Redistribution of Wealth

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
~John F. Kennedy

“We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” ~Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

“I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.”
~Robert Kennedy

Tell Congress To Support Federal Funding For The National Science Foundation

I received the following email and urge readers to call your Senators and encourage them to support the National Science Foundation! Here’s why. Having worked in a Senate office, I can assure you that every call matters. The details:

Call your Senators by 5:00 ET today to urge them to support the House Appropriations Committee funding level of $6,859,867,000 (same funding level as for FY 2011) for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year (FY) 2012.

Details here.

Redistribution of wealth

“The laboring classes constitute the main part of our population. They should be protected in their efforts peaceably to assert their rights when endangered by aggregated capital, and all statutes on this subject should recognize the care of the State for honest toil, and be framed with a view of improving the condition of the workingman.”

-Elmo
-Karl Marx
-Oscar the Grouch
~Grover Cleveland
-Grover

Discordant Democrats vs. Republican Dittoheads

I was disturbed by a recent discussion on my favorite cable TV news channel. Anchors and pundits were discussing the different approaches used by the Republican vs. Democratic Party in the heath care reform fight. An anchor was pressing the two guests about this difference in strategy, challenging them with the idea that the Republicans were better at this sort of thing because they were coordinated and in lockstep. The word “lockstep” was used. Every single Republican will vote the same exact way on the health care reform bill (against health care). The Democrats, on the other hand, will be more diverse in their voting patterns and are currently more diverse in their arguments and positions on various aspects of each issue. This was clearly and unquestionably seen by these youngsters (I think everyone in the conversation was under 40) as a sign of weakness in the Democratic Party and strength in the Republican Party. Lockstep = good. Diversity of opinion and open, rational dialog = bad.

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The Baseline: How much sexual assault is there?

Expanding on our earlier discussion

In the paper Anthropology’s “Fierce” Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon, Sharon Tiffany and Kathleen Adams provide the following opening passage:

Imagine a society in which one woman in every three is raped, usually by a man she knows, consider the consequences of living in a society where one third of all women are beaten during pregnancy and 35 percent of women using emergency medical facilities are battered . Since we are anthropologists, readers may mistakenly think that these appalling data were collected in an exotic society, an distant world where it is presumed that unpredictable and threatening behavior is commonplaces. Indeed, our friends and colleagues inevitably ask if it is safe for us to travel alone to remote and problematic places which presumably do not enjoy the law and order of civilization.

ResearchBlogging.orgThe statistics above come, of course, from American medical data.

The reason I bring this up at all, and leave you somewhat hanging (you should read the entire article) is because I am concerned that any discussion of rape, which focuses on Congo and Liberia and other exotic locations, will be to sit from a position of cultural and economic privilege and fail to see that this is a human problem, not a third world “Bungabungaland” problem. Startling revelations about the behavior of american soldiers in Viet Nam as described in Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape raised hackles, and even since her controversial book other information has come to light. It is simply true … men of all cultures and ethnicities, even the men you know well and like and are good buddies with, even your father, brothers, and sons, when in a state of war are more than a little likely to do all sorts of things that one just does not do otherwise, including killing, including pillaging, including rape. The quirky thing is that we Westerners live in a culture in which we believe that this is not true. But it is true, despite our beliefs. It is true enough at home (judging by the above passage) that we cannot expect much different in the battlefields, the occupied villages, and the lonely wilderness of Hobbesian warre. In other words, the baseline level of sexual violence carried out by Western men is nothing close to zero. A statistics like “60%” committing a certain act does not require an order of magnitude of change. Perhaps just a doubling or trippling, depending on that the statistic is for.

I quickly note that this need not be the case. One can kill and pillage and not rape, as has been documented for certain armies in the past. I would not assume that the pattern seen in the jungles of Vietnam, the trenches of France in WW I, at Anzio or in Iraq are at all the same, and there is probably as much variation among western armies and occupation forces as there is among African, Asian or any other region, and there is certainly a great deal of variation across historical time as well.

We could train our armies to rape less. Or, we could be really smart and seek non military solutions to our problems and avoid the whole issue to begin with. But we (Westerners) can’t do that alone. We need to change the way most of the world words economically, socially, and politically. And that requires first acknowledging the baseline is not one of innocence.

___________________________
Tiffany, Sharon W., & Adams, Kathleen J. (1994). Anthropology’s ‘Fierce’ Yanomami: Narratives of Sexual Politics in the Amazon NWSA Journal, 6 (2)

Gun control keeps suicides down

Michael Bryant says:

Most firearm deaths in Canada are suicides (over 75 per cent). Only 24 per cent are homicides. Suicides in Canada will go up if the Prime Minister isn’t careful about what he repeals.

… Suicides dropped dramatically in Canada thanks to the federal gun registry. Not only do statistics prove as much, it stands to reason that with improved gun safety comes decreased gun fatalities; with fewer tools-of-choice for suicides available, fewer suicides occur. It just makes sense.

… A home where there are firearms is five times more likely to be the scene of a suicide than a home without a gun: Canada Safety Council. The Institut national de sante publique du Québec has assessed that the coming into force of the Firearms Act is associated, on average, with a reduction of 250 suicides (and 50 homicides) each year in Canada. That’s nearly one life saved per day. …

A Rape in Progress

Early in 2009, my friend and colleague Sheril Kirshenbaum asked several bloggers to consider writing about rape during the month of June, as a coordinated effort to increase awareness and understanding of rape generally, and depending on the blogger, specific aspects of sexual assault and violence. (Sheril’s initial post back in 2009 is here) I welcomed that opportunity and took the approach of discussing two things I actually know something about: Rape in war torn Congo, where I worked for several years (prior to the war) and the behavioral biology of male violence and rape, which is a rather touchy SFAQL subject. There are other aspects of this issue that interest me as well, including the role of anthropological relativism. The definition of rape and how definitional arguments are exploited is also of interest to me, but that has been written about extensively by my friend and colleage Stephanie Zvan (see this list of posts for a start). Another topic of interest that I had not thought about much before bloging about rape is the abuse and rape of men by women (or men, for that matter). It turns out it occurs much more often than many people assume. However, since men are by and large big babies who cry a lot when wounded only slightly, the fact that some men are abused combined with the fact that nobody seems to care enough has resulted in the rise of a Mens Rights Activism movement which is a great example of the Large Lobster Effect but in a bad way. My friend and colleague Jason Thibeault has written some great stuff on this, which you can find by perusing this list of posts.

I want to revive and revise that discussion of rape that started over two years ago, and pursuant to that I’m re-posting (and rewriting) my posts from June 2009. And we’ll start by revisiting this simple question: What would you do if you were the person writing the following passage.
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“The Atheist’s Guide to Reality” Alex Rosenberg on Atheists Talk #139, October 30, 2011

Many religions claim to hold the answers to life’s big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? From where do we get our morals? Some say it’s all because of God, and that leaves us atheists throwing our hands in the air.

But now Alex Rosenberg has written a book just for us. In The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, Dr. Rosenberg walks us through the science that succeeds in providing these answers without having to fall back on supernatural explanations. He celebrates scientism, embraces “nice nihilism” and takes us on a fast-paced, wild journey through the physics, chemistry and biology that explain our past, present and future. He shows how science influences our politics, ethics, and how we think about ourselves and the world around us.

read the rest here and tune in!

“One State Under God”

Texas is considering tossing the Constitution of the United States of America under the bus by issuing license plates depicting three crosses on a hill and reading “One State Under God”

The plan is, it will make some money, so it doesn’t really matter that the Constitution of the United States of America will be trampled on. “Think about this: It is a revenue stream that’s a discretionary purpose, how do you argue with it?” said Kim Drummond, spokeswoman for the company that would make the plates.

Well, I guess it’s OK then.

Details here.