All Posts

Following the Data: Covid-19 and the State of New Mexico – August 26 Update

August 26, 2020

by Devin

This article was written to provide an update to the original, which was published on August 14 in the Los Alamos Reporter. If you haven’t read that article, we highly recommend you go back and give it a read. Now we have 13 more days of data to add to the previous data set and given the impending expiration of the Governor’s latest orders, it seems prudent to give interested New Mexicans the most up-to-date information on the status of COVID-19 in our State. The data in this article, as in the original, are sourced from The COVID Tracking Project(https://covidtracking.com), sponsored by The Atlantic. Drilling down, the historical data for New Mexico can be found here: (https://covidtracking.com/data/state/new-mexico#historical).

If you read the original article, you will know that for New Mexico the main takeaways were: 1) the so called “spike” or “second wave” of the virus was not real because it was simply the result of a very real spike in daily new testing; 2) there was no corresponding “spike” or “second wave” of daily new hospitalizations or deaths; 3) the probability of a random New Mexican having died from COVID-19 by August 11, 2020 was approximately 2.1 in a million, and; 4) the numbers across the board were trending downward. The questions we want to address in this article are: 1) after 13 more days, do these conclusions still stand; 2) are the numbers still trending downward; 3) if so, by how much, and; 4) what else do the data tell us? 

The great news is, the answers to these questions appear to be yes, yes, and see below.

What the New Data Tell Us

The Death Count

The historical data for New Mexico show that the daily number of deaths from COVID-19 peaked around mid-May with an average daily value of approximately 8 deaths statewide per day. Daily deaths continued to decline after that until early July when the average daily value bottomed out at approximately 3 deaths statewide per day. The daily average rose back up to around 5 by the end of July and lately has been trending back down. The overall average daily number of deaths since the first case was recorded in New Mexico is approximately 4.5. The overall trend through August 22 is basically flat, with a very slightly downward trend, as can be seen in the graph below.

Previously we talked about the number of deaths from COVID-19 in New Mexico for the purposes of comparison with the most recent two influenza seasons. Since those numbers are absolutes, it seems more useful now to talk about trends. Using the US Census total population data estimate for 2019 for New Mexico of 2,096,829, during the two-week period of peak average daily deaths, from May 3 through May 16, on any given day a random New Mexican had approximately 4.2 chances in a million of dying from COVID-19. For the most recent two-week period ending August 22, 2020 on any given day a random New Mexican had approximately 2.1 chances in a million of dying from the disease. Half the chances of the peak period. Breaking these numbers down further, by age group, consider the following chart and graph:

Clearly, older age groups have a much greater chance of dying from COVID-19 than younger age groups in New Mexico. In fact, in New Mexico, for all practical purposes, the chances of someone under the age of 25 are almost zero (since the data set is incomplete, we can’t say it is zero and we know that it isn’t). Those aged 25 to 64 years account for approximately 29 percent of deaths in New Mexico from COVID-19. Approximately 70 percent of deaths from COVID-19 are among those aged 65 and older. What this means is that on any given day during the most recent two-week period, if you are a New Mexican aged 65 or older, your chances of dying from COVID-19 were approximately 1.5 in a million. If you are aged 25 to 64, your chances were 0.6 in a million, or significantly less than one in a million. If you are under the age of 25, your chances were almost zero in a million. Not to diminish the value of every human life, but these are amazingly low odds. 

There is also an abundance of evidence now strongly associating at least one or more comorbidity with dying from COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/evidence-table.html). What this means is that healthy young people are, for all intents and purposes, in no danger at all from COVID-19. Furthermore, healthy middle-aged adults are also in practically no danger from COVID-19. Finally, the highest risk people are those over 65 years of age who have one or more established pre-existing health conditions that have been strongly correlated with mortality from COVID-19. According to the CDC, these are: serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD; obesity (BMI>30); sickle cell disease; solid organ transplantation, and; type 2 diabetes. So if you are healthy and over the age of 65, your chances of dying from COVID-19 on any given day during the last two weeks were less than 1.5 in a million.

New Cases and Testing

Moving on to daily new cases, we continue to see a sharp decline in new cases being detected on a daily basis. Since the peak on July 28 at 460 new cases, the average daily number of new cases for the most recent one-week period, ending August 25, 2020 is 122, with 73 being reported on August 25. This is an average rate of decline of 12 new cases per day. If this rate of decline continues, in approximately 11 days, sometime around September 5, New Mexico may no longer be recording any new cases.

From our previous analysis, we found a directly proportional relationship between daily new testing numbers and daily new case numbers. The graph below presents the data for daily new testing. As you can see, daily new testing has slightly declined from near the end of July through August 25 (with a 2-day spike in new tests near the end of the period).

The following graph shows the weekly average new cases per test (in percentages) since testing began in New Mexico.

The peaks on this graph are artifacts of the data set that resulted mostly in the beginning of the pandemic when data collection was still being organized and the initial challenges that go along with any major data collection effort is undertaken. As you can see, over time, as the data collection process became more streamlined, the line becomes more stable. The trendline, shown as a dotted line, provides a more accurate picture of reality. And the reality is, since the week of July 11 this average has either been flat or in decline. For the most recent week recorded, that average number of cases per test was 2.1 percent. What these two graphs mean when taken together is that daily new cases have been declining at a significantly higher rate than daily new testing; therefore, we cannot attribute all of the decline in new cases to reduced testing. In fact, it shows that very little of the decline in new cases can be attributed to reduced testing.

Hospitalizations

The following graph shows the daily hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in New Mexico since the first patient was admitted in April. Once the reporting procedures stabilized around the last week of June, the average daily number of new COVID-19 patients being hospitalized was approximately 17.4. This number trended up until the end of July, where it was averaging around 28.1 new admissions per day. Since then it has been trending down, with the average daily admissions for the most recent week at 8.1. If this trend continues on its current trajectory, hospitalizations may also reach zero in New Mexico within the next week to two weeks.

Our final graph of the data that includes new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations combined is shown here:

Although the lines for new hospitalizations and deaths are somewhat difficult to see, it is clear that all the trends are either flat or down.

Conclusions

Over the last three calendar years, fatalities from automobile-related accidents in New Mexico averaged 1.1 per day (https://gps.unm.edu/gps_assets/tru_data/Crash-Reports/Fatality-Reports/2019-fatalities.pdf). As a community, we have accepted the risks associated with driving on our roads and highways, knowing that every day, someone is going to die in a car accident. If that number were 2 people per day, or even three people per day, would we radically change the way live our lives? Would we reduce speed limits to half their current limits if that brought the number down and, if so, how much would it need to bring that number down before we would accept such a change? These are very difficult questions and everyone is sure to have a different opinion.

The current public health order is set to expire this month. The daily numbers are rapidly approaching zero. Given this information, the question before us is, how much longer do we need to keep the various restrictions in place, if at all? Given that there was no second wave or spike in cases in New Mexico to begin with, a very strong argument could be made for ending them right now; however, an extension of the restrictions still would not be justifiable beyond an additional two weeks. If, after an additional two weeks, the trends reverse, we could, of course, consider extending some of the public health orders further, but clearly, no public health orders are even now warranted by the data. What is certain is that if our leaders are truly allowing science and data to drive their decision-making, another full month of restrictions is completely unjustified.

Endangered Species: Political Independents, Why Pre-Election Polling is Useless

August 18, 2020

by Devin

For as long as I have been paying attention to politics, namely, my whole life, all I have ever heard from the Political Intelligentsia, is that politicians who want to get elected must lean to their party’s extreme to win in the primary and then move to the center to win the general election. If this is news to you, you definitely are new to American politics. This is because it is typically the party die-hards who show up for the primaries, who want to see a candidate get nominated that best reflects their party’s values, but a lot more people show up for general elections and those people are less idealistic than the party die-hards. To win these less idealistic voters over, it is said that politicians must soften their views so as not to sound so extreme and thus convince these so-called “Independents” that they are the best choice for the job. Hence all the negative advertisements during the general election painting opponents as extremists, with lots of pull quotes from their primary campaigning to prove it.

“…anyone who pays any attention to politics, enough to participate in elections by voting, in 2020, and even in 2016, cannot possibly, by now, not know who they are planning to vote for in the Presidential Election.”

When the pollsters conduct a pre-election poll, they prefer to poll “likely voters.” After all, what point would it be to poll people who aren’t planning to vote? But to do so, they have to select a representative sample of voters from the population. Typically the pollsters will try to estimate the percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents that are going to vote and then make sure the polling reflects those proportions (or not, if they have a different objective). The farther off these estimates are from reality, the lower the accuracy of the poll will be, so they say. Exactly how they come up with these estimates is not a topic I have spent any time trying to figure out, but what I do know is that undersampling or oversampling a particular group will definitely throw off the results. That is how they got the 2016 Presidential Election so stunningly wrong.

One of the explanations for inaccurate polls that I have heard many times over the years is that the people who are polled cannot be relied upon to tell the truth. The theory goes that they may not want anyone, even a pollster who doesn’t know them, to know who they are really planning to vote for. Then, of course, there are those who just want to mess with the pollsters by giving them false answers. But I have a new theory as to why the polls, as this article is titled, are simply useless. Their premise about Independents, is false.

It occurred to me recently that anyone who pays any attention to politics, enough to participate in elections by voting, in 2020, and even in 2016, cannot possibly, by now, not know who they are planning to vote for in the Presidential Election. In fact, the USA is so incredibly polarized now, and has been since at least 2015, that it is impossible for me to imagine anyone who pays sufficient attention to want to vote, to be sitting on the fence between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Am I right?

But if this is true, then who really are all these so-called “Independents?” I have an idea.

“…there really aren’t any voters that are truly Independents.”

For many years I called myself an Independent, but then I realized at some point that even though I called myself that, I always wound up voting Republican. (In middle school, I stood on the corner of a bypass holding up a Dick Riley sign in Greenville, SC, because he went to high school with my father. That’s my only brush with support for a Democrat.) So why did I call myself an Independent? Because I wanted to signal that I was open to voting either way, depending upon which candidate seemed to be the best choice for the job. Of course, that was mostly back in the days when there were still a few centrist Democrat politicians around. My wife, Amanda, also called herself an Independent for many years, even though she almost always voted Democrat (she calls herself a Libertarian these days). So it occurred to me that maybe people who bother to take the time to go to the polls and vote really don’t include a set of people who might vote either way. At least, not in significant numbers.

But if that’s true, assuming that party die-hards always get out and vote and do so for their party’s candidates, how to explain the shifts back and forth in various elections from one major party to the other? And the occasional landslide?Here is what I think. I think that there really aren’t any voters that are truly Independents. Okay, maybe a handful. A statistically insignificant few. But in fact, everyone, for all intents and purposes, knows what party they most closely identify with. Sure, this year it appears that there may be a fairly significant number of people who are changing their party loyalty, but these aren’t Independents. These are people who are fed up with the direction their party has taken.

Enthusiasm completely controls the outcomes of general elections.”

So what does this mean? First, it means that the current polling methodology is USELESS. Second, it means something else is driving the outcomes of general elections. Something other than politicians moving to the center to capture the “all important” Independent vote. So what is driving the outcomes of general elections?

ENTHUSIASM.

PERIOD.

FULL STOP.

I wrote a couple of blogs back in 2016 that touched on this that are still up on The Gatherer. I went back and re-read them the other day and everything in them still holds true. I wouldn’t change a word. Enthusiasm completely controls the outcomes of general elections. It may also be true in the primaries, but each party has so much power to control the outcomes of their primaries, that it probably isn’t as big of a factor. Think about it. If your party’s candidate isn’t firing up the base, how on earth do you expect the less idealistic voters in your party to get motivated to vote? And isn’t that exactly what we see going on right now in the Presidential campaigns?

“Enthusiasm for Trump is sky high. Enthusiasm for Joe Biden is practically non-existent.”

In my city, Santa Fe, New Mexico, you could potentially drive around all day and not see a single solitary campaign sign or sticker for Joe Biden, and this town is super left-wing. Of course, you don’t see that many Trump signs or stickers either, but then again, Trump’s voters don’t want to get beat up or have their car or truck get keyed. And they generally like their liberal friends and don’t want to be ostracized by them. Which is a very real possibility.

But I can assure you, there are plenty of Trump fans in Santa Fe and they will be coming out of the woodwork to vote for him on November 3rd. There may not be enough of them to overcome the Democrat die-hards, but their numbers won’t be insignificant. One thing is certain, there will be many, many more voters for Trump in New Mexico this time around than there were in 2016. When I speak privately with my conservative and centrist friends who plan to vote, they say they cannot wait for November 3rd to get here. Enthusiasm for Trump is sky high. Enthusiasm for Joe Biden is practically non-existent. It wasn’t that long ago that New Mexico was considered a “purple” state. If my theory is correct, it likely still is. And if that’s true, then Trump and the Republicans may very well just flip this state red this fall.

So what are the main takeaways from this idea that there really aren’t any Independents to speak of? First, to get accurate polling, pollsters should be polling enthusiasm. Period. Anything else is going to give a poor result. Second, politicians who want to win, need to stop swinging back to the middle to try to capture the so-called, but really non-existent, Independents. Does Trump ever walk anything back and apologize for anything he says? No. He doubles down. If there were any truly independent voters out there, doubling down would be the kiss of death for a candidate. Instead, what we see is his supporters getting even more fired up when he does that. That should be all the proof we need.

Author’s note: My apologies to Libertarians out there, whom I have left out of this analysis, but they so rarely have an impact on elections, that I couldn’t see how to fit them in.

Following the Data: COVID-19 and the State of New Mexico

July 13, 2020

by Devin

When a new SARS-type virus from China began to make the news this past winter, like so many others before it, my first inclination was to ignore it. It sounded just like all the others to me, much to do about nothing. But then it became much more apparent that this one was going to be different. As momentum started building and the disease we now call the all-too-familiar name COVID-19 was formally declared a pandemic, states and countries started mobilizing their health agencies to gather data on this novel coronavirus. Various organizations began compiling all this state and international data, collating it, and posting it on their websites. At this point I began taking a much greater interest in it. Looking around online, I found?The COVID Tracking Project(https://covidtracking.com), sponsored by?The Atlantic. Drilling down I was able to locate the historical data for New Mexico (https://covidtracking.com/data/state/new-mexico#historical).

The first thing I noticed is that the data are presented in a less-than-optimal way to understand what they mean. While the numbers for New Tests are given as a daily total, the numbers for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths are provided as cumulative totals going all the way back to the beginning of the data set. Cumulative totals are deceptive in that they are much larger than daily totals and they don?t tell the real story. In order to find the real story, you have to subtract the previous day?s total from the current day?s total to get the current daily total, for every single day of the data set. So I did this, and the results are very interesting.

As I did the math to get the daily totals, I typed them into three spreadsheets. The first spreadsheet tracks the daily deaths from COVID-19. These numbers are among the most important, because most people agree that the state of being dead is not particularly debatable and because ultimately, death is the worst and most feared potential result of becoming infected with this disease. The second spreadsheet tracks daily new cases of COVID-19. The key metric in this data set is not so much the number of cases, but the daily number of new cases per daily number of new tests. This value is expressed as a percentage since there are far fewer cases than tests. This value is so important because it removes the effect of variability in the daily new tests numbers. In other words, what we really want to know is not how many new cases there are, but are more people really catching the disease? The third spreadsheet combines the data for daily new cases, new deaths, and new hospitalizations, so that we can see how they compare.

What the Data Actually Tell Us

The Death Count

Starting with the daily number of deaths the first thing we notice is that deaths from COVID-19 peaked around mid-May with an average daily value of approximately 8 deaths statewide per day. Daily deaths continued to decline after this until early July when the average daily value bottomed out at approximately 3 deaths statewide per day. The daily average rose back up to 5 by the end of July and lately has been trending back down. New Mexico is currently averaging approximately 4 deaths statewide per day. The overall average daily number of deaths since the first case was recorded in New Mexico is approximately 4.5. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent estimated population of New Mexico (for 2019) was 2,096,829, or roughly 2.1 million.

As of August 11, 2020 the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in New Mexico was 688. Given a population 2.1 million people, that means that we have experienced approximately 32.5 deaths per 100,000 residents for the entirety of the pandemic. By comparison, during the 2018-2019 influenza season (Oct.-May), New Mexico experienced 11 deaths from pneumonia and influenza per 100,000 residents and in the prior season, 14 deaths per 100,000 residents (New Mexico Epidemiology, Vol. 2019, No. 10). So far, that means that in New Mexico, the chances of a random resident dying of COVID-19 are roughly two and half to three times their chances of dying from pneumonia or influenza in recent years. Not to diminish the value of every human life, but these are not large numbers. On any given day, a random New Mexico resident has approximately 2.1 chances in a million to die from COVID-19. Those are pretty good odds. A graph of the daily new deaths from COVID-19 is shown here:

The dotted trendline approximates the running average and notice that generally speaking, the line is relatively flat and there is no spike in deaths corresponding to the ?spike? in cases. A very slight uptick, yes, but nothing anyone could realistically call a spike.

New Cases

Moving on to daily new cases, what we see in the data are two things. First, from the beginning, we see a rise in daily new cases, which leveled off in early May at around an average of 140 new cases per day and declined slightly until the beginning of June, settling at around an average of 130 new cases per day. Second, starting in early June, we see another significant rise in daily new cases, peaking most recently in late July at around an average of 300 new cases per day. For the most recent two weeks, daily new cases have been trending downward with the most recent 3-day average as of August 11 being around 160 new cases per day. At first glance, these numbers would seem to support the claim that New Mexico experienced a ?second wave? of infections from COVID-19, which has now passed (see the graph below); however, a closer look at the data reveals the truth.?

First, as testing began, our testing capacity was extremely limited. As time progressed, our testing capacity increased; however, in order to make sure we had enough tests to go around, we limited testing to those who were experiencing actual symptoms of COVID-19. That made sense. If you?re not sick, you?re not in immediate danger of death from COVID-19. Second, in late April, our testing capacity increased dramatically and we opened up testing to anyone who wanted to be tested. A ?case? was redefined in the process from being someone who exhibited symptoms?and?tested positive for COVID-19 to?anyone?who tested positive?for COVID-19,?even if they were entirely asymptomatic. To find out the impact of increased testing and the new definition of a ?case,? we have to remove the effects of these variables from the data. To do so, we simply divide the number of daily new cases by the number of daily new tests performed. The result is startling. As you can see quite clearly in the graph above and the graph below, the daily number of new cases correlates very closely to the number of daily new tests performed since the beginning, with very minor small-scale variations.

The next thing to notice is the difference in the scales of the two graphs. The scale for New Tests is approximately 23 times as high as the scale for New Cases! To see what that means visually, the next graph, below, shows the two data sets on the same scale. It is difficult to see a spike in new cases in this graph.

And now, the most important graph of all, the graph that tells the real story, is the graph showing the weekly average number of new cases per test, below.

The peaks on this graph are artifacts of the data set that resulted mostly in the beginning of the pandemic when data collection was still being organized and the initial challenges that go along with any major data collection effort is undertaken. As you can see, over time, as the data collection process became more streamlined, the line becomes more stable. The trendline, shown as a dotted line, provides a more accurate picture of reality. And the reality is, since the beginning of June, when the ?spike? in new cases began, the weekly average number of cases per test has not exceeded 5 percent and for the last 4 weeks this average has been in decline. For the most recent week recorded, that average number of cases per test was 2.9 percent. The bottom line is, the ?spike? in cases was caused by the spike in new testing and the testing of people who were and are asymptomatic. The reality is, fewer and fewer residents of New Mexico are coming down with COVID-19 and at some point no amount of testing will give the appearance otherwise. This also means that there isn?t going to be a third wave, because there never really was a second wave. If you start hearing about a third wave, follow the data. Therein lies the truth, but that?s not the end of this story. We have one more data set to look at: Hospitalizations.

Hospitalizations

The third spreadsheet includes daily new hospitalizations from COVID-19 along with daily new cases and daily new deaths. A graph of these data is shown here:

This graph clearly shows that the number of daily new hospitalizations and deaths did not dramatically increase with the number of new cases. This is further evidence that the ?spike? in new cases was caused entirely by the extreme increase in new testing.

So what does all this mean? The number one justification for all the public health orders mandating the closure of ?non-essential? businesses, social distancing, mask wearing, self-quarantine, and staying at home except for emergencies and absolute necessities, was the oft repeated mantra of a spike in cases, the ever growing number of deaths and hospitalizations, and the rationalization that if these measures ?save just one life? they will have been worth it. The question before us is, is it worth it? Has it been worth it? I?ll leave that for you to decide for yourself, because as New Mexicans, that?s what we’re going to do anyway!

If you would like to have a copy of the Excel spreadsheet file from which these graphs were derived, you can download it here:

Why God Wins in a Contest Against No God

May 9, 2017

by Devin

Okay. Big topic! Yuuuuuuuge topic! Only many, many thousands of words, pages, and books have been written on this one. So why am I writing yet another one? Well, are there still any atheists out there? Yep. Even after all that has been written on the subject. So why not add a few more words to the mountain of words that have already been written? Why not, indeed?

Let me begin by saying that I came to the conclusion that God definitely exists, late in life. The reason for this is that although I had been churched in my youth, no one had ever taken the time to lay it all out for me in the way I?m going to do here. Furthermore, I did not want anyone to lay it out like this. I did not want to know the truth, because I feared that the truth might give me sufficient reason not to live my life the way I darn well pleased. In short, I was willfully ignorant. Blissfully ignorant. Until one day, I wasn’t.

Then, I wished with all of my being that I had not ignored the truth for so long. So many years of my life, wasted, chasing personal goals and getting nowhere fast. And more and more miserable with each passing year. Until finally, I could no longer ignore it. I had to get to the bottom of it. No more putting it off. No more agnosticism. No more excuses.

So I did. And here is what I found:

Reason 1: If there is no God, then I am just a bunch of molecules behaving in a highly organized manner according to the physical laws of chemical reactions that were initiated with the Big Bang. And if that’s true, then I am unaccountable for my behavior, I am merely doing what I was bound to do the instant the Universe exploded into being (which means I cannot be judged by anyone for anything I do). Furthermore, I will continue to do what those chemical reactions cause me to do, whether I like it or not. And when I say do, I also mean think. The decisions I make, everything, are just chemical reactions. I have no soul. I have no reason for existing. No one is greater than me. No one’s opinion is any more valid than mine. And finally, there is no right or wrong. No good or evil. Just physics and chemistry doing what the laws of nature dictate.

Now stop and think about this for a moment. It isn’t really an argument for the existence of God. It is more like a reason to want God to exist. Because if God does not exist, and if everyone knew it, imagine what kind of hell this world would be then! Anything goes! If it feels good, even if it harms someone else, who cares? Do it. After all, you are just doing what the laws of physics and chemistry dictated you would do long before you ever came into existence.

And if this is true, then why do so many people choose to aim for being, at least to some degree, good? Why do the concepts of good and evil exist? Why are children born with an innate sense of justice? Chemical reactions again? And where do we get the desire to live from? Why do we care? Chemical reactions? And what about one of the fundamental tenets of Evolutionary Theory, the desire to reproduce? Where did that come from? Chemical reactions, again?

This last one is particularly difficult because if there is no God, then there never was any reason for any cluster of molecules to “want” to reproduce. Go check your chemistry and physics books and see if you can find any of them that say anything about molecules or matter “wanting” to do anything. You won’t find it. Matter behaves according to the laws of physics. Molecules behave according to the laws of chemistry. Period. Done. There is no law in either of these disciplines about anything “wanting” to do anything.

While Reason 1 still does not prove the existence of God, let me just say that it provides a very compelling case in favor of hoping God exists. The existence of God makes the Universe a whole lot more tolerable.

Reason 2: Back to the Big Bang. The one question that scientists unanimously agree can never be answered is what existed before the Big Bang? It is unknowable. No one is even working on it.

So why does this matter? It matters because according to Big Bang theory, the entire Universe was once completely compressed into a single point. A volume-less point. A singularity as mathematicians and scientist call it. In other words, it did not exist. So, from out of nothing, total nothingness, with nothing existing, no God, no nothing to cause the Universe to come into existence, somehow, we are supposed to believe it just did. And not only that, but why it did can never be known.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really sound like something a real scientist who is being honest with him or herself could believe. I would say it takes a bigger act of faith to believe that than to simply believe that God exists and he caused the Universe to come into existence. Even if you go no further than that in your belief.

Reason 3: No one has yet even come close to causing life to spontaneously arise from inanimate matter.

Okay, this reason has only been available to us for the last few decades, because we have only recently achieved the level of knowledge of microorganisms and how they work that we should be able to, in the laboratory, under the most highly controlled circumstances imaginable, cause inanimate matter to come to life. Think about this. We are told, and are supposed to believe, that life spontaneously arose in our Universe simply because the odds were that on at least one planet among many billions of planets in one galaxy among many billions of galaxies, just the right conditions under which the sequence of events necessary for life to spontaneously arise were sure to occur. And furthermore, that those events did occur simply because the right conditions were present.

Okay. Fine. What, exactly, were those conditions? There have been a number of theories postulated on this one. One that most people are familiar with is some kind of primordial soup or muck where the right combination of naturally occurring organic molecules happened to be in the right place at the right time with just the right application of energy and other conditions that suddenly, just the right chemical reactions occurred and something remotely resembling life suddenly came into existence. That thing, whatever it was, was somehow motivated to make more of itself. Furthermore, it had to already have some sort of scheme for doing so, therefore it had to be a pretty complicated molecule or cluster of molecules!

But, supposedly, it was bound to happen due to the incredible number of opportunities that, by the law of averages, existed and yet still exist in a Universe that still, no one, can explain why it exists in the first place, and no one is even attempting to explain, because everyone agrees that it is unknowable. And on top of that, if it could conceivably happen by accident under the right conditions, then why have we not simply demonstrated it in the laboratory? We don’t need to wait for it to happen again in nature so we can observe it. We should be able to simply recreate those conditions in a controlled environment and make life spontaneously arise from inanimate matter. But we can’t. Even with all of the incredible technology available to us in this amazing day and age, we can’t do in a laboratory what we think happened simply by accident in nature! Really??? But don’t take my word for it, watch this:

Right. Seems to me that it is a whole lot simpler, although maybe not nearly as much fun to contemplate, to believe that God made it happen. For those of you out there that are adherents to Occam’s Razor, God is right up your alley!

Reason 4: Geologic time isn’t even remotely enough time for random mutations and natural selection to take us from inanimate molecules to human beings. Sure, four billion or so years is a LOT of time, but it turns out, if you do the math[1], that it would take many trillions of years just for an extremely simple 200-component organism to evolve by random mutations and natural selection. The math has been done. The jury is back. The verdict is in and the case is closed. The fundamental tenets of Evolutionary Theory are so flawed they don?t even begin to account for the complexity of living organisms on Earth. The belief that eventually all the remaining unknowns and missing components of Evolutionary Theory will be discovered is a vastly greater act of faith than simply believing in the existence of God.

Reason 5: No one has ever managed, under the utmost controlled circumstances, to cause one species of animal to evolve into another. Think about this one. Humans have been using breeding techniques for thousands of years to modify successive generations of living organisms in such a way as to give them certain desired characteristics. So why is it that no one has actually started with one species of animal and continued to modify it through successive generations until the result is a new species? Forget about causing life to spontaneously arise in a laboratory, we can’t even do something so simple as taking an already living organism and accelerated natural selection by using human selection to cause it to evolve into something so different as to be an altogether different species. And yet, we are supposed to believe that it happened millions of times by chance in nature. Brutal.

Reason 6: Ever thought you had a question about God, the answer to which, no one could possibly conceive? Guess what, it has been answered. Yes. Not only has someone already thought of it, but someone really, really smart, and often many really, really smart people, have already done all the work for you and answered it. After thousands of years, rest assured, there are no new questions to be asked about God. And after just as many years, those questions have all already been tackled and answered. Just because you don’t know the answer, and can’t imagine one could exist, doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t know the answer and hasn’t already answered it. The internet is an amazing tool. Google it.

If that doesn’t satisfy you, then I suggest reading the works of some of the greatest minds to ever tackle the most difficult questions imaginable about God and world we live in. One of them is C.S. Lewis, but if you prefer someone more contemporary, try Tim Keller. Or just walk into any Christian bookstore and you will find shelves of books written by prominent Christian apologists who have answered every question of which you can think. The only reason anyone can give for not knowing the answers is not trying (or wanting) to find out.

Reason 7: The proof is out there. Yes. That’s right. If you need proof, it exists. More than one book out there has been written for the average reader that assembles all of the known information about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and presents the evidence in a logical order such that by the time you reach the end of the book, the proof cannot be refuted. At least, not by any reasonable person. And if you consider yourself a reasonable person, then you are left with no choice but to believe that not only is there a God, but that Jesus was God incarnate. And after all, if Jesus really existed and really was who He said He was, then it follows naturally that God must exist. Two books I know of on the subject are: The Case for Faith, by Lee Strobel and Cold Case Christianity, by J. Warner Wallace. I?ve read the second one and seen the movie (The Case for Christ) for the first one. Both are excellent.

There are many, many more reasons than these, but they are reasons that, as time has gone by, I have come to adopt as a result of my continuing search for the truth. Reading about and discussing the teachings of Jesus with Christians that I admire and respect, as well as listening weekly to sermons by pastors who have vastly more knowledge than I, have greatly broadened my understanding of God and Christianity. I would encourage anyone who wants to get to the bottom of this matter to do the same. Discovering God is a journey. You follow a path. Everyone is not on the same place on that path. You don’t have to believe everything all at once. Maybe you only decide one little thing might be true and pursue it. Over time, you gain more confidence in your belief that that little thing is true. Then maybe you start to see other things that you might be able to believe. As you investigate those, in time, you grow in your new beliefs. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes a desire to know the truth.

Maybe you are still not convinced. I get it. Letting go of something you have believed for so many years is a hurdle far too high for most people to jump. Furthermore, it is likely that not only you hold your beliefs, but you also associate with others who believe the same things you do. They are your friends. You love them. Most people don’t want to give up their friends, which is what frequently happens when someone reverses their position on this particular topic (it’s just that hot). This topic is of such a magnitude and of such great import that people don?t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I’m going to believe in God now!” It takes time. For some people, it takes a LOT of time. (And for some people, time runs out first.) Don’t worry. God has plenty of time. He can wait. He is patient. He invented patience! He knows you. He loves you. And He is willing to wait as long as it takes for you to discover Him. He wants you to discover Him. But you have to come to Him. He is assuredly pursuing you, but He is God, after all.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

I wish you the very best in your journey and I am simply glad that maybe, just maybe, you are on the path to discovering the truth.

God bless you on your journey.

 

[1] http://www.icr.org/article/mathematical-impossibility-evolution/

Article updated on August 16, 2020.

What is Conservatism?

March 29, 2017

by Devin

When I was younger, say, about 10 years younger, or more, I used to read from and listen to media outlets on the left regularly. I found it to be a siren song sometimes, particularly NPR. Those NPR voices are the most soothing I’ve ever heard on radio. And the musical jingle they play for NPR News is so nerdy sounding, how could any self-described intellectual not love it? And, of course, NPR has some great programs. Who could resist listening to Dick Estell, the Radio Reader, if he or she has the time? The only person on NPR that ever irked me was Daniel Shore, who was the most overtly, egregiously, over-the-top left-wing-nutcase commentator ever to be heard over the NPR frequencies. He didn’t even try to hide his political leanings. And his analysis, well, it just plain sucked. Anyone with half a brain could see that. But there he was, every day, dropping great pearls of left-wing commentary and real jewels of political analysis on NPR’s listeners. I figured he must be there to make the rest of the news folks seem balanced, both politically, and psychologically. He passed away a few years ago, and I, well, I was still listening to NPR when it happened and I, well, I have to admit, I thought to myself, I hope they don’t replace him with another nutcase just like him!

But in the end, I just quit listening to NPR entirely. I also quit listening to the few other left-wing talk radio shows that were still trying to survive, but were so horrible they didn’t make it. I also gave up watching the news on TV. For several years I had already given up watching anything but FOX, but then I realized FOX isn’t all that conservative, either. It just seems like it is because compared to the other television news media, it is. But the truth is, it doesn’t take much to be to the right of CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, or CBS. Or even ESPN, although people don’t normally think of ESPN as a news channel. But if you watch it long enough, you may discover that ESPN is so loaded down with left-wing propaganda, it hardly seems like a sports channel anymore. So, I quit listening to non-conservative radio and I quit watching television altogether, and as for reading, well, I get all my news online these days. The Liberal bias in the media was really starting to annoy me in a big way. Mostly, I just never heard anything new or worth adopting.

About 10 years ago I starting educating myself on Conservatism (in America) because a liberal friend of mine challenged me to define it and I found that I couldn’t. You can imagine my consternation when I realized I had no good way to articulate my beliefs. Seriously. I couldn’t do it. I have since discovered that this is actually a real problem for people who refer to themselves as conservative. Go ask a politician to define it sometime. See what you get. And then there are the commentators, even Rush Limbaugh, who will tell you that it is easy to define Liberalism, but no one seems to be in agreement as to what is Conservatism.

So, for several years I kept trying to define Conservatism in terms of policy positions, but that was ridiculous. Trying to do that is like picking colors to paint your home without ever seeing your home. You have nothing on which to base your color selections. Just a bunch of feelings about how you think it should be. Of course, that is flawed because everyone has different feelings about what policy should be, depending upon the issue. It is my firm belief that the VAST majority of people who identify as conservative, do so because they realized at one point or another, that where they come down on policies is more closely aligned with those typically held by people who call themselves conservatives, or often just as Republicans, than with those held by liberals or Democrats.

The problem with going about it this way is that there are as many different combinations of policy positions as there are people who hold them. It’s a sort of circular logic. Many people who call themselves conservatives do so because they align with so-called conservatives, who call themselves conservatives because they, too, align with other so-called conservatives. What you get after enough time, with this way of defining Conservatism, is a mess!

That is when it hit me that policy positions are best defined as the emergent property of a set of values. The values themselves being something entirely separate. When I say, “best defined,” I do so because if they aren’t based on something besides personal feelings, on something concrete, separate, and well defined, then they are based on nothing to which anyone can point to and defend. So then I started trying to define conservative values, but that, too, I found to be ridiculous, because values, I realized, are the emergent property of an ideal. So then I started trying to identify such an ideal.

The ideal I found is the same ideal that our nation’s founders had. Freedom. Maximum possible individual freedom for all. Such freedom is only limited at the point where it infringes upon someone else’s freedom.

From this ideal flows all of my political values and from those values all of my political policy positions. Well, with one small caveat, I view freedom from a Christian point of view, just as most of our nation’s founders did. And those few who didn’t, still believed in God and had no problem with those who also believed in Jesus.

So, if you ask me what is Conservatism? I can easily tell you now that it is the belief in the exact same thing our nation’s founders believed, which was that humans were created to be free. And that governments are, most unfortunately, a necessary evil, that must be devised in such a way as to keep their power and interference in our lives to an absolute minimum. The Founders intended to create a federal government that served only the absolutely most essential functions necessary and no more. They were bent on writing a constitution that would accomplish this goal. It had never been done before. They had no past experience creating such a government to guide them. No ability to look back and see where the previous attempt went wrong. They did their best. They were tremendously successful, yet, they ultimately failed. What we have today, in America, is an utter failure in the eyes of our nation’s founders.

A true Conservative in this day and age is someone who wants to restore the original intent of America’s founders. Maximum possible freedom for all.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over! Hang in there! And take notes, while you’re at it!

October 11, 2016

by Devin

A good friend of mine was musing the other day about how a President Hillary would proceed on foreign policy and Obamacare, in light of how badly those two things have gone for her predecessor and where they seem to be headed. I replied to him before I had a chance to watch the last debate, but Hillary just confirmed my expectations in the debate. Here it is.

So, assuming a Trump loss, which I still don’t think is going to happen, in spite of the polls and prognostications, and particularly in light of his performance in the second debate, I am sure a Clinton II presidency would double down on Obama’s foreign intervention and policy. It has been her policy to go around the world messing in everyone else’s business and there is no reason to think she is going to change.

Obamacare would probably be amended by the Republicans to say whatever Hillary wants it to say, since the Republicans are just lapdogs for the Democrats. It would continue to fail ever more disastrously, but I doubt she would go along with any kind of replacement that might improve the situation, because such improvements would be to admit failure. So our healthcare system would continue to implode in slow motion just as it has been for some time now. Watching that one happen would be downright humorous, if it weren’t so tragic.

Now, if you know me, you know I am an eternal optimist. And my optimism sometimes leads to errors in judgement. Sometimes. I’m working on that. However, I am looking hard to find any other evidence besides polling that Trump is losing. That is all there is. Virtually every other indicator there is is saying landslide for Trump. Or at least a win. Also, I have no stock in Trump. I’m a Ted Cruz supporter. It would be fine with me if he just barely wins, so I have no reason to be so optimistic about his chances.

Since I don’t live in SC, I can’t accurately read the public political sentiment there as well as those who do, thus this past spring I failed?to recognize the superglue hold Lindsay Grahamnasty has on his Senate seat and called it wrong in the primary this year. But I do have a firsthand read on one of, if not the most, left-wing cities in America, Santa Fe, New Mexico. This city is a professional cheer leading team for Democrats. As I wrote in a recent blog post, the cheer leaders are sitting on the bench staring at the scoreboard?with long faces, wishing their team had a different quarterback and wanting it to hurry up and be over with. Zero enthusiasm. Zero energy.

Since the bomb dropped last Friday about Trump and his “locker room talk,” there has been no discernible uptick in enthusiasm in Santa Fe. Just a lot of dirty looks as though “that brutish man isn’t going to grab my p***y!”

You can’t see that, because you live in a state that is totally behind Trump. But I can. And if apathy for the election is this bad in Santa Fe, imagine what it is like elsewhere around the country where Dems are generally in lower concentrations than they are in Santa Fe. Demoralized. Defeated. Sure, they may be getting a little boost from the media frenzy over the “locker room talk” issue, but they aren’t about voting against Trump, they are about voting for their nominee, except that they aren’t this time.

Everyone knows that it is historically rare for the party in the WH to get a third term. Doing so is an uphill battle for anyone going up against that. Last time was GHW Bush riding Reagan’s popularity. Obama has nothing like that kind of popularity. I totally understand your argument about demographics, but for demographics to matter, people have to be excited and get out and vote. We watched the conservative majority in this country get defeated year after year by a liberal minority, because the liberal minority was far more energized. The demographics may have flipped, but the ability of a minority to defeat a majority has not and never will flip, until the minority becomes so tiny it is no longer a significant player.

Maybe I’m wrong, but a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate, along with increasing Republican majorities in over thirty state legislatures, seems to indicate that at least the Republican party hasn’t gotten that small, yet! Conservatives, on the other hand, may well be done for. Hard to say, yet.

Finally, as I have pointed out before, Obama had huge excitement and energy behind him and he barely eeked out victories both times against horrible Republican opponents. Don’t pay any attention to those idiots in the Republican party who keep endorsing, then unendorsing, then endorsing, then unendorsing Trump. They are just trying to calculate which position might best favor their chances of re-election. Endorsements have been shown by extensive research to have almost no impact on campaigns. They have mostly to do with benefitting the endorser, by riding coattails. And after flip flopping so many times, no one is taking them seriously anymore.

Anyway, I’ve already been over this ground before. You probably know all the other reasons I have for anticipating a Trump victory. If you don’t, I invite you to read other posts on this site! My prayer?now is for Trump to have the ability to not defeat himself before 9 NOV. I have little confidence there, but seeing how he has responded to?the latest two blows gives me hope!

Since the day I wrote this, the media has been calling the election over. Done. Trump is finished! His poll numbers are in free-fall (even though we don’t yet have any numbers from the second debate)! The Republican Establishment folks are looking for every excuse possible to abandon him and anxiously awaiting a Hillary victory! And I am thinking to myself, where have I heard all this before??? Ohhhh yeeeaaahhhh! Just a few months ago during the Republican primaries! After each and every debate and public appearance where Trump opened his mouth, the genius prognosticators in the media and the Republican Party proclaimed, loudly, “this time he’s finally done it!” He’s finished! NO ONE will vote for him now! And then there would be another primary and he would win by a greater margin than the last one.

As painful as it is watching all this take place, it is putting a spotlight on the turncoat, liberal Republicans (like Lindsay Graham, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and their media admirers like never before. Any other time, and hardly anyone would be paying attention. But this time, FINALLY, people are paying attention. All those folks who have been chuckling and rolling their eyes at the term “Republican Establishment,” as though the looney right-wing fringe really must have some kind of incredibly creative imagination, are now finally starting to have some inkling of what those who truly hold fully to conservative values have been saying for so, so long. Those Republican Establishment politicians, RINOs if you will, HAVE GOT TO GO! But in the primaries, not against Democrats!

I’ll take this opportunity to provide you with a link to a website where you can see for yourself who these people are:

https://www.conservativereview.com/scorecard

And by the way, Conservative Review is a conservative website. If you think National Review is conservative, let me just bring you up to speed on this, they are not. I’d give them a grade of C-, at best. And definitely an elitist crowd that thinks it is far above you and everyone else you know. Somebody needs to take George Will to the woodshed. Just saying!

Chin up, fellow lovers of America! It ain’t over ’til it’s over! The fat lady ain’t sang, yet! Trump may be down, although I’m not so sure he is, but he ain’t out! The media is going to do everything in its power to demoralize Trump voters and make them think it is game over. Take my advice. Ignore the media. And when I say “media,” I am including FOX News. A RINO media outlet if there ever was one.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Death of a Political Psycho

September 15, 2016

by Devin

Eight years ago, when Hillary was ousted by Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, I found myself intrigued by the talk among my liberal friends about the situation. Every single one of them expressed utter disdain for Hillary. Before BHO came along, though, HRC was THE stuff. She had what appeared to be a bulletproof reputation among the liberals of my adopted city, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hillary stickers were EVERYWHERE. Then, suddenly, they weren’t. They had all been replaced or covered up with Obama stickers. The yards signs for Hillary disappeared practically overnight and were replaced by Obama yard signs. The fix was in.

“Hillary stickers were EVERYWHERE. Then, suddenly, they weren’t.”

The next thing I knew, liberals were all trashing Hillary for all the same reasons Republicans and conservatives had been trashing her for years. I thought to myself, wow! Talk about group think! As we know, BHO went on to win the nomination by a wide margin and then went on to the White House, posting marginal victories against two of the worst Republican nominees since George HW Bush.

Of course, after that, there was no love, just business between the Clintons and the Obamas. The Obama presidency was supposed to be Hillary’s time. How did this nobody from Chicago, who should have been getting coffee for Bill and his buddies, come from out of nowhere and beat her so badly? Answer: He didn’t. She beat herself. Or rather, she and her sex predator husband did. It is my belief (and since I’m no insider, that’s all it is, a belief) that the Clintons are tolerated in the Democratic Party only because of the power they wield. Otherwise, they are universally despised for their unmitigated power hunger, corruption, lying, and ineptitude. Bill doesn’t have the old magic anymore. He’s gotten too old. He’s developed a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease. Hillary’s incompetence has forced the media to go to lengths never before seen to cover it up.

Then, finally, Hillary’s time comes again. It’s 2016. This time, NOBODY is going to steal the nomination she deserves away from her. Bernie Sanders nearly did it and there is no question that he was more popular with the Democratic Party base. Before the Democratic National Convention, in good ol’ left-wing Santa Fe, for every Hillary sticker and yard sign there were two Bernie stickers and yard signs. A Trump or Cruz sticker might have gotten your car keyed. The driver most certainly ostracized from the community.

After the DNC? Suddenly, as though a switch had been flipped, there is no general election this year. At least, not in Santa Fe. Within a week of HRC’s coronation nearly every bumper sticker and yard sign in the city disappeared.

“…if they talk about politics at all, (they) do it in hushed whispers and hope someone will change the topic soon.”

I’ve lived in (or near) this town for 17 years and I have NEVER seen anything like this. When Al Gore and John Kerry were the Democratic nominees (and think about just how bad they were), every other car had a sticker supporting them and every other house had a yard sign. Just prior to the 2016 DNC, you had to search for a car or yard that didn’t have Bernie (mostly) or Hillary (not-so-many) sticker or sign. It was sheer craziness.

Now? Nothing. My circle of liberal friends, if they talk about politics at all, do it in hushed whispers and hope someone will change the topic soon. In these discussions, they just repeat the latest talking points. How they can’t believe anyone thinks Hillary will take away their guns?

What is full-on political hysteria? Answer: Santa Fe, New Mexico before the 2016 DNC. What is the perfect opposite of full-on political hysteria? Answer: Santa Fe, New Mexico after the 2016 DNC. Santa Fe, the liberal bastion of the Southwest. The city that tries every single day to out San Francisco San Francisco. The city that adores New York City as the icon of perfection. Politically dead now. Unbelievable.

Think about it like this, if you’ll pardon the football analogy. If Hillary were a football team, her cheerleaders (in this case, Santa Fe liberals) would be sitting on the bench staring at the scoreboard with long faces, the fans in the stands would be dead silent and starting to walk out, and those watching the game on TV would be flipping channels to find something else to watch.

It’s that bad.

And yet! If you go to Nate Silver?s fivethirtyeight.com website, you will see that Trump still has only a 35 percent chance of winning! All the pollsters, even though now some of them are starting to show Trump gaining in swing states, are still predicting a Hillary victory. Team Hillary’s fans should be shouting at the top of their lungs from the stands and going wild. But they’re not.

It kind of gives me the same feeling that the movie Jaws did when at the beginning the girl goes swimming at night in the ocean. Then they start playing that music. You KNOW something really bad is about to happen! Well, at least bad for Hillary and the Democratic Party.

Then, on the radio, I hear Rush Limbaugh saying the pollsters are polling the wrong people. The pollsters are polling people who voted last time around or registered voters or likely voters (not sure how they calculate that last one), but they are not polling people who, like the formerly employed, then unemployed, then no longer seeking employment or counted as part of the job force, quit paying attention to politics way back when GHW Bush broke his promise about no new taxes and got his ass kicked by Bill Clinton. The party lost them back when the Republicans starting running losers like GHW Bush, Bob Dole, GW Bush, John McCain, and finally, that incredibly poor loser, Mitt Romney.

“They are out there in numbers unimaginable to the left. The sleeping giant.?And they have been awakened.

These people have been off the radar for so long the pollsters have forgotten who they are and have no idea how to sample them. These are the people who, when you drive around a normal neighborhood in flyover country, have Trump signs in their yards and stickers on their cars. The bitter clingers. The “deplorables.” They are out there in numbers unimaginable to the left. The sleeping giant. And they have been awakened.

And this time, the giant is going to crush the political psychopath of the century, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Are we, or are we not, all created equal?

by Devin

My apologies to you if you are one of those people who fully understands what America’s Founders meant by the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” that is found in the Declaration of Independence. This article was not written for you, although you might possibly discover something you didn’t know about your fellow citizens by reading on.

Nearly every American citizen of sufficient age is familiar, at least to some degree, with that statement of equality in the Declaration of Independence; yet, how many of us truly understand what it means?

It has become apparent to me (and very likely to others as well), that this phrase means something entirely different from what a majority of Americans now seem to think it means. I have held conversations with people who earnestly do not believe that any one person is born with more intelligence than any other person. This, I believe, is a foundational element of liberal thinking. The idea is that the entire explanation for intellectual variability, or variable artistic ability, or variable business acumen, is the existence of privilege and oppression. These two terms explain it all for so many today. And it relieves the conscience of those who have not achieved all they expected of themselves, which makes it doubly attractive to many.

If that poor child living in a slum had just had the kind of privilege the rich child living in a wealthy neighborhood with wealthy parents had, he (or she) would have gone just as far as the rich child did in whatever his (or her) pursuit might have been. If the black man (or woman) had experienced the same privilege as the white man (or woman), he (or she) would certainly have gone just as far. If white people weren’t constantly using their majority in the population to keep other races down, everyone would achieve the same level of success.

You may have noticed that I did not also include variability in athletic ability. This would be going too far in anyone’s estimation, because it is patently obvious to all that some people are born with greater athletic ability than others. It is far too easy to see it with your own eyes. It is undeniable. Sure, a skinny weakling with no coordination can work out, run, and play sports diligently until he or she improves his or her strength and coordination, but they cannot make themselves naturally grow to the size of the typical professional athlete and they cannot work hard enough in the arena to achieve the level of ability of the highest performers, if they are not naturally born with at least some extra degree of size and coordination.

So then, why do we expect human brains to be any different? Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges humans face is gauging the intellectual capacity of another person, or even ourselves. Unquestionably, you cannot judge the intellectual capacity of a person by their appearance. If you were given a yearbook full of photographs of students and tried to assign an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) to each student based on their appearance, there is no question that neither you, nor anyone else, could do it. And in the minds of many these days, the IQ is merely a measure of privilege or oppression a person has experienced in their life. All started with a clean slate and equal ability at birth.

Or did they?

If you are one of those who believes such a thing, then I challenge you to ask yourself a simple question. What oppression have you experienced and what privilege did Albert Einstein experience that explains why you are not held in equal intellectual esteem with Professor Einstein? Here is another question for you: How is it that even wealthy privileged parents sometimes give birth to babies that are, to use a most politically incorrect term these days, mentally retarded? Particularly when these parents have other children that demonstrate perfectly normal intelligence? Particularly when these parents go the extra mile showering their love and devotion on these special needs children?

If you are one of those who holds that everyone is born with equal intellectual capacity, it should be obvious to you by now that this is not the case. And if it is true that everyone is not born with an equal measure of intellectual capacity, then it must also be true that all of us are born with some degree of intellectual capacity that lies between the least possible degree of intellectual capacity and the greatest possible degree of intellectual capacity. And if that is true, then what on Earth did those crazy, slave-owning, racist, bigoted Founders of America mean by “all men are created equal?!” Truly!

To answer this question, we have to consider the time when the Declaration of Independence was written. Prior to the existence of the United States of America, all governed nations were ruled by kings and queens. Those territories not governed were ruled by tribes. No such thing as a President ever ruled a nation before the USA came along. Kings and queens derived their power, not from the people over whom they ruled, but by divine decree. Many were believed by their subjects to actually have the blood of their gods running in their veins. Others were given their special status above all others by God through their nation’s religious leaders. Regardless, the point is, these rulers all enjoyed (and in some countries today still do enjoy) a superior status above their subjects. This superior status was (and still is where such rulers still exist) necessary to maintain power. To not be questioned by the ruled as to their legitimacy to rule.

It was with this prevailing circumstance that America’s Founders most emphatically believed that it must be made absolutely and abundantly clear that such a superior status DOES NOT EXIST. Thus, “all men are created equal.”

Equal in status. Equal in the eyes of the law. Those governing do so by the consent of the governed. And only by the consent of the governed. Meaning that as soon as those governing begin to believe they are superior to (no longer equal, but above) the governed, the governed may choose not to consent and may remove them from office. The entire purpose of holding frequent and regular elections is to ensure that no one is more than one election away from losing their consent to govern. The unmitigated desire by so many politicians to win every election and stay in office is proof positive of how important it is that we citizens never stop reminding our rulers that we are equal to them and they are equal to us in status. That they are not, never have been, and never will be superior to those they have been given the privilege to govern.

To you and me, this seems obvious, but let me just tell you my friend, to those elected to office, it is not. Simply winning an election (nothing more than a popularity contest) is enough to swell the heads of most people. Then, after a few years of hanging around others that have also won election, those heads get even bigger. And finally, when the elected begin to acquire wealth as a result of their newfound power, only the most humble and thankful have any chance at all of not succumbing to the overwhelming and almost irresistible feeling of superiority.

And to those for whom this is not obvious, the phrase, “all men are created equal,” means created by God as equals in status. No matter how rich and/or powerful a person may be, in the eyes of the law as an American citizen, and in the eyes of God as a human being, that person is equal in status to the lowliest, poorest, most powerless, and unsuccessful person on Earth. (Unless, of course, that person is a Clinton!)

A Well Regulated Militia??

by Devin

Have you ever pondered what exactly the words of the 2nd Amendment mean? I mean, besides its purpose to protect your right to bear arms?

Let’s take a look at it. Here is the full text:

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.

The second half, after the comma, is pretty clear, other than the possibility of the term, “the People,” possibly being misinterpreted as meaning “the collective” and therefore meaning the State. But anyone with at least half a brain (four Supreme Court justices, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, notwithstanding) knows the founders weren’t a bunch of Marxists. No chance of such an interpretation ever gaining traction unless our government is able to erase the Founders entirely from our history. And how would they do that? Maybe, just maybe, they would start by replacing them on our currency with non-Founders?

Our beloved late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the landmark majority (5-4) opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller that made it absolutely clear that the 2nd Amendment refers to an individual right.

Anyway, for the moment, it doesn’t seem that the second part of the 2nd Amendment requires much attention. But what about that first part, “a well regulated militia?”

A quick search around the internet, or a conversation with pretty much any liberal, or simply an examination of Justice Stevens’ dissent in District of Columbia v. Heller, will reveal that more than a few people think those words, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State,” were meant by the Founders to be something like the National Guard. After all, isn”t the National Guard a well regulated militia?

Those first words of the 2nd Amendment are practically famous for misleading those who have never studied the Constitution. Many seem to think the Founders did not intend for individual citizens to have the right to keep and bear arms, but rather intended the formation of a paramilitary force, something like the National Guard, where the arms are locked up until some sort of insurrection requires they be brought out and used to restore the security of our free State. (For you Bernie Sanders fans out there, the term “free State” does not mean you get everything for free!)

These people seem to think that the second part of the 2nd Amendment was written to justify the first part. As we shall’see, however, it is exactly the opposite.

In the late 1700s, the Founders were not in the least bit concerned about justifying the need for a militia of any sort. They were most concerned about the danger posed by a standing army. They had seen firsthand how the British used a standing army to occupy the colonies and enforce British law or the King’s latest whim. They were also most recently reminded by their very own Continental Army following its victory over the British when the Continental Congress took its sweet time making good on its promise to pay the soldiers for their service. Standing armies were dangerous back then. They are no less so today.

The Founders understood that a standing army, “a well regulated militia” to use their words, would be a necessity if America were to be capable of defending herself from foreign enemies. Thus, they wrote and ratified the 2nd Amendment to guarantee that American citizens would have the ability to fight back against a rogue army or a rogue government directing an army.

In recognition of that fact, the 2nd Amendment was born. And to make it absolutely clear that the 2nd Amendment wasn’t about protecting the right of “the People” to hunt game and participate in shooting sports, or even about home defense, they stated right up front, at the very beginning, the purpose of the right of the People to keep and bear arms.

Forget the Great Depression, 1913 Was Far Worse

by Devin

The 16th and 17th Amendments were ratified in 1913. On February 3, the 16th Amendment gave the federal government the power to “lay and collect taxes on incomes.” Something the Founder’s never intended to happen. And to make matters worse, on April 8, ratification of the 17th Amendment changed how U.S. Senators are chosen, as originally laid out in Article I, Section 3, Clauses 1 through 3 of the Constitution.

Originally, U.S. Senators were chosen by the various State Legislatures. The full text is thus (bold emphasis mine):

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The full text of the 17th Amendment is thus (bold emphasis mine):

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

In the first sentence of the first clause of Article 1, Section 3, and of Amendment 17 the method of selection is changed from (referring to the States), “chosen by the Legislature thereof” to “elected by the people thereof.” The purpose of this change was to give direct control of the Senate to the people of each State. The argument for such a change is readily made by appealing to the desire of citizens to have direct control over the selection of their U.S. Senators. This, it would seem, is the most democratic way to ensure the citizens of each State are best represented in the U.S. Senate.

So what were the consequences of this change?

To answer that question, we must first understand why the Founders decided that U.S. Senators should be chosen by the State Legislatures, rather than by the people of each State. As we all know, and as is enshrined in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected by the people of each State. This, just like the selection process for U.S. Senators, was overtly intentional. That is why it is called, “The People’s House.”

On the other hand, the U.S. Senate was not intended to be another “people’s house.” It was intended to represent the governments of each State. Since each State Legislature represents the people of the respective States, the people would still be represented in the U.S. Senate, but indirectly through their State Legislatures.

If, at this point, you are thinking that all this sounds rather esoteric and unimportant, not to mention downright undemocratic, you are not alone. Ratification of the 17th Amendment depended upon just such a basic misunderstanding by American citizens of the Founders’ intent for the role of the U.S. Senate. A role that was, as originally envisioned and enacted by the Founders, to give voice to each State’s government in Congress.

You may ask, why do State governments need representation in Congress?

That’s a good’question. The answer can be found, ironically, in the 10th Amendment, which was ratified along with the first nine amendments in what is well-known to most as the Bill of Rights. The full text of the 10th Amendment reads thus:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

One sentence. Simple. This amendment was directly linked to the original role of the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Senate’s job was to ensure that no legislation made it through Congress that violated the terms of the 10th Amendment. This seems a little bit backward at first, because the 10th Amendment was ratified along with the rest of the Bill of Rights four years after the Constitution was ratified. But the whole purpose of the Bill of Rights was to spell out the 10 most important things the Constitution was designed to protect in such a way as to make it absolutely crystal clear, just in case there were ever any question. And how have there ever been questions!

Now that we have over 200 years of experience with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we can easily see just how incredibly smart it was to include the Bill of Rights! Given how frequently (practically daily) the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to religious freedom are being challenged and how often the First and Second Amendments are cited in defense, without the Bill of Rights, we would likely, by now, have none. Thank God for the Bill of Rights!

So what about that 10th Amendment? Why does it matter how U.S. Senators are selected?

Think about it. U.S. Senators, just like members of the U.S. House of Representatives, are beholden to those who put them there. If they were beholden to State governments, how easily do you think they could get away with passing federal legislation that in any way infringes upon the powers of the States? Not too easily. Think State sovereignty.

In this day and age, the States are constantly bullied by the federal government in various ways. The most recent occurrence being the direct threat to revoke federal funding for any public school that fails to implement a policy allowing any male or female to use any bathroom they choose. Why is our federal government in our school bathrooms?!

If you were around back when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 years, you might recall that while this happened nationwide, all at once, it was not done by federal law. It was done by the federal government threatening to withhold federal highway funds from any state that failed or refused to raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 years.

That’s right. The drinking age is not federal law. It is State law. And it used to be freely set by each State for their own citizens, as they saw fit. This is clearly a 10th Amendment issue, as setting the drinking age is not enumerated in the Constitution as a federal power. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1986 did not actually set a national minimum drinking age. It merely codified the federal government’s intent to extort the States into submission. This is a classic example of federal government bullying and overreach. Don’t believe me? Google it.

One State, Louisiana, fought the bullying, but eventually capitulated. If you are, or have ever been, in the U.S. Military, you know that on military bases the drinking age is still 18. Talk about hypocrisy! Apparently, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander!

So, back to answering our question about the consequences of the 17th Amendment. When U.S. Senators can pass federal laws that force State governments to act against their will, State governments can do nothing about it. Nothing. And since State governments comprise the most local and immediate representation of their citizens, the will of the people is subverted.

You may ask, if the people directly elect their U.S. Senators, why wouldn’t they simply kick them out of office for passing a law that subverted their will at the next election?

Simple. The people are busy living their lives and not paying attention. How else to explain Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain?! Furthermore, the people do not understand the significance of each federal law that chips away at local control of their lives. State governments, on the other hand, are a much smaller subset of each State’s citizens and their job is legislation. These are the very people who, given control of the U.S. Senate, would not stand for being bullied by the federal government. It used to be a major part of their job.

A second major consequence of the 17th Amendment was a major reduction in the public’s attention to whom they elect to their State legislatures. No longer having to worry about who their State Representatives and Senators might choose to send to Washington, D.C., their interest was severely diminished. As a result, State governments are now populated by people, about which, few of the people they represent know very much. And knowing that few voters are paying attention at the State level gives State legislators the ability to abuse their positions and be derelict in their duties.

So what would happen if the 17th Amendment were to be repealed?

Firstly, at each of the following three election cycles, the State Legislatures would appoint replacements for those U.S. Senators whose terms were up. Since as of this writing 30 States are under total Republican Party control, it is likely that the U.S. Senate would become dominated by Republicans in short order unless the Democratic Party suddenly made major gains in the State governments.

Secondly, numerous federal laws that trample on State sovereignty would be considered in Congress for repeal. And no bills further infringing on State sovereignty would make it past the U.S. Senate, thus taking a major step toward reigning in federal power. Federal agencies that have made a habit of imposing crippling regulations on States would be directly in the crosshairs of U.S. Senators who would have to answer to their State’s government if they did not put a stop to it.

In short, the bullying would end.

Thirdly, the voting citizens of each State would pay a heck of a lot more attention to the candidates running for their State Legislatures at election time. The citizens of each State would have a very big hammer to use against a runaway federal government in the form of their own State government. Any U.S. Senator not doing the bidding of his or her State’s government would be a one-termer. No campaigning to a public that is too busy living life and earning a living to stay on top of what is going on in D.C. would help.

Finally, think of the reduction in disgusting negative political television ads that would occur each election cycle if U.S. Senators no longer had to campaign to the public for office! That alone might make it worth it!

It is time to Repeal the 17th Amendment!