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Member since: Wed Jan 18, 2012, 11:29 PM
Number of posts: 4,630

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On experiencing adversity in life: empathy vs callousness toward others

Among people who have experienced adversity and hardship in their lives, I've often wondered why some are so callous toward the hardship experienced by others, while other people who have experienced the same or similar things are all the more compassionate and empathetic for it. This can easily be observed within the context of American politics, but it can be generalized to all kinds of contexts as well.

What are your theories on this topic, fine folks of DU?

So my best friend (going on 16 years) got engaged last night...

...and I couldn't be happier for him (and her).

That's what's going on in my world - no big deal!

"When people see themselves as self-made, they tend to be less generous and public-spirited."

From an article in the Atlantic:

According to the Pew Research Center, people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Other surveys bear this out: Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

That’s troubling, because a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky—leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. It may even make the lucky less likely to support the conditions (such as high-quality public infrastructure and education) that made their own success possible.

Happily, though, when people are prompted to reflect on their good fortune, they become much more willing to contribute to the common good.

Being born in a favorable environment is an enormous stroke of luck. But maintaining such an environment requires high levels of public investment in everything from infrastructure to education—something Americans have lately been unwilling to support. Many factors have contributed to this reticence, but one in particular stands out: budget deficits resulting from a long-term decline in the United States’ top marginal tax rate.

A recent study by the political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright found that the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth-holders are “extremely active politically” and are much more likely than the rest of the American public to resist taxation, regulation, and government spending.Given that the wealthiest Americans believe their prosperity is due, above all else, to their own talent and hard work, is this any wonder? Surely it’s a short hop from overlooking luck’s role in success to feeling entitled to keep the lion’s share of your income—and to being reluctant to sustain the public investments that let you succeed in the first place.


Bolding mine.

Harris Wofford: Marriage is "not based on anyone's sexual desire. It is based on love."

Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall — straight, gay or in between. I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.

For a long time, I did not suspect that idea and fate might meet in my lifetime to produce same-sex marriage equality. My focus was on other issues facing our nation, especially advancing national service for all. Seeking to change something as deeply ingrained in law and public opinion as the definition of marriage seemed impossible.

I was wrong, and should not have been so pessimistic. I had seen firsthand — working and walking with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — that when the time was right, major change for civil rights came to pass in a single creative decade. It is right to expand our conception of marriage to include all Americans who love each other.

Matthew is very different from Clare. The political causes that continue to move me do not preoccupy him, nor have I turned my priorities to design, the focus of his driving talent. Still, the same force of love is at work bringing two people together.

Twice in my life, I’ve felt the pull of such passionate preference. At age 90, I am lucky to be in an era where the Supreme Court has strengthened what President Obama calls “the dignity of marriage” by recognizing that matrimony is not based on anyone’s sexual nature, choices or dreams. It is based on love.


Is this a logical interpretation of the Second Amendment?

My interpretation:

"Since a well regulated militia is necessary for the security of a free State, it is of utmost importance that the right of the People to keep and bear arms is not infringed by the federal government - and by extension, state and local governments."

I base this on the historical and social context of Colonial, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary America.


Read the lyrics to Alan Jackson's "Gone Country"...

...and tell me that it's not a bitingly sarcastic and critical song about the commercialization and faddishness of country music - as if it were a novelty for affluent urban/suburban people who romanticize rural and small-town life.

She's been playing in a room on a strip
For ten years in Vegas

And every night she looks in the mirror
But she only ages
She's been reading about Nashville and all
The records that everybody's buying
Says, "I'm a simple girl myself
Grew up on long island"

So she packs her bags to try to her hand
Says, "This might be my last chance"

She's gone country, look at them boots
She's gone country, back to her roots
She's gone country, a new kind of suit
She's gone country, here she comes

Well the folk scene is dead
But he's holding out in the village
He's been writing songs speaking out
Against wealth and privilege

He says, "I don't believe in money
But a man could make him a killin'"

'Cause some of that stuff don't sound
Much different than Dylan

I hear down there it's changed you see
They're not as backwards as they used to be

He's gone country, look at them boots
He's gone country, back to his roots
He's gone country, a new kind of suit
He's gone country, here he comes

He commutes to L.A.
But he's got a house in the valley

But the bills are piling up
And the pop scene just ain't on the rally
And he says, "Honey I'm a serious composer
Schooled in voice and composition"
But with the crime and the smog these days
This ain't no place for children

Lord, it sounds so easy, it shouldn't take long
Be back in the money in no time at all

He's gone country, look at them boots
He's gone country, back to his roots
He's gone country, a new kind of suit
He's gone country, here he comes

Yeah, he's gone country, a new kind of walk
He's gone country, a new kind of talk
He's gone country, look at them boots
He's gone country, oh, back to his roots

He's gone country
He's gone country
Everybody's gone country
Yeah we've gone country
The whole world's gone country

Bolding mine.

Beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Confronting Structural Racism in the Workplace

Long, fascinating research article on structural racism and the role the U.S. Supreme Court has played in reinforcing existing institutional and structural racial hierarchies.


Since 1967, sociologists have produced a compelling body of literature on structural racism that explains why severe racial disparities persist throughout American society in all social domains: employment, education, residential patterns, wealth accumulation, and so on. Structural racism perpetuates the effects of past, overt discrimination because it does its work through organizational procedures and social policies that appear to be race neutral. Dealing with structural racism requires us to focus on social structure instead of the intentions of bigoted individuals.

In this Article, we link the disciplines of sociology and constitutional history to demonstrate that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to recognize the reality of structural racism in the workplace. Instead, the Court has developed legal doctrines that protect this hidden form of racism, assure its continuation, and disable other branches of the federal and state governments from
eradicating it.
The Court’s willful blindness toward race and employment ignores the reality of structural racism and instead embeds the justices’ unacknowledged racial policy preferences into constitutional law. Their doctrinal assumptions about intent,
colorblindness, facial neutrality, and white innocence enable them not just to ignore structural racism but to perpetuate and affirm it.

In this Article, we first review the sociological literature on structural racism and construct a template of structural racism by
identifying its six key components: (1) irrelevance of intent, (2) individualism, (3) belief in structural neutrality, (4) colorblindness, (5) white advantage, and (6) invisibility. We then provide examples of structural racism in the social domain of employment. Next we demonstrate how Supreme Court constitutional decisions regarding employment since 1964 map onto this template of structural racism: (1) the Court demands a showing of intent, (2) the Court insists on the notion that racism is inflicted only by individuals upon individuals, (3) the Court persists in its belief in structural neutrality, (4) the Court’s anti-classification understanding of equal protection is merely a judicial formulation of colorblindness, (5) the Court’s concern for white innocence reaffirms white advantage and white normativity, and (6) the Court’s embrace of all five of these components serves to keep structural racism invisible and thereby further maintains it.

We conclude first that the Court has ignored nearly a half century of substantial research in sociology and instead has clung to
outdated assumptions about how racism operates that perpetuate racial inequality.
Second, we find that at the same time, the Court does invoke structural social understanding—by ignoring intent, being attentive to group actions and effects on groups, and focusing on inadvertent effects of institutional policies and procedures—but does so only to protect whites’ interests.


Citation: Wiececk, W. M., & Hamilton, J. L. (2014). Beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Confronting Structural Racism in the Workplace. Louisiana Law Review, 74(4), 5.

In light of the recent news re: the Saudi 9/11 connection, here's my analysis of the Saudi regime

Hopefully this will be of some value to some of you.


Within every country in the world, there is a ruling government or regime. Every regime has some form of legitimacy - that is, its justification for being the ruling elite over its respective country. When a regime's legitimacy is predicated on not just providing for the defense of the two holiest cities of Islam, but upholding the ultra-puritanical strain of Islam known as Wahhabism (remember, the alliance between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi clerics dates back to the 18th century, IIRC), and when said regime has systematically eliminated (or attempted to eliminate, anyway) any and all threats to their rule - as well as dissenting views from the ruling Wahhabi orthodoxy; and when that regime reveals itself to be not just in strategic alliance with the Western infidels, but incredibly corrupt and hypocritical in the behavior of its own rulers (e.g., the lavish, Westernized lifestyles of many Saudi royals and other elite businessmen), is it any surprise that many Saudi citizens will grow frustrated and angry with both the hypocritical, corrupt, and absolutist dictators that rule their country, as well as the "Great Satan" of the United States and other Western countries that ally with the House of Saud?

Under the particular conditions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - a population deeply indoctrinated in Wahhabi ideology, no civil society to speak of (other than rabidly Wahhabist mosques), and prospects for economic advancement being few and far between - the potential for an uprising is dangerously high. But such an uprising, far from being a remotely secular, liberal, or democratic revolution, would be an even more aggressively - and violently - Wahhabist, and openly anti-Western, in alignment with the likes of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, and ISIS.

Given these conditions, the inclination of the House of Saud has not been to liberalize or introduce substantive reforms, but to export the Kingdom's ruling Wahhabism all over the world. This serves two functions: first, it keeps the home-grown Saudi jihadists away from the Kingdom, where they are no longer an immediate threat to the ruling family. Second, it shores up the legitimacy of the House of Saud in the eyes of both the Wahhabist clerics - who are incredibly influential within Saudi society - as well as many devout Sunni Muslims around the world, who have increasingly looked to Wahhabism as the standard by which all Muslims ought to be measured.

Thus, it does not surprise me in the slightest that members of the House of Saud, other Saudi government officials (perhaps especially in the military as well as the intelligence and foreign affairs services), Saudi "charities" that were easily infiltrated by operatives from Al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations), and fabulously wealthy Saudi businessmen have donated generous sums of money over the years to all kinds of Wahhabist (or Wahhabi-influenced) individuals and organizations. And it does not surprise me at all that some of that money ended up in the hands of the 9/11 hijackers.

The real scandal here is the fact that the U.S. government has been allied for so long with this brutally dictatorial regime that has cynically exported the ideology and the organizations that have directly given rise to the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world, in the name of not merely Wahhabist religious ideology; but also, increasing the regime's own influence and legitimacy both domestically and globally. You know what they say...follow the money.

The lesson I have learned is that all governments - not the least of which include the United States government - are, in practice, incredibly cynical in their pursuit of power and influence. No idealism can be found in politics as it is actually practiced. House of Cards has got nothing on the real world.

- My $0.02.

One of the issues here is that for the House of Saud, there is no real boundary...

...between their public roles at the helm of the Saudi state and the private activities of its estimated 15,000 members.

Consider the fact that many members of the House of Saud are extremely wealthy businessmen themselves, and the only other business owners that have any significant wealth are personally connected to the House of Saud themselves.

However, the thousands of wealthy Saudi royals and other wealthy Saudis are far from unified in their priorities, so what you end up having is a multitude of different private foreign policies being financed by different individuals or factions within the Saudi business elite.

If I had to guess, I would say that the 9/11 hijackers were funded and assisted by certain individuals within this Saudi business elite, as part of a covert foreign policy operation undertaken by wealthy Saudis who were particularly anti-American/anti-Western.

Just my opinion, YMMV.

The "double burden" on women of working both inside and outside the home

Interesting article that I found on Wikipedia. Some excerpts:

Double burden is a term used to describe the workload of people who work to earn money, but who are also responsible for significant amounts of unpaid domestic labor. This phenomenon is also known as the The Second Shift as in Arlie Hochschild's book of the same name. In heterosexual couples where both partners have paid jobs, women often spend significantly more time than men on household chores and caring work, such as childrearing or caring for sick family members. This outcome is determined in large part by traditional gender roles that have been accepted by society over time. Labor market constraints also play a role in determining who does the bulk of unpaid work.

"Gender ideologies are linked to beliefs about appropriate behaviour for men and women" Socialization plays a major role in determining gender ideologies and what's valued in one time and culture may not necessarily transcend to another. Traditional gender ideologies have contributed to the double burden because it posits women as caretakers, men as providers, and each gender occupying their own sphere of influence. Although research has shown that attitudes about gender roles have become more egalitarian over the past few decades, "these changes in gender attitudes have not been accompanied by corresponding changes in the allocation of housework".

There are various societal pressures that combine to create the double burden, including some economic thinking of domestic work, thoughts about net household gain, and the perceived notion that women are more likely to ask for maternity leave than men. Many classical economists believe that child care does not contribute to economic growth of the nation. They believe that welfare states such as Sweden are subsidizing work that is unproductive, and often think of children like a pet that only consumes without growing up to be productive workers. There is also the notion that the net household gain of a woman taking an hour away from her unpaid labor in order to do paid labor is always more than the net household gain of a man taking an hour away from paid labor to do unpaid labor. This creates the thought that women should do paid work and lose some time doing domestic jobs without the man taking time away from paid work to do domestic jobs, creating a deficit of hours necessary to do unpaid work that need to get filled. In addition, women are seen as more likely to ask for maternity leave than men, meaning that it is more difficult for them to obtain a well paying job, which has negative effects on female employment.

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