The perpetual Cold War rhetoric

Russia and China are major powers with vast nuclear arsenals. Hence one would think that it would be in everyone’s interest if the those two countries, along with the US, had good relationships with one another. And yet we have the spectacle of, at least in the US, the media and the political and pundit class demanding that the US take a hard line against the two, particular with Russia. Almost any negative news that could be even remotely connected to Russia is amplified to make Russian president Vladimir Putin into some kind of malevolent Rasputin-like figure, constantly scheming to undermine the US, and US presidents are constantly urged to talk tough and take a bellicose attitude in any negotiations.
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Forgetting the Alamo

I take part in a weekly online trivia quiz contest that was organized by skeptics during the lockdown but has proven so popular that it will continue even after the lockdowns end. The format involves five sets of ten questions, each set covering a particular category. Recently one set of questions was on the topic of the battle of Alamo, a site in what is now Texas. As the legend goes, a plucky group of less than 200 people then known as Texians heroically resisted thousands of Mexican troops for nearly two weeks before they were finally overrun. “Remember the Alamo!” has since become a rousing battle cry for Americans going into battle.

Since I did not grow up in the US and did not study the arcana of American history, you would expect me to be of no help whatsoever to my team in this round. But it turned out that I knew many of the answers and that is because country and western singer Marty Robbins was hugely popular in Sri Lanka and one of his songs called The Ballad of the Alamo released in 1960 was played frequently on the one English language radio station, so often that I ended up knowing the lyrics by heart by a form of osmosis. I was surprised how I could recall almost all the words. You can listen to the song.
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Can robot animals help treat loneliness?

Katie Englehart writes about the problem of loneliness that afflict a large number of older people in the US.

Older people are more likely to live alone in the United States than in most other places in the world. Nearly thirty per cent of Americans over sixty-five live by themselves, most of them women.

In 2017, the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, declared loneliness an “epidemic” among Americans of all ages. This warning was partly inspired by new medical research that has revealed the damage that social isolation and loneliness can inflict on a body. The two conditions are often linked, but they are not the same: isolation is an objective state (not having much contact with the world); loneliness is a subjective one (feeling that the contact you have is not enough). Both are thought to prompt a heightened inflammatory response, which can increase a person’s risk for a vast range of pathologies, including dementia, depression, high blood pressure, and stroke. Older people are more susceptible to loneliness; forty-three per cent of Americans over sixty identify as lonely. Their individual suffering is often described by medical researchers as especially perilous, and their collective suffering is seen as an especially awful societal failing.

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On not calling myself a feminist

In a recent post, I mentioned in passing that I do not call myself a feminist even though I consider it to be an honorable label and would like to think that I am supportive of the causes that feminists advocate for. Kat Stoeffel writes that it is a good idea to refrain from doing so.

I have a handful of straight male friends I consider to be feminists. They know when to speak up on behalf of a female friend or colleague, and they know when to sit down, shut up, and listen. They’re working through their issues about women without foisting them upon the women in their lives. They gently explain feminism to other men in the woman-bashing conversations that happen behind even the most progressive closed doors. And they would all sooner die than call themselves feminists.

I can’t say I blame them. There’s something suspicious about anyone eager to identify with the oppressed. Many men seem to reach for the “feminist” label first to shore up their sensitive-dude bona fides and, second, to get a little female validation.
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Ilhan Omar attacked for stating the obvious

The congresswoman from Minnesota has been subjected to fierce criticism for a tweet that she put out. What did she say that was so reprehensible?

All she was saying is that given that Israel and the US do not investigate the crimes committed by their own forces and since they object to the International Criminal Court investigating them, where are the victims supposed to go for justice? Are you puzzled as to why there is outrage? Here is the clue. You must never, ever, accuse the US and Israel of committing atrocities. And to include them along with Hamas, Afghanistan, and the Taliban is to compound the offense. That is enough to cause the Israel lobby and US imperialists to come out in full force to attempt to silence you.
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Debunking UFOs

Mick West, who has long studied UFOs (or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena as the US government calls them) is not impressed with the recent flurry of reports that have given hope to believers that the ‘truth is out there’ that we are being visited by extraterrestrials. (I wrote about a recent New Yorker article that profiled a credulous journalist.) The seeming support, if qualified, given by high profile individuals has added to the expectation that the report that the US government will release later this month will vindicate their beliefs. West says that upon closer examination, these mysterious events invariably turn out to have mundane explanations.
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A dangerous police tactic

I was not aware that the police learn a technique known as the precision immobilization technique (PIT) by which they can cause another car to go out of control and even flip over. You would think that such a dangerous maneuver would be used only in extreme situations when it is essential that the car be stopped and there is no other alternative. But we see in this case an Arkansas state trooper doing this to a car that it had targeted for speeding and which had slowed down down and turned on its flashers when it saw the police lights, a sign that the car driver was planning to stop and was looking for a safe place to do so. But after waiting less than two minutes, the police did the PIT maneuver and as a result, the car flipped over. It turned out that the driver Nicole Harper was pregnant.

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Good grief! Enough with the British royals already!

I never ceased to be amazed at the fascination in the US with the British royal family, deeply engrossed over the minutiae of their lives. The normal pettiness, backbiting, and other dysfunctionalities that always exist in large extended multi-generational families suddenly become newsworthy if it involves any member of that family.

The latest is some fuss over the naming of a baby, if you can believe it.

What next? That there is disagreement over what brand of disposable diapers they want to use?

Give it a rest, media.


Magnetism can make you crazy

Ohio, the state where I lived for over thirty years, seems to be a breeding ground for nutcases and we saw them on display at recent statehouse hearings where several people peddled all manner of nutty theories about covid-19 and vaccines.

Here is anti-vaxxer named Dr. Sherri Tenpenny giving her two cents worth.

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How the rich avoid taxes

The report by ProPublica about how the very rich pay almost no taxes shows the problem with the tax system that taxes income and not wealth. As a result, the wealthy use devices to massively increase their wealth with things like stock options and other assets that do not get taxed until they are sold and get converted into income. But we know that the wealthy live a lavish lifestyle. So where does that money come from? Don’t they have to sell assets to get money and thus be liable for taxes on that amount? Ha! Such things apply only to peons like us.
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