Was the Noble Savage noble? Or savage?

There has been a debate in the press recently about whether the state (nation) is fundamentally a source of exploitation and war, or whether it’s a civilizing influence on humans’ natural brutal nature. The debate has echoes of Jean-Jacque Rousseau versus Thomas Hobbes, as well as echos of FDR versus the Koch brothers.

In short, was the Noble Savage noble or savage?

Anarchist and Yale political scientist James Scott has written a series of books critical of the state and nostalgic for the supposed peaceful and cooperative hunter-gatherer past. In a piece published in The Nation, political scientist and legal scholar Samuel Moyn reviews Scott’s work and concludes that Scott both ignores the brutality of pre-state humans and understates the benefits of states and civilization. The very qualities of equality and freedom that Scott bestows are a product of states.

Some other references suggesting that hunter-gatherers were relatively peaceful and egalitarian include:

Human Nature May Not Be So Warlike After All

Warfare was uncommon among hunter-gatherers: study

“Warfare was uncommon among hunter-gatherers, and killings among nomadic groups were often due to competition for women or interpersonal disputes, researchers in Finland said Thursday.” (Is it really war or just an interpersonal feud? Several researchers point out that organized war, with masses of troops probably required states, but feuds and minor killings sill occurred in hunter-gatherer society.)

But there are many scholars who think hunter-gatherers were war-like and treated woman poorly.

Hunter-gatherers were brutal and we have the state to thank for a decrease in violence and an increase in equality

Review of the book Violence and Warfare among Hunter-Gatherers, Journal of Anthropological Research. “LeBlanc develops a set of features common to hunter-gatherer warfare cross-culturally and argues that overwhelming ethnographic evidence shows intergroup violence was frequently dangerous but likely tied to resource stress between human populations.” “The reader finishes the book with an understanding that interpersonal violence and warfare occurred at all levels of sociopolitical complexity, predated colonization, and were widely variable in intensity and frequency.”

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is a 2011 book by Steven Pinker.

[Pinker] argues that violence in the world has declined both in the long run and in the short run and suggests explanations as to why this has occurred.The book contains a wealth of data simply documenting violence across time and geography. This paints a picture of massive declines in violence of all forms, from war, to improved treatment of children. He highlights the role of nation-state monopolies on force, of commerce (making “other people become more valuable alive than dead”), of increased literacy and communication (promoting empathy), as well as a rise in a rational problem-solving orientation as possible causes of this decline in violence. He notes that, paradoxically, our impression of violence has not tracked this decline, perhaps because of increased communication,[2] and that further decline is not inevitable, but is contingent on forces harnessing our better motivations such as empathy and increases in reason. (Source)

No, hunter gatherers were not peaceful paragons of gender equality Lots of graphs. Violence is decreasing over time.

10,000-year-old massacre suggests hunter-gatherers went to war

Prehistoric Massacre Hints at War Among Hunter-Gatherers

Finding a hunter-gatherer massacre scene that may change history of human warfare “We have discovered the oldest known case of violence between two groups of hunter gatherers took place there, with ten excavated skeletons showing evidence of having been killed with both sharp and blunt weapons.” “[M]any scholars have argued that warfare must have emerged after farming and more complex political systems arose.” But these findings challenge that view.

Noble or Savage? “The era of the hunter-gatherer was not the social and environmental Eden that some suggest.”

My concern with this is that many anarchists and bottom-up proponents on the Left are (perhaps unwittingly) aiding libertarians who want to destroy the New Deal and regulatory state crafted by progressive politics of the last 100 years. Yes, the state is often corrupted and used to harm people. Our task is to fix it so that it serves the many.

Dishonest, negative campaign ads by Republicans in Bellevue

I got a flier in the mail today from Friends of Jared Nieuwenhuis, Friends of Steve Fricke, and Friends of Phil Yin that says “STOP THESE CANDIDATES FROM BRINGING HEROIN INTO BELLEVUE.” The candidates referred to are Karol Brown, Lynne Robinson, and Janice Zahn.

What a scare tactic! If this isn’t negative campaigning, I don’t know what is.

Karol Brown has repeatedly said (including in comments on nextdoor.com, at a half dozen candidates forums, and on her website) that she opposes bringing safe injection sites into Bellevue. The City Council has effectively banned such sites from Bellevue for the foreseeable future. Besides, it’s a medical issue and shouldn’t be politicized!

The flier makes it appear that the candidates, or people who support such sites, want to bring heroin into Bellevue. Ridiculous and not true.


Lynne Robinson voted against safe injection sites when the issue came up for a vote on the city council.   Janice Zahn too said she opposes them, on nextdoor.com. The headline “WRONG ON HEROIN” is hitting below the belt. It gives the impression that these candidates want to bring heroin into Bellevue.

Image of back of campaign flier by Friends of Jared Nieuwenhuis, Steve Fricks, and Phil Yin

Such dishonest politicking (swiftboating, fake news) is customary at the national level. How unfortunate that we have it locally too.

Please don’t degrade local politics in a similar way. The three females have stated they oppose safe injection sites in Bellevue. The three male candidates are playing a transparently dirty trick. Besides, there is an epidemic, and addicts are dying. The people who propose safe-injection sites in King County are trying to save lives. They’re not trying to “bring heroin.” Heroin is already here. The City Council has voted against the sites for Bellevue. Please stop exploiting this issue for political purposes.

As further evidence of the politicization of the issue: “Chris Vance, a former state Republican Party chairman, said he believes those leading the I-27 campaign sincerely believe safe-injection is bad policy. But they also see it as a way to make political gains.” https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/bellevue-bans-safe-injection-sites-for-heroin-users/

Image of back of campaign flier by Friends of Jared Nieuwenhuis, Steve Fricks, and Phil Yin

Opponents of safe injection sites passionately oppose/attack any politician who even refuses to agree to ban the sites in King County. And if the politician votes against the sites or announces their opposition, they are accused of lacking the courage of their convictions and of wanting to bring heroin into Bellevue. Heads you win, tails I lose. Meanwhile, people are dying and the homeless languish on the streets.

Wanting to leave open the possibility of safe injection sites in King County is very different from wanting to bring heroin to Bellevue, which is what the ads claimed. The fact is: people are shooting heroin every day — it’s a national crisis — and people are dying from overdoses every day. A safe injection site makes a lot of sense for the addicts who are still using. It’s not encouraging addiction, any more than condoms encourage unsafe sex. Abstinence programs do not work in either case.

Some more attack ads

This one is paid for by Friends of Steve Fricke:

And here’s an ad by the Master Builders:
Master Builders attack ad

Time to stop being polite to Repugs: Stop being Complicit

In society there are rules of etiquette that enjoin us to respect political and religious differences.  For example, at work, at the store, and on social networks such as nextdoor.com, we are expected to be nonpartisan and to respect differences of opinion.

But given the racism, sexism, craziness, and all-round destructiveness of the conservative movement — especially as realized by Donald Trump — it is our moral obligation to loudly oppose conservative thinking in all its forms.

Just as we are morally obligated to oppose fascism.

Shout down and insult conservatives in your midst!

As Senator Jeff Flake said in his speech announcing his retirement, “I will not be complicit.”

Kushner admitted: “Trump thinks Republicans are stupid”: “So basically Trump was deliberately and successfully lying about his belief that Obama’s birth certificate was somehow false since 2011.  He perpetuated this lie because it would appeal to Republicans — and it did — but he didn’t actually believe it himself.”

From The Atlantic:

In 2008, three-quarters of the major GOP presidential candidates said they believed in evolution, but in 2012 it was down to a third, and then in 2016, just one did. That one, Jeb Bush, was careful to say that evolutionary biology was only his truth, that “it does not need to be in the curriculum” of public schools, and that if it is, it could be accompanied by creationist teaching. A two-to-one majority of Republicans say they “support establishing Christianity as the national religion,” according to Public Policy Polling.

Before Trump won their nomination and the presidency, when he was still “a cancer on conservatism” that must be “discarded” (former Governor Rick Perry) and an “utterly amoral” “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen” (Senator Ted Cruz), Republicans hated Trump’s ideological incoherence—they didn’t yet understand that his campaign logic was a new kind, blending exciting tales with a showmanship that transcends ideology.

The fact-checking website PolitiFact looked at more than 400 of his statements as a candidate and as president and found that almost 50 percent were false and another 20 percent were mostly false.

Conservative commentator George F. Will: “It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. ”

James Madison” “The day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility… because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few.”

Valerie Tarico: “Trump is appointing a fox to every henhouse based on what kind of hens each fox most wants to eat.”

David Stockman (former Reagan budget advisor): “[T]he Republican Party was hijacked by modern imperialists during the Reagan era. As a consequence, the conservative party cannot perform its natural function as watchdog of the public purse because it is constantly seeking legislative action to provision a vast war machine of invasion and occupation.”

Our technology and progress are due to scientists. Repugs are science deniers.

Trump is dismantling the EPA.

Trump and the Republicans want more tax cuts for the the rich, despite record concentration of wealth.

Yet almost half the electorate are brainwashed into electing an obviously incompetent and unstable conman as president. So the problem is not just Trump.  The problem is the conservative movement and the right wing media and billionaires that fund it.

Conservative logic

Women: “Can I have birth control?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I couldn’t get birth control so I got pregnant. Can I have an abortion?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I had the baby, but I’m out of work. Can I have WIC and food stamps until I get back on my feet?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I found a job, but it doesn’t offer me insurance. Can I have government guaranteed insurance?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “My kid got sick and I got fired because I missed time caring for him. Can I get unemployment?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I’m having a hard time getting my kid from school consistently. Can we fund after-school programs?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: I’m prepared to work to support my family. Can you make sure that a full-time job’s minimum wage is enough to do that?
Republicans: No. But what’s the matter with you and your family, that working two jobs can’t lift you out of poverty? And can’t you keep your kids off the street? Oh, and make sure they’re doing well in school.

Horrible quotes about rape by Republicans

“Some girls rape easy.” – Rep. Roger Rivard (R-Wi)

“Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” – Clayton Williams (R-former Texas gubernatorial candidate)

“From what I understand…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – Todd Akin (R-Mo)

“You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.” – Foster Friess (R-mega-donor behind Rick Santorum Super PAC)

“If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.” – Lawrence Lockman (R-Me)

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.” – Jodie Laubenberg (R-Tx)

“It is similar, from the father’s position.” – Tom Smith (R, failed candidate for a seat in PA, discussing how rape and premarital sex are the same thing)

“I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.” – Chuck Winder (R-Id)

“What did they expect?” – Liz Trotta (FOX pundit and horrible person, referring to women who are raped in the military)

“Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.” – Rick Santorum (R – Former Speaker of the House)

Not to mention “Grab’em by the pussy” President Trump.

IMF Says Higher Taxes for Wealthy Good Idea. And These Billionaires Agree.

“A more progressive tax code, says International Monetary Fund, would both significantly reduce inequality and help grow the economy”


Dangerous things

1967 – Jayne Mansfield is killed when her car runs under the rear end of a tractor trailer. Since then, all trailers have a DOT bar at the rear to keep cars from going under them.

1982 – Seven people die when Tylenol packaging was tampered with. Since then, it takes a PhD, channel locks, and a sharp object to get into a bottle of pills.

1995 A bombing using a certain kind of fertilizer, solution grade ammonium nitrate, killed 168 people, so the government imposed severe restrictions on the purchase of that fertilizer.

2001 – One person attempts to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb. Since then, all air travelers have to take off their shoes for scanning before being allowed to board.

Since 1968 – 1,516,863 people have died from guns on American soil. Gun violence kills an average of 168 people every two days! Now, the problem apparently can’t be solved except with thoughts and prayers. AND JU$T WHY DO YOU THINK THI$ I$???

(Thanks to Jack Hart for the above. Please copy, paste, and share.)

Report on the AAPI candidates forum with state senate candidates Dhingra, Englund, Kuderer and Darnelle

On Thursday October 5, the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Eastside Candidate Forum was held at the North Bellevue Community Center. Sponsors included the Korean American Coalition – Washington, American Civil Liberties Union, MAPS-AMEN (Muslim Association of Puget Sound — American Muslim Empowerment Network), APACEvotes, Tasveer, Seattle JACL, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Eastside Asian Pacific Islanders, India Association of Western Washington, National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, and International Community Health Services.

Candidates and moderator for the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Eastside Candidate Forum

The speakers were, from left to right are 48th LD state senate candidates Michelle Darnell (Libertarian) and Patty Kuderer (Democrat); Aneelah Afzali (the moderator, from MAPS-AMEN); and 45th LD state senate candidates Jinyoung Lee Englund (Republican) and Manka Dhingra (Democrat).  There was a large turnout of mostly Asian people.  Samosas and kofta were provided.

The format was:  the (excellent) moderator asked each of the candidates questions.  Each candidate had four minutes to respond.  There was no time at the end for questions from the audience, though the candidates stayed and responded individually.

For a transcript of several of the speeches see this Bellevue Reporter article about education funding and this Bellevue Reporter article about hate speech.

Manka Dhingra wants to fund education by reducing some of the many tax loopholes that favor corporations and that don’t benefit the middle class by producing jobs.    Dhingra said that state senate Republicans supported the creation of a registry of Muslim residents.  (“Republican state legislative leaders, however, have been cool to the idea on proposals aimed at protecting against deportations” — source. See also this.)    At one point Dhingra mentioned that the state senate majority leader (Mark Schoesler) once wore a “Make America Great Again” hat in the senate chambers. (Presumably, Dhingra was trying to associate state Republicans with the albatross of extremism of Trump and the D.C. Republicans).  In response, a south Asian (Indian?) audience member rose and shouted, “What’s wrong with that?”.   (What’s wrong with wanting America to be great again?   Or what’s wrong with supporting Trump?)  The moderator and several audience members worked to calm down the woman, who continued to mumble to the people around her.  Dhingra mostly ignored the woman’s interruption.  Asked what bill she would introduce first as a state senator, Dhingra said: a bill to close loopholes in gun laws that allows people convicted of harassment to continue to own guns.

Jingyoung Englund said there is extremism on both sides and repeatedly blamed one-party rule, in both Olympia and D.C., for our political problems.   (But Republicans have controlled the state senate in Olympia since 2012.)  She says that one reason to vote for her is that Republican politicians in D.C. would be more likely to listen to her pleas than to the pleas of a Democrat.  (She is basically admitting that the D.C. Republicans are extreme.)  She claimed Asian Americans would be the majority by some point in the 21st century.  Several of Englund’s answers were vague or  confused. She called for everyone to get together and have “conversations.” Asked what issue she would first address as state senator, Englund said: transportation. “The legislation that I would proactively pursue has to do with transportation. Because when I go door to door, the people in my district over and over the things I feel most about is I feel overburdened by taxes, I want to maintain quality education and public schools, and number three: traffic. Traffic is awful. Wherever you are in Washington State, it’s awful.” (Untrue! Traffic is not awful in rural areas.)   But she offered no solution. Instead she proposed lowering car tab fees — which wouldn’t help traffic at all! She said one Romanian family pays $1200 in car tabs. “I would work with both Democrats and Republicans to find a way to bring relief to the families who suffered this year and then, moving forward, make sure that they don’t have to keep paying such high fees.”   Here is a video of her remarks on transportation.

The moderator asked Englund about our regressive tax system.  Englund avoided the question and didn’t give a straight answer. After the forum, I asked the moderator why she didn’t press Englund about it (the moderator made a point of interrupting the speakers if they strayed from topic); she said she ran out of time, but she encouraged me to ask Englund in person. So I did. Englund again avoided the question and just said that the voters don’t want more taxes.  I said, it’s not a matter of more taxes, it’s a matter of fairer taxes. Still, Englund didn’t respond.

In her closing statement, Englund said that extremism is “deteriorating our democracy” and, overall, gave an impression of someone too immature to be a state senator.   Below is her closing speech, in which she speaks like a high schooler:

Patty Kuderer, who was appointed to the 48th LD state senate seat, emphasized education and the state’s responsibility to amply fund it, per the state Constitution and state Supreme Court rulings.  If we don’t educate the kids, they end up in the court system and we end up paying times as much to prosecute and imprison them.  Kuderer wants to eliminate the real estate tax break for (oil) companies that was hidden in the last-minute budget deal designed largely by the state senate.  Kuderer spoke of our regressive tax system and of the need for a capital gains tax, that would target only 1% of the population.  Asked to name the first bill she would submit as senator she said she’d propose a state infrastructure bank similar to, but more limited than, Sen. Bob Hasegawa’s proposal for a state bank.  Half the cost of infrastructure is debt servicing paid to Wall Street. The state pays $3 billion every year (or two) to Wall Street. But the state can finance projects itself and save a lot of money. North Dakota has a similar bank, and it survived the recession well.  Such a bank would complement, not replace, private banks.

Michelle Darnelle is opposed to the the monopoly on government by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, which she said are corrupt. She claims to be sympathetic to the concerns of both many on the left (Occupy) and the right (Tea Party) who are fed up with the two main political parties. She called for “incentivizing” quality education via choice, charter schools, and vouchers. She suggested that a strong economy would reduce anti-immigrant views;  she gave the analogy that crowded, starved rats become cannibalistic.    Because of the Las Vegas massacre there will be calls for more government surveillance and meddling with Americans’ rights.    She claimed the ultimate cause for such massacre is the widespread use of anti-depressants, which have nasty side-effects.  Darnelle raised her voice in anger at several points.  Her first bill as senator would be a homeowner’s bill or rights, to protect homeowners from foreclosure when the next recession hits. She claimed that Attorney General Bob Ferguson did little or nothing to protect homeowners in that way.  (But see this and this.). When I asked her she would do about traffic suggestion, Darnelle suggested eliminating tolls on roads. (Wouldn’t that mostly just increase traffic?)    I believe Darnelle has little chance of winning against Kuderer.  No Republican candidate survived the top-two primary.  This is Darnelle’s fourth run, I believe she said.

How the Seattle Times could prosper

I’ve never subscribed to the Seattle Times. The reason is that, as a progressive, I disagree with many of the political endorsements by the editorial board.

Yet when I speak with conservatives they often say they dislike the Seattle Times because it’s too liberal! The Seattle Times gets hit from both sides of the political aisle.

Admittedly, the editorial board is more libertarian than conservative. That is, they’re generally liberal on social and foreign policy issues and conservative on tax and fiscal issues.

And it sure is sad and dangerous that journalism is struggling and that the news room and the public have to pay the price.

Yet I have a suggestion about how the Seattle Times and other news outlets can win back subscribers: Stop endorsing candidates and policies. The main purpose of a newspaper should be to present the news as objectively and fairly as humanly possible. The editorial page can still be used to present opposing viewpoints by outside commentators, but except in cases of obvious incompetence or political extremism, the board should avoid partisan politicking.