Sucker Sunday

I gather the Super Bowl is coming up. I can’t be bothered to check for sure. My level of interest in this is somewhere past nonexistent and well into revulsion. Suffice it to say, I disagree with an xkcd comic (figure 1)[1] that has recently appeared:

Randall Munroe, Creative Commons License 2.5
Fig. 1. Randall Munroe, Creative Commons License 2.5

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  1. [1]Randall Munroe, “Super Bowl,” xkcd, n.d.,

Measles madness

“In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak, there’s been a lot of heated talk about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children,” begins Chad Hayes, a pediatrician. “It seems like the medical community is now protesting even louder than the anti-vax groups were a couple years ago.”[1] Well, not just the medical community. I’ve been seeing a rather vicious backlash all over my social network feeds. Read more

  1. [1]Chad Hayes, “Dear Anti-Vax Parents: We’re Not Mad At You,” January 20, 2015,

A national farce

In many ways, it is hard to imagine a more ideal speech for Barack Obama to give than the State Of The Union address he gave Tuesday night. As is his wont, whenever he wants progressive support, he said many fine, fine things. But many of the programs he called for have very little chance of gaining support from a Congress that is incomprehensibly hostile to him.

So Obama can say these fine, fine things with absolutely no fear that they’ll actually be enacted. And there is very little question at this point that he is playing Congress, making it out to be the bad guy. Dominated by Republicans, their obstructionism will support the idea that the G.O.P. is to blame for much of what is wrong in Washington.[1] This in turn supports the notion that progressives should support the Democratic Party because the other guys are worse. Read more

  1. [1]Jonathan Bernstein, “Obstruction will ruin GOP,” Salon, May 18, 2013,; Eliza Newlin Carney, “Hate Congress? Blame the (Sharply Divided) Voters,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, September 9, 2013,; Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem,” Washington Post, April 27, 2012,


Fig. 1. An image of a public Saudi Arabian beheading, apparently from YouTube, via Vice News, fair use.
Fig. 1. An image of a public Saudi Arabian beheading, apparently from YouTube, via Vice News, fair use.

Perhaps it is simply because we have an image (figure 1). Or, perhaps the image being out of focus makes it seem all the more raw. Or, perhaps because the beheading of a woman accused of murder occurs in a Middle Eastern country, we can safely condemn its barbarity:

Rare video of Monday’s killing shows the woman, a Burmese resident named as Lalia Bint Abdul Muttablib Basim, screaming while being dragged along the street. Four police officers then hold the woman down before a sword-wielding man slices her head off, using three blows to complete the act.

In the chilling recording, Bashim, who was found guilty in a Saudi Sharia court of sexually abusing and murdering her seven-year-old step-daughter, is heard protesting her innocence until the very end. “I did not kill. I did not kill,” she screams repeatedly.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Harriet Salem, “Woman Is Publicly Beheaded in Saudi Arabia’s Tenth Execution of 2015,” Vice, January 15, 2015,

The entirely too convenient conversation about race

In retrospect, a lot of people should have read then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s March 2008 speech repudiating many of his long-time pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s views more closely. In it, Obama acknowledged a history of racial injustice, but also endorsed a view[1] that Bill Cosby would take up, that Blacks are in some ways complicit in their own suffering,[2] a view that echoes the Moynihan report of 1965 that, at the very least, failed to adequately listen to Blacks themselves.[3] Obama rejected what he called

a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”[4]

Read more

  1. [1]Huffington Post, “Obama Race Speech: Read The Full Text,” November 17, 2008,
  2. [2]Associated Press, “Cosby berates blacks for abuse, failure as parents,” NBC News, July 2, 2004,
  3. [3]Charles Lemert, “Will the Center Hold? 1963-1979,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 375-376.
  4. [4]Huffington Post, “Obama Race Speech: Read The Full Text,” November 17, 2008,

Keep your seat belts on

Note, January 18, 2015: Since this post was first published, I have added additional references and a link to my research wiki entry to better support my claim that neoliberalism has been discredited.

Robert Reich is not my favorite economist. First, he’s entirely too beholden to the Democratic Party establishment—he was Democratic President Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary—and second, possibly because of that, and because to acknowledge that neoliberalism is a thing would be to acknowledge that it was Democratic President Jimmy Carter who first embraced it, making it policy for the first time,[1] he denies the existence of neoliberalism. Reich’s argument relies on an assumption that neoliberalism’s embrace in the United States and United Kingdom fails to explain its apparent worldwide adoption,[2] because he fails to understand how the embrace of neoliberalism as the preeminent mainstream political ideology in those two countries[3] means that it is imposed on the entire world through institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.[4] That said, Reich might be right about at least some of this: Read more

  1. [1]Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010).
  2. [2]Robert B. Reich, Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007).
  3. [3]Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014,
  4. [4]Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End of Poverty (New York: Penguin, 2006); Joseph E. Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007).

Salon’s “sensitive” Arthur Chu needs to learn about “Yes means Yes.”

“I feel your pain, bitter, lonely, nerdy guys,” writes Arthur Chu. “I really do.” Thus begins an article praised in the Salon newsletter for its alleged “sensitivity.” But what Chu’s essay really boils down to is: 1) grow up, 2) rape is more important than loneliness, and 3) we can’t do anything about loneliness anyway.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Arthur Chu, “The plight of the bitter nerd: Why so many awkward, shy guys end up hating feminism,” Salon, January 9, 2015,

Self-righteousness about the self-righteous: An attack on Charlie Hebdo

Note, February 7, 2015: I return to this topic in a subsequent entry.

Of the attack on the satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo,

Michael J. Morell, a former deputy director of the C.I.A. and now a consultant to CBS News, said it was unclear whether the attackers had acted on their own or been directed by organized groups. He called the motive of the attackers “absolutely clear: trying to shut down a media organization that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad.”

“So, no doubt in my mind that this is terrorism,” he said.[1]

But suppose the attackers had not “screamed ‘Allahu akbar!’ or ‘God is great!’ during the attack,” or “said that they were part of Al Qaeda?”[2] Suppose instead that they were Christian, reacting to some slight on Christianity? I have doubts that Morell would so quickly label the assault terrorism. He would, instead, perhaps, label it the act of three deranged relatively young men (in the event, identified as Said and Chérif Kouachi, 34 and 32, and as Hamyd Mourad, 18[3]). Read more

  1. [1]Dan Bilefsky and Maïa de la Baume, “Terrorists Strike Charlie Hebdo Newspaper in Paris, Leaving 12 Dead,” New York Times, January 7, 2015,
  2. [2]Dan Bilefsky and Maïa de la Baume, “Terrorists Strike Charlie Hebdo Newspaper in Paris, Leaving 12 Dead,” New York Times, January 7, 2015,
  3. [3]Dan Bilefsky and Maïa de la Baume, “Terrorists Strike Charlie Hebdo Newspaper in Paris, Leaving 12 Dead,” New York Times, January 7, 2015,