Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

The Threat of Ebola is Massively Overstated

In recent months, Americans have taken a hysterically fearful attitude toward Ebola, an extremely unpleasant viral disease that kills most of the people it infects in a remarkably gruesome way (vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, sometimes with internal and/or external bleeding). Multiple US congressmen have expressed fears that Latin American immigrants will carry Ebola into the United States from Mexico. Nevertheless, Ebola poses virtually no threat to people living in the western hemisphere, and even the threat it poses to Africans is overstated.

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How the United States Invented a New Kind of Corruption

It’s easily forgotten that the US constitution was written to address the defects of a very specific kind of government–the 18th century European absolute monarchy. The trouble is that when we design our states to solve one very specific kind of problem, we often over-correct and create precisely the opposite sort of problem. Our minds are too aware of our recent experience. We get myopic, we fail to see how our solutions to yesterday’s problems contain within them the beginnings of tomorrow’s problems. This piece aims to detail how America’s answer to absolutism has contained within itself the foundation for many of our current political woes.

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2 Questions about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involves donating to the ALS Association and/or dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s head to raise awareness for ALS, a rare neurodegenerative disease. One can then challenge additional people to take the ice bucket challenge, raising donations and awareness for the disease:

 

It seems there are two kinds of people these days–people who are enthusiastically participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge and people who think it’s stupid and annoying.  To answer this question, we need to ask two more.

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Michael Brown, Ferguson, and Implicit Racism in America

In recent weeks, everywhere I look I see pieces written by people about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Some of the pieces support Brown, others attack Brown, all of them make explicit or implicit claims about what the incident means for America’s soul. All of them seem to take as a given that this incident tells us something we didn’t already know. The truth is that like any individual death (regardless of whether it was murder or an accident), Michael Brown’s does not tell us what the general trends are in America. All it can serve to do is highlight an issue. To understand what’s really going on, we have to look at that issue in a wider statistical context, and this piece seeks to provide that context.

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The Rick Perry Indictment Conundrum

Earlier today, I was asked for my opinion on the Rick Perry indictment. Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted for abusing official capacity and coercing a public servant. Is there anything to the charges?

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