Freedoms vs something else

People who see our present political condition in a “freedom” vs ‘something else’ frame of reference are unfortunately incapable or unwilling to see it as it really is.

We are NOT either at Mayberry, nor Abilene, West of the Pecos, or Haight Ashbury, nor at Pearl Harbor, nor at Ground Zero. We are the product of all; but some of us seem intent on centering on only one heritage, and attempting to shoehorn all considerations through only that lens.

The “freedoms” one has on the Plains in North Dakota with a population density of four people per square mile are NOT THE SAME as what is appropriate in Manhattan with a population density of 66,940 people per square mile!

As stated elsewhere by Justice Holmes, taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, so too does this concept apply to constraints on individual “freedoms”.

Green living at the neighborhood level

Evaluating environmental performance at the neighborhood level can spur thousands into action


Credit: environmentally focused people are beginning to recognize the importance of bringing their sustainable initiatives a bit closer to home, literally. Initiating sustainable practices such as being an educated consumer, actively recycling, and reducing waste are valuable and worthwhile. However, evaluating the sustainability of your neighborhood and community can have a further positive environmental impact. Keep in mind that individual choices add up as a collective to create positive change.

Community Gardens

Promoting the establishment of a local food source reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are used in the production of factory-grown produce. You can either donate your own yard to the cause or look for a local vacant lot that could be utilized for a community garden. Getting your neighbors involved helps to stimulate healthy social interactions with one another, solidifying relationships that you may need to call upon in times of need. By establishing a bountiful garden, you are promoting cleaner air with a reduced need for the transport of food, while also growing plants that emit fresh, clean oxygen back into the atmosphere.

Water Use

Start a trend by tearing up your English-style lawn and tossing it into your compost pile to use later in your community or personal garden. Redesigning your landscaping to hold only native plants and establishing rock walkways will greatly reduce the amount of water that you use, if any at all. Ideally, choosing native plants for your area will not require having a sprinkler system. The amount of precipitation that you receive in your area should be enough to sustain them. If you can contribute to combating the world’s water crisis by simply xeriscaping your lawn, the choice should be easy.

Energy Efficiency

When assessing the amount of energy you are using in your own personal home, consider requesting a home energy audit. A home energy audit will reveal where your home is losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer, where it is uselessly draining energy and the improvements that can be made to minimize energy waste. If you are going to make an appointment to have an energy audit done, ask your neighbors if they would like to have one done as well and make it a neighborhood affair.

The same can be done with an introduction to the conversation of installing solar panels. Oftentimes solar installers hold informational meetings where they invite numerous people at a time to dispel solar myths. Offer to hold it in your own home and encourage others within your community to make the switch to solar. It may be expensive up front, but it will pay for itself over time.


If having a lawn or backyard is not of much importance to you, you may consider looking into tiny house communities. In addition to not having to maintain or water a lawn, it lowers your carbon footprint in a number of other ways. It doesn’t require as much to heat or cool; minimal electricity use due to a small living space; and it only requires a small amount of land, limiting urban sprawl.

Living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone, although that shouldn’t limit you from considering downsizing to a smaller house. For families that have more than one or two children, a tiny house can become overly crowded and unliveable. However, that doesn’t mean that you need a 2,000 square foot home. The fewer square footage, the less energy it requires to keep you and your family comfortable throughout every season.

Ease of Transit

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average passenger vehicle that gets 22.0 miles per gallon emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere a year. The more you can reduce the amount of time that you spend commuting as the sole passenger in your vehicle, the further that you can reduce your carbon footprint. Investigate if there are colleagues who live in your neighborhood or nearby that you could start carpooling with. If you live within a few miles of work, you could also start riding your bike or walking to work to lessen your environmental impact.

If you haven’t tried taking public transit from your new house, seek out the closest bus or light rail stop to your house. You may find you enjoy a leisurely walk to and from the pick-up/drop-off points and letting someone else take you to and from work each day. It is an excellent way to slowly get your day started, and it also offers some time to unwind before you get home. If there is not a stop located close to your home, start attending city council meetings and petition to have a stop added to local routes.

If your goal is to be an active participant in a sustainable community, start with educating your neighbors to get them onboard. The sustainable initiatives outlined above clearly are beneficial for both the environment and your personal well-being. The idea of making transitions to a greener way of life is easy to help others understand. By taking action in your local community, you can take pride in making a difference in your community and on the natural environment.

The Atlantic’s Editor gives an intro to the October 2018 issue

A letter from The Atlantic’s editor in chief about our October issue |

The October issue of The Atlantic is dedicated to a single, urgent question: Does democracy have a future?

Below you will find an essay introducing this special issue from The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg.

To receive the issue, and support The Atlantic’s journalism, we invite you to subscribe today. A year’s subscription starts at only $24.50.

The National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia, is a monument to the benefits of pessimism. The center, which is situated across an open expanse from Independence Hall, is a superior educational institution, but, understood correctly, it is also a warning about the fragility of the American experiment. The 42 Founding Fathers who are celebrated there, life-size and in bronze—the 39 who signed the Constitution, and three who refused—did not believe that men were good. Quite the opposite. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” “Federalist No. 51” states.

The system of government delineated in the Constitution is a concession to the idea that humans are deficient in the science of rational self-governance. Today, during a moment in which truths that seemed self-evident are in doubt—including the idea that liberal democracy is the inevitable end state of human ideological development—a tour of the Constitution Center reminds us that the Founders did not necessarily believe they were bringing about the end of history.

Continue reading The Atlantic’s Editor gives an intro to the October 2018 issue

Henry A. Giroux on How Destroying Public Space Means Destroying Dissent

Neoliberal Fascism and the Twilight of the Social

Donald Trump’s increasingly dangerous, incendiary attacks on the media, his willingness to separate children from their parents at the southern border, his efforts to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens and deport US citizens on the groundless claim that they have fraudulent birth certificates, and his relentless attempts to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others to obstruct the rule of law all amount to a lawless grab for power that is pushing the US further into the abyss of fascism.

The terrors of 20th century fascism have risen once again in the United States but less as a warning about repeating past mistakes than as a measure of the degree to which the lessons of history become irrelevant. Politics now moves between what philosopher Susan Sontag once labeled as “unremitting banality and inconceivable terror.” The “unremitting banality” is evident in Trump’s daily barrage of reckless tweets in which language becomes a weapon to vilify, humiliate and demonize government officials, journalists and critical media outlets. An evil banality is also present in his branding of undocumented immigrants as “murderers and thieves,” “rapists” and criminals who want to “infest our country.”

There is more at work here than the use of coarse language or an unprecedented display of incivility by a sitting president; there is also a flirtation with violence, the rhetoric of white supremacy, and the language of expulsion and elimination. Trump’s embrace of unthinkable terror takes on an even more onerous tone as the language of dehumanization and cruelty materializes into policies that work to expel people from any sense of community, if not humanity itself.

The Republican Approach to Voter Fraud: Lie


They use the fallacy of rampant cheating at the polls to make it harder for people to vote

By Carol Anderson – Dr. Anderson is a professor of African-American studies at Emory University.


He was a proud Korean War veteran. He was also black and lived in Texas. That meant that by 2013, Floyd Carrier, 86, was a prime target for the state’s voter suppression campaign, even though he was “Army strong.”

In an election that year, when he handed his Department of Veterans Affairs card to the registrar, he was turned away. No matter that he had used that ID for more than 50 years without a problem. Texas had recently passed a burdensome and unnecessary law that required voters to show a state-approved ID with a photo. His card didn’t have one.

The North Koreans couldn’t break Mr. Carrier, but voter suppression did. “I wasn’t a citizen no more,” he told a reporter last year. “I wasn’t.”

Voters across the country are now realizing that they, too, have crossed into the twilight zone: citizens of America without full citizenship rights. The right to vote is central to American democracy. “It’s preservative of all rights,” as the Supreme Court said in its 1886 ruling in Yick Wo v. Hopkins. But chipping away at access to that right has been a central electoral strategy for Republicans.

Anthony Settles, a Texas retiree, had been repeatedly blocked from the ballot box because his mother changed his last name when he was a teenager, and that 50-year-old paperwork was lost in what he described as a “bureaucratic nightmare.” After spending months looking for the wayward document, and then trying to get certified by the name he has used for more than half a century, he knew, beyond all doubt, that he had been targeted.

“The intent of this law is to suppress the vote,” Mr. Settles told a Washington Post reporter in 2016. “I feel like I’m not wanted in this state.”

That was the point. Demoralize people. Strip away their voting rights. Debase their citizenship. Dilute the diversity of voters until the electorate becomes homogeneous. Lie and say it’s because of voter fraud. But most important, do all of this in the name of saving democracy.

Rampant voter fraud does not exist. There is no epidemic of illegal voting. But the lie is so mesmerizing, it takes off like a wildfire, so that the irrational fear that someone might vote who shouldn’t means that hundreds of thousands who should can’t cast ballots, in part because of the increase in voter ID laws across the country in recent years.

The best way to understand the lie is to understand how it began: on Election Day in 2000. What happened then affects who will show up to vote in less than two months, and how confident they’ll feel when they get to the polls.

Continue reading The Republican Approach to Voter Fraud: Lie

On Why We Can’t Talk to Each Other

On Why We Can’t Talk
by Richard @ Flexible Reality – Sept. 14th, 2018
If you assert the Earth is not at least 4 billion years old, we can’t talk about that.
If you assert women should not have the ability to decide whether to carry a fetus to term or not, we can’t talk abou\t that.
If you assert vaccines are unnecessary, unwise, or impinge on your personal liberties instead of being a requisite for civilized society, we can’t talk about that.
If you assert DJ Trump is “doing a good job” for the United States, we can’t talk about that.
If you assert that Israel is America’s best friend in the World, we can’t talk about that.
If you assert that any union between males and females must be monogamous and that males should be able to direct the affairs of females, we can’t talk about that.
If you assert that America has been the greatest force for peace and stability in the World during the past several decades, we can’t talk about that.

Continue reading On Why We Can’t Talk to Each Other

Anonomous staffer pens an OpEd in the NYT

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

The Times is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.


The writer is a senior official in the Trump administration.

Henry Giroux on Fascism & Incivility in the Trump Age

Are the politics of “incivility” paving the road to an American fascism?

Complaints about civility avoid the big questions of the Trump era: Why is America sliding into authoritarianism?

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SEPTEMBER 1, 2018 10:00AM (UTC)

In the face of a nauseating and poisonous election cycle that ended with Donald Trump’s presidential victory, many commentators are quick to argue that Americans have fallen prey to a culture of incivility. This is the discourse of “bad manners” parading as insight, while working, regardless of intention, to hide the effects of power, politics, racial injustice and other forms of oppression.

The rhetoric of “incivility,” when used as a pejorative ideological label, serves to discredit political rhetoric as ill-tempered, rude and uncivilized. Politics, in this sense, shifts from a focus on substance to style – reworking the notion of critical thinking and action through a rulebook of alleged collegiality – which becomes code for the elevated character and manners of the privileged classes. As John Doris points out in his book “Lack of Character,” the “discourse of character often plays against a background of social stratification and elitism.”

In other words, the wealthy, noble and rich are deemed to possess admirable characters and to engage in civil behavior. At the same time, those who are poor, unemployed, homeless or subject to police violence are not seen as the victims of larger political, social and economic forces that bear down upon them; on the contrary, their problems are reduced to the depoliticizing discourse of bad character, defined as an individual pathology, and whatever resistance they present is dismissed as rude, ignorant and uncivil. Ruling elites have used the discourse of incivility to criticize dissent as it has emerged across ideological and racial lines and includes unruly conservative working-class whites as well as left-oriented black youth groups.

Trump has marshaled the assumptions underlying this discourse to support his presidential campaign and political agenda, which warrant far more alarm than suggested by terms such as “ill-mannered.” More than other candidates, Trump not only showcased and appropriated “incivility” in his public appearances as a mark of solidarity with many of his white male followers, he tapped into their resentment and transformed their misery into a racist, bigoted, misogynist and ultra-nationalist appeal to the darkest forces of authoritarianism. Yet millions of Americans decided to live in Trumpland, and as David Remnick observed in the New Yorker immediately upon Trump’s election, this represents more than a tragedy in the making:

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will … witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

Clearly, Trump’s embrace of “incivility” was a winning strategy, one that not only signaled the degree to which the politics of extremism has moved from the fringes to the center of American life, but also one that turned politics into a spectacle that feeds the ratings of the mainstream media. The incivility ethos Trump resurrected as a tool of resistance against establishment politicians played a major role in gaining him the presidency. But it would be wrong to subordinate Trump’s politics to his persona, or to categorize either as mere rudeness. Trump has turned politics into what Guy Debord once called a “perpetual motion machine” built on fear, anxiety, the war on terror, and a full-fledged attack on women, the welfare state, and poor minorities.

Tom Engelhardt has persuasively argued that Trump’s election may in time be viewed as a wholesale “regime change,” one that will alter the political and economic trajectory of the country, or what might otherwise be described as a paradigm shift toward an anti-democratic or authoritarian mode of governance. This is a change that points to a democracy spiraling out of control and a prescription for the unfolding of what Hannah Arendt once called the “dark times” associated with totalitarianism. Engelhardt writes:  

Donald Trump’s administration, now filling up with racists, Islamophobes, Iranophobes, and assorted fellow billionaires, already has the feel of an increasingly militarized, autocratic government-in-the-making, favoring short-tempered, militaristic white guys who don’t take criticism lightly or react to speed bumps well.  In addition, on January 20th, they will find themselves with immense repressive powers of every sort at their fingertips, powers ranging from torture to surveillance that were institutionalized in remarkable ways in the post-9/11 years with the rise of the national security state as a fourth branch of government, powers which some of them are clearly eager to test out.

What happens to a democracy when justice loses its mooring as a democratic principle, and can no longer be a moral guidepost, let alone a central organizing principle of politics? What happens to rational debate, civic culture and the common good?  
Continue reading Henry Giroux on Fascism & Incivility in the Trump Age

Who Really Inflated the Student Loan Bubble?

September 1, 2018 

The Rich Life Blog

Who Really Inflated the Student Loan Bubble?

  • One of the biggest financial disasters waiting to happen…
  • The black hole of financing higher education…
  • Why making loans too accessible can be a bad thing…

Dear Rich Lifer,

If you asked me to name the three biggest financial disasters just waiting to impact the greatest number of U.S. taxpayers, I’d answer:

Social Security woes…State and local pension problems…And the student loan bubble.

I’ve spoken about the first two pretty extensively in recent articles here. But what about the third one? Well, there’s about $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. right now. Ten years ago, the number was about $600 billion. That’s a 150% jump in just one decade!

A lot of people think the solution to this problem is lower borrowing rates… refinancing existing student loans… or possibly forgiving much of the debt altogether. Not me. I think it’s almost the opposite. To understand why let’s start with soaring college costs.

According to the College Board’s latest Annual Survey of Colleges: Four-year tuition and fees for an in-state resident in Florida have risen 108% over the last thirteen years. In Nevada, they’ve gone up 153%. And nationally, the AVERAGE ANNUAL increase has been 4.4% over the last decade..In the 1997-1998 school year, the typical college student was paying something like $4,740 to go to their state’s public university.

In 2007-2008, they were paying $7,280. And this year, the same student paid $9,970 in annual tuition and fees. With room and board, the number jumps to $20,770. Again, that’s for in-state tuition, fees, room, and board at a four-year public university.

I don’t even want to tell you what PRIVATE non-profit school tuition and fees look like! Okay, I can’t help myself – the national average is $46,950 a year. Even more interesting, these ever-rising costs have come during a period that included one of the worst recessions in our country’s history.

This is where I come back to the argument I hinted at earlier. We have also had historically low-interest rates for much of the new millennium. So helping more students “afford” college through cheap loans isn’t something we should be worrying about.

It may actually be a big part of the problem.
Continue reading Who Really Inflated the Student Loan Bubble?

Honesty, integrity, tolerance, civility…remember those qualities that previously defined a worthwhile person?

Excerpt from a Vox Interview


“The two biggest problems we face are the way we look at nature and the environmental crisis that’s resulted, and tribalism. And they’re both about disconnection. They’re both about seeing the other, whether that other is a plant or an animal, or a person of another faith or another race, as objects. Experiencing nature as something that’s alive, something that is conscious and part of yourself makes it very difficult to abuse or degrade. And here we have this natural tool that allows us to reconnect — how amazing is that?”

Can Green Living Really Make You Happier?

Your Environment Could Be Key To Mental and Physical Health


Happier. Credit: Matt Madd, want to feel healthier, happier and more productive at work. Maybe you’ve tried exercising before you start the day or eating a balanced and healthy lunch. However, the secret to achieving mental and physical health, as well as increased productivity, may lie in the buildings you work and live in, as well as how you care for the environment.

What Is Green Living?

Green living means anything from using natural light, improving air quality inside and shopping with reusable bags instead of plastic ones. For example, eating more organic products as opposed to meat and processed food counts as green living. Even changing your home to more efficient light bulbs is a step toward a more sustainable life.

There’s a huge impact when you make these choices and go green. Here are five reasons green living makes you happier, healthier and more productive in your daily life.

  1. It Improves Your Physical Health

Do you have allergies that never seem to quit or asthma that gets worse when you’re home at night? Going green can help. The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) decided to do two case studies looking at how residents felt before and after their housing units went green. These residents had physical improvements right after the renovation, such as less trouble with chronic bronchitis, hay fever, asthma and more.

  1. It Boosts Your Mood

The impact isn’t just physical. Spending time in nature helps with stress relief and mental illness. Even factors such as sustainable public transportation and green homes can increase happiness. In one study, people in the Netherlands who thought their local green spaces were more accessible and usable felt greater satisfaction with the whole neighborhood.

Going green also helps you become more social. If you start to carpool to work with friends, you can form a community aspect that you don’t get from driving by yourself. You can also choose to visit green spaces with others, such as a group hike or trip to the park. Then everyone gets the benefits of going outside as well as interacting with other people.

  1. It Increases Your Productivity

When the afternoon slump hits, it’s hard to feel like you’re accomplishing anything at work. It turns out that the sustainability of your office building plays a significant role in how productive you are.

Buildings with better ventilation systems generally have fresher and cleaner air. An office with more windows and natural light can also help contribute to a green environment. A study by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that employees were 16 percent more productive when their businesses adopted green initiatives.

  1. It Gives Your Life Meaning

This goes hand in hand with feeling happier. When you start to live a green life, you’ll feel a sense of purpose and meaning that you might have felt was missing before. One study that analyzed 39 green behaviors found that the majority of them increased individuals’ life satisfaction.

It’s not hard, either. You can decide to walk to work instead of driving. You can visit a local farmers market to buy your fruits and vegetables instead of the grocery store. Planting trees or turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth are just some of the simple things you can do to start experiencing the benefits of living green.

  1. It Gives You More Financial Security

If you’re feeling stressed about money, turning to green initiatives is one way to relieve stress and reduce your bills. Instead of worrying about how you’ll cover your monthly utility costs, try to become more energy- and water-efficient. By switching to energy-efficient appliances or windows, you can see your utility bills and your stress level drop.

Now Is the Time to Go Green

Living a green life starts with you. Make little changes, such as turning off the lights when you’re not in a room and reducing your plastic consumption. Then you can even suggest changes to your work or living space. Your mental and physical health, as well as your productivity and happiness, will soar.

Emily Folk is the editor of Conservation Folks. She writes on topics of sustainability, conservation and green technology.

Considering the Hajj

The following is a series of comments from the main page referencing the Hajj


Richard Pressl – Questions: If the first Islamic mosque was built by Mohammad in Madina, why is the Hajj held in Mecca? What does the historical record prove about the biological existence of Ibrahim, and how tenuous are the links between Abraham and Mohammad since they “lived” at least 2,000 years apart?

Ahmad Saud – Good questions you can read more about it on the internet so you can understand better than people tell you

Jeseem Mohamed – Because Hajj is an Abrahamic ritual. Abraham built the Kaaba originally. Prophet Muhammad (saw) is our last prophet but there were many others such as Jesus, Moses and Abraham. Hajj is all about Abraham’s sacrifices for our religion including sacrificing his own son for god.

Pooneh Mirkhani Jeseem Mohamed – Abraham re- builds it following the Noah’s flood. It was originally built by Adam as the house of God. God tests, the strength of Abraham’s religion by proposing the idea of sacrifice ….on his son. This is the main difference between Muslims and Jews as Muslims believe it was Ismail and Jews believe it was Isaac.

Richard Pressl – I have…but the narrative built around Ibrahim does not fully explain the worship area preference, the historical record, nor for that matter is there concrete evidence for the existence of Ibrahim, such as his birth or death dates. Like for Jesus these biological “facts” have been nebulized – while the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Chinese cultures have documented histories for their major public figures dated back to about 2,600BCE, the real evidence for the existence of almost any major religious figure from the Levant is lacking. For example, Flavius Joseph’s dating of Jesus’s death occurs fifty years after the event would have happened.

Richard Pressl – Ok, I’ve got that Jeseem…but I’m confused: based solely on texts, the estimated life of Abraham was somewhere between 2100 BC to 1800 BC, and the life of Muhammad from about 570AD. In other words, at least 2,000 years between the life cycles of each figure – yet modern presentations seem to imply a more direct relationship.

William Simmers – I’m an atheist and I love understanding religions, they make up a large part of the belief systems of most people in this world. You’re never going to have any understanding of the world if you don’t understand the people in it.

Yassmine Bouali – So many ignorant comments. If you are Christian, do you realize you worship the same God? My dear Muslim brothers and sisters, I have one quote for you ” It doesn’t befit the lion to answer the dogs” Imam Al Shafi (RA).

Dave Stocking – We have shared flights with folk returning from the Hajj Its very very special and life affirming to the participants we were left with very warm feelings for the people. A special memory we will always cherish.

Ivaylo Markov – Nothing says 21st century like documenting your ancient tribal superstitions with technology that comes from a cultural background of questioning dogmata. We humans are so unworthy of leaving Earth and spreading into the universe at this point. Nope, I don’t care about the specifications of your particular out-of-date belief system a.k.a. religion

Obesophobia – by George Monbiot


Posted: 16 Aug 2018 11:27 PM PDT

In 1976, we ate more than we do today. So why are we fatter?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th August 2018


When I saw the photo, I could scarcely believe it was the same country. The picture of Brighton Beach in 1976 featured in the Guardian a few weeks ago appeared to show an alien race. Almost everyone was slim. I mentioned it on social media, then went on holiday.

When I returned, I found that people were still debating it. The heated discussion prompted me to read more. How have we changed so far, so fast? To my astonishment, almost every explanation proposed in the thread turned out to be untrue.

Unfortunately, there are no consistent obesity data in the United Kingdom before 1988, at which point the incidence was already rising sharply. But in the US, the figures go back further. They show that, by chance, the inflection point was more or less 1976. Suddenly, at around the time when the photograph was taken, people started becoming fatter, and the trend has continued ever since.

The obvious explanation, many of those debating the photo insisted, is that we’re eating more. Several pointed out, not without justice, that food was generally disgusting in the 1970s. It was also more expensive. There were fewer fast food outlets and the shops shut earlier, ensuring that if you missed your tea, you went hungry. So here’s the first big surprise: we ate more in 1976.

According to government figures, we currently consume an average of 2131 kcals per day, a figure that appears to include sweets and alcohol. But in 1976, we consumed 2280 kcal, excluding alcohol and sweets, or 2590 when they’re included. Can this really be true? I have found no reason to discredit the figures.

Others insisted that the cause is a decline in manual labour. Again, this seems to make sense, but again the data don’t support it. A paper in the International Journal of Surgery states that “adults working in unskilled manual professions are over 4 times more likely to be classified as morbidly obese compared with those in professional employment”.

So how about voluntary exercise? Plenty of people argued that, as we drive rather than walk or cycle, are stuck to our screens and order our groceries online, we exercise far less than we did. It seems to make sense – so here comes the next surprise. According to a long-term study at Plymouth University, children’s physical activity is the same as it was 50 years ago. A paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology finds that, corrected for body size, there is no difference between the amount of calories burnt by people in rich countries and in poor ones, where subsistence agriculture remains the norm. It proposes that there is no relationship between physical activity and weight gain. Many other studies suggest that exercise, while crucial to other aspects of good health, is far less important than diet in regulating our weight. Some suggest it plays no role at all, as the more we exercise, the hungrier we become.

Other people pointed to more obscure factors: adenovirus-36 infection, antibiotic use in childhood and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. While there is evidence suggesting they might all play a role, and while they could explain some of the variation in the weight gained by different people on similar diets, none appear powerful enough to explain the general trend.

So what has happened? The light begins to dawn when you look at the nutrition figures in more detail. Yes, we ate more in 1976, but differently. Today, we buy half as much fresh milk per person, but five times more yoghurt, three times more ice cream and – wait for it – 39 times as many dairy desserts. We buy half as many eggs as in 1976, but a third more breakfast cereals and twice the cereal snacks; half the total potatoes, but three times the crisps. While our direct purchases of sugar have sharply declined, the sugar we consume in drinks and confectionery is likely to have rocketed (there are purchase numbers only from 1992, at which point they were rising rapidly. Perhaps, as we consumed just 9kcal per day in the form of drinks in 1976, no one thought the numbers were worth collecting). In other words, the opportunities to load our food with sugar have boomed. As some experts have long proposed, this seems to be the issue.

Continue reading Obesophobia – by George Monbiot



What do these folks have in common?
Unfunded litigants at trial, Women accusing powerful men of sexual assault, fact checkers to Republicans, private citizens with a complaint against a major corporation, someone with an advanced degree taking a job at McDonald’s, an eBay Seller who has a problem with a buyer, a patient in the ER or ICU, an avowed bachelor, atheist, Muslim, brown-skinned, or poor guy who wants to serve in Government?
Give Up? They are all members of the Ben Dover Society.

Noam Chomsky on the resurgence of authoritarian politics

Following the end of World War II, liberal democracy began to flourish in most countries in the Western world, and its institutions and values were aspired to by movements and individuals under authoritarian and oppressive regimes. However, with the rise of neoliberalism, both the institutions and the values of modern democracy came rapidly and continuously under attack in an effort to extend the profit-maximizing logic and practices of capitalism throughout all aspects of economic and social life.

Sketched out in broad outlines, this story explains the resurgence of authoritarian political trends in today’s Western societies, including the rise of far-right movements whose followers feel threatened by the processes unleashed by neoliberal economic policies. In the former communist countries and in the non-Western world, meanwhile, authoritarianism is also on the rise, partly as a residue of authoritarian legacies, and partly as a reaction to perceived threats posed to national culture and social order by global capitalism.

Is it possible to counter this rise in extreme populism? In this exclusive Truthout interview, the world-renowned linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky — the author of more than 100 books and thousands of academic articles and popular essays — offers his unique insights on this and more, bringing into the analysis issues and questions that are rarely addressed in the current debates taking place today about the resurgence of political authoritarianism.

C.J. PolychroniouIn 1992, Francis Fukuyama published an intellectually embarrassing book titled The End of History and the Last Man, in which he prophesied the “end of history” after the collapse of the communist bloc, arguing that liberal democracy would become the world’s “final form of human government.” However, what has happened in this decade in particular is that the institutions and values of liberal democracy have come under attack by scores of authoritarian leaders all over the world, and extreme nationalism, xenophobia and “soft fascist” tendencies have begun reshaping the political landscape in Europe and the United States. How do you explain the resurgence of political authoritarianism in the early part of the 21st century?

Noam Chomsky: The “political landscape” is indeed ominous. While today’s political and social circumstances are much less dire, still they do call to mind Antonio Gramsci’s warning from Mussolini’s prison cells about the severe crisis of his day, which “consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born [and] in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

One morbid symptom is the resurgence of political authoritarianism, a highly important matter that is properly receiving a great deal of attention in public debate. But “a great deal of public attention” should always be a warning sign: Does the shaping of the issues reflect power interests, which are diverting attention from what may be more significant factors behind the general concerns? In the present case, I think that is so, and before turning to the very significant question of the resurgence of political authoritarianism, I’d like to bring up related matters that do not seem to me to receive the attention they merit, and in fact are almost totally excluded from the extensive public attention.

It’s entirely true that “the institutions and values of liberal democracy are under attack” to an unusual extent, but not only by authoritarian leaders, and not for the first time. I presume all would agree that primary among the values of liberal democracy is that governments should be responsive to voters. If that is not the case, “liberal democracy” is a farce.

It has been well established that it is not the case. Ample work in mainstream political science shows that a majority of voters are not represented by their own elected representatives, who listen to different voices — the voices of the donor class, great wealth and the corporate sector (Martin Gilens, Affluence and InfluenceEconomic Inequality and Political Power in America, Princeton University Press, 2014; Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens, Democracy in AmericaWhat Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It, University of Chicago press, 2017; Larry Bartels, Unequal DemocracyThe Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, 2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 2018, among others). Furthermore, the penetrating work of Thomas Ferguson reveals that for a long time, elections have been substantially bought, including Congress, continuing right to the present, 2016.

These facts alone show that the furor about alleged Russian interference with our pristine democratic process reveals profound indoctrination — in capitalist, not democratic, values.

Continue reading Noam Chomsky on the resurgence of authoritarian politics

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Trump: “America is responsible for Russian aggression”

Ok kiddies…this stopped being strange long ago…


Gaslighting explained