Disclaimer: All of these terms have kernels of truth in them. The purpose of this list is to understand what these terms mean as they are used in political discourse, what they explain well, and what they explain poorly.

Abolish/Defund the Police: This term is variable in its use. Sometimes it refers to actual abolition or slashing funds of police departments. Sometimes it refers simply to firing the current police, hiring people to do the same law enforcement work, and then calling them something other than police. It can also refer to restructuring budgets without overall cuts. …

How these two applications define a single conversation

“Racism” is a tough term today. Anyone who has watched the news lately will know that. Much of this is due to the inherent conflict between the term in a modern sense and a postmodern sense. The modern sense is more familiar and follows from the norms of the Enlightenment. It generally holds that individuals are racist or not, and that, being tied to the individual, it is dependent on attitudes and beliefs that someone has in regard to race. The presentation of the term is thus straightforward. The postmodern sense is only recently known, and it is based more on a meta-analysis of the society in which racial conflicts and iniquities occur. It de-individuates, focusing instead on systemic patterns. …

If Ruth Bader Ginsburg had just retired with humility in her 70s while Obama was still president, all of this could have been avoided. Millions of people will be blamed for voting the wrong way in 2016. No one will question the decision of person who, already near the end of her life, had a chance to hand off the torch and instead chose to keep it.

How an NYT author missed her mark

A few months ago, writing for The New York Times, Maya Phillips released a scathing review of the famed Nickelodeon show, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Yes, I do mean that it was scathing, even if the prose otherwise seemed quite gentle. I rarely have read a review that is so harsh while simultaneously so subtle about it, but true to her skills as a writer, Phillips accomplished this to such a height that even she may not realize how much she crucified the series. Ironically, this is also a product of her weakness as a reviewer.

Titled ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Imagines a World Free of Whiteness, Phillips makes the point expressed in that title. The overall take is ultimately disappointing because she starts out by seeming to have a solid understanding of the show, praising the writing, the pacing, the narrative, and the aesthetics. After opening with that, she nevertheless…

Is Bret Weinstein’s finding predictive of gaps in cloning science?

While browsing Reddit, this post appeared on my feed. It asked, “Why do clones die so quickly?” In the text of that post, the author reflected on how Dolly, a famously cloned sheep, died early. A top comment noted:

Dolly the sheep didn’t die from cloning related complications, and she lived a long enough life to give birth to 6 lambs. Ultimately she died of lung cancer caused by Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus (JSRV), a virus that was infecting the rest of her herd. She was euthanized due to the tumors in order to prevent her from suffering.

Her death due to exterior circumstances did not put out a question in my mind, one that spawns from Bret Weinstein’s (former professor at Evergreen State College and current host of The Dark Horse Podcast) anecdote dated in the 90s. In summary, he supposed that selective pressures on laboratory mice, given their artificial breeding environment, would cause them to have elongated telomeres on their DNA. He shared his hypothesis with Nobel laureate Carol Greider, asking her to perform a study that compared the telomeres of laboratory specimens with those from the wild, since he lacked the resources to do. Greider performed the study and found that mice with longer ancestries from laboratories did, in fact, have elongated telomeres when compared to ones more recently derived from the wilderness. …

The feeling that leads us astray

To be angry is to engage in one of the most basic of all emotions. This is not true for human beings alone but for other members of the Animal Kingdom as well. Anger is therefore a function that is intended — insofar as nature has intentions— to protect an organism from death before it can successfully reproduce. We have to assume that anger, at some point, provided an advantage to the first organism that experienced it.

Nevertheless, it is clear to most that many tragedies could have been avoided, had the factor of anger been removed from the equation. If not for anger, we might have held our tongues and not lashed out at a friend, and thus we might not have damaged that relationship. Similarly, the Shah of Kwarezmia might have preserved his realm, as well as the lives of millions of his people, had he or Genghis Khan maintained calmer dispositions. Although anger might have been useful in the wilderness of a younger Earth, it seems today to be at the root of many of humanity’s problems, if not the majority of them. It begets more anger, spreading like something akin to a virus. Despite being so universal and basic, most of us would probably feel some kind of relief if we learned that we were about to live in a world or era that was entirely without anger. …

The self is first person you can fix

Live in accord with Nature. Everything comes backs to this. If something is unjust, it is due to a conflict with Nature, but Nature is not unjust. Nature simply is. It is our context for making choices and nothing more. When something is unjust, ask then what you might do better. Ask what you might have done better.

You are not surprised when a bear mauls you, for intruding on her den. Why then are you surprised that a trooper stops you, for speeding on his highway? Was he being too hard on you, or could you have departed earlier and driven safely? A beast mutilates you, and you understand why, but one traffic ticket confounds you. What does this say about your expectations? Are they realistic? …

Can we actually crack this?

Here we are today, a late Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill. I’ve just gone for a walk and returned from the pharmacy, with some ointment and a diet Pepsi. I’ve thought very carefully over the last two weeks about the murder of George Floyd, the protests, and the rioting. I have spent much of today thinking about what I am going to write. I am sitting down, sipping the Pepsi, moments away from starting this very blogpost. Suddenly, the music on my headset comes to a pause, and my iPhone rings. …

How did these two artists compare?

Bob Ross and Adolf Hitler are names that most would not ever expect to see in the same sentence. This may be because the two seem like perfect opposites. In fact, if you asked everyone in the world to name someone who is the opposite of Hitler, there would be easy answers like Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin, but more than a few would probably say Bob Ross without any prompting.

The reason for this is not surprising. Hitler and Ross, as characters and archetypes, stood out for different reasons. Their oratorical styles (and yes, Ross is noteworthy as an orator as Hitler is as an artist) are a prime example of this. Hitler’s speech typified the booming, roaring ambition and fierce competitiveness that is often associated with German culture, even after de-Nazification. …

When attacking the flanks just won’t do

If we must fight, we would all prefer to attack our enemy either from the sides or from behind, not from the front. This is true for combat between armies or between two individuals. This essence of flanking maneuvers is that they attack our foes where their sight is poorer and where their means to direct force is reduced. For this reason, most commanders have attempted to outflank their enemies in combat, assuming outright defense is not already the main idea. Even then, defensive strategies often rely on the hope that an enemy will expose their flanks. …


Joseph Parrish

Joe is an active Democrat and contrarian who discusses politics and social issues.

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