Religion/Spiritualism? How about Pragmatism.

I updated my ghost story yesterday because I was engaged in a long running conversation on this thread on Facebook.  Started with a meme image composed mostly of the text “Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, Spirituality is for people who have already been there” can we say “false dichotomy”? I knew that you could.

I’m sticking to my guns on the subject.  Skepticism (and through it pragmatism) is how you live in the real world, not getting sidetracked by all the woo we encounter in our daily lives. If you disagree, prove any of the stuff that skeptics question. Should be easy enough if it’s true. If you know of a medium that you think of as reliable (a mediumship conference being where the image that started the thread was found) I would recommend you send them to The Million Dollar Challenge, or one of the other testing challenges (this is one of the points I’ve changed my opinion on since jotting down my ghost story the first time.  There is a value in exposing the vast number of charlatans out there who prey on the believing. The number is growing, even) They are looking to find someone with a genuine talent, and not someone engaged in cheap theatrics.   Haven’t found anyone yet.

On a related note (in case you are confused on the subject) Climate deniers are not skeptics; they are peddlers of woo as certainly as any charlatan medium who claims to speak to the dead. Deniers in general are not skeptics any more than religious people can be Objectivists; there is a standard for evidence which must be met for a belief to be established as fact in both those systems. Denying science disqualifies you from claiming the label skeptic or the label objectivist.  I only wish I could stop people from claiming labels that they don’t deserve.  The most I can do is pushback against their unwarranted claims, exposing the manipulation behind the curtain.

I don’t embark on this course because I see no value in a good yarn, or the thought-provoking nature of a good parable.  I put the brakes on this journey down woo avenue because, in the end, science is the only method we’ve ever discovered for determining what the truth is. An anecdote (like my ghost experience) remains exactly what it was. You cannot pile up anecdotes and create evidence. You simply have a pile of anecdotes.

Scientists are not altering what is acceptable evidence, or the scientific process. Those that do fall prey to false patterns and charlatans, Randi proved this by recruiting shills into some of the early paranormal studies, demonstrating that a good magician can create the illusion of paranormal activity quite easily.

The problem with any psi phenomenon is that there is no known mechanism which can explain how these things happen. Without a mechanism, there is no basis on which to gather evidence. That is where psi research has been stuck since the 60’s.

The best defense, for the flawed pattern recognition machines that we are, is to remain skeptical. Had I accepted what believers told me back when I had my experience, I’d be deep in the woo now, trying to defend photo and sound anomalies as legitimate signs of paranormal activity (probably desperately trying to prove that rods exist) rather than looking into the machines used to capture this ‘evidence’ and discovering that the machines themselves are the cause of them.

The experiences remain exactly what they always have been. Inexplicable experiences, until we find a mechanism that might cause them. Then they aren’t paranormal experiences anymore. You might say, of your own experiences “I wasn’t hallucinating” and yet it remains entirely possible. The human brain is quite an amazingly adaptive organ. The process of remembering the experience alters the experience in memory. The more times you remember it and recount it, the stronger the memory can become, lending more reality to the images you think you saw. At some point the memory ceases to be a true recollection and becomes a story you tell yourself about the event(s).

Without scientific rigor, there isn’t anything we can say we know.

Cliven Bundy is a White Supremacist? Who’d a Thunk It?

The Washington Post reports on an embarrassing situation developing on the Republicans and conservatives right flank,

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Cliven Bundy told supporters last week, according to a New York Times story that published on Wednesday night.

The Nevada rancher was previously best known for refusing to pay two decades-worth of fines for grazing his cattle on federal land and fighting off the Bureau of Land Management for the nth time, this time with the help of armed militia — or for being the patron saint of state’s rights, pick your poison. But since those controversial comments were published, he has seen most of his friends in high places vanish overnight. Republican politicians who saw the Bundy stand-off as an opportunity to connect with the far right are now trying to figure out which adverb will put the most distance between themselves and the rancher.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went with wholeheartedly, releasing a statement on Thursday saying Bundy’s “remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.” Nevada Sen. Dean Heller chose completely. His spokesperson said Thursday, “Senator Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.” Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who previously battled with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about Bundy, preferred strongly. “I strongly disagree with Cliven Bundy’s comments about slavery,” she said.

The Washington Post

Don’t even pretend to me you didn’t recognize what this man was saying from the beginning, conservative politicians. All of you know where these arguments come from, because I knew where they came from. If you didn’t know, your vaunted experience in politics isn’t worth the spit necessary for you to talk about it.

Nothing new here. This is old, old news; that white supremacists still exist, and that their arguments have been adopted and inculcated into the politics of libertarians and conservatives, and through them into the Republican party. I recognized his arguments as being representative of this particular flavor of politics even before he showed his hand in that interview.

What I want to know is, why has this man not been arrested? Why does he still have land, possessions, etc? Because he is a wealthy rancher in a sparsely populated state, he gets to hold guns on federal officials and remain at large? He’s a simple tax cheat. Make an example of him, already.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

Oliver Stone’s Nixon

Nixon (1995)

I watched Oliver Stone’s Nixon last night. I like Anthony Hopkins and I’m a history buff, so this film should have been a cakewalk for me to watch. But then we are talking about Oliver Stone, one of the worst historical filmmakers in the business. His interpretation of the Zapruder film and the theme for the JFK movie have done more harm to people’s sense of real history than most of the other hucksters selling conspiracy fantasy snake oil on the subject could ever do. It is the nature of the entertainment beast that is filmmaking.

Consequently this film was no cakewalk to get through, but rather a slow crawl naked through broken glass. I never did figure out if Stone wanted us to feel sorry for the poor bastard or hate him.

TVTAG/Facebook

The Ethics of Brain Death

I’ve been meaning to post on this subject for a few weeks now. Abortion politics has bleed over into end of life decisions, clouding the issue of what life is or isn’t as established by science and medical practice.

As Arthur Caplan discusses with Lindsay Beyerstein on Point of Inquiry, The Ethics of Brain Death: The End of Life, the State, and the Religious Right.

The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain-dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has secured for her the feeding and breathing tubes for which they had been fighting.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl’s family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken on 5 January.

The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have received 28 days ago, when doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland first declared her brain-dead.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery 9 December, then began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest and being declared brain dead on 12 December.

Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.

The Guardian, Family of brain-dead California girl

In that episode of Point of Inquiry he points out that the case of Jahi McMath represents a potential violation of ethics for the doctors involved, since the child in question has been pronounced dead by clinicians in the state. Has been pronounced dead, but remains on life support until current day.

He also talks about the Marlise Machado Muñoz case (NPR story) in which Pro-Life Republicans in Texas have crafted laws that keep this woman’s body alive, costing the hospital thousands of dollars daily, on the off-chance that the fetus she died carrying isn’t also damaged (and it looks like it is) so the cost is quite literally wasted. Someone else needs the space that her corpse is kept in and will possibly die because of this farce.

Facebook Musings backdated to the blog.

State of Play

State of Play (2009)

State of Play – Trailer

State of Play, A drama as convoluted and dirty as real life. It’s a dirty little secret that privatization of government functions is actually more expensive, and that the corporations make fortunes from government contracts. We are all corrupted by these deals, as all the players in this film are touched by that corruption. My kind of drama.

TVTAG/Facebook

Newtown & TOK on Facebook

The question was asked on TOK, Newtown massacre, one year later: have gun laws made us safer?

My initial response was, “What gun laws? There hasn’t been a single national law passed that deals with restricting gun access to people who have demonstrated proficiency and mental stability. It’s too early, and the areas too limited, for there to be any demonstrable effect from the various state laws passed.”

This was the only reply I received,

When guns are highly regulated it won’t help. When mostly only government has guns you WILL have tyranny and dictators. And when only government and criminals have guns you have private citizens as victims (because cops can’t get there til after you have been violated and sometimes the cops do the violating like you are seeing all over the news.

 Now, I don’t know about you, but reading that comment made me think that someone needed a bit of counseling. I mean, open parens, no close, no sentence structure, no relation to the subject matter? So I replied, “I really wish the gunnuts could stop sounding like actual nuts and present reasoned arguments for why a well-trained well-armed populace is a benefit. That would, of course, predicate the idea that training and screening would be required in order to have guns, which is probably why they don’t make those kinds of arguments.”

“…training and screening would exclude them. Because they are nuts.”

In my next comment I had to defend the use of the word gunnuts, to describe people who love guns. “Ad hominem? I call a spade a spade. Gunnuts are what you are; and there was a time when gunnuts were happy to wear that label. Now that you have real gun nuts suggesting that the unborn be issued weapons to prevent abortions, or the certifiable Wayne La Pierre insisting that the answer to gun violence is more guns (as examples) I’m sure the label does rankle.”

“One solution is required training in the storage and handling of weapons, something that would have saved the children of Newtown. Registration of all weapons so that owners who do not secure their guns can be held accountable for their use in crimes, etc. These are the specific common sense kinds of measures, though, that send gunnuts through the roof.”

“…So I’ll counter with the equally sensible but even more drastic measure of simply re-instating the draft. Everyone will go through military training, since the Wayne La Pierre’s of the world think we all need more and better guns. If you are deemed incapable of responsibly owning and using a weapon by the military, it should be a simple thing to get that exclusion represented by law on a national basis. I’m sure you gunnuts will love that proposal.”

“ANYONE who thinks that a shrug of their shoulders is the appropriate response to Newtown doesn’t understand the situation that lead to Newtown. There were plenty of warning signs which the mother SHOULD HAVE taken seriously. That his doctors and teachers SHOULD HAVE taken seriously. The mother should never have had guns in the house, should never have encouraged him to use firearms. The result achieved was an absolute failure of the mental health profession, teaching profession, and his parents. Shrugging and saying “he never bought a gun” is to ignore those other failures, as well as the multiple and damning incidents of other mass shootings where the shooter was mentally ill and did go out and buy guns to conduct their mass murders. Someone should be held accountable for putting weapons in those peoples hands, as well as holding the mother accountable for giving her (demonstrably) dangerous son access to weapons.”

“If additional sensible restrictions are not agreed to, and soon, there will be more mass shootings, which will end in even more draconian and less sensible restrictions on guns. Mark my words, this will occur.”

Lost in the flood of replies was a comment relevant to the Newtown shooter, if not where he got his guns from,

“The Newtown shooter was actually diagnosed with an issue, one that clearly should have kept him from having guns. Gunnuts are convinced that no laws are needed, and yet it’s perfectly clear that additional laws are needed in order to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.”

“Your arguments are demonstrably fallacious. Every act that is illegal is still committed; yet we wouldn’t want murder to be legal simply because murders are still committed. Weapons by definition should be restricted to the people who have demonstrated proficiency and mental stability. Anyone who argues differently simply doesn’t or doesn’t want to understand the problem.”

I wasn’t prepared to refer to gunnuts as ammosexuals at that point in time. I’ve since decided that ammosexual was the correct name for them, although I prefer the more scientific sounding word armaphile (the opposite being armaphobe) because they are sexually aroused by weapons and ammo. The initial commenter was joined by another, thankfully.  He blew his wad over the next few dozen replies and then satisfied with his mess he fucked-off wherever it was he really should have been in the first place.

The newcomer did decide to throw facts and figures around, which required me to go in search of a few facts of my own,

“You are seriously mistaken.  The number of mass shootings has been at an all-time high http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/mass-shootings-us_n_3935978.html the government was warned (more than once) that Bin Laden was planning to fly planes into government buildings http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-warned-of-suicide-hijackings/ so your comparison of preventing 9/11 to preventing any given mass shooting falls flat.  Law enforcement would give anything to have the kind of warnings that the Bush administration ignored prior to 9/11.  Similarly, Lanza being an adult has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he should have be exposed to weapons, his mental health problems should have kept him from ever touching a firearm http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303281504579220383570598944 reaching adulthood doesn’t necessarily entitle you to access to firearms.  His mother should not have been allowed to keep firearms in the house, at all.  She should have had the sense to know this herself, since he killed her with her own weapons, and she should have known he was capable of this action.”

“…again.  Failing passing laws restricting access to firearms on a national level, to people demonstrating proficiency and self-control, I’m 100% in favor of reinstating the general draft for the specific purpose of determining who should and shouldn’t have access to them.   I’m done (and most Americans are as well) arguing with people who simply don’t want to address the subject, or accuses anyone who suggests common-sense reforms of being ‘gun grabbers’.   Some people are going to loose access to weapons.  The crazier the gunnuts get, the more of them will be in that group.”

“If you actually endorse training prior to allowing people to purchase guns, you are a gun-grabber according to Wayne La Pierre, Ted Nugent, and any number of other nuts out there.  That’s how crazy it has gotten on the subject.”

“The problem that has arisen since the Newtown massacre is that there are no official statistics on gun deaths in the way that the federal government maintains statistics on every other manufactured device on the market in the US. There aren’t any official statistics because the House of Representatives has specifically forbidden their collection. Consequently what happens when you start talking gun statistics you get a battle of the statistics which then proceeds to occur,”

[Your] Author denies an upward trend, but if you smooth out the dataset, you still end up with more incidents recently than you had in the past; although that can be attributed to increased population as easily as anything else. What is left out of that picture is that while mass murder rates have only slightly increased, crime in general has dropped dramatically.”Even the author, correcting Mother Jones’ data set, comments that the common beliefs that mass murders are on the increase “…have encouraged healthy debate concerning causes and solutions.”

“He proposes that there would be fewer mass shootings in 2013 than in 2012 based on statistical projection. He was wrong. There have been 30 shootings in 2013 by the time of this compilation http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/16/mass-killings-data-map/2820423/ and there were only 20 in 2012. So the number of shootings continues to rise. Statistically it should flatten off, but will we all wait to see if that happens? Or should we engage in what your cited author agrees is “healthy debate” about causes and solutions?”

The link to the original research is broken, just FYI. That is how much veracity there was in the statics from Professor Fox. Not enough for him (or the Daily Beast) to maintain a link to them.

“The citation was for James Allan Fox, if anyone was interested. His article is at http://www.boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2013/01/mass_shootings_not_trending.html not the Daily Beast article that copied his data and left out his feelings that debate about gun policy was something we should engage in.”

Oh, yeah. imagine that, the professor who took issue with the facts I cited actually thinks we need more gun laws. Go figure?

“[T]he author you cite himself says that additional laws may be needed, and debate is warranted.”

“FOX news is BY FAR the worst transgressor factually when it comes to reporting the news and having it be absorbed by it’s viewers; http://www.mediaite.com/online/yet-another-survey-fox-news-viewers-worst-informed-npr-listeners-best-informed/ I wouldn’t take anything reported by a TV news source as factual, no matter the source. …On the same day that the Sandy Hook Massacre took place, a rampage took place in China, the assailant used only a knife;”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenpeng_Village_Primary_School_stabbing all of those children survived. Tell the grieving mothers of Sandy Hook how we are better off with easy access to guns.”

My designated combatant then continues to prevaricate and offer defenses for why the Newtown shooter wouldn’t have been stopped by more gun laws, but frankly reinstating the draft (while draconian) would have kept him from having access to weapons since he would have been bounced out of the military or killed during training.  The last comment worth posting is this one,

“You consistently make excuses for the murderer, and you consistently DO insist that no new laws are needed. You’ve done this repeatedly over the course of this entire thread, make excuse, backtrack, suggest that it’s not weapons at fault. Make excuse, sidestep, suggest that we all need family counseling.”

“…Add that to your insistence that FOX is better than NBC (which at least has a track record of owning up to errors, rather than pretending they never made them as FOX does) and I have to conclude that you are not an honest actor here. You simply post here to waste my time in endless replies to you inane assertions that what you say isn’t what you said.”

“Admit it. It’s the guns and easy access to guns that have put weapons in the hands of killers all over the US. Now the solution is either to require licensing and training before purchasing weapons, tracking of weapons so that their owners can be held accountable for crimes committed with those weapons; or meeting resistance to these common sense approaches to the problem instating the draft I mentioned earlier in order to make sure we know who can and can’t handle firearms.”

“On further thought, I’ll add this third option. The endless repetition of the charge “take our guns” that you echo makes me think it’s actually time to embrace that position. Yes, we’ll simply ban all guns unless the gunnuts come to the table and talk straight about common sense approaches to the gun problem.”

I have since given up on TOK for Facebook. Too much stupid, too little time, like most of the internet. This was added to the blog archive on the date I originally wrote the comments, and the context is currently preserved at the TOK links above the comments.

My memory was primed to go looking for comments I had made at the time by Jim Wright’s memorial to Newtown titled Bang Bang Crazy Part Two which he reposted to Facebook earlier in the week. I remember I had said a few things somewhere on Facebook at the time (turns out it was a year later) but I couldn’t quite remember where it was. A hat/tip to Facebook’s native memory app On This Day without which I would generally be clueless about “what did I do today for the last 8 years or so?”

That’s Not a Critter!

The Creepy Crate just ate the Maiden of Ashwood Lake. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Let me see if I can explain it.

In World of Warcraft there are different classes of NPC’s that wander around in the game. Some of them are humanoid. Some are beasts. Some are tiny wildlife, classed as critters. When Blizzard created the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft, they instituted a new system for tracking in-game progress called achievements. One of those achievements was Critter Kill Squad. To get that achievement you have to run around in-game killing all the miscellaneous wildlife that you find. 50,000 critters, for that achievement.

As part of the in-game amusement, you can summon a vanity pet that follows you wherever you go (Wolpertinger) They don’t do much (Editor’s note: didn’t back then. Do now) but some of them have pre-programmed behaviors that are unique to that pet. Nuts will pelt nuts at your friends, as one example. The Creepy Crate is a drop/purchase vanity pet available during the Hallow’s End world event. It’s a crate that bumps along behind you belching fel. The Creepy Crate’s unique behavior is that it will occasionally eat critters near you. It zaps whatever the critter is with a long tongue and sucks it back into the crate all the while making chewing sounds. It is revolting and hilarious at the same time.

The Maiden of Ashwood Lake is an NPC you summon for the daily quest A Blade Fit For A Champion, obtained at the Argent Tournament. She is disguised as a Lake Frog, which can be found on the shores of the Ashwood Lake in Grizzly Hills. I had wondered if the Creepy Crate would eat the frog she was disguised as before she could transform from the class critter that the frog is to the class humanoid that she is. The answer is yes. Crate kills count as critter kills, and I had the crate out while doing that quest on Tarashal. Stupid crate ate the maiden before she could give me the sword I was supposed to get from her.

So I had to dismiss the crate and then kiss a dozen more frogs before I could get her to appear again and complete the quest. Just another day in World of Warcraft.

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George Johnson, Inquiring Minds, Cancer, Evolution

I keep having to come back to this episode of Inquiring Minds. I keep having to refer back to it over and over in conversation because people just want to believe that living better will keep you from getting cancer. I get so much pushback from people who want to believe that this or that strategy will keep them from getting cancer that I’m going to backdate the episode to the the blog with some descriptive text that didn’t get pulled out in the blurb, but does state the point I keep having to make.

Mother Jones – Inquiring Minds #7: George Johnson – Why Most of What You’ve Heard About Cancer is Wrong

In the book, Johnson cites a stunning estimate by MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg: About 4 million of our body’s cells are dividing and copying their DNA every second of every day. With every replication, there is a potential for mistakes, and a risk of developing cancer. Thankfully, we’ve evolved solutions to rogue errors, and our bodies can repair or destroy precancerous cells the vast majority of the time. Yet the risk can never be zero, because without this process of cell division and regeneration, we would quickly cease to live.

In fact, without the capacity for cellular mutation and the ability to pass on reformatted DNA to our offspring, our species would not have been capable of evolving. We wouldn’t be who we are today. “There’s something unfortunately natural about cancer,” explains Johnson. “It’s a natural tradeoff of evolution.”

Paraphrasing the pertinent quote from this episode If you live long enough you will eventually get cancer. The errors in cell replication that lead to cancer are the same errors that allow for genetic diversity. We get cancer because evolution occurs even within our own bodies, and most evolution produces bad outcomes. Cancer is definitely not the result of poor diet or GMO foods. Cancer is a natural process gone horribly wrong, a side effect of living so long that the evolutionary process takes place inside your body. For those of you who deny evolution, think of this as payback from mother nature for doubting that her mechanisms exist. Mutation is how we got from single celled organisms to humans in 3.8 billion years. Mutation which frequently shows up as cancer in the individual. Them’s the breaks.

Facebook.

Addons Aren’t Just For Raiders

I was telling a story at dinner today. The people I was having dinner with were asking me why I wasn’t interested in the game they were playing now that they had given up World of Warcraft. Why won’t you come join us doing this new thing? So I went through this parable about a know-it-all player who insisted that while he had a particular add-on installed for the game, he didn’t need it for the dungeon fight we were in even though we had failed in the attempt to complete the dungeon three times already. We were failing because this player and his fellows in our pick up group couldn’t manage the mechanics of the fight. The player informed me this is my 4th 90, so I know this fight. To which I responded well this will be my 8th 90, and I should have 10 by the end of the week; and I always run and pay attention to Deadly Boss Mods for this fight. The part I left out of the dinner conversation was his riposte of well, that sounds like overkill.

Wait a minute. So four characters leveled to max level in the game is informed, but ten characters is overkill? I wonder what his response would be if I told him I ultimately want to have twenty-two max leveled characters in World of Warcraft? He’d probably be sending the guys in white coats to look for me. Never mind that discounting the higher number of end-game characters as overkill introduces some logical fallacy or other into his original argument that experience grants skills that rule out the use of addons. After all, it’s the principle of the thing.

But this story does answer the question of why I wasn’t interested in the game they were playing. Have you noticed the way I play games? I really don’t think I should start in on any more MMO’s or games that might take up my time. I simply don’t have time for another game to play.

Facebook status updated backdated to the blog. And I achieved that twenty-two character goal, just FYI.

Lincoln & Slavery; What are the Nay-Sayers Really Saying?

I was on Facebook the other day (it was months ago, actually. Another post I forgot to publish) after having just watched the movie Lincoln and stumbled across an image posted on the wall of Free Talk Live a libertarian syndicated radio show / podcast that I’ve always considered a bit of a train wreck. Unfortunately I don’t have time to sit around listening to train wrecks these days, so I haven’t listened to the show in quite a while.

In the image, someone had taken one of Lincoln’s quotes out of context and edited it.  It ran like this,

I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.

But that quote was a part of a larger speech; and even the partial quote is internally edited. I won’t reprint it all here, but it’s available at the National Parks Service website; Lincoln-Douglas Ottawa Debate.  The paragraph the partial quote comes from runs like this;

Now, gentlemen, I don’t want to read at any greater length, but this is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the institution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it, and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. [Laughter.] I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [Loud cheers.] I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. [Great applause.]

Lincoln-Douglas Ottawa Debate

As is shown in the pasted complete paragraph, the contextual relationship of the offered quote changes the meaning of the quote, completely.  The anti-Lincoln types (and most critics of historical figures) rely on the average person’s lack of context for the words, so that the people they are trying to convert to their negative views will be outraged by the statements alone, and never look to see the bigger picture, let alone read a book or several of them on the subject, just to get a feel for the perspective in which this debate was held.

Yes, he said those things; that blacks and whites were too different, that he had no intention of ending slavery in the South; and yet he worked to make these things so. Could it be that he was disseminating in order to put at ease those who would never have allowed negro equality before the law had they believed that it would lead to full equality? Maybe the naysayers, and those who would be persuaded by them, should study history with an eye for the real truths rather than parse it for statements that can be used to indict men whose actions have proven to be just in spite of their words.

The truth is, it was not Lincoln’s war. The South started the war because they could not abide the presence of Northern force on their territory. Had they not been ready and willing to exert force themselves, the tally would have come up differently.

Had the abolitionists admitted at the time that they were for black suffrage (let alone the ad absurdum of women’s suffrage) or any other form of political equality no progress towards ending slavery would have been achieved, and we would probably still have legally enforced ownership of people today.

Libertarians often talk about how “Lincoln ended black slavery, only to enslave all of us”.  The enslavement that libertarians like that suffer under is ideological in nature. They are enslaved to their own ideology more than they are enslaved to some external force. It forces them to denounce actions that conflict with their espoused beliefs, even when those actions can be shown to benefit all of us. The ending of legal slavery set up the possibility for average people to make a living being employed by another.

The question we should be asking today is not whether the actions of the first Republican President were just; but exactly how the last involuntary servitude, prison labor, is different from what was abolished in 1865? How are free men to compete with this, when the full cost of ‘maintaining’ this workforce is not present in the purchase price of the goods made with their labor? How are we to compete, as a labor force, against entire national populations that are kept almost as prisoners in their own countries? Why do we as a people not rise up and demand that the laws be changed? Will we spend precious time fighting over past ills, rather than prevent our own demise in the near future?

When you object and say we are all slaves, you offer the unstated observation that we should return to the preferable state of owning other people in order to save ourselves. When you trumpet the virtue of JW Booth, you place back-shooting conspiracy as a higher value than diplomacy and negotiation.

JW Booth did a disservice to entire nation, all the way down to our current day, with his bullet. Reconstruction under Lincoln would have looked nothing like it did at the hands of his inheritors. Democrat (like Andrew Johnson was) or Republican.

I consider it the height of hubris to hold historical figures to modern standards as if they could be anything other than a product of their times. Such is human nature and the human condition. As goes Lincoln, so go we all, in a nutshell. Either we choose to participate in the world around us, or we withdraw and demand the world meet us on our terms. I don’t consider the latter to be much of a life.