Review: Merchants of Doubt

This review will deal with both the book and the documentary based on it. The book was written by two historians of science Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University and Erik M. Conway and was published in 2010, while the documentary was directed by Robert Kenner and released in 2014 and has just been released on DVD. I can strongly recommend both. The book is very clearly written and makes a compelling case for the authors’ thesis. Although the documentary is based on the book, its emphasis is different (dealing mostly with the climate change debate) and provides new information that is not in the book. Here’s the trailer.
[Read more…]

Mandatory minimum sentences

On his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discusses the serious problem of having mandatory minimum sentencing laws that fill up our prisons with people serving long sentences that are not proportionate to the crimes. He makes a powerful case that these laws are unjust and abusive and should not only be repealed but that those already serving long sentences because of them should have their sentences commuted or pardoned altogether.
[Read more…]

Baphomet finds a home

The statue of Baphomet that the Satanic Temple wanted to place alongside the monument to the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma capital grounds needed to find a new home after the state Supreme Court ruled that the monument was unconstitutional and needed to come down. They unveiled the one-ton statue in Detroit to the cheers of hundreds of supporters who had been emailed tickets to the event at a location that was kept secret until the end to prevent protestors.
[Read more…]

To bleep or not to bleep

On broadcast TV and radio, certain words are bleeped out due to rules about decency. NPR’s Nina Totenberg makes some good points about this practice. She says that the news media (including NPR), too often cowed by in-house lawyers, sometimes goes too far and ‘cleanses’ the news. She says that it should be acceptable to quote people accurately or at least sufficiently accurately so that the informed listener knows exactly what was said.
[Read more…]

The Bland case is a wakeup call that we can all find ourselves in jail

My hometown of Cleveland has had a series of protests against police brutality and that eight months after the death of 12-year old Tamir Rice who was shot by police while having a toy gun, there have still not been any indictments. This was after the insane high-speed police chase through the streets involving 62 patrol cars and 100 police officers that ended with two unarmed people having 137 bullets pumped into them. These and a history of use of excessive force resulted in the US Justice Department issuing a scathing report about police practices here and imposed a consent decree on them that seeks to correct its practices.
[Read more…]

Guilty pleasure

I believe that politics is a serious business. It has important consequences and so do not take it lightly or treat it as entertainment. I have little patience with journalists who do not cover particular issues in depth or certain candidates because they consider them too boring. On the other hand, I must admit that an important political story that also has high entertainment value comes along but rarely and must be savored when it does, and the candidacy of Donald Trump fits the bill. Watching the Trump show is better than any reality show or soap opera. Each night ends with you wondering what the next day’s news will bring about his latest actions and reactions.
[Read more…]

Mass shootings in the US

We hear of mass shootings that occur periodically where a gunman (it is almost always a man with a gun) goes on some kind of rampage and slaughters a number of people. NPR interviewed Jodi Upton, a member of a team of reporters at USA Today that decided to find out how many mass murders had occurred since 2006, because the federal government does not keep track of such statistics. A mass murder was defined as one in which at least four people other than the killer died.
[Read more…]

The phony suggestions for making the Iran deal ‘better’

The opposition to the deal arrived at between the P5+1 nations and Iran has been led by the Republicans, the Israeli government and its lobby in the US, and the neoconservatives, all of whom would like the US to go to war with Iran, which is a truly insane idea. (Interestingly, American Jews support the deal by larger margins than the American public overall, showing once again that the Israel lobby in the US reflects the view of the most extreme elements of the Israeli government more than that of American Jews, something we saw before in the run-up to the Iraq war.) The absurdity and shallowness of their statements about the deal reveal that they were opposed to any agreement that Iran would agree to because that would pre-empt war, or at least delay it.
[Read more…]

No one can accuse the religious right of being consistent

When the same-sex marriage ruling came out, some of the opponents whined that as a result, those who opposed same-sex marriage because of their religious beliefs would be treated as pariahs and hounded when all they wanted was to be left alone to believe as they wished. Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito contributed to that sense of possible future victimhood in his dissent of the ruling outlawing the state bans on same-sex marriage inObergefell v. Hodges.
[Read more…]