal narratives that must be followed. When you are in the middle class you do have some material comforts and secular things to pursue (jobs, education, etc) but the comforts aren’t so great that you wouldn’t still want some higher more significant purpose and meaning for your life, and you still have problems and thus need hope, and you have to work so hard to avoid falling into poverty that you’d sometimes like shortcuts to answers and absolutes, and your security in life is so tenuous and fleeting that you’d crave the stability of a more certain identity and place within the cosmos. That’s why the middle class follows religion, even if they don’t as often need to cling to the whole and literal version of it. However, if you are upper class your comforts are so great, so secure, and your activities so large, fulfilling, and complex that you don’t really need religion. When you work some incredibly important and/or highly compensated job working it is brings you enough purpose and meaning to fulfill you. With all the money you get for working that career you know that you can start a stable and secure family giving you more purpose and meaning. When you have access to the best cars, homes, doctors, education, and everything else you need and want, you’ll no longer feel a need for the cheap hope and answers things like afterlives, historical fables, and absolute Bronze Age morality provide. Poor people with cancer pray, rich people go pursue cures; poor people with questions grab a holy book, rich people with questions go grab a higher education.
         On the whole, America is very rich. People always focus on the classes within America to define poor and rich, but on a global scale we are all very rich. Even our poorest have access to things like refrigerated food, antibiotics, a K-12 education, etc. In most parts of the world that’s simply not the case. Our larger material wealth helps dull our religious fanaticism. If you were to take the people that wrote those hate letters to that Tennessee man that runs his secular meeting house and instead have them be born, grow up, and live in a place like Syria, they’d be in ISIS right now. We play nicer and nicer and believe less and less when we have more material comforts, which is why a ghetto is both very religious and very violent. The really scary aspect to all this is that our western wealth is produced by a completely unsustainable system, and yet that system is the only way to produce mass wealth. Our economic system is based on digging, drilling, mining, and cutting to extract tons of finite natural resources which we then use to produce generally useless products. Without this vast and rapid exploitation of finite natural resources the entire economy collapses. Yes, there are many who appear to work in jobs that aren’t connected to the resource exploitation economy, but in fact they are very much connected. The marketing strategist has nothing to market or strategize about if the resources that make the products he/she must market aren’t there anymore. The writer cannot sell books full of words if people no longer have money from producing resource based goods. The teacher can no longer be paid if the government cannot collect taxes from people with money from the resource economy to pay them. The athlete cannot get paid if there are no advertising dollars to be made promoting products made of the resources during time outs. The server can no longer serve if the product being served is made produced by or comprised of resources no longer available. The salesman can no longer sell if the resources used to build all the cars and fuel and roads that help customers get to them aren’t around anymore. You could go on all day, but I think you get the picture.
        Human history is filled with massive, widespread poverty and religion. This only began changing a few short centuries ago when science brought us both the technology to usher in the industrial revolution, as well as the ability to start questioning and disproving aspects of dogma. Once the industrial world, which is predicated upon continuing to have more and more people produce, sell, and consume more and more stuff made of things of which there are limited supplies begins to fall apart because there is so little left of each resource that its cost skyrockets to the point where virtually nobody can afford goods, falls apart, the ushering in of mass poverty and the violence, religious “extremism” and other things that come with it will return en mass. We’d like to think that by focusing on the efficiency and durability of the products we make with increasingly scarce natural resources can delay the inevitable longer than would otherwise be the case, and we’d even like to think that we can figure out how to build completely sustainable, renewable products, but even if we can do that it still doesn’t matter. I mean, think about it, the economy is predicated on buying and selling stuff, so if everything you need can be covered with a one-time purchase, there is suddenly no longer a need to keep producing, advertising, selling, and buying stuff, which brings the money transfer aspect of the economy to a halt and collapses the system. The painful reality probably is that what the world has experienced over these past couple centuries has been a blip on the human timeline, a very brief, exponentially growing quality of life for more and more people, which will collapse gradually and exponentially after which we return to our old, very poor, very religious, very violent, low population, high inequality ways. The tens of thousands of years after these few centuries are probably going to be like the tens of thousands that came before them. I do hope we can avoid that fate somehow, not that it matters because I’ll be long gone by the time it happens, but still I do hope so, even though I doubt it.

The Creation of Povery and the Fear and Hatred The Violence It Produces Leaves Non-Poor Observers With and Why I Feel a Hereditable Connection to the Blame for This

       Have you ever been in a poor neighborhood? I have, and it’s fucking scary. I don’t live in a poor neighborhood, but I live very close to some incredibly impoverished areas. Walk about 2 miles east or north from the house I grew up in and you will be in a very fucked up neighborhood. Lately, I’ve been thinking about why poor neighborhoods are “scary.” Growing up the unfortunate, simplistic answer I had to accept was, “it’s a black neighborhood.” In my undeveloped and inexperienced mind I came to associate blackness with poverty and all the things that come with it, although I didn’t think the things that “come with” poverty were produced by poverty, but rather were simply things that were correlated with poor people who were both “bad” and “black.”
      Growing up I didn’t know any poor white people. That’s just the reality of the demographics of where I grew up (the near southwest suburbs of Chicago). The particular suburb I grew up in sort of jettisoned into Chicago; another suburb was to the west, but to the north, south, and east were the edge of the city limits. To the south were a pair of Chicago neighborhoods (Chicago has “neighborhoods” like New Orleans has “wards,” I don’t know what the nearest large city to you will call its subsections) where the cops, firemen, and teachers lived, because to be a public employee for the city you have to live in the city, so the middle class cops, teachers and such that can’t afford to live in a ritzy Chicago neighborhood, but don’t want to move their family into the ghetto almost universally come to live in the area just south of where I grew up; it mind as well have been another middle class white suburb. However, to the north and east were bad, bad neighborhoods. Growing up you were told not to cross 87th street or Longwood Drive…you just didn’t do it, and for good reason. Chicago has an incredibly brutal history of racial segregation and my suburb was one of those “dividing lines” from back in the 60’s; white people and money over here, black people and no money over there. Hell, MLK marched down a street less than a mile from my house; this was racial battle ground. Obviously, throughout America there is much white poverty, but I didn’t understand that growing up. I knew the boundaries and I knew what lay on each side of them; to me class and violence were inextricably tied to race.
       It never occurred to me that the reason all the black people were on the poor and dangerous side of the boundaries was because white people forced them into separate and unequal communities with worse housing, worse schools, less economic opportunity, and racist ass cops around every corner watching you. It also never occurred to me that poor people, even the ones that are poor for some reason other than belonging to a lineage that was economically oppressed by racism, were not inherently “bad,” but rather driven to “bad” actions out of desperation, despair, and bitterness. I thought they shot at each other, did drugs, went to prison, stole things, robbed people at gunpoint, destroyed property, dropped out of school, and all that sort of stuff because they were inferior people who had all the same opportunities and privileges of my side of the boundaries, and simply chose to do all those things, basically because they were black.
       Growing up I simultaneously feared them and hated them. I was obsessed with figuring out exactly how long it took by foot, by bike, and by car to reach the boundaries of my middle class suburb and the “black neighborhoods” and tried convincing myself it was further than it was, celebrating in my head when a car ride would encounter a red light elongating the “time between them and me.” My obsession with convincing myself the monsters from the other side were far away from me was so intense that one time when we went to a dentist just inside Chicago I kept loudly complaining to my mom in the waiting room that we had to come “all the way from home to here” to get our teeth cleaned. It was my way of helping myself cope with my psychological fear of black people whom I thought were all poor, dangerous, and evil. The dentist was about a five minute drive from our house.
      When I got a little older, our suburb began to see an influx of black people moving in from “the other side.” At first their presence scared the shit out of me, and gave me a bizarre simultaneous superiority complex feeling as though I could never be compared to them. Throughout jr. high and high school I got to know black people, mostly because I played sports. It took a long time for the entirety of my discomfort, fear, and hatred of them to subside. It took even longer for me to get over the false idea that “these were the good ones” that “got out of ghetto,” as some kind of exception to a rule about black people being monstrous gang bangers. I guess that’s a phase you go through when your personal interactions with others begins to humanize a race of people to you whom were previously nothing more than an unknown evil caricature from a foreign world right on your doorstep. It took me even longer yet to come to understand that poverty itself is created and maintained by people who hold societal power and leverage, and that the existence of poverty produces an environment that forces people to develop both physical and emotional needs that lead to violent, destructive acts that make their neighborhoods scary places for the non-poor to visit.
             I think a lot of liberals see race in everything, even when race isn’t there to be seen. I also think a lot of liberals view things like racism, poverty, inequality, and abuses of power as things they understand through the lense of upper class academia. I understand that race isn’t in everything, but I am also accurately tuned to matters of race, poverty, and inequality because I grew up in a very, very unique set of circumstances for a liberal. Most liberals didn’t grow up a few miles from black ghettos that were produced by the urban racism of the civil rights era, developing childhood racism and fear of the so called black monsters in the poor places, only to later have their own neighborhood begin to turn black, coming to like black people with a very racially diverse high school full of many kids who truly were born in the Chicago public housing projects. Having lived this experience doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, but it informs my liberalism in a way that reading a bunch of books from some doctor-lawyer-ville town where everyone has private SAT and chello tutors, followed by some Ivy League education in some place like California or upstate New York can’t. You cannot study what I lived. To be completely honest I don’t really value the views of conservative racists who have never lived anywhere near or interacted with a person of color, and while I respect and appreciate the well intentioned efforts of the elitist sort of liberals, I don’t honestly understand what drives them, because they never had things like working class parents or black high school teammates that grew up eating lead paint.
         Another thing that liberals often do is place blame on themselves for being white in America, as though they are personally connected, in some way responsible for, or at the very least a beneficiary of, America’s ugly past.  The truth is most white Americans, yes probably had ancestors that benefited from late 19th-early 20th century immigration policies that favored Europeans over others, but aside from that they came here long after slavery was abolished and the Native Americans were throughouly slaughtered and run off to some remote reservations. That’s not to say they don’t continue to benefit for being white when it comes to things like applications for jobs, loans, or school, or interaction with cops or store owners watching out for shoplifters, because they do, but by and large they aren’t the descendants of people who committed terrible atrocities. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same. Over the past few years I’ve looked into my family lineage, and my paternal grandfather’s side, the side that I get my last name from…we were very much a part of the ugliness of early America. We got here early, long before America was even America, and along the way had several ancestors who were lauded for their tremendous “Indian hunting” abilities. Later, despite the fact only 1.2% of white Americans owned slaves at the height of African slavery, based on the wills and obituaries many of my descendants were “survived by” or “wished to pass on” quite a large quantity of dehumanized black people that were “in their possession.” Later, although I can’t exactly confirm this part of it, it appears my great-great-great grandfather suddenly got up and moved from North Carolina to the Missouri-Kansas border…probably to try and help push the spread of slavery further west.
         All this history makes me realize that while so far as I know nobody from my family was personally involved in Chicago’s racist history, the fact that my more distant ancestors were incredibly involved in the systematic dehumanization and abuse of people of color for the sake of white America suggests to me that the situation I grew up with, which lead my childhood mind to falsely believe all poor people were black, all black people were poor, and poor black people were evil and that’s why those neighborhoods were so dangerous, was one of the contemporary results of the racist labors of a small minority of early Americans to which my family belonged. It makes my experiences as a child all the more distressful, and further motivates many of the liberal views I have today on matters of race and poverty.
         
         

Plants Absorb 17% More CO2 Than Previously Thought….Helps Climatologists Further Pinpoint Projections….Draws Crowd of Deniers Who Don’t Understand How to Read Science

   For those looking for a piece of good news, researchers just published findings that show we might be able to buy a bit more time in the fight against climate change. Climatologists have long had an issue with atmospheric CO2 growth models. Based on the known carbon intensity of given fossil fuels, the amounts of them we burned over a given period of time, and the known percentage of the CO2 which would find its way to a carbon sink (generally plants or the ocean) rather remaining in the air, there had always been a discrepancy between the amount of new CO2 in the atmosphere and the amount of carbon that should have found its way into the atmosphere. Now, that gap has been explained. It turns out that the carbon sink that is plant absorption of CO2 is 17% more potent than previously understood. It turns out the spread of CO2 throughout leaves takes longer than was previously known, thus requiring greater CO2 intake by the plants. Overall, with this new information at hand, the researchers were able to readjust how much carbon would have been absorbed by plants over the past century, lowering the expectation from 1,057 to 915 billion tones. With that more accurate plant absorption expectation, theoretical models finally can produce the results of past history from 280 to 400ppm’s of CO2 in the atmosphere over the 20th and early 21st century, whereas in the past, the models would say the CO2 should have been higher by now.
       While the stampede of political ideologues will be bastardizing this new finding, probably thinking (or rather wanting to believe) it means some percentage of past warming somehow didn’t happen or some percentage of future warming won’t happen, for those that desire further precision of models, and are hoping beyond all hope for any good news that says we have any little bit more time to restructure our energy systems to stop runaway warming, it is actually good news on both fronts.