Friday, November 13, 2015

Science News Round Up: Religion, climate change, and new problems facing pre-schoolers and the elderly point to the need for democratic socialism

Science News Round Up: Religion, climate change, and new problems facing pre-schoolers and the elderly point to the need for democratic socialism
Thomas Riggins

Links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

Religious upbringing linked to less altruism

Humanists and other non believers will be happy to find out that mean spiritedness and selfishness are more pronounced in children brought up in religious versus non religious environments. Surveys show such children are less altruistic and to favor more severe punishments for those who run afoul of the law than other children. These results are just the opposite of the way the Sunday school meanies are usually portrayed.

While 97% of climate scientists maintain the evidence shows human caused climate change is going on and threatens the planet school science texts give children the impression that the scientists are divided 50/50 on the issue and no special actions may be needed to combat the change. People need to demand that state educational authorities only purchase and assign textbooks that correctly present the scientific facts and don't miseducate children.

This article reports on 28 extreme climatic events which happened in 2014. Ten of these events
can be traced to human caused climate change. As scientific knowledge of climate increases more extreme events will be able to be explained in the future.

This is an important article. Preschoolers can be tested for working memory problems which makes it possible for the state, through its educational systems, to implement programs that can help improve the working memory of children and thus deduce the risk that these children will become school dropouts. The downside of the article is its emphasis on parental responsibility to solve this problem which should be a basic priority of the educational system.

Growing old can be risky business

This article discusses new ways that have been designed to cheat senior citizens out of their life savings. These are not the normal Republican ways -- slashing medicare, "entitlements, and cost of living increases, but new fraudulent schemes that get seniors to put their money in bogus investments. The capitalist system is most efficient in spawning new ways to exploit children, minorities and seniors. This exploitation will only end under socialism; electing Bernie is the first step!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Kids meals, toys, and TV ads: Three threats to child health: Science News Round Up

Kids meals, toys, and TV ads: Three threats to child health: Science News Round Up
Thomas Riggins

Links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

Negative publicity reduces police motivation but does not result in depolicing

Well the FBI director and other right-wingers have had their say about the "Ferguson Effect" but the scientific study above shows how wrong they are. There has been no increase in crime as a result of protests against the police killing unarmed minority people and acts of racial profiling. If anything is specifically responsible for the statistically insignificant "crime increase" it's the cut in funding for public safety due to austerity measures in response to capitalism's ongoing decline.

Despite the fact that scientists have shown that the foods provided at fast food restaurants are antithetical to children's health the government has failed to issue regulations preventing fast food companies from luring children to their dens by offering toys as incentives by means of ads aired on federally  regulated airwaves.

The gist is to use your opponent's moral system not your own when you frame your arguments to persuade them to adopt your position. This is not "new" it is an old lawyers trick as well as a technique of rhetoric and debate. If someone quotes the Bible to support his position, then find a quote that supports your position and try and convince him what you believe is really biblical. This article further expains how this method works. Socialists should bone up on Adam Smith.

New hope for couch potatoes!

This research indicates that as CO2 increases in the oceans the food chain will collapse from top to bottom.  Larger marine life forms will disappear along with animals that need shells to survive. Micro organisms will increase however. Future oceans will be thinned or without  life forms currently abundant. Every bit of gas, oil, and coal we use hastens the day!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Inverted World of Niall Ferguson: On the Real Obama Doctrine

The Inverted World of Niall Ferguson: On the Real Obama Doctrine
Thomas Riggins

Niall Ferguson teaches history at Harvard. He has a very conservative world outlook which, when applied to the analysis of current social reality, has a tendency to so warp his perceptions that the situation he writes about becomes an imaginary inverted world where truth becomes falsity and falsity truth. But don't take my word for it. Just look at his article in the Wall Street Journal for 10/10-11/2015: "The Real Obama Doctrine." Ferguson's take on Obama can only be the result a profound ignorance of the historical reality he professes to understand.

He opens his article by referring to ideas expressed by the revered, but morally reprehensible, Henry Kissinger in 1968.  Kissinger expressed the opinion America didn't really have a foreign policy. He might have noted the U.S. was too busy butchering Vietnamese peasants to pay attention to much else.

Be that as it may, there was no real coherent strategic thinking going on and this for two reasons according to Kissinger. First, the president was not selected for his strategic thinking but his "will" to get elected, and second, there are just too many lawyers working for the government. Now lawyers are clever but they don't know enough about history and this deficiency has led to the adoption of a "minimum risk" attitude when it comes to policy. Well, Ferguson teaches history at Harvard; what better guide could we have to lead us to understand Obama's plans for the U.S. of A.

Seeing that Obama was elected due to his will to win, has a passel  of lawyers at work in his administration, and doesn't support a "maximum risk" policy, he seems to exemplify just what Henry K was complaining about to a tee. Ferguson tells us, in fact, that he himself has "spent much of the last seven years trying to work out" just what strategy Obama was following. Here is what he found out.

He read Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech but wasn’t clear on how it would result in practical actions. The speech was full of good intentions and was met positively by those friendly to the U.S. and either negatively or skeptically by those hostile to it. The criticisms basically were that actions speak louder than words and that upbeat speeches were no substitute for a change in policies. Ferguson doesn’t go into much detail on the speech, but needless to say he should have known that Obama would not be able to quickly reverse fifty years of cold war policies and the fact that the Bush administration had left the entire Middle East entirely in flames or on the verge irrupting into chaos.

Obama’s attempt to disengage U.S. ground forces in Iraq and strengthen Iraqi security forces is called by Ferguson “precipitate withdrawal.” The fact is that the damage done to Iraq by the Bush policies are almost irreversible and the sectarian Shia government the U.S. created is both corrupt and unwilling, or unable, to reconcile with the Sunni minority. Obama must either try to wind down American involvement or hunker down and prepare for an open ended American occupation. The American people definitely want to get out of Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and they don’t want to get involved in Syria either. Obama cannot, no president could, put the Middle East back together again after the Bush folks so thoroughly smashed it up. The best he can do is respond to the will of the American people and try and limit the damage caused by the Bush gang.

Besides not having a clue to the complexities in Afghanistan, Ferguson thinks Obama has become “indifferent” to Europe as a result of the attempted “reset” with Russia. It’s true the reset failed but only because it was predicated on Russia following American dictates against its own interests and there is no evidence that Obama has become indifferent to Europe.

But Ferguson also discovered something more troubling than Obama’s failure to clean up the mess left behind by Bush. It is one thing to reject Bush’s policies, but the 2012 debate with Mitt Romney revealed, horror of horrors, that Obama was also “turning away from Ronald Reagan.” Romney held that enemy numero uno to our world wide hegemony was Russia and Obama dismissed this. And what happened? In March 2014 [as a result of U.S. and E.U. intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine] Russia annexed Crimea returning it to Russian administration after it had been assigned by the Soviet Union to Ukraine in the 1950s. Historian that he is, Ferguson thinks Romney “prescient” in spotting that, in his words, Russia is “our number one geopolitical foe.” We had better move the Seventh Fleet to the Bering Strait in case Putin decides to reverse the Alaska Purchase.

Ferguson also discovered, by reading articles and interviews given by Obama in the popular press, that it was his intention to “create a new balance of power in the Middle East.”  Obama said that he wanted to end the conflicts between the Shia and Sunni by trying to get Iran to abandon its (in his opinion) negative polices and to work with the mostly Sunni Gulf states in a common effort to build a positive future in the region.

Obama hopes an international coalition, which could include Iran, might work together to solve the problems of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Unmentioned is the fact that the crisises in all these countries are the results of Saudi and American actions and interference. It would be the U.S. and not Iran that would have to abandon its negative policies. It is unlikely to do since it profits from arms sales to the region.

Ferguson, however, has other reasons for objecting to Obama’s Middle East policies which he says are based on the president’s “fuzzy thinking.” In his recent U.N. speech Obama indicated he was willing to work  with other nations “under the mantle of international norms and principles” and with both Russia and Iran (as long they agreed to eventually dump Assad) in solving the Syrian problem. Obama is “fuzzy” because, Ferguson says, neither Russia nor Iran are “famed” for operating under the “mantle of international norms and principles.”

 One would expect a Harvard history professor to be aware of the fact that the U.S. is also not “famed” for operating under this mantle. In fact, even a slight acquaintance with modern history would show U.S. behavior is more egregious in this respect than that of either Russia or Iran. In fact, almost every crisis in world diplomacy since (and most of them before) the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the result of the U.S. flouting international norms. To blame Obama for trying improve this dismal record doesn’t say much in favor of Ferguson’s bona fides.

Ferguson thinks Obama's policies are failing because, since 2010, terrorism and violence in the Middle East from North Africa (Libya) to Pakistan and Afghanistan have dramatically increased and we can expect even more violence to come “as the Sunni powers of the region seek to prevent Iran from establishing itself as the post American hegemon.”

It’s true that American policies are not working out if peace is the goal. If, however, the goal is to sell billions of dollars worth of new weapons systems to the governments in the area as well as to ramp up military spending at home, these policies at least make some sense.

After Bush/Cheney destroyed Iraq in the  east and the Obama/ U.S. supported NATO intervention in Libya (pushed by Secretary of State Clinton) effectively destroyed that country in the west the growth of terrorism was bound to increase as outside governments and their proxies moved in to take advantage of the chaos the U.S. created.

It was the Sunni governments that moved to take advantage of the situation. The U.S. destroyed two major secular governments and both the Saudi Arabians, and Gulf Sunni states, representing the most backward “Islamic” radical ideology, funded Sunni terrorist groups, as well as Pakistan’s covert support of the Taliban, that has led to the impotence of U.S. policy on the ground. The U.S. still sends billions of dollars in military aid (much of it actually spent at home to support the military industrial complex behind our domestic deep state) to countries who pass some of it along to the very terrorist groups the U.S. is fighting.

The truth is that Iran is not trying to become a hegemon. It was the Shah, installed as a result of a CIA coup against a democratically elected government and backed by the U.S., who was moving to both develop nuclear weapons and establish hegemony, as a U.S. client state, in the region until he was overthrown in 1979. The U.S. has been trying to get rid of the new Iranian government ever since.

Iran’s actions have been purely defensive in nature. It supports its Shia allies in Iraq against the Sunni Islamic State, it supports its ally Assad in Syria against the Islamic state and the Sunni jihadists supported by the Saudis and indirectly by the U.S. under the covering myth of supporting “moderates.” All this puts the lie to Ferguson’s pseudo-historical analysis of “Obama’s failures.” Obama’s problem, such as it is, has been his inability to reverse the movement of Middle Eastern disintegration initiated by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has succeeded in preventing the implosion of half the Mediterranean world  by keeping boots off the ground in Libya and Syria, and thus not compounding the Bush/Chenny Iraq folly. Nevertheless his interventionist actions in these two countries threaten to create a wider area of war and destabilization which the next president will have to defuse unless he takes actions towards withdrawal and cooperation with the Iranians and Russians to limit Saudi and Pakistani sponsored jihadists.

Finally, Ferguson concludes there are three major problems facing U.S. foreign policy; the Middle East, Russia’s meddling, and China’s ambitions. Obama, he says, is failing to properly address these problems. The reason for this failure is that he does not have advisors of the caliber  of Zbigniew Brzezinski (whose Afghan policies gave us  both Osama ben Laden and  the Taliban) and Henry Kissinger (whose war crimes against humanity gave us fascism in Chile and Pol Pot in Cambodia, among achievements of similar note). Both of these stalwarts, Furgeson says, have made intellectual contributions to strategic doctrine far greater than the advisors surrounding Obama. Perhaps, but more people around the world have died meaningless deaths and suffered injuries and loss of loved ones due to the strategic doctrines of Brzezinski and Kissinger than due to the policies of Obama (but he is running a close second with his Syrian policies).

U.S. policy does have problems. In the Middle East it supports dictators and tyrants and its blanket support of Israel and Israel’s truly barbaric treatment of the Palestinians prevents it from having a policy that the majority of Middle Eastern people can live with. We create the very terrorists we seek to fight. Russian meddling is nothing more that its advancing policies that protect its interests and are usually just reactions to overt or covert U.S. provocations. There will be no reset of relations with Russia as long as the U.S. acts in bad faith. China’s ambitions are perfectly normal. They want to play a role in their part of the world commensurate with their growing economic and political strength. As long as the U.S. seeks to challenge them in this respect (such as U.S. air and naval provocations in the South China Sea) there will be no real cooperation possible nor any incentive for Chinese to trust the U.S.

The above comments are just a reflection of the current Zeitgeist and it appears that the role of the U.S. is contrary to the movement that spirit is taking — a movement that is pointing us towards a world of better cooperation and understanding and is not subject to the negative destructive will of one rogue superpower. This, and not the views of Henry Kissinger, is what the next president must keep in mind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Austerity Measures Linked to Rise in Suicides

Austerity Measures Linked to Increase in Suicides: Science News Round Up
Thomas Riggins

Below you will find links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

"These results have profound health and economic policy implications and raise substantial questions on the prolonged application of fiscal austerity without any safety nets...." Thousands of young people (ages 10-24) as well as the elderly (age 65+) are killing themselves out of desperation due to the imposition of austerity measures on people in the EU. These measures cause a rise in unemployment, a cut in pensions and other effects bringing about extreme hardships. Capitalism's Profit Before People drive is causing widespread misery throughout the EU (and not only there).

Unless there is a serious retooling the industrial base in Europe to halt massive pollution it will be impossible to reach the emissions reduction goals set for midcentury. It is possible to save the climate but will private profit driven industries actually make the changes needed? Will bourgeois governments force them to do so? If not capitalism will destroy us all sooner rather than later.

This article shows that when women's health care clinics are closed as a result of the Republican assault on the constitutional right to abortion large numbers of women can no longer receive the preventive care necessary to detect cancers and other illnesses. The claim that other clinics and health services will cover those formerly receiving treatment at the closed clinics is not true. Republican politicians, in their attacks on Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, are engaged in  a massive assault on women's health, especially the health of lower income and minority women, and their policies will lead to needless deaths that preventive medical care could have avoided. These reckless unremorseful   mysogynists must be removed from power.   

A study of 50 major cities shows that urban school districts are failing to provide
a basic education to many students especially low income and minority students.
It is the responsibility of the state to provide proper educational opportunities to all students and in failing to educate low income and minority students the state is perpetuating institutional racism. Parents, students, and teachers and their unions will have to organize to remove from office those racist politicians who refuse to fully upgrade and fund equal education for all.

“Expectant mothers who live near active natural gas wells operated by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania are at an increased risk of giving birth prematurely and for having high-risk pregnancies, new research suggests.” What else needs to be said to convince the state not to issue tracking permits! The scientists suggest that state officials “consider” these finding when giving out permits. Who can tell? Maybe it is just a coincidence.

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected the genetic make-up of populations across the entire African continent. (Science Daily)

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Afghan Hospital Bombing: Its Meaning

Afghan Hospital Bombing: Its Meaning
Thomas Riggins

Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

This  headline and the following story  (New York Times 10/4/2015) underlines the vast criminal role of the U.S. government and its military throughout Afghanistan and the Middle East. I grew up chanting "Hey, Hey, LBJ How Many Kids Have You Killed Today" but no similar chant or mass movement has arisen to call out President Obama for his criminal international policies and war crimes including the murder of children. We can be sure that the nature of U.S. the military and the role of the POTUS in maintaining the de facto imperial domination of the U.S. has not changed from the days of LBJ and the mass murder of children and other civilians will continue as long as our present political and economic system exists.

The U.S. is already spinning the bombing and mass killing of medical personnel and patients at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz. The U.S. military is going to "investigate" itself, it has already suggested that the Taliban was using the hospital, it also claims there was fighting nearby and an errant bomb was possible. Neither of these two claims appears to be true: they are just so much dust tossed into the eyes to obscure the facts. 

The U.N. and international community is rightly outraged since the U.S. was given the precise location of the hospital and its international protected status  was well known. This information was provided to prevent any attack. Since the attack was carried out with unrelenting accuracy over a thirty minute period one suspects the information was used to pin point the target. Mass terrorist tactics against civilians, adopted, it seems, by the U.S. from the example of the Israeli military's treatment of Palestinians, has of course, the exact opposite outcome than is planned -- it makes resistance to U.S. policy grow not decrease, yet it is the nature of the beast to be unreformable.

This wide spread policy of state sponsored terrorism is conducted by POTUS and his military either directly (Afghanistan, Iraq) or indirectly by supplying money and weapons to other criminal governments so that they can commit war crimes against others (Israel on the West Bank and Gaza, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in Yemen, Turkey against the Kurds, "covert' and open aid to jihadists and "moderates" in Syria prolonging a proxy war that would have ended long ago without U.S. meddling, NATO intervention in Libya-- the list goes on and on and back as far  at least as the Korean War.

I will stress, however, this not a personal failure on the part of President Obama, it is simply the institutionalized function of his office to carry out such actions as they are the logical outcome of the system of advanced monopoly capitalism we live under and which is fueled by the profitability of war and the domination of the 1% over the levers of government and the continued faith in our "democratic" government held by a brain washed public. Only by engaging in mass political struggles, such as the movement currently led by Bernie Sanders, can the left hope to educate and radicalize the American people and built a real movement for progressive political change.

Low Income Children With Cancer Lack Basic Needs

Low Income Children With Cancer Lack Basic Needs: Weekly News Round Up

Thomas Riggins

Below you will find links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

Almost One-Third of Families of Children With Cancer Have Unmet Basic Needs During Treatment

These basic needs include food, housing, clothing, transportation, as well as incidental expenses.
These families are of course low income workers and people in poverty. U.S. capitalism not only does not provide the needed assistance to these families with sick children it tolerates the knowledge that this situation has a negative influence on the survival rate of these children many of  whom die of their cancers who may have lived if they were not poor. This is one more reason to oust the Republicans from power wherever they are so that they can no longer block legislation and programs that could remedy this problem, and eventually abolish capitalism.

Reserch indicates that there is a strong relation between lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 and the increase of the dropout rate of high school students. The last time the age was dropped to 18 the dropout rate increased anywhere from 4 to 13% and minority children were the most likely to dropout. The current discussions on lowering the drinking age back to 18 should consider the facts that only the alcohol producers will really benefit due to market demand and that minority students will be the most vulnerable due to the lack of social services and the social pressures many are under to dropout of school.

While the developmnt of the Chinese economy has lifted millions out of poverty and turned China into an economic world power, their manufacturing sector spews forth more CO2 by far than similar sectors in other countries. This makes their system more detrimental to the environment than it should be. This is due to their dependence on burning coal for fuel and the fact that many of their factories are technologically out of date. To its credit the Chinese government has taken steps to remedy the situation by closing down coal fueled plants, investing in alternative energy sources, and beginning to upgrade the manufacturing sector.

The answer is yes according to analysis of math teaching around the world. The U.S. was included in this study which revealed that social class was a major factor in getting a good math education. More content and better access to higher math classes are available to more affluent students while lower class students get a lower quality math education. This puts these students at a disadvantage in passing tests for better colleges and jobs in the future and helps to perpetuate the lower class status of low income students. Of course, in a country based on inequality and birth privilege the schools will reflect and reproduce the class and income structure of society as a whole.

Low birth weight babies are more likely to be handicapped as adults and they also have a higher mortality rate. These studies show that this negative affect is most pronounced in poor third world populations but as the climate worsens will eventually spread to the developed world as well.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Great Gains for the Rich

According to the Economic Policy Institute, as reported by the Debs Foundation Newsletter (Fall 2015), the following figures represent  the real increase in income of the various levels of the U.S. population over the last 30 years: both Democrats and Republicans have controlled the government during this period.
The top 1% saw an increase of 153.6%
The next level, the 95 to 99% increased their income by 61.6%
Then the 90 through 94% went up 39.2%
That takes care of the top 90%. The super winners were the top 1%.
Now for the rest of us -- the bottom 90%: how much trickled down to us?
We got a wopping 17.2% increase in real income over the last 30 years no matter who was running the country. Is there any reason to think this disparity will be any less (or maybe more) over the next 30 years?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Clinton Crashing?

Clinton Crashing? by Thomas Riggins

According to reports in The New York Times and the CNN/ORC polls (just out)-- Clinton's new figures among registered voters puts her 10 points ahead of Bernie Sanders and in a dead heat with the top Republican candidates. Here is what today's NYT  says: 

"When Mrs. Clinton is pitted against each of the top three Republican candidates, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, leads 51 percent to 46 percent among registered voters; Jeb Bush leads 49 percent to 47 percent; and she and Donald J. Trump, who is leading most polls of the Republican field, are tied at 48 percent. All of those numbers are within the margin of sampling error."

This country is in big trouble when the likes of Ben Carson and Donald Trump have a real shot at becoming the next POTUS! Another Bush is bad enough, but at least he is not certifiable. 

These are early polls and don't take into consideration the fact that the Left and the Unions are going to be registering large numbers of new voters and actively promoting progressive ideas that will hopefully sweep this temporary Republican
surge (Trump is now leading the Republicans with 32% support ) into history's overflowing dust bin.

A positive note: Bernie Sanders is now in a dead heat with Clinton in IOWA and NEW HAMPSHIRE and only 10 points behind with Democrats nationally.  As for the CPUSA: Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their party.