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History rhymes

August 22, 2014

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Jihadi’s Return, connects US attempts to find a moderate faction of Sunni jihad with our failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible, in the days following 9/11. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, ALEC crafted laws that helped expand the prison population, such as minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes. A decade later, it was crafting laws to turn that burgeoning population into barely paid, incarcerated labor.  

Doug Muder connects today’s Tea Party to the failure of reconstruction

Cuba needs Harry Morgan

August 21, 2014

HarryMorganAndEddieIn the middle of this hot, hot summer, they are suffering a shortage of beer. If only the Cubans had money, smugglers would come to their aid. There was lots of smuggling between Cuba and Florida once upon a time. Typical mid-century smugglers shown left.

Rick Perry’s indictment

August 20, 2014

Even at second glance, Rick Perry’s indictment looks more than a bit like the next whiz in a political pissing contest. David Axelrod argues:

Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy.

Hmmmm.. Perry’s friends were target of an investigation into the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute, a $3 billion state fund. That was hampered by his veto of funding. James Moore stakes out the argument that the indictment isn’t just political retribution and may hold water, including the fact that the special prosecutor in the case is a Republican picked by a judge appointed by Perry.

That’s all interesting and relevant. I’m still skeptical that the courts will uphold these charges against a governor for using his veto. Whether or not it served to protect corrupt friends. We’ll see. Showing a bit of kindness, the prosecutors limited themselves to two indictments. Since “two” seems to be the limit to Perry’s working memory.

Climate, energy, and Willie

August 19, 2014

willieThough I have long enjoyed Willie, I’ve never been that impressed with his activism. That includes his upcoming plan to sing against the Keystone XL pipeline. Far from being first on a list of environmental concerns, I have a hard time seeing it as tenth. Or twentieth.

My friend and colleague Jim Dutton pointed me to an excellent article on how the discussion of climate change is so full of sound and fury. And so little sense. Despite both environmentalists and economists having knowledge to add.

The one topic I would add to that article is the relationship between energy consumption and GDP. Very closely linked for the first two centuries of American history, and similarly in most other developed nations, that has been loosening in recent decades. Neither economic progress nor the dollar are tied to a fixed number of joules. Interestingly, I run across both green and right-wing pundits who insist that the two must forever travel hand in hand. The former to insist that only the destruction of capitalism can save the environment, and the latter to insist that all efforts toward energy conservation are an attack on capitalism.

How sockeye makes Republicans want the EPA

August 18, 2014

Salon writes on the special nature of Bristol Bay, and the threat to it from the proposed Pebble Mine. It quotes Rich Halford, a former Alaska state legislator and staunch Republican:

If you see a filet of wild Alaska salmon in your supermarket, it’s almost definitely sockeye, and it likely came from Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay accounts for nearly half the sockeye on earth. … How did it get this way? It’s because sockeye are different. They are the only species of salmon that spawn in lakes instead of streams. And they are very sensitive to water quality. So what they need is a diverse system of super-clean lakes that feed into a body of water with a robust food supply, so they can fatten up in the years they’re at sea before returning.

That fishery brings $1.5 billion to Alaska, and supports 14,000 jobs. Halford is a Republican. One who now desperately needs one of federal agencies Republicans most despise: “the EPA came to Bristol Bay, invited not by the hated outside environmentalists but by natives, fishermen, small businesses and other locals who consider all of those things that make them special under attack by mining interests and their own state government.” The article describes how the state’s politicians worked hand-in-hand with industry interests, one area’s residents and environmental concerns be damned.

Living in coastal Texas, that is a familiar tale to me. (Hat tip, Noemi.)

Update: The Bristol Bay Times had a recent opinion piece on this. 

Why are women more religious than men?

August 17, 2014


It has long been the case in the US that women are more religious than men, as evinced by this Pew poll, for example. And also in many other cultures. As with many salient gender differences, this has led some to concoct quasi-biological explanations, e.g., women are less inclined to risk taking, and so more inclined “to lean on a higher power in order to gain protection from the things in the world that might do harm to them.” Despite the fact that there are myriad cultural and social connections that are suggestive.

So, it is interesting that a recent Gallup poll shows that the LGBT population not only is much less religious, but that religiosity in that population is virtually the same for women and men. Greta Christina points out the obvious:

Whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it disappears among LGBT Americans. Unless you’re going to argue that queers are just born this way — that queer women’s brains are born radically different from straight women’s brains, in a way that somehow links sexual orientation and/or gender identity with religiosity — you now have to accept that whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it’s not inborn.

Her argument isn’t airtight. Still, the data point is interesting. And it seems that scholarship on the question already leans toward social causes, rather than biological ones. 

“Single continental origin”

August 15, 2014

Steve King of Iowa wants to save Michele Bachmann from being the congressman whose ideology most blinds him to the stupid things he says. (And who isn’t from Texas.) Quite a few people are comparing the events at Ferguson to the stand-off at the Bundy Ranch. The last thing needed at Ferguson is a bunch of Tea Partiers. Fortunately, that also seems to be the last place they want to go. Let’s hope the recent change in policing makes a difference.


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