The Great Plague

January 20, 2013

Franklin on faith and reasonClimate Change Denial (CCD) is a virulent strain delusion. Its symptoms are a shut-down of the brain’s reasoning center associated with a closing of the doors of perception and the simultaneous inclination to make stuff up. 
While the causes of CCD are not fully understood the spread of infection seems to have political, religious, and economic components. CCD’s pathology appears to be affected by how inextricably a victim’s politics and religion have become intertwined with ideologies of consumption and profit. As might be expected the pathogen proliferates in areas known to be hotbeds of money, miracles and mischief; for example Wall Street, the Bible belt, and anywhere laws are written.

In places where these three conditions are found, such as Washington DC, rates of CCD soar. Cesspools of all types are well known to be sources of disease —some fatal (plague, for instance, and the impulse to war).

Since funding for research has been hard to come by (sources have been devastated by the disease) only slow progress has been made in our understanding of CCD.

prefrontal2The major difficulty theo-neuro-econo biologists have had in studying CCD is in determining if the disease pathogen closes first the doors of perception or attacks the brain’s prefrontal cortex —its reasoning center. The answer they’ve been chasing is what comes first, see-no-evil hear-no-evil or simple irrationality? Whichever, the introduction of sectarianism appears to have a radical effect on CCD’s course —and when politics is factored in … well, you can see the problem.

*Note: since it’s already well-know that, in normal development, the brain’s reasoning and problem-solving center is the last to mature researchers are looking into the possibility that arrested, or delayed maturity may be a factor. They are calling this the “Reverse Paul Effect” (RPE) after the New Testament’s epistle writer, St. Paul, who said, “When I was a child I reasoned as a child. When I became a man I put childish things behind me.”

Researchers first became interested in what they later termed Climate Change Denial when reports of climate change began to become evident. History of climate change study began in the 19th century “when ice ages and other natural changes were first suspected and the natural greenhouse effect first identified.” —Wikipedia.

Late in that century scientists first argued that human activity (most notably emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere) could change the climate. And, by the 1960s the “…warming effect of carbon dioxide gas became increasingly convincing” —Ibid.

This “warming viewpoint” gained ground during the 1970s and, by the 1990s, “…as a result of improving fidelity of computer models and observational work confirming the Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, a (scientific) consensus formed: greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes, and human emissions were bringing serious global warming. Since then most work has been oriented toward producing reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” —Ibid.

ague of reasonCCD researchers have now concluded this is exactly where and when Climate Change Denial became, itself, undeniable. The rub, they were sure, was in the term “intergovernmental panel”. And they determined further, that CCD had become increasingly most acute in the United States which ironically, and coincidentally, has a history of rationality freighted with a long tradition of irrationality —i.e. the nation’s founders were students of The Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason, or by folks like Pat Robertson, the Ague of Reason), while the country has prided itself on being a deeply religious people from its founding.

Now whatever can be said of reason and religion, reason is reason and religion is not. They are two distinct realms. They have different rules; therefore an “intergovernmental” panel is definitely going to present problems when dealing with CCD.

For example, it is not rational to continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere when all reliable scientific data says that devastating climate change will be the result of doing so. Past and present data indicate this. Present experience is showing this: rising temperatures, glacial melt, rising sea levels, a-typical storms, drought, forest fires, shifting weather patterns. Under the circumstances, reason says let’s do something, while blindness or unreason says, “But what about my bottom line?” or “It’s God’s will” or “Who cares, The Rapture and the end of the world are nigh anyway.”

Under the cicumstances, the idea of expecting an “intergovernmental panel” to find ways to avoid ecological disaster while it itself itself is wracked with advanced CCD is proving to be as much of a hoax as that claimed by at least one US Senator.

James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma (a state which, not surprisingly, seethes with religion), has claimed that global warming is a hoax. He further argues that his belief in that hoax is biblically inspired and that ” only God can change the climate”.

Add Inhofe’s irrationality to that of other members of congress who rely on corporate donations for their future and fortunes, throw in a base of  religious fundamentalists to whom they pander for votes and you have the festering conditions of CCD: an epidemic of lies told by fossil fuel companies, temptations offered by lobbyists, the blind faith of those who count on miracles, and purveyors of  self-interested unreason who can’t perceive a cataclysm even when it’s flooding their attics, polluting their air and poisoning their wells.

When I was a child I thought as a child.  As I grow up I begin to use the Unknown’s great gift of intellect.  I begin to think   …responsibly.

That’s the hope, at least.

by Jim Culleny


In the Shadow of Militias

January 12, 2013

slave patrolHere’s what the Second Amendment says:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This is the concise statement that has made it possible for the insane to orchestrate mass murders in the USA.

But how?

It is odd, but no odder than the manifestations of other philosophies. But hope springs eternal, so we typically set out to deal with fundamental inflexibility by resorting to attempts at understanding. We often do this in the face of futility.  Though it’s unlikely that any argument will lead the most ardent gun enthusiasts to betray their triggers, for the sake of less blood and fewer fatalities the rest of us might start a conversation here:

Just what is a militia?

Variously defined a militia is: a body of citizens enrolled for military service called out periodically but serving full time only in emergencies; a body of citizen soldiers; all able-bodied males eligible for military service; citizens organized in a paramilitary group regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.

Regardless of these definitions, however, a simple reading of the amendment does not appear to authorize unregulated individuals to bear arms, it’s opening clause sets a condition and establishes the premise for what follows. That this premise and condition has been glossed over by gun-lovers, the arms industry and the NRA is not surprising, nor is it surprising that the history of the Second Amendment is not well known. Much of politics is based upon ignorance —counts on it. It’s how media conglomerates run by men like Rupert Murdoch make profits. It’s is how amoral incendiaries like Rush Limbaugh make fortunes.

But another view of Second Amendment militias exists that’s more interesting than the typical observations about them; something that goes beyond interpretations by the gun lobby and people like James Yeager, CEO of a company he calls Tactical Response (Yeager, who famously responded to recent talk of gun control by saying in a video that, ” If it goes one inch further, I’m gonna start killing people,” which rationales, verbatim, are probably what explode in the skulls of the seriously deranged as they don camo, pack their semi-automatics and head out to set things right in their world).

Yeager, et al, like to say the constitutions framers intended that the rights to own guns and have militias were protected to save citizens from an out of control government. But in “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment”,  written in 1998 by law professor Karl Bogus (an unfortunate name for anyone writing a scholarly paper about anything) of Roger Williams University, sheds some interesting light on the origin of the Second Amendment. He said those militias and guns were intended to protect state governments from out of control slaves, which turns the traditional argument on its head.

Professor Bogus argues that “The Second Amendment was not enacted to provide a check on government tyranny; rather, it was written to assure the Southern states that Congress would not undermine the slave system by using its newly acquired constitutional authority over the militia to disarm the state militia and thereby destroy the south’s principal instrument of slave control.”

He explains, “The Second Amendment’s history has been hidden because neither James Madison, who was the principal author of the Second Amendment, nor those he was attempting to outmaneuver politically, laid their motives on the table.”

The professor is telling us that the militias referred to in the Second Amendment were militias created and regulated to protect white slave owners from slaves who might rise up and rebel against their oppression. He suggests that the amendment was written to assure the southern states that the new federal government would not upset the south’s economic applecart by doing away with the armed men they relied upon to protect them from uprisings of slaves. It was an amendment designed to convince slave-owning states that they could continue to suppress the hopes of their chattel.

Bogus’ well-documented paper notes that Virginia, in 1799, was on the cusp of its decision to ratify the constitution, or not, and the main question in the minds of Virginians was whether the new union would end slavery.

“Slavery was not only an economic and industrial system,” one scholar noted, “but more than that, it was a … police system.”

The South developed an elaborate means of slave control —a slave patrol of armed white groups, then called “militias”, who made regular rounds to assure that blacks were not where they did not belong or coming together in unauthorized gatherings. These militias —these patrols— also gave slaves a sense of the constant vigilance of their owners. The state, in fact, required plantation owners to participate in patrols and to provide their own arms and equipment.

Professor Bogus argues that it was clear that the Second Amendment was drafted to protect southern militias, not to authorize the general arming of individuals.

The irony that flows from this is that the defenses for, definitions of, and rationale explaining the Second Amendment, couched in arguments for “liberty” in the rantings of the NRA’s Wayne laPierre and embodied in men like James Yeager and Alex Jones are counter-factual.  The irony, according to Karl Bogus’ paper, is that the Second Amendment was a political expedient designed to maintain the enslavement of others. Talk about a bargain with the devil —should it come as a surprise that devilish bargains bring devilish results?

To make matters worse, even in the shadow of evil militias, Sandy Hook, men like James Yeager and Alex Jones and organizations like the NRA, we may not yet be learning our lesson  —we’re still dealing with the devil. We’re still arming demagogues and the deranged.

by Jim Culleny

Related: The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery