What’s the definition of poverty?

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An interesting article in the New Yorker taking a look at poverty:

RELATIVELY DEPRIVED: How poor is poor?

It poses some good questions, like:
1. Are the decades-old methods of measuring poverty levels still valid?
2. Can a family be considered poor when they have things like TVs, stereos, microwaves, etc?
3. How does poverty affect health?

Worth a read.

When politics runs education


This is what happens when politics gets its hands into deciding curriculum in schools:

Is Evolution Arkansas’s “Hidden” Curriculum

Apparently saying the word “evolution” in Arkansas is considered “suicide” for a teacher now. I feel so bad for the kids caught in the middle of this since the science education they’re getting is deteriorating. What else should you expect when you have science curriculum not being set by scientists? It would be like an Auto Workers Union trying to dictate what can be said at Sunday services at churches around the country.

Stewart vs. Liberal Hollywood

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Ever since reading reviews of the Oscars this has been jumping around in my head.

I’m surprised at the current backlash from some areas about how “liberal” Hollywood is. The claim artists are “out of touch” with reality. Stewart even poked fun at this during the Oscars.

But, when have artists not been liberal and somewhat “out of touch” with the common person? This backlash is mostly coming from the religious right now that they’ve got the balls to go after whoever they want, except that they’re now down to attacking their annoyances rather than what they believe is killing the country. Suddenly the mass media picks up on this and it seems like a huge story.

Anyways, I can just imagine the list of the religious right…

Destroy the enemies of the one true god:

  • Politicians who aren’t one of us – check
  • Gay people – check
  • Federal judges – check
  • Hollywood? – check
  • Canada
  • That guy who sleeps in the back of church during service
  • Up to you, fire at will

Messaging is important in foreign affairs

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By this point the people surrounding Bush must be utterly convinced they can say whatever they want and it becomes true. I think their hypocracy filter blew up before their first year in office ended.

Take a look at this:
Bush: Dubai ports storm hurts war on terror: President concerned about ‘message’ it sends to moderate Arab nations

Oh, wow, yes that’s true. It needs to be our first priority to ensure the Arab nations don’t get the wrong impression of the West. Hm, but I’m thinking there may be a better way to do that … how about not destroying one of their most populous countries, occupying it, and killing hundreds of thousands of people? Yeah, on second thought that could send a bad message…

Does any semblance of reality exist in US politics anymore?

Can religion make you smarter?

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Thought-provoking article/discussion over on Kuro5hin about possible biological reasons why religions are so attractive. The argument is based on medical research suggesting that the brain stops producing new cells when a person is stressed. If religions offer a way for people to become less stressed it encourages new growth, making people feel even better. So, this suggests that religions aren’t really the cause of the happiness but it’s a common side-effect.

Opiate of the Masses

Check it out, worth a read.

I hope Harper doesn’t admire like this guy

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During the election campaign it was clear that Harper and Ralph Klein are allies and it’s also clear that Harper likes what Klein has done with Alberta. It’s unclear to me how much Harper respects or likes him, but I sure hope he doesn’t at all, given this:

Klein sorry after throwing Grit booklet at page

Ralph got mad during a debate on health care and threw a book at a 17-year-old girl. She had been bringing the book to him, which he requested, from the Liberals at the meeting. He called the book garbage and threw it at her.

There’s some other tidbits in that article too. Apparently he showed up drunk at a homeless shelter one night and told the people there to go get jobs.

States or federal power

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An interesting case has been going on in US courts between the defense department and universities. The government added a condition to an education bill a while ago stating that if a school didn’t allow military recruiters access to their students they would have their federal funding withdrawn. Here’s the decision on the case:

SCOTUS Gets It Right on Military Recruiting

This kind of behaviour by the US federal government has interested me for a while. I’ve always thought the US was supposed to be setup so the states have more power than the federal government. That has obviously been reversing over the last several decades but what suprised me is how it’s happening. In many cases the federal government will institute policies like “States must either raise the drinking age to 21 or we will withdraw the federal portion of highway funding.” To me this has always seemed backhanded and must be at least border-line unconstitutional.

If the US decides it’s no longer important for states to have their own powers, that’s fine, but don’t do it in sketchy ways to get around existing laws. Get congress to change the laws. That hasn’t happened yet because no one would ever agree to that.

Jon Stewart and Bush

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I don’t know if I’ve ever watched Larry King Live before, but I did the other day because Jon Stewart was on. It was good, but at the beginning I think Jon was trying to be too sarcastic because Larry didn’t know how to deal with it.

One of Jon’s points, that he’s said many times before, is still good: “How bad do things have to get for people to finally turn on Bush?” Although, if any of these new polls showing his super-low approval rating can be believed, maybe it’s starting. But seriously, if you were to list out all the things he’s done badly it would read like a sketch comedy show:

“Hahaha, wouldn’t it be funny if a US president ever:

  • Invaded a country on intentionally fabricated evidence
  • Started secretly spying on his own citizens
  • Exposed an active undercover CIA operative as revenge against her husband
  • Lowered taxes for the rich while running massive deficits
  • Promised that the Iraq war would cost several billion dollars and after 3 years it’s already past 250
  • Forced scientists to not publish reports because it would refute their policy
  • Makes public statements encouraging the enemies in a war to attack his own troops
  • Ignored a massive hurricane threatening to wipe out a very vulnerable city
  • Got caught lying about skipping out on his national guard duty

Haha… gosh, good thing that couldn’t happen in reality.”

(Yes, I know there’s lots of context missing around those bullets, but that’s not the point, it’s a fictitious comedy show :)