Archive for August 2012

Update on the Reluctant Liberal   Leave a comment

Hi all,

I just started a new job. I hope to be blogging as much or more than I have in the past, but that won’t be happening until I settle in a bit. Probably early October would be a good guess, since I’ll be studying to take the LSAT until then. So, until further notice, expect fewer, shorter posts written by me, and expect most of those to be reposts. My GKC deconstructions will be put on hold until further notice (cruel, I know, since we were just getting to a really good part, but it’s necessary). I’m thinking about tinkering with them anyway. Since I’m new to writing deconstructions, it might be a better idea for me to start with fiction. But we’ll see.

In the meantime, I continue to grow even more stereotypically liberal every day. A few days ago, for example, my wife and I decided not to buy any more beef products. It’s not so much an issue of animal rights (though those are irrelevant) so much as it is an issue of resources. It takes about twenty times more land to feed people with animal products as it does to feed them with plant products. There’s a pretty irrefutable case that cattle production is leading to deforestation in South America, water depletion in the midwest and western portions of the United States, and starvation and poverty in developing countries that find it more profitable to produce beef (or animal feed) than they do to feed local people. (And that production is often controlled by foreign companies, so local communities that used to grow their own food don’t even see the profits that come from raising cattle or producing feed.) So yeah, eating beef isn’t so much an animal rights issue as it is a human rights issue.

I’m on the fence about chickens. I don’t think chickens are such a strain on the environment, and it helps that they’re dumber than cows as well. With chickens I’m mostly trying to figure out what companies are good to buy from, but I’m having trouble finding information I trust. (Actually, I’m in favor of individuals raising their own chickens. It’s just factoring farm practices that give me concerns. When chickens are allowed to scratch around a yard, they have positive impacts.)

In other news, it seems likely that police in New York shot bystanders in a shootout with a gunman in front of the Empire State Building. I don’t really blame the police (at this point). For all I know, their quick action saved lives. The people I blame are the ones that argue that mass shootings wouldn’t happen if everyone was armed. If trained police officers can’t control their fire in a crowded situation, what hope does the casual gun owner have? More guns would just lead to more suicides and accidental shootings. (And it needs to be pointed out that it’s only the fact that so many people have guns that our officers need to be armed at all. British police do not normally carry firearms, and they have much better crime rates (especially their murder rate) than we do.

Hopefully you’ll hear from me again soon.

Repost: How to Donate Money to Charity   Leave a comment

Here is an article that gets into a lot of the key ways to make sure that when you donate to charity your money is doing actual good. My big takeaways are:

1) Try to measure the results of the programs you donate to (even though it’s difficult).

2) Give to charities without putting strings on what your money can be used for (everyone wants to fund the flashiest parts of a charity, and that can make it difficult for charities to respond to changing needs)

3) Ignore administrative costs.

Here is the key bit for that last claim:

She uses numerous examples, both real and hypothetical, to illustrate how an organization with higher administrative expenses could be producing much better outcomes than another organization with the same total budget but lower “administrative” costs. She argues that it is, of course, the outcomes that matter.

“Effectiveness turns out to be pretty independent of efficiency,” she argues.

If only this argument could carry the day in the face of the charity rating organizations and media who continue to act as if nonprofits should be run only by volunteers with no training, no equipment, and no spending on assessment to know if their work is making a difference – not to mention any spending (gasp) on fundraising. I applaud Fiennes for taking this on so forcefully, and for not mincing words.

Posted 08/22/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Repost: Racism and Xenophobia Are Bad Policy   Leave a comment

The hostile stance that US law enforcement takes towards Islam alienates American Muslims and wastes police resources. See here to learn that the NYPD’s illegal and Islamophobic dragnet of Muslim organizations and businesses yielded exactly zero useful information.

But that explanation crumbled today with an Associated Press article that reports that after six years of eavesdropping on conversations and recording them and infiltrating mosques, the spying “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.” The admission, which came in court testimony from June that was just unsealed, was made by Thomas Galati, the head of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division.

Repost: Is She Responsible for 9/11   Leave a comment

I complained earlier today that media portrayals of Muslims usually don’t get past the violent. So when I saw this, I knew a wanted to repost it. It’s a little late, but happy Eid.

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Eid, Gaza 2012 Photographer Sarah el-khoudary

Posted 08/21/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Repost: Islamophobia on the Rise   Leave a comment

Content Note: Islamophobia, Vandalism, Hate Crimes

Remember how I talked about Islamophobia last week? It was apparently a very relevant week to talk about Islamophobia. Read the whole article here.

For the first time in a long time Muslims in America are actually worried about being attacked during ‘Eid prayers due to a rise of anti-Muslim violence this Ramadan. Last week Muslim graves were desecrated in Chicago, pig legs were thrown at a mosque in Cali, paintballs and acid were thrown at mosques in Oklahoma, and a mosque was destroyed by arson in Missouri. All happened in the span of ONE WEEK. And this isn’t a comprehensive list.

Update:

I found another article about Islamophobia here. I wonder if the people committing these hate crimes realize that attacking during Ramadan is akin to (though not the same as) spoiling Christmas. Muslim adults shouldn’t have to put up with this, much less Muslim children.

In a press release, the director of CAIR’s New York chapter, Muneer Awad, said: “These incidents are not a coincidence. We believe the recent surge in acts of bigotry and hatred is directly linked to the words of elected officials and those running for office who have used anti-Muslim bigotry as a campaign strategy.”

Specifically, CAIR singled out “New York State Senator David Storobin and Assembly candidate Ben Askelrod” for fomenting anti-Muslim hatred. Storobin, who created some buzz after being photographed wearing an Israeli army uniform, has raised baseless allegations against a planned mosque in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn (asMondoweiss reported).

Posted 08/21/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Repost: US Regularly Engages in Terrorism, War Crimes   Leave a comment

Content Note: Drone Strikes, War Crimes, Attacking Rescuers.

You can read about it here. The United States regularly engages in strikes on rescuers who show up at the scene of a previous strike. The United States government called this terrorism in 2004 and again in 2007. And,

Since that first bureau report, there have been numerous other documented cases of the use by the US of this tactic: “On [4 June], US drones attacked rescuers in Waziristan in western Pakistan minutes after an initial strike, killing 16 people in total according to the BBC. On 28 May, drones were also reported to have returned to the attack in Khassokhel near Mir Ali.” Moreover, “between May 2009 and June 2011, at least 15 attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN, ABC News and Al Jazeera.”

In June, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns,said that if “there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.” There is no doubt that there have been.

(A different UN official, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, this weekend demanded that the US “must open itself to an independent investigation into its use of drone strikes or the United Nations will be forced to step in”, and warned that the demand “will remain at the top of the UN political agenda until some consensus and transparency has been achieved”. For many American progressives, caring about what the UN thinks is so very 2003.)

Have I mentioned that President Obama is a war criminal?

Posted 08/21/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Political Correctness and Human Decency.   Leave a comment

Content Note: Sexism, Gendered Language

So I’ve noticed that I’ve been self-censoring myself increasingly lately. The immediate catalyst for this post was me almost saying, “It’s amazing how much news is driven by guys trying to shill their recently published books.” But I stumbled right before I got to “guys,” and I said “people” instead.

Why did I do this?

There are at least two possible answers to that question. The first one, we’re all familiar with. I censored myself because its politically incorrect to use gendered language,  and apparently I must have a liberal burr up my butt, because what I was going to say first was Just Fine and it wasn’t worth stopping in the middle to fix. According to this answer, I changed what I was going to say in order to fit in with some liberal orthodoxy. I didn’t want to be “politically incorrect.”

But the answer I would give is a lot simpler and a lot more visceral than that. Halfway through saying that sentence, I remembered that there a lots of female authors too, and I didn’t want to make them invisible. That’s it. That’s all. Terms like political correctness didn’t cross my mind at all. I simply wanted what I said to be more accurate, and to not perpetuate the idea that People Who Know Things are always “guys”. I wasn’t trying to be “politically correct.” I wasn’t trying to fit in with all the other liberals who get hung up about this kind of thing. I just wanted to not ignore every woman who has gone on radio or television to try and shill their book.

(As an aside, I’ve got nothing against authors doing interviews to try and advertise their stuff. I hope to be one of the book shillers someday. I just think that it’s messed up that the media relies on these people so heavily for news. Good shilling is A-okay by me; media incompetency, not so much.)

And that’s the thing about political correctness. It’s not about trying to censor people. It’s not about shutting down dialogue. It’s about using accurate language that doesn’t step on people. It’s about using language that doesn’t erase people or demonize their conditions in life. It’s about treating people with basic respect and human decency. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, so can we please stop treating political incorrectness as a badge of honor?