Monday, July 2, 2018

Abortion: A Sad State of Affairs

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The majority of countries in the world do not allow abortions on demand. Only 32% have laws that permit abortion if the woman wants it. The United States is one of the 63 countries where this is legal.

The majority of countries in the world do not allow abortions on socio/economic grounds. They force women to bear children that they cannot support or that for some other socio/economic reason they do not want.

Half of all countries do not allow abortions in case of rape or incest.

A little under half of all world countries do not allow abortions when it endangers the mental or physical health of the woman. It is only when the woman’s life is in danger that abortion is legal in 96% of world countries. Still, some countries don’t even allow it in those cases.

Approximately 25% of the world's population lives in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, which either completely ban abortion, or allow it only to save the mother's life. That means that hundreds of millions of women on earth are denied control over their own bodies.

This category of countries includes most countries in Latin America and the Middle East, approximately half of the countries of Africa, seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and two countries (Malta and Ireland) in Europe. Read more...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How to Make America Great (Again)



Here are three competing political and economic agendas. (1) Liberal, (2) Radical Socialist and (3) Conservative:

LIBERAL AGENDA:

1. The economy: The problem:

The federal government is on a trajectory towards bankruptcy. Sooner or later, Social Security and Medicare will become insolvent.

Each year, the share of the federal budget that is spent on financing the debt grows. Obama  managed to reduce the government’s annual deficit to around $400 billion, but the new Republican tax cut for the rich is predicted to cause this to rise to $1 trillion. In addition, interest rates have been at an unprecedented low for years, and they are bound to rise soon. Gradually, financing the debt will crowd out other expenditures - health and human services, unemployment, infrastructure, housing and transportation, science and education, food and agriculture, energy and the environment, veterans and even the military.

The Trump administration is already proposing to cut food stamps. Stingy as our safety net and assistance to the needy are compared to other advanced social democracies, they will be reduced even further, as our government goes broke.

The solution:

A. Full retirement age for social security should be raised. Life expectancy has risen, so this makes sense. Raising the age at which dozens of millions of Americans begin to collect benefits will save the government BILLIONS. Read more...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Trump's Worst Obscenity to Date: Making Children into Orphans



Our blog hasn’t been very active as of late. Some have blamed us for “disengaging” just as evil is getting worse. The reasons for writing less frequently over the past few months are private and irrelevant.

Nevertheless, our country sometimes reaches such a loathsome new low, such an abysmal nadir of immorality, that I feel compelled to take up the pen again, if for nothing else at least in order to re-iterate some of the verities which most people of good will already know:

The Trump-instigated , Republican-condoned and FOX News-encouraged policy of child torture at the Mexican border is an historical event whose gravity is comparable to our World War Two Japanese internment camps. The break-up of families which effectively makes orphans out of thousands of children is comparable to the break-up of black families during slavery. As my wife said, this policy is a crime against humanity and it deserves scrutiny by international courts in the tradition of the Nuremberg trials, or at least the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Here are some salient, absurd or otherwise noteworthy points about this issue:

1. The Right’s immigration agenda is clearly and obviously motivated by one single overarching motive: To do everything in its power to maintain white supremacy. It is purely and exclusively a race war by non-military means. And to that end, the Right will stoop to ANY conceivable means. I have long believed that Trump’s instinctive sympathy for Russia has to do with the fact that Russia is the largest white country. Read more...

Saturday, June 2, 2018

For Happier and Healthier Human Beings



 My sister Madeleine wrote a very intelligent piece about the “dangers of spirituality.” In her review of Kramer and Alstad’s book The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, the failure of Buddhism and Hinduism is explained. Many good points are made by the book’s authors and by Madeleine.

I have wanted to write an alternative piece related to the same topic. First, I had to spend three weeks in Hawaii, so I am only now getting around to this.

Since I know little about Buddhism and Hinduism, I dot not intend to defend those perspectives here, or other Eastern spiritual philosophies in the “Zen” tradition, or other “New Age” trends.

However, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is today a convergence among many strands of modern psychology towards certain principles. Following these principles may help humans to become happier and psychologically healthier. And in my view, they appear to be empirically true.

The common thread I see in the emerging paradigm includes the following elements:

1. Humans experience life through interpretation. The world is not given to us. We make the world in which we live.
2. Thus, we experience life “from within to without,” not the other way around, as is claimed for example by Behaviorism (“we respond to stimuli”).
3. We have minds, we think, and we have consciousness.
4. All human experience occurs in the present - NOW. No one has ever experienced anything in the past or in the future. We can only THINK about the past and the future. We cannot live in those realms.
5. Thinking tends to be verbal.
6. Thoughts produce feelings.
7. We are the totality of our thoughts and our feelings. Read more...

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Weather Vane

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Once upon a time, in a far away kingdom, there stood a weather vane on top of an old church. It had been standing there for so long that all its hinges were rusted through and it made the most unpleasant creaking sound every time it swiveled.

And swivel it did because the wind was master in this kingdom. It was howling like a hungry tiger as it blew over the hills and valleys, looking for anything that it could uproot and break. It tore the roofs off of barns and stables, broke windows and made bails of hay and pitchforks fly like birds. It furiously pulled at the trees, broke their branches, ripped off their leaves, but their roots were firmly planted and the trees didn't give in to the angry wind.

The weather vane, who at one time had been a shiny cockerel, took its share of the beating, but it was strongly forged on its spike. The wind blew and blew, almost popping a vein, but all it did was make the weathervane swivel faster and faster, until it got so dizzy it almost fainted.

'Master wind, have pity on me' said the weathervane. 'All this twirling is making me loose my marbles. Soon I won't know which way you want me to face. Besides, my circulation isn’t what it used to be, and all this twirling has caused my arthritis to flare up.' And he creaked something awful as the wind got ahold of his tail. Read more...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cults and the Dangers of Spirituality

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Let’s face it: we live in a world of opposites: night and day, warm and cold, life and death, joy and suffering. But many of us are searching for a way to combine the two into one ‘Whole’, thinking that this might make us more complete, happier, less prone to suffering. That is the goal of ‘Enlightenment’.

In ‘The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power’, Diana Alstad and Joel Kramer examine the age-old traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism and conclude that these 3,000-year-old religions have been a total failure. We are not less selfish and divisive today as we were when it was founded in northeastern India by Prince Siddharta in the 6th century B.C. India is the most internally divided culture in the world with its Caste system. The ‘Oneness’ framework, which says that ‘division’ and ‘difference’ is but an illusion, gives the haves a reason to justify the misery surrounding them and is used by the have-nots as a way to cope with an unbearable situation.

The usual reasons for this failure are placed at the foot of the ‘seeker’. Humanity has not done enough soul searching and is not ready for true bliss. But what if the reason for its failure is because this ‘Oneness’ framework is impossible to achieve? Read more...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Worlds Universities, Ranked and Located



Preface: Once in a while, I take a look at the University of Shanghai’s Annual Ranking of the World's 800 Major Universities.

You  may find this an empty exercise. However, I enjoy lists, and I have spent my life in  academe. The Shanghai rankings have good credibility. The criteria are the usual ones - the quality of education, research output, Nobel laureates, etc There is of course always room for improvement. For now, I present to you some of the interesting factoids I came across. I hope you enjoy perusing these. I’ll focus on the top 100, then 200, and (briefly) 500 universities listed.

Countries and Regions:
Of the top 200 universities, 77 are located in North America. That is almost 39%.   Actually, North American preponderance is even more notable among the top 100 universities, of which over half of  are in the US and Canada. The United States has 70, or 35%,  of the top 200 universities, and 48 of the top one hundred.
Read more...