You probably heard the great news – after two years of progressive activism, FOX finally cancelled Glenn Beck’s show–but the Boycott Must Go On!!

Ten years ago, Media Matters launched with a revolutionary mission: to systematically monitor the U.S. media for conservative misinformation every day, in real time. We’ve been calling out right-wing lies for a decade — and we’re not done yet. Will you contribute now to help us raise $10,000 for our 10th anniversary?

Media Matters Timeline

For ten years, we’ve successfully fought back against the bad actors that poison our media with right-wing lies and smears. It’s been an amazing beginning, and we couldn’t have done it without your support.

We’re in this for the long haul. Make an anniversary gift today to kickstart the next ten years of media accountability.

Dear Kevin,
You probably heard the great news – after two years of progressive activism, FOX finally cancelled Glenn Beck’s show.
Beck was targeted after he slandered President Obama by saying, “This president has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture, I don’t know what it is… This guy, I believe, is a racist.”
Activists at ColorOfChange, Media Matters, StopBeck, FoxNewsBoycott, and of course responded with a boycott of advertisers on Glenn Beck’s show. Ultimately over 300 advertisers pulled their ads from Beck, costing FOX over $40 million.
Advertiser boycotts work! And it’s time to boycott all FOX News advertisers:

We’re starting our boycott of all FOX News with Proactiv, which sells acne medicine to teenagers and young adults. Why?
First, there are lots of other acne treatments. Second, young adults above all are hurt by FOX News, which promotes right-wing policies on race, education, healthcare, the environment, and war. Let’s get our future leaders to lead the fight against FOX News!
Sign the petition to Proactiv and enter the email address of every young adult over 18 you know:

Beyond President Obama, FOX regularly slanders nearly everyone: Democrats, unionized workers, the unemployed (including veterans and 99ers), environmentalists, feminists, blacks, Hiics, Jews, Muslims, progressives, scientists, and any other group it disagrees with.
FOX News broadcasts rightwing extremist slander, incitement to violence, political propaganda, and outright lies to promote its rightwing political agenda. This is not “news,” but rather a never-ending “war on news” – and it’s all documented in our petition.
Why would any decent company want to fund it? Tell Proactiv to stop advertising on FOX News:

Thanks for all you do!
Bob Fertik

GLEN BECK ADMITTED in 2007, “I Am RACIST and Barack Obama is very White” THIS MAKES Boycotting FOX NEWS needed NOW

By Kevin Stoda

Dear, American supporters of the Fascist Oddball Xenophobic (FOX) news networks.

AMERICANS are getting less tolerant of your racism and stronghold on our major media.

For example, we have noted that in his 2007 TV program from FOX (See on You-Tube), Glen Beck admitted he himself was racist. Further, Beck then, in contrast to 2009, called Barrack Obama much more white than black. (Apparently, Beck now he has other nonsense to mush men’s minds.)

Using a major news platform to promote racism and to tell people to disrespect a whole presidential administration through mixed truths, outright lies, and xenophobia, is not to be tolerated any more.

On Democracy Now today, Amy Goodman asked Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP what he thought of Wal-Mart’s pull-out from advertising on the Glen Beck program on FOX.

NOTE: Goodman had simply asked , “The whole attack by Glenn Beck that drove this (resignation)? In your response from the NAACP to Van Jones, it says, ´The only thing more outrageous than Mr. Beck’s attack on Van Jones is the fact that there are sponsors that continue to pay him to provide this type of offensive commentary.` Do you support the continued boycott of companies like Wal-Mart of Beck’s show on Fox?”

This is a particularly important point because Glen Beck´s HATE CAMPAIGN ON THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION led recently to a great American policy maker, Van Jones, quitting the government this week.

Mr. Jealous said, “We certainly support them (Walmart) choosing with their dollars who they’re going to support. I mean, it’s—Glenn Beck is somebody who’s told a seven-year-old girl, a seven-year-old black girl, that he would buy her a ticket back to Africa, that she needed to go back to Africa. And then he comes out, and he says that healthcare is the beginning of reparations. I mean, this guy plays the race card on a weekly basis. He does it very aggressive—you know, in a very hateful way.”

Recall, first, that Van Jones is one of the most important and thoughtful men in America—however, the FOX (Fascist Oddball Xenophobic) news network chose to support a man, like Glen Beck, rather than seeing that tens of millions of Americans need to get health care from promoters like Jones and that our America economy needs to move starting today to the kind of economy that its competitors worldwide are already doing.

Let’s quote the wisdom and influential words of Van Jones on the absolute necessity to green the American economy NOW!

“I think it’s really important to point out that we’re sort of at the end of an era of American capitalism, where we thought we could run the economy based on consumption rather than production, credit rather than creativity, borrowing rather than building, and also, most importantly, environmental destruction rather than environmental restoration.”

Jones continued, “We’re trying to make the case in this book that that era is over. We now have to move in a very different direction. And key to that will be basing the US economy not on credit cards, but based on clean energy and the clean energy revolution that would put literally millions of people to work, putting up solar panels all across the United States, weatherizing buildings so they don’t leak so much energy and put up so much carbon, building wind farms and wave farms, manufacturing wind turbines. We argue you could put Detroit back to work not making SUVs to destroy the world, but making wind turbines, 8,000 finely machine parts in each one, twenty tons of steel in each wind tower, making wind turbines to help save the world.”

Finally, Van Jones wisely noted, “So we think that you can fight pollution and poverty at the same time. We think that you can actually power our way through this recession by putting people to work, but we’re going to have to start building things here and re-powering, retrofitting, retooling America, and that that’s the way forward both for the economy, for the earth and for everyday people.”

Note: These statements came from a program on DN from October of last year:

Van Beck has written a book of the same title, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.

America needs such voices as Van Jones in government leadership in America—not Fascist Oddball Xenophobic (FOX) types.

Clean up the American airwaves of all its fascism and racism, today.

NOTE: One way to change the noise of Fascist Oddball Xenophobic (FOX) media moguls is to support alternative media organizations

and alternative monitoring websites.

Another way, is to demand that local radio and TV channels put better programming on, such as Democracy Now or news sources promoted by serious progressive journalists:

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Out-of-control compensation on Wall Street is one of the things that drove the financial system and the U.S. economy off the rails in 2008. Anyone who doubts the connection should just look at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, whose massive bad bets helped bring on the meltdown

Kevin ,

Out-of-control compensation on Wall Street is one of the things that drove the financial system and the U.S. economy off the rails in 2008. Anyone who doubts the connection should just look at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, whose massive bad bets helped bring on the meltdown.

Executives at those two companies alone made $2.5 billion in the run-up to their failureand never had to pay a penny of it back.

Please join, Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and Demand Progress in calling on the bank regulators to end Wall Street’s “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” pay packages.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law took one important step: it said that big Wall Street banks could no longer reward their decision-makers for reckless bets. That piece of the law could make a big difference. But federal regulators put out a very weak proposed rule implementing the new requirement in 2011, and then they never even finished it.

More than six years after the crisis, it’s way past time to stop rewarding bankers with outsize compensation for short-term bets that leave the rest of us holding the bag.  We need rules on big bank pay with teeth in them. Senior people should not get paid huge sums for short term gains that lead to long term and widespread losses.

Join, AFR and Demand Progress in calling on the bank regulators to end Wall Street’s “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” pay packages.

AFR is a non-partisan and nonprofit coalition of more than 200 civil rights, consumer, labor and other groups leading the charge to hold Wall Street accountable and lay the foundation for a simpler, safer, and smaller financial system that better serves the needs of the country as a whole. For years, they’ve worked to encourage and persuade policy makers to rein in flawed executive compensation practices, and adding your voice will add real wind in our sails as we all continue to do so.

Thank you.

David Segal,
30 Ritchie Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910

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NFL spent $3.6 million lobbying in recent years, and contributed more than $1.6 million to members of Congress–BUT THE NFL PAYS NO TAXES? What a relationship? What kind of Governance?

Dear Kevin Stoda,

You know the NFL as the National Football League. But the IRS knows them better as the Nonprofit Football League – that’s because the NFL has been tax-exempt since 1966 and average Americans are left paying higher taxes to make up for lost revenue.

Senator Coburn is trying to change that, but he needs your support to combat special interests.

The NFL spent $3.6 million lobbying in recent years, and contributed more than $1.6 million to members of Congress. It leads all professional sports leagues in lobbying expenditures.

No wonder Sen. Coburn has yet to gain the support of his colleagues – we know howpowerfully corrupting money in politics and the role of special interests has become.

Lobbyists demonstrated their prowess by adding, “or professional football leagues” to the language regulating 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations back in 1966, and it has remained there ever since.

The only way Congress will act in the people’s interest is if the people begin demanding it and show them where we stand! 

PETITION TO THE SENATE:  Please end the ludicrous subsidies to the NFL and repeal their nonprofit status now. Sign on to the PRO Sports Act (S. 1524).

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

The folks at

P.S. If the other links aren’t working for you, please go here to sign:

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Comparing Minimum Wage Workers in USA and Denmark–USA is routed and we need to change!!

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Unfortunately for all of us, policies and decisions that are founded on ignorance have a strong tendency, sooner or later, to blow up in one’s face. So how can policymakers, teachers, and the rest of us cut through all the counterfeit knowledge—our own and our neighbors’—that stands in the way of our ability to make truly informed judgments?

We put up with several presidents that modeled all this for us–some VPs too.–kas

We Are All Confident Idiots

The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise. A leading researcher on the psychology of human wrongness sets us straight.


Last March, during the enormous South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, the late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! sent a camera crew out into the streets to catch hipsters bluffing. “People who go to music festivals pride themselves on knowing who the next acts are,” Kimmel said to his studio audience, “even if they don’t actually know who the new acts are.” So the host had his crew ask festival-goers for their thoughts about bands that don’t exist.

“The big buzz on the street,” said one of Kimmel’s interviewers to a man wearing thick-framed glasses and a whimsical T-shirt, “is Contact Dermatitis. Do you think he has what it takes to really make it to the big time?”

“Absolutely,” came the dazed fan’s reply.

The prank was an installment of Kimmel’s recurring “Lie Witness News” feature, which involves asking pedestrians a variety of questions with false premises. In another episode, Kimmel’s crew asked people on Hollywood Boulevard whether they thought the 2014 film Godzilla was insensitive to survivors of the 1954 giant lizard attack on Tokyo; in a third, they asked whether Bill Clinton gets enough credit for ending the Korean War, and whether his appearance as a judge on America’s Got Talent would damage his legacy. “No,” said one woman to this last question. “It will make him even more popular.”

One can’t help but feel for the people who fall into Kimmel’s trap. Some appear willing to say just about anything on camera to hide their cluelessness about the subject at hand (which, of course, has the opposite effect). Others seem eager to please, not wanting to let the interviewer down by giving the most boringly appropriate response: I don’t know. But for some of these interviewees, the trap may be an even deeper one. The most confident-sounding respondents often seem to think they do have some clue—as if there is some fact, some memory, or some intuition that assures them their answer is reasonable.

At one point during South by Southwest, Kimmel’s crew approached a poised young woman with brown hair. “What have you heard about Tonya and the Hardings?” the interviewer asked. “Have you heard they’re kind of hard-hitting?” Failing to pick up on this verbal wink, the woman launched into an elaborate response about the fictitious band. “Yeah, a lot of men have been talking about them, saying they’re really impressed,” she replied. “They’re usually not fans of female groups, but they’re really making a statement.” From some mental gossamer, she was able to spin an authoritative review of Tonya and the Hardings incorporating certain detailed facts: that they’re real; that they’re female (never mind that, say, Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper aren’t); and that they’re a tough, boundary-breaking group.

In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

To be sure, Kimmel’s producers must cherry-pick the most laughable interviews to put the air. But late-night TV is not the only place where one can catch people extemporizing on topics they know nothing about. In the more solemn confines of a research lab at Cornell University, the psychologists Stav Atir, Emily Rosenzweig, and I carry out ongoing research that amounts to a carefully controlled, less flamboyant version of Jimmy Kimmel’s bit. In our work, we ask survey respondents if they are familiar with certain technical concepts from physics, biology, politics, and geography. A fair number claim familiarity with genuine terms like centripetal force and photon. But interestingly, they also claim some familiarity with concepts that are entirely made up, such as the plates of parallax, ultra-lipid, and cholarine. In one study, roughly 90 percent claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fictitious concepts we asked them about. In fact, the more well versed respondents considered themselves in a general topic, the more familiarity they claimed with the meaningless terms associated with it in the survey.

It’s odd to see people who claim political expertise assert their knowledge of both Susan Rice (the national security adviser to President Barack Obama) and Michael Merrington (a pleasant-sounding string of syllables). But it’s not that surprising. For more than 20 years, I have researched people’s understanding of their own expertise—formally known as the study of metacognition, the processes by which human beings evaluate and regulate their knowledge, reasoning, and learning—and the results have been consistently sobering, occasionally comical, and never dull.

The American author and aphorist William Feather once wrote that being educated means “being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” As it turns out, this simple ideal is extremely hard to achieve. Although what we know is often perceptible to us, even the broad outlines of what we don’t know are all too often completely invisible. To a great degree, we fail to recognize the frequency and scope of our ignorance.

In 1999, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, my then graduate student Justin Kruger and I published a paper that documented how, in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers—and we are all poor performers at some things—fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack.

What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by somethingthat feels to them like knowledge.

This isn’t just an armchair theory. A whole battery of studies conducted by myself and others have confirmed that people who don’t know much about a given set of cognitive, technical, or social skills tend to grossly overestimate their prowess and performance, whether it’s grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, or financial knowledge. College students who hand in exams that will earn them Ds and Fs tend to think their efforts will be worthy of far higher grades; low-performing chess players, bridge players, and medical students, and elderly people applying for a renewed driver’s license, similarly overestimate their competence by a long shot.

Occasionally, one can even see this tendency at work in the broad movements of history. Among its many causes, the 2008 financial meltdown was precipitated by the collapse of an epic housing bubble stoked by the machinations of financiers and the ignorance of consumers. And recent research suggests that many Americans’ financial ignorance is of the inappropriately confident variety. In 2012, the National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (with the U.S. Treasury), asked roughly 25,000 respondents to rate their own financial knowledge, and then went on to measure their actual financial literacy.

The roughly 800 respondents who said they had filed bankruptcy within the previous two years performed fairly dismally on the test—in the 37th percentile, on average. But they rated their overall financial knowledge more, not less, positively than other respondents did. The difference was slight, but it was beyond a statistical doubt: 23 percent of the recently bankrupted respondents gave themselves the highest possible self-rating; among the rest, only 13 percent did so. Why the self-confidence? Like Jimmy Kimmel’s victims, bankrupted respondents were particularly allergic to saying “I don’t know.” Pointedly, when getting a question wrong, they were 67 percent more likely to endorse a falsehood than their peers were. Thus, with a head full of “knowledge,” they considered their financial literacy to be just fine.

Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to you. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all. And over the years, I’ve become convinced of one key, overarching fact about the ignorant mind. One should not think of it as uninformed. Rather, one should think of it as misinformed.

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. This clutter is an unfortunate by-product of one of our greatest strengths as a species. We are unbridled pattern recognizers and profligate theorizers. Often, our theories are good enough to get us through the day, or at least to an age when we can procreate. But our genius for creative storytelling, combined with our inability to detect our own ignorance, can sometimes lead to situations that are embarrassing, unfortunate, or downright dangerous—especially in a technologically advanced, complex democratic society that occasionally invests mistaken popular beliefs with immense destructive power (See: crisis, financial; war, Iraq). As the humorist Josh Billings once put it, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Ironically, one thing many people “know” about this quote is that it was first uttered by Mark Twain or Will Rogers—which just ain’t so.)

Because of the way we are built, and because of the way we learn from our environment, we are all engines of misbelief. And the better we understand how our wonderful yet kludge-ridden, Rube Goldberg engine works, the better we—as individuals and as a society—can harness it to navigate toward a more objective understanding of the truth.


Some of our deepest intuitions about the world go all the way back to our cradles. Before their second birthday, babies know that two solid objects cannot co-exist in the same space. They know that objects continue to exist when out of sight, and fall if left unsupported. They know that people can get up and move around as autonomous beings, but that the computer sitting on the desk cannot. But not all of our earliest intuitions are so sound.

Very young children also carry misbeliefs that they will harbor, to some degree, for the rest of their lives. Their thinking, for example, is marked by a strong tendency to falsely ascribe intentions, functions, and purposes to organisms. In a child’s mind, the most important biological aspect of a living thing is the role it plays in the realm of all life. Asked why tigers exist, children will emphasize that they were “made for being in a zoo.” Asked why trees produce oxygen, children say they do so to allow animals to breathe.

Any conventional biology or natural science education will attempt to curb this propensity for purpose-driven reasoning. But it never really leaves us. Adults with little formal education show a similar bias. And, when rushed, even professional scientists start making purpose-driven mistakes. The Boston University psychologist Deborah Kelemen and some colleagues demonstrated this in a study that involved asking 80 scientists—people with university jobs in geoscience, chemistry, and physics—to evaluate 100 different statements about “why things happen” in the natural world as true or false. Sprinkled among the explanations were false purpose-driven ones, such as “Moss forms around rocks in order to stop soil erosion” and “The Earth has an ozone layer in order to protect it from UV light.” Study participants were allowed either to work through the task at their own speed, or given only 3.2 seconds to respond to each item. Rushing the scientists caused them to double their endorsements of false purpose-driven explanations, from 15 to 29 percent.

This purpose-driven misconception wreaks particular havoc on attempts to teach one of the most important concepts in modern science: evolutionary theory. Even laypeople who endorse the theory often believe a false version of it. They ascribe a level of agency and organization to evolution that is just not there. If you ask many laypeople their understanding of why, say, cheetahs can run so fast, they will explain it’s because the cats surmised, almost as a group, that they could catch more prey if they could just run faster, and so they acquired the attribute and passed it along to their cubs. Evolution, in this view, is essentially a game of species-level strategy.

This idea of evolution misses the essential role played by individual differences and competition between members of a species in response to environmental pressures: Individual cheetahs who can run faster catch more prey, live longer, and reproduce more successfully; slower cheetahs lose out, and die out—leaving the species to drift toward becoming faster overall. Evolution is the result of random differences and natural selection, not agency or choice.

But belief in the “agency” model of evolution is hard to beat back. While educating people about evolution can indeed lead them from being uninformed to being well informed, in some stubborn instances it also moves them into the confidently misinformed category. In 2014, Tony Yates and Edmund Marek published a study that tracked the effect of high school biology classes on 536 Oklahoma high school students’ understanding of evolutionary theory. The students were rigorously quizzed on their knowledge of evolution before taking introductory biology, and then again just afterward. Not surprisingly, the students’ confidence in their knowledge of evolutionary theory shot up after instruction, and they endorsed a greater number of accurate statements. So far, so good.

The trouble is that the number of misconceptions the group endorsed also shot up. For example, instruction caused the percentage of students strongly agreeing with the true statement “Evolution cannot cause an organism’s traits to change during its lifetime” to rise from 17 to 20 percent—but it also caused those strongly disagreeing to rise from 16 to 19 percent. In response to the likewise true statement “Variation among individuals is important for evolution to occur,” exposure to instruction produced an increase in strong agreement from 11 to 22 percent, but strong disagreement also rose from nine to 12 percent. Tellingly, the only response that uniformly went down after instruction was “I don’t know.”

And it’s not just evolution that bedevils students. Again and again, research has found that conventional educational practices largely fail to eradicate a number of our cradle-born misbeliefs. Education fails to correct people who believe that vision is made possible only because the eye emits some energy or substance into the environment. It fails to correct common intuitions about the trajectory of falling objects. And it fails to disabuse students of the idea that light and heat act under the same laws as material substances. What education often does appear to do, however, is imbue us with confidence in the errors we retain.


Imagine that the illustration below represents a curved tube lying horizontally on a table:


In a study of intuitive physics in 2013, Elanor Williams, Justin Kruger, and I presented people with several variations on this curved-tube image and asked them to identify the trajectory a ball would take (marked A, B, or C in the illustration) after it had traveled through each. Some people got perfect scores, and seemed to know it, being quite confident in their answers. Some people did a bit less well—and, again, seemed to know it, as their confidence was much more muted.

But something curious started happening as we began to look at the people who did extremely badly on our little quiz. By now, you may be able to predict it: These people expressed more, not less, confidence in their performance. In fact, people who got none of the items right often expressed confidence that matched that of the top performers. Indeed, this study produced the most dramatic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect we had ever seen: When looking only at the confidence of people getting 100 percent versus zero percent right, it was often impossible to tell who was in which group.

(Photo: Gregg Segal)

Why? Because both groups “knew something.” They knew there was a rigorous, consistent rule that a person should follow to predict the balls’ trajectories. One group knew the right Newtonian principle: that the ball would continue in the direction it was going the instant it left the tube—Path B. Freed of the tube’s constraint, it would just go straight.

People who got every item wrong typically answered that the ball would follow Path A. Essentially, their rule was that the tube would impart some curving impetus to the trajectory of the ball, which it would continue to follow upon its exit. This answer is demonstrably incorrect—but a plurality of people endorse it.

These people are in good company. In 1500 A.D., Path A would have been the accepted answer among sophisticates with an interest in physics. Both Leonardo da Vinci and French philosopher Jean Buridan endorsed it. And it does make some sense. A theory of curved impetus would explain common, everyday puzzles, such as why wheels continue to rotate even after someone stops pushing the cart, or why the planets continue their tight and regular orbits around the sun. With those problems “explained,” it’s an easy step to transfer this explanation to other problems like those involving tubes.

What this study illustrates is another general way—in addition to our cradle-born errors—in which humans frequently generate misbeliefs: We import knowledge from appropriate settings into ones where it is inappropriate.

Here’s another example: According to Pauline Kim, a professor at Washington University Law School, people tend to make inferences about the law based on what they know about more informal social norms. This frequently leads them to misunderstand their rights—and in areas like employment law, to wildly overestimate them. In 1997, Kim presented roughly 300 residents of Buffalo, New York, with a series of morally abhorrent workplace scenarios—for example, an employee is fired for reporting that a co-worker has been stealing from the company—that were nonetheless legal under the state’s “at-will” employment regime. Eighty to 90 percent of the Buffalonians incorrectly identified each of these distasteful scenarios as illegal, revealing how little they understood about how much freedom employers actually enjoy to fire employees. (Why does this matter? Legal scholars had long defended “at-will” employment rules on the grounds that employees consent to them in droves without seeking better terms of employment. What Kim showed was that employees seldom understand what they’re consenting to.)

Doctors, too, are quite familiar with the problem of inappropriately transferred knowledge in their dealings with patients. Often, it’s not the medical condition itself that a physician needs to defeat as much as patient misconceptions that protect it. Elderly patients, for example, frequently refuse to follow a doctor’s advice to exercise to alleviate pain—one of the most effective strategies available—because the physical soreness and discomfort they feel when they exercise is something they associate with injury and deterioration. Research by the behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan has found that mothers in India often withhold water from infants with diarrhea because they mistakenly conceive of their children as leaky buckets—rather than as increasingly dehydrated creatures in desperate need of water.


Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals. Each of us possesses certain foundational beliefs—narratives about the self, ideas about the social order—that essentially cannot be violated: To contradict them would call into question our very self-worth. As such, these views demand fealty from other opinions. And any information that we glean from the world is amended, distorted, diminished, or forgotten in order to make sure that these sacrosanct beliefs remain whole and unharmed.

The way we traditionally conceive of ignorance—as an absence of knowledge—leads us to think of education as its natural antidote. But education can produce illusory confidence.

One very commonly held sacrosanct belief, for example, goes something like this: I am a capable, good, and caring person.Any information that contradicts this premise is liable to meet serious mental resistance. Political and ideological beliefs, too, often cross over into the realm of the sacrosanct. The anthropological theory of cultural cognition suggests that people everywhere tend to sort ideologically into cultural worldviews diverging along a couple of axes: They are either individualist (favoring autonomy, freedom, and self-reliance) or communitarian (giving more weight to benefits and costs borne by the entire community); and they are either hierarchist (favoring the distribution of social duties and resources along a fixed ranking of status) or egalitarian (dismissing the very idea of ranking people according to status). According to the theory of cultural cognition, humans process information in a way that not only reflects these organizing principles, but also reinforces them. These ideological anchor points can have a profound and wide-ranging impact on what people believe, and even on what they “know” to be true.

It is perhaps not so surprising to hear that facts, logic, and knowledge can be bent to accord with a person’s subjective worldview; after all, we accuse our political opponents of this kind of “motivated reasoning” all the time. But the extent of this bending can be remarkable. In ongoing work with the political scientist Peter Enns, my lab has found that a person’s politics can warp other sets of logical or factual beliefs so much that they come into direct contradiction with one another. In a survey of roughly 500 Americans conducted in late 2010, we found that over a quarter of liberals (but only six percent of conservatives) endorsed both the statement “President Obama’s policies have already created a strong revival in the economy” and “Statutes and regulations enacted by the previous Republican presidential administration have made a strong economic recovery impossible.” Both statements are pleasing to the liberal eye and honor a liberal ideology, but how can Obama have already created a strong recovery that Republican policies have rendered impossible? Among conservatives, 27 percent (relative to just 10 percent of liberals) agreed both that “President Obama’s rhetorical skills are elegant but are insufficient to influence major international issues” and that “President Obama has not done enough to use his rhetorical skills to effect regime change in Iraq.” But if Obama’s skills are insufficient, why should he be criticized for not using them to influence the Iraqi government?

Sacrosanct ideological commitments can also drive us to develop quick, intense opinions on topics we know virtually nothing about—topics that, on their face, have nothing to do with ideology. Consider the emerging field of nanotechnology. Nanotech, loosely defined, involves the fabrication of products at the atomic or molecular level that have applications in medicine, energy production, biomaterials, and electronics. Like pretty much any new technology, nanotech carries the promise of great benefit (antibacterial food containers!) and the risk of serious downsides (nano-surveillance technology!).

In 2006, Daniel Kahan, a professor at Yale Law School, performed a study together with some colleagues on public perceptions of nanotechnology. They found, as other surveys had before, that most people knew little to nothing about the field. They also found that ignorance didn’t stop people from opining about whether nanotechnology’s risks outweighed its benefits.

When Kahan surveyed uninformed respondents, their opinions were all over the map. But when he gave another group of respondents a very brief, meticulously balanced description of the promises and perils of nanotech, the remarkable gravitational pull of deeply held sacrosanct beliefs became apparent. With just two paragraphs of scant (though accurate) information to go on, people’s views of nanotechnology split markedly—and aligned with their overall worldviews. Hierarchics/individualists found themselves viewing nanotechnology more favorably. Egalitarians/collectivists took the opposite stance, insisting that nanotechnology has more potential for harm than good.

Why would this be so? Because of underlying beliefs. Hierarchists, who are favorably disposed to people in authority, may respect industry and scientific leaders who trumpet the unproven promise of nanotechnology. Egalitarians, on the other hand, may fear that the new technology could present an advantage that conveys to only a few people. And collectivists might worry that nanotechnology firms will pay insufficient heed to their industry’s effects on the environment and public health. Kahan’s conclusion: If two paragraphs of text are enough to send people on a glide path to polarization, simply giving members of the public more information probably won’t help them arrive at a shared, neutral understanding of the facts; it will just reinforce their biased views.

One might think that opinions about an esoteric technology would be hard to come by. Surely, to know whether nanotech is a boon to humankind or a step toward doomsday would require some sort of knowledge about materials science, engineering, industry structure, regulatory issues, organic chemistry, surface science, semiconductor physics, microfabrication, and molecular biology. Every day, however, people rely on the cognitive clutter in their minds—whether it’s an ideological reflex, a misapplied theory, or a cradle-born intuition—to answer technical, political, and social questions they have little or no direct expertise in. We are never all that far from Tonya and the Hardings.


Unfortunately for all of us, policies and decisions that are founded on ignorance have a strong tendency, sooner or later, to blow up in one’s face. So how can policymakers, teachers, and the rest of us cut through all the counterfeit knowledge—our own and our neighbors’—that stands in the way of our ability to make truly informed judgments?

The way we traditionally conceive of ignorance—as an absence of knowledge—leads us to think of education as its natural antidote. But education, even when done skillfully, can produce illusory confidence. Here’s a particularly frightful example: Driver’s education courses, particularly those aimed at handling emergency maneuvers, tend to increase, rather than decrease, accident rates. They do so because training people to handle, say, snow and ice leaves them with the lasting impression that they’re permanent experts on the subject. In fact, their skills usually erode rapidly after they leave the course. And so, months or even decades later, they have confidence but little leftover competence when their wheels begin to spin.

In cases like this, the most enlightened approach, as proposed by Swedish researcher Nils Petter Gregersen, may be to avoid teaching such skills at all. Instead of training drivers how to negotiate icy conditions, Gregersen suggests, perhaps classes should just convey their inherent danger—they should scare inexperienced students away from driving in winter conditions in the first place, and leave it at that.

But, of course, guarding people from their own ignorance by sheltering them from the risks of life is seldom an option. Actually getting people to part with their misbeliefs is a far trickier, far more important task. Luckily, a science is emerging, led by such scholars as Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol and Ullrich Ecker of the University of Western Australia, that could help.

In the classroom, some of best techniques for disarming misconceptions are essentially variations on the Socratic method. To eliminate the most common misbeliefs, the instructor can open a lesson with them—and then show students the explanatory gaps those misbeliefs leave yawning or the implausible conclusions they lead to. For example, an instructor might start a discussion of evolution by laying out the purpose-driven evolutionary fallacy, prompting the class to question it. (How do species just magically know what advantages they should develop to confer to their offspring? How do they manage to decide to work as a group?) Such an approach can make the correct theory more memorable when it’s unveiled, and can prompt general improvements in analytical skills.


Then, of course, there is the problem of rampant misinformation in places that, unlike classrooms, are hard to control—like the Internet and news media. In these Wild West settings, it’s best not to repeat common misbeliefs at all. Telling people that Barack Obama is not a Muslim fails to change many people’s minds, because they frequently remember everything that was said—except for the crucial qualifier “not.” Rather, to successfully eradicate a misbelief requires not only removing the misbelief, but filling the void left behind (“Obama was baptized in 1988 as a member of the United Church of Christ”). If repeating the misbelief is absolutely necessary, researchers have found it helps to provide clear and repeated warnings that the misbelief is false. I repeat, false.

The most difficult misconceptions to dispel, of course, are those that reflect sacrosanct beliefs. And the truth is that often these notions can’t be changed. Calling a sacrosanct belief into question calls the entire self into question, and people will actively defend views they hold dear. This kind of threat to a core belief, however, can sometimes be alleviated by giving people the chance to shore up their identity elsewhere. Researchers have found that asking people to describe aspects of themselves that make them proud, or report on values they hold dear, can make any incoming threat seem, well, less threatening.

For example, in a study conducted by Geoffrey Cohen, David Sherman, and other colleagues, self-described American patriots were more receptive to the claims of a report critical of U.S. foreign policy if, beforehand, they wrote an essay about an important aspect of themselves, such as their creativity, sense of humor, or family, and explained why this aspect was particularly meaningful to them. In a second study, in which pro-choice college students negotiated over what federal abortion policy should look like, participants made more concessions to restrictions on abortion after writing similar self-affirmative essays.

Sometimes, too, researchers have found that sacrosanct beliefs themselves can be harnessed to persuade a subject to reconsider a set of facts with less prejudice. For example, conservatives tend not to endorse policies that preserve the environment as much as liberals do. But conservatives do care about issues that involve “purity” in thought, deed, and reality. Casting environmental protection as a chance to preserve the purity of the Earth causes conservatives to favor those policies much more, as research by Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer of Stanford University suggests. In a similar vein, liberals can be persuaded to raise military spending if such a policy is linked to progressive values like fairness and equity beforehand—by, for instance, noting that the military offers recruits a way out of poverty, or that military promotion standards apply equally to all.

But here is the real challenge: How can we learn to recognize our own ignorance and misbeliefs? To begin with, imagine that you are part of a small group that needs to make a decision about some matter of importance. Behavioral scientists often recommend that small groups appoint someone to serve as a devil’s advocate—a person whose job is to question and criticize the group’s logic. While this approach can prolong group discussions, irritate the group, and be uncomfortable, the decisions that groups ultimately reach are usually more accurate and more solidly grounded than they otherwise would be.

For individuals, the trick is to be your own devil’s advocate: to think through how your favored conclusions might be misguided; to ask yourself how you might be wrong, or how things might turn out differently from what you expect. It helps to try practicing what the psychologist Charles Lord calls “considering the opposite.” To do this, I often imagine myself in a future in which I have turned out to be wrong in a decision, and then consider what the likeliest path was that led to my failure. And lastly: Seek advice. Other people may have their own misbeliefs, but a discussion can often be sufficient to rid a serious person of his or her most egregious misconceptions.


In an edition of “Lie Witness News” last January, Jimmy Kimmel’s cameras decamped to the streets of Los Angeles the day beforePresident Barack Obama was scheduled to give his annual State of the Union address. Interviewees were asked about John Boehner’s nap during the speech and the moment at the end when Obama faked a heart attack. Reviews of the fictitious speech ranged from “awesome” to “powerful” to just “all right.” As usual, the producers had no trouble finding people who were willing to hold forth on events they couldn’t know anything about.

American comedians like Kimmel and Jay Leno have a long history of lampooning their countrymen’s ignorance, and American scolds have a long history of lamenting it. Every few years, for at least the past century, various groups of serious-minded citizens have conducted studies of civic literacy—asking members of the public about the nation’s history and governance—and held up the results as cause for grave concern over cultural decline and decay. In 1943, after a survey of 7,000 college freshmen found that only six percent could identify the original 13 colonies (with some believing that Abraham Lincoln, “our first president,” “emaciated the slaves”), the New York Times lamented the nation’s “appallingly ignorant” youth. In 2002, after a national test of fourth, eighth, and 12th graders produced similar results, the Weekly Standard pronounced America’s students “dumb as rocks.”

Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to you. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all.

In 2008, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute surveyed 2,508 Americans and found that 20 percent of them think the electoral college “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.” Alarms were again raised about the decline of civic literacy. Ironically, as Stanford historian Sam Wineburg has written, people who lament America’s worsening ignorance of its own history are themselves often blind to how many before them have made the exact same lament; a look back suggests not a falling off from some baseline of American greatness, but a fairly constant level of clumsiness with the facts.

The impulse to worry over all these flubbed answers does make a certain amount of sense given that the subject is civics. “The questions that stumped so many students,” lamented Secretary of Education Rod Paige after a 2001 test, “involve the most fundamental concepts of our democracy, our growth as a nation, and our role in the world.” One implicit, shame-faced question seems to be: What would the Founding Fathers think of these benighted descendants?

But I believe we already know what the Founding Fathers would think. As good citizens of the Enlightenment, they valued recognizing the limits of one’s knowledge at least as much as they valued retaining a bunch of facts. Thomas Jefferson, lamenting the quality of political journalism in his day, once observed that a person who avoided newspapers would be better informed than a daily reader, in that someone “who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” Benjamin Franklin wrote that “a learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.” Another quote sometimes attributed to Franklin has it that “the doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”

The built-in features of our brains, and the life experiences we accumulate, do in fact fill our heads with immense knowledge; what they do not confer is insight into the dimensions of our ignorance. As such, wisdom may not involve facts and formulas so much as the ability to recognize when a limit has been reached. Stumbling through all our cognitive clutter just to recognize a true “I don’t know” may not constitute failure as much as it does an enviable success, a crucial signpost that shows us we are traveling in the right direction toward the truth.

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David Dunning
David Dunning is a professor of psychology at Cornell University. He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University and a B.A. from Michigan State University, both in psychology.
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FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Extremist Website Postings


SECURITY MESSAGE FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Extremist Website Postings

October 29, 2014

The Embassy wishes to notify the American community of a recent anonymous posting on an extremist website which encouraged attacks against American and other western teachers in the Middle East. The website specifically referenced teachers at schools in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Maadi (Egypt) as examples of locations with high concentrations of potential targets.  The Embassy is unaware of any specific, credible threat against any American or western school or individuals in Oman.  The Embassy continues to consult closely with the Government of Oman on all security related issues.

Nonetheless, all U.S. citizens should remain vigilant regarding their personal security and alert to local security developments. We recommend individuals follow these personal security practices:

¨ Schedules that are the most predictable leave you the most vulnerable.  Be unpredictable when possible in both your work and social schedules.

¨ Always be aware of your surroundings.

¨ In traffic, always attempt to leave space in which to maneuver.  Always leave yourself an exit.  Be prepared to take evasive action at any time.

¨ Avoid choke points in travel. Be wary of diversions or road detours.

¨ If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest police station, hotel, or other public facility to call the Police.  Never lead the person back to your home or stop and get out.

¨ Whenever possible, do not set a specific day for shopping, errands and personal needs.  Be unpredictable.

¨ Never give out your personal information, such as family member and household staff names, addresses and telephone numbers, in an open setting.

¨ Ensure all of your family members are briefed on security measures.

All U.S. citizens in Oman are reminded to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid large crowds, to vary their routes and times when traveling or commuting, and to continually assess their personal security habits.  Any suspicious activity should be reported to the Royal Oman Police by dialing 9999 from anywhere in Oman.

The Embassy advises U.S. citizens to maintain valid travel documents and enroll with the Department of State through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in Muscat is located on Jameat A’Duwal Al Arabiya Street in the diplomatic area of Shatti al Qurum in the capital city of Muscat.  The telephone number is [968] 24-643-400 and the fax number is [968] 24-643-535.

U.S. citizens traveling abroad regularly should monitor the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide CautionTravel WarningsTravel Alerts,and Country Specific Information can be found.  U.S. citizens should also review the “Traveler’s Checklist,” which includes valuable security information for those both living and traveling abroad. 

Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.  In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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We’ve all seen the writing on the wall. Over 80% of college students think they’re going to college to get a job, yet over 50% come out and find themselves either unemployed or under-employed

Higher Education: To Get a Job or Create a Job?

Frustrated College Student

We’ve all seen the writing on the wall. Over 80% of college students think they’re going to college to get a job,

yet over 50% come out and find themselves either unemployed or under-employed (ie: working at Starbucks). What’s going wrong?

Well for starters, plenty.   The world has changed drastically and very quickly, and as is often the case, the largest industries and systems (like Health and Education) are still catching up with these changes. The disruption of every sector means jobs and skill sets are now in a constant state of flux.

Learning is now 24/7, and extends way beyond the years of a formal education, and roughly one third of the US workforce are now freelancers. In addition, careers rarely mean staying with the same employer. Add to the mix the fact that technology is poised to replace up to half of the U.S. workforce in the next decade, and it’s no small wonder that huge systems like education have a lot to catch up with.

While transforming education to meet our current needs may be a more complex subject than first meets the eye, I would offer one suggestion. Rather than training students solely to think about getting a job upon graduation, how about including mandatory intensive courses in higher education to help enable students to create their own jobs?

There are many advantages to fostering and creating a culture of self-reliance, and it may be time to rethink the purpose of higher education and focus on making students more agile. For instance, I would envision marketing 101 to be a requirement for any future part-time or full-time path—including the arts.

While there are a few small project-based entrepreneurial programs now beginning to pop up in universities here and there, many students are now looking outside of higher ed for this kind of experiential training. One of the best examples of this (and perhaps the most ironic) is Startup Weekend Education, a 54 hour event that takes place in over 70 cities worldwide, where people get together to form teams and create products and services to improve education.

In our hometown of Houston, this event is now scheduled and we are openly calling on college students, teachers, designers, entrepreneurs, parents, developers, and anyone who wants to contribute their ideas and skills to find innovative solutions. The participants work together to design for learning, conduct user tests, receive coaching from experienced education designers & industry professionals, and win prizes to help take their ideas to the next level.

The Startup Weekend Education events are spawned by Education Entrepreneurswhich is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UpGlobal, brought forth by Google for Entrepreneurs and the Kaufman Foundation.

Events like Startup Weekend Education are not just good training in entrepreneurialism for participants, they also offer a deeper opportunity for the community to come together and an opportunity for teachers to further define our purpose as educators.

My hope is that events like Startup Weekend Education will open the door to discussing the benefits of creating a student culture based on entrepreneurialism and how that directly relates to peer and project-based learning, in addition to how a culture of peer learning and personal learning networks can help to kickstart an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At the end of the day, the unique value of Startup Weekend Education is that by participating, you’re learning the stuff you can’t learn in school. Ironically, learning that “stuff” might just help us change that very fact.


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REMEMBER Hurricane Hugo? & “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

The Marysville Shooting and the Facebook Confessional

New blog from Ron Hutchcraft

The shooting that killed two students (and the shooter) at Marysville (WA) High School last week shocked everyone. At first when it appeared 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg was the shooter, that made it all the more shocking.

He wasn’t the typical loner, bullying victim, outsider. He was the Homecoming prince, football player, popular guy.

But, it turns out, there were hints of the anger and anguish in his soul.

Read more

Join the Conversation

If you live on the East Coast, there is one word that’s pretty sure to get your attention–hurricane. Yeah! I’ll tell you, Hurricane Hugo was one of those mega storms that really got our attention. You could watch the news for several nights before Hugo arrived. And they would show you this cyclonic circle inching across the weather map toward, well at that point, an uncertain destination. Half a million people were evacuated from Florida to the Carolinas, not knowing where that destructive little circle on the map was going to land. Finally, it became clear that Hugo’s 130-mile-an-hour winds were going to slam ashore at Charleston, South Carolina.

Now, the challenge for public officials was to convince everyone that it was time to move. The mayor at the time gave a very solemn warning to the people there. He was quoted as saying, “Hugo is a killer! If you stay, you may very well die.” That was true then; that’s still true today.

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Dying From Doing Nothing.”

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament. Chapter 18, beginning in verse 30, he says, “Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart; a new spirit.” And then God asks a very pointed question. He might be asking you this today, “Why will you die?” Then He turns it around and He says, “Repent and live.”

In the Bible the word repent always refers to changing your mind about your sin. Whatever you have been cuddling and tolerating in your life that’s wrong, displeasing to God, you turn your back on it. You change your mind about God and you pin all your hopes on Him instead of on you.

Remember that mayor of Charleston who said the hurricane was a killer? Well, God’s trying to tell us here sin is not to mess with. It’s a killer! With a hurricane, those who don’t leave might survive. But when it comes to sin, there are no survivors. There are eternal consequences of not dealing with our sin. But sin kills us even now. It kills marriages, it damages the people you love with your temper, it ruins the beauty and purity of sex and it destroys your reputation.

See, the people who die in a hurricane don’t have to do anything to be killed by it. No, they die from doing nothing; just staying where they are. And that’s how it is with sin. All you have to do to have this life cheapened by sin is to do nothing. All you have to do to spend eternity in hell instead of heaven is to do nothing. Stay where you are and sin will kill you.

God says, “Rid yourself of your sin. Get a new heart.” And you can only do that in one place – the cross where Christ died for you; where He took all the fury of all God’s judgment, for all your sin and paid for it out of His love for you. He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He was forgiving you and me when He said that. He was giving us the possibility of a new beginning; that new heart the Bible talks about.

God’s been warning you. He’s saying, “If you stay where you are, you’ll die.” In the words in the book of Hebrews, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” Don’t flirt with disaster. In fact, that’s why He brought us together today I believe. That’s why he had me talk about this. He wants you ready to meet Him.

If you want to be sure you’re ready for that appointment with God that you will keep on His schedule; if you want to be sure you have a love relationship with Him; if you want to be sure you’ll never meet your sin on Judgment Day, this is your day to get started with Jesus Christ, the One who died to pay for your sin and walked out of His grave so He could walk into your life.

That’s what our website’s all about is how to have this most important relationship in life. And it’s rightly called, because that’s what can start there for you today, your new story. Would you go there?

Move away from living your own way, because the storm is closer than it’s ever been to your coast. It’s time to flee right now to the safety of the cross of Jesus Christ.

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They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story & OTHER STORIES

Tomgram: Ann Jones, Genuine, Handcrafted, Man-Made Government

[For TomDispatch Readers: Here’s a special, limited-time offer. Ann Jones is going to pass through New York City early in November.  It’s a rare opportunity to get a personalized, signed copy of her remarkable Dispatch book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story.  If youremember, at age 73, she followed grievously wounded American soldiers just off Afghan battlefields all the way back home, an odyssey of a journey and a vivid education in the true cost of America’s recent wars.  The book is already a classic and we atTomDispatch are proud that it’s in our publication program.  For a $100 contribution to this site, you can get that copy signed by Jones.  Just check out our donation page for the details (and note that signed copies of former Army Ranger Rory Fanning’s book, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, are also on offer).  Ann will sign books on November 7th, so make sure to get your donation in before then.  It’s a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity. 

And TomDispatch readers in or near Santa Fe, New Mexico, don’t miss Jones in conversation with Andrew Bacevich on November 12th at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, part of Lannan Foundation’s cultural freedom program. It's an event that shouldn't be missed.  Tom]

From the beginning, it was to be “Russia’s Vietnam.”  First the administration of President Jimmy Carter, then that of President Ronald Reagan was determined to give the Soviet Union a taste of what the U.S. had gone through in its disastrous 14-year war in Southeast Asia.  As National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski would later put it, “On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the [Afghan] border [in 1979], I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.'” And with that in mind, the CIA (aided by the Saudis and Pakistanis) would arm, train, and advise extreme Islamist factions in Pakistan and dispatch them across the border to give the Soviets a taste of what Washington considered their own medicine, Vietnam-style.

It worked in a major way. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would later call Afghanistan “the bleeding wound” and, in 1989, a decade after the Red Army had crossed that border, it would limp home to a fading empire on the edge of implosion. It was a classic Cold War triumph for Washington, the last needed before the Soviet Union stepped off the edge of history and disappeared… oh, except for one small thing: those well-armed extremists didn’t conveniently go away. It wasn’t mission accomplished. Not by half. A taste of Vietnam for the Russians turned out to be only the hors d’oeuvrefor a main course still to come. And the rest of the disastrous history of what Chalmers Johnson would term “blowback,” even before it fully blew back not just on devastated Afghanistan, but on New York City and Washington, is painfully well known and not yet over. Not by half.

As a result, when the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan war in October 2001, whether it knew it or not, it was prescribing for itself a taste of the medicine it had given the Soviets back in the 1980s. Think of it as the worst possible version of do-it-yourself doctoring.  Now, another 13 years have passed. We’re three and a half decades beyond Brzezinksi’s urge to Vietnamize the USSR in Afghanistan and that Central Asian country is a basket case. The Taliban insurgency is back big time; the Afghan army and police are taking horrific casualties, and you can bet that, with one eye on the collapsed Iraqi army the U.S. trained and armed, there are plenty of anxious people in the Pentagon when it comes to those Afghan security forces into which the U.S. has sunk at least $60 billion. In the meantime, the “democracy” that the U.S. promised to bring to the country has experienced a second deeply fraudulent presidential election, this time with a vote so contested and filled with questionable balloting practices that the final count couldn’t be released to the country. A new government was instead cobbled together under Washington’s ministrations in a way that bears no relation to the country’s constitution.

In the meantime, Afghanistan is rife with corruption of every imaginable sort and, worst of all, its only real success story, its bumper crop, is once again the opium poppy. In fact, last year the country raised a record opium crop, worth $3 billion, beating out the previous global record holder — Afghanistan — by 50%! On America’s watch, it is the planet’s preeminent narco-state. And keep in mind that, in line with the history of the last 13 years of the American occupation and garrisoning of the country (with a possible 10 more to go), the U.S. put $7.6 billion dollars into programs of every sort to eradicate poppy growing. So, once again, mission accomplished! Today, TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, looks back at what those 13 years of “America’s Afghanistan” meant to the women whom the Bush administration so proudly “liberated” on invading the country. And given its success in poppy eradication, how do you think Washington did on that one? Tom

The Missing Women of Afghanistan
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law
By Ann Jones

On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat.  Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted.  (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)

The big news of the day for Afghans was quite different — not the long expected continuation of the American occupation but what the new president had to say in his inaugural speech about his wife, Rula Ghani. Gazing at her as she sat in the audience, he called her by name, praised her work with refugees, and announced that she would continue that work during his presidency.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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Democracy Crisis in USA as Election Day Looms

Tom Hayden’s
The Democracy Journal:
Biweekly commentary shifting from the Long Wars to the Climate Wars, from Wall Street Rule to a Democratic Society for All 

Published by Tom Hayden and the Peace & Justice Resource Center, The Democracy Journal is a reader-supported journal of original thoughts on peace, justice and green energy. The Democracy Journal is read by activists, organizers, and advocates in 60 communities across the US and abroad.

Readers can support the Journal with two easy clicks: by sending stories you like to your own lists, and by making small contributions.

November 4 Election

The Democracy Crisis:
Analysis & Endorsements for LA & California

The November election will be a defensive battle to preserve democracy’s claims against a corporate state fueled by rising sums of secret corporate donations coupled with intense machinations at diminishing the popular electoral vote. The reason for Republican and corporate panic is the emergence of “the majority faction” which the Federalists feared – embodied in the Obama coalition of a multi-cultural, multi-racial majority.

Continue reading…

The Climate Movement

Can The Brown Administration Exceed New European Emissions Standards?

California clean energy advocates and Brown administration officials should be cheered by the European Union’s announcement that they will cut greenhouse gas emissions by “at least” 40 percent by 2030, a doubling of their current trajectory of 20 percent by 2020. Cuts are measured from 1990 levels.

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California Energy Strategists Push for 100% Clean Energy, Without Fossil Fuels or Nuclear Power

Over one hundred key environmental and social justice organizers met Oct. 16 in San Rafael to launch a strategy for boosting California’s leading role in fighting greenhouse gas emissions and bolstering jobs and environmental justice at the same time. While climate-deniers and their oil and gas industry supporters dominate Congress, states and regions already are building a clean energy economy in the so-called “blue” states where 160 million Americans live. The conference debated ways to build up this “Green Power Bloc” as the pressure builds to achieve global limits on greenhouse gas emissions. – TH


The Huffington Post article below by climate expert John Berger describes the October 16 conference proceedings.

Continue reading…

The Long War

Why Congress Must Vote on War

No American president, from Nixon to Obama, has accepted the legal legitimacy of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, one of the major achievements of the movement against the Indochina War. The core claim of the White House has been that executive war-making power cannot be abridged, even though the US Constitution seems to expressly grant the Congress a power-sharing role.

Continue reading…

How to Shorten the Long War

The next turning point in the new Iraq War will be when President Barack Obama and Congress decide whether to maintain their promise to send no American ground troops. If they hold firm, an early diplomatic settlement may be forced on them since the Iraqi armed forces cannot stop the “clear, build and hold” strategy of the Islamic State. Iraq’s Shiite forces cannot, or will not, defend Sunni areas, and Iraq’s Kurds are fighting to defend their territory.

Continue reading…

Patriotic Betrayal

Saddam Hussein was a CIA operative whom the American spy agency deployed in 1959 to kill the ruler of Iraq, Abdul Karim Kassem. Whenthat assassination attempt failed, Saddam entered a CIA protection program in Egypt until his Ba’ath Party, also supported by the CIA, seized power in 1963. At least five thousand Iraqis, many of them student activists, were executed immediately by the Ba’athist regime. And so our Iraq War began.

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Cuba Leads While U.S. Lags in Ebola Battle

In what a New York Times editorial called “Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola” (October 19, 2014), hundreds of Cuban doctors and nurses are being dispatched to West Africa to battle Ebola, train medical personnel, and create isolation and treatment centers. The Cubans are playing “the most robust role” of any country in battling the Ebola plague, which has erupted virulently because of a broad failure, according to the Times, “to produce medicines and vaccines for diseases that afflict poor countries.”

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“Citizenfour” and “Kill the Messanger”

These are outstanding films for anyone engaged in confronting the global surveillance state. They may well contain lessons for the future. Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour” is a beautifully filmed documentary about the odyssey of Edward Snowden, the independent whistleblower on the National Security Agency. Snowden on the run is filmed surreptitiously in a Hong Kong hotel room and briefly seen in Moscow, and comes across as an immensely likable, human and compelling human being under conditions that would drive many people beyond paranoia.

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In This Issue
November 4 Election:
The Democracy Crisis
The Climate Movement:
Can Brown Admin Exceed European Standards?
Bioneers in Huffington Post
The Long War:
Why Congress Must Vote on War
How to Shorten The Long War
Patriotic Betrayal
Cuba Leads While U.S. Lags in Ebola Battle
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Student Movements from Port Huron to Today.
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Fox News Needs to Be Shut Down!

Media Matters for America - Take Action

Fox defends street harassment, the facts on voter ID laws, and why it’s necessary to pay attention to conservative media

Dear Kevin,

Here are some other things I’ve read this week: T.C. Sottek on Verizon’s new web publication, Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz on the effects of Obamacare, and Amanda Marcotte on conservatives drumming up hate against single women.

John Whitehouse


Fox Host Defends Street Harassment

Commenting on a video depicting street harassment that women endure, a Fox panel defended harassment, with one host saying “she got 100 cat calls, let me add 101. Damn, baby, you’re a piece of woman.”

Voting Rights

The Facts On Voter ID Laws

Conservatives are defending strict voter ID laws that are being put into effect ahead of the midterm elections, even though these laws are racially discriminatory and unnecessary.

Featured Video

Discussing Fox hypocrisy on gas prices, Rachel Maddow concisely explains why it’s necessary to pay attention to conservative media:

Featured Image

Laura Ingraham called Americans who have risked their lives to fight the Ebola outbreak political props in white coats.
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