Unconscious Bias is One Thing, Premeditated Another

Comparative examination of skulls, performed by anatomist artists Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer and Anders Vesalius became pseudo-science in the 19th century. Paul Broca (1824-80) compared skulls of men and other animals; Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1822) invented phrenology; and Samuel Morton (1799-1851) measured hundreds of human skulls, making erroneous judgments about cranial size, race and intelligence in Crania Americana. Prejudicial fallout lingered for decades. The 1800s not only saw America’s foremost expansion of slavery, but also rapid infusions of racial and ethnic minorities. To suppress them, especially newly ascendant African-Americans post-Civil War, Morton’s craniometric exercises built illusory ladders on which

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The Stage is Set for a Historic Reconciliation Bill

Afghanistan cost taxpayers over $2 trillion and counting, a meter continuously running because it includes veterans’ healthcare and unpaid interest on war-related borrowing. Considering results after two decades’ deployment, America’s pound-foolish effort to remake Afghanistan was just another interventionist march of folly. Even to a society habituated to yokes of debt, ranging from credit cards to mortgages; automobile to student loans, calling such sacrifice “investment” doesn’t wash. Neither does the $2.3 billion impact on America’s healthcare system, solely from hospitalizations of unvaccinated citizens in June and July. Further recalcitrance to get shots continues to overload ICUs in a perpetual motion

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If Incessant Economic Growth Serves US Corporate Interests, Externalities are Ignored

Travel anywhere worldwide, and whether Nike, MTV, GAP jeans or fast foods with accompanying health disorders, cravings for American products can be satisfied. US product proliferation via globalization is part of a conscious dissemination of Yankee attitudes oft-described as “cultural imperialism.” US corporations, wanting to cash-in on 95% of the world’s consumers overseas, have moved many operations abroad. Such US domination inevitably hurts local markets too small to compete against our politically inbred industries and financial systems. Even in the 19th century, you may recall, US fiscal and military coercion, dwarfed compared its gluttony today, forced Korea and Japan out

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A War We Couldn’t Win, But Should Have Better Managed

Late 2001, when 9 of 10 Americans supported Mideast invasion, I submitted work to Poets Against the War, a website anthology of anti-war poems with which 160 public readings were coordinated nationally. Running for Congress in 2008 and 2010, familiar with the region’s history, and studying analyses by Col. Andrew Bacevich (RET) and other experts, I considered the Afghan War unwinnable. I thusly advocated for complete, urgent, but orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops, military contractors and collaborators, who might be targeted for Taliban reprisals. When that and other position statements were archived in the Library of Congress, BBC News took

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High School History Remains Diplomatic Cherry-Picking

American history taught in high schools today remains diplomatic cherry-picking. Often omitted are dark sides of manifest destiny’s “divine sanctioning” on which U.S. expansionism rests. Except for the Seven Years’ (i.e. “French and Indian”) War fought for global primacy between France and Britain in North America (1754-63), little else between pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock (1620) and 1776 is accentuated. King Philip’s War between New England colonists and Mohegan allies against coalitions of Wampanoag, Narragansett and other tribes led by Metacomet (aka “King Philip”) is one such sacrifice to time and textbook size. Another is the Pequot War (1636-38) and

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More Pervasive than the Delta Variant is the Poor Judgement That’s Spread it

More pervasive than the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is America’s poor judgment that’s spread it. Despite heroic attempts by scientists, vaccine producers and hospital staffs to limit transmission, irresponsible governors and vax-resisters are oases in the desert for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate and evolve. The 3 COVID vaccines FDA’s made available – Moderna, Pfizer; Johnson & Johnson – have proven efficacy against all variants now circulating in the country, including Delta. But inoculations are lagging, and because Delta is 1,000 times more transmissible than D614G, 95 percent of patients treated in hospitals today for COVID infections are unvaccinated. Vaccine avoidance, if unabated,

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Avarice, not Pride, Precedes the Fall.

With inflation uncomfortably high, climate change causing Northern Hemisphere disasters and the Delta variant undermining economies here and abroad, an indecisive Federal Reserve Board scheduled meetings this week to rethink its ultra-low interest rates. Policymakers considered putting the brakes on a $120 billion-a-month bond-buying spree designed to keep long-term lending rates miniscule. As usual, the Fed’s intention was to incentivize borrowing, spending and debt-accumulation during the COVID crisis. This comes at a time experts insist the U.S. economy is gradually recovering from post-pandemic recession and jobs, ostensibly, are on the upswing. But a bold new era has dawned in America’s

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Science, Above All, Should be the Guiding Principle in which we Unify and Trust

Science has unparalleled potency validating facts and deriving truths because its well-defined methods makes reality tangible. Where philosophy relies solely on logic, reason and thought experiments, science primarily collects data through empiricism ─ testing, measuring and compiling evidence obtained from direct observation. Science is thusly independent of belief.  It assumes hypotheses under investigation are false until rigorously proven. And standards for rejecting “null hypotheses” are high; only 95-99 percent statistical confidence bounds give assurances correlations aren’t chance. Non-reproducible single occurrences are valueless to scientists. Stray contradictory claims, oft-repeated conspiracy theories, and targeted disinformation won’t induce rejections of theories or hypotheses

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‘Disaster Capitalism’ is as Old as Capitalism Itself

The idea crises can be used to disorient, manipulate history, and cultivate societal change is nothing new. “Disaster capitalism” is as old as capitalism itself. Baron Rothschild, 18th century British nobleman whose banking family loaned money (at huge interest) to warring factions, including Lincoln’s Federals and Davis’ Confederacy, put it bluntly. “The time to buy,” he said. “Is when there’s blood in the streets.” Taking the same robber baron approach, Wall Street, U.S. CEOs and industrialists routinely hedge bets by investing in crises and exploiting despair. In his last presidential address, Dwight Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial-political complex and risks

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Insect Populations in Decline are Yet Another Invitation to Disaster

In the early 20th century, when asked if anything about “God” could be concluded from studying natural history, scientific polymath J.B.S. Haldane famously responded “he has an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Currently, more than 380,000 catalogued species of beetles in order Coleoptera make it the largest subset of the most species-rich and successful class of animals on Earth ─ insects. This may be the Anthropocene epoch because of our negative impacts on the planet, but an estimated 10 quintillion insects may inhabit the biosphere at any given time. In fact, however much it affronts our human arrogance, causing us to

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Pandemic Issues Created Fertile Ground for Surge in Gun Violence

Crime is the term we humans use to describe unfair competition, deception, theft or threats of violence to deprive someone of something to which they’re entitled. Other animals steal, philander, commit acts of aggression and hoodwink one another as humans do. Phototropism enables hardy plants to flourish while others, beneath their canopy, starve for sunlight. Vast adaptive repertoires for concealment, enticement and mimicry fill ethological textbooks, making natural selection and co-evolution (to borrow P.T. Barnum’s and Richard Dawkins’ phrasing) The Greatest Show on Earth. Most other animals ─ mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish primarily ─ to solve territorial or

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Pandemic May Have Enabled Americans to Distinguish Between Glitter and Gold.

Nations are doomed when existential threats, moral imperatives and self-preservation become culture wars. In America, we could have treated COVID vaccinations, accurate depictions of U.S. history in schools and mitigating climate change as calls to greatness, staying logically and factually centered and united. Instead, nonconformist radicals and cultists broke ranks. Hyper-partisan dissociation replaced science and fundamental tenets of mutual protection and public safety. Example: how do I stay alive and protect others during a pandemic? With over 2 billion doses of sera successfully administered in 212 countries and territories around the world, those “politically red” among us still resist shots

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21st Century Economies are Hamstrung by 20th Century Infrastructures

In eight years, this is probably my fourth column focused on America’s deteriorating infrastructure with little done nationally or statewide to address the ever-growing problem. Unsafe, outmoded electrical grids, dams, tunnels, bridges and highways need immediate attention. Congested airports, seaports, truncated internet and railway lines demand sweeping plans for modernization, expansion and hardenings against cyber-attacks. Leaking and overwhelmed sewer lines and drinking water mains poison our cities with lead and other contaminants. Still, denial and hyper-partisan deadlocks between major parties kick the infrastructure can down the road. In 2016, Donald Trump pledged a $1 trillion national infrastructure program, delivering nothing.

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Two Hundred Years Ago, Deposed Autocrats Were Banished…

Two hundred years ago, deposed autocrats were banished to prevent their causing harm.Forced to abdicate his throne April 11, 1814 by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, NapoleonBonaparte was taken from Paris to Elba, largest spit of land in the Tuscan Archipelago.Allowed to retain his emperor’s title, Napoleon’s letters, published in 1954, revealed hiscolossal conceit, referring to handfuls of marines as his “Guard” and a few small boatshis “navy.” Months later, onboard Inconstant, he was ferried back to the mainland, wherehe gathered supporters for another European conquest. Elba wasn’t isolated enough tomake his earlier exile stick. Declared outlaw by the Congress of

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On Wuhan and COVID-19

Because Donald Trump repeatedly used China to deflect criticisms of his own pandemic errors, conspiracy theorists abound. To them, a biosecurity-level 4 facility in Wuhan, where COVID first emerged, is too coincidental, even though the mission of the laboratory is to prevent zoonotic transmissions of potentially deadly diseases from other animals to us. As a bsl-4 lab, Wuhan’s Institute of Virology has high security clearance to genetically map and identify airborne pathogens for which vaccines have yet to be developed. If only to exorcize political demons here and abroad, Wuhan and the WIV should be epicenters of investigations into the

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A linear, Disposable Economy Designed to Generate Waste

The fundamental equation in thermodynamics for predicting spontaneous reactions and equilibrium in biological and chemical processes is G = H – TS. That is, energy available to do work or “Gibbs free energy” (G) equals “enthalpy” or the heat of the reaction (H) minus temperature (T) times (S) the degree of systemic disorder or “entropy.” The relationship of Gibbs free energy to enthalpy, entropy and temperature measures the inefficiency of energy transfers and transformations in the universe. When energy changes from one form to another, entropy (i.e. disorder or chaos) inevitably increases in closed systems. Energy lost by natural systems

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Military Spending Goes Unchallenged, as Fiscal Conservatives Grouse About Lesser Costs

Values and prevailing attitudes of America’s big three service branches are reflected in their military academies’ chapels. West Point’s grey stone gothic exudes permanence, immovably connected to the land, anchored atop the same basalt bluffs forming nearby Hudson River Palisades. The Navy’s chapel in Annapolis is much more ornate, its dome inspired by Beaux-Arts architecture with lots of interior marble and brass. The Air Force Academy’s cadet chapel, tellingly, is intimidating. Seventeen leak-prone spires of shiny aluminum, glass and steel project skyward. Their jagged rows resemble Nike-Hercules and Ajax missiles emergent from silos ready to launch, a high-tech, razor-sharp shredding

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Progressive Taxation Can Help, but Taxing Wealth is the Ultimate Solution

Needs for infrastructure modernization and hardenings against “ransomware” are stark. Last week’s cyber attack by Russian gang DarkSide shut down Colonial Pipeline’s conduits from Texas to New Jersey, interrupting 2.5 million barrels daily flow of gasoline and other fuels. That’s 45 percent of East Coast supplies, more an annoyance than an obstacle but for predictable panic buying. Instigated by social media disinformation, people waited in gas lines to fill guzzler SUVs and pickups the way they hoarded toilet paper last year. DarkSide’s stated purpose is capitalistic, not ideological, interested only in extorting money, not “creating unrest.” Evidence Putin or other

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A Permanently Altered Society

Without question climate change and the pandemic have permanently altered society. At some point, if we approach 85 to 90 percent herd immunity (an unlikely scenario in the U.S. given its intellectual and vaccine resistant laxities) mask-wearing might become an elective again, even in crowded venues. As COVID cases decline, however, were wisdom and ethics heritable memes in our culture, we’d still be donning masks in highly infectious settings, such as theaters and bars, sports arenas, public transit, grocery and department stores, hospitals and nursing homes. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but Americans should by now be attuned

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Righteous Stupidity is now more Harmful than Wickedness

Luckily, in the 1950s, fostering knowledge was a promotional hook luring parents into stores. Drugstores sold Classics Illustrated and, around 1959, grocers began selling weekly/bi-weekly installments of reference books for students. Among them were Golden Book’s Encyclopedia, its subsequent Home and High School Encyclopedia and an Encyclopedia of Natural Science. To say they were transformative is understatement. My parents shopped at the participating First National Store, and each week I couldn’t wait to pick the latest Golden Book out of its bag. The introductory volume, covering “aardvark to army,” sold for 49 cents. I was age seven. As I turned

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Considering the Supreme Court

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) usually argued for lengths of elected service determined by the people. If constituents wanted to re-elect the same “public servant” time and time again, and he (or she) received enough ballots, Franklin didn’t object, even if tenures of presidents were long. When it came to appointing judges, however, Franklin adamantly argued for a Scottish-style legal system where lawyers, not holders of high office, designated judges. James Wilson (1742-1798), who signed both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution before becoming a Supreme Court Justice himself, strongly disagreed. Wilson favored court appointments by authorized individuals, feeling collectives of peers

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Our Duty is to Recognize Gaps Between the Idealized and Reality…and to Close Them

It should not have taken AAPI rallies, spa shootings in Georgia, and sidewalk beatings of elderly Chinese to draw our attention to new and savage synergies of resentment and violence against Asian Americans. Coactive xenophobic elements were everywhere. For over a year, people of Asian descent and Pacific Islanders endured pandemic scapegoating and slander, suffering nearly 4,000 reported hate crimes nationwide. Most undoubtedly were instigated by Trump calling SARS-CoV-2 “the Chinese virus,” emboldened racists reiterating his “kung flu” slur, and continua of flagrant name calling and condescension online. When asked about motives for the March 16th murders in Atlanta, local

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It’s About Time CEOs Assumed Such Progressive Mantles as Upholding Voters’ Rights

A spate of voting restrictions, disproportionately and negatively impacting people of color, has reemerged in the South. In Florida, Republicans are plotting to constrict mail-in voting, even eliminating drop boxes, proven helpful and secure in 2020. In Arizona and Texas, Republicans hope to narrow ballot submission times, dropping names from early-voting lists if a citizen votes less often. The first salvo, however, of what President Biden calls “21st century Jim Crow” was recently fired in Georgia. Advocates call their new law, which suspiciously looks like voter suppression, a necessary prevention of fraud. Maybe Georgia’s intentions are good, but one has

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Americans Unflinchingly Repeat the Same Mistakes

EU citizens are astonished that the world’s most powerful, yet counterintuitive nation can be so logically and socially incoherent, that Americans unflinchingly repeat the same mistakes responsible for past surges of COVID-19. Reopening before herd immunity’s attained, riotous spring-breakers, and inconsistent mask-wearing and social distancing support their conundrum. Super-spreader events and anti-vaccination rants convince the rest of the world that Americans care little about others and even less about themselves. With 600,000 U.S. pandemic deaths imminent, words like “fragile” and “heedless” keep resonating. Europeans point to the Trump administration’s restrained pandemic response, demonstrators clamoring to “open up,” and Dr. Birx’

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‘Extremism in Defense of Liberty’ if Devoid of Truth and Ethics, is Definitely a Vice.

Homegrown terrorism keeps metastasizing, spreading through America’s lymphatic and cardiovascular systems as rightwing radio, social media and television. Faced with our greatest domestic challenge since the Civil War, finding solutions for combating QAnon, neo-Nazi white supremacist groups and anti-government militias is not unlike curtailing Boko Haram, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban. Limit their outreach and growth, and determine what makes extremist propaganda so alluring: a tall order given that American law enforcement is limited by freedom-of-speech. As a result, anything the Biden administration does to mitigate domestic terrorism will reinforce narratives of politically-motivated censorship. Thusly, without accompanying moral clarity, liberty and

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Our Infrastructure Can’t Withstand 21st Century Challenges

Three years ago, as temperatures in Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart, Tasmania topped 117º F, Australian roads melted and buckled like cardboard suitcases. Last month, the fragility of America’s electrical grid became apparent when Texas and the Deep South experienced severe winter storms, at least by Dixieland standards. Resulting power outages and water main bursts served notice how, in a light-flicker, industrialized nations, with infrastructures ill-equipped for climate change, turn Stone Age. Because Lone Star utilities failed to use low-viscosity, synthetic lubricants in wind turbines, as troubleshooters do up north, propellers froze. Instruments at nuclear and coal-fired power plants iced over

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Half-Earth Gives the “tree of life” at Least a Fighting Chance

Saved on my old Dell, CD-RWs and, more recently, a flash drive as failsafe is a 660-page tome I’ve been writing for years. Referenced to the point of overkill, it’s a heavily-cited compilation of environmental ethics and moral philosophy, delving into humanity’s destructive bent. I began writing it the first day I retired, over a decade ago. Although back-burnered in recent years, I could easily add another six or seven hundred pages. Surely, as Texas and Mississippi lift mask mandates, I’d be remiss not to include a chapter on stupidity prolonging the pandemic. But, for any realistic chance at publication,

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Connecticut Revenues Depend on Hartford’s Ability to Adjust

COVID-19 and anthropogenic climate change are creating new social environments to which economies must adapt. Connecticut’s revenue stream will depend on Hartford’s ability to adjust, especially through green energy job creation. That was particularly difficult during the Trump administration because the former president relentlessly dismantled institutions, flouted rules and degraded the electoral process. Because capitalism, with all its faults, still depends on honoring contracts, America’s oligarchs weren’t about to let that happen. Knowing stability, not strife, predictably boosts profits, blue-chip companies are halting campaign donations to members of Congress who challenged 2020’s election. Corporations, however, will gladly cut workforces to

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‘Reverence for All Life, Can Take us Out of Echo Chambers’

When species diversify by exploring new ecological niches, passing along novel behaviors, acquired knowledge and distinctive anatomical traits, we biologists call that adaptive radiation. Culture is the passing from generation to generation of learned and shared behaviors. Units for carrying such ideas, symbols or practices from mind to mind via speech, writing, rituals or other imitable ways are memes. Like genes in biological evolution, they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures. With so much rapidly transmissible misinformation, distortion of fact and conspiracy mongering, it’s time we Americans stepped up to the plate, pined less for the old, dysfunctional “normal”

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Don’t Give in to ‘Triangulating’ China

Next February marks 50 years since President Nixon and First Lady Pat visited the People’s Republic of China and, in an effort to underpin peace and thaw Sino-American relations, met with Mao Zedong. Perhaps no diplomatic overture in history has been as transformative or bold, nor could anyone but Nixon have pulled it off. His unassailable reputation as anti-Communist hardliner made him immune to criticism from anyone espousing conservative values. Yet Nixon, born in a Yorba Linda, California farmhouse, was a self-proclaimed “moderate reformer.” He revolutionized foreign relations, curtailed the Cold War, reduced nuclear and biological weapons, set cornerstones of

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