Sunday, October 27, 2013

ANS -- Questions for Free-Market Moralists

Here is a moderately good article on why Libertarianism doesn't make sense (Number 3 could have been better reasoned.)  Don't read the comments unless you want to read a bunch of Libertarians justifying their idiocy.  Why do Libertarians always sound like adolescent boys?  A big thing that Libertarians seem to miss is the whole existence of society, culture, and world view.  They do not admit to either psychology or sociology.  It's a very narrow view. 
find it here:   

The Stone October 20, 2013, 5:00 pm 639 Comments

Questions for Free-Market Moralists

The Stone

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.


Capitalism (Theory and Philosophy), Ethics (Personal), Nozick, Robert, Philosophy, Rawls, John, United States Economy

In 1971 John Rawls published "A Theory of Justice," the most significant articulation and defense of political liberalism of the 20th century. Rawls proposed that the structure of a just society was the one that a group of rational actors would come up with if they were operating behind a "veil of ignorance" ­ that is, provided they had no prior knowledge what their gender, age, wealth, talents, ethnicity and education would be in the imagined society. Since no one would know in advance where in society they would end up, rational agents would select a society in which everyone was guaranteed basic rights, including equality of opportunity. Since genuine (rather than "on paper") equality of opportunity requires substantial access to resources ­ shelter, medical care, education ­ Rawls's rational actors would also make their society a redistributive one, ensuring a decent standard of life for everyone.
If the operations of the free market are always moral then there's nothing in principle wrong with tremendous inequality.

In 1974, Robert Nozick countered with "Anarchy, State, and Utopia." He argued that a just society was simply one that resulted from an unfettered free market ­ and that the only legitimate function of the state was to ensure the workings of the free market by enforcing contracts and protecting citizens against violence, theft and fraud. (The seemingly redistributive policy of making people pay for such a "night watchman" state, Nozick argued, was in fact non-redistributive, since such a state would arise naturally through free bargaining.) If one person ­ Nozick uses the example of Wilt Chamberlain, the great basketball player ­ is able to produce a good or service that is in high demand, and others freely pay him for that good or service, then he deserves to get rich. And, once rich, he doesn't owe anyone anything, since his wealth was accumulated through voluntary exchange in return for the goods and services he produced. Any attempt to "redistribute" his wealth, so long as it is earned through free market exchange, is, Nozick says, "forced labor."

Rawls and Nozick represent the two poles of mainstream Western political discourse: welfare liberalism and laissez-faire liberalism, respectively. (It's hardly a wide ideological spectrum, but that's the mainstream for you.) On the whole, Western societies are still more Rawlsian than Nozickian: they tend to have social welfare systems and redistribute wealth through taxation. But since the 1970s, they have become steadily more Nozickian. Such creeping changes as the erosion of the welfare state, the privatization of the public sphere and increased protections for corporations go along with a moral worldview according to which the free market is the embodiment of justice. This rise in Nozickian thinking coincides with a dramatic increase in economic inequality in the United States over the past five decades ­ the top 1 percent of Americans saw their income multiply by 275 percent in the period from 1979 and 2007, while the middle 60 percent of Americans saw only a 40 percent increase. If the operations of the free market are always moral ­ the concrete realization of the principle that you get no more and no less than what you deserve ­ then there's nothing in principle wrong with tremendous inequality.

The current economic crisis is no exception to the trend toward Nozickian market moralizing. In the recent debates in the Senate and House of Representatives about food stamps ­ received by one out of six Americans, about two-thirds of them children, disabled or elderly ­ Republicans made their case for slashing food subsidies largely about fairness. As Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said in his speech, "This is more than just a financial issue. It is a moral issue as well."


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Read previous contributions to this series.

The Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw recently published a draft of a paper titled "Defending the One Percent." In it he rehearses (but, oddly, does not cite) Nozick's argument for the right of the wealthy to keep their money, referring to the moral principle of "just deserts" as what makes distribution by the market essentially ethical. And in a recent issue of Forbes, the Ayn Rand apostle Harry Binswanger proposed that those earning over one million dollars should be exempt from paying taxes, and the highest earner each year should be awarded a Medal of Honor ­ as a reward (and incentive) for producing so much market value. Again, Binswanger explained that "the real issue is not financial, but moral."

The Nozickian outlook is often represented as moral common sense. But is it? Here I pose four questions for anyone inclined to accept Nozick's argument that a just society is simply one in which the free market operates unfettered. Each question targets one of the premises or implications of Nozick's argument. If you're going to buy Nozick's argument, you must say yes to all four. But doing so isn't as easy as it might first appear.

1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free?

If you say yes, then you think that people can never be coerced into action by circumstances that do not involve the direct physical compulsion of another person. Suppose a woman and her children are starving, and the only way she can feed her family, apart from theft, is to prostitute herself or to sell her organs. Since she undertakes these acts of exchange not because of direct physical coercion by another, but only because she is compelled by hunger and a lack of alternatives, they are free.

2. Is any free (not physically compelled) exchange morally permissible?

If you say yes, then you think that any free exchange can't be exploitative and thus immoral. Suppose that I inherited from my rich parents a large plot of vacant land, and that you are my poor, landless neighbor. I offer you the following deal. You can work the land, doing all the hard labor of tilling, sowing, irrigating and harvesting. I'll pay you $1 a day for a year. After that, I'll sell the crop for $50,000. You decide this is your best available option, and so take the deal. Since you consent to this exchange, there's nothing morally problematic about it.

3. Do people deserve all they are able, and only what they are able, to get through free exchange?

If you say yes, you think that what people deserve is largely a matter of luck. Why? First, because only a tiny minority of the population is lucky enough to inherit wealth from their parents. (A fact lost on Mitt Romney, who famously advised America's youth to "take a shot, go for it, take a risk … borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.") Since giving money to your kids is just another example of free exchange, there's nothing wrong with the accumulation of wealth and privilege in the hands of the few. Second, people's capacities to produce goods and services in demand on the market is largely a function of the lottery of their birth: their genetic predispositions, their parents' education, the amount of race- and sex-based discrimination to which they're subjected, their access to health care and good education.

It's also a function of what the market happens to value at a particular time. Van Gogh, William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, Vermeer, Melville and Schubert all died broke. If you're a good Nozickian, you think that's what they deserved.

4. Are people under no obligation to do anything they don't freely want to do or freely commit themselves to doing?

If you say yes, then you think the only moral requirements are the ones we freely bring on ourselves ­ say, by making promises or contracts. Suppose I'm walking to the library and see a man drowning in the river. I decide that the pleasure I would get from saving his life wouldn't exceed the cost of getting wet and the delay. So I walk on by. Since I made no contract with the man, I am under no obligation to save him.

Most of us, I suspect, will find it difficult to say yes to all four of these questions. (Even Nozick, in "Anarchy, State, and Utopia", found it hard to say yes to Question 3.) In philosophical terms, we have a reductio ad absurdum. The Nozickian view implies what, from the perspective of common sense morality, is absurd: that a desperate person who sells her organs or body does so freely, that it's fine to pay someone a paltry sum while profiting hugely off their labor, that people deserve to get rich because of accidents of birth, that there's nothing wrong with walking by a drowning man. Thus Nozick's view must be wrong: justice is not simply the unfettered exercise of the free market. Free market "morality" isn't anything of the sort.

Some might object that these are extreme cases, and that all they show is that the market, to be fully moral, needs some tweaking. But to concede that there is more to freedom than consent, that there is such a thing as nonviolent exploitation, that people shouldn't be rewarded and punished for accidents of birth, that we have moral obligations that extend beyond those we contractually incur ­ this is to concede that the entire Nozickian edifice is structurally unsound. The proponent of free market morality has lost his foundations.

Why worry about the morally pernicious implications of Nozickianism? After all, I said that most Western societies remain Rawlsian in their organization, even if they are growing more Nozickian in their ideology. In the United States for example, there are legal prohibitions on what people can sell, a safety net to help those who suffer from really bad luck, and a civic ethos that prevents us from letting people drown. The first answer is, of course, that the material reality is being rapidly shaped by the ideology, as recent debates about welfare in the United States demonstrate.

The second is that most Western societies hardly constitute a Rawlsian Utopia. People might be legally prohibited from selling their organs, but that doesn't remedy the desperate circumstances that might compel them to do so. The law does not stop people from falling into poverty traps of borrowing and debt, from being exploited by debt settlement companies promising to help them escape those traps, or losing their homes after buying mortgages they can't afford to pay back. And there is certainly no prohibition against the mind-numbing and often humiliating menial work that poor people do in exchange for paltry wages from hugely rich companies. A swiftly eroding welfare state might offer the thinnest of safety nets to those who fall on hard times, but it does nothing to address the lack of social mobility caused by the dramatic rise in inequality. And while it might be thought poor form to walk by a drowning man, letting children go hungry is considered not only permissible, but as Senator Sessions said, "a moral issue." These facts might be not quite as ethically outraging as walking past a drowning man, but they, too, grate against our commonsense notions of fairness.

Rejecting the Nozickian worldview requires us to reflect on what justice really demands, rather than accepting the conventional wisdom that the market can take care of morality for us. If you remain a steadfast Nozickian, you have the option of biting the bullet (as philosophers like to say) and embracing the counterintuitive implications of your view. This would be at least more consistent than what we have today: an ideology that parades as moral common sense.


Amia Srinivasan is a fellow in philosophy at All Souls College, University of Oxford. She is an occasional contributor to The London Review of Books.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

ANS -- What If This “Man’s World” Was Redesigned for Women?

This is about urban planning.  It's a good article, fairly short.  The comments are interesting too.  Some guys say it's already true that women are favored over men.  The women disabuse them of that, sortof.  There are a couple of comments that add ideas on the topic of urban design. 
I've often felt that whoever trains urban planners either doesn't know what they are doing, or they go ahead and graduate students that never learned anything.  San Jose is especially difficult to get around in -- the signage is useless. 
Find it here:  

What If This "Man's World" Was Redesigned for Women?

What If This “Man’s World” Was Redesigned for  

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Life for women in the city is often exhausting and filled with anxiety. Simple acts of being in public spaces require forethought and planning. Whether it's a supermarket in London, a crowded market in Cairo, or riding the subway in New York, women must also remain aware of harassment and the threat of violence.  The more densely populated and poorer the city is, the greater these risks become. For most, these problems are chalked up to life in the big city.

But what if it doesn't have to be?

In the early 1990s, the city of Vienna, Austria made a commitment to create equal access to city resources for women and men. From everything ranging from education to healthcare, they created policies that ensured everyone was treated equally. This even included how the city itself was designed.

They started surveying how men and women went about their daily lives. The data showed that women often had much more complicated routines than men, often because they were tasked with tending to the needs of the entire family.  This was time consuming due to having to go to several destinations to complete tasks such as getting children to school, work, or food shopping – often with the goal of doing so before it got dark.

For women, consideration of their safety was common in every activity they undertook.

This realization led to a pilot program for a new kind of living space. They created the Women-Work-City, which was an apartment community focused on making women's lives easier. The apartment buildings were situated around opens spaces of grassy courtyards with plenty of room for children to play and their parents to keep an eye on them.  Public transportation was nearby, making getting to work and school much quicker. It even had an onsite kindergarten and pharmacy.

Over the next two decades, Vienna would continue to specifically consider the needs of women and children when designing the city. Sidewalks were made bigger, better lighting was installed and public transportation was redesigned. They even discovered that boys and girls used the parks differently. This led to a redesign of city parks, leading to increased use by everyone.

Yes, these changes were good for men, too.

San Antonio, Texas also spent a great deal of time in the 1990s doing surveys and studies as they expanded their city. Their research showed that the ability to live, work and play in proximity was of great importance. Furthermore, perceived safety was paramount.

This past September, the quarterly Urban Renaissance luncheon was held in San Antonio. The topic "Designing Downtown for Women" discussed how the downtown areas of cities could be improved by considering the needs, preferences and priorities of women. Keynote speaker Dave Feehan presented research that showed women make the overwhelming majority of retail and residential decisions, control (though not necessarily own) the majority of private wealth and are the majority of college graduates.

It only makes sense that the spaces which they occupy regularly work for them.

As he puts it, when designing downtown areas, "The experience economy outweighs the commodities economy."  This includes attention to details, like the cleanliness of public restrooms, the amount of shade in open spaces and the safety of parking areas.

Safety matters to women all over the world.

In 2010, the UN Women Global Safe Cities Initiative was launched with the purpose of advancing the global movement to make cities safer for women and girls. The focus in the five pilot cities ­ New Dehli, India; Cairo, Egypt; Kigali, Rwanda; Quito, Ecuador; and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – was to work with cities and organizations to develop concrete solutions to reduce sexual harassment and violence against women in public spaces. The program has expanded to additional cities ranging from Beirut to London, with help from organizations like UNICEF and UN-Habitat, which work with municipalities to create public spaces that are environmentally sustainable and safe for women and girls.

It is their belief that if you change the space, you can change the behavior.

The initiatives focus on awareness, communication, data collection and action. One of the key elements of their initiative is the direct involvement of women's groups in creating solutions.  Women are still a minority in the key areas of urban development, including architecture, city planning and civil engineering. These professions are overwhelmingly dominated by men, and there are even fewer women in decision making positions.

As officials in Vienna learned, a woman's perspective matters.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

ANS -- entry from Paul Krugman's blog

This was on Facebook, so I don't have a URL for it, but Andy Schmookler posted it, so it's trustworthy. 

Here's an entry from Paul Krugman's blog:

"Lies, Damned Lies, and Fox News

"The other day Sean Hannity featured some Real Americans telling tales of how they have been hurt by Obamacare. So Eric Stern, who used to work for Brian Schweitzer, had a bright idea: he actually called Hannity's guests, to get the details.

"Sure enough, the businessman who claimed that Obamacare was driving up his costs, forcing him to lay off workers, only has four employees ­ meaning that Obamacare has no effect whatsoever on his business. The two families complaining about soaring premiums haven't actually checked out what's on offer, and Stern estimates that they would in fact see major savings.

"You have to wonder about the mindset of people who go on national TV to complain about how they're suffering from a program based on nothing but what they think they heard somewhere. You might also wonder about what kind of alleged news show features such people without any check on their bona fides. But then again, consider the network."
The High Journalistic Standards of Fox News    Maxim: "Nev

Sunday, October 13, 2013


This is the first part of a very long article about the dangers of acetaminophen (Tylenol and it's generic twins). You may go to the site and read the rest of the long article if interested. 
The problem with this drug appears to be that the useful dose is very near to the level of the toxic dose -- much closer than for other drugs.  What that means is that if you take double the recommended amount -- as many people routinely do with other drugs like Ibuprofen or aspirin -- it can kill you.  Or even if you take just a little more than the recommended maximum dose.  Or if you take the recommended dose with more than three alcoholic drinks in you.  In Europe acetaminophen is the number one drug used for suicide. 
The question of what level of deaths is acceptable is only one question among many, because the drug company is very reluctant to put strong warnings out in public for fear it would cut into sales.  Then there are also questions about the latest warnings required by the FDA -- warnings that were recommended by their committee studying it 32 years ago.  The FDA basically replies "These things take time."
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By Jeff Gerth and T.Christian Miller, ProPublica, Sept. 20, 2013, 10:00 a.m. Design & Development: By Krista Kjellman Schmidt, Lena Groeger, Al Shaw

During the last decade, more than 1,500 Americans died after accidentally taking too much of a drug renowned for its safety: acetaminophen, one of the nation's most popular pain relievers.

Acetaminophen – the active ingredient in Tylenol – is considered safe when taken at recommended doses. Tens of millions of people use it weekly with no ill effect. But in larger amounts, especially in combination with alcohol, the drug can damage or even destroy the liver.

Major Takeaways

1 About 150 Americans die a year by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, federal data from the CDC shows.

2 Acetaminophen has a narrow safety margin: the dose that helps is close to the dose that can cause serious harm, according to the FDA.

3 The FDA has long been aware of studies showing the risks of acetaminophen. So has the maker of Tylenol, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

4 Over more than 30 years, the FDA has delayed or failed to adopt measures designed to reduce deaths and injuries from acetaminophen. The agency began a comprehensive review to set safety rules for acetaminophen in the 1970s, but still has not finished.

5 McNeil, the maker of Tylenol, has taken steps to protect consumers. But over more than three decades, the company has repeatedly opposed safety warnings, dosage restrictions and other measures meant to safeguard users of the drug.

Davy Baumle, a slender 12-year-old who loved to ride his dirt bike through the woods of southern Illinois, died from acetaminophen poisoning. So did tiny five-month-old Brianna Hutto. So did Marcus Trunk, a strapping 23-year-old construction worker from Philadelphia.

The toll does not have to be so high.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has long been aware of studies showing the risks of acetaminophen – in particular, that the margin between the amount that helps and the amount that can cause serious harm is smaller than for other pain relievers. So, too, has McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the unit of Johnson & Johnson that has built Tylenol into a billion-dollar brand and the leader in acetaminophen sales.

Yet federal regulators have delayed or failed to adopt measures designed to reduce deaths and injuries from acetaminophen overdose, which the agency calls a "persistent, important public health problem."

The FDA has repeatedly deferred decisions on consumer protections even when they were endorsed by the agency's own advisory committees, records show.

In 1977, an expert panel convened by the FDA issued urgently worded advice, saying it was "obligatory" to put a warning on the drug's label that it could cause "severe liver damage." After much debate, the FDA added the warning 32 years later. The panel's recommendation was part of a broader review to set safety rules for acetaminophen, which is still not finished.

Four years ago, another FDA panel backed a sweeping new set of proposals to bolster the safety of over-the-counter acetaminophen. The agency hasn't implemented them. Just last month, the FDA blew through another deadline.

Regulators in other developed countries, from Great Britain to Switzerland to New Zealand, have limited how much acetaminophen consumers can buy at one time or required it to be sold only by pharmacies. The FDA has placed no such limits on the drug in the U.S. Instead, it has continued to debate basic safety questions, such as what the maximum recommended daily dose should be.

Safety Delay
36 6 20 22 5 54
years months days hours minutes seconds

In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration appointed an expert panel to review the safety and efficacy of over-the-counter pain relievers, including acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The panel delivered their recommendations on April 5, 1977. At the time, the FDA estimated it would issue final regulations before the end of 1978. The agency has still not completed its work. This is how much time has passed since then. Find out more »
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For its part, McNeil has taken steps to protect consumers, most notably by helping to fund the development of an antidote to acetaminophen poisoning that has saved many lives.

But over more than three decades, the company repeatedly fought against safety warnings, dosage restrictions and other measures meant to safeguard users of the drug, according to company memos, court records, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with hundreds of regulatory, corporate and medical officials.

In the 1990s, McNeil tried to create a safer version of acetaminophen, an effort dubbed Project Protect. But after the initiative failed, the company kept its experiments confidential, even when the FDA inquired about the feasibility of developing such a drug.

Later, McNeil opposed even a modest government campaign to educate the public about acetaminophen's risks, in part because it would harm Tylenol sales.

All the while, it has marketed Tylenol's safety. Tylenol was the pain reliever "hospitals use most," one iconic ad said. The one "recommended by pediatricians," said another. "Safe, fast pain relief," its packages promised.

In written responses to questions for this story, as well as a pre-recorded statement  by its vice president for medical affairs, McNeil said it has always acted to ensure its products were used safely.

"McNeil takes acetaminophen overdose very seriously, which is why we have taken significant steps over the years to mitigate the risk," the company wrote. McNeil has engineered safety packaging and spent millions on research, education and poison control centers that advise people who have overdosed.

The company said that science on acetaminophen had evolved over time and that it had implemented safety measures accordingly. Most recently, it announced it will soon add red lettering to the caps of medicine bottles saying they contain acetaminophen and that users should read the label.

In several cases, after FDA advisors recommended the agency enact safety measures over McNeil's objections, the company adopted them before the agency forced it to do so. The company then said it was taking such steps voluntarily. McNeil also stressed that it has always followed FDA regulations.

McNeil objected to the thrust of questions from ProPublica and This American Life, saying they indicated "a clear bias" in favor of plaintiff's lawyers who are suing the company.

The company declined to answer questions about individual cases of death or injury. "Our hearts go out to those who have suffered harm from acetaminophen overdose, and to the families of those who lost their lives as a result," McNeil wrote in its statement.

FDA officials said the agency saw the benefits of keeping acetaminophen widely available as outweighing the "relatively rare" risk of liver damage or death. Some patients cannot tolerate drugs such as ibuprofen, and for them acetaminophen may be the best option, said one agency official.
article continues on site -- see above for link. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ANS -- How Talk Radio and Fox News Brainwashed My Dad

This is an interview with a film maker, who is making a documentary about her father being brainwashed by Rush Limbaugh.  It's pretty interesting.  And revealing. 
Bad word warning.
Find it here:   

AlterNet / By Jen Senko, Rory O'Connor
comments_image   333 COMMENTS

How Talk Radio and Fox News Brainwashed My Dad

A filmmaker's father came to believe the extreme right-wing lies of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative media mavens.
October 10, 2013 |  

Jen Senko is a filmmaker who watched in horror as her father slowly came to believe the extreme right-wing lies of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative media mavens. Now she's making a documentary about it called The Brainwashing of My Dad.

Senko's first documentary, Road Map Warrior Women, won recognition with several festival awards. Her most recent film, The Vanishing City, co-directed with Fiore DeRosa, exposes the economic policies that have made New York a city for the rich. The Vanishing City won Best Feature Documentary in the Williamsburg International Film Festival, Best Short Documentary in the Harlem International Film Festival, and Honorable Mention in the Los Angeles International Film Festival.

Rory O'Connor, a filmmaker and author whose works include the book, Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio, interviewed Senko about her film.

Rory O'Connor: Tell us about the origins of your film. When did you first notice your dad's 'brainwashing," and when did you determine to make a documentary film about it?

Jen Senko: I remember the first time I really noticed it. My dad picked me up from the bus station when I was visiting from New York. On the way home we passed a Hooters and he started complaining about the "attack" against Hooters by the establishment, and saying how silly it was and how it interfered with our freedom.

He was frighteningly angry­excited, argumentative, belligerent... I didn't understand why. I tried to change the subject and said something about all the SUVs I was seeing on the road­this was in the '80s, when they first came out. My dad had always been a "non-waster" and tightwad­anytime he got gas he marked it down in a little book to keep track of how much he was spending­so I thought he would agree. I was flabbergasted when he got even angrier and threatened to pull over and let me hitchhike the rest of the way home.

If you said anything that he would disagree with politically, it would trigger an extremely large reaction. For example, once on an online dating site, I specified, "No Republicans please." He found out about it somehow, called and left a phone message. He was sputtering, so mad he could hardly speak, and blurted out, "Don't ask me for help anymore." He stopped just short of disowning me.

ROC: Describe the specifics of your father's transformation. How did it happen? And why?

JS: When I was growing up, no one seemed particularly political. Both my parents were Democrats. Republicans were just other people. My father used to get to work in a car pool when we were growing up in West Long Branch, NJ. When he got a promotion, we moved to Maryland and then he had a long-distance solo drive to work. He started listening to talk radio to pass the time.

He didn't like to waste time so driving and listening to talk radio I'm sure seemed "educational" to him. It was Bob Grant. Bob Grant was a bombastic, rude, openly racist and sexist radio host. And very slowly, my dad began to change.

Then when he started listening to Rush Limbaugh, that was when I started getting worried. He hated Bill Clinton with a passion I thought was bordering on obsessive. As for why it happened, at this point I can only guess. Unlike my mother, he was easily influenced and seemed to respond to anything he thought was not fair or unjust. He was sort of na├»ve in a way­people would tell him a story and he would be a little gullible, because he had an open personality.

So when Rush Limbaugh told him that poor people and Mexicans and blacks and feminazis were to blame for well, everything, he got mad too and took it up as his cause. He would get super-angry and bite the middle of his tongue and look like he was going to explode.

ROC:How exactly did his behavior change?
JS: When I was growing up my dad seemed to love everybody. I never heard any kind of talk against any race or ethnicity. He was funny and goofy and talked to anybody....When I was in college I knew a lot of gays, and he was friendly and even gregarious and even thought them "cultured." He wasn't prejudiced at all. It wasn't until later that he underwent a radical change.

I remember one time in particular when we went to New York to go to Radio City Music Hall. A black homeless man asked him for money. My father called him sir and gave him money. That is imprinted on my memory. When my dad changed, he became obsessive. He got angrier. After he retired, he would sit in the kitchen and eat his lunch and listen to Rush Limbaugh for three full hours a day. God forbid you interrupt Rush. He tried to inject his political views into any conversation he had, with anybody. Around Christmas-time (not just on Christmas Day) he would be sure to shout "Merry Christmas" to anyone and everyone, because he believed that liberals were engaging in a war on Christmas.

He believed it when Rush Limbaugh told him that climate change is a hoax. He called Al Gore an "asshole" even after watching the entire An Inconvenient Truth­by then he could not be moved. He also would compliment smokers on smoking. When we would go to a restaurant and people sat outside to smoke, he would take a deep breath and exclaim how good it smelled.

This was because Rush Limbaugh told him that the scientists were lying about the findings about smoking­oh, and those greedy scientists just wanted funding money and that's why they were perpetrating this myth about climate change being caused by humans.  You couldn't argue with him. He was one angry, whirling, right-wing dervish. He even got mail from and gave money to the NRA though never owned a gun in his life. My mother found he wrote all these checks to various right-wing causes.

ROC:What are the forces that you see having changed your father and his behavior?

JS: Interesting that you ask that question because it is such a central component in my film.  I've been told that using the word "conspiracy" is not a good idea. But there were specific plans drawn up, some in secret, by members of the Republican elite to create a major change from the political direction the country was moving in (namely more progressive) to one with much more emphasis on business through, in large part, the media. Those forces turned into changes in the media and the language and framing of values and messages like "liberal media" being repeated over and over. They created scapegoats to blame, and produced a hostility within him towards other people that he felt should be making it on their own­no excuses! He became convinced that if they were suffering it was their own fault.

ROC:How can media habits actually have such a pronounced effect on people, to change them so radically?

JS: By media habits, I'll answer as if you mean listening or watching habits. In the film, Steve Rendell discusses the personal nature of talk radio. There is an intimate connection between the radio and the listener. As for the effect it has on people, I think any message told repeatedly has an effect on people. It works in advertising and it works in forming one's political views.

ROC:How has your father reacted to your proposed film? Is he supportive? Does he think you are part of the "liberal media"?

JS: My dad knows that I'm making a film about him. I'm always filming something. He's proud of me. We get along great now. I love him to pieces. And I won't give the film away but he is not the same person he was three years ago. My father has always loved me, but I think had this film been made during the time of his political obsession that love would have been greatly tested.

ROC:Are you hearing from other people in the same familial boat? How many?

JS: More than I could have ever imagined. The right-wing media noise machine has had a profound affect on lives of individuals, whether they listen to it or not.

ROC:Is this more a male phenomenon in your opinion? Is it more prevalent in any one group?

JS: It is more of a male phenomenon. Rush's audience is 72% men and most are white over the age of 65, and with Fox and other outlets, it's similar stats. However, I have met people across the board who get sucked into right-wing media outlets. It always surprises me.

You can somewhat understand the draw for white men. In the past, it was almost a guarantee that merely by being a white male one could assume a good job and a certain social status. Their roles in the world were turned upside-down during the civil rights era of the '60s and '70s. Men had very specific roles and suddenly they were being challenged by women and minorities. They either had to adapt or reinvent themselves or find a sympathetic voice that told them it wasn't their fault and there were groups to blame. And that anger, even though it's anger, is still passion. It provides a purpose and I believe anger can be addictive. It can be a rush.

ROC:Is there an antidote to this brainwashing? A cure?

JS: That's part of what my film is about. The answer is deprogramming by exposing lies, but part of the problem is how to get them to listen.

ROC:Is it really brainwashing or is that a metaphor, an exaggeration?

JS: That's a good question. And I'm not sure I can answer it one way or another. Perhaps some people think that brainwashing is an exaggeration, but I, and others, have seen profound and frightening changes in people they would never have imagined possible. What is brainwashing? In the '50s and '60s when there were red-scare movies like The Manchurian Candidate­those movies showed how someone could be led to act against their own beliefs and their own interests. My father voted against his own interests as do many of these Fox viewers and right-wing radio listeners. How is that different from the notion of brainwashing?

ROC:Aren't liberal opinion outfits, like MSNBC, guilty of much the same thing from the other side of the political spectrum?

JS: I think it is impossible not to have a bias in media. But, I also think there is a difference between facts and opinion. Right-wingers I know always challenge me with that question. And I answer it this way: I say MSNBC largely is a "tattletale." They talk about and try to expose the right's lies.

The second thing MSNBC does that Fox doesn't do is correct themselves when they make a mistake. They are, however, decidedly pro-administration and since they have a corporate media structure behind them they can't go too liberal. As Jeff Cohen would say, there's a very narrow debate in the news. You have extreme right, right and MSNBC is center-left. Although Chris Hayes can be pretty in your face and honest, Al Sharpton wouldn't say anything bad about the president.

ROC:Tell us about some of the people interviewed in your film, such as George Lakoff, Jeff Cohen, Edward Herman etc. Why did you choose them?

JS: Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky and the others made me aware that not only is there no so-called "liberal media," which I knew, but that all of the media is biased toward business.

ROC:Isn't all media a form of brainwashing in some sense?

JS: I don't think so. No, I think there are very different ways the media operates, and perhaps intent is part of that.
It's a very complex answer. Media can be a form of brainwashing depending on the viewer/listener. Most people who choose to ingest one type of media are going to get influenced by that media. Unless people read a lot on their own­and most people don't have time to­they will listen to and believe whatever is fed them. And that's easier to do when you have uneducated masses of people.

A less educated mass also serves the corporate purpose. Thus the push for charter schools, by the way. They can teach them what they want to teach them. There are also those who gravitate toward an authoritarian media who blame others for your troubles. If people aren't doing well in life, it gives them a passion to be angry and have someone else to blame, like poor people and minorities.

ROC:You say, "Documentarians are the new journalists." What does that mean? What happened to the "old" journalists? 
JS: Most journalists work for a corporate-owned media. That said, corporations have an agenda and like many corporations they want to keep costs down and provide "gains" for their shareholders. So they don't pay the journalist what they need to be paid in order to do a thorough job. And most importantly, a "thorough job" wouldn't serve their corporate interest anyway.

Though there are some great journalists who write for truly independent online publications­like AlterNet­documentarians now are also telling the stories in another medium that can possibly reach more people and with less outside influence. For instance, Josh Fox's Gasland films are super-important and that's why the right is going to try to disparage documentarians.

ROC:What are your hopes and goals for this film?

JS: Ha! Always, my hope is to help save the world in some way. In a way that I know how to and that is, to tell a personal story accompanied by facts and information that isn't out there and compiled. There are many books out there but we need film. It's more accessible to more people. In my wildest dreams I would hope that it becomes one of those "known" things that Fox News is Faux News and convinces people to vote against their own interests and hate anybody who doesn't think like they do. I would like for their jig to be up. And I would hope that liberals could learn a little something about framing and language, as the brilliant George Lakoff talks about. 

ROC:What is the status of your Kickstarter campaign and how can people find it?

JS: We did surpass the initial goal of $15,000. At the moment we are at around $26,000. I have stretch goals, which would enable us to get much further along in the film. As of Thursday, October 10 there will be 20 more days.

People can also choose to support the film for a tax deduction through WMM (Women Make Movies ).

ROC:What actions do you hope to drive viewers to take, if any?

JS: As I see Fox News being played in more and more doctors' offices, airports, lobbies of any sort, ask your doctor or whomever why they would choose to show such a divisive program, and ask them to please stop. My mom has done it. I have done it. It doesn't take that much time to do. Just politely complain and suggest they show something more neutral. That's just one among many things.

There's also a great organization called StopRush and they swarm targeted advertisers that advertise with Rush Limbaugh. And clamor for the Fairness Doctrine to be reinstated!

ROC: If you had 30 seconds to speak to Rush Limbaugh, what would you say?

JS: I guess I'd ask him a number of "why"s. Why do you do what you do? Is it the money? Do you believe what you say? Do you realize you have been a party to the destruction of families all across America by tearing them apart into "Dittoheads" versus non-Rushies?  How do you feel about yourself? Are you proud of yourself? Then I would call him a Fat Fuck (not that there's anything wrong with being fat).
Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor is now completing AlterNet's first-ever book, which is on the subject of right-wing radio talkers like O'Reilly, and will be available early in 2008. O'Connor also writes the Media Is A Plural blog.

ANS -- Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America

This article is over a year old, but I just found it.  By accident.  It's very good, if a bit depressing.  But it does help one to understand what is going on.  It's a bit long too, but read it anyway.  It's by Sara Robinson so you know it's good. 
Find it here:  

AlterNet / By Sara Robinson
comments_image   796 COMMENTS

Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America

America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?
June 28, 2012 |  

It's been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don't know is that they're also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.

Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

North versus South: Two Definitions of Liberty

Michael Lind first called out the existence of this conflict in his 2006 book, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics. He argued that much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite -- and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side was winning.

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige(the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they've done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.

Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush -- nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don't like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one -- and one that's been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.

Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility -- the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain "order," and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.

As described by Colin Woodard in American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, the elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados -- the younger sons of the British nobility who'd farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. Woodward described the culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC around to New Orleans this way:

It was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity....From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.

David Hackett Fischer, whose Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways In America informs both Lind's and Woodard's work, described just how deeply undemocratic the Southern aristocracy was, and still is. He documents how these elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. (Lind adds that they have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead?) Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure -- including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.

But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites' worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Communities had both the freedom and the duty to govern themselves as they wished (through town meetings and so on), to invest in their collective good, and to favor or punish individuals whose behavior enhanced or threatened the whole (historically, through community rewards such as elevation to positions of public authority and trust; or community punishments like shaming, shunning or banishing).

Individuals were expected to balance their personal needs and desires against the greater good of the collective -- and, occasionally, to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. (This is why the Puritan wealthy tended to dutifully pay their taxes, tithe in their churches and donate generously to create hospitals, parks and universities.) In return, the community had a solemn and inescapable moral duty to care for its sick, educate its young and provide for its needy -- the kind of support that maximizes each person's liberty to live in dignity and achieve his or her potential. A Yankee community that failed to provide such support brought shame upon itself. To this day, our progressive politics are deeply informed by this Puritan view of ordered liberty.

In the old South, on the other hand, the degree of liberty you enjoyed was a direct function of your God-given place in the social hierarchy. The higher your status, the more authority you had, and the more "liberty" you could exercise -- which meant, in practical terms, that you had the right to take more "liberties" with the lives, rights and property of other people. Like an English lord unfettered from the Magna Carta, nobody had the authority to tell a Southern gentleman what to do with resources under his control. In this model, that's what liberty is. If you don't have the freedom to rape, beat, torture, kill, enslave, or exploit your underlings (including your wife and children) with impunity -- or abuse the land, or enforce rules on others that you will never have to answer to yourself -- then you can't really call yourself a free man.

When a Southern conservative talks about "losing his liberty," the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control -- and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from -- is what he's really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can't help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they're willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule.

Once we understand the two different definitions of "liberty" at work here, a lot of other things suddenly make much more sense. We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights. The fervent belief among these elites that they should completely escape any legal or social accountability for any harm they cause. Their obsessive attention to where they fall in the status hierarchies. And, most of all -- the unremitting and unapologetic brutality with which they've defended these "liberties" across the length of their history.

When Southerners quote Patrick Henry -- "Give me liberty or give me death" -- what they're really demanding is the unquestioned, unrestrained right to turn their fellow citizens into supplicants and subjects. The Yankee elites have always known this -- and feared what would happen if that kind of aristocracy took control of the country. And that tension between these two very different views of what it means to be "elite" has inflected our history for over 400 years.

The Battle Between the Elites

Since shortly after the Revolution, the Yankee elites have worked hard to keep the upper hand on America's culture, economy and politics -- and much of our success as a nation rests on their success at keeping plantation culture sequestered in the South, and its scions largely away from the levers of power. If we have to have an elite -- and there's never been a society as complex as ours that didn't have some kind of upper class maintaining social order -- we're far better off in the hands of one that's essentially meritocratic, civic-minded and generally believes that it will do better when everybody else does better, too.

The Civil War was, at its core, a military battle between these two elites for the soul of the country. It pitted the more communalist, democratic and industrialized Northern vision of the American future against the hierarchical, aristocratic, agrarian Southern one. Though the Union won the war, the fundamental conflict at its root still hasn't been resolved to this day. (The current conservative culture war is the Civil War still being re-fought by other means.) After the war, the rise of Northern industrialists and the dominance of Northern universities and media ensured that subsequent generations of the American power elite continued to subscribe to the Northern worldview -- even when the individual leaders came from other parts of the country.

Ironically, though: it was that old Yankee commitment to national betterment that ultimately gave the Southern aristocracy its big chance to break out and go national. According to Lind, it was easy for the Northeast to hold onto cultural, political and economic power as long as all the country's major banks, businesses, universities, and industries were headquartered there. But the New Deal -- and, especially, the post-war interstate highways, dams, power grids, and other infrastructure investments that gave rise to the Sun Belt -- fatally loosened the Yankees' stranglehold on national power. The gleaming new cities of the South and West shifted the American population centers westward, unleashing new political and economic forces with real power to challenge the Yankee consensus. And because a vast number of these westward migrants came out of the South, the elites that rose along with these cities tended to hew to the old Southern code, and either tacitly or openly resist the moral imperatives of the Yankee canon. The soaring postwar fortunes of cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta fed that ancient Barbadian slaveholder model of power with plenty of room and resources to launch a fresh and unexpected 20th-century revival.

According to historian Darren Dochuk, the author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism, these post-war Southerners and Westerners drew their power from the new wealth provided by the defense, energy, real estate, and other economic booms in their regions. They also had a profound evangelical conviction, brought with them out of the South, that God wanted them to take America back from the Yankee liberals -- a conviction that expressed itself simultaneously in both the formation of the vast post-war evangelical churches (which were major disseminators of Southern culture around the country); and in their takeover of the GOP, starting with Barry Goldwater's campaign in 1964 and culminating with Ronald Reagan's election in 1980.

They countered Yankee hegemony by building their own universities, grooming their own leaders and creating their own media. By the 1990s, they were staging the RINO hunts that drove the last Republican moderates (almost all of them Yankees, by either geography or cultural background) and the meritocratic order they represented to total extinction within the GOP. A decade later, the Tea Party became the voice of the unleashed id of the old Southern order, bringing it forward into the 21st century with its full measure of selfishness, racism, superstition, and brutality intact.

Plantation America

From its origins in the fever swamps of the lowland south, the worldview of the old Southern aristocracy can now be found nationwide. Buttressed by the arguments of Ayn Rand -- who updated the ancient slaveholder ethic for the modern age -- it has been exported to every corner of the culture, infected most of our other elite communities and killed off all but the very last vestiges of noblesse oblige.

It's not an overstatement to say that we're now living in Plantation America. As Lind points out: to the horror of his Yankee father, George W. Bush proceeded to run the country exactly like Woodard's description of a Barbadian slavelord. And Barack Obama has done almost nothing to roll this victory back. We're now living in an America where rampant inequality is accepted, and even celebrated.

Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required.

The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy -- without ever being held to account.

The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude.

The military -- always a Southern-dominated institution -- sucks down 60% of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well.

Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Even liberal cities like Seattle are now home to the kind of local justice that used to be the hallmark of small-town Alabama sheriffs.

Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.

We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation -- in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.

Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government's job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.

The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren't just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.

As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we're no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we've always understood them. Instead, we're being treated like serfs on Massa's plantation -- and increasingly, we're being granted our liberties only at Massa's pleasure. Welcome to Plantation America.
Sara Robinson, MS, APF is a social futurist and the editor of AlterNet's Vision page. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to AlterNet's Vision newsletter for weekly updates.

ANS -- Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ Banned at New Mexico High School

a very short article, but if you read it, read the comments too, at least the long one from the person who knows the situation first hand.  It's the second one. 
Find it here:   

Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere' Banned at New Mexico High School

By SLJ on October 11, 2013 5 Comments

Neverwhere 185x300 Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ Neil Gaiman's dark urban fantasy novel Neverwhere has been removed from both the school library and the required reading list at Alamogordo (NM) High School this week following the complaint of one parent, who objected to its sexual innuendos and "harsh" language, according to a report by New Mexico's local KRQE news station.

The mother said she was shocked that her daughter was asked to read the book, and her complaints last week to the school board led to its removal, KRQE reported. According to KRQE, this is the first complaint that Alamogordo school officials have gotten about the book since it was added to the school's curriculum in 2004.

After hearing news of the ban, author Gaiman asked on Twitter: "Is anyone fighting back?"

Gaiman originally wrote Neverwhere as a BBC TV series, which aired in 1996, and adapted it the following year into a novel. It was recently broadcast as a radio play for the BBC's Radio 4.

In its original review of the book, Library Journal said, "Gaiman's gift for mixing the absurd with the frightful give this novel the feeling of a bedtime story with adult sophistication. Readers will find themselves as unable to escape this tale as the characters themselves. Highly recommended."


  1. [] Elizabeth Moon says: October 12, 2013 at 1:34 am
    It always amazes and angers me that one parent can get a book banned that has been in the library for years, being read without a problem, that other parents aren't bothered by…why does that one person have so much power? Granted, I read Neverwhere first as an adult–but had I read it in high school, it would not have done me any harm. (I read Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet in high school–on my own, not an assignment–and that one was…far more shocking than Neverwhere.)
    Libraries should be protected from these book ban bigots. Reply
    • [] Kathy Wallis says: October 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm
      I would like everyone to know that the teachers in the English Dept at Alamogordo HS do not agree with the knee jerk reaction of pulling Neverwhere from the Dept. library. It has been successful as a supplemental novel and since our goal is to get students engaged and encourage their thinking, this novel is a keeper ­ the students love it. The passage the parent is referring to is not graphic, but it is an adult type situation…a very briefly visited one.
      I am sorry our school administrators did not stand up and support the material the way we all would have expected them to do. Also, as much as we hate to expose anyone for not speaking the truth, this parent had publicly stated that the school was "forcing" her student to read the novel (not true), and she also stated that the school never offered her daughter an alternate selection when she objected to Neverwhere. This statement is one that we will vehemently deny. The mother is stating inaccurate comments publicly. I work with the teacher in question – a very capable and intelligent young woman that is an asset to the English Dept.- and she immediately provided an alternate novel to the student as soon as the mother made the first known objection to Gaiman's novel.
      We simply cannot stand for banning a book for hundreds of students this year and in the years to come because a single parent objected over one brief passage on ONE page. Making inaccurate comments about the teacher (whom the parent chose not to even meet, but publicly disrespected her and questioned her credentials in spite of that), saying we forced anyone to read a text she objected to, or stating that no alternative assignment was offered is absolutely false. Teachers are sensitive to the needs of their students.
      Our students have enjoyed Gaiman's novel for almost ten years, and it saddens us to think that our future students will not have the same opportunity.
      The teachers in the English Dept are opposed to any form of censorship. This situation is being handled incorrectly, it makes our school and our town appear as if we are fine with suspending the use of a book that is used by middle and high schools across the country and around the globe. We are not fine with it, and we want people to know that. Reply
      • [] Marie says: October 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm
        Bravo. *claps* Well said. Thank you for speaking out publicly about this. Reply
      • [] MaryEllen says: October 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm
        Well said!! I hope your administrators listen to you and reverse this stupid decision. Clearly this parent is engaging in some sort of vendetta and a clear message needs to be sent that publicly lying about the teacher and the policies will not be tolerated. Reply

Friday, October 04, 2013

ANS -- Arctic Sea Ice and Al Gore's "Prediction 2013"

This is a bit long but it is fascinating.  And important.  The Arctic sea ice is essentially gone.  We will be able to ship across it without an ice-breaker during summers from now on, and autumn, too, soon.  
The reason you have heard otherwise is that a thin film of fragile ice that doesn't slow down a ship looks like solid ice from satellite  photography, but it isn't the same. 
Find it here:   

Arctic Sea Ice and Al Gore's "Prediction 2013"

Friday, 04 October 2013 09:13 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | Opinion

Very small multiyear and first year sea ice flows in the Arctic Very small multiyear and first year sea ice flows in the Arctic Ocean. The area between the flows is mostly covered with new ice that is too weak to support a polar bear, but looks the same to a satellite as does solid ice. (Photo courtesy of Jessica K Robertson and the U.S. Geologic Survey.)

Predictably, the voices of denial are rising as Arctic sea ice melt season peaks and ranks only fifth-lowest ever. The clamor is being raised over Al Gore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech quote supposedly saying that Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013. 1 What Gore did or didn't say is beside the point: For the propagandists delivering this message, the objective is "cast doubt and discredit." From Gore's speech:

Last September 21 (2007), as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years. 2

And yes, the deniers cannot even add. Not only did Gore not say "by 2013," but it would be 2014 at the soonest. ... On to reality:

The Navy researcher that leads this "new study" team that the former vice president alludes to is Wieslaw Maslowski at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. The team's research was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Maslowski also did not say "by 2013" in his original research in 2007 or when it was republished in 2009. This grandstanding about sea ice and Gore, for whatever reason, is a huge and egregious deception. The actual prediction from Maslowski's 2009 publication is, "Autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016." 3

2013 0919mel 2 Even with the chaos of weather manipulating Arctic sea ice, it is easy to see the great downward trend. The image below is based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change modeling and National Snow and Ice Data Center data. The blue shaded area is the range of Arctic sea ice area coverage over time as Earth warms. The broad range represents the chaos of weather. Actual ice coverage any year could be as high or low as the shading in the blue. 4

The red line is actual satellite measurements of ice coverage and represents our climate reality that is some 70 years ahead of the models. 5 The chaos is much more apparent in the jagged nature of the yearly measurements. But sea ice area coverage reporting is inherently a messy way to represent the real world.

Wind can blow sea ice around and bunch it up or spread it out and make the two-dimensional picture appear different than what is actually happening. A better measure is ice volume.

The graphic "Annual Minimum Arctic Sea Ice Volume" even more clearly shows the collapse that is occurring as well as the last several years of data since Maslowksi published his papers. This work was done by the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington. It was funded by the NSF, NASA, NOAA and ONR. By determining ice volume rather than surface coverage, we have a much more accurate and stable picture of the way the Arctic is responding to warming.

2013 0919mel 3

The latest work from the European Space Agency's new CryoSat satellites maintains the rapid downward spiral. CryoSat went up in 2010 and has been providing the highest-resolution data yet on Arctic sea ice. 6

2013 0919mel 4

The three images above are from the winter maximum set in spring 2013. Because of ocean warming in the Arctic, the summer minimum ice thickness usually follows the trend of the winter maximum. It is fairly easy to see with the naked eye, the decline in the red shading of the thickest sea ice caries on the long-observed trend.

The Arctic is Already Functionally Ice-Free

It has happened, just as the scientists said it would happen. Only, like almost everything else in climate science, a functionally ice-free Arctic Ocean has happened a little bit ahead of the earliest prediction.

Arctic sea ice was first deemed "almost seasonally ice free" in summer 2010 by professor David Barber. Barber is professor of environment and geography, Canada's research chair in Arctic system science and director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg.

Dr. Barber has been searching for 200-foot thick multiyear Arctic sea ice in the Beaufort Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean that stretches for almost 1,000 miles along the coasts of Alaska and Canada.

For his research in summer 2010, he cruised through the Beaufort Sea in the ice breaker Amundsen and never did find that multiyear ice. What Barber's team did find was vastly different from what the satellites were telling them was there. They thought they would find 20- to 30-foot thick multiyear ice covering 7 percent to 9 percent of the Beaufort Sea.

Instead, they found 25 percent open water and very small remnant multiyear and first-year floes interspersed with thin new ice in between. Unfortunately, these satellite errors are not in our favor. The problem is because these conditions are new. They simply have not existed before, so there was no way to test for them and know that this sea icescape looks, to the eye of the satellite, exactly like a sea icescape that is thick and solid. 7

The ice the Amundsen encountered was so rotten that it did not impede the forward progress of the ship. What they found was hundreds of miles of what Barber called "rotten ice." This was 20-inch layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice. 8 This discovery came as a great surprise to this researcher as he cruised through the rotten ice of the Beaufort Sea at 14 miles per hour (the top speed of his vessel in open water is 15 miles per hour). The Amundsen was designed to break 1-meter thick sea ice (3.3 feet) at 3.4 miles per hour. The ice they found was so rotten that the Amundsen could break 19 to 26 feet of rotten multiyear ice at 5.7 miles per hour. 9

This fascinating tale was from summer 2010, remember. Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate; physics marches on. Northwest Passage exploration of this new millennia has left us with these quotes from Barber attesting to this brave new world we have created for ourselves:

"Ship navigation across the pole is imminent as the type of ice which resides there is no longer a barrier to [normal] ships in the late summer and fall," 10

"If you want to ship across the pole, you're concerned about multiyear sea ice. You're not concerned about this rotten stuff we we're doing 13 knots through. It's easy to navigate through. I would argue that we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now, because multiyear sea ice is the barrier to the use and development of the Arctic." 11

The recent record-breaking Arctic sea ice melt season has even greater significance if a few more details are understood. The 2007 record, which broke the recently set 2005 record by 22 percent, was considered a freak weather occurrence in the popular literature. This was because an unusual (for our old climate) weather system set up over the Arctic in summer 2007. Warmer-than normal-temperatures and high winds combined to reduce sea ice that year. The winds pushed ice up against Canada and out of the Arctic into the North Atlantic and down the Fram Straight to the east of Greenland. This weather system may or may not be unusual in our new climate.

However, the 2012 record is a different story. The 2012 record shattering comes after an "average" summer and the Barents and Kara Seas north of Russia were cooler than normal.

The past nine years have seen the lowest nine years of sea ice volume and extents ever recorded. Arctic sea ice truly is in collapse. You can see it yourself at the National Snow and Ice Data Center dynamic interactive sea ice graph. Click on each year of the record and watch the bottom fall out of the Arctic almost year after year.

After 170 years of searching for the Northwest Passage, it is almost open for business. Two Russian cargo ships made it across the top of Russia this summer without the aid of icebreakers.

But there is another piece of outlandish talk coming from conservative sources in reference to the sea ice situation that demonstrates the great lengths that they will go to, to do whatever it is that they think they are doing.

They are shouting that the Arctic has gained a record amount of sea ice this year over last. In climate science, this is about as embarrassing a statement as they come. But the public doesn't know this. They only know that their authority figures, and their authoritative sources, are the ones that they trust. This is the reason climate propaganda is so effective: blind trust.

Climate science reality however is another matter. When the record is doubly smashed as it was in 2012 and the next year is only the fifth-lowest, of course there will be a record increase year over year - It wouldn't be a record otherwise! The 2012 record shattered the 2007 record by 18 percent. The previous record (2007) shattered the record before that (2005) by 22 percent. So, why is such a large portion of the public taken in by such obvious disinformation?

It's their innocence. The vested interests' propaganda is so effective because the general public does not have the time or resources to remember the last record or do the math.

Now what do we do?  Whatever you do, do not get frightened at climate change. It is only pollution. The same voices that tell us that Al Gore is a fraud also tell us that the solutions to climate change will ruin our economies; it's a massive climate science conspiracy that climate change is a myth or that it won't be good for us. These people are confused.

Cornell and Stanford have published a plan for a fossil-fuel-free New York state by 2030. The plan seems big at $569 billion. But upon completion, by 2030, the savings from health and environmental issues (not inclusive of climate change impacts), plus the higher profit margin from alternative energy sources, will equal $114 billion per year. This pays off the capital investment in less than five years. And each year thereafter, savings and profits will be higher under an alternative energy infrastructure because under a fossil fuel energy infrastructure, environmental and health costs go up only as profits diminish because of rising fuel costs. 12

Don't get frightened; get mad. Get really mad. … Get motivated. Take action. Tell your political leaders what they need to do.


1 Sea ice free by 2013… CNS News, Wrong: Al Gore Predicted Arctic Summer Ice Could Disappear in 2013, September 13, 2013, first paragraph

2 In as little as 7 years … Gore's Nobel Acceptance Speech: Paragraph 13.

3 Autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016… Malsowski's 2009 publication of Arctic Sea Ice Modeling, FreshNor - The freshwater budget of the Nordic seas: Page 2, paragraph of narrative beneath the graphic

4 Arctic Sea Ice, Real Coverage… Stroeve et al., Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Decline Faster than Forecast, American Geophysical Letters, February 2006, Updated through 2013 by the author from National Snow and Ice Data Center data. * 2013 from September 16.

5 70 Years ahead of the models…

2013 0919mel 5

6 CryoSat European Space Agency, three years of highly accurate ice volume measurements

7 Not at all what they found… Summary. Barber, et. al., Perennial pack ice in the southern Beaufort Sea was not as it appeared in the summer of 2009, Geophysical Research letters, December 2009.

8 Rotten Ice discussion… Reuters, October 29, 2009, Multiyear Arctic ice is effectively gone, paragraph

9 Cruising through 26 feet of rotten ice at 24 kilometers per hour … University of Manitoba News Release, November 27, 2009, paragraph 5.

10 ibid… Ship navigation across the pole is imminent, paragraph 6.

11 If you want to ship across the pole… Reuters, October 29, 2009,  Multiyear Arctic ice is effectively gone ... paragraph 5.

12 A Fossil Fuel Free New York State by 2030. Melton, A Fossil Fuel-Free New York State by 2050,, May 26, 2013. Original paper: Jacobson et al.; Examining the feasibility of converting New York State's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight, Energy Policy 57 (2013) 585-601.

Read More:

October 10, 2010: Arctic Sea – Functionally Ice Free Now

October 1, 2012: SMASHED AGAIN! Arctic Sea Ice Melt Record
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton's new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and   Images copyright Bruce Melton 2012, except where referenced otherwise.

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