OPEN DISCUSSION – FEBRUARY 2018

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89 COMMENTS

  1. MODERATOR MESSAGE

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  2. Netflix

    Professor Robert Reich

    “Saving Capitalism”.

    It feels lifted out of my own head….but much better informed.

    Why don’t Americans know this stuff? Why don’t they know they’ve been mugged?

    I’m ordering the book. Has anybody read it?

    In other news,

    http://robertreich.org/post/147866112730

    and

    “Reich isn’t a Bernie-or-bust type. Hillary Clinton, he says, is the best possible president for running the system we have. But Sanders, he argues, is the only presidential candidate actually trying to change the system we have into the system we deserve.

    Reich thinks that our old models for understanding politics have been broken by rising inequality over the past few decades, and that we first need to tackle that crisis head on before we can even get to questions of policy.”

  3. Darn it. On the money all the way through even to recognising the old school Republicanism and the fight against crony capitalism. But he is too old and a little empty headed now. He was awesome when younger.

    A further help and utterly correct, but still not enough.

  4. This poses some really interesting hypotheses about the catastrophic erosion of the left in the USA. The rise of identity politics represents, it is suggested, a narrowing and increasingly selfish force that removes collective focus from the deepest roots of their common problems (women, blacks, gays, etc., etc.), these roots comprising the economic principles which fuel society….

    https://www.truthdig.com/videos/chris-hedges-charles-derber-failures-american-left-video/

  5. In Jordan Peterson’s interview on UK Channel4 highlights this point rather poignantly.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54

    Newman is disastrous failing to argue Peterson offered facts.

    Newman’s proposition of identity politics urging an at face emotional plea for things being different and better disposed towards women fails against facts but is also pre-scuppered by their shared understanding of what the economic system irredeemably is. Peterson defines himself as a Classic British Liberal, a progenitor, a tad more caring, of the Classic American Libertarian.

    Rather than accepting Capitalism’s rules as rigid and that businesses must always be red in tooth and claw, one could propose support for cultivating some more ethical businesses that offer buying choices for ethical products more ethically produced, using tax incentives and investment facilitations.

    Markets are never ever free. We can try pulling other levers modestly. This is the Hedges and Derber point.

  6. Phil #2

    From Reich’s post:

    Last January, a DeMoines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers
    found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats
    unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics.

    I think money is at the core of the flaw in Reich’s dream of the majority rising up and taking back our country. The rich minority that rules also controls 90% of the nation’s wealth, with further enrichment on the horizon thanks to the tax bill that was rammed through.

    That buys a lot of well-oiled marketing. By the time we go to the polls, we actually feel pretty good and self-righteous about voting against our own best interests.

    He who controls the money controls the dialogue.

  7. “Drain the Swamp,” should remain the battle cry. Or

    “Let’s actually drain the Swamp!”

    Check out the Netflix for more material on purchased power.

    I think it essential to publicise things like the $800m budget from Koch Industries for the mid term propaganda.

  8. I think at this point nothing short of a grass-roots wave of protest is going to create any change.

    I’ll reserve judgement until after the mid-terms. In my mind, that will either be the turning point or the catalyst.

  9. A key element in promoting the plutocracy revolution in the American “democratic” process (the inverted commas are now necessary) was the forcing through by a conservative majority of the Citizens United federal case in 2010, which effectively took the lid off any restrictions on political expenditure by Corporations. Not surprisingly, the leading figure in the C U organisation is a right-wing activist with a long history of anti-Democrat activity, going back to the infamous ‘Willie Horton’ attack ad in 1988, and culminating in the appointment as deputy campaign manager and ongoing cheerleader for Trump.
    The CU organisation has a typically Orwellian mission statement : ” to restore the United States government to citizens’ control”, and “to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.”

  10. rogeroney #10
    Feb 4, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    ” to restore the United States government to citizens’ control”,

    Of course they never tell the gullibles, what THEIR definition of elitist apartheid “citizenship”, is!
    Their notion of “citizenship” seems to be the Roman model, rather than the democratic one”

    and “to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise,

    Which translated into English: – means “a lack of enforced government regulation” and “the freedom of charlatans to con who they like, by whatever devious means they care to employ”!

  11. Vicki

    I think money is at the core of the flaw in Reich’s dream of the majority rising up and taking back our country.

    It was doomed a long time ago, the piece being dated July 2016. His current position is rather more bleak and daunted.

    The issue is not just the advertising spend which will now see corporations seize control of the of two digit IQ voting folk, but the ongoing corporate spend on lobbying elected politicians at the rate of $6m per politician.

  12. There’s much talk of a constitutional crisis if Trump fires Mueller but I’m not sure there isn’t already one happening. The Republicans are desperately trying to smear not just Mueller but Rosenstein and in fact the whole of the security services. It’s hard to believe that Congress is attacking its own FBI rather than face up to the Russian threat of democratic interference. Devin Nunes is a disgrace. His nothingburger memo has not a shred of actual evidence in it and I’m sure at 4 pages it was far too much for Trump to actually read but he’s crowing that it “totally vindicates” him.

    Call me old fashioned but I thought that siding with a foreign adversary rather than your own people was treason.

  13. Law enforcement is traditionally conservative and republican which is why the Trump and Nunes claims that the FBI is a nest of biased Democrat vipers is so utterly absurd. Hell it was Comey who probably handed Trump the election by smearing Hillary 11 days before it. However we can never underestimate the stupidity of the American electorate. I vividly recall the Bush administration managing to convince 70% of Americans that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were somehow involved in 9/11 simply by implying that despite it being patently untrue. Now it seems the constant Trump administration attacks on the FBI are having a similar effect. In a current poll more Republican voters (47%) now distrust the FBI than approve of it (38%). FBI approval is now way higher amongst Democrats and Independents than Republicans. That’s about as insane as sheep voting for wolves not shepherds.

    https://www.axios.com/gop-turns-on-fbi-survey-78c4f486-8755-4c9e-be99-a1567bd3a625.html

    Trump is steadily destroying the traditional fabric of American society and no matter how absurd his claims there’s that base of low information, gullible, paranoid, fearful, stupid voters who just gulp down all of his lies and smears. Probably the best thing that could happen in the USA right now is a recession. If the stockmarket which Trump has been crowing about tanks and unemployment rises then his support will evaporate like summer rain. That might be the only way in which an authoritarian dictatorship is avoided because Trump, with the help of sycophants like Nunes, is undoubtedly trying to pave the way for one.

  14. Arkrid

    At this point, I’m not even sure that a total financial catastrophe would convince the devoted Trump supporters. They are impervious to reason like walking zombies. So much is riding on the November elections that I feel a frantic kinetic energy building in the general public.

    This morning the two authors of this article, published in The Atlantic were interviewed on Morning Joe on MSNBC:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/boycott-the-gop/550907/

    The authors call for a complete boycott of the Republican party to purge the government of insidious authoritarian influence and blatant corruption. Since the decent Republicans can’t/won’t do this as their own responsibility to the citizens they represent then citizens need to take it upon themselves with the power that the constitution gives them – the vote.

    Honestly, if November doesn’t bring the required satisfaction then I can’t say that I’d blink an eye if further means are required. Bernie’s book title Our Revolution caused clucking and raised eyebrows a while back here but if Republicans (I will NEVER call them the Grand Old Party EVER!) can’t be gelded in November then revolution 2.0 Bernie style seems like a political correction as a cure for massive scale sabotage that needs to happen.

  15. Bernie’s book title Our Revolution caused clucking and raised eyebrows a while back here

    I was surprised by that and was reminded of Brian Eno’s internet post (!) from Berlin a few month’s after the fall of the Wall. Observing American and Russian kids playing, it seemed to him American kids were very keen to conform to the group and Russian kids did what they wanted and didn’t worry too much if they did it alone.

    There is a strong conformist element about not sticking out, not offending, using euphemisms, avoiding risky topics, respecting without fail the office of X or Y or (as I’m arguing right now) never disrespecting a police officer. Yes there are safe and remote places for the counter culture but it must never disturb the the culture’s core.

    I wonder if some aspects of the disgracefulness of social disgrace, speaking the unspeakable, come from the anxiety of living on the edge three mortgage payments away?

    I do urge all to have a look at Saving Capitalism, or the book or its executive summary version. There is much of Bernie in there and with a broader perspective. Reich not only dated Hilary but introduced Hil to Bill and was Bill’s head of public policy. His view, Hilary would be best for running what we had in 2016, Bernie would have been best for giving us what we deserve.

    Sensibly he gives old school Republicans credit for wanting an awful lot of what we need.

    I’m further convinced we have to repair the Left, shattered by identity politics. We must convince them that more of their specific concerns can be dealt with by re-balancing the workings of the economy (capitalism), so it can help bring about more of the changes they would wish, and that collectively working in this way we can start to help each other again like in the sixties and seventies.

  16. Phil

    On conformity:

    The societal punishments for sticking out, offending and failure to give respect are substantial and onerous. This is magnified these days by social media where instead of a ripple of clucking and fluttering and “well I never!” at the tea parties of the past, we now have a catastrophic truckload of hate dumped on us from the unforgiving internet for all times that is nearly impossible to diminish – even with the help of specialty PR companies designed for this very thing. (See Jon Ronson – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed).

    Back in school as teens, the bad luck of having a note purloined that revealed the object of our affection was considered unsurvivable and in fact was the source of days and weeks of psychological torture inflicted on the poor unrequited lover. Let this stand as the introduction to the lesson known as; keep your head down, don’t make waves, reveal nothing, don’t take risks. You will suffer! Now this seems so quaint; the frightening prospect of going to school the next day and having to face the judgement of the peers. The prospect of facing the world behind the internet is a million times worse. Hate and death threats that continue on for all times all spelled out in black and white available for billions to read if they so chose is enough to destroy any emerging nonconformist.

    Disrespect and challenge an American police officer? Are you fucking suicidal or something?! o_O

    Respecting the office of x or y could be an extension of this conformity, a component of tribal identity and loyalty. The people who claim to respect the office of the Presidency under Trump didn’t appear to respect the office of the Presidency when it was occupied by Obama, a person that was not considered to be a member of their own tribe but was obviously an outsider. To admit that he was a decent person who was smart and qualified to be President would be seen as a breach of tribal (party) loyalty. Very few did that. I remember McCain correcting a woman in a rally on that and I thought it took guts and integrity.

    As I’ve told our young people, it’s a very brave person who has the guts to speak up for what’s right in the face of total opposition. The forces of conformity are great and not everyone has the wherewithal to remain resilient in the face of social disapproval. Still, when someone does impulsively speak out against the prevailing opinion then they may find that others agree with them but just needed a little prompting to help them find their courage. This is all part of leadership training.

    I actually find it to be delightful when on long comment sections where everyone is predictably following the opinion trend, there comes along an outlier who states a contrary opinion, and states it well, causing a few lurkers to cautiously post comments in support of the outlier. I’ve seen whole threads convert over to agreement with the outlier and reach a general consensus of agreement with the outlier in the end. It’s happened on this website in the past when threads were longer and discussions more emotionally volatile.

    I have taken note of the R. Reich book. I have a good impression of Reich as he does make his case fairly often in guest spots on TV. Will acquire the book forthwith.

  17. Laurie #15

    So much is riding on the November elections that I feel a frantic
    kinetic energy building in the general public.

    Here is a link to share to help get out the vote and to help support the Democratic party:

    swingleft.org

    You key in your zip code and it gives you the Democrat running in a swing district closest to where you live.

  18. Vicki

    That’s an interesting website! It directs me to help in the NH election, from afar. Apparently my own state is solid blue already!

    (Massachusetts)

  19. Phil

    18

    In what universe could that not increase his capital?

    In Trump universe!

    McCain fancies himself a maverick. That’s how it goes with mavericks; sometimes they back you up and sometimes they shoot you down. I’ll bet there was some grumbling at that rally by those who don’t appreciate their favorite narrative interfered with. They’ve bought into the narrative. It’s part of their identity. How dare you mess with my narrative!!

    But we’ve seen those on the left get pissy when the failings of Hillary were put on display. The idea that she is a neoconservative in bed with Wall Street for example.

  20. Laurie #20

    My state is purple (Ohio), but the closest swing election is in Pennsylvania.

    Apparently none of the R’s in Ohio are up for reelection. We are scheduled for a gubernatorial election, though, and I plan on donating once the field narrows down.

  21. Hello, Trump is calling for a military parade. I fear it is a scenario that could be very bad.
    Mueller is closing in on Trump and his own party is under heat to bring pressure.
    Trumps time is running out and I think he knows it. He has gotten the GOP party in such deep water, they may not be able to back out now.
    I hope he would think twice about ordering the military to surround the White House for protection.
    This could be bad. I don’t think there is any out for Trump now. That makes him a dangerous man.
    (has anybody heard from Dan?)

  22. alf1200 #23
    Hello, Trump is calling for a military parade.

    Alf, they hold military parades in North Korea. My guess is that Donald just wants to show Jong Un that he (Donald) can do military parades even better and grander than any that Jong Un can do. You know what boys can be like with that sort of thing.

    Military parades are a great way to show off and, of course, to encourage the more impressionable citizens to admire and adulate the glorious leader and his fearsome power. So, yes, there would be worrying possibilities to watch for, if Donald developed an appetite for military parades. His mate Vladimir is an old hand at them.

    One can still hope that the US military will refuse to do anything unconstitutional.

  23. Garrick #24
    Feb 7, 2018 at 5:32 am

    Alf, they hold military parades in North Korea.
    My guess is that Donald just wants to show Jong Un that he (Donald) can do military parades even better and grander than any that Jong Un can do. You know what boys can be like with that sort of thing.

    It seems that the plan is for Trump to do military parades “even better and grander” than Macron and the French!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42969566

    Trump tells Pentagon ‘to top’ France military parade

    US President Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to organise a large military parade in the nation’s capital.

    The president made the request of top military chiefs in late January, after reportedly being impressed by a French Bastille Day parade last year.

    “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” he later said. “We’re going to have to try and top it.”

    Of course French Bastille Day parades, are celebrating THE OVERTHROW of a right-wing autocratic monarchy and aristocratic elite by the people! – but perhaps Trump missed that point!

    Democrats compared the plan to displays of military might organised by autocratic nations.

    The Democrats are probably correct in the case of Trump and the repressive Republicans!
    Despite the rhetoric and chantings of Trump-base, Trump rallies and parades, have nothing to do with liberating the ordinary citizens from elitist domination and exploitation by plutocrats!

    The US military will need something to spend that extra Trump budget on, and besides Putin will probably enjoy having a good look at the USA’s latest hardware!

  24. alf

    Small hands -> big missiles -> My missile is bigger than your missile. You see where I’m going with this. He’s compensating.

  25. Alan4discussion #25
    It seems that the plan is for Trump to do military parades “even better and grander” than Macron and the French!

    Well, that is a relief. The French are not likely to take any notice of Donald’s attempt to stage a grand military parade, let alone see it as a threat to their national security and push him to the brink of a nuclear cataclysm.

    LaurieB #26
    He’s compensating.

    Yes, and that is why it would be unwise to gratify his need for compensation with a fine military parade, because it would only encourage the would-be dictator in him.

  26. LaurieB #26
    Feb 7, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Small hands -> big missiles -> My missile is bigger than your missile.

    I think Elon Musk has just upstaged him with an orbital Tesla sports car!! 🙂

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42969020

    US entrepreneur Elon Musk has launched his new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    The mammoth vehicle – the most powerful since the shuttle system – lifted clear of its pad without incident to soar high over the Atlantic Ocean.

    For this experimental and uncertain mission, however, he decided on a much smaller and whimsical payload – his old cherry-red Tesla sports car.

    A space-suited mannequin was strapped in the driver’s seat, and the radio set to play a David Bowie soundtrack on a loop.

  27. Garrick #24

    Military parades are a great way to show off and, of course, to
    encourage the more impressionable citizens to admire and adulate the
    glorious leader

    Yup.

    Still, maybe there’s a bright side. After all, if the military are parading through Washington, they can’t be marching into Pyongyang, can they?

  28. Alan,

    I particularly liked the “Don’t Panic” on the Tesla dash board display.

    The shot through the windscreen at planet earth puts some necessary whimsy back into our venturing.

  29. Alan

    I think Elon Musk has just upstaged him with an orbital Tesla sports car!!

    Oh Yah! Oh yah! That’s what I’m talkin bout!!

    Elon Musk. He da man! 😀

  30. I’ve been in Paris for more than one La Bastille Day celebration. The last time we saw that military display there, the young people all around us in the crowd were shouting negative statements when the jets flew over. “FASCISM! IMPERIALISM!”

    Maybe in the spirit of La Bastille, a better celebration could be had; one that celebrates their gifted Enlightenment thinkers and the massively positive effect they’ve had for all these years on Western civilization. Instead of celebrating the devices of death and destruction let’s have parades and speeches about the best that France has to offer – and that’s a lot! I’m a fan. Here’s Macron’s opportunity to make Trump look like a dictator wannabe.

  31. alf1200 #23

    Hello, Trump is calling for a military parade

    Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton was not impressed, issuing this statement on behalf of a veteran’s group :

    “For someone who just declared that it was ‘treasonous’ to not applaud him, and for someone who has, in the past, admired the tactics of everyone from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin, it is clear that a military parade isn’t about saluting the military — it is about making a display of the military saluting him.

    The military is not Donald Trump’s to use and abuse in this way. Our military is the very best in the world — they are not to be reduced to stagecraft to prop up Donald Trump’s image. Any commander in chief who respects the traditions of the military would understand that.

    Unfortunately, we do not have a commander in chief, right now, as much as we have a wannabe banana republic strongman.”

  32. Having seen reports that Cheddar Man was actually likely to have been black, and seen the very black facial reconstruction. I found all the online articles I could to find out how certain the research was, the most scientific amongst them seemed to say that there were gene sequences similar to gene sequences which are sometimes associated with genetic sequences which are associated with skin pigment – or something like that – I am not a scientist.
    Coming Now, this kind of story suits left wing narrative so well. And I wonder why the researchers only looked for indications of colour anyway. I went on YouTube and the only videos reporting this story were littered with comments from people believing this to be total left wing propaganda. Can these findings be verified independently,? And if so, to what degree of certainty? I just don’t know what to think.

  33. Jayne #34

    I’m not qualified to answer your detailed questions myself (others here will know far more about the science of this than I do), but the research was carried out by the Natural History Museum in London, so I looked up their own account of their findings, how the research was carried out, how they reached their conclusions, etc. It’s clearly been written for a general audience, not a scientific one, but nevertheless, the NHM will only have been interested in discovering the truth, not promoting any kind of agenda. As you’ll see, they didn’t “only look for indications of colour”. They sequenced the DNA (as far as they could) in order to find out as much as possible about the man; colour was just one aspect of that.

    It’s a fascinating discovery, isn’t it? I can only imagine that those people who are so discombobulated about it must be unaware that we all came out of Africa originally.

    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/cheddar-man-mesolithic-britain-blue-eyed-boy.html

  34. Jayne UK #34
    Feb 8, 2018 at 6:11 am

    Having seen reports that Cheddar Man was actually likely to have been black,
    and seen the very black facial reconstruction.

    Actually the report says “dark skinned”, not “black”.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42939192

    A cutting-edge scientific analysis shows that a Briton from 10,000 years ago had dark brown skin and blue eyes.

    Researchers from London’s Natural History Museum extracted DNA from Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, which was discovered in 1903.

    University College London researchers then used the subsequent genome analysis for a facial reconstruction.

    It underlines the fact that the lighter skin characteristic of modern Europeans is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    No prehistoric Briton of this age had previously had their genome analysed.

    As such, the analysis provides valuable new insights into the first people to resettle Britain after the last Ice Age.

    The analysis of Cheddar Man’s genome – the “blueprint” for a human, contained in the nuclei of our cells – will be published in a journal, and will also feature in the upcoming Channel 4 documentary The First Brit, Secrets Of The 10,000-year-old Man.

    It should really be unsurprising, as as the ice-age ice retreated, people moved north from sunnier climates, and most of them lived outdoors with high UV in summer and high UV reflection from snow in the winter!

    The modern indoor life-style makes for a pale skin, but even modern North-Europeans turn dark within a week or two when on holiday on the beaches of the tropics!

    I went on YouTube and the only videos reporting this story were littered with comments from people believing this to be total left wing propaganda.
    Can these findings be verified independently,?

    I think the science is much more likely to be verified independently, than comments from conspiracy theorists bandying political labels or racial bigotry, on YouTube or Twitter!

    Sticking on political labels to disparage actual science reports, is the mark of the scientifically illiterate propagandist or conspiracy theorist!
    – It usually means they are using extremist false-news pseudo-science and propagandist sources which use emotive rhetoric and “disparaged opponent labels”, in and place of reputable science reports.
    (Such tactics are common among quack-remedy promoters, Young-Earth Creationists, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, etc.)

    @BBC link – The Natural History Museum researchers extracted the DNA from part of the skull near the ear known as the petrous. At first, project scientists Prof Ian Barnes and Dr Selina Brace weren’t sure if they’d get any DNA at all from the remains.

    But they were in luck: not only was DNA preserved, but Cheddar Man has since yielded the highest coverage (a measure of the sequencing accuracy) for a genome from this period of European prehistory – known as the Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age.

    They teamed up with researchers at University College London (UCL) to analyse the results, including gene variants associated with hair, eye and skin colour.

  35. Cheddar George was blue eyed but the drive to lighten his skin probably mostly came after his move north west across Doggerland in 11,000BCE, with the adoption of a cereal based agrarian diet. The poor vitamin D provision of grains was the strongest driver for the melanin reduction in skin.

    It would be interesting to know if adult lactase production was yet a thing with George. Keeping animals and milk drinking may well have preceded grain production with its higher social burden.

  36. I saw the segment on Cheddar Man last night on BBC America and I must say that the presentation left me feeling uneasy. My impression was that it was one of those “science” for the public consumption pieces that has a sensational feeling and short on facts and perspective. I’m not surprised that as Jayne reports above, there are comments that indicate confusion and questions of political slant.

    That said, I see that there will be a more complete presentation coming and I hope they do a better job with this interesting story.

    Some thoughts I had while watching:

    It’s a given that dark pigmentation in humans was the original “out of Africa” phenotype and that degree of pigmentation is predictable by latitude and the effects of intensity of sunlight in those locations. Lightened skin is an evolutionary adaptation to less intense sunlight in areas furthest from the equator, right? -Unless it’s an evolutionary byproduct (spandrel) in which case this should be explained too and I’d be very interested to hear about it!

    What I want them to present, given that, is an explanation of our best idea of how that loss of pigmentation in the population of Northern Europeans evolved over time. Take the best educated guess on when the various waves of humans (and Neanderthals and Denisovans) left Africa and migrated out, in this case to Northern Europe, and explain how over that amount of time, a loss of pigmentation in hair, skin, and eyes proved adaptive to those humans and increased their evolutionary fitness.

    In evolutionary time, ten thousand years is a very short time to produce a widespread adaptation. For this to happen we would need to see intense selective pressure. What kind of intense selective pressure would have been in place for this bunch of humans to lose their pigmentation over this short amount of time? Lack of vitamin D from short dark days turned their bones to lace rendering them incapable of hunting, gathering, and defense against invaders?

    The BBC clip last night came off as indicating that in ten thousand years the Brits (no mention of other Northern Europeans) have gone from dark skinned, dark haired, blue eyed people to their current state of light skinned, light eyed English roses. The ridiculous segment of the reveal of the face of the Cheddar Man to a guy who is apparently genetically related to Cheddar Man from 300 generations hence was cringeworthy.

    I also hope there is an explanation included in the full presentation of the migration routes of early humans as we understand them to be now. Surely there was a constant flow of migrants that brought novel DNA into established settlements everywhere. If there’s one thing that impresses me about out species it’s that once they left the African continent, they covered a massive amount of territory in what seems to me a short amount of time. Groups both large and small must have left Africa on a regular basis, gone off in different directions, mixed with other groups that they encountered, stayed for a time and moved on to greener pastures.

    How do we know that this one specimen is representative of the British (we ought to be discussing Northern Europeans) population of that time period? How can we ever know that with the dearth of specimens that we have available for study?

    We know that we are still evolving, of course, and there have been recent adaptations such as some interesting immune system adaptations and the ability to digest lactose that is relatively recent in our history, but the impression given by the clip last night was that in the timeline of the last ten thousand years, Brits have gone from black to white. It was very clumsy and left more questions than answers. I’m hoping that the full presentation will have a more science based and graceful explanation of this for the public consumption.

  37. phil rimmer #38
    Feb 8, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Cheddar George was blue eyed but the drive to lighten his skin probably mostly came after his move north west across Doggerland in 11,000BCE,
    with the adoption of a cereal based agrarian diet.
    The poor vitamin D provision of grains was the strongest driver for the melanin reduction in skin.

    Talking of recent melanin reduction, – the evolution of the “gingers” in Scotland from an increased incidence of a recessive gene in the wet climate with absence of severe UV damage, – shows further mutant selective adaptation, with the survival and spread of this trait, which is damaging in more sun-dominated environments.

    https://www.irishcentral.com/news/scientists-confirm-redhead-gene-evolved-due-to-lack-of-sunlight-224444281-237778201

  38. A major driver of melanin reduction is thought to be the impoverished Vitamin D provision of new fangled agriculture, eating grains rather than fish and animal livers.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/03/new-diet-sexual-attraction-may-have-spurred-europeans-lighter-skin

    In January, another team, led by geneticist Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona in Spain, sequenced the genome of an 8000-year-old male hunter-gatherer skeleton from the site of La Braña-Arintero in Spain and found that he was dark rather than light-skinned—again suggesting that natural selection for light skin acted relatively late in prehistory.

  39. Thanks, Marco. It does seem that lactose tolerance is really rather late developing.

    The lactose intolerant can make some use of milk in the form of yogurt. (It produces its own lactase some functional part of which moderately survives the hydrochloric acid bath to get to the gut.) It seems that milk production might have been needed at rather high levels to create a selection pressure for retention of lactase production.)

    Laurie,

    An explanatory article for you got spam binned. It will return above soon enough. Diet, as I said is the biggest selector here.

  40. Phil

    Yes, interesting.

    From your link:

    The study “provides evidence that loss of regular dietary vitamin D as a result of the transition to a more strongly agricultural lifestyle may have triggered” the evolution of lighter skin, says Nina Jablonski, a leading skin color researcher at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

    As for the trend toward lighter colored hair and blue eyes, Thomas and his co-workers suggest that may be due to sexual attraction—what in evolutionary terms is called sexual selection.

  41. I do hope that when further presentation of the evidence is made that an attempt is made to explain at a sufficiently intellectual level how these conclusions can be made. There does seem to be a political slant on this story. I now see that Cheddar Man was also lactose intolerant, which to me sounds at least as important discovery as his skin colour – so the fact that the headlines are what they are suggests that the researchers/publishers acknowledge that skin colour above other interesting facts will lead to more interest (not necessarily from scientists). I think that the presentation of this story is potentially more problematic than the story.

    Although YouTube comments can frequently be categorised as extremist propaganda themselves, it seems to me that when facts are presented with proper evidence on a level that can be understood by a good proportion of people that those views can be overturned (even on YouTube). Although I think there are youtubers who just can’t stand the idea that their ancestors were coloured they appear to be in the minority, and most (in one way or another) point to the reporting of it as intention to add to the increasing narrative from main stream media and the far left for native British people to feel more and more uncomfortable with their own culture and history. I find this very worrying.

    My belief is that It should be explained thoroughly instead of in a patronising way or at least better than ‘trust us, we’re scientists, and we work in a respected institution, and understand things that you couldn’t understand’.

    Reading the comments above about the science has been very interesting and enlightening and of course as some questions are answered, others have arisen. I look forward to the documentary and the scientific paper publishing the evidence.

  42. Jayne UK #46
    Feb 8, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Although I think there are youtubers who just can’t stand the idea that their ancestors were coloured they appear to be in the minority,

    Those ones will just have to put their bigoted preconceptions aside, as if we go further back on the human evolutionary tree, ALL human ancestral populations (the genera Homo or Australopithicus) for the last 2 million years, migrated out of Africa and were dark skinned!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_human_migrations

  43. Jayne UK #46
    Feb 8, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    I do hope that when further presentation of the evidence is made that an attempt is made to explain at a sufficiently intellectual level how these conclusions can be made.

    If genes which determine skin colour are clearly identified, that should be sufficient – providing that those genes are active during development.

    There does seem to be a political slant on this story.

    There will usually be some political or other slant on science stories in the headlines of the low-grade popular press.

    I now see that Cheddar Man was also lactose intolerant, which to me sounds at least as important discovery as his skin colour – so the fact that the headlines are what they are suggests that the researchers/publishers acknowledge that skin colour above other interesting facts will lead to more interest (not necessarily from scientists).

    What the researchers identify as important and what some sensation seeking editor chooses to include or prioritise, are often very different.

    I think that the presentation of this story is potentially more problematic than the story.

    You are quite correct! The presentation of science in the hands of scientifically uneducated journalists is frequently problematic and misleading.

    The popular media has VERY low standards when it comes to reporting science.

    Sometimes scientifically illiterate journalists even write articles in so-called “science magazines”! (See the link below)

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/07/nasa-is-seriously-considering-terraforming-part-of-the-moon-with-robots/

  44. Jayne

    Wasn’t there a kerfuffle a while ago over a book or paper by Mary Beard that claimed that there was racial diversity in UK back in Roman times? Sorry I’m not in UK but just getting snippets of that here in US. Do we have two incidents close in time of assertions of racial diversity in UK that caused upset of some people there?

  45. LaurieB #49
    Feb 8, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Wasn’t there a kerfuffle a while ago over a book or paper by Mary Beard that claimed that there was racial diversity in UK back in Roman times?

    Roman troops in Britain came from all over the Roman empire.

    Saxons, Vikings, and Normans, all came from Europe.

    Then there are the immigrants from all over the British colonial empire and commonwealth!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romano-British_culture

    Thousands of Roman businessmen and officials and their families settled in Britannia.
    Roman troops from across the Empire, as far as Spain, Syria, Egypt, and the Germanic provinces of Batavia and Frisia (modern Netherlands, Belgium, and the Rhineland area of Germany), were garrisoned in Roman towns, and many married local Britons.
    The Roman army and their families and dependents amounted to 125,000 people, out of Britannia’s total population of 3.6 million at the end of the fourth century.[5]
    There were also many migrants of other professions, such as sculptors from Roman Syria and doctors from the Eastern Mediterranean region.[6] This diversified Britannia’s cultures and religions, while the populace remained mainly Celtic, with a Roman way of life.

  46. The biggest upset over Mary Beard and the BBC animation of Roman occupation was led by Nassim Taleb, who was not a UK resident. Though a very clever guy, he was entirely outside of his field. Yes there was upset from others, racists more often than not with the charming heritage of BNP, EDL, UKIP and the like.

    Taleb over-accused of Beard of Scientism and handed stones (unintentionally) to racists to throw.

    Here’s the over-accusation in detail

    https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beard-nassem-taleb-twitter-feud-and-dangers-of-scientism-auid-868

    I suggest we have nothing to learn from this except stick to the facts.

    Cheddar George corroborated fairly new hypotheses about how Europeans remained dark skinned until comparatively recently and what the true drivers were. A few sources might not have twigged this fact and failed to push the new hypothesis leaving the claims looking a little odd.

    I saw nothing here that I found left looking and I went looking!

  47. Jayne #46

    Reading the comments above about the science has been very interesting and enlightening and of course as some questions are answered, others have arisen.

    Can I help with any of those new questions?

    Post about Beard and Taleb gone missing before the Beard and wiki one. It’ll be several hours before reappearing (by 10am local time).

  48. phil rimmer #51
    Feb 9, 2018 at 4:12 am

    The biggest upset over Mary Beard and the BBC animation of Roman occupation was led by Nassim Taleb, who was not a UK resident.

    The assumption of “whiteness” is deep-rooted in faith-thinkers!

    As we know, middle eastern messiahs and prophets were white – IF we believe the paintings in the “infallible” Vatican!

    However, if we actually look at the peoples of the Semitic and North African races . . . . . . . . . . .

  49. phil rimmer #51
    Feb 9, 2018 at 4:12 am

    Taleb over-accused of Beard of Scientism and handed stones (unintentionally) to racists to throw.

    Allegations of “Scientism” are the standard response of the denier who is way out of their depth, but is determined to dispute the evidence they are incapable of understanding, or unwilling to attempt to understand!

    Like scientific “theory”, it has two meanings, and charlatans make full use of the ambiguity to conflate scientific methodology with wild claims based on blind faith in preconceptions!
    It is also quite common for deniers, to project their own blind-faith in their preconceptions, on to scientists who produce evidence refuting their mistaken views!

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scientism

    Definition of scientism

    1 : methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist

    2 : an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation

  50. Taleb is very clever and thinks profoundly useful thoughts in my view. He is anti-Platonic, anti-idealistic, pro-evolutionary processes, pro-diverse, pro-tinkering, pro-robust, fault tolerant societies that facilitate tinkering. In fact, all my favourites. I’m sure he understands what scientism most usefully means, because it often forms the target of his thinking. Its just that he actually knew less on this historical topic than he thought and didn’t listen well enough. Which is why I think there is not much of a lesson to be learned.

  51. I’ve just compiled my own list of commandments, as a much improved version of the bible’s ten commandments. Here they are:

    1. Donate what you can to charity.
    2. Don't conspire against a person for no good reason.
    3. Do not waste resources. Repair things if possible. Don't do planned obsolescense.
    4. Do not hurt or kill animals or humans, unless you prevent the suffering of a larger number of animals or humans by that action. In particular, live vegetarian.
    5. Have sexual relationships only if all involved parties will surely not suffer harm from that relationship. In particular, in most cases, do not watch porn, and do not use hookers.
    6. Do not coerce someone into a sexual relationship.
    7. Do not indulge in cruelty against humans, in particular not in order to hide your own weakness.
    8. Don't bully people, and especially not in order to promote your social status.
    9. Pick a profession where something truly useful is done. E. g. do not compile advertisements for rotten products.
    10. Do not be a racist even though you have no truly scientific basis for it. In particular, don't think black people are idiots.
    11. Do not destroy things and beings if possible. In particular, do not destroy things and beings because bad things happened to you when you were young.
    12. Do not be obsessed by status.
    13. Educate your children well.
    14. Do not beat your children.
    15. Love your children. Do not hate them.
    16. Do not neglect your children.
    17. Do not believe yourself as superior in a pecking order.
    18. Do not institute pecking orders.
    19. Do not have misjudgements about somebody when evidence is not clear.
    20. Do not have perverted drives to cut people into pieces.
    21. Do not believe you are nobody without power.
    22. Do not abandon those who you love just because you think you cannot be seen with them.
    23. Do not hold people back in their potential because you fear they might supersede you.
    24. Do not get paid by an oil company to be a politician who denies climate change.
    25. Do not manipulate elections, except by convincing people in a just way.
    26. Do not write nonsensical books which have no merit to the reader.
    27. Do not commit scientific fraud.
    28. Do not give disadvantages to anybody who holds political views different from yours. In particular, don't bully democratic socialists or social democrats.
    29. Work hard.
    30. Do not design new weapon systems, unless they are absolutely neccessary.
    31. Use clean energy and recycling products.
    32. Have regard for your neighbours. Don't make too much noise when they ask you not to.
    33. Don't smoke tobacco, and if you have to, don't do so in public. Passive smoking kills.
    34. Unless you have a really good reason, obey the law.
    35. Do not lure anybody into a booby trap.
    36. Don't bully gay people.
    37. When you write software, make sure the code is neither messy nor inefficient.
    38. Publish open source or using a noncommercial license.
    39. Do not have to be right. Accept criticism if justified.
    40. Do not criticise somebody out of cruelty.
    41. Do not raise yourself above expertise by appealing to social status.
    42. Enjoy yourself.

  52. Adrian,

    A really sterling effort, but in being so specific you may be undermining the fact that there are yet better solutions possible or may become possible. From a quick scan, whilst accepting the morality of each I would currently object to aspects of about half of your ideals and how they may be prioritised. Which is a pity.

    Aphoristic wisdom is portable and much more directs people’s behaviours.

    What are the core principles of a moral society that could allow you to deduce a lot of this stuff?

  53. From a quick scan, whilst accepting the morality of each I would currently object to aspects of about half of your ideals and how they may be prioritised.

    Could you specify?

  54. Not all the way through, but taking just number one, giving to charity.

    For me every act of charity is a failure of the state. The US particularly praises charity and decries the nanny state, with appalling and iniquitous results, one of the highest levels of income, health and education inequality of an advanced nation.

    Charity is fickle (spurious, unreliable) and demeaning. It demands gratitude too often and is also often used to leverage in proselytising. It is also often done to massage egos. Voting, rather, to pay proper taxes to build compassion into the very fabric of the state is MUCH to be preferred. Now the unfortunate can depend upon help as a civilised and civilising right, proportionately, intelligently and consistently administered.

    Charity will always be needed to mop up new and un-catered for problems, but I would far rather people wished to use that beneficent impulse to vote for higher taxes and a decent welfare state, where the feel-good ceases to be to the fore and people have their compassion freed up to do yet more. (The Danes are mostly excused.)

    On aphoristic moral wisdom…

    Identifying all suffering as a moral bad.
    Encouraging children be able to achieve a state of maximum autonomy, freedom of choice, and utilisation of their individual talents.

    These seem to be heuristics that are entirely more future proof and cover many, many activities that contribute to the Good. Put into a few snappy phrases these are tests that can be applied everyday to novel situations rather than having a big look-up table of specifics.

    Can I say, what you are doing, in thinking this all through, is the single most important job humans will ever have. Bravo. Its a job they/we will never be free of. It took me 40 years before I could put my finger on what seemed to be sub-optimum about charity.

  55. Now I support the welfare state greatly. But if everyone would follow my rules, then it would not be necessary. Note though that this is not to diminish the importance of the welfare state. Indeed, it is solely a hypothetical thought experiment. Of course, never would everyone obey these 42 (pure coincidence) rules.

    I thank you greatly for your recognition of morality. I feel that sometimes, the most immoral persons get a whole lot of recognition by society (in fact, the history of my country, Germany, has a prominent example, even though fortunately, today Hitler is rated what he was: A criminal; to him rule 20 is dedicated.) but moral persons are excluded. I suppose that happened to Grisha Perelman, although he’s also living in Russia, where things are a bit worse than in the west. But it was clear by his actions that he was very upset by low moral standards of his fellow human beings. I myself am an inferior mathematician to him; I hope that this alone won’t give him reason for contempt. At least I’m honestly trying to bridge the gap.

    I myself find that even though I have a good living standard (right now I’m eating some vegetarian Schnitzel), I can donate quite a lot to charity. But it’s more important not to waste resources in order to bring the price down.

  56. Adrian.

    Now I support the welfare state greatly. But if everyone would follow my rules, then it would not be necessary.

    I say pretty much the same thing.

    … if everyone would follow my rules, then charity would not be necessary…

    Building compassion into the state and having its deliverables be a civilised right, solves the problem, also and I say much more reliably. The higher moral to me is to accept higher taxes for precisely this purpose and have trained expertise directing services and balancing all these disparate needs.

    It is precisely the critical dependence on charity that allows selfish Americans, f’rinstance, to blame each other for the terrible state they’re in. They have no interest in fixing the problem through a collectively binding mandate. Mutualism is not for them. Danes pay an average 78% in total taxations, duties etc. once all are added up. Charities apart from cats’ homes and overseas disaster provision are not needed.

    Americans must suffer Catholic hospitals with their incomplete and dangerous service provision. As Wilkinson and Pickett wrote in The Spirit Level, The American Dream is alive and well and living in Denmark.

  57. Welcome to the U.S. Republican corrupt political machine, where crazy oligarchs buy Fox news sexual predators in order to fool people into thinking that their trash economic policies work. They wouldn’t even need it. It’s purely destructive, and gives them no gain. Except the oil oligarchs, who don’t care what happens after their lives and therefore poison this planet’s atmosphere.

  58. Anybody see the Jim Jarmusch film “Paterson”?

    I loved the thing. I thought it was the best cinematic study of how we ordinary folks find meaning slipping into our lives through the day as witting or unwitting poets.

  59. There seem to be some severe penalties imposed – deterring big-cat poachers in parts of Africa!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43035474

    A suspected big cat poacher has been eaten by lions near the Kruger National Park in South Africa, police say.

    Police have not yet established the victim’s identity.
    A loaded hunting rifle and ammunition were found next to the body, South African website Eyewitness News reports.

    Perhaps the perpetrators can plead “self defence”!

  60. Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now, The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress is out on the bookshelves now. (Is it out just in US or everywhere?)

    Has anyone started reading it yet?

    Pinker is now making the rounds on the promotional tour. He just had an interview with Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC that was very interesting. I’ll post the video if I can find it. The segment just before his appearance consisted of a deeply religious politician who emphasized that his prayer group is working overtime due to the latest mass shooting of children in Florida. Hewitt asked the politician if they dealt with any possible solutions in the prayer meeting and the response was no, they don’t talk about anything but their faith at the meeting but sometimes outside of the meetings the politicians who are members can get together and talk about political issues. He also emphasized that citizens must get together in their churches and with neighbors and collectively work together to provide solutions to the problems of our society. That statement set off a buzzer in my head after our conversations here about government deflecting responsibility onto the general public. (Thanks Phil).

    After that depressing segment, along comes Pinker with his uplifting message of all of our advances that societies around the world have experienced and he did indicate that the Enlightenment and all of its devotion to reason and science had everything to do with it and that if we want further advance then we need to take it upon ourselves to make that happen. All the prayer and groveling to God is a waste of time. This seems to have startled Hewitt because he then brought up the previous interview – You just heard from the previous guest who is very religious and…! (paraphrasing until I can get video or transcript). Pinker is very smooth with these bleaters and I’ve seen him speak on several occasions where he’s dealt with worse than this. He explained that there is no evidence for miracles or of any God who can defy the laws of physics and biology.

    Although it’s difficult for us to sit through interviews of the pathetically brainwashed politicians who go running to their religious organizations and throw themselves at the mercy of their nonexistent God when things go terribly wrong, the juxtaposition of these two interviews was absolutely effective in illustrating the massive gap in the American public today. The politician with his completely useless fairy tale reaction to a massive problem that will lead to zero action to solve it and then the data driven, reality based thinker that we saw in Pinker who advises us to work together to provide real life solutions to real life problems was a microcosm of the situation in this place.

    When Hewitt pointed out to Pinker that he would alienate many people with his criticism of religion, I wish Pinker had pointed out that the young people in this country are becoming much more secular with every year that goes by and that if the trend continues then the religious fanatics will soon be marginalized to the point of being a freakish awkward sideshow in decades to come. A psychological oddity that is relegated to a page in a textbook on abnormal psychology and nothing more.

    My copy of Enlightenment Now is on the way from Amazon. Meanwhile I’ll continue with my binge reading of the books by Oliver Sacks. Finished: Hallucinations, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and On the Move. Now reading Uncle Tungsten.

  61. Just starting the Pinker now. I may have the occasional niggle with Pinker, but there are few such politically constructive polymaths that I more consistently agree with.

    People have consistently talked down the Enlightenment condemning its incomplete apprehensions of the human condition, but these folks have consistently failed to notice that it is not a list of apprehensions, but an open ended set of processes that can add to itself.

    I am though a little worried that the range of the Romantic responses may be a little restricted by Pinker. The Romantic introspection into personal values and meaning had two outcomes, only one of which was anti-Enlightenment. I must read on.

    On his TV performance (not that I’ve seen it) I would love to see one thing mentioned and one thing done about turning off religious folk. Point out the extreme outlier condition of the USA. The moderate religious need to be brave about this. Honour amongst theists needs to stop and far more moderate religious push-back against fundamentalism needs to happen. All propagandisers against religion need to refocus away from where the religious know (subconsciously) they are weak, the absent evidence for the supernatural, and on to where they think themselves strong, morality. Attack the former and they will go mental and squeal like pigs about to be stuck. Attack the latter and they will have far less defensive coherence. Attack their shocking immoral anti-human behaviours and leave their comfort blankey alone… at least for now.

    The moderate, aesthetic religionists need to make common political cause with us over morality. The other stuff that separates us is simply a good enough reason to all go down the pub.

    First, religion is a symptom of a problem. Of itself it does not flourish. It needs desperation and continual maintenance.

    For an individual, religion is most often a sop, which should at most be pitied. Moral behaviours are the only decent things to condemn. The con-men, though are utterly condemnable.

  62. Thanks, Laurie. That was very interesting.

    Pinker is very, very good. I think countering the Christian Right’s need to have people believe we are all going to hell in a handcart is utterly essential.

    His focus on moral actions is spot on.

  63. Hi q. Response to your post in teaching atheism thread.

    Delighted you enjoyed Captain Fantastic.

    Not a huge fan of Noah after reading Sapiens. Lots of facts I approve of sharing in there and nothing new for me. (But that is no mark against it. I read lots of this stuff.) But I hated Chapter 16 (I think it was). His ghastly view of political economics was not in anyway the obvious stuff of reason he thought it was. Very poor.

    I’d be happy to hear reports of this next book, though I am frustrated by most pundit’s understanding of the topic of free will. Free choice from increasing numbers of choices is how we progress personally and culturally. We model the future just before it and long before it in the hope of predicting what we might do (we often guess wrong). Rehearsing makes our predictions of our own actions more reliable. The feeling that we willed an action is a misapprehended post hoc narrative account of what happened and why we did it. It does though feed our rehearsals of future actions. The desire to possess (libertarian) free will is idiotic though it may be a cultural habit to actually encourage us to think ‘n’ act rather than not. We are lazy and big expensive brains are held in reserve to often and often confounded with overmuch data to find a clear preferred direction, etc. etc. If truth is a thing then libertarian free will is its enemy.

    Hellfire, q, that’s some document.

    You do know that I spent a decade plus working for most of the auto majors introducing new tech and concepts? I feel I need to look over my shoulder more often

  64. Re #69

    rather badly written I’m afraid…

    Moral behaviours are the only decent things to condemn.

    Moral behaviours, or rather their lack, are the only decent things to condemn.

    among many.

  65. phil #73

    i’d be happy to hear reports of this next book,

    did you mean his next book
    harari’s homo deus?
    that’s the one i referred to
    i’m not a fan of sapiens either
    but i’m a sucker for free will arguments as in hd

    that ‘hellfire’ document went online on new year’s day
    of the year of the dog
    and yes i did know from various posts
    that you were a top dog
    in the automan empire
    a sort of sultan of sustainable suvs?

  66. The book you mentioned, q.

    No sultan, a mere minion in the scheme of things creating shiny stuff for show cars, neglected too often the next day. Given the fierceness of those sixty plus pages, I was getting worried.

  67. Ah, Dinesh D’Souza. Christianity at its compassionate finest.

    First, in response to a newspaper headline announcing that “Florida lawmakers reject bill to ban assault rifles days after school shooting”, he tweets:

    Adults 1, Kids 0

    Then, in response to a photo of the school shooting survivors’ reaction to the news:

    Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.

    I simply don’t know how to process such malevolence.

  68. Marco #78
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:41 am

    I simply don’t know how to process such malevolence.

    I think it arises from faith in the belief, that big guns compensate for a lack of intelligence, moral integrity, and reasoning ability, in adults with small minds and Dunning-Kruger confidence!

  69. It is the unashamed demonisation of anyone who wants something you don’t; or doesn’t want something you do.

    There are no disagreements: just enemies. No alternative ideas: just treachery.

    It’s not just sickeningly repellent: it puts the status quo, however murderous, beyond challenge, and delegitimises every single dissenting voice.

    When not even the teenage survivors of mass murder are accorded the right to their grief and their terror and their anger, we are witnessing the death of democracy and freedom. And humanity. (The value, I mean, not necessarily the species).

  70. Even his own are revolted.

    @kurteichenwald
    tweeted
    About Dinesh D’Souza:
    1. He’s a stupid person’s idea of a smart person.
    2. He’s a stupid person.
    3. He’s a convicted criminal.
    4. He’s an amoral sociopath.
    5. He craves attention…

    …so I didn’t link him to this. Treat him like what he is: Wipe him off the bottom of your shoe.

    3:45 pm – 20 Feb 2018

    Are sociopaths a right wing pehenomenon? At least the right wing’s leaders?

  71. I see that Fox News is also attacking the kids. Hannity etc. There’s even that right wing nutjob Alex Jones claiming the shooting never happened. Other claims that all the kids are paid actors and that one with a dad in the FBI is a stooge. Florida lawmakers offered prayers for the kids and then voted to refuse to even have a debate on banning assault weapons. There is nothing remotely comparable on the left wing of American politics where the humans live. The right wing consists of utter filth.These are the deplorables, the scum, that Trump was dog whistling to throughout his campaign. The sick perverts who support the sick pervert in chief.

    I don’t think any of these people have ever seen a barrel they didn’t try to scrape the bottom of.

  72. I generally try to pause before generalising, but this demonisation of the traumatised survivors does seem to be quite widespread in right-wing media outlets. It’s not just D’Souza, abominable as he is.

    I suppose there is a logical path from being a sociopath who cares about no one but yourself, to feeling at home in right-wing politics, which espouse that very thing.

    There is an interesting overlap, though, isn’t there, between people who espouse politics that tell them they’re not responsible for anyone but themselves, and people who loudly espouse a religion that quite clearly tells them they are responsible for others and, indeed, should put other people’s needs before their own. Any Venn diagram representing Republicanism/Libertarianism and evangelical Christianity would have an enormous inner core and only a tiny sliver either side.

    It’s at this point that someone generally starts talking about cognitive dissonance, but cognitive dissonance is not the conflicting beliefs and values in themselves, but the mental distress people feel when in possession of them. And I honestly don’t think these people feel any. I don’t think they even notice the contradictions.

    How could that be?

    My hunch is that they have simply rewritten the whole Christian story, casting themselves and their values in the leading roles.

    The Bible is full of the concept of ‘judgement’, but it is also adamant that judgement is reserved to God alone (capital G because used as a proper noun here) and that mere mortals should leave it well alone.

    So they simply recast the whole thing with Republican values playing God, and themselves playing God’s agent on Earth. Lo and behold, it is their values that are suddenly beyond challenge, and they who get to decide who is worthy and who is not, even who has the right to live and who does not. Judgement is their divine right. And so is vengeance. And the unrepentant sinners deserving of eternal damnation are now the Democrats and progressives. And anyone advocating care and compassion and a sense of community and solidarity. And gun control.

    These people have simply overwritten Christianity’s versions of “right and wrong”, replacing the originals with their own definitions. Which means they can spend their whole lives advocating and embodying everything the New Testament Jesus spent his whole life preaching against, and demonising everything he preached for, and still proclaim it as Christianity. (And feel no cognitive dissonance.)

    They have mentally elided “God” and “Republican America”, so “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind” becomes “Though shalt love Republican America with all thy …” And that means also loving Republican America’s insatiable appetite for wealth and power and war and guns; and utter contempt for anyone who doesn’t.

    What do the rest of you think? Am I on to something or have I simply been drinking too much coffee?

    (For the avoidance of doubt, I carry no torch for Christianity. Nevertheless, there is a body of text which Christians proclaim to be the final word on what Christianity is, and we don’t need to believe in it in order to see the gulf between Republican values and the ones proclaimed in what they claim to view as their holy book.)

  73. Arkrid #82

    Other claims that all the kids are paid actors

    Yes. The cynicism of Republicans who have taken millions and millions in donations from the NRA claiming that traumatised teenage survivors of a mass shooting are just stooges of the gun control lobby is really going to take some beating.

  74. I think I buy all of #83, Marco.

    The issue about OT judgement (justice and just desserts), and to add to it the equally profound Christian roots to Individualism, singular responsibility and Libertarianism, is exercising me greatly at the moment. It seems to me that all of the USA’s pathologies stem from these biblical two.

    …with Liberty and Justice for all… looks like 2nd rate aspirations. They took their Statue of Liberty. If only they’d considered égalité and fraternité as a better basis for sharing a country.

  75. profound Christian roots to Individualism, singular responsibility and
    Libertarianism

    I’m not really seeing a logical path from Christianity to Libertarianism, tbh. Can you expand on that a little?

    There is certainly a focus on individual ‘salvation’; but in the Gospels, the behaviours associated with that salvation are largely community-orientated: healing the sick, giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, withholding judgement from those you disapprove of, etc. The Evangelicals’ obsession with personal redemption to the exclusion of all else is hard to reconcile with that.

    I guess the rot set in with Paul and his insistence on “justification through faith”. Though even that is offset by other Epistle writers (well, one) advocating “justification through works”.

  76. Marco #83

    Marco, I’ve been making this same point in here for a long time. What religions do is first divide people into “us” and “them” and then demonise the “them”. The “them” are infidels, heathens, the godless or at least holding to the wrong god. When everyone but your own dog pack has been demonised then any action you want to take against them becomes legitimised. Assault, shunning, even murder. In fact the bible and the koran prescribe murder for those who don’t believe the same as you. When religion infected the right wing of American politics during the Reagan era it then proceeded to demonise the left wing. What common ground that used to exist then disappeared and bi-partisanship became a thing of the past. The other party is no longer your opponent with whom you might disagree but still hold some respect for. They became your enemy and anything was better than losing to them. This has enabled behaviour we would not have dreamt of seeing 40 years ago or in any other western democracy. In fact I coined a new word for it in here some time ago. America no longer has a democracy – it has a demonocracy.

    What we are seeing is just how awful people can be when they think they’re fighting a holy and ideological war rather than just being involved in political debate. What Trump has done is enabled the worst side of these people to reveal itself fully. The people haven’t changed. America was always full of racists, homophobes and mysogynists but we didn’t realise just how full until now because it was socially unacceptable to show those colours to their full extent. But when the people see Trump happily spouting the same awful things as they think inside themselves it legitimises them saying and doing the same things. Every politician who said how awful Trump was during the primaries has sucked up to him after he won. His awfulness matters much less than losing anything to Democrats because they’re the enemy not just the opponents.

    However be of good cheer. The backlash is only just starting and it’s going to be huge. Trump is destroying the credibility of Republicans for ever as he reveals how despicable they really are and how little they care for what the electorate really want. 97% of people surveyed want more gun control but Republican politicians are in the pocket of the NRA to the tune of millions of dollars. The vast majority want better healthcare and are now moving towards wanting universal healthcare but the Repugs ignore them. Very few want huge tax cuts for the mega rich, other than the mega rich and those in Congress they have bought and paid for. We are even seeing that Repugs care much less about treason and collusion with a foreign enemy than they do about losing to Dems.

    This Florida shooting is going to turn out to a tipping point though, mark my words. Repugs are now alienating an entire generation of new voters who will be voting for another 50 or 60 years. They are actually attacking school children for daring to speak up about surviving a mass shooting. Whether other children in the country come from Dem or Repug families or areas won’t matter because they can all empathise with their peers for the horror they lived through and the determination they feel that other children should never have to face the same. Most of these kids probably had no interest at all in politics before but Trump and the deplorables he’s enabled are dragging them into a world where they can see that one party is sane and the other is insane. They won’t soon forget that all the Repug politicians did for them was offer false prayers and then take no action.

    Each generation is less religious than the one before. These kids don’t want anyone’s sanctimonious prayers, they want action. They will consign the Republican party to the dustbin of history and when we look back on this era in another 40 years time we’ll see that the person primarily responsible for it all was Trump. Yes sure he’s still playing to his dwindling base of old white men who yearn for the white picket fences of the 50s when women and niggers knew their place but with each tweet and each new awfulness he’s steadily alienating everyone else. He’ll forever be remembered, probably for as long as Nero, as the president who golfed while these kids were burying their classmates.

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