James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway

In 1965, James Ridgeway helped launch the modern muckraking era by revealing that General Motors had hired private eyes to spy on an obscure consumer advocate named Ralph Nader. He worked for many years at the Village Voice, has written 16 books, and has codirected Blood in the Face, a film about the far right. In 2012, he was named a Soros Justice Media Fellow.

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Dogs Are As Smart As Politicians

| Sun Aug. 9, 2009 8:59 PM EDT

Dogs may be smarter than most people think they are, according to the findings of a Canadian researcher. But when it comes to knowing that they're getting shafted, they are just as dumb as a lot of politicians--and the voters who support them.

The web site LiveScience yesterday reported on recent studies conducted by Stanley Coren, an academic from British Columbia who has done extensive research on canine intelligence. Coren says that the average dog compares favorably with a human two-year-old in language abilities; smarter breeds, like my Border collie, rate with kids six months older, and can understand about 250 words. Dogs fare even better in math, showing abilities similar to a four-year-old. And in terms of social development, they are more comparable to human teens, Coren says, "interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing." (This may or may not be a compliment to dogs, depending on what you think of teenagers).

Coren also studied the responses of dogs on some issues that might be seen to have political implications:

While dogs know whether they’re being treated fairly, they don’t grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for “giving a paw.”

When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn’t, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don’t care about the inequality of the treats.

If that’s the criteria, it appears that dogs suffer from the same intellectual shortcomings as some adult humans. Why else would so many working-class and middle-class people vote for politicians who oppose tax hikes for the rich? Why else would they stick up for a health care system that screws them over, leaving them with crumbs while the wealthy and the insurance and drug companies keep their jaws around the juicy steak?

In this area, at least, canine intelligence seems to be about on par with that of most Republicans--and quite a few Democrats, too. (Again, you may or may not think this is a compliment to dogs. I know what I think.)

My dog Jenny: Smarter than Max Baucus?

My dog Jenny: Smarter than Max Baucus?

 

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The White House's Bad Drug Deal

| Fri Aug. 7, 2009 1:52 PM EDT

Obama’s sellout on health care is hardly any secret, but this week's news of an outright backroom deal guaranteeing drug makers control over pricing is one for the history books. Even the Republicans didn’t lay down for big business quite like this.

As it now stands, there is no control over drug pricing in the US (save for a gesture in that direction under the Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance plan for the elderly). The system allows drug firms to set prices for prescription drugs under Medicare, in what amount to sweetheart deals with private insurance companies. Because drug pricing and insurance costs are set—basically at will—by these two industries, critics have demanded the government step in and set prices. Those demands haven’t gone anywhere, but never has there been an explicit announcement from on high about the arrangement. It’s always been just another one of Washington’s dirty little secrets.
 

The APA Nixes "Ex-Gay Therapy": A Win for the Religious Right?

| Fri Aug. 7, 2009 10:03 AM EDT

On Wednesday, the American Psychological Association made headlines by repudiating gay-to-straight therapy. In a report, the APA found that not only is there no evidence that the practice actually works, but it can also lead to depression and suicidal tendencies. Considering that so-called "reparative therapy" has been enthusiastically championed by the religious right, you might be surprised to learn that they're touting the report as a major victory.

Confused? Here's what happened. In addition to instructing members not to seek to change a patient's sexual orientation via therapy, the APA also issued additional guidelines advising therapists how to deal with a patient struggling with their sexual identity. And these guidelines explicitly state that it may sometimes be appropriate for a therapist to help a client deny his sexual orientation because of his faith.

Business As Usual

| Wed Aug. 5, 2009 8:53 AM EDT

Among the feverish press reports of imminent economic recovery, there are two telling signs that it’s business as usual on Wall Street.

First comes the Treasury’s report Tuesday that less than 10 percent of borrowers eligible for loan restructuring under Obama’s program to stave off foreclosure have received any help.

Why? According to the Washington Post, the big banks just won’t budge:
 

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