A Maze of Stars

May 23, 2016

I found A Maze of Stars by John Brunner to be an intriguing and slightly unusual book. The book does not seem to read like a novel with a continuous story from beginning to end, so much as a series of short stories or vignettes. The story takes place in the Arm of Stars, the last section of our galaxy to be colonized by humanity. A vast sentient Ship was built to travel along the Arm of Stars, seeding each habitable planet with the colonists who chose to settle there. After its great mission was complete, the Ship was supposed to stand by and monitor the progress of the colonies and rescue any population that was in danger.

Maze of Stars

Such was the plan. Instead the Ship found itself to be cast back and forth through time, compelled to retrace its journey along the Arm of Stars again and again centuries after the settlement of the Arm, observing but not contacting like an interstellar Flying Dutchman. At the end of each journey, the Ship travels through time again, emerging at the first planet it visited at a seemingly random time. In A Maze of Stars, the Ship finds itself at the earliest of its voyages, only 500 years after it seeded the colonies. The Ship travels from planet to planet with some knowledge of each planet’s future history, though there is much that remains hidden from the Ship. Some of the colonies have been successful, with a few even beginning to build star ships of their own. Many more are surviving with difficulty and more than a few are failures, the colonists destroyed by the hostile conditions of the planet they colonised. The Ship can recognise that some apparent successes will falter and fail, while some failures will recover. Occasionally, the Ship is able to exploit a loophole in its programming and take along a passenger on its travels. By the time the Ship reaches the end of its path, it learns why it was built and why it is sentenced to retrace its path again and again.

There is one issue raised by A Maze of Stars that I have not seen anywhere else in science fiction or nonfictional speculations about colonizing extra-terrestrial worlds. No life form on Earth either as an individual or a species exists in isolation. Every type of plant or animal lives in a complex ecosystem, composed of not just the obvious predators and sources of food, but also on a microscopic level with the bacteria than live around us and within us. Every form of life on Earth is to some extent depended on a vast web of interactions that are not always well understood. What would happen if some organisms are removed from that web and transplanted to a world with its own native lifeforms? Would the newcomers compete with the native life. Would alien organisms be toxic to creatures from Earth? What about the ecosystem of bacteria that each of us carries around with us and helps with our digestion? Could we maintain the proper balance in an alien world? Scientists have also recently learned that it is possible for DNA to be transferred between different species by viruses, and that these transfers have helped the process of evolution along. What if human colonists pick up alien DNA? Will they be able to remain human. The attempts of the various colonists to protect themselves against  and adjust to the alien environments they have found themselves in is an important backdrop to the story of each planet the Ship visits and is a major factor in the success or failure of each colony, and the questions raised about the future of human development make the book worth reading.

 

 

Don’t Say Eskimo

May 9, 2016

If you want to understand why people hate what is commonly called political correctness, you don’t have to go much further than to read this article from NPR explaining why we should not use the word “Eskimo”.

Confused about the word Eskimo?

It’s a commonly used term referring to the native peoples of Alaska and other Arctic regions, including Siberia, Canada and Greenland. It comes from a Central Algonquian language called Ojibwe, which people still speak around the Great Lakes region on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. But the word has a controversial history. (Editor’s note: And that’s why it’s not used in the stories on Greenland that NPR has posted this week.)

Actually, no, I wasn’t at all confused. Eskimos are those people who live far to the north. I doubt many people are in the habit of asking NPR for advice on what words to use and it seems rather presumptuous for the author of this article to tell the rest of us what is appropriate or offensive. Most people resent being told to use certain politically correct expressions, even when it is well intended.  But to continue.

People in many parts of the Arctic consider Eskimo a derogatory term because it was widely used by racist, non-native colonizers. Many people also thought it meant eater of raw meat, which connoted barbarism and violence. Although the word’s exact etymology is unclear, mid-century anthropologists suggested that the word came from the Latin word excommunicati, meaning the excommunicated ones, because the native people of the Canadian Arctic were not Christian.

But now there’s a new theory. According to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, linguists believe the word Eskimo actually came from the French word esquimaux, meaning one who nets snowshoes. Netting snowshoes is the highly-precise way that Arctic peoples built winter footwear by tightly weaving, or netting, sinew from caribou or other animals across a wooden frame.

But the correction to the etymological record came too late to rehabilitate the word Eskimo. The word’s racist history means most people in Canada and Greenland still prefer other terms. The most widespread is Inuit, which means simply, “people.” The singular, which means “person,” is Inuk.

Of course, as with so many words sullied by the crimes of colonialism, not everyone agrees on what to do with Eskimo. Many Native Alaskans still refer to themselves as Eskimos, in part because the word Inuit isn’t part of the Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia.

But unless you’re native to the circumpolar region, the short answer is: You probably shouldn’t use the word Eskimo.

So, “Eskimo” was bad because it was believed to be derogatory, but now it may not be so bad, but we still shouldn’t say it because an Eskimo might be offended.

The fact is that few Native American tribes or nations are widely known by the names they call themselves. Most Indian groups are commonly known by the names others have given them. Some are of obvious European origin, the Black Foot, Nez Perce, Creek, Delaware, Crow, or Beaver. In most cases, these are translations of their original names into English, French, or Spanish. Many are known by names given by their enemies, thus; Sioux (little snakes), Mohawk (man eaters), or Iroquois (real snakes), or their friends like Comanche (they fight with us). Some of the tribal names derive from European attempts to pronounce unfamiliar words, Ute from Nuutsiu, Seneca from Osininka, or Illini from Illiniwek. Of course, there are the names we use for the people as a whole. Indians are only called Indians because Columbus didn’t know where he was, and while the Indians are certainly natives to this continent, they did not call themselves Americans.

It is not just the Native Americans who are not called by the names they call themselves. No one in China knew that they were Chinese until they met the Europeans. The Chinese call themselves the Sons of Han and their country is the Middle Kingdom (Zhong Guo). China seems to be derived from the first Imperial dynasty the Qin. The Indians had many names for themselves, since India is a very diverse country, but India is derived through Persian from the Indus River. The most common Indian word for India is Bharat. The Hindu religion was not called Hinduism until the Muslims started to conquer India. Before that time, the Hindus had no need of a word to distinguish their religion.

Our Western civilization largely began with the Greeks, but the words Greek and Greece come from Latin. The Greeks knew themselves as the Hellenes and their country as Hellas. We call the Deutsche Germans and Deutschland Germany, while the French refer to them as Allemands and Allemagne from the German tribe the Alamanians. This isn’t just an European colonialist custom. The Arabs and Persians refer to Europeans as al-Faranj and Farangi from the Franks.

It seems that almost no one in the world is called by outsiders by the same name they use for themselves. It doesn’t seem practical to go through every language and change every term that might be offensive to someone somewhere in the world  so I think I’ll just go on saying Eskimo.

Eskimos

Eskimos

Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2016

On this date in 1862, the Mexicans defeated an invading French army at the Battle of Puebla. This might not sound like much, these are the French we’re talking about, but in fact, the French had the best army in the world at that time. The Mexican forces were outnumbered two to one and out gunned, yet they managed to rout the French. So, the Mexicans have been celebrating the fifth of May, or Cinco de Mayo, ever since.

This holiday has spread here in the United States in recent years. At first, I objected to celebrating a “foreign” holiday, but then I reconsidered. We celebrate St. Patrick’s day for the Irish, Mardi Gras for the French and others, Columbus Day for the Italians, etc, so why not Cinco de Mayo for the Mexican-Americans. Besides, any holiday that celebrates the French getting their butts kicked is worth keeping.

Indiana’s Choice

May 2, 2016

For once, people actually care about how Indiana will vote in tomorrow’s primary. Indiana’s primary is held late in the season, the first Tuesday of May, and by that time both parties have usually all but decided who their presidential nominees are going to be. If the presumptive nominee has not actually acquired a majority of delegates, by the time Indiana gets to vote, at least he is in a position where he has the most delegates by a wide margin and most of the other candidates have dropped out. There may be one or two candidates hanging on, trying against the odds to eke out a victory, but everyone knows they have no hope. In the general election, Indiana almost always goes Republican and is not big enough or enough of a swing state for either candidate to bother fighting over.

This year it is different for Indiana. While Donald Trump is currently in the lead and some already  consider him the presumptive nominee, he has not yet managed to get a majority of delegates and may not have a majority when the Republican convention meets in Cleveland. Ted Cruz is still a viable candidate, though his chances of winning the nomination without some sort of convention manipulation of the delegate seems to be increasingly remote considering Trump’s recent string of victories. If Cruz can win Indiana, he might be able to break Trump’s momentum and at least deny him an outright victory before the convention. If Trump wins Indiana, Cruz might as well drop out, so Indiana voters might actually have some influence on the outcome of the 2016 election. Judging from the polls, Cruz has a decent chance of winning here.

I intend to vote for Cruz tomorrow because he is not Donald Trump, who I continue to distrust and dislike. It may be a futile gesture, however, since I am certain that Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president. By now, any Cruz victory will only delay this inevitable result. I really wish that the other Republican candidates had taken Trump seriously earlier in the race. They, and most commentators regarded Trump as a clown, until he started winning. By the time they realized that he was a greater threat than each other, it was too late.

I am going to go so far as to predict that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. I am not happy about this prospect, though he is preferable to either of the Democratic candidates. There are still many pundits who are assuming that a Trump candidacy will be a disaster for the Republicans, ending in a landslide victory for Hilary Clinton. The polls seem to affirm this, Trump has record high unfavorability ratings with just about every group, yet I am not sure the polls are telling the whole story. Trump has gone from victory to victory even as his opponents have been dropping out. One might think that the remaining candidates would have gotten the bulk of the anti-Trump votes while Trump’s proportion of the vote remained about the same, but that hasn’t been happening. Trump seems to have been gaining a treating proportion of the vote over time, as if the people who might have voted for Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, etc are deciding to support Trump. Somebody out there likes Trump, and despite what the liberals think, the majority of Americans are not hate filled bigots. Trump is obviously saying something that appeals to a great many Americans.

Without getting into a detailed analysis, I think that what appeals to most of Trump’s supporters is simply the idea that he is on their side and is willing to fight for them, even if it means he has to be politically incorrect or even crude. Most politicians try very hard not to offend any of the myriads of pressure groups who are perpetually offended and they back down and apologize just as soon as someone accuses them of racism, sexism, etc. Their public statements are bland and meaningless, and there is a feeling that they care less about the silent majorities who make this country work and more about the very loud minorities who seem intent on tearing the country down. People like a fighter, and Donald Trump is a fighter. He does not back down or apologize when someone claims to be offended, and people who are tired of having to watch every word they say like to see that. Trump is, at least in his public persona, a Jacksonian at a time when the Jacksonians are under attack.

I think that when the battle between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump gets underway, the Democrats and the media, but I repeat myself, will throw everything they can at Trump. He will be a racist, sexist, Islamophobe, and the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. I don’t think it will work. Many people in mainstream America, Trump’s natural base, have come to believe, with good reason, that the entertainment and new media is not on their side, that it is hostile to them and their values. If they believe that Donald Trump is on their side, attacks on Trump will be seen as attacks on themselves by people they already know despise them. And, of course, Trump will not simply sit by ignore Hilary’s attacks. He will respond and attack, thus ensuring that he continues to be seen as a fighter.

I guess I’d better get used to saying President Trump. I’m still not very happy about it.

Racism and Intelligence

April 26, 2016

I wish that I could say that I was much surprised  by this article in the Christian Science Monitor titled The Surprising Relationship between Intelligence and Racism, but while the results of the survey mentioned were somewhat interesting, the conclusions drawn by the the author are entirely predictable. Smart people do not seem to be as overtly racist as less intelligent people, because they are better at hiding their racism.

Are smart people less racist than their less-intelligent peers?

That was the question asked in a new study that examined the relationship between verbal intelligence and attitudes on race and racial policies.

The findings may surprise some: While people who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold racist stereotypes (such as imagining that people of another race are lazy or unintelligent), they’re no more likely to support government policies that aim to reduce racial inequality. For example, while 95 percent of study participants who scored higher on the intelligence test said that black and white children should attend the same schools, only 22 percent support school-busing programs.

By highlighting the disconnect between Americans’ attitudes on race and their support for policies that remediate inequality, the study, published in the Oxford University Press, may reveal how deeply entrenched certain forms of racism actually are in society.

For Lori Brown, professor of sociology at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., the findings aren’t surprising because race is a complex issue that involves more than intellect.

“Prejudice involves what we believe to be true, affective feelings [like] likes and dislikes,” and instinctive needs, whereby “some people ‘need’ to be prejudiced [because] they feel so bad about themselves it makes them feel better to hate others,” Prof. Brown explains. “So, better educated or ‘smart’ people may know facts but may still not like people who are different.”

For the study, Geoffrey Wodtke, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, examined three decades of data from the General Social Survey, which has periodically measured Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of topics since 1972. The survey includes a short vocabulary test, considered to be a good indicator of verbal intelligence. Prof. Wodtke isolated the results of some 45,000 Caucasians and compared their verbal intelligence with their attitudes on race.

He found that the group that scored higher on the test were less likely to hold racist beliefs than their lower-performing counterparts. For example, among those who did well on the verbal test, 29 percent said blacks were lazy and 13 percent said they were unintelligent. By contrast, among those who performed poorly on the intelligence test, 46 percent described blacks as lazy and 23 described them as unintelligent.

 

The conclusion that Wodtke draws is that both the high and low scorers on the tests may have racist attitudes, but the high scorers “are simply more sophisticated racists.”

Why are whites judged to be more intelligent than their peers – who research has shown, are more likely to support liberal politics and policies – no more likely to support policies designed to improve racial equality?

Racism is defined as:

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usu. involving the idea that one’s own race is superior.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based on such a doctrine.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
In other words, racism is the belief that race matters most in human affairs and that what you are, in terms of race, is more important that who you are as an individual. A person who believes that Blacks are inherently inferior in intelligence than Whites is a racist. A person who believes that Blacks should be held in an inferior place in society is a racist. However, a person who is opposed to “policies designed to improve racial equality” is not a racist just because they oppose such policies. One may agree with the idea that racism is a bad thing, but believe that policies designed to improve racial equality are not an effective means of reducing racism, and by promoting division and race consciousness, may actually make the problem worse. In any case, if the goal is to create a color blind society in which race doesn’t matter, making race matter more is a strange way to go about it
You see the rhetorical trick that is being played here. The writers are defining racism not only as an overt belief that a certain race is superior to another, but also as opposition to policies that they suppose fight racism. In this way, they do not have to defend the policies they seem to favor, but can simply label any opposition as based on racism.
The article concludes:

The findings reveal how entrenched some forms of racism and white privilege are in society, says Wodtke.

“More intelligent members of the dominant group are just better at legitimizing and protecting their privileged position than less intelligent members. In modern America, where blacks are mobilized to challenge racial inequality, this means that intelligent whites say – and may in fact truly believe – all the right things about racial equality in principle, but they just don’t actually do anything that would eliminate the privileges to which they have become accustomed,” he said in a statement.

“In many cases, they have become so accustomed to these privileges that they become ‘invisible,’ and any effort to point these privileges out or to eliminate them strikes intelligent whites as a grave injustice.”

People on the left are emotionally invested int he idea that America is an irredeemably racist country, as if they are caught in some time warp in which George Wallace is forever standing on the courthouse steps shouting, “Segregation forever!!!”. We have made considerable progress in race relations since those days. Racism of the old kind is all but extinct in our public discourse. Certainly there are prejudiced people still around, and many Blacks do not have all the opportunities they should, but the fact that we have to search for invisible White privilege says something about the vast changes in society over the last few decades. In the good old days, the privileges that Whites held over Blacks was obvious to everyone, and few believe that it should be otherwise. Liberals are always talking about having a great discussion on race, by which they mean they get to hector the rest of us and call us racists, but I think that the best thing we could do for race relations would be to stop talking about race and just try to be good to one another.  At least we should stop wasting time and money on worthless studies like this one.

Phony Psychic

April 18, 2016

In Gulliver’s Travels Gulliver describes the customs and laws of the tiny Lilliputians, and mentions that they consider fraud to be a worse crime than theft.

They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man’s goods from thieves, but honesty has no defence against superior cunning; and, since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted and connived at, or has no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.  I remember, when I was once interceding with the emperor for a criminal who had wronged his master of a great sum of money, which he had received by order and ran away with; and happening to tell his majesty, by way of extenuation, that it was only a breach of trust, the emperor thought it monstrous in me to offer as a defence the greatest aggravation of the crime; and truly I had little to say in return, farther than the common answer, that different nations had different customs; for, I confess, I was heartily ashamed.

We generally regard violent crimes as worse than non violent crimes like fraud, since with non-violent crimes no one is physically harmed, but I think I agree with the Lilliputian view. A murder or theft might perhaps injure or kill a handful of people in his criminal career, but a swindler undermines the bonds of trust that holds a society together. Any society more complex than a band of hunter-gatherers depends on people being able to trust that other people, including strangers they will never meet, are doing their part to keep things working. Societies in which these bonds are weak or in which each person feels they can only rely on their own relatives or members of their own subgroup tend not to work very well. The con artist takes advantage of people’s’ trust and so weakens the ability of people to continue to trust one another. As Gulliver puts it, commerce depends on trust and if fraud is not regarded seriously enough, the honest are at the mercy of the knaves, and worse, the honest are obliged to become knaves in order to protect themselves.

In my opinion, the lowest of the low as far, as the fraudulent are concerned, are those people who take advantage of grieving persons who have a loved one missing by pretending to be able to determine whether the missing person is alive and where they can be found using their purported psychic powers, or even worse, impede police investigations by providing tips allegedly gained through their clairvoyance. It is with particular pleasure, then, that I present this video of one of these con artists getting something of what she deserves.

 

Here is the story that comes with this video.

Do you believe that psychics have the ability to assist families and the police in finding missing persons or solving murder cases?

Each year, countless desperate families turn to so-called psychics looking for information and leads. Sadly, psychic detectives are often selling false hope to the anguished and distraught instead of actually helping them unravel the mysteries.

Psychic detectives are known to prey on victims’ families, using vague, contradictory and useless information to convince them of their validity. They hardly ever offer answers or comfort to the grieving, sending police on an endless manhunt.

In the video above, Inside Edition exposes a phony psychic and her abilities.

When Laurie McQuary is asked about a missing girl, she claims that her “sixth sense” told her that she was brutally murdered. Interestingly enough, the photo she was shown was actually a childhood photo of the show’s Chief Investigative Correspondent, Lisa Guerrero.

As you can imagine, McQuary had no idea she was about to be exposed, and immediately excused herself from the interview after playing dumb.

I don’t much care for the description of this woman as a “phony psychic” since that seems to imply that there are real psychics out there, but perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much, since the reporter states more than once that there are no known cases in which a psychic detective was able to solve a case. I am glad Inside Edition ran this story, and I wish there were more like it. All too often, supposed psychics are promoted and celebrated in the media and not debunked, getting their own television shows, or appearing on talk shows in which their abilities are accepted without question or challenge. Psychics are good entertainment and no one seems to want to spoil the fun by actually examining their claims, even if they are cruelly taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable.

I wonder why these psychics are never prosecuted for fraud. It would seem to be an easy case for any competent prosecutor. These people are making a claim that they possess a power that they do not actually have and they are asking for money to use this power. How is this not fraud and why are they not punished?

Perhaps there is a certain reluctance to punish psychics because it seems to be too close to religious persecution. If a psychic can be prosecuted, why not a faith healer? And then, why not any religious leader who proclaims himself a  prophet?  I think a clear distinction can be made between matters of faith and practices that are fraudulent. If someone preaches that Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven, this is strictly a matter of faith. That preacher’s claims cannot be verified and it is likely that he believes it. If a preacher states that prayer can cure illnesses, that also is a matter of faith. If, however, the preacher states that he can heal people and will do so for a donation, that is closer to being fraud. The ability to instantly cure diseases and injuries at a prayer meeting can be verified and if it can be shown that he cannot actually perform such miraculous cures, the preacher is a fraud. If someone claims to be a psychic who can speak to the dead, that may also be a matter of faith, but if the psychic claims to know the fate of a missing person, and it is shown that he does not, in fact, have that knowledge, than he is a fraud.

If we can’t prosecute psychics, I wish that at least there would be more shows that expose them for the charlatans they are, and maybe better education in critical thinking. It would be the least anyone could do.

The Czars

April 11, 2016

There is a tendency, when writing of the history of a nation, to focus on the actions of rulers of that nation. American history books tend to divide American history by presidents, while British books differentiate the eras of British history by kings and queens, and later prime ministers, Chinese by dynasties, and so on. This approach is understandable since while kings and emperors may not have as much control over the events of the nations they rule as they would like, their reigns do give convenient dividing points between periods and eras. Still, there is often a lot going on that has little to do with the actions of any rulers and a history focused on the ruling class risks overlooking many factors and events in the country’s history.

This approach may be more justified in the case of Russian history, than in the histories of most other nations. For much of its history, Russia has been ruled by a strong, centralised government with political power vested in one man or woman, the Czar. The personality of Russia’s Czar was the most powerful influence on the development of the Russian nation. Russia only became a unified nation when the earliest Czars were able to establish control over the unruly boards and the Orthodox Church, become strong enough to defeat the invading Mongols, Poles and Lithuanians and take the title of Czar. The history of Russia is the history of its Czars.

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The Czars by James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci tells the story of Russia’s czars, from their messy beginnings as the Vikings who raided, traded, and then settled the vast Russian lands to the murder of Nicholas II at the hands of the Bolshevik revolutionaries. It is a fascinating story, well told by the two authors. They give a biography of every Czar, the early and obscure princes of Kiev and Muscovy no less than such titanic rulers as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, giving something of the personalities and lives of each Czar as well as the historical circumstances of their reigns. I found the early history of the unification of Russia to be particularly interesting as this was a period that I didn’t know much about. Most histories of Russia seem to cover this time in the first chapter before quickly moving on to Ivan the Great and his son Ivan the Terrible.

The only fault that I can find with The Czars is the absence of maps. A map of the Ukraine and the European part of Russia would have been very handy, especially if it included all the little principalities and cities that were absorbed by the growing Russian state in its earliest years. I found myself having to consult Google maps to get some idea of where the various regions of European Russia were in relation to each other and where the battles against the Mongols and the Poles took place. A genealogy of the two Russian dynasties, the Ruriks and the Romanovs would also have been useful, especially with the early Ruriks who had not yet established the tradition of handing down power from father to son, and with the more tumultuous times of trouble in which several short-lived and distantly related Czars followed one another in succession. Despite these shortcoming, I still found the Czars to be interesting and informative.

Who is the Extremist?

April 4, 2016

Bernie Sanders is calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker an extremist.

David—

When our campaign first set foot in Wisconsin this past summer, we got a very warm welcome from the people of Wisconsin. I spoke to more than 10,000 people in Madison about our corrupt political system, our broken economy, and how our political revolution can take back our country from people like the Koch brothers and the billionaire class.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican party weren’t as happy to see me. Gov. Walker, who has been helped throughout his career by the Koch brothers, issued statements against us, and the GOP even put up billboards calling me an “extremist.”

Well, let’s talk about extremism. Scott Walker has attacked the minimum wage, gutted unions, made it much harder to vote, and restricted access to abortion. That is extremism.

I can think of no better place for our political revolution to continue its momentum than in Wisconsin. The latest poll has us down just a few points, and I know that if we work together right now, we can pull off a huge victory.

With a huge FEC fundraising deadline on Thursday at midnight, there has not been a more important time for you to support our campaign.

Click here to make a $2.70 contribution to our campaign and MoveOn’s efforts to help us win before Thursday night’s deadline—and we can shock the political establishment with a victory in Wisconsin.

Not only has Governor Walker been helped throughout his career by huge financial support from the Koch Brothers, but he has enacted their ideology while in office.

When you deny the right of workers to come together in collective bargaining, that’s extremism.

When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that’s extremism.

When you give tax breaks to billionaires and refuse to raise the minimum wage, that’s extremism.

Our views, which represent the views of the vast majority of the American people, are different. We believe that the time has come for the people of Wisconsin and all over the country to create a movement that tells the billionaire class: YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL!

And what we are saying to the Koch brothers and Scott Walker is that this great country belongs to everybody, and not just a handful of very wealthy people.

Contribute $2.70 to our campaign and MoveOn right now to say you stand with our political revolution—and help us win in Wisconsin next week.

When the people stand together against the Koch Brothers and the billionaire class, we can win.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, extremism is defined as:

belief in and support for ideas that are very far from what most people consider correct or reasonable

Are the positions held by Governor Walker really very far from what most people consider correct or reasonable? Well, about half the people in this country take a pro-life position in which they believe that abortion is morally wrong and should be restricted or outlawed altogether. Even many people who identify as pro-choice on the abortion issue do not consider abortion to be a good thing in itself. They are simply reluctant to force their personal views on others and many would favor at least some restrictions on abortion, particularly abortions performed in the third trimester. Relatively few people support the idea of abortion completely unrestricted up to the moment of birth. That would be the extreme position.

I have not heard that Governor Scott wished to abolish the minimum wage altogether. That would be an extreme position, although there are libertarian economists who hold that any minimum wage is an unreasonable restriction on the free market that increases unemployment. If Scott Walker opposes more than doubling the minimum wage to $15 per hour, he is in agreement with his party and large number of people, including most economists. This idea of raising the minimum wage to make young persons or people with few skills unemployable ought to be considered the extreme position, although since there are a large number of ignorant people who vote Democrat, but I repeat myself, who think it is a good idea, doubling the minimum wage is not as extreme as it ought to be.

As far as I know, Governor Scott does not seek to eliminate the rights of workers t0 join labor unions, although considering that only 7% of private sector workers belong to a union, being anti-union is far from extreme. Walker has fought the public sector unions in Wisconsin. These unions are widely believed to have colluded with state and local politicians to secure for themselves salaries, benefits and pensions that are not sustainable. Walker is not the only governor who has discovered that these obligations have become greater than the state government’s ability to meet. He has been more effective than many in seeking to limit the influence of the public sector unions in an attempt to balance his state’s budget.

The people of Wisconsin do not seem to consider Scott Walker’s ideas far from what is considered correct or reasonable. He was elected governor in 2010, survived an attempt to recall him in 2012, and was reelected in 2014. If Walker were really the extremist Bernie Sanders portrays him as being. surely he would have been thrown out to office years ago. Of course, Sanders might state that dark money from the nefarious Koch Brothers has been keeping Scott Walker in office, but all the money in the world is not going to help a candidate who the voters view as a crazed extremist. If money really had as much influence on politics as Sanders believes, then Jeb Bush would have gottenthe Republican nomination instead of being forced to withdraw, and Hilary Clinton would be sailing her way to the Democratic convention. Money does matter, but not as much as some believe.

Speaking of which, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with members of the billionaire class who support the Democratic Party and progressive causes, such as George Soros. But that is another post.

I would say that Bernie Sanders is more of an extremist than anyone else of national prominence, being the only openly socialist member of Congress. He supports extreme left-wing ideas which have not worked anywhere else they have been tried and will not work here in the U.S. The fact that he is not seen as an extremist by many is an indictment of our dumbed down media and education.

Return of the Baron

March 28, 2016

Baron Hill was the Congressional Representative for the ninth Congressional district of Indiana, the district I happen to live in, from 1999 to 2005 and 2007 to 2011. Now he wants to be one of Indiana’s Senators.

David,

I have known Baron Hill a long time. I worked to get him elected to Congress and was honored to serve as his Chief of Staff — and I am thrilled the Indiana Democratic Party has endorsed him to be our next U.S. Senator.

Baron is the just the kind of man we need in Washington. He will start fixing problems again in Washington instead of playing political games that we see coming out of the Republican majorities right now.

Will you add your name to let Baron know he has your support in 2016?

Baron’s roots in this great state go deep. He grew up in Seymour as the youngest of seven kids, played basketball at Seymour High, and worked in his family’s small business. He’s seen firsthand the changes the past many years have brought to Indiana.

Baron knows we are at a turning point. Inequality is growing as working families are getting left behind. Special interests have a voice in Washington, but what about regular people?

He is going to be a voice for all Hoosiers — our voice. He’ll fight for an economy that works for everyone. He’ll work to grow our local businesses and make college affordable for our kids.

Baron knows Indiana is worth fighting for. But he needs us standing with him.

Will you add your name to show you’re on Baron’s team in 2016?

Baron Hill will do the job he is elected to do in the U.S. Senate, and he needs your help today.

Thank you for all you do.

John Zody
Chairman
Indiana Democratic Party

I remember Baron Hill very well. It’s not likely that anyone outside of the state of Indiana would know anything about Mr. Hill, although he did receive a certain amount of national attention before his defeat in the 2010 election. Here are a few videos to remind the viewer who Baron Hill is and why he doesn’t belong in the Senate

 

The political terrorists he refers to are his own constituents who happened to object to his vote supporting Obamacare. Because they were actually challenging him over his vote, he considered them to be the same as al-Qaeda.

Here is another.

 

This isn’t a town meeting in which the representative of the people of the ninth Congressional district responds to the concerns of the people, but an audience in which the Baron deigns to speak to his subjects.

There are a lot more videos of Baron Hill being dismissive or rude to his constituents at town hall meetings, etc. He is apparently something of a sore loser as well, if the people in this video are correct.

This is why Baron Hill was defeated in 2010. His name, Baron, seems to fit him very well. He acts with all the arrogance and condescension to his “inferiors” as some medieval baron. He is part of the problem of an arrogant and unresponsive political elite that is causing Americans to turn to outsiders for leadership, even such obviously unqualified candidates as Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. Baron Hill is the last person I would want to see in the Senate.

Easter

March 27, 2016

We left the story of Jesus of Nazareth last Friday. He had been executed in the most painful and degrading way possible. His closest followers were disperse and in hiding. It must have seemed that Jesus and his movement had ended in utter failure. But then, something remarkable happened. This something is commemorated by the Easter holiday. Although Christmas is the more popular Christian holiday, Easter is actually the most important holiday in the liturgical year as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection is theologically more important than his Nativity. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Gospel of Mark has the most concise account on what happened that first Easter.

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,out of whom he had driven seven demons.10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.17 And these sign swill accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons;they will speak in new tongues;18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:1-20)

Mark 16:9-20 seems to be a later addition. At any rate, the earliest manuscripts do not have those verses. Whether the original ending has been lost or Mark intended to end his account so abruptly is unknown.

Matthew has more details.

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:1-20)

Luke and John have more to say of Jesus after His resurrection but I won’t quote them here.

The date of Easter has been a matter of some controversy in past centuries. The date of Easter is related to the date of Passover. The calculations on which the date of Easter is determined is based on a lunisolar cycle like the date of Passover but the cycle is not the Hebrew calendar. Generally Easter falls about a week after Passover but it occurs about a month later in three years of the nineteen year cycle. Various groups of Christians have had different methods of calculating Easter over the years and these differences have led to bitter disputes. There is still a different date for Easter among the Eastern churches since they use the Julian calendar for the liturgical year while Catholics and Protestants use the Gregorian calendar.

Among Catholics and some Protestants, Easter is generally celebrated by an Easter vigil beginning the previous evening. At dawn, a mass or service begins, etc.

And, of course, many people celebrate Easter by finding Easter eggs and eating candy delivered by the Easter Bunny.

 


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