05 August 2010


SB 1070. In a well-deserved blow to Arizona's racist immigration law, Judge Susan Bolton ordered injunctions on key elements of the law, including the provision that state troopers would assume the role of enforcing Federal Immigration laws -- based solely on reasonable suspicion (a legal standard of proof which carries less force than probable cause, the standard for arrests and warrants). Under SB 1070, reasonable suspicion criteria include demeanor, English skills, travelling companions, location and dress -- criteria subjective enough to allow broad latitude amounting to racial profiling, since the majority of US citizens could be considered "suspicious" at one time or another under these criteria. In the context of immigration in Arizona, the tacit deciding factor for suspicion is the color of a suspect's skin. Period.

Prize-winning journalist Terry Greene Sterling offers a calm and comprehensive assessment of the Arizona law, and the effects it has had on US citizens who happen to be Latino, as well as an analysis of the views and attitudes of Arizona voters, many of whom would not have supported the law if they had understood it sufficiently.

THEISM. According to a new psychological study, thinking about God reduces stress (but only for believers). The study's design is flawed on several levels, not least of which is the lack of a discernible control group, as well as the intentional skewing of the study toward one group (those who believe in God), and against another group (those who do not). One can substitute any belief system for "God", and arrive at the same conclusion. Whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, an animist, a Nazi, a Republican, a Democrat, or a Wiccan, the simple act of believing in something greater than oneself reduces stress, usually by simplifying the world down to a level of comprehensibility and comfort, disregarding equally true and relevant information which might be discomforting.

The ultimate effect is barely distinguishable from a placebo effect. This should demonstrate the importance of an informed, questioning attitude toward any study. Is the hypothesis clearly stated? Do the study methods meet quality standards? What statistical analysis was employed? Do the results truly support the hypothesis, and if so, to what extent? We all need to be thinking for ourselves at every moment, provisionally accepting a statement if it makes sense, and being prepared to reject a statement if it does not make sense -- even if it appears to prop up our cherished beliefs.

CARLIN. Comedian and social critic George Carlin was a deeply insightful and daring man who never met a prejudice too intimidating to shine a light on. His black humor masked a caring and sensitive soul -- too caring to stand idly by and allow ignorance or malice to pollute our world. Here is a portion of one of his final performances, The American Dream -- reiminscent of Dwight D. Eisenhower's parting Presidential address in which he warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex -- though Carlin's choice of language is more direct and earthy.

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