Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Is the White Race Superior to Others? (Short answer: No. That's Just Silly).

Here's another of my Quora writings.

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“Races” of humanity do not exist as facts in nature, as anthropologists in general are happy to tell you:
With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.
You should read the whole AAA Statement on Race that quotation came from. It’s a consensus statement from the whole profession.
Physical anthropologists in particular are happy to tell you the same thing:
Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogenous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past.
(Emphasis mine).

That’s a consensus statement by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (http://www.virginia.edu/woodson/...) that’s worth reading so you can get a sense of what kind of variation they do find if they aren’t finding “races” as you understand them.

“Race science” is old science, man, and we’re way beyond that.

Now that I’ve cleared away the whole concept of a “white race” existing in nature, what is it exactly? It’s a cultural concept, just like the caste system of India. From outside, we can look at India and say “There’s no way to tell for sure if someone is Brahmin or Kshatriya or Untouchable by looking at them,” but the distinctions sure make sense to people in the system. Look at President Obama…everyone accepts that he belongs to the “black” race, though a full 50% of his genes came from this lady


His “black” status is a social and cultural fact, not a genetic one. If Michelle Obama were a white woman, then Malia and Sasha would still be called “black” because their father is “black.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting to reverse the rule so that anyone with a white parent were classified as “white.” In that case, the only “blacks” in the US would be recent immigrant families from Africa and the Caribbean. It makes exactly as much sense as the rule we have.

As a social and cultural fact, not a genetic one, race is of great interest to Social Anthropologists and Cultural Anthropologists and Sociologists.

Now that we’re clear on what race is (and that it’s all facts in our heads, not facts in our bodies) let’s quickly deal with whether one of these social and cultural categories, the white race, shows superiority in general over other races.

Is evidence of superiority in a country’s wealth? Well, comparative wealth all depends on the period we’re looking at. In the 15th and 16th centuries, for example, China accounted for 25%-30% of the economy of the whole world. Right now, after a bad patch, it’s back up to 17% and apparently rising. It’s following the upward path that the Japanese left in the 19th century. ( The rise, fall, and comeback of the Chinese economy over the past 800 years). Looking at another point in history, the ancestors of Iraqis had the best of everything and left a legacy of inventions that we still can’t live without. So, superiority of European descendants in inventiveness, organization, or culture is hard to see from the facts.

How about physical superiority? Oh, there are some superb pale-skinned athletes out there, all right. How many of them can outrun this guy?

That’s Usain Bolt, if you didn’t know.

How many could out-punch this guy?

How many could out-organize a movement or out-speak this guy?

Or how many could teach themselves everything from basic literacy to history, politics, and public speaking while at the same moving on an impressive theological journey, as this man did in a short life?


I wouldn’t put a typical white man who is convinced of his superiority against any of these extraordinary men. Do you think David Duke could match their abilities or accomplishments?


Or Craig Cobb?


Don’t make me laugh.

Someone smart once advised that we should judge people on the content of their characters, not the colour of their skins. That sounds like sensible advice to me.

About Respect for Other Religions

I've been doing most of my writing for a while over on Quora.com. However, it can be a sad, sad day on Quora when you write what you think is a really good answer, and then the whole question gets deleted. No one will see your answer again.

So, thank heaven I have a blog.

The question is "How do mainstream Catholics defend themselves when sedevacantists and other traditionalists say this?" And the details of the question are
Catholics are supposed to try to convert other people but John Paul II and others seem to be fine with other religions and even hail them as great religions.
Here is my answer.
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I’m not a Catholic, but I think I can answer the question anyway.

The Catholic Church is like a restaurant in Marseilles that makes the best Bouillabaise anywhere. Other places make fish-and-seafood soup, of course, and some of them come quite close the recipe—the one true and original recipe—that this restaurant uses. Maybe only a couple of ingredients are different, like in that Chez Lutheran place. Maybe it’s just in the seasoning, like in the Côte Anglicain. Or maybe it’s a whole different taste, like in that Mormon Place down the road, or in the Muslim Restaurant that leaves out the scorpion fish. You can’t call it bouillabaise without scorpion fish.

And this restaurant that has the best bouillabaise has the original recipe, passed down from hand to hand for time out of mind.

But here’s the thing: there’s good will among restauranteurs. Oh, a friendly rivalry, too. But come down to brass tacks and you’ll find that all of them are working their butts off for their customers every night, trying to fill them with something that is healthy and satisfying to the soul.

You don’t get on your high horse and dismiss your fellow chefs as worthless imitators, not if you have any honesty and decency in you. You might like to win some of their customers over, but if the choice is between the customers going to another restaurant and the customers going hungry, you’ll always want them to be fed.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

My Christmas Eve Present, Thanks to the Linux Command Line

I decided a few days back to delete one of the user accounts on my home computer. I didn't need it, and it was taking up valuable space on the hard drive. However, in a moment of klutzy, brain-dead inattention, I deleted not only that account but my home account. The one with all my work. The one that was the only administrator account on the computer. All I had left was the Guest account, which was all limited in what it could do so that the Guest couldn't cause trouble.

I was up the creek, and should probably have been in a state of panic and terror. I wasn't, though.

Instead, I used the Guest account to do some browsing on the web on how to bring back a deleted account. The answer:

  • Shift-boot the computer to get the the GRUB (boot-up) menu.
  • Choose "Advanced options for Ubuntu"
  • Select one of the options in the next menu that ends in "recovery mode"
  • Press the Return key (Enter key, if you prefer) so that the system boots.
  • Choose from a menu "Drop to root shell prompt"
  • Mount the hard drive so that you can make changes to it by typing "mount -o remount,rw /"
  • Then type "adduser gareth sudo" (It won't be "gareth" for anyone but me. It's the name of the account).
  • Reboot the machine.
On rebooting, I had my account back, my files back, my messy desktop back, everything! Merry Christmas to me, and a big thank you to everyone who has developed the Linux operating system over the years. I love you guys.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Trump is President

Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States. I feel depressed for the majority of American citizens who voted against him. I feel sick when I think about how the loudly, viciously bigoted people who supported him feel vindicated and will take out their anger on their neighbours by means both legal and not. I feel very, very sorry for the woman who faces the challenge of taking the American President to court for his rape of her when she was thirteen. I don't think she'll be able to take the pressure of going forward with her court case.

I feel terrible for the world, mostly because it is now going to experience the methods that Donald Trump applies to business. He feels free to stiff those who work for them. He tears up contracts and invites the other party to sue. He uses bullying methods to achieve a contract and calls that "the art of the deal." He believes, fervently believes, that revenge is a good idea. Hit them back ten times harder, he says.

He's committed to offending both of America's neighbours, Canada by unilaterally breaking the NAFTA agreement and Mexico by his stupid wall. He's committed to breaking the NATO agreement for mutual defence if he doesn't like the NATO government that is under threat.

So the glimmer of hope in all this? The glimmer of light? That he'll stiff the American people as he stiffed many of his contractors over the years, and not do anything he promised.


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10 November 2016.

The "stiffing" referred to above has already started. Multiple promises have just disappeared from his website: Have a look.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Merging Two PDFs

I've been putting off a necessary bit of work for a long time. I had to join two PDF files (Portable Document Format files) into one so that I could send the result to a book printing service. The problem is that so many ways are suggested, and not all of them work. This morning, I buckled down to the job, and the first two didn't work.

The third, however, worked like a charm.

I copied the files to be merged to the computer Desktop.

I gave them nice simple names (LPI1.pdf and LPI2.pdf), since I'd be typing them soon.

I opened the Terminal program and switched my directory to the Desktop (cd ~/Directory)

I installed a program called Poppler (sudo apt-get install python-poppler)

I then used one of the commands in the Poppler program, pdfunite. (pdfunite LPI1.pdf LPI2.pdf mergedfile.PDF)

Done. The merged file is no larger than it should be and it looks fine.

Oh, and the operating system I'm using is Ubuntu Linux 16.04 LTS.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Uniquely American Names

Much of my writing, these days, is on the Quora website. People post questions there, other people post answers, and still other people post comments on the answers. The advantage of Quora over a blog is that some of the questions are ones I wouldn't have thought of so, in answering them, I learn something.

One such question is "Are there names that are thought of as uniquely American?" Here's my answer.

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I think of doubled names as uniquely American, and probably uniquely Southern. You know the ones: Billy Bob, Mary Sue.

Having a line of descendants, all with the same name seems American to me. You know, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurston Howell III.

Similarly, do you remember “John Boy” in the TV show The Waltons? Called that because his father was also a John? I don’t know if that’s a real thing or not, but if so, it’s American.

There were the Biblical names that got adopted in earlier years: Seth, Zeke, Amos and the rest. I don’t think they were that common outside the US.

Finally, there are the odd (to me) names that are adopted in the American Black community pretty much because the parents like the sound of them. There are Aaliya, De-Wanda, Devisha, Imani, Jayla, Kayla, Kiara, Laila, Makayla, Nevaeh, and so on for girls. Check here for more: African-American Baby Girl Names ; . There are Jenell, Jermain, Jeron, Jerrick, Jessan, Jimar, Jimarcus, Keandra, Kaynard and many more for boys. Here is a list: African-American Baby Boy Names

Another dead give-away for an American is the name of an American or Confederate hero being used, such As Robert (Bob) E. Lee Ewell or George Washington Carver.

A bit of praise for the current PM (with a comment or two about the previous one)

When Stephen Harper became the Prime Minister of Canada, I was not what you'd call thrilled. I favour policies considerably left of the Conservative Party's. However, alternating into and out of power is part of Canadian politics, just as a constant bubbling up of new parties is. Also, he didn't seem stupid, and he had a minority government, so how much harm could he do?

That was before he created an entirely unnecessary constitutional crisis, of course. That event will be taught in Social Studies classes forevermore, just as the Rebellion Losses Bill and the King-Byng Crisis are taught. And Harper's crisis had no excuse except to financially harm his political opponents in advance of the next election. I lost all respect for him then, and gained none back in subsequent years.

Another short-sighted decision of his relates to the Senate. But first, let's have a little background to the problem posed by the Senate.

Now, of course, the Senate has been a controversial issue in Canada for many years. I remember when a number of premiers agitated to transform it into a Triple-E Senate, meaning equal, elected, and effective. The impetus for this idea is that such a Senate could have defeated Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program, which was hated by Albertans and, to a lesser extent, by other Western Canadians. Unfortunately, it is difficult to pitch an idea to the federal government that is designed to thwart the federal government.

I suppose that the federal government might have allowed a Triple-E Senate in exchange for something else in one of Prime Minister Mulroney's constitutional conferences. Inevitably, though, the idea foundered on the dangerous shoal of constitutional change. As I sometimes note, the federal government and the provinces have not agreed unanimously to any constitutional change since 1867, when Canada's constitution was first adopted.

Then, I recall, some provinces (OK, just Alberta) decided to run "elections" for the province's senators and propose the winner of these contests to the federal government for appointment. They could run such popularity contests without a constitutional change and still get senators who could consider themselves, in a sense, to be elected.

The federal government, however, is under no obligation to appoint someone who has the provincial government's blessing, or a provincial population's. In fact, if the "winner" of the "election" belongs to a different party than the government of Canada, then there's slim to no chance he'll be appointed.

Stephen Harper is himself an Albertan, and fully in favour of changing the Senate along the lines of the Triple-E. Of course, his power to enact such sweeping changes was challenged in court. In 2014, the Supreme Court blocked him from unilaterally imposing term limits on Senate appointments and filling the empty Senate seats through "consultative elections."  That would require, the court said, a constitutional change requiring support from at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population.

His fall-back solution, getting rid of the Senate entirely, would require unanimous support from the provinces. It would not, therefore, happen.

Almost exactly a year ago (July 24, 2015), he announced a short-sighted solution to the Senate problem: he made it a matter of policy to not appoint any new senators to replace those who die or retire. Eventually, there would be no senators and, without senators, no Senate. The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that this was policy would be a constitutional change through the back door, and was therefore unconstitutional. Harper didn't care.

After all, the Senate was an embarrassment. There were all sorts of scandals about expense reports being wrong, senators not maintaining a residence in the province they represent, and even about a prominent member of the Prime Minister's Office cutting a personal $50,000 cheque to a senator to make a problem go away. One could argue, though, that the problems of the Senate were, at least in part, made worse by Harper's own actions:
But then, on the very day he became Prime Minister, Harper decided he wanted Michael Fortier in his cabinet. And then, a few years after, there arrived Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. And, later, Don Meredith. Not to mention defeated Conservative candidates, the Conservative party’s top fundraiser, the Conservative party’s campaign manager, and the Prime Minister’s former press secretary. And then the Prime Minister’s chief of staff cut a cheque for Sen. Duffy. And the Prime Minister’s Office was apparently found to have managed the rewriting of a Senate committee’s report on Sen. Duffy. And then charges started getting laid. And then the auditor general was called in.
To be clear, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were the most prominent senators being investigated for expense report fraud. Patrick Brazeau was kicked out of the Conservative caucus and then out of the Senate after being arrested for domestic assault and sexual assault. Don Meredith was kicked out of the Conservative caucus because of a police investigation into statutory rape. A suspicious man would suspect that Harper deliberately seeded people into the Senate in order to discredit it. More likely, however, he simply saw no legitimate function for the Senate and, so, spent little time or effort in finding senators who were qualified to exercise their constitutional functions.

What would have happened if the Conservative Party had been re-elected in November 2015? We'd have another constitutional crisis as the number of senators declined. Fortunately, his party was defeated by the Liberals. Their leader, Justin Trudeau, has taken another path to Senate Reform.

First he removed the senators who are affiliated with the Liberal Party from the Liberal Caucus. They would no longer meet with their House of Commons colleagues to formulate policy. They were on their own.

Second, he put Senate appointments at one remove from his own personal judgement. That is, he set up an impartial tribunal that would sort out applicants from the public and send the most qualified to him.

Third, he committed himself to respecting the Senate's constitutional role as the chamber of sober second thought. (He accepted two changes to assisted suicide bill, and said that those changes made the bill better; he disagreed with one change, which the Senate then decided to withdraw. The bill then passed quickly, before a deadline set by the Supreme Court).

As a result of these changes, the Senate, even though it was fresh off of a series of scandals, has suddenly started to get praise from many unexpected quarters for doing its job, and doing it properly.

Trudeau's changes are not written into constitutional or statute law. They could be undone by the will of any subsequent Prime Minister. However, they have already shown that we can get a better Senate, one that works the way that the Fathers of Confederation visualized it working, just by treating it better: making appointments according to merit and considering the amendments suggested by the second chamber seriously and respectfully, whether or not they are all accepted in the end.