Changes

There are going to be some changes to this site. I will be deleting most of the old posts as they won’t have a proper place here. They will all still be published on my personal site www.danarel.com but this page will be strictly for anthropology and academic blogging only.

I will have new posts coming shortly.

Parenting and Science Part 1: Vaccinations

I am no parenting expert. I have a two year old son, he is my only child and like most parents, my wife and I are learning as we go. However, I do tend to have a lot of advice for new parents, or soon to be parents, based on my own research and I have lots of opinions on the do’s and don’ts of parenting.

My opinions comes from science. I like to base my views on empirical evidence whenever possible. So I am going to blog about parenting advice. I am not the be all end all, but I will link to great resources to help you along your way in making these decisions.

So I will attempt to make this a new series of posts on my blog, starting today with part 1.

Vaccines.

One of the first things you will be asked about in the hospital are the vaccinations. This seems like a scary decision, you just got your new born baby in your arms and they want to stick it full of drugs and poke them with needles? What are the side effects? Are they dangerous? How important are these vaccinations, can’t we get them for our kid later, when they are older?

These are all valid questions, but there are not different answers (barring any known health issues brought up by the doctor). Get vaccinated. This is one of the most important things you can do for your child, and the other children you child will come in contact with. They do not have a very strong immune system, and there are lots of viruses and diseases they are susceptible to. You should also keep in mind, if your child is not vaccinated and happens to be carrying a virus, they could infect a child who for medical reasons cannot be vaccinated. We must think about vaccines globally, we should all be looking out for each other. Do not simply rely on the hope that everyone else is vaccinated so you and your child are safe. We have a responsibility to everyone our child will come into contact with. Take this responsibility seriously.

First things first. Parents. Get your vaccinations! You are the first place they can get these illnesses from. Get your whooping cough shot and your flu shot, well in advance. Don’t get them the day of, or after, get them weeks before. Especially the mothers. Its very important that you have your flu shot up to date during your pregnancy.

Follow the doctors recommendations on your child’s vaccines. Avoid the pseudoscientific claims of people like Dr Sears who will try to sell you on a vaccine schedule that is not medically approves or tested and will result in long periods of time that your child will not be vaccinated against.

Here is the CDC info on child vaccinations and schedule: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child.html

The most important thing to remember is vaccines are safe and very effective. They have been medically and scientifically tested for safety. Countless reports and studies are conducted to continue monitoring each and every vaccines safeness and effectiveness. Your doctor and medical professionals are here to help you and your child. This is something very important to keep in mind. If you have questions or concerns, you should speak to your doctor. They will better explain and set your mind at ease about this decision.

Here are some links to great articles about vaccination, You will notice many come from the same or similar blogs. These are all science related parenting sites who all do an amazing job citing their sources and presenting you scientific facts, not their own personal opinions. I recommend following each and every one of these sites as well. They are worth it.

http://www.mommadata.com/2010/02/autism-vaccine-debacle-is-no-debate-and.html

http://www.mommadata.com/2013/04/to-vaccinate-or-not-to-vaccinate-with.html

http://doublexsciencejr.blogspot.com/2013/03/vaccines.html

http://www.doublexscience.org/vaccination-attitudes-are-contagious/

http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/home.html

http://scienceofmom.com/2012/01/11/on-parenting-science-and-trust-and-choosing-to-vaccinate/

http://www.mommadata.com/2009/11/fears-over-swine-flu-shot-blame-it-on.html

http://www.mommadata.com/2011/01/sloppy-science-meets-slimy-science.html

 

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Conscription: Is a Draft the Moral Thing to Do?

In chapter 4 of Michael Sandel’s book Justice: What is the Right Thing to Do, Sandel deals with the issue of morals in a free market. Sandel did this by applying libertarianism and utilitarianism to two different scenarios where the morally right thing to do is more ambiguous.

The two issues he dealt with were the volunteer army and pregnancy for pay. Both made important cases for libertarianism in that each scenario could be viewed as impeding on someones freedom or liberty, meaning one choice, to a libertarian was a clear correct choice and one was an infringement on their rights. Both scenarios also showed an important role of utilitarianism and the principle of utility, meaning the end result brought the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Though from the Utilitarianism argument, the issues of right and wrong were not as clear cut.

Out of those two issues, I will be addressing the volunteer army. Sandel talks about two major scenarios in front of us. A total volunteer army, meaning paid soldiers who signed up to join the military, versus conscription (draft). Meaning a draft to fill the ranks from citizens. The libertarian argument seems clear cut, a volunteer army is made up of citizens who decided on their own to join the military and any draft would be a violation of citizens rights. The utilitarian argument however, may not be so cut and dry. Using the principle of utility, we should look at what makes the greatest number of people happy, and at first glance, that is a volunteer army, most citizens would be happiest knowing they do not have to go into battle and a smaller number of citizens are doing so of their own free will, meaning they signed up for the task.

A much closer examination however, reveals this may not be the proper use of the principle of utility. You have to first exam who makes up the military. It is filled with soldiers who make up the working and middle class of our country, the children of working class parents, and many are minorities. They are joining the military not out of a desire, but out of necessity. They don’t have job opportunities awaiting them, they don’t have the ability to pay for college, and the military offers them that chance. But once soldiers are joining out of necessity, you immediately remove the libertarian argument that they are joining fully of their own free will. How free is a choice when it may be your only choice. The wealthy are not joining the military. The sons and daughters of congressmen, CEO’s, corporate bankers, these are not the children filling up our ranks and heading off to battle. As Sandel quotes in the book “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” (p. 76).

So is this the principle of utility in action? Is this class inequality what is right for greatest amount of happiness? I don’t believe so, and I don’t think John Stuart Mill would think so either. This inequality, Mill would argue lessens the value of life of the soldiers compared to those who do not have to enter the army for a job, schooling or whatever other reasons have forced men and women to join based on necessity. These soldiers are not living life to the highest end. A volunteer army can only be morally justified in a pure egalitarian country. No class inequality or social stratification can exist.

The only moral solution I could find was a draft. A draft where every eligible man and women had an equal chance of being drafted and your social status had no weight on your rank or job in the military. The presidents son is just as likely to see combat as the son of a steel worker in Pittsburgh. No deferrals of any kind, your parents paying to enroll you in college just to avoid the war won’t help you.

This is the only way to ensure that if congress wants to declare war, they do so knowing their own children could be sent away. This goes against every belief of a libertarian, and I believe many utilitarians would try to argue the same, but if you want to argue morality, you cannot do so while oppressing the classes you consider beneath you and claiming your life is more valuable than theirs. I do not believe society can be truly happy on the suffering and death of others, and because of that, I see that the principle of utility could be easily applied to defend the draft.

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Anthropology Report

I am really excited today to be listed on Anthropology Report. This is an amazing website I find myself visiting a few times a week as it’s an amazing resource for all things anthropology. I can always seem to find a blog or site relevant to something I am researching for personal or school use. It’s an honor to be listed among what I consider some of the best sites on the internet.

Anthropology Report is run by Jason Antrosio, he also happens to run another amazing site called Living Anthropologically. I may visit this site even more. Antrosio offers amazing insight to happenings around the world in anthropology, like the most recent public debate over such anthropologists Jared Diamond and Napoleon Chagnon in their most recent books The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? and Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamo and the Anthropologists respectfully. Its a great website especially for those with a budding interest in anthropology and or students of it like myself.

Antrosio has also wrote a book called Anthropology I: Human Nature, Race, Evolution in Biological Anthropology that I highly recommend to everyone. In it he address topics such as human nature, the social construct of race and our evolutionary past. Pick this up, you will not regret it. I plan to do a further review of this book later.

Be sure to check out both sites and to follow Jason Antrosio on twitter at: @JasonAntrosio

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The Legacy of Hugo Chavez

Below is a collection of articles discussing the legacy of Hugo Chavez (July 28, 1954 – March 5, 2013), former president of Venezuela. What is the legacy he leaves behind? What does his death mean for Venezuela? And what does his life and death mean for the global socialist movement?

UPDATE 3/8/13

This will be my final update on this. These are two really good articles about Chavez’s legacy. My favorite being from the World Socialist Website. Discussing why Chavez was not a socialist, but a bourgeois nationalist. He may have talked about a socialist dream, but he lives a contradictory life to what he preached. I hope in Venezuelas future, they are someday able to realize their socialist dream.

WSWS: Hugo Chavez and socialism <-RECOMMENDED READING

Mother Jones: Covering Hugo Chávez: “If Only He Ruled As Well As He Campaigned”

UPDATE 3/7/13

Al Jazeera:

Venezuela begins mourning for Hugo Chavez

World leaders react to Chavez’s death

Chavez’s legacy

Russian Times:

‘Farewell, Comandante:’ Venezuelans throng to view Chavez’s body in state (PHOTOS)

Hugo Chavez: Never lost for words

3/6/13

Guardian: Hugo Chávez kept his promise to the people of Venezuela

Socialist Alternative: Hasta siempre Chavez! The revolution must continue

The Nation: On the Legacy of Hugo Chávez

Lenin’s Tomb: Venezuela in the 21st Century

Socialist Worker:

The Legact of Hugo Chavez

Venezuela at a turning point?

Chavismo after the election

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The Manufacturing of Crisis

It’s happening again. That time of the year when we watch as our government fails to work together and the media is abuzz with the new “crisis”. What makes matters worse, is our leaders do not solve these problems and put us at ease, but instead they manufacture such problems to create a faux crisis in a disguise to cut programs that benefit the working poor. The real crisis is class antagonism, but don’t expect the media to report on that anytime soon.

Look at your local paper or news site now. You will see splashed across the headline, “Government Shutdown Looming”, “Sequestration Countdown”. Markets react, stocks fall and game goes on. The right is going to blame the left, the left is going to blame the right and we will hear over and over again that our government is going to have to shut down, cuts will have to be made, this is a shared sacrifice. Yet, it’s not being shared by the politicians who voted to make sure their pay continues during a shutdown, it won’t hurt the wealthy who won’t see a cut their services they require. Who then is sharing this sacrifice? The working poor who work tirelessly and still bring home less than it takes to survive and our unemployed citizens who rely on their unemployment checks while endlessly looking for new work in our tough job market.

This is nothing more than class alienation. The government is once again flexing their capitalist muscle and taking “aggressive” measures to balance the budget but making sure to only hurt the working poor Americans. Strikes against government, unionized workers, social security, and other programs designed to help the working citizens.

Austerity does not work. It has not worked. European countries using austerity measures to lower their debt has done much more harm than good, and as Paul Krugman has pointed out “…austerity hasn’t even achieved the minimal goal of reducing debt burdens. Instead, countries pursuing harsh austerity have seen the ratio of debt to G.D.P. rise, because the shrinkage in their economies has outpaced any reduction in the rate of borrowing.” (New York Times, Austerity, Italian Style). So if austerity won’t work, has proven itself to not work, why are we so adamant to try it?

The answer seems simple. The GOP needs it to fail, they win by getting a smaller government, and they win because the devastation of austerity will severely bruise the Obama administration. None of the effects of austerity will hurt the GOP or their corporate cronies. We are allowing the minority in our congress to dictate our policy. Congress needs to act and end this tyranny.

Cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels, a cut that will do nothing but make it harder to feed senior citizens who need not only nutritious meals, but someone to check up on them. Cuts to programs like WIC. Helping feed women, infant and children. Again, another program not affecting the capitalist upper class, but devastating to the working poor.

So what can we do?

Call. Act. Demand. Tell congress you want action now! Not in 3 months, not next year, but now! They need to start listening to the voters, we need our debt problems solved and we need to figure out how to bring back jobs. We are just under an 8% unemployment rate and we should be able to bring this down a few points. But to accomplish such a task, the partisan bickering needs to end. Congress has work to do and they are not doing it. 

Boehner and the rest of the GOP have recently had at a getaway discussing how to revive their party, and now are congress is headed on for yet another vacation. The answer is right in front of them, but they are ignoring it. The answer is action. The more they ignore getting things done, the worse off the working poor are in our country. The GOP has left the working poor behind, they are a party of the takers, disguised as the makers. They claim “we built it” but in fact, the working poor built it, the unionized, hard working Americans built this, and the capitalist class took it.

The more congress delays and stalls the more they ignore real looming problems, actual crisis facing our country such as hunger, jobs, the economy, climate change and endless war. Lets put our citizens back to work, lets boost our economy and lets figure out ways to lead the world in clean energy. We once set the pace for the world, we showed them how things are done and they followed suit. Lets once again be that nation. We must learn from the mistakes of countries like Greece. Who does austerity hurt? Not the Donald Trumps of the world.

We are ready to revive our workforce. Our economy is ready to grow. But like a tree, the economy grows from the bottom up. Ignoring problems that keep the bottom from prospering will continue to hinder the overall growth of our economy. If our politicians continue to ignore us, its time to let them know they will be replaced. 2014 is not that far away. We hold the power to wield the change we desire and its about time we come together and do so. This is our democracy, they work for us, we are their boss. Lets act like it. Together.

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A Level Headed Gun Debate

The above video is from last weeks Real Time with Bill Maher of which Sam Harris (author and famed atheist) was a guest speaking about his recent blog on gun control. He met some strong opposition from the panel, but I thought the overall discussion was thought provoking and worth further evaluation.

I don’t fully agree with Sam Harris on many of his gun control points, but I think hearing intelligent people who do support some form of gun control are important to listen to. He makes many valid points in his discussion.

Harris has a blog post I strongly disagreed with here called The Riddle of the Gun. Sean Faircloth, former Maine politician and author of “Attack of the Theocrats” replied to Harris here on the Richard Dawkins Foundation site.

This sparked Harris to follow up with a “FAQ on Violence”, that then sparked another reply from Faircloth that can be found here.

This is what the gun discussion should be. 2 sides discussing their points. No extremism and no one stands to profit from any laws being passed or not. This is not special interest. This is 2 American citizens having a discussion on what they think should or shouldn’t be done. This is the level headed discussion the NRA is not allowing to happen and is making sure doesn’t happen.

Its fair to say I overwhelming agree with Sean Faircloth on these issues, but I am willing to learn from Harris and amend my stance when I think a valid point is made, or I think middle ground can be reached.

Jason Antrosio at Living Anthropologically has a great post looking at gun control from an Anthropologists perspective (Anthropology and Gun Violence: New Guns or New Gun Control? Dec 2012). Looking at these issues more culturally and empirically and what the data has to say about the US and our perceived problem of violence, and what cultural issues are at play in our country. Antrosio also rounds up some amazing articles from around the web on his other blog Anthropology Report. I recommend reading ‘Doomsday Preppers’: Our New Threat?. I will save a discussion on the doomsay preppers for another post.

For now, the discussion on what we should do in this country about gun violence continues.

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Education Struggle

I wanted to write up a whole blog post about these 3 recent articles posted on the Socialist Worker site, but with work and school, the time is just not there for me right now. So instead, I will link to some important posts about the state of education here in America and move away from public education and our movement towards class based education. This needs to be stopped.

http://socialistworker.org/2013/02/04/you-cant-sell-us-on-charters

http://socialistworker.org/2013/02/06/keep-eastside-open

http://socialistworker.org/2013/02/04/school-to-prison-conveyor-belt

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The NRA’s Pathetic Congressional Testimony

In 1999 Wayne LaPierre of the NRA spoke to congress about closing the gun show loopholes, putting instant background checks in place at gun shows and to put in a national background check system for ALL firearm sales.

Fat forward to 2013, LaPierre told congress that the NRA is against background checks on a national level, they are against closing the gun show loophole.

Watching the congressional hearings today and watching LaPierre get owned was well worth it. This “expert” was not even smart enough to follow the logic laid out about why they were discussing background checks to begin with. His reciting of NRA propaganda and generic soundbites showed how out of touch he is with the American public and even his own advocacy group.

Watching the amazingly incompetent Gayle Trotter try to defend assault rifles by citing 14 different cases of woman defending themselves with guns, except not one of her stories involved an assault weapon, and her most violent story, was just that, a story, a work of fiction invented to stir up support for her cause. She was unable to find one story of someone defending themselves using a assault rifle.

The Senate invited 5 people to testify today, 3 against gun control and 2 for gun control. The 3 that spoke against the idea of gun control failed to show any facts to support their cause. Fear mongers like LaPierre and Trotter used hypothetical analogies that never tied in the use of assault weapons over traditional weapons and never managed to show why background checks are a bad thing, they simply called them an inconvenience.

It was a pathetic attempt to sway an American public that is already largely in favor of further gun control. Its time the NRA finds out what their own members want and stop representing the tea-party extremists. If not, the NRA members need to speak up, with their wallets. Leave the group, because they are no longer representing their interests.

Why are we listening to a group with only about 3 million members anyway? Thats a pathetically small group when compared to our population.

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