HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Demeter » Journal
Page: 1 2 3 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

Journal Archives

Meet The 6 Coworkers Who Make Your Job A Living Hell


Frozen sewage system sparks outrage in Livingston County


Teresa Richards, along with other residents in Livingston County have been going without a working sewage system for over a week.

"We have a porta potty that we've been using, take it into town to dump, we take showers at relatives. We can't cook or eat, can't wash dishes," says Richards.

According to a letter released by the Multi Lake and Sewer Authority, the valves that provide residents with water for their sewage system have frozen over. "The cold weather has caused (the) vacuum sewer system valves to freeze, which in turn prevents the main line sewer from functioning," says the letter.

Even though work crews have been working hard to restore the sewer service to its residents, the only solution residents are currently being told according to Teresa is warmer temperatures. That solution is not settling well, obviously.


Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts By Justin P. McBrayer

A misleading distinction between fact and opinion is embedded in the Common Core...


What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised? I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshman in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.

What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from? A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found online were substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions...So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

  • First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.

  • But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:

    Me: “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?”

    Him: “It’s a fact.”

    Me: “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.”

    Him: “Yeah, but it’s true.”

    Me: “So it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

    The blank stare on his face said it all.

    How does the dichotomy between fact and opinion relate to morality? I learned the answer to this question only after I investigated my son’s homework (and other examples of assignments online). Kids are asked to sort facts from opinions and, without fail, every value claim is labeled as an opinion. Here’s a little test devised from questions available on fact vs. opinion worksheets online: are the following facts or opinions?

    — Copying homework assignments is wrong.

    — Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.

    — All men are created equal.

    — It is worth sacrificing some personal liberties to protect our country from terrorism.

    — It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.

    — Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat.

    — Drug dealers belong in prison.

    The answer? In each case, the worksheets categorize these claims as opinions. The explanation on offer is that each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts. This is repeated ad nauseum: any claim with good, right, wrong, etc. is not a fact. In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.


    Justin P. McBrayer is an associate professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. He works in ethics and philosophy of religion.

  • Lab In Berkeley Accidentally Discovers Solution To Fix Color Blindness


    For millions of Americans, color blindness is a reality. A solution has been developed in a Bay Area lab, made by a researcher working on another problem.

    Marc Drucker sees the world differently. “I’m moderately to severely color blind,” he told KPIX 5. For Drucker, driving has always been a chore. “A hard time telling difference between the flashing red and the flashing yellow lights,” he said. Drucker has a type of color blindness where the red and green cones on his eyes overlap, a genetic defect that left him seeing muted, dull colors for 45 years, until he found Enchroma CX sunglasses. “I describe it like I’ve got a bit of a superpower now,” Drucker said.

    Ten million men suffer from color blindness.

    KPIX 5 went inside the Berkeley lab where the Enchroma CX glasses are made.

    “The glasses work by selectively removing certain wavelengths between the red and green cones that allow them to be in essence pushed apart again,” said Don McPherson, EnChroma’s VP of products. Correcting color blindness wasn’t McPherson’s original experiment. “This happened almost by mistake,” he recalled. The glasses were designed as protective eyewear for doctors during surgery. But one day he wore them with a curious friend who happened to be color blind. McPherson recalled, “My friend said, ‘Oh, those are cool. Can I borrow them?’ And I said, ‘Here, wear them.’”

    “And he said, ‘Oh, I can see the cones!’” McPherson said, referring to bright orange cones.

    For Drucker, the glasses have opened up a world where trees are green, flowers come in limitless colors, and a sunset can take your breath away. “I get how amazing they are now, and I’d never really was able to tell that difference before,” he said.

    EnChroma is also rolling out regular glasses for color blindness.


    Ready for Nuclear War over Ukraine? by Robert Parry



    A senior Ukrainian official is urging the West to risk a nuclear conflagration in support of a “full-scale war” with Russia that he says authorities in Kiev are now seeking, another sign of the extremism that pervades the year-old, U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.

    In a recent interview with Canada’s CBC Radio, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said, “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.”

    Prystaiko added, “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe.” The deputy foreign minister announced that Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants the West to supply lethal weapons and training so the fight can be taken to Russia.

    “What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little,” Prystaiko said.

    Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable about Prystaiko’s “Dr. Strangelove” moment is that it produced almost no reaction in the West. You have a senior Ukrainian official saying that the world should risk nuclear war over a civil conflict in Ukraine between its west, which favors closer ties to Europe, and its east, which wants to maintain its historic relationship with Russia.

    Why should such a pedestrian dispute justify the possibility of vaporizing millions of human beings and conceivably ending life on the planet? Yet, instead of working out a plan for a federalized structure in Ukraine or even allowing people in the east to vote on whether they want to remain under the control of the Kiev regime, the world is supposed to risk nuclear annihilation.

    But therein lies one of the under-reported stories of the Ukraine crisis: There is a madness to the Kiev regime that the West doesn’t want to recognize because to do so would upend the dominant narrative of “our” good guys vs. Russia’s bad guys. If we begin to notice that the right-wing regime in Kiev is crazy and brutal, we might also start questioning the “Russian aggression” mantra...No European government, since Adolf Hitler’s Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet, across the West’s media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality, even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established...MORE

    Weekend Economists Muse on Silk Stockings and Silver Spoons February 27-March 1, 2015

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

    Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

    Humans have known Hard Times, and come through them, repeatedly. We are just the Lucky Generation to suffer this particular Hard Time. Perhaps we can learn from history, a bit? How did America get through previous Hard Times, specifically, the Great Depression?

    Well, they went to the movies...to try to imagine a better future.

    The Great Depression: Hollywood 1929-1941
    Historic Events for Students: The Great Depression.
    Editor: Richard C Hanes & Sharon M Hanes. Volume 1. Detroit: Gale, 2002.



    "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Big bad wolf, big bad wolf?" This musical line originates from the Three Little Pigs movie, produced by Walt Disney in 1933. The big bad wolf in Walt Disney's animated short film is a metaphor for the Depression of the 1930s. People needed to sing that song through the vehicle of the movie to defend against their fear of what lay ahead. Likewise Americans needed their movies. Movies had become a cultural institution as well as a cultural necessity. No other form of entertainment had come to play as important a role in American's everyday life, not even radio. Sixty million to 75 million people still faithfully attended even if the price of a seat was too much for them to pay.

    The great mass of people who were affected in some way by the economic crisis of the Great Depression, not only sought escape into the movies, but they also sought meaning as well. Frequently they sought meaning and escape in the same movie. Movies also depicted things desired or things lost, all of which Depression audiences could relate to. This period was lovingly known as "The Golden Age of Hollywood."

    The 1930s were an era that brought about the advancement of film, both technically and with the establishment of specific types of film "genres." Some popular genres explored by Hollywood were gangster films, comedies, musicals, law and order (including federal agent films and westerns), social consciousness films, horror, and thrillers.

    Devised by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, the production Code of 1930, enforced in 1934, had a major impact on the content of movies. Various themes important to the Depression populace ran through the films. Americans could find hope while watching a character's success and believe that betterment was still possible. They could laugh irreverently at traditional American institutions or at forces that they could not quite define but that had altered their lives in the 1930s. For two hours each week Americans could enter the dark comfortable movie houses and share in the communal experience of being transported into another reality. In 1939 the quest for better times was confirmed in Judy Garland's hit song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," one of the memorable compositions from the popular movie The Wizard of Oz. The song was a testimonial to hope that reigned at the end of the decade....

    ...Although the stock market crash of 1929 marked the beginning of the Great Depression, 110 million people still went to the movies in 1930. The introduction of sound proved enticing and Hollywood's profits continued. As the economic conditions, however, steadily worsened nationwide Hollywood's apprehension grew. Their fears were legitimate because attendance dropped to roughly 60 to 75 million by 1933 and profits evaporated. The unemployment rate hit 25 percent that year and almost everyone's salaries had declined significantly. The public could no longer afford to attend the movies as frequently as before.

    The few cents it took to get in the movies was an extravagance for many. Still those 60 to 75 million that faithfully came represented 60 percent of the population. In comparison 10 percent of Americans attended the movies in the 1970s. This figure is a powerful testimonial to movies as a cultural institution. Ultimately the industry would be saved because movies no longer represented simply entertainment but a necessity in the lives of Americans.

    There was the sophistication of Fred Astaire and his numerous dancing partners, for example:

    Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in the 1937 film “Shall We Dance.”

    “The culture of elegance, as represented by Astaire and the Gershwins, was less about the cut of your tie and tails than the cut of your feelings, the inner radiance that was one true bastion against social suffering. They preserved in wit, rhythm and fluidity of movement what the Depression almost took away, the high spirits of Americans, young and modern, who had once felt destined to be the heirs and heiresses of all the ages.” Sheer delight, pure escapism, serves its cathartic purpose — and it means something, too...

    ADAM BEGLEY of NYTimes reviews Morris Dickstein’s “Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression”


    The ’30s were neither uniformly red nor universally hungry, but they were undeniably shadowed by economic crisis. This was the decade in which knee-jerk American assumptions about prosperity were knocked sharply back, when the American Dream — the phrase dates from the early ’30s — took a drubbing. A 25 percent unemployment rate (the grim statistic from the winter of 1932) is bound to tell; so is the failure of more than 5,000 banks in just two years. The numbers were bleak, but not as bleak, perhaps, as the mood: “There was hardly a man or woman in the country,” the popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen wrote in 1931, “whose attitude toward life had not been affected . . . in some degree . . . by the sudden and brutal shattering of hope.”

    Funny how Hollywood today doesn't meet the public's need. Have the American people changed? No, the business has. The films make their money overseas, catering to different tastes and dreams: sex and violence, mostly.

    Lots of change, but no improvements, since 1929...

    Police seize property and cash in questionable raids


    Police seized more than $24 million in assets from Michiganders in 2013, under asset forfeiture laws. In many cases the citizens were never charged with a crime but lost their property anyway.

    Thomas Williams was alone that November morning in 2013 when police raided his rural St. Joseph County home, wearing black masks, camouflage and holding guns at their sides. They broke down his front door with a battering ram.

    "We think you're dealing marijuana," they told Williams, a 72-year-old, retired carpenter and cancer patient who is disabled and carries a medical marijuana card.

    When he protested, they handcuffed him and left him on the living room floor as they ransacked his home, emptying drawers, rummaging through closets and surveying his grow room, where he was nourishing his 12 personal marijuana plants as allowed by law. Some had recently begun to die, so he had cloned them and had new seedlings, although they were not yet planted. That, police insisted, put him over the limit.

    They did not charge Williams with a crime, though.

    Instead, they took his Dodge Journey, $11,000 in cash from his home, his television, his cell phone, his shotgun and are attempting to take his Colon Township home. And they plan to keep the proceeds, auctioning off the property and putting the cash in police coffers. More than a year later, he is still fighting to get his belongings back and to hang on to his house.

    "I want to ask them, 'Why? Why me?' I gave them no reason to do this to me," said Williams, who says he also suffers from glaucoma, a damaged disc in his back, and COPD, a lung disorder. "I'm out here minding my own business, and just wanted to be left alone."


    "It's straight up theft," said Williams' Kalamazoo attorney, Dan Grow. "The forfeiture penalty does not match the crime. It's absurd. They grow an extra plant and suddenly they're subjected to forfeiture. A lot of my practice is made up of these kinds of cases — middle-aged, middle-income people who have never been in trouble before. It's all about the money."

    Police targeted Williams because he had been on the board of directors of a "compassion club" in Battle Creek, an hour away, and his name had turned up in records in a raid there, Grow said, even though he had not been involved with the club since 2011. The seizure, Grow contends, was particularly vicious.

    "He is disabled and lives alone. They took the man's cell phone and his car, and left him out there alone. He doesn't have a landline. He was stranded out there for three days until somebody stopped by."

    A Star Came Within 0.8 Light-Years Of Our Sun 70,000 Years Ago


    Artist's impression of the red dwarf Scholz's star and its brown dwarf companion. (Credit: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

    An international team of astronomers has identified a star that passed through the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud some 70,000 years ago. It came within a distance of 0.8 light-years, making it the closest known flyby of a star to the Solar System. The star, dubbed Scholz's star, is actually part of a binary system. Its companion is a brown dwarf, a kind of "failed star" reminiscent of a gas giant. After analyzing its current trajectory, a group of astronomers from the United States, Chile, Europe, and South Africa have calculated that at its closest approach, it came within approximately 52,000 AU to the Sun, or 0.8 light-years. That's 5 trillion miles (8 trillion km), which, by cosmological standards, is excruciatingly close for an interstellar flyby of this nature.

    Not Quite Visible From Earth — But Just Maybe...

    When it visited our Solar System, it flew through the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud — a massive spherical region comprised of trillions of bits of ice, rock, and planetesimals. The cloud's maximal distance is 0.8 light-years, which places it at one-fifth the distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. The outer limit of the Oort cloud is considered the cosmographical boundary of the Solar System and the outermost limit of the Sun's dominant gravitational influence.

    When Scholz's star was in the neighborhood, it would have been a 10th magnitude star (red dwarfs are very dim). That's about 50 times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye at night. Under normal circumstances, it would be invisible. But because red dwarfs are magnetically active, it could have briefly "flared-up" (i.e., V-band flares) to become thousands of times brighter. The astronomers say it's possible that the star was visible to our paleolithic ancestors for a few minutes or hours if this rare flaring event transpired at the time.

    Slow Tangential Motion

    Scholz's star is now 20 light-years away, but it displays very little motion across the sky, or what astronomers refer to as slow tangential motion. To the scientists, this indicated one of two possibilities: either the star is moving directly towards us or it's moving away...

    Watch: A 5-year-old child labourer goes to McDonald’s for the first time (India)

    Here are all the countries that don’t have a currency of their own


    Countries that only use a foreign currency

    US dollar: Ecuador, East Timor, El Salvador, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Zimbabwe.

    Euro: Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Vatican City.

    Countries in a currency union

    Euro: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

    East Caribbean dollar
    : Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and the Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

    The successor to the British West Indies dollar was created in 1976. The East Caribbean dollar is fixed to the US dollar at a rate of 2.7 to 1. The only member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to not take part is the British Virgin Islands—which uses the US dollar, of course.

    CFA franc: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

    It may surprise you to know that 14 countries in Africa also are dependent on the euro, albeit indirectly. Strictly speaking, there are two currencies between them: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo use the West African franc. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon use the Central African franc. Both currencies are at parity and their notes are interchangeable across all 14 countries, but they have different monetary authorities.

    The CFA franc was created in 1945 to spare France’s colonies the pain that the post-World War II revaluation in the French franc would do to their much smaller economies. The CFA franc was set at fixed exchange rates against its French counterpart, and is now fixed against the euro.


    Go to Page: 1 2 3 Next »