Quick hits (part I)

1) Farhad Manjoo on ending net neutrality:

Because net neutrality shelters start-ups — which can’t easily pay for fast-line access — from internet giants that can pay, the rules are just about the last bulwark against the complete corporate takeover of much of online life. When the rules go, the internet will still work, but it will look like and feel like something else altogether — a network in which business development deals, rather than innovation, determine what you experience, a network that feels much more like cable TV than the technological Wild West that gave you Napster and Netflix.

If this sounds alarmist, consider that the state of digital competition is already pretty sorry. As I’ve argued regularly, much of the tech industry is at risk of getting swallowed by giants. Today’s internet is lousy with gatekeepers, tollbooths and monopolists.

2) The reasonable case for ending net neutrality.

3) Epigenetics for the win:

For the study, scientists at the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute followed about 100 infants over four years. They asked parents of five-week-old babies to keep a journal of their child’s behavior — things like crying, sleeping, and feeding. They also asked parents to keep track of how long and how often they gave care to their child that involved physical contact, according to a press release.

When the children were about four and a half years old, the scientists swabbed the inside of their cheeks to take a DNA sample, and then checked to see if there were any differences between children who were touched often as infants and those who were touched less often.

4) One tiny but telling piece of the tax abomination is taking away the tax break for teachers who purchase their own school supplies.  And at the same time the richest 1% gets 62% of the benefit.  Unreal.

5) Great conversation with Stephanie Coontz on our current #metoo moment.

6) $1800 to get ears pierced at the hospital.  Oh, yeah, only in America.

7) Jesse Singal is right, companies should more often ignore on-line mobs.

8) Fred Kaplan on Tom Cotton to the CIA:

First, Cotton is an ideologue to an extent beyond any CIA director except possibly William Casey during the Reagan administration. Since his election to the House in 2012, and then to the Senate two years later, Cotton has taken outspoken stances far to the right on every issue domestic and foreign

The upshot is that the CIA, which is supposed to be an independent source of intelligence as far removed as possible from political pressures, should not be led by a partisan firebrand. Yet strict loyalty is precisely what Trump wants from a CIA director—and from his entire inner circle.

9) How BoredPanda has managed to thrive while upworthy, etc., have disappeared.

10) Really good piece on five ways to fix the use of statistics in science and social science research.

11) Intriguing idea on how to address inequality:

The solution is simpler than it seems. There’s a tried and tested way, within the system we have now, of giving everyone a share in the investment returns now hoarded by the wealthy. It’s called a social wealth fund, a pool of investment assets in some ways like the giant index or mutual funds already popular with retirement savings accounts or pension funds, but one owned collectively by society as a whole. One that paid dividends not to the few, or even just to the shrinking middle class lucky enough to have their savings invested, but to everyone…

Here’s how it could work. The federal government would create and run a new investment fund, and issue every adult citizen one share of ownership. The fund would gradually come to own a substantial and diverse portfolio of stocks, bonds and real estate. The investment return that the fund generates would be paid out to each citizen in the form of a universal basic dividend, and the shares would be nontransferable to preserve the institution’s egalitarian purpose.

The net result of such a system would be to gradually transform private wealth, which is very unevenly distributed, into public wealth that every person in society owns an equal part of. If, over time, the social wealth fund came to own one-third of the country’s wealth, that would allow it to distribute an annual dividend equivalent to about a third of the total returns on invested capital each year, which represents about a tenth of net national income. In 2016, based on the latest available census population figures, that would have meant around $6,400 paid to all adults or $8,000 paid to every person between the ages of 18 and 64.

12) First-person account from an admiral of how the opioid epidemic claimed his college-age son.

13) Now that they’ve got their deficit-busting tax bill, of course Republicans want to cut programs that help middle-class people.

14) “Lonely deaths” in aging Japan.

15) In addition to the utter absurdity of the content, the process by which Republicans passed their tax bill is an absolute embarrassment.  It’s an insult to banana republics to call this banana republic stuff.

The tax plan very nearly failed on a procedural vote Thursday, before leadership corralled its wayward members back into line. Over the past 24 hours, they have cut deals that would redirect half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years, without so much as a single public hearing or one expert testimony.

16) Charles Blow:

That’s right: Not satisfied with his implicit (though obvious) endorsement of white supremacy here in America, Trump has now explicitly endorsed white supremacy in another country.

These are not mistakes. These are not coincidences. This is not mere bungling. These are revelations of the soul. This is who Trump is and who he has always been. This is who he was before he entered politics, and who he remains.

The Trump Doctrine is White Supremacy. Yes, he is also diplomatically inept, overwhelmed by avarice, thoroughly corrupt and a pathological liar, but it is to white supremacy and to hostility for everyone not white that he always returns.

When the political vise tightens on him, he just so happens to find a nonwhite target to attack.

When his tongue gets loose within him, he just so happens to find a nonwhite target to attack.

Anyone who doesn’t see this is choosing not to. [emphasis mine] They are clueless as an act of convenience, willfully blind and intentionally ignorant. Or conversely, they not only see it, but cheer it.

Either way, the people who elected Trump and those who continue to support him are to blame for what they have inflicted on this country.

17) Why a healthy dose of guilt is good for kids.  I need to step up my game.

18) Mike Pesca with the best take I’ve yet heard on the NYT nazi-next-door article.

19) Trump’s impact on the middle east:

In short, it appears that Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted and that Iran is now a strong and capable state capable of staring down its enemies.

20) An Op-Ed asks, “does religion make people moral?”  I think we all know the answer– hell no.  Okay, maybe sometimes, but the Roy Moore’s of the world are a plenty big counter-example:

My humble answer is: It depends. Religion can work in two fundamentally different ways: It can be a source of self-education, or it can be a source of self-glorification. Self-education can make people more moral, while self-glorification can make them considerably less moral.

Religion can be a source of self-education, because religious texts often have moral teachings with which people can question and instruct themselves. The Quran, just like the Bible, has such pearls of wisdom. It tells believers to “uphold justice” “even against yourselves or your parents and relatives.” It praises “those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind.” It counsels: “Repel evil with what is better so your enemy will become a bosom friend.” A person who follows such virtuous teachings will likely develop a moral character, just as a person who follows similar teachings in the Bible will.

But trying to nurture moral virtues is one thing; assuming that you are already moral and virtuous simply because you identify with a particular religion is another. The latter turns religion into a tool for self-glorification. A religion’s adherents assume themselves to be moral by default, and so they never bother to question themselves. At the same time, they look down on other people as misguided souls, if not wicked infidels. [emphasis mine]



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #5 It seems there are three classes of men relating to their interactions with women. #1 Jackass – inappropriate behavior but not predators. #2 Predators – serial abuse of power and #3 Real men.
    Maybe 4 classes are in order: #1 Jackass-inappropriate behavior but not predators #2 Predators – serial abuse of power, sexual #3 Predators – serial abuse of power, economic #4 Real Men
    There may be hope for the jackasses. The predators should go.

  2. Jeremy Tarone says:

    12) “Does religion make people moral?”
    Mustafa Akyol does some mighty fine cherry picking in his quotes from the Bible and the Quran.

    “Religion can be a source of self-education, because religious texts often have moral teachings with which people can question and instruct themselves.”

    The Bible and Quran also say and instruct some pretty horrifying things.
    The Bible instructs who can be slaves and how to treat them, depending on if they are Hebrew or not they may be temporary slaves, or may be passed on in perpetuity, including their children.
    It says you can sell your daughter into slavery. And lets not forget that Jesus himself is supposed to have said:
    Luke 19:27: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”
    Matthew 5:17-18
    17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
    18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    The Earth is still here, and I assume Christians still believe heaven exists, so the Old Testament laws still exist. Of course many Christians read the Sermon on the Mount to mean “all was fulfilled”, but you can’t get around the fact that Jesus supposedly stated “Till heaven and earth pass”. And the Earth is still here.

    One must believe many Christians in the past have accepted the OT laws are still in effect, after all the scripture Exodus 22:18 “Suffer not a witch to live” has been used to torture and kill tens of thousands (some say many more) of innocent humans. The OT is where the 10 commandments come from.

    The Quran has many, many parts that state nonbelievers are evil, they shouldn’t be your friend, that Jews are dogs and pigs (ie, unclean). Later verses abrogate earlier verses in the Quran. Most of the nice stuff is earlier. Subjugating infidels is later.

    So how does one determine which parts are right and which are wrong in books that are supposedly written by or inspired by God?

    Some don’t. Some actually believe the worst in the holy books. Which is a problem.

    If you believe the books are created by God, or inspired by God, then either you have to pick and choose, or rely on someone else’s picking and choosing, or you decide to accept the literal truth in every single word. Like homosexuality is an abomination, witches should put to death, unruly children should be stoned at the edge of town. Death for apostates for Muslims.
    If you pick and choose you don’t pick and choose based on the texts themselves. You choose based on the morality instilled into you by your society, your parents, your friends, your mentors, AND by our innate sense of right and wrong and fairness that most social mammals have, including rats, dogs and primates.

    In reality everyone who follows them picks and chooses. Otherwise they would wind up in jail.
    Or you wind up with theocratic countries that stone women, make their testimony only a fractions value of a mans, executes apostates, or marry nine year or girls to old men.

    If you don’t get your morality from your religion (and lesser or larger parts of it are obviously not true) what is the point of the religion except as a huge circle jerk that promotes terrible ideas that should have gone away centuries ago? As long as we have books that are said to be the word of God, people are going to believe the worst parts that are written inside them.

    In the USA we see creationism, faith healing, snake handling, people claiming and teaching the truth of Noah’s flood and flat Eartherism based on the Bible, blaming weather on homosexuality.
    People actually believe this stuff and get their morals from the bible and teach their children (indoctrinate them) from the earliest ages.
    They assert the Bible IS morality.

    Of course some people get their morality from religion. Much of it is BAD morality.

    The Conquistadors were taught about the New Testament, but that didn’t stop them from raping, enslaving and working the natives to death in mines in the New World.
    The Catholic church teaches the New Testament, that didn’t stop them from instigating the inquisition, from burning heretics, from torturing and killing accused witches.
    Which was all done by the “Good Book”.
    They were just following the good book and saving souls, trying to prevent them from going to hell.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Wow. That’s what I call a comment! Good stuff.

    • Nicole K. says:

      My favorite Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton describes this issue in a way that I’ve found insightful and useful when it comes to how I wrestle with the scriptures. I’ll paste what he wrote:

      I suggest that there are three “buckets” into which scriptures fall:

      Scriptures that express God’s heart, character and timeless will for human beings.
      Scriptures that expressed God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding.
      Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.
      Bucket one scriptures include passages like the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor. They include passages that call us to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God,” and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Most of the Bible fits into this category – capturing God’s heart, character and timeless will for humanity.

      Bucket two scriptures, those that expressed God’s will for his people in a specific time and circumstances but which do not express the timeless will of God, include the command that males be circumcised, commands regarding animal sacrifices, clean and unclean foods, and hundreds of other passages in the Law. The Apostles, in Acts 15, determined that most of the laws like these were no longer binding upon Christians.

      The idea of a third bucket, passages that never reflected God’s heart and will, is disconcerting to some. It challenges some deeply held beliefs about how God spoke and continues to speak through the biblical authors. Here are a few examples of scripture I don’t believe ever accurately captured God’s heart, character, or will: Leviticus 21:9 requires that if the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute she must be burned to death. In Exodus 21:20-21, God permits slave-owners to beat their slaves with rods provided they don’t die within the first 48 hours after the beating “for the slave is his property.” God commands the destruction of every man, woman, and child in 31 Canaanite cities and later killis 70,000 Israelites in punishment for David taking a census. These passages seem to me to be completely inconsistent with the God revealed in Jesus Christ who cared for prostitutes, commanded that we love our enemies, and gave his life to save sinners.

      • Nicole K. says:

        So, yes, I am completely OK with picking and choosing what’s useful and what I believe reflects God’s true nature and will towards humanity. The above framework is the basic way I’ve chosen to do this personally, but all religious people pick and choose what scriptures they feel are most important and emphasize them ahead of others.

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