A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Contact information

You can contact me...

By Phone:


By E-mail:


By U.S. Mail:

Alan Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Please note: FaceBook "deactivated" my account so I can no longer be reached there.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why Malcolm X Should Be Recognized in Selma This Weekend

Why Malcolm X Should Be Recognized in Selma This Weekend

Malcolm galvanized activists—and met with Coretta Scott King—when MLK was jailed and Bloody Sunday was on the horizon. His life, his teachings and his assassination were also stirring on that bridge in Selma 50 years ago.

Malcolm X speaks in Selma, Ala., in 1965
The 50th anniversary of the assassination of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) came and went on Feb. 21 of this year. And just as in other years when the date of Malcolm’s assassination came around, his name trended for a few hours and then the stifling silence rolled back in, erasing his name from the social media landscape almost as quickly as it had re-emerged.

This year the occasion didn’t go completely unacknowledged, and some would even say that Malcolm was recognized in all the ways that mattered. There was massive coverage of the occasionright here at The Root, as well as other sites geared to black audiences. There was a CNN specialthat gave us a glimpse into the last moments of Malcolm’s life via the people closest to him that day. And the Shabazz Center organized a spectacular program in his honor—with a diversity in the ethnic, racial, religious and cultural DNA of the crowd in attendance that was a powerful reflection of the man himself.

But we need to do more to remember Malcolm. And we could do more this weekend, when all eyes turn to Selma, Ala., to recognize the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” massacre that took place on March 7, 1965, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Malcolm’s presence in Selma on Feb. 4, 1965, 17 days before he was assassinated, is not often talked about. Martin Luther King Jr. was in jail in Selma at the time, and Malcolm was invited by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to make it plain for the young civil rights activists as only he could.

Speaking from behind a podium at Brown Chapel AME Church, Malcolm compared the “house Negro” and the “field Negro” and talked about the importance of not becoming complacent in “massa’s house” or comfortable with the status of being an oppressed people. Even before making the trip down South, and after seeing King get knocked down by racists on television that January,Malcolm had written to George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party, and told him that the days of turning the other cheek were over.

After being told that Malcolm had addressed the crowd that day in Selma, Coretta Scott King said that she was asked by King’s aide Andrew Young—who went on to serve as a congressman, mayor of Atlanta and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—to calm the crowd, but she refused. Instead, Coretta Scott King had a brief heart-to-heart conversation with Malcolm that changed her perception of him.

In Scott King’s 1988 Eyes on the Prize II interview with Jackie Shearer, she said the following about Malcolm:

He leaned over and said to me, ah, “Mrs. King, I want you to tell your husband that I had planned to visit him in jail here in Selma, but I won’t be able to do it now. I have to go back to New York, ah, because I, I have to attend a conference in Europe, an African student conference, and I want you to say to him that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job more difficult, but I thought that if the white people understood what the alternative was that they would be more inclined to listen to your husband. And so that’s why I came.” ... And of course within about a couple weeks or more he was assassinated, and it affected me very deeply ... for days I had this pain, almost like this feeling in my chest, a feeling of depression, and, ah, just feeling as if, ah, I had lost someone very dear to me, and I, you know, I couldn’t quite understand, but then I began to realize, ah, I guess what an impact he had made on me in that very short period of time in knowing him.

Perhaps most importantly, Scott King said that she believed that Malcolm X would have been a “tremendous bridge” and that he and King would eventually have been unified in purpose: “I think if he had lived, ah, and if the two had lived ... I am sure that at some point they would have come closer together and would have been a very strong force in the total struggle for liberation and self-determination of black people in our society.”

That moment is now.

The movements for which King gave his life, and the fight for human rights for which Malcolm X gave his, have merged. Key pieces of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have been dismantled. Police officers are gunning down unarmed black men and women and rarely face repercussions. Politicians tap-dance during election season, but it’s going to take more than pretty words and political pandering to sway today’s activists—no matter how many of them show up in Selma this weekend to march.

During #MX50Forever, Democratic New York state Sen. James Sanders said that the spirit of Malcolm X is everywhere, flowing freely through the #BlackLivesMatter movement. “I saw him in Staten Island; I saw him in Ferguson. Anytime a young person does something to rebel, Malcolm is alive,” Sanders said.

A month before the pivotal attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Malcolm said to that intent crowd in Selma:

I pray that God will bless you in everything that you do ... I pray that all the fear that has ever been in your heart will be taken out, and when you look at that man, if you know he’s nothing but a coward, you won’t fear him. If he wasn’t a coward, he wouldn’t gang up on you. He wouldn’t need to sneak around here. This is how they function. They function in mobs—that’s a coward. They put on a sheet so you won’t know who they are—that’s a coward. No! The time will come when that sheet will be ripped off. If the federal government doesn’t take it off, we’ll take it off.

Whether or not it’s ever said, the spirit of Malcolm X—his life, his teachings, his assassination—was also stirring on that bridge in Selma on a bloody Sunday in 1965. And it’s only right that he be recognized.

Kirsten West Savali is a cultural critic and senior writer for The Root, where she explores the intersections of race, gender, politics and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus proposes: "Principles for Trade: A Model for Global Progress"... but is it just more idle talk and hypocrisy intended to stave off grassroots and rank-and-file action?

Like most nice-sounding documents we get from the Democrats nowadays these are mere words from these Democrats hiding behind a progressive label who know full well these words will be ignored by the majority of those in the House and Senate; and the president--- Obama--- who they all they support even though Obama is carrying out Wall Streets thoroughly reactionary, warmongering agenda: austerity here at home to pay for Wall Street's very profitable dirty wars.

This statement in calling for the enforcement of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and workers' rights is especially hypocritical since not one member of the "Progressive Caucus" has ever called for the repeal of "At-Will Employment" legislation, the most heinously repressive anti-worker, anti-democratic legislation intended to thwart and stymie union organizing. Even the "Communist Control Act of 1954" authored by the great "liberal" Hubert H. Humphrey does not come close to the reactionary impact of "At-Will Employment" legislation which imposes silence on the entire working class because employers are provided the freedom to fire any worker--- including many workers employed under the "protection" of union contracts--- provided these employers don't state a reason for firing employees.

Even though not one single member of the Congressional "Progressive Caucus" has had the courage to stand in opposition to these thoroughly reactionary "At-Will Employment" laws, they hypocritically refer to the United States as some kind of bastion in support of human rights and human decency when nothing could be further from the truth as a combination of "At-Will Employment," the Taft-Hartley Act and the Communist Control Act of 1954 attest to; where, in what country, can one find more reactionary, repressive and undemocratic legislation in violation of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights and in complete violation of the intent of the United Nations' Universal Declarationof Human Rights?

As good as such statements like this “Principles for Trade: A Model for Global Progress” sound, the words are meaningless until these members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus take the lead in repealing "At-Will Employment" legislation, the Taft-Hartley Act and the Communist Control Act of 1954.

The combination of these repressive and reactionary measures assures workers have had no voice in the decision-making process in their places of employment, in the communities where workers reside and in the halls of Congress and that workers will have no voice in the future... including when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

How can rank-and-file workers challenge the Wall Street agenda when it comes to trade policies and legislation when they can be fired the minute they open their mouths voicing opinions their employers do not approve of?

How can workers defend their rights and their livelihoods and their jobs when by voicing their opinions and concerns on these very matters they risk losing the very jobs these politicians hypocritically claim to be interested in protecting?

There has been no legislation proposed by these members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the Basic Income Guarantee nor for a Full Employment Act which makes it mandatory for the president and Congress to attain and maintain full employment.

We get more words with no legislative action to back up the nice sounding words.

Check out what the Congressional Progressive Caucus has to
say about trade and human rights keeping in mind their hypocrisy:


When one speaks out and speaks up on controversial issues you can expect to be attacked by the opposition...

But, do you ever wonder who some of the people attacking you are and who they work for and represent?

Well, I always wondered who this prick Rick Mons is who has gone around for years bashing, defaming, libeling and slandering me.

Mons refuses to publicly debate me.

I challenged Rick Mons on many occasions to state who he works for and he refused to declare who he works for.

Come to find out, Mons works for the management Enbridge Pipeline.

So much for Mons being the "concerned citizen" he claims to be.

Mons is nothing but a corporate shill for Wall Street.

Mons used this corporate dominated outfit passing itself off as promoting "democracy," e-democracy, to attack me and then he used his corporate muscle to get me banned from e-democracy when I attempted to counter his slander and lies. All the while posing as a "concerned citizen" interested in promoting democracy.

Rick Mons--- one more corporate shill and hypocrite.

Rick Mons
Works at ProSource Technology
Attended Drake University
Lives in Shoreview, MN
  • ProSource Technology
    Land Agent,
    Assigned to represent Enbridge Energy in the negotiation of pipeline right-of-way access, construction land use, payments for construction damage, etc.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Basic Income Guarantee... a BIG idea.

I just received this e-mail you can read below. I don't know anything about the organization other than what you are able to read here; although I know a couple of the people involved.

I'm glad to see people working on this idea first advanced here in the United States by the great citizen-patriot-revolutionary Thomas Paine.

In the year 2000, political leaders from around the world signed on to a commitment to end poverty in fifteen years... here we are fifteen years later and poverty is getting worse instead of being alleviated and ended.

This is the richest country in the world and if we can't put an end to poverty with all of our resources and wealth what other country can?

At the present time, much of our Nation's wealth created by workers is being squandered on militarism and wars, subsidizing Wall Street's profits with our tax dollars and this Wall Street bribed government--- local, state and federal--- does nothing to put an end to poverty.

In my opinion, this Basic Income Guarantee is a very good reform provided it is legislatively tied to ALL actual cost-of-living factors.

While I definitely support the idea of lobbying for this important reform I don't think we should kid ourselves into believing this Wall Street owned and dominated government will provide such a reform anymore that they will put an end to all these dirty wars which are making us all poor.

This Basic Income Guarantee is going to have to become a big part of the platforms and programs of alternative political parties; and, in my opinion, what we really need is a new progressive working class based political party to bring forward this important reform--- a political party intent on challenging Wall Street for political and economic power.

I hope others will forward and circulate this e-mail everywhere. Post it on union and church bulletin boards. Bring this idea into the proverbial public square where it belongs. Create resolutions in support for your organizations, political party and unions to endorse. Get out and leaflet and table. Organize demonstrations and educational picket lines. Talk to people at work and at school.

We should be thinking of convening some kind of local, state, regional and national conferences involving hundreds, if not thousands, of people in active support of the Basic Income Guarantee--- BIG.

The Basic Income Guarantee is an effort we should all be able to plug into in one way or another to lend our support.

Cindy Sheehan did a good job bringing this issue forward in her campaign for California Governor on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

We also need a Full Employment Act making it mandatory for the president and Congress to attain and maintain full employment.

I have suggested the two be tied together as some kind of reform package like a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity."

The Basic Income Guarantee is in line with our Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights along with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, too.

I am especially happy to hear there is cross-border collaboration with our neighbors to the north in Canada on this very important issue of a Basic Income Guarantee.

Spread the word because if you don't, the Wall Street owned and controlled media isn't going to spread the word for us, although this would be the perfect issue for writing a "Letter-to-the-Editor" of your local newspapers--- and don't forget the many newsletters, too. And FaceBook posts and blogs.

If we want to build a movement to win the Basic Income Guarantee we need to bring this issue into the public square in a massive way.

Yours in the struggle,

Alan L. Maki

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Karl Widerquist <karl@widerquist.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 2:45 PM
Subject: Special USBIG NewsFlash report from the meeting to create a political movement for basic income
To: bignews@widerquist.com

As editor, I'm sending this report is to all subscribers of the USBIG NewsFlash. A new political movement began organizing itself at the 14th NABIG Congress in New York on March, 1, 2015. The following report shows how interested people can get involve. Please send correspondence to the relevant committee contacts (below), or to Jason Burke Muprhy.

Thank you, 
Karl Widerquist, editor, USBIG NewsFlash

Report from the meeting to create a political movement for basic income

Thirty-one people signed the attendance sheet at the first meeting of group of people attempting to start a political movement for basic income in the United States. Several more people attended without signing, and others followed and contributed to the meeting online. The meeting took place from 6:30 to 9:30pm at the Commons Brooklyn on February 26, 2015, at the close of the Fourteenth North American Basic Income Guarantee (NABIG) Congress. The meeting began with all participants discussing their background and the history that brought them to the basic income movement. The group then split into several small groups, each discussing a different issue. Participants reassembled to bring their discussion to the whole group and to make some decisions.

The group chose not to name a leader or a leadership committee. It did not even pick a name for the new organization at this point. Instead, it created several committees and asked them to perform certain tasks. The group created the following committees:

1. One committee will be in charge of legally chartering two groups. The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee (USBIG) Network, which has existed since 1999 without an official legal charter, will become a U.S. nonprofit organization—a so-called 501(c)(3). This means that it will be able to accept tax-deductible donations, but it will not be able to do overtly political work. The second organization (yet to be named) will be chartered as a social welfare organization or a lobbying group with a 501(c)(4) tax designation. This means that it will be able to do overtly political work, but donations to it will not be tax-deductible. The following members have so far joined the committee to charter the two organizations:
CONTACT PERSON: Steven Shafarman 
Ian Ash Schlakman 
Jason Burke Murphy 
Mark Witham org>
Eri Noguchi 
Dan O'Sullivan 

2. A committee was created to organize the next meeting of the unnamed political group. The USBIG Network meets once a year at the NABIG Congress (which alternates each year between the U.S. and Canada), but the political group will meet more often. The committee hopes to organize the next meeting within 3 to 6 months. The committees within the unnamed political group will probably meet earlier via the internet. The following members volunteered to organize the next meeting of the unnamed group:
CONTACT PERSON: Mark Witham org>
Jude Thomas 
Diane Pagen 
Ann Withorn 
Dorothy Howard 

3. The content creation committee is in charge of research, news reporting, social media presence, and media relations.
CONTACT PERSON: Jason Burke Murphy 
Contact for people interested in the NewsFlash and BI News: Karl Widerquist
Contact for people interested in improving the Basic Income articles on Wikipedia: Dorothy Howard 
Scott Santens 

4. The regional network committee will work on establishing local chapters of the group in cities and towns across the United States. The contact person for this committee is:
Kristine Osbakken 

5. Liane Gaile  and Ann Withorn  agreed to be the contact people for the for working groups on women & Basic Income, basic income & the new economy, and basic income as an anti-poverty policy.

The organizers of this new group without a name put out a nationwide call to anyone who wants to get involved. If people would like to join one of the existing committees or propose a new committee, please email the relevant committee contacts and volunteer. If you don’t know       which committee to contact, the two groups have two general contact people:

The unnamed political group: Jason Burke Murphy 
The USBIG Network coordinator: Michael Howard edu>

The Following people signed the attendance sheet at the meeting:

Ann Withorn
Buffy Cain
Dan O'Sullivan
Diane Pagen
Dorothy Howard
Felix Coeln
Ian Ash Schlakman
Jason Burke Murphy
Jesse Alexander Myerson
Joel Cabrera
Johannes Ponader
Jude Thomas
Karl Widerquist
Kristine Osbakken
Leah Grace
Liane Gale
Mark Witham
Mary Bricker-Jenkins
Michael Bohmeyer
Michael Lewis
Mike Sandler
Mitchel Cohen
Peter Barnes
Ron Rubin
Scott Santens
Scott Simpson
Steven Shafarman
Eduardo Suplicy
Tristan Roberts
Tristan Mantel-Hoffmann
Victor Chudnovsky

Karl Widerquist
Associate Professor at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University
3300 Whitehaven Street, N.W.
Suite 2100, Harris Building
Washington, D.C. 20007-2401
US cell phone: +1 504-261-0891
Qatar cell phone: +974 5508-9323
Qatar office phone: +974 4457-8384
Qatar fax: +974 4457-8231
EMAIL: Karl@widerquist.com
Website: http://works.bepress.com/widerquist/

National Geographic article about why science is being questioned and challenged... what it misses.

The fact is, people don't trust scientists and their conclusions because so many scientists have sold themselves to big business.

Science is not being used for the people in this country.

Science has been used to bolster the corporate bottom line: profits.

Just look at science and the university.

Research has been corrupted by the corporate drive for profits.

It is relatively easy for big business to buy a "scientific" opinion  to support anything that can make a profit--- from militarism to the kind of food we eat.

Scientists, for the most part, don't use their research to advance peace, anti-racism, the well-being of people and the environment. Science has been used to expand Wall Street's profits. This is why people don't trust scientists and their views, opinions and research.

Scientists do nothing to bring their ideas and research into the public square where people have a choice to think about any of this.

Scientists don't come into the public square to defend their ideas, opinions and research; they remain aloof of the people and then we get articles like this outlining the rift between "regular" people and scientists.

This rotten capitalist social and economic system corrupts science just like it corrupts politics, health care, sports, culture and everything else. And then we wonder why people doubt scientific reasoning?

We need a social and economic system, socialism, where science is for the good of people and the environment.When people understand science is on their side, not Wall Street's side, people will support science.

Most important is we need a scientific community squarely on the side of peace--- in opposition to militarization and these dirty imperialist wars.

Alan L. Maki


Picture of a measles vaccine vial and a syringe
Recent outbreaks of measles have been tied to children who haven't been vaccinated. Many people still believe that childhood vaccinations are dangerous, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
Photograph by Joe Raedle, Getty
Dan Vergano
Published January 29, 2015
What do the International Space Station and bioengineered fuels have in common? They're about the only technological advances that both scientists and the American public actually like.
On most other scientific matters, a widespread "opinion gap" splits the experts from everyday folks, pollsters at the Pew Research Center reported Thursday. The rift persists in long-running issues such as the causes of climate change and the safety of nuclear power. And it crops up in the news today in battles over outbreaks of measles tied to children who haven't been vaccinated.
Scientists say this opinion gap points to shortcomings in their own skills at reaching out to the public and to deficits in science education. On the last point, at least, the public agrees, with majorities on both sides rating U.S. education as average at best.
That's bad news for the future, says American Association for the Advancement of Science head Alan Leshner, if Americans want to keep enjoying the benefits of science.
"There is a disconnect between the way the public perceives science and the way that scientists see science," says Leshner, whose Washington D.C.-based organization collaborated with Pew on the polling. "Scientists need to do something to turn this around."
In an editorial in the journal Science, Leshner called on scientists to personally stem a swelling "unbridgeable chasm" in attitudes between researchers and the taxpayers who largely fund essential research.
Mind the Gap
In a head-to-head comparison of expert and everyday attitudes, the two new polls asked 2,002 U.S. adults and 3,748 AAAS members (described as "a broad-ranging group of professionally engaged scientists") identical questions about their views on scientific achievement, education, and controversial issues.
"People are still mostly positive about science," but compared with five years ago, "we are seeing a slight souring of the views," says Pew polling expert Cary Funk. "When you look across the questions, you are struck by large differences in citizens and scientists."
On the safety of genetically modified food and pesticides, for example, experts and the public differed by 40 percentage points or more in their approval, with the majority of scientists saying GMO foods are safe to eat. On their beliefs in human-caused climate change and human evolution, the groups differed by more than 30 percentage points. Differences nearly as large are seen on vaccination, animal research, and offshore oil drilling.
Graph of U.S. adults and AAAS scientists opinions
Emily M. Eng, NG Staff. Source: Pew Research Center
"We are seeing the gaps as larger now across a large set of issues," Funk says, compared to past polls.
Political Science
Though scientists point to a lack of public understanding of science, "having scientists speak at Kiwanis club meetings is not going to change a lot of people's views about science," says polling expert Jon Miller of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The survey results don't differ a great deal from past polls, but this only reinforces anxiety over the future of science, Miller adds. Support for research has gone from a bedrock American principle to one suffering fissures from political fistfights over human evolution, embryonic stem cells, climate change, and other issues.
"A lot of scientific issues have become politicized," Miller says. "I think this report is kind of tiptoeing around that reality, where the [U.S.] Republican party has sought political support from voters with religious views who are often hostile to science."
To his point, an American Sociological Review study also reported on Thursday that roughly one in five U.S. adults is deeply religious and accepts astronomy, radioactivity, and genetics as settled science but rejects human evolution and the big bang. These are high-income, well-educated people who are "scientifically literate" and view science favorably, according to study lead author Timothy O'Brien of the University of Evansville in Indiana. They just toss overboard science that clashes with literal readings of the Bible.
Over the last decade, public opinion researchers such as Yale's Dan Kahan have found that people's views on many scientific issues, such as climate and evolution, are largely driven by their cultural views. Sociologist Robert Brulle of Drexel University in Philadelphia likewise found that when political leaders change their views on climate change, voters are more likely to be swayed than they are by the voices of scientists.
Leshner, however, disagrees. "Political leaders don't carry the same kind of credibility that well-informed scientists do," he says.
He argues that scientists can better sway public opinion by making the case for science in smaller venues, such as retirement communities or library groups, instead of the traditional lecture hall. "It is important that the public understands that scientists are people too."
Follow Dan Vergano on Twitter.


Picture of a worker adjusting a diorama of a moon landing at the Kennedy Space Center

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from climate change to vaccinations—faces furious opposition.
Some even have doubts about the moon landing.

By Joel Achenbach
Photographs by Richard Barnes
There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which Jack D. Ripper, an American general who’s gone rogue and ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, unspools his paranoid worldview—and the explanation for why he drinks “only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure grain alcohol”—to Lionel Mandrake, a dizzy-with-anxiety group captain in the Royal Air Force.
Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?
Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes, yes.
Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?
Mandrake: No. No, I don’t know what it is. No.
Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?
The movie came out in 1964, by which time the health benefits of fluoridation had been thoroughly established, and antifluoridation conspiracy theories could be the stuff of comedy. So you might be surprised to learn that, half a century later, fluoridation continues to incite fear and paranoia. In 2013 citizens in Portland, Oregon, one of only a few major American cities that don’t fluoridate their water, blocked a plan by local officials to do so. Opponents didn’t like the idea of the government adding “chemicals” to their water. They claimed that fluoride could be harmful to human health.
Actually fluoride is a natural mineral that, in the weak concentrations used in public drinking water systems, hardens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay—a cheap and safe way to improve dental health for everyone, rich or poor, conscientious brusher or not. That’s the scientific and medical consensus.
To which some people in Portland, echoing antifluoridation activists around the world, reply: We don’t believe you.
We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you’d think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there’s so much talk about the trend these days—in books, articles, and academic conferences—that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme. In the recent movie Interstellar, set in a futuristic, downtrodden America where NASA has been forced into hiding, school textbooks say the Apollo moon landings were faked.
In a sense all this is not surprising. Our lives are permeated by science and technology as never before. For many of us this new world is wondrous, comfortable, and rich in rewards—but also more complicated and sometimes unnerving. We now face risks we can’t easily analyze.
We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok—and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood.
The world crackles with real and imaginary hazards, and distinguishing the former from the latter isn’t easy. Should we be afraid that the Ebola virus, which is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids, will mutate into an airborne superplague? The scientific consensus says that’s extremely unlikely: No virus has ever been observed to completely change its mode of transmission in humans, and there’s zero evidence that the latest strain of Ebola is any different. But type “airborne Ebola” into an Internet search engine, and you’ll enter a dystopia where this virus has almost supernatural powers, including the power to kill us all.
In this bewildering world we have to decide what to believe and how to act on that. In principle that’s what science is for. “Science is not a body of facts,” says geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who once headed the U.S. Geological Survey and is now editor of Science, the prestigious journal. “Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.” But that method doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And so we run into trouble, again and again.
Picture of Orlando Ferguson's 1893 map, Square and Stationary Earth
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
Square Intuitions Die Hard
That the Earth is round has been known since antiquity—Columbus knew he wouldn’t sail off the edge of the world—but alternative geographies persisted even after circumnavigations had become common. This 1893 map by Orlando Ferguson, a South Dakota businessman, is a loopy variation on 19th-century flat-Earth beliefs. Flat-Earthers held that the planet was centered on the North Pole and bounded by a wall of ice, with the sun, moon, and planets a few hundred miles above the surface. Science often demands that we discount our direct sensory experiences—such as seeing the sun cross the sky as if circling the Earth—in favor of theories that challenge our beliefs about our place in the universe.
The trouble goes way back, of course. The scientific method leads us to truths that are less than self-evident, often mind-blowing, and sometimes hard to swallow. In the early 17th century, when Galileo claimed that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, he wasn’t just rejecting church doctrine. He was asking people to believe something that defied common sense—because it sure looks like the sun’s going around the Earth, and you can’t feel the Earth spinning. Galileo was put on trial and forced to recant. Two centuries later Charles Darwin escaped that fate. But his idea that all life on Earth evolved from a primordial ancestor and that we humans are distant cousins of apes, whales, and even deep-sea mollusks is still a big ask for a lot of people. So is another 19th-century notion: that carbon dioxide, an invisible gas that we all exhale all the time and that makes up less than a tenth of one percent of the atmosphere, could be affecting Earth’s climate.
Even when we intellectually accept these precepts of science, we subconsciously cling to our intuitions—what researchers call our naive beliefs. A recent study by Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College showed that even students with an advanced science education had a hitch in their mental gait when asked to affirm or deny that humans are descended from sea animals or that Earth goes around the sun. Both truths are counterintuitive. The students, even those who correctly marked “true,” were slower to answer those questions than questions about whether humans are descended from tree-dwelling creatures (also true but easier to grasp) or whether the moon goes around the Earth (also true but intuitive). Shtulman’s research indicates that as we become scientifically literate, we repress our naive beliefs but never eliminate them entirely. They lurk in our brains, chirping at us as we try to make sense of the world.
Most of us do that by relying on personal experience and anecdotes, on stories rather than statistics. We might get a prostate-specific antigen test, even though it’s no longer generally recommended, because it caught a close friend’s cancer—and we pay less attention to statistical evidence, painstakingly compiled through multiple studies, showing that the test rarely saves lives but triggers many unnecessary surgeries. Or we hear about a cluster of cancer cases in a town with a hazardous waste dump, and we assume pollution caused the cancers. Yet just because two things happened together doesn’t mean one caused the other, and just because events are clustered doesn’t mean they’re not still random.
We have trouble digesting randomness; our brains crave pattern and meaning. Science warns us, however, that we can deceive ourselves. To be confident there’s a causal connection between the dump and the cancers, you need statistical analysis showing that there are many more cancers than would be expected randomly, evidence that the victims were exposed to chemicals from the dump, and evidence that the chemicals really can cause cancer.
Picture of a Creationist bookseller setting up shop in Dayton, Tennessee during the Scopes Monkey Trial
Photo: Bettman/Corbis
Evolution on Trial
In 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee, where John Scopes was standing trial for teaching evolution in high school, a creationist bookseller hawked his wares. Modern biology makes no sense without the concept of evolution, but religious activists in the United States continue to demand that creationism be taught as an alternative in biology class. When science conflicts with a person’s core beliefs, it usually loses.
Even for scientists, the scientific method is a hard discipline. Like the rest of us, they’re vulnerable to what they call confirmation bias—the tendency to look for and see only evidence that confirms what they already believe. But unlike the rest of us, they submit their ideas to formal peer review before publishing them. Once their results are published, if they’re important enough, other scientists will try to reproduce them—and, being congenitally skeptical and competitive, will be very happy to announce that they don’t hold up. Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation. Scientists rarely proclaim an absolute truth or absolute certainty. Uncertainty is inevitable at the frontiers of knowledge.
Sometimes scientists fall short of the ideals of the scientific method. Especially in biomedical research, there’s a disturbing trend toward results that can’t be reproduced outside the lab that found them, a trend that has prompted a push for greater transparency about how experiments are conducted. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, worries about the “secret sauce”—specialized procedures, customized software, quirky ingredients—that researchers don’t share with their colleagues. But he still has faith in the larger enterprise.
“Science will find the truth,” Collins says. “It may get it wrong the first time and maybe the second time, but ultimately it will find the truth.” That provisional quality of science is another thing a lot of people have trouble with. To some climate change skeptics, for example, the fact that a few scientists in the 1970s were worried (quite reasonably, it seemed at the time) about the possibility of a coming ice age is enough to discredit the concern about global warming now.
Last fall the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which consists of hundreds of scientists operating under the auspices of the United Nations, released its fifth report in the past 25 years. This one repeated louder and clearer than ever the consensus of the world’s scientists: The planet’s surface temperature has risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 130 years, and human actions, including the burning of fossil fuels, are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the warming since the mid-20th century. Many people in the United States—a far greater percentage than in other countries—retain doubts about that consensus or believe that climate activists are using the threat of global warming to attack the free market and industrial society generally. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, one of the most powerful Republican voices on environmental matters, has long declared global warming a hoax.
The idea that hundreds of scientists from all over the world would collaborate on such a vast hoax is laughable—scientists love to debunk one another. It’s very clear, however, that organizations funded in part by the fossil fuel industry have deliberately tried to undermine the public’s understanding of the scientific consensus by promoting a few skeptics.
The news media give abundant attention to such mavericks, naysayers, professional controversialists, and table thumpers. The media would also have you believe that science is full of shocking discoveries made by lone geniuses. Not so. The (boring) truth is that it usually advances incrementally, through the steady accretion of data and insights gathered by many people over many years. So it has been with the consensus on climate change. That’s not about to go poof with the next thermometer reading.
But industry PR, however misleading, isn’t enough to explain why only 40 percent of Americans, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center, accept that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.
The “science communication problem,” as it’s blandly called by the scientists who study it, has yielded abundant new research into how people decide what to believe—and why they so often don’t accept the scientific consensus. It’s not that they can’t grasp it, according to Dan Kahan of Yale University. In one study he asked 1,540 Americans, a representative sample, to rate the threat of climate change on a scale of zero to ten. Then he correlated that with the subjects’ science literacy. He found that higher literacy was associated with stronger views—at both ends of the spectrum. Science literacy promoted polarization on climate, not consensus. According to Kahan, that’s because people tend to use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.
Americans fall into two basic camps, Kahan says. Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to—some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.
In the U.S., climate change somehow has become a litmus test that identifies you as belonging to one or the other of these two antagonistic tribes. When we argue about it, Kahan says, we’re actually arguing about who we are, what our crowd is. We’re thinking, People like us believe this. People like that do not believe this. For a hierarchical individualist, Kahan says, it’s not irrational to reject established climate science: Accepting it wouldn’t change the world, but it might get him thrown out of his tribe.
“Take a barber in a rural town in South Carolina,” Kahan has written. “Is it a good idea for him to implore his customers to sign a petition urging Congress to take action on climate change? No. If he does, he will find himself out of a job, just as his former congressman, Bob Inglis, did when he himself proposed such action.”
Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers. “We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school,” says Marcia McNutt. “People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.”
Meanwhile the Internet makes it easier than ever for climate skeptics and doubters of all kinds to find their own information and experts. Gone are the days when a small number of powerful institutions—elite universities, encyclopedias, major news organizations, even National Geographic—served as gatekeepers of scientific information. The Internet has democratized information, which is a good thing. But along with cable TV, it has made it possible to live in a “filter bubble” that lets in only the information with which you already agree.
How to penetrate the bubble? How to convert climate skeptics? Throwing more facts at them doesn’t help. Liz Neeley, who helps train scientists to be better communicators at an organization called Compass, says that people need to hear from believers they can trust, who share their fundamental values. She has personal experience with this. Her father is a climate change skeptic and gets most of his information on the issue from conservative media. In exasperation she finally confronted him: “Do you believe them or me?” She told him she believes the scientists who research climate change and knows many of them personally. “If you think I’m wrong,” she said, “then you’re telling me that you don’t trust me.” Her father’s stance on the issue softened. But it wasn’t the facts that did it.
If you’re a rationalist, there’s something a little dispiriting about all this. In Kahan’s descriptions of how we decide what to believe, what we decide sometimes sounds almost incidental. Those of us in the science-communication business are as tribal as anyone else, he told me. We believe in scientific ideas not because we have truly evaluated all the evidence but because we feel an affinity for the scientific community. When I mentioned to Kahan that I fully accept evolution, he said, “Believing in evolution is just a description about you. It’s not an account of how you reason.”
Maybe—except that evolution actually happened. Biology is incomprehensible without it. There aren’t really two sides to all these issues. Climate change is happening. Vaccines really do save lives. Being right does matter—and the science tribe has a long track record of getting things right in the end. Modern society is built on things it got right.
Doubting science also has consequences. The people who believe vaccines cause autism—often well educated and affluent, by the way—are undermining “herd immunity” to such diseases as whooping cough and measles. The anti-vaccine movement has been going strong since the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet published a study in 1998 linking a common vaccine to autism. The journal later retracted the study, which was thoroughly discredited. But the notion of a vaccine-autism connection has been endorsed by celebrities and reinforced through the usual Internet filters. (Anti-vaccine activist and actress Jenny McCarthy famously said on the Oprah Winfrey Show, “The University of Google is where I got my degree from.”)
In the climate debate the consequences of doubt are likely global and enduring. In the U.S., climate change skeptics have achieved their fundamental goal of halting legislative action to combat global warming. They haven’t had to win the debate on the merits; they’ve merely had to fog the room enough to keep laws governing greenhouse gas emissions from being enacted.
Some environmental activists want scientists to emerge from their ivory towers and get more involved in the policy battles. Any scientist going that route needs to do so carefully, says Liz Neeley. “That line between science communication and advocacy is very hard to step back from,” she says. In the debate over climate change the central allegation of the skeptics is that the science saying it’s real and a serious threat is politically tinged, driven by environmental activism and not hard data. That’s not true, and it slanders honest scientists. But it becomes more likely to be seen as plausible if scientists go beyond their professional expertise and begin advocating specific policies.
It’s their very detachment, what you might call the cold-bloodedness of science, that makes science the killer app. It’s the way science tells us the truth rather than what we’d like the truth to be. Scientists can be as dogmatic as anyone else—but their dogma is always wilting in the hot glare of new research. In science it’s not a sin to change your mind when the evidence demands it. For some people, the tribe is more important than the truth; for the best scientists, the truth is more important than the tribe.
Scientific thinking has to be taught, and sometimes it’s not taught well, McNutt says. Students come away thinking of science as a collection of facts, not a method. Shtulman’s research has shown that even many college students don’t really understand what evidence is. The scientific method doesn’t come naturally—but if you think about it, neither does democracy. For most of human history neither existed. We went around killing each other to get on a throne, praying to a rain god, and for better and much worse, doing things pretty much as our ancestors did.
Now we have incredibly rapid change, and it’s scary sometimes. It’s not all progress. Our science has made us the dominant organisms, with all due respect to ants and blue-green algae, and we’re changing the whole planet. Of course we’re right to ask questions about some of the things science and technology allow us to do. “Everybody should be questioning,” says McNutt. “That’s a hallmark of a scientist. But then they should use the scientific method, or trust people using the scientific method, to decide which way they fall on those questions.” We need to get a lot better at finding answers, because it’s certain the questions won’t be getting any simpler.
Washington Post science writer Joel Achenbach has contributed to National Geographic since 1998. Photographer Richard Barnes’s last feature was the September 2014 cover story on Nero.

A letter I sent to Rabbi Michael Lerner.

Rabbi Lerner,

Just writing to let you know I think you did a fantastic job in your interview on National Public Radio and with this ad (see ad below).

With that said, all the progressives, liberals and leftists who supported Obama, first to get him nominated and then in two general elections, supported and voted for Wall Street's imperialist agenda as Obama proclaimed very clearly his support for this reactionary, warmongering agenda--- and, no doubt, this support, continued support, for Obama will lead to the backing of Hillary Clinton when liberals, progressives and leftists should be embarked on bringing forward a working class based progressive people's party putting forward a clear  program and platform for peace, social and economic justice challenging Wall Street for political and economic power insisting that all financial aid for the barbaric Israeli killing machine is ended.

The few Democrats who will boycott Netanyahu's speech will end up turning right (pun intended) around and vote for continued funding of the Israeli killing machine whether Obama, Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush is president. 

None of these Democrats, nor Bernie Sanders--- for sure not Elizabeth Warren, can be counted on to stand up to Wall Street and its imperialist wars.

Democrats will campaign on their so-called "economic populism" which is without condemnation nor recognition of the detrimental way financing militarism and wars affects the economy and our living environment.

That these Democrats are supporting a bunch of anti-Semites goose-stepping backwards in the footprints of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Mannerheim in the Ukraine should tell us all we need to know that these Democrats have no respect for peace or democracy let alone social and economic justice.

Hopefully, you will bring forward a discussion about the need for a new political party.

Yours in the struggle,
Alan L. Maki

If you don't want another war consider adding your name here:


On Monday, March 2, 2015, Tikkun <magazine@tikkun.org> wrote:

This is the ad, signed by over 2,600 people,  that appears today in the New York Times, and tomorrow on Capitol Hill in "The Hiill" newspaper (read in every Congressional office and in the White House) can be viewed here:

If you like it, please sign it and donate to make it possible for us to spread its message:www.tikkun.org/peaceproject

The 2,600 plus who signed include figures like the novelist and Princeton U. Professor Joyce Carol Oates, novelist and Ms. co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin, professor of Jewish Studies at Darthmouth College (and daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Jewish theologian who marched with MLKjr. at Selma) Susannah Heschel, Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul & Mary, the legendary Jewish folk singer Theodore Bikel who played the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof over 2,000 times, Aryeh Cohen professor of Rabbinic Literature at American Jewish University, Rabbi William Cutter professor at Hebrew Union College,  NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller, Columbia U professor Sassia Sassken, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton Abraham Udovitch,   Sharon Kleinbaum, the firebrand rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah—the country's largest and best-known gay synagogue (and many other rabbis).

The ad was mentioned in USA Today as well as in the NPR--All Things Considered report on Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC today. We were the only peace organization being quoted in the mass media about our opposition to a war with Iran, our support for Obama's attempt to reach a compromise with Iran that would allow them to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes while assuring the rest of the world (through inspections) that it was not developing weapons-grade materials, in exchange for the US reducing the sanctions rather than escalating them as Netanyahu seeks. And we are the only group opposing Netanyahu that is publicly promoting an alternative--what we call a Strategy of Generosity--and actually have a worked out version of a Global Marshall Plan that deals with many of the pifalls of past attempts at international cooperation (please read it at www.tikkun.org/gmp and download the 32 page brochure).

Why is this ad different from all the other media talk about the Netanyahu visit?

In all the other media chatter about Netanyahu the focus is on the supposed conflict between Obama and Netanyahu. That misses the actual significance of this visit. Prime Minister Netanyahu-- together with major support in both parties engendered by AIPAC and the Christian Zionists--is seeking to push the U.S. on a path that will eventually lead to military strikes and a possible war between the U.S. and Iran. Historians will look back at this moment to see whether the American people will allow this to happen or not. The issue is not whether Obama likes Netanyahu, but whether the American people can be once again (as they were in the lead up to the Iraq war) misled into believing that there is a nuclear threat that must be stopped by coercion and eventually by military action. That is the question highlighted by the Tikkun ad, and why it is newsworthy.

The ad was sponsored by Tikkun Magazine, the voice of liberal and progressive Jews and our non-Jewish allies--along with our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progresives. Tikkun was created as the progressive alternative to the neo-cons in the Jewish world, and the intellectual voice of all those Jews who believe that the best way to support Israel's security is to also support the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.
The ad was written by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, in conjunction with its inner editorial board (also listed in the ad).