Friday, August 28, 2015

New Name, New Domain for the Site fka "Gimme Proof"

Finally - a domain name compatible with what this site was originally going to be called!

As shown above, the site's NEW name is Radical Centrist.  Get here by typing (with or without the triple w) into your browser's handy address bar.  You can also still get here through the old gimmeproof.blogspot address, at least for the time being.

Others own unused urls with Radical Centrist in 'em, including one that hasn't been active since 2006.  There's also a questionable site with a somewhat similar address.  Webroot has me scared to check more closely, so I'm assuming whatever's going on over there isn't on the level.  Just remember that this site's extension is .us, and you'll be fine.

Why "Radical Centrist"?  This 2010 column by Matthew Miller describes well the spirit animating this site, even if some policy positions he hints at aren't shared.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Iranian Leaders Are Anti-Semitic, Not "Merely" Anti-Zionist

Tomb of Biblical prophet Daniel in Susa, Iran / Photo: ninara, CC BY 2.0

Roy Isacowitz of “In These Times” is engaging in some wishful thinking if he believes that Iranian leaders’ gripe with Israel is solely Anti-Zionist in nature.

Unfortunately, the reality is that Iranian leaders' anti-Zionism quite happily coexists with a big, steaming vat of anti-Jewish hatred Their state-sanctioned media and leaders often propagate John Bircher-esque and Nazi-inspired global Jewish conspiracy nonsense, some downright silly conspiracy theories, like this, this, this, and this, racist stereotypes so ugly they'd make Adolph Hitler blush, idiotic blood libel (claims that Jewish people use blood of murdered non-Jewish children to make Passover matzo), and declarations that not just Israel, but the Jewish people are to be eradicated from the Earth The Ayatollah and former President Ahmadinejad have been particularly egregious on this front.[1]  

Bounty Offered for Evidence That Trump's Employed Undocumented Labor

It may not be much of a bounty.  But I'm not Lars Larson or Mitt Romney - I don't have $10,000 to put on the line, particularly when I strongly suspect that the proof is out there, in myriad locations. 

So here it is:

I'll give a big kiss on the cheek to the first person who comes up with *credible* documentary or testimonial evidence that undocumented labor has been substantially involved with building or maintaining any US "Trump" property (whether his project, or a project he merely licensed the use of his name to.) 

Given the frequency with which we see crews of folks with limited to no English proficiency on construction sites, on landscaping crews, in restaurant kitchens, and on hotel housekeeping staffs, the odds that Trump has been personally enriched through the use of low-cost undocumented labor seems very, very good.  And given the frequency with which this has occurred in the past 15 or so years, it seems that someone who has Mr. Trump's passionate concern about illegal immigration would have ensured that his management and subcontractors ran each and every person employed through E-Verify for at least, what, the past decade?

It doesn't need to be proven that he personally, knowingly hired undocumented work crews.  It merely needs to be shown that he knew - or reasonably should have known - that his projects (or projects he rented his name to) were employing significant numbers of undocumented workers. 

Deconstructing "Holistic Living"

The Gluten-Free Aisle is here to save all from "wheat belly" / Photo: Memphis CVB, CC BY-ND 2.0

A lot of my friends love and swear by naturopathy, so posting this may be like kicking a bees' nest.  My mind is not set regarding the efficacy of alternative treatments (I'm not a firmly anti-CAM person at this point.)  But I've finally been pushed over the brink.

Take a lifelong healthy skepticism when it comes to claims that sound weirdly mystical, too good to be true, and/or like New Agey fetishization of "the ancient," "the natural," and "the exotic."  Add many years in Seattle and Portland - a couple of the nation's hotbeds of CAM ("complementary and alternative medicine.")  Sprinkle liberally with ever-increasing "activism" by folks who are succeeding in shaping public perception - and policy - through pseudoscientific fear-mongering (see, e.g., the 80s alar scare, the anti-vaxxers, and the Portland anti-fluoridation effort) and demonstrably false, allegedly "evidence-based" claims.  These activists' continuing efforts to shape public policy - my lifelong obsession - is probably what finally tipped me into caring enough to look at these things closely.

So I've hit my limit.  I'm going to try to do my part to dig into the weeds when it comes to CAM, "natural childbirth," organics and other trendy food obsessions, GMOs, various "toxin crises" du jour, and the like.  

Most folks posting on these matters fall into one of three camps:

1. Hardcore proponents of "holistic" living,

2. Well-intentioned folks who pass along notions that sound plausible because they're justified with a lot of scientific-sounding arguments, and

3. The quackery debunkers, some of whom are a bit reflexive in their debunkery.  The best of them actually have respectable educational and professional backgrounds in science or medicine, are able to articulate mainstream scientific scholarship on these topics, and are willing to acknowledge when the holistic folks have a legitimate claim.

I tend to be skeptical when it comes to CAM and various health fads, but I'm skeptical about everything, including my own skepticism.  So I don't fall into any of the three above camps - not yet, anyway.  I'm well-versed in statistical methods and analyzing and interpreting quantitative research, but I'm not a scientist (I don't delude myself into thinking that economics is a hard science), nor do I have any medical background.  So I'll rely heavily on the work of folks who do have legitimate, respectable medical and scientific expertise.  I'm not likely to break any new ground myself in this arena, but hopefully I can use this space to help amplify the voices of folks who know a lot more than I do.

If you have any great articles to share on these topics, please do so in the Comments section!

Dems Need to Resolve Angst About Hillary, Stat!

Secretary of State Clinton / Photo: U.S. Embassy in London, CC BY-ND 2.0

I still have angst about the State Department email situation that is holding me back from enthusiastically supporting Hillary Clinton.  The arguments for the defense coming from Dems sound more like typical spin than thoroughly researched, credible arguments.  But so do the arguments being made by the GOP folks.  I'm feeling like I need to dig in, sort through the best info available, and sort out my feelings on this one right away.

UPDATE: Turns out I'm not the only Dem with such angst.  From today's New York TimesHillary Clinton's Handling of Email Issue Frustrates Democratic Leaders

Donald Trump seems to be gaining on Hillary in head-to-head match-up polls.  She's still ahead, but he's moved a LOT in the last month or so.  All of the polls in June and July had her ahead by 12 to 24 points.  The results gauged in August have her ahead of Trump by just 4 to 6 points.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Trump: Best Wishes, Losers!

This was the best laugh of the day.  Or maybe of two months ago.  But who's counting?  Does a collection of The Donald's best Twitter beefs ever *really* become outdated?  

That Trump has such a graceful, almost poetic way with language ...

So glad Chris Moody of CNN found this and shared it as part of his terrific, ultra-classy, TREMENDOUS collection of some of the Donald's best ever Mean Tweets.  I have a feeling this'll be just one in a continuing series until Trump implodes (or worse ... SHUDDER.)

I Feel Glenn Beck's Pain (No, Really!)

Glenn Beck / Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

It's a weird day for me.  I just found myself agreeing with - and then relating to - Glenn Beck, of all people.  And just one day after I join other Portlandians in celebrating Beck's declaration that we live in The WORST City in America.  The very next morning, he goes and says something reasonable.

Screenshot / Selina Davis
Beck wrote a lengthy post on Facebook in the wee hours asking other conservative pundits about their support for Donald Trump.  Beck specifically calls out Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage by name and asks why they support Trump when he doesn't seem to share the vast majority of their conservative principles, and when Trump's guiding principles seem to be whimsical and unpredictable, at best.  

Good for Glenn Beck.  He's probably voicing what a lot of other conservatives have been thinking, but have been too afraid to say.  

Upon searching the Internet to see if Trump had fired back yet, I learned that Beck's been gunning hard for Trump pretty consistently for months.  [I missed it - me fail.]  

But what I didn't see?  Trump mean tweeting Glenn Beck, or calling him a loser, or speculating where Beck may be bleeding from at the time.  It is hard to keep track of all of The Donald's Twitter beefs, so if I missed something, please share it in the comments!

But back to the FB post ...  In the final paragraphs, things got weirder.  I found myself feeling Glenn Beck's pain

When Leviticus Attacks!

People - all of us - are so damn funny.  Spotted on Facebook:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No, There Doesn't Really Appear to Be A Trans Homicide Crisis

Protesters in Atlanta, August 2015 / Photo:, CC BY 2.0

I’m going to say something at the risk of people I care about getting mad at me.  I don’t want folks thinking I’m trying to minimize oppression or violence against marginalized communities.  People who know me well know that is among the last things I’d ever want to do.  But they also know that I’m a stickler for ensuring that declarations of social crisis be founded in sound data, not gut feelings or fear. 

Why am I compelled to be such a pain about bad stats?  See this page for a thorough explanation.

That said – this Al Jazeera story is wrong.  No, there does not appear to be an actual transgender homicide crisis occurring.

This story appears to be the phenomenon of confirmation bias at work.  People, based on the information that they have, assume that trans people are murdered more frequently than non-trans folks. They then notice every report of a new trans homicide and add it to their collection of proof that there is, in fact, a trans homicide crisis.  In the process, they don’t really notice all of the dozens and dozens of other reports of non-trans people being murdered.

This practice is common to us all.  But we still need to recognize it when it’s happening.

Claims that there is a homicide crisis within the transgender community doesn't really seem to square with actual statistics.  In fact, if this count is accurate (13 or 14 to date for 2015), it indicates that trans people are being killed at a disproportionately LOWER rate than the U.S. population at large. 

Here's why:

Top Six Reasons I’m Such a Pain About Bad Data

Back-ache !!!!!!!!!!! by Craig Sunter, CC BY-ND 2.0

If you don’t know me well, you may be asking yourself, “What the hell is Selina’s issue?  Why is she so frigging nit-picky?  And why does she have such a damn annoying compulsion to scrutinize every third talking point she reads?”  Heck, people who know me well may well have been asking those very questions for years.

You could say it’s an illness.  A verbal tic.  Maybe even a personality disorder.  Or maybe it’s just because I want us to focus our limited collective resources on effectively solving real problems.  And when I say resources, I mean tax dollars, charitable giving, time, labor, talents, and physical/emotional energy.  

To break it down, I do this because:

1. When we end up battling things that are deemed a crisis based on faulty reasoning, we also generally tend to make other faulty assumptions about the cause as well as possible solutions to the problem,

2. We may or may not see backlash, as folks who are skeptical of the validity of the claimed crisis grab on to every data point they can find that confirms to them that the crisis-claimers are, in fact, lying liars,

3. Sticking with provable data and reality-based talking points actually helps attract high-information folks who’d be naturally sympathetic to the cause (I know I’m not the only one turned off from social movements by hyperbole and “gut-based facts” – I’ve met plenty of people just like me),

4. Sticking with reality-based talking points is also our best tool in building middle-of-the-spectrum folks’ support for policy approaches to solve social ills,

5. We all too often end up throwing a ton of time, energy, and money at something that isn’t the crisis we think it is and/or at things that aren’t actually causing the phenomenon we’re concerned about,

6. And, in the process, we divert our time, attention, energy, and tax dollars from combating things that actually *are* crises.  Climate change, anyone?  Disproportionate police use of excessive and deadly force against black and Native folks, anyone?  Flagging public confidence in our political system due to the corrosive influence of moneyed interests, anyone?  Complete and utter failure to reasonably regulate our financial institutions in order to prevent another massive financial crisis, anyone? [There are more, but you get the point.]

I hate inefficiency and inaccuracy with a passion that may well be indicative of a mental disorder.  But I’ve come to terms with that.  If exploiting that personality quirk might possibly help improve life for anyone else on this planet, I’m willing to risk people thinking I’m an old-school nerdy weirdo.  Quite frankly, I am, I always have been, and it’s okay.

If you don’t like what I write, you don’t have to read it.  But if you do like it, then welcome!  Enjoy, and please share your thoughts once in a while in the Comments sections.