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A favorite argument of the Confederate monument defenders is that those who are trying to take them down are destroying history. They we are whitewashing it. That we are making future generations ignorant of history by destroying them, and that they will be the poorer for it.

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My governor, Governor Abbot of Texas, just weighed in on this issue on Wednesday.

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.

What my governor, and all like him overlook, is that these monuments were never about history.  History is best taught in museums, in schools, in books, in articles, on historical tours, all of which can provide the context and details that will allow a person to understand the history.

A stone or metal statue can and does do none of that.  What they do instead though is show what values a society values   They provide a tangible form to intangible societal beliefs and ideals.

This is something that those who created and raised these monuments understood.  It is why they so often have inscriptions that make this very plain, such as that that once was on the Battle of Liberty Place monument (taken down in 2017).

McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed bb this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant –Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state.

Values, not history is what is being shown here.

The same holds true for the vast majority of other statues and monuments. When not explicitly inscribed in the monument, it is explicitly inscribed in the words of the newspapers and speeches of the time on why this or that confederate monument was raised.   A testament to white supremacy.  A testament to white superiority.

This should be something so obviously true that there should be no dispute. A monument to honor the Confederacy – an almost country created to preserve and protect the ideal that whites can own blacks as easily and as morally as they can own a dog and the ideal that whites are supreme race – can be nothing else.

These were not monuments to men and history. They were monuments to the ideals of white supremacy. Their primary intent was not to remind people of a historical person or event, but rather to remind both whites and blacks of their place.

These monuments were raised to promote the values of the Klu Klux Klan. They were raised to promote the values of Jim Crow.  They were raised to promote the values of white supremacy.

Those values are, or should be, our shame now.

 

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Wednesday, we were able to add another school shooting to the ever growing list of school shootings.  Wednesday, we were able to add another mass shooting to the ever growing list of mass shootings.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe.

However, increasingly, in America every day is becoming a Wednesday.  The number of mass shootings is increasing. The number of school shootings is increasing.  The number of dead children is quickly increasing.  The number of Americans dead, wounded, or mourning is quickly increasing.

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And so far, all we have gotten is thoughts and prayers.  There is a time and purpose for thoughts and prayers.  But, they are not enough to stem this bloody tide.  There needs to be policy and actions and laws too. But those seem in short supply, for many reasons.  Something that is not the purpose of this blog to explore.

In this blog I do not intend to present specific policies and actions.  I do not intend to wade into numbers and research.  I do not intend to provide a specific way forward.  While I do have some specific ideas in regards to policies and actions, and have some specific ideas on ways forward (none of them quick nor easy), I do not intend to present them here.

Instead, what I want  briefly present are a few  very broad ideas of what a true solution to our gun violence problem would have to include.

But, before doing that, I want to define what a solution to the gun problem is and is not.

First, it is not armed guards and metal detectors and training on what to do when the seemingly inevitable happens.  It is not passing out guns to all the teachers, all the students, all Americans to use for protection.  It is not good guys with guns. One of my nieces stated it very well when she wrote:

The issue is not the good guys with guns not being around, it’s the bad guys with guns posing a threat in the first place and our country’s failure to protect their subsequent victims by arming them.

A true solution is not reactive, as were all of the “solutions” I mentioned already. Instead, it is proactive. It strives to prevent the act from happening in the first place.

I guess I should now mention goals.  What is our goal here?  To have everyone living in fear and tension but protected somehow by guns and machinery and such?

Or is it to have every child be able to go to school without a nagging fear in their and their parents mind about whether they will come home again, alive and unscathed; to have families, couples, individuals, groups be able to go to restaurants, movies, and malls without a tinge of fear contaminating their enjoyment.

My goal is for the latter.

So, a solution to this problem needs to be proactive and to promote a sense of being able to live your life safely.

Now, for a reality caveat.  There is and will be no perfect solution. Perfection does not exist in human affairs. No matter how good or how thorough, there will still be some gun violence. However, if we reduce such violence by 80%, 90%, or more…well, that would be good indeed.  When our government first started studying car safety in the 1960s, they did not eliminate all car fatalities.  But, they greatly reduced it and made driving much safer now than it was 50 years ago. As a result many tens of  thousands of individuals are still enjoying their lives, and many more thousands of family and friends are visiting these living people instead of the cold earth of their graves.

Second reality check. There is no one solution.  Gun violence stems from a variety of causes and happens for a variety of reasons.  Instead of a single solution, there will need to be many changes, many “solutions”.  And that is the main purpose of this blog, to highlight, in broad stokes,  what areas need to be changed.

 

UNLEASH THE RESEARCH

Currently the CDC is hamstrung and effectively prohibited by Congress from conducting any research into gun violence, its causes and solutions.  For over 20 years Congress has kept any money from going to research into the causes of gun violence and possible solutions to such violence.

That must change.  If we want to quit spinning our wheels on this issue and to find new and real solutions, we need information.  Ignorance, in this case, literally kills.

 

UNLEASH OUR STARVED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES 

Mental health is one of those things we love to give lip service to, but not money. It is usually one of those areas with the least amount of money allocated to it, but which, despite this, is still one of the first to feel cuts when the budget must be trimmed.

A caveat here though.  Most of the mass shooters were not mentally ill.  In fact, the great majority were not – for example, the Las Vegas shooter.  Also, the vast majority of mentally ill do not commit such acts of violence.  In fact, the great majority of persons who exhibit the exact same symptoms as the shooters  do not commit such acts.

However, this is still worth doing.  Further research and work may help us more accurately identify those at risk of engaging in mass shootings.  An even better goal though would be to create a system of mental health services where those who might have become so do not.

Consider vaccinations as an analogy. Even without a vaccination, not everyone would get sick.  Many would though. Yet with vaccinations most of those who would have become sick no longer will.

To make this a reality though is going to involve a great deal more money being spent in this area than there is now.  Money for the research necessary to understand better, both the conditions and its causes and its prevention.  Money to set up the structures and resources that can effectively deliver that knowledge in a timely manner.

In addition, the benefits resulting from the money spent on this research and for the resources to effectively use the findings of that research, would extend far beyond the effect it would have on reducing mass shootings and gun violence. It would improve the lives of millions and thereby help the nation.

 

UNLEASH OUT SOCIAL SERVICES 

We have too many cracks and gaping holes in our social services.  People do not get the resources and knowledge they need to deal effectively with what life has thrown at them.  Often this would work in tandem with the unleash mental health part of the solution.

The most recent school shooting in Florida is a good illustration of that.  Here is my one and only link in this blog, an article about how the shooter “escaped years of warning”.   It shows how the police and school and other services really had no way to effective deal with this young man.

This is something that happens all too frequently.  We should be looking at what can be developed and created to better serve our fellow citizens.  Again, like mental health, this would benefit not only individuals, but also our country as a whole.  But, it would cost money.

However, I strongly suspect that the costs of providing both better mental health services and better social services would, in the long term, not only pay for themselves but provide a net gain in terms of increased productivity, less crime, fewer people in jails and mental institutions, and so forth.  In other words, just as an industry will go into debt to purchase machinery  that it believes will result in better profits in the long term, so too should we consider the money spent for these two areas an investment in our human potential.  An investment that, truth to tell, even if it only benefited the individuals using those services and society, but not the economy, would still be well worth it.  However, as I said, I suspect that if done properly, this is not an either choice but an and choice.

A thought here too – new ideas will have to be found, created, and tried.  Some will work. Some will fail.  We must realize that failures are a part of the process and one of the ways in which we learn.  In other word, do not let the failure of one idea stop the exploration of others.  Or cause us to go back to the way we used to do things.   We already know how poorly those are working.

 

GUN CONTROL

Any solution to gun violence will have to include gun control.  In fact, I would imagine that this will be a large part of any such solution.  Let me now say though that gun control does not mean banning all or even most guns.

But it does mean creating better databases for background checks, and finding ways to make them more effective.

It does mean that it applies to all guns and all gun purchases.

It does mean that some guns may be banned (some already are), or that certain sizes of ammo clips, or types of ammo may be banned.

It does mean that other gun related items may have to have background checks, for example, ammunition.

It does mean all of these and more need a thorough look at and probably trial to see how well they work.

It does mean we do not give up when one law or approach does not work.  Instead, analyze why and see if only a modification is needed or is the whole idea bad.  As someone who has had to suffer through the installation and start up of new production equipment, and through the use of new computer programs, I know that initially there are always problems and issues.  Some of them major, all of them a major pain in the ass. However, to have stopped would have been a grave mistake in most cases, and after the issues had been worked out they proved themselves greatly beneficial.  We should not be making any grave mistakes of a similar nature here.

And let me quickly address the claims of many of those against all or most gun control laws that we already have hundreds or even thousands of laws on the books,  just enforce them.  The problem is that they are all local and inconsistent.  A city or state may have strong gun control laws, yet if their neighbors do not then they are not going to be effective.  Just drive across the city limits or state lines, buy your gun, and come back home again.   Instead of working together, these laws often work at cross purposes.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS COMPLETE WITH A WARNING

I do not know if this covers everything that would need to happen for an effective solution to our gun violence crisis.  I do know though that these are the minimum.  And I do know that for most of those items listed above, the benefits to the people of the United States and to the economic and social health of this nation would extend beyond just controlling gun violence more effectively.

However, we do need to be sensitive to individual rights and work to ensure that we do not violate them in the name of safety.

I know that many will interpret this solely in terms of the second amendment.   I freely acknowledge that the second amendment does include the right of individuals to own guns.  This, by the way, is a change in my previous position due to numerous debates and discussions and readings and research.  However, that same research that changed my opinion on whether the second amendment applies to the individual also convinced me that gun controls, including the banning of some, and gun registration, does not violate that second amendment.

Which is my long winded way of saying the rights that I am most concerned about are not the second amendment rights.  My concerns are for the personal rights of the individual.

The right of the individual to be different, unique, eccentric without being labelled and treated as mentally ill.  The right of those who are mentally ill to be fully informed and to give informed consent to all treatments, to not be abused, and to live their lives freely.  The right of the individual to appeal any and all decisions made in regards to them.

Newtown Commemorates One Month Anniversary Of Elementary School MassacreIMG_7319_1507149137045_67979013_ver1.0_900_675

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Town Of Parkland In Mourning, After Shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Kills 17

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Finally, it seems to me that the best memorial to the many lives lost and families shattered by gun violence are not flowers and candles, not poems and pictures, not services and statues, but seeing people live who might have died had we not changed how things are done.

In the beginning, humanity hunted, humanity gathered, and they did so in family groups.  These groups were the earliest and most basic human social structure.

As time advanced, these groups grew larger through natural processes at work even today.  This natural increase was furthered and quickened by humanity’s growing knowledge and technology which allowed them to die less often and live longer.  And to support more people.

lepenskivirart2Larger groups had several advantages. With more people, some could be spared to become craftsmen or tradesmen – pottery, weaving, knapping, trade, etc.  This benefited the now enlarged family group.  Another important benefit is that having more people meant that it was harder for other, often competing, family groups to force you to move from favorable locations.  Or take away your resources and access to needed and important minerals and water.  Or, to just wipe you out.

And, being bigger meant that if felt it necessary, you could do that to them!

However, as primarily a hunting and gathering society, there were limits to how large your group could grow.  But, then along came agriculture.  Suddenly, those limits were gone.

But, as with most advances, there were problems too. Now a society could grow larger, but family groups could only grow so far and so fast. However, several family groups working together could grow quite quickly and with fewer limits.

But, you knew there was going to be another but, there was another problem.  How to hold these different family groups together when one family group became upset and mad at another. After all, their primary loyalty had been and was to their family.  Family feuds back then were often deadly.

The answer – Religion.  Well, really, the answer was to create a new identity that E0702 KLENZE 9463transcended  family loyalties so  that even when family groups got pissed at each other the society stayed whole and the conflict was largely worked out within the new, larger society instead of tearing it apart.  But, an essential part of that identity was religion.

This was a religion grown from the beliefs of these family groups but organized and made bigger.  And then used to create a new identity and to not only resolve potentially societal suicidal disputes, but to provide a means and motive to redistribute resources (even though abused, a necessity too – for example, irrigation).

For the most part I do not think this was consciously done, although at times I am sure that aspects of it were. But, rather, this was a natural growth.  Also, I would imagine that the attempt to create this new unity with religion failed often and the nascent society fell apart. But, some succeeded and when they did, well they were bigger with all the benefits mentioned above.  Further, they were more organized and able to have people do things not related to just providing food – arts, trades, trading, soldiers, etc

Religion was a success.  And nothing else worked as well.   It is why you never find an early civilization in which religion was not an essential part of its structure.  It had to be for such structures to exist.

Nothing human is static.  We change and grow and react in response to the non-static world around us. This holds true for religion too.  Religion started to move beyond largely societal commands and strictures and assume a more and more moral aspect to it. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and others are aspects of this changing nature.

One other aspect of this use of religion as national identity: those who were not of the same religion were then not a part of us, and thus dangerous and suspicious.  Reading the history of England as it switched from Church of England to Catholic and back again is an interesting read and an illustration of this truth.  It is why I say it is not so much religion that is the cause of so much violence, but its wedding to the state.

Which brings us to the gradual divorce of that married couple, once joined as one.  As Religious-Affiliationhumanity was more able to easily travel to other countries with other beliefs, and as humanity became better able to communicate about those other peoples – the printing press being the biggest boost to that – people within countries started to question their beliefs.  Which was a threat to the state – as mentioned earlier.

This warfare and violence though was abhorred by many good men, including some very religious believers.  And the idea started and grew and was developed that religion and state should be divorced, and then kept separated in order to control and lessen the violence and hatred.  Interestingly enough, the earliest proponent of a complete separation of religion and state was a Puritan theologian and founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams (he also founded the state of Rhode Island with that principle in mind).

A couple of hundred of years later a country was born in which the state and church were explicitly separate and forbidden to join together.   Note, by state I mean government.  And that is not the same as a society and culture.

Now, this was such a good idea that over the next two hundred years (a bit over actually) this idea spread and became the norm, or at least given lip service.  Secular non-religious institutions also grew that provided the same functions that only religion used to provide – education, healthcare, providing for the poor, etc. Abulcasis-blistering

However, a bit over two hundred years is a very short period of time. I imagine the transition from family groups to cities with religions took considerably longer.  Which is why we still see the remnants of the older attitude of identifying the state with a specific religion rise up.  It is why Buddhists in Myanmar are persecuting and committing genocide upon Muslims there.   Or why Muslims in many Islamic countries do not allow conversions.  Or why religious people in communist and officially atheistic countries were persecuted (what is the issue here is the identification of one religious view with the state, no matter what that view might be).

And why we still see it rear its head here in the United States.

Immediately after 9/11, the city of Fort Worth decided to hold a grand meeting of city employees to allow a sense of grief to be shared and supported by our shared unity. However, this meeting or ceremony was decidedly Christian, complete with the police Chaplain giving a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ amen.

My wife, who is an atheist, and a Buddhist friend of hers  were left with a sense of betrayal, of being left out. Were they not Americans too?  Did they not feel shock and grieve?   Instead of unifying all Americans, it divided.

It was just after this that God Bless America became a traditional 7th inning stretch song at baseball games.   A way to provide unity and show you were a true blue American. My wife and I, as atheist, refused to sing it, and even refused to stand for it because it came to symbolize the United States as a Christian nation.

Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer, itself a relic of the old religion as national identity. Many presidents in the past have worked to offset that by trying to include other faiths in these prayers.  But, it still is a relic of the old identifying of the state with one religious view. 170x170bb

More recently our government has been more and more influenced and pandering to one specific religious group. Towards that end, they are working to make it easier to use religion as a justification for discrimination and injustice

I mentioned culture and society earlier and how they are different than governments.  But, while they are different, they do influence it.  This is especially true in a democracy and cannot be any other way.  It creates a bit of tension at times a lot of tensions at others, and it provides a challenge in regards to politicians and government workers at times.  For the most part though, the government has managed to stay secular and maintain that wall of separation. However, I believe that we are now undergoing one of those times when that wall will be attacked, and will be cracked.  Not destroyed, but cracked.

What this shows though is that the replacement of religion as a glue holding people together, as a way of providing a national identity and unity still exists and is still a powerful force.  However the difference between today and the past is that the population is diverse whereas in the past is was largely homogeneous.  That means instead providing a national identity and unifying us, it provides an identity for some and serves to divide us.

I do not think that religion will ever disappear (after all, the family has not disappeared, that primal beginning of all human societies) – nor should that be our goal (very far from it). But, I do think that our secular government with its secular institutions needs to be protected.  It is a necessity for the continued growth of a more peaceful and just world.

Recently I have noticed something that various disparate groups have in common:  climate change deniers, Biblical literalists, creationists, Constitutional literalists,  and most recently, Trump supporting conspiracy theorists.

While I am sure that they may share many traits in common, the one that I am looking at now is their belief that there is a plain and simple way to read words, even words grouped together in sentences and paragraphs and pages.  That such meanings are obvious and that anyone who doesn’t see the plain and simple meaning is either blinded by their own ideology or do not want to admit they are wrong.

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Going up or coming down?

This was brought home to me by my recent discussions with a Trump supporting conspiracy theorist.

Now, this person would and does say they are not a conspiracy theorist, that they have laid out the facts and timeline and are following clear and obvious facts; and that it is only my desire not to admit mistake or commitment to a certain political and social beliefs or hatred of Trump that prevent me from accepting what is obviously true.

The facts for the most part consist of words arranged in sentences, and statements reported in the press.

This person claims that the sentences’ meanings are obvious.  However, when I look at imagesthem, I see other possible explanations besides the one this person prefers. Of course, mine are wrong and just justifications and excuses and speculations while theirs are factual and actual.  I, obviously, do not want to admit the truth.

This person believes in literal meanings.  They believe it for the Constitution.  And for this.  They think that there is one and only one way to understand these words.  Never mind that they are often devoid of context that would help make the meaning surer and clearer.  And by context, not only the other words before and after, but also situational context.  All of that makes a difference.  But, not to Trumpian conspiracy theorists, creationists, biblical literalists, constitutional literalists and climate change deniers.

I must say though that this makes their arguments much easier for them.  Instead of trying to evaluate the situation and context of those words when challenged, they just say that it is obvious and no interpretation needed.  Just a plain and simple reading of the words.

Consider this though, that even when speaking to each other we often have to explain or say again in different ways; we misunderstand or don’t understand clearly what is being said.  There is at least a little back and forth, questions and answers.  And this is with the benefit of being able to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions and body language.  How much greater a problem is this lack of understanding with the written word?

Some things to consider for those who think that words do not need to be interpreted, that their meaning is plain to see, and that you are a fool blinded by ideology or ignorance to think differently.

The Bible is an atheistic book.  The Bible says so.

What is the one plain meaning of the word bark?  Or nails? Or Jam? Or stool?  Or….

Here’s a good one, showing how when words are woven into sentences and those sentences then applied to others and then to the world, there is not a simple and plain meaning.

“To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

So then, what laws are necessary and proper for carrying out “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States”.  Plain and simple still?

Or what constitutes a religion, with all the Constitutional protections granted such things?

indexThe list goes on and on and on.  And it goes on because the idea that there is one plain and simple meaning that can be agreed upon by all reasonable persons is largely a myth.  There are few such things, especially when you move beyond simple descriptive statement such as red and blue (although even there are differences when the colors start to shade).

You can get agreement with most reasonable person on many things, but, usually there is discussion and sometimes debate beforehand.  You do not usually get it straight off the bat – unless of course, you limit the circle of those who are considered reasonable to your own.

Which, of course, brings up the question of what is a reasonable person?  Anybody care to provide their interpretation?

 

 

 

End Note Not Really Related to the Subject Above, But Thought I Would Toss In Because I Wanted To and Found It of Interest. 

The  Trumpian conspiracy theory is getting large, convoluted,  and very interesting.  It would be more interesting and less concerning if our President were not a member of it.

However, it now includes, from what I can figure without doing more in depth research, a story of President Obama hand picking his successor, Hillary, and, through cheating, getting her the Democratic nomination and then working to discredit and do in Trump – with the help of a “weaponized FBI and intelligence agencies” and most of the mainstream media.  Recently I saw where John McCain has now been included as part of this story.  Why it missed its timing in regards to do in Trump with the Russian story I am rather unsure of.  But, it includes a cast of President Obama (master manipulator and the most corrupt President in history), Hillary (no more need to said about “Killary”), Lynch, Comey, Bill Clinton, and many others, including McCain now apparently.

Recently a Facebook friend posted this article titled “Scientists Discover DNA Proving Original Native Americans Might Have Been White”, published in that stellar publication, The Citizen Press.

 

Well, the title definitely got my attention.

Especially since I felt fairly certain that the original natives to America were not white.  So, I read it. And in doing so found some other disturbing bits. Bits such as “…the descendants of whom went on to become the first white Europeans to settle the New World.”

Fortunately, among the disturbing bits, the article also provided a link to the actual research paper.   “Terminal Pleistocene Alaskan genome reveals first founding population of Native Americans” was published in the 11 January 2018 issue of Nature.  I imagine that The Citizen Press thought none of their readers would bother to check the original research.

 

Now, this gives just the abstract, unless, of course, you want to pay for a subscription.  Or do a pay for view.  However, even just reading the abstract I can see that the writer of the Citizen Press article had taken definite liberties with the original research.   I think he saw this bit here from the abstract.

 

Gene flow from ancient north Eurasians into all Native Americans took place 25–20 ka, with Ancient Beringians branching off around 22–18.1 ka

 

and thought to himself, “Hot Damn, Eurasians.  Europeans.  Hey, white guys colonized America!”   In fact, you can see what exactly what he was thinking since this article also did up a photo of a Native American who looks distinctly Scandinavian.  Probably Norwegian.

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However, there are two problems with this idea.  First, the abstract itself makes it clear that things were much more complex than what this guy wants.

 

Using demographic modelling, we infer that the Ancient Beringian population and ancestors of other Native Americans descended from a single founding population that initially split from East Asians around 36 ± 1.5 ka, with gene flow persisting until around 25 ± 1.1 ka. Gene flow from ancient north Eurasians into all Native Americans took place 25–20 ka, with Ancient Beringians branching off around 22–18.1 ka.

 

In other words, you had the ancestors of both the East Asians and Native Americans being one before 36,000 years ago.  Then the one split into two groups.  Although at first it was not a complete split with some hanky panky going on between the two groups until about 25,000 years ago.  Now, about the time the hanky pankying between the East Asians and the ancestors of Native Americans stopped, a group from ancient north Eurasia came along and started intermingling with the soon to be Native Americans.  More hanky pankying occurred until around 22,000 to 18,000 years ago when the Beringians branched off and spread to the Americas.

 

So, were the ancient ancestors of Native Americans European?  Some, yes.  But, they were also Asian and something else that split from the Asian population 36,000 years ago.  From the way the article is written you would think that the Europeans blitzkreiged their way across Asia and into America.

 

The newly-discovered group, named “ancient Beringians,” appears to have split off from the Europeans around 20,000 years ago and made their way to North America via Alaska, when a frozen land bridge made the crossing from Europe and Asia into North America possible. The ancient Beringians then pushed south as the ice caps melted and mixed with other Native American populations, which is why many Native Americans today also exhibit physical characteristics more commonly associated with whites.

 

Notice how they use the word Beringians.  In the Nature article  Beringians are the result of East Asians, the group the split from them, and a group from Europe, with the mixing taking place in East Asia.  However, The Citizen Press article seems to move the ancient Beringians all the way over to Europe and have these brave European pioneers making their way to America, interbreeding with the  natives along the way.  Oh , what hardy Vikings these ancients must have been!

 

Now, they do provide a bit of lip service to what was actually said,and mangling it some in doing so, towards the end of this article.

 

They found that nearly half of the girl’s DNA came from the ancient north Europeans who lived in what is now Scandinavia. The rest of her genetic makeup was a roughly even mix of DNA now carried by the northern and southern Native Americans. Using evolutionary models, the researchers showed that the ancestors of the first Native Americans started to emerge as a distinct population about 35,000 years ago. About 25,000 years ago, this group mixed and bred with ancient north Asians in the region, the descendants of whom went on to become the first white Europeans to settle the New World.

 

That is mistake number one.  And this passage nicely leads us to mistake number two, white Europeans.

 

Mistake number two – supposing that these ancient European ancestors were white.  White skin did not evolve until about 8000 years ago, and the genes needed for white skin seems to have first appeared in the Middle East and around the Black Sea region.  In other words, Europeans at the time that a population of them migrated eastward were not white.  The whites hadn’t even come about yet, and when they did it would not be in Europe.

Even more disturbing though was this from The Citizen Press  article:

 

The findings which were published in the scientific journal Nature, are controversial and represent a growing body of evidence being discovered across the world that suggests the origins of the human race may have been Europe and not Africa as once believed.

 

My first reaction was “what the hell?”.  The Nature article says nothing about the origins of the human race, especially its origins being Europe and not Africa.  All the genetic and fossil evidence firmly points towards Africa being our original home, with groups of homo sapiens radiating out form there and having some intermingling with other homo species which had left Africa earlier.

 

So, no, hell no, this paper does not even hint that the “origins of the human race may have been Europe and not Africa”.   Unless, of course, you consider whites to be the only true human.

 

And that is what is most disturbing about this gross misuse of science.   I have a feeling that the writer of this article believes exactly that, and like creationists, will misuse scientific findings and discoveries to further this view.

 

There are two things I note about most of the most fervid Trump Supporters – their short sighted impatience, and their fantasies.  It is something that I see again and again, and something I have to remind some of these fervid supporters of when I engage them (and which they promptly then ignore or forget – which means I could also add in the short memory of such supporters).  So, now to take each topic in order.

ON THE SHORT SIGHTED IMPATIENCE OF SOME TRUMP SUPPORTERS

By short sighted impatience, I mean that whenever we point out that something is not good, if the sky doesn’t immediately fall down and the fires of hell roar up to meet the falling skies, they laugh and mock.

“Hey, I thought you said the stock market was going to crash”President Trump Holds 'Make America Great Again' Rally In Iowa

“I thought you said our economy would be in ruins.”

“I thought you said that America would collapse.”

And so forth.

Now,  I am going to speak for myself (obviously), but I think most liberals and rational people would agree with what I say.  I never once said disastrous results would happen immediately.  In fact, I explicitly said in one to two years.   And so far I will stand by this – although truth to tell, I thought Trump would have yanked us out of NAFTA by now and be well on his way to a protectionist policies and actions.  He has made some significant movements that way, but not as far as I had thought he would.

But, it has only been one year.  And, as I said, I have seen movements and actions trending that way.

And here’s the thing.  The vast majority of human disasters do not happen immediately.  Events lead up to them and create the conditions for such to occur.  For example, our recent Great Recession was caused by many factors – international trade imbalances, lax lending standards and lack of adequate regulations on entities such as banks and other financial institutions, as well as US government housing policies.  I would add that President W. Bush’s tax cuts and Iraq war also contributed to the recession and caused us to increase our debt more than we would have otherwise to get out of it.

So, many things contributed to this disaster.  And each thing came about at different times, and none of them immediately caused the disaster.

So, no, I did not think that once Trump was sworn in that everything would suddenly fall apart.  For one thing, we were in a very good place economically and in the world.  Good foundations take time to wreck.

The same with the tax plan.  Yeah, I know most people are going to see some money back.  That is not the problem.  The tax plan is not going to help our economy much, if at all, and will be a long term problem.  Not to mention the basic issue of its lack of fairness. But, in the immediate future, for at least the next one or two years, probably a few more, not much is going to happen due to it.

So, short sighted impatience.  If it doesn’t flop immediately then we are chicken littles and rabble rousers and gloom and doomers.

No, not really. But, we can see the signs and events happening that will lead to a disaster.

Trump and company are harming our alliances.  And our reputation in the world.    That is a set up for something bad to happen.

And all the workplace safety regulations have improved safety and reduced accidents and deaths, and all the environmental regulations being cut so that now we are in more danger from toxic wastes, and other environmental hazards.  Keep in mind, not saying that they will happen immediately.  But, they will accumulate and have a cumulative impact.

Trump and company are busy eliminating any and all regulations that protect us – regular people – from big business.  And protect the United States from major economic problems, such as what happened during the Great Recession.  Has it happened yet?  No, of course not.  Never said it would.  But, the pieces are being put into place for such things to happen.

So, for any fervid Trump supporter who may be reading this – drop the” all is good now”.  That is not evidence against us since we are not talking about an immediate right now effect.  What we see are the building blocks of disaster being put in place.  And so often, disasters are just a numbers game.  You can do something unsafe and get away with it – for awhile.  But do it too often, and it will catch up to you.

Trump and company are increasing the odds that bad things will happen, both politically, in foreign affairs, socially, and economically.  The signs are there for those who look – and they are not that hard to see.  But, soon, in a year or two, they will become very much clearer.  Although I fear that during this time the fervid Trump supporters will come up with a conspiracy theory to blame it on.

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FANTASIES OF MANY FERVID TRUMP SUPPORTERS

It seems that many of the fervid Trump supporters just cannot understand why so many are so strongly against him.  So, rather than deal with the reality that Trump really is the worst president that the United States has had in modern times, and possibly in all of our history, they create fantasies about why we don’t just adore him, or at least give him a “fair chance’.

The first fantasy is that we were just upset that Hillary didn’t win.  In other words, we were sore, pouty losers.  I haven’t seen that  one as much now as in the  past.  So, good.

This one though is the one I see most often, because it is the one most often tossed my way.  They seem to believe we are offended by his fucking language.  Or that he is not eloquent.  Or that he is not polished.  In other words, they have created a fantasy of us as being weak willed nitwits who are just offended at Trump.

Now, I will admit that I am offended at Trump. But, not for the reasons they say.

I really don’t care if he used shithole or shithouse in that meeting.  I am not offended by those words.  I know of at least two very good Presidents who cursed quite often.  I am however offended at the lack of  knowledge and the prejudice his question conveyed.

While it would be nice to have an eloquent person as president, there have been many very good presidents who were not eloquent.  So, I am not offended at Trump’s lack of eloquence.

Election Protests WisconsinI am offended though at his ignorance and that he seems to believe he is not ignorant.  His lack of knowledge of government and policies and of the world are appalling and dangerous for a President.  His lack of awareness of his lack of knowledge means that he is not even going to try to learn.  That, I find offensive in the extreme.

I am not offended at his rough manner. There have been good presidents in the past who were rough.

However, I am offended at his lack of feeling for others – his mockery of those with disabilities, his attacks upon military members who disagree with him, his racism, his treatment of women.

And I am offended at his lack of morals.  I do not expect presidents to be pristine and pure.  But I also expect them to not profit off the government in the manner that Trump has been doing.  I do expect them to avoid conflicts of interest, which Trump does not.

Finally, politicians will lie.  It comes with the territory and to be honest, some of it is necessary for being a successful politician.  A totally honest politician is one whose career is going to be very short and very ineffective.

However, I do expect them to be honest most of the time.  And to correct obvious misstatements.  Trump is not and does not.  He has taken lying to new heights and never ever apologizes.

In short, I  know that there have been presidents who are rough, not eloquent, commonly used rough language.  While I might prefer differently, that is not why I am so utterly opposed to Trump and appalled that he was elected president.

No, I am opposed and appalled because Trump is the most incompetent president we have had in my lifetime, and quite probably in the history of the United States.  I am opposed and appalled because Trump is an immoral idiot who thinks he is God.  And because this God has such a delicate ego he is in constant warfare with a significant part of the American people.

So, if you disagree with me – fine.  Do so based on the reality of me, based upon what I actually say, and not your fantasy of me.

Today I took my wife’s car in to get the oil changed.  They told me it would be about an hour before they could get to it, which I expected, and was properly prepared for, having brought a book to read.  However, the woman sitting across from me who was also waiting for her car had other ideas.  She talked to me.  Even when I was reading.  Even when I was texting.  And having been raised to be polite, I every now and then responded, especially when she asked direct questions about me.

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However, from this frustrating experience (if Dante had experienced this he would have created another circle of Hell just for such people) I wound up making a couple of interesting observations that are now in the process of becoming the subject of this blog.

My epiphanies occurred when the mechanic came out holding the cabin air filter of her car.  It was absolutely filthy.  The mechanic asked the woman if she wanted to have it replaced.  When asked how much, he said 75 dollars.  The woman almost freaked.

She said she could not afford 75 dollars. That due to Hurricane Harvey she was already having to live in a Motel 6, that she had no extra money to pay for anything, couldn’t he just wash it and put it back in, that she had asthma and her medications were expensive, why was it so expensive, couldn’t see go and get it from someplace cheaper and have them put it in (the answer was no), if she paid for that she would wind up sleeping on the streets, and on for a bit more.  Upshot was that she told him to clean it off as best he could and put it back in since she couldn’t pay for it to be replaced.

Afterwards, she just sat there for a few moments.  While studiously reading I watched her; she looked as if she were about to cry.  Then she composed herself, and started talking to me again.  This time though it was about God and Jesus and how they control everything.  About how she knew she did not need to worry as they would look out for her and provide her what they thought was best for her, even if she may not always understand.

She went on in this manner for quite a while, mixed in with how could that small filter cost 75 dollars and about her medical issues .  What was interesting here is that also mixed in all of this is the fact that she came up with a way to take care of the problem.  She found out the cost of the filter at an auto parts store (I think 20 dollars) and, after a quick veer into human greed and it couldn’t be that hard to put the part in, she talked about a friend she had who was a shade tree mechanic who would put it in for free.

My first observation is that her religion allowed her to maintain control.  A loud and talkative and complaining control, but control nonetheless.  And, unlike what many atheists like to claim, despite her talk about God and Jesus controlling everything and being in charge, she took actions and formulated a plan to take care to the problem.   I would say that her beliefs allowed her to calm herself and not get caught up in a loop of worry and despair.  And, because of that, she was able to come up with a plan that sounded to me as if it should work.

Now I know many atheists would like to say that we should all be strong and not need the “crutch” of religion,  I am not one of those.  People are different.  Even strong people need crutches at times.  This, along with other reasons I have talked about elsewhere, is another reason why religion will never totally disappear.

My other observation came about as she continued to talk and talk and talk to me. This time about her religious beliefs.  About how God and Jesus were in control of everything.  We humans just think we are in control, but we are not   Satan and his demons (the fallen angels, one third of all angels) also had a role to play, but they were not in control.  They too often controlled our behaviors, but only because we let them and do not call upon God.

upload2She related this down to even everyday tasks and decisions.  While she was doing so, at great length, I had a flashback to a paper I wrote while getting my MLA.  It was about the Iliad and the role the Greek gods played in it.  More specifically, did the Greeks actually believe that the gods took over and controlled people in the manner written in the Iliad.

 

What most attracted my attention during my reading of the Iliad is the prominent and varied roles of the gods in the story.   They are active in the activities of the war and often are the initiators of those actions; they act upon men for both good and evil; and they are used to explain sudden fortunes and misfortunes.  They also are the ones who make the final decisions on who wins and who loses, who lives and who dies, and on whether Troy will be overthrown and destroyed or not.

In reading the Iliad one gets the feeling that the Greeks did not believe that they controlled their fate, that instead larger forces determined their destiny.

When I wrote this paper I had no thought of applying this to modern times, considering this a relic of ancient thinking.  However, from what this woman said, which many religious people would also agree with, I saw that such thinking had not died out.  Her beliefs are a close relative to the same sort of thinking seen in the Iliad and the Odyssey.   Not the same, but close.  And both though arose from the same sources- that so much of life is a mystery, that we want one thing but behave another way despite ourselves;  and the realization that much of life is also beyond our control, which can and often does create great hardships on us.  Thinking in this way, whether it involves many or a single god, allows us a way to control our response, at least on an emotional level, to such events beyond our control.  As I noted in my first observation above.

 

One final note.  She quite often said I was a nice person and talked about the importance of God in people’s lives, that without God they are adrift and helpless.  Somehow I managed to avoid mentioning that I am an atheist.  And by doing so confirmed that I must be a nice guy after all.

What Is Atheism?

My last blog, “We Are All Born Theists” generated a great deal of gratifying discussion, even though most of it was in disagreement with me.  Which, though, was what I expected.  What I did not expect was that most of the discussion and disagreement was on something I had thought the minor point of the  blog:  whether a person who does not even have the concept of God is an atheist, as per the meme in my blog, which had stated babies are born atheists. rf_detail_174_0

So, given the number of discussions this topic on atheism generated, and the fact that I did not really get to fully explain my position (and, indeed, until I had seen all the arguments against it, did not really know how to do so), I am continuing it in this blog.

Now, for my position – I do not believe that a person, in this case a baby, can be called an atheist if they do not have even the concept or idea of God.  And by God, I mean any sort of supernatural entity invoked to explain natural and/or human events.  This includes nature spirits such as water and wood entities, ancestors, pantheon of Gods, our own solitary God, etc.

Now, let me be clear what I am not saying.  I am not saying that:

  • Atheists have to be materialists and/or naturalists. A person can believe in life after death, in ghosts, in psychic phenomena, in reincarnation and karma, etc.  and still be an atheist.
  • I am not saying a person cannot be ignorant and still be an atheist. An atheist can be a flat earther.  An atheist can believe contrails are chemicals being sprayed down by the government to better pacify and control us.  An atheist can believe all sorts of irrational and ignorant things and still be an atheist.

I think this covers the main areas of misunderstandings of my position.  Which is, again, F16-SEP-do-nothing-borderthat a lack of knowledge about even the concept of God does not make a person an atheist.

Those who disagreed with me argued that it is only a lack of belief in God that defines an atheist, not the cause. dark

To a point, I agree.  Why a person became an atheist is immaterial.  It could be trauma, rational thought, rebellion, or just finding the whole idea silly.  Whatever  the reason, if they lack a belief in God, then they are an atheist.

However, to me, to not even have the concept of God, is different.  The why of this hinges on the word “belief”.  To believe or not believe something you have to first know of it.  For example, can you say that a person who has never heard of or seen pictures of dragons really does not believe in dragons?   I guess you can, but I think a much more accurate statement would be that they are ignorant of the idea of dragons. A lack of knowledge of is not the same as a lack of belief in.

The same holds true for atheism.  Ignorance of God would be a much more accurate description of a person who has no concept, never heard or read of God than would be atheist.

And then I look at who this definition of atheism as including even those totally ignorant of the concept of God would apply to in real life. Babies.  Do you really want to say that babies who lack the ability to understand anything or reason at that age are atheist just because, along with everything else, they have no concept of God?

Or what about persons with severely intellectual and developmental handicaps?  So severe that they cannot talk and understand little to no words?  Do you really want to call them atheists?

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Sorry, this does not pass my silly test.  And sorry  for how dismissive that might sound, but it really does describe my initial reaction to this. To put this another way,  I mean it does not make logical sense to say that they are atheists.  Ignorance and belief/lack of belief are not the same.

To equate ignorance of even the concept of God to being an atheist is, basically, equating ignorance and atheism.