Friday, January 30, 2015

Americans misinformed on scientific issues thanks to the mainstream media

A new study by the Pew Research Center and American Association for the Advancement of Science, compared opinions about scientific matters of the public and AAAS’ member scientists. Published in the journal Science, the study found that Americans are dangerously misinformed about evolution, GMO foods and climate change. I won’t go into the specifics of the survey findings, but if you are interested you can find them here.

A Salon article that looks at the survey ends with a quote from the CEO of AAAS and publisher of Science, who says: “There is a disconnect between the way the public perceives science and the way that scientists see science. Scientists need to do something to turn this around.”

I disagree with this conclusion. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to blame scientists for the American public’s lack of scientific literacy. The mainstream media is the true culprit here.

Like it or not, evolution, GMO foods and climate change have been politicized by conservatives (through their megaphone FOX News) and successfully characterized as “liberal” or “secular” positions instead of scientific findings. Because of this, mainstream news outlets have been very timid about reporting accurately on these subjects, often serving up so-called experts on both sides to further confuse people. Living in fear of angering and loosing viewers or funding, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS tread very lightly around the truth related to these important issues, leaving a void that FOX News is only too happy to fill.

Scientists need to be concerned with science, not public relations. And news outlets need to be concerned with informing listeners and having the courage to present scientific facts regardless of the political implications.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Obama Administration: One step forward, two steps back

The Obama Administration: Just when you think it’s taking one step forward, you find out it’s actually taking two steps back. Recent statements from Obama about marijuana policy suggested that he believes keeping the drug illegal is counterproductive, a reasonable and forward-looking opinion. Then, just yesterday, his nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch made it clear at her confirmation hearing that she totally opposes legalizing marijuana and the Justice Department will not support any steps toward that end.

One step forward, two steps back. If Obama truly believed that keeping marijuana illegal was counterproductive, why would he nominate someone to head the Justice Department who vehemently disagrees with that stance? Either Obama is lying about his own feelings on the subject, (and why would he do that?) or perhaps he’s really not in control of who gets nominated to high posts in his Administration. The issue of marijuana legalization is a very hot topic in America with a tremendous amount of momentum at the state level, yet Obama picks someone with a viewpoint on drugs that is stuck in the 1970s.

I know that I’m stepping into tin-foil hat land whenever I bring this up, but I have long had the feeling that Obama is not in control of the executive branch in the way we would imagine a president being in control. Perhaps he’s just big on delegating work to others, but incidents like the Lynch nomination make me wonder about who is really calling the shots at the White House.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Koch brothers announce they are buying the 2016 elections

What do you get the billionaire who has everything? How about the United States of America? 

Charles and David Koch have announced that their political network is planning to spend nearly a billion dollars on conservative candidates for House and Senate seats and the presidency in 2016.

Thanks to their ideological soul mates on the Supreme Court, the Koch’s can now lavish money on their chosen candidates through an immense network of non-profit groups without, in many cases, having to identify donors. Koch-approved Republicans will get writer’s cramps endorsing their checks.

Does this sound like democracy to you? Me neither. America is quickly becoming an oligarchy where a small minority of elites determine who goes to Washington. The system of checks and balances instituted by our founders has clearly broken down, and voting has become an exercise in futility.

It’s a shame. America began as a brilliant experiment in democracy, but has been taken over by the insatiably greedy 1 percent whose only allegiance is to the bottom line.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Devil Dog Signals the End Times

Insanity reigns. What was once satire is now reality. What was once unthinkable is now thinkable. What was once a stunningly bad idea is still a stunningly bad idea, but it’s been released into the real world of living human beings. This event is without a doubt the harbinger of the end times. It may just be the anti-Christ.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the KFC Double Down Dog. This atrocity is a hot dog nesting in a “bun” of fried chicken drizzled with a mucus-like sauce. It looks like a horrible accident on the set of a porn movie. The needle on the disgust meter is buried in “Burn it with Fire!” It’s the only food on the planet that Andrew Zimmern won’t put in his mouth.

At the moment, this Devil Dog is only being featured at a few KFC outlets in the Philippines WHERE IT IS SELLING OUT. So you know that like ebola, the disease will spread worldwide quickly, poisoning the palates of millions before it can be stopped and a cure found. For the love of all that is holy, keep your children away from it and safe, and resist, resist, resist the siren song it will use to lure you into the nearest KFC.

Dear arrogant, clueless billionaires: Please shut the fuck up

The chutzpah is strong in this one.

Billionaire Florida real estate mogul Jeff Green, who is presently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said this:

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence. We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Of course. It all makes sense now. It’s the little people’s fault for wanting anything more than food, water and a roof over their heads. Never mind the economic prosperity we enjoyed in the fifties and sixties, when taxes on the rich were far higher than they are today. That’s just a false memory. Now, go back to sleep, little people.

What we need, Mr. Green, is an economic system built on fairness with an equitable tax system. What we need is to drastically lower income inequality and to provide people with a realistic, livable minimum wage. What we need is for companies to stop sending jobs oversees. What we need is to stop allowing American companies and individuals to avoid paying taxes by keeping their money in off-shore accounts and foreign banks.

You are correct when you say we need to reinvent our whole system of life, but it needs to be done in a way that will make you and your billionaire friends very unhappy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

When will Americans stop glorifying violence?

The film “American Sniper” is stirring up controversy. Michael Moore and Seth Rogan have dissed it and gotten a lot of nasty, hate-filled Tweets and emails for their opinions. I haven’t seen it and probably won’t, but it sounds like one more in a long, long line of propaganda efforts from Hollywood designed to romanticize and sanitize America’s military actions.

What exactly makes Navy Seal Chris Kyle a hero worthy of our respect? If it’s his body count, why aren’t the pilots and crew members of military bombers who dropped explosives on Iraq and killed tens of thousands of people, given ticker tape parades and huge medals? And what kind of a guy is Kyle? People have pulled excerpts from the book on which the film is based, and the unfiltered bigotry and lack of compassion for human life paint a less than heroic portrait of the real American sniper.

On this Martin Luther King Day, it’s a good time to ask when we as a country will stop glorifying individuals who commit violence in our name and start celebrating the peacemakers? Creating a day of remembrance for King was a good start, but I’ve never had a job where my company recognized the day as a holiday, yet everyone gets Memorial Day off.

Our priorities as a country are badly skewed, but because we are Americans, we don’t feel any need to look in the mirror and assess our weaknesses. Films like “American Sniper” play to our darkest desires to beat up anyone who acts, talks, thinks or looks different than us. That’s the attitude of a schoolyard bully, not a great democracy.

Income inequality worldwide: Bad and getting worse

There is a sobering new report from Oxfam about income inequality worldwide. Some lowlights:
  • The richest 1 percent of the world's population currently controls 48 percent of the world's total wealth.
  • If trends continue, Oxfam predicts that the most affluent will possess more wealth than the remaining 99 percent by 2016.
  • The 80 wealthiest people in the world possess $1.9 trillion, which is almost the same amount shared by some 3.5 billion people at the bottom half of the world's income scale.
  • Thirty-five of the lucky 80 were Americans with a combined wealth of $941 billion. Germany and Russia shared second place, with seven uber-rich individuals apiece.
Although late to the game, Obama is at least attempting to do something about this egregious problem and will announce a plan to extend tax credits to the middle class by hiking taxes on wealthier Americans and big banks during his upcoming state of the union address. It’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll have to wait and see what the dim bulbs in Congress have to say about this.

As bad as things are for the 99 percent here in America, there is one statistic that is perhaps the most shocking and damning of all.

More than 1 billion people worldwide live on less than $1.25 a day.