Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Politics = Religion?

In conversations and on social media following the Presidential election, I have heard some express dismay over the support for Donald Trump by religious people, including religious leaders, when it seems that he may embrace and even embody principles and behavior that deviate from accepted religious practice.  His comments on taking advantage of women, or mocking an ethnic group or a disabled person, do not seem in line with generally accepted religious practice, yet many of the faithful enthusiastically support him. Some observers wonder how can they be so staunch in their support of a person whose statements and behavior seem contradictory to the standards espoused by his supporters.

The answer is complex, but at its base is a very simple fact--much of Trump's support is based in the belief that he will solve many of our real or perceived problems, and faith in that outcome overrides contradictory statements or actions.  His supporters have faith in him, and that faith is so strong that they can consciously and subconsciously overlook and ignore his faults and shortcomings.

People of faith, any faith, have practiced and honed these skills.  All faiths require some rejection of fact or logic.  If a person truly believes in the veracity of the bible, they must reconcile the many disagreements between biblical accounts of human and natural history and observed facts.  Some create elaborate stories to account for such things as dinosaur fossils and evidence for human evolution.  Not all interpret scripture literally, but all must in some way reconcile discrepancies.

The lesson here is that, while we all recognize that a logical dismantling of the basis of someone's beliefs is unlikely to diminish their faith, and in fact may strengthen it, so too is logic, or pointing out inconsistencies or fault in Trump or his positions unlikely to dissuade his followers.  They believe in their leader, their faith is unwavering, and likely strengthened in the face of opposition, even when that opposition is factually and logically overpowering.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Why the wealthy right hates Planned Parenthood (and it has nothing to do with abortions)

Why the wealthy right hates Planned Parenthood (and it has nothing to do with abortions)

Do you wonder why the Republicans have made de-funding Planned Parenthood such a high priority?  The outrage over abortion seems overdone, given that it’s coming from people who generally love wars, adore guns and champion capital punishment.  Do these people really care that much about the unborn?

No.  They don’t.  Abortion is a red herring, a righteous rallying point for those who want to control the reproductive choices of women. Especially poor women.  They want to keep them poor, and they want them to keep cranking out babies who will grow up to fill the ranks of the impoverished labor pool. 

There are two important factors that influence family size decisions: economic stability and education. We know what happens when wealth is more evenly distributed.  Think of Scandinavia, Germany, and Italy.  When people rise above poverty, they tend to have smaller families.  People with resources to invest in their offspring are inclined to limit the number of offspring they have.  Some countries are even experiencing negative population growth.  Great for the planet, awful for the cancer of wealth through growth. People with nothing are likely to have more offspring.  They have few resources to devote to their offspring, so they produce more offspring, perhaps in hopes that one of them will make it.

Educating the poor, giving them access to information about reproductive options, is another way to reduce the birth rate, and the power brokers hate it. They do not want the workers to have access to reproductive counseling, birth control, and sex education.  No, they want a world divided between the haves and the have-nots, and they want lots and lots of have-nots to tote their bales and haul their barges.  Abortion?  Do you really think the billionaires care about some poor woman’s fetus?  No.  They only care that there are enough malleable workers to do their bidding. 

A great labor pool, eager to compete for low wages, is what the moneyed class wants. They do not want an even distribution of wealth, or even a strong middle class.  That would diminish their pool of cheap labor and increase costs, reducing profits.

Planned Parenthood is a stumbling block to furthering the income disparity in this country, and the Republican field bosses are cracking their whips and brandishing their torches. It is a strategy driven solely by greed, and unfortunately, supported by many otherwise good people who follow their religious and political leaders down a hallway to their doom.   The powerful have us by our reproductive organs, and they’re doing everything they can to hang on.

Friday, September 11, 2015

How real warriors hunt: Cowardly lion hunters and counting coup

How real warriors hunt: Cowardly lion hunters and counting coup
To hunt is human.  Hunting made us who we are.  Our hunting ancestors separated from the non-hunters over a million years ago, and never looked back.  They made tools, made sounds into words, developed strategies to outwit prey, and got a lot smarter along the way.  They learned to cooperate to bring down game much larger than themselves and embarked on an evolutionary trajectory that brought us to today.
I have lived among hunter-gatherers.  I have traveled in a small band that ate only what could be obtained from the forest.  I have heard children wail with hunger when there was no meat. I have seen the pride on the face of a hunter who brings in an animal that will fill everyone’s belly.  And I have seen the benefits a good hunter reaps—status, admiration, desire as a mate, respect as a leader.
Yes, we are hunters, going back thousands of generations. We evolved to hunt. We are good at it, and until relatively recently many people relied on hunting for sustenance.  Some still do, but the numbers are dwindling.  Fewer and fewer need to hunt for meat. It is easier and cheaper to buy it.
But the thrill of the hunt, and the desire for the admiration of others, makes hunting hard to give up.  In recent years, killing for the sake of ego has come under fire.  Killing an animal for pleasure or for self-aggrandizement, especially as animal numbers and habitats shrink, seems less admirable, and some find it despicable, horrid, and evil.
Well, it is just people being people.  Anthropologists and biologists call the practice of doing things to gain the attention and admiration of others “costly signaling,” and it has gone on since the dawn of time.  Being a good hunter has long been a way to signal that a person was strong, intelligent, courageous, even generous.  But those days are mostly behind us. Hunting is being supplanted economically, and now socially as well. Signaling your prowess by killing animals works only in limited social circumstances.  We have substitutes these days.  Excel at sports, in art, in science, in business.  Be funny, be a leader, be neighborly. Gain status by deeds that are more acceptable in a modern setting.
And what about hunting? There is absolutely nothing wrong with hunting.  As long as there are hungry people and appropriate game, there should be hunting.   How should we organize hunting in today’s world?  Let’s start by feeding the poor. I propose we make hunting licenses available for little or no cost to all who qualify for food stamps and other assistance.  We should even provide them with rifles and other gear.  Additional licenses should go only to those who need and will use the meat. 
Oh, and two additional things. There will be no trophies.  The time for that is over. And no hunting for predators. If predators must be reduced, they should be killed by game wardens, not those who want to kill for fun.  That is a practice we should probably not reward.
And now for the ultimate thrill.  The thrill of besting an animal, of risking your life and living to tell about it. The Crow and other Plains Indian groups figured this out a long time ago. It is one thing to kill an enemy, but for the ultimate triumph, the greatest status-boost imaginable, count coup.  Touch your enemy and get away.  So, why not count coup on wild animals? Run up to a mighty bull elk and pat it on the back.  Get it on film.  Kick a bear on the bottom.  Kiss a moose. Take a tiger by the tail.  Everyone would be in awe.  They would admire you and hold you in the highest esteem.  And surely that is a lot better than losing your dental practice and going into hiding.

Kevin T. Jones is an archaeologist, writer, and blogger.  He lives in Salt Lake City.

Monday, August 3, 2015

My Op-ed article that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune Sunday, August 2, 2015
Op-ed: Utah’s disdain for Native heritage breaks my heart
Kevin Jones.

Courtesy photo
Utahns pride themselves on being different, even exemplary, in their community spirit, neighborliness and respect for others.
Why, then, do our elected officials show indifference, and even contempt for the Native American archaeological treasures that grace our state? Utah is known for its exquisite rock art, cliff dwellings and dry desert caves. The state has some of the most spectacular, well-preserved and information-rich archaeological sites in North America, and perhaps the world.
People in many places revere and protect their archaeological resources, see them as treasures, and build economies around them. Machu Picchu, Stonehenge, Mesa Verde, the Great Wall, and many more come to mind. Utah, renowned as an archaeological wonder, chooses to ignore and neglect its heritage. And it breaks my heart.
Utah was one of the first states to protect archaeological sites from vandalism and unnecessary damage, and in 1973 established the Antiquities Section and the office of the State Archaeologist. Just a few years ago, that position was eliminated. Belt tightening, they said.
When federal officers arrested more than 20 people for taking artifacts and robbing graves of the ancient Anasazi people, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett decried the “extreme show of force,” a sentiment repeated by many. Few, mainly Native Americans and archaeologists, spoke out against the desecration of heritage and sacred sites all artifact collectors are complicit in.
More recently San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman was convicted of two misdemeanors for leading a group of ATVs down Recapture Canyon near Blanding to protest its closing. Outraged, legislators took up a collection, and two of the first donors were Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who dipped into their own campaign funds. In addition, the governor has directed the attorney general to determine whether the road closure was legal.
Why should anyone care where Commissioner Lyman rides his trail machine? Because Recapture Canyon is graced with incredible archaeological riches. I have walked in Recapture Canyon and have seen the mysterious and awe-inspiring homes, storage structures, and places of worship built there by the ancient Anasazi. Should Recapture Canyon be open to motorized recreation? No more than should the Salt Lake Cemetery, the Cathedral of the Madeleine or Temple Square. We know how we are expected to behave in those historic, spiritual places, but we apparently think differently when it comes to Native American heritage and holy ground.
Sadly, many in our state do not respect Native culture and heritage. In doing so they fail to recognize a significant segment of our population and a substantial aspect of our heritage. Native people, whose ancestors lived in this area for 12,000 years before the first Mormons found their way to San Juan County, make up the majority of the county’s citizens. Just as it saddens me to see pictures of ISIS fighters desecrating ancient artifacts in the Middle East, it hurts to realize that our leaders have so little respect for the heritage of our region. I am deeply saddened to realize that Utah is still actively working to alienate and diminish our Native people, and wish it were not so.
Utah’s active disinterest in caring for its magnificent archaeological heritage led me to write to President Obama and ask that he use the Antiquities Act to designate one or more National Monuments to honor and protect Utah’s archaeological and native American heritage.
The state’s disdain for these treasures and cultures leaves no other option. I urge others to join me in asking our president to act.
Kevin T. Jones is an archaeologist, writer and blogger. He lives in Salt Lake City.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bishop sold his soul to the devil, and the devil is coal

Utah Representative Rob Bishop and a number of county commissioners have sold their tiny, withered, carbon-blackened souls to the devil, and the devil is coal.

Bishop is so over the top in his comment regarding new regulations for coal mines that even professional prevaricators are astounded: "Clearly, the Obama administration will stop at nothing to stomp out American livelihoods dependent on coal," said Rep. Rob Bishop, Republican chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

This, in response to a proposal to keep coal mines 100 feet back from streams, a proposal estimated to increase the cost of coal by one-tenth of one percent (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/17/2015). http://www.sltrib.com/home/2739111-155/new-rule-to-protect-streams-near
Nevermind that the regulations will help keep water supplies used by many thousands of citizens, including children, clean.  No, the administration is not trying to keep pollution out of the water supply, it is trying to stomp out livelihoods.  According to the devil.

Utah’s elected officials are apoplectic over the possibility of a new National Monument in Utah, and are going on the offensive against the Obama administration for even thinking of designating a monument here.  And county commissioners are contradicting their own chamber of commerce to spread lies about the effect of the Grand Staircase National Monument on the local economy.

"We have communities that are disappearing. Garfield is a ghost county. This is horrific for the consequence to our state, our communities, the schools, the health of the lands," Ivory (State Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan) said, referring to a recent declaration of a "state of emergency" by Garfield County commissioners. "They are losing their schools, they are exporting their children, they are exporting their families." (Salt Lake Tribune 7/17/2015). http://www.sltrib.com/home/2738238-155/utah-officials-lawmakers-join-anti-monument-push?page=2

But the President of the Chamber of Commerce disagrees: "There is no state of emergency as far as we are concerned. It has been contrived by the county commission and the mayor," said Chamber of Commerce President Dennis Waggoner, co-owner of Escalante Outfitters. His family's resort, which employs 18, is 98 percent booked this season.

The wretched creatures propped up and put in office by the toxin-spewing extractive industries get their talking points straight from the devil’s (oops, I mean the coal industry’s public relations hacks) mouth. 

The facts are—all industries, including mining, have the potential to cause environmental damage, which is bad for our health.  There must be rules to keep them from killing people and making them sick.  Representative Bishop does not care about whether coal mines kill people, he just cares about keeping the industry happy so they keep writing him checks.  And the same for the county commissioners who think that lies loudly proclaimed will be heard and listened to.  Maybe they know their constituents better than I do.  Maybe their constituents do not care about the facts, and favor leaders who will tell them comforting lies, lies that make pollution desirable, conservation an abomination, and stewardship a mortal sin. 

Clearly the devil is at work here, and that devil is coal.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Stacking stones to make a statement

Should we stop stacking stones?

Robyn Martin has written for an end to the practice of building rock cairns in the back county.  She has some valid points, and the article has generated some healthy debate.  I think stacking stones could be a way for those who love the outdoors to communicate, to make statements about caring for the earth.  Make small cairns. Little stacks.  Stacks of love:

Stack stones in improvised ATV trails. Stack them in switchback shortcuts. Stack them by drill pads, by trash piles, by shot-up signs, on pipeline scars. Stack them to make something beautiful where people have left destruction and waste. Stack them with care. They needn't be intrusive or outrageous. Small stacks. Stacks of beauty. Stacks of love. 


Friday, July 3, 2015

Saints Lyman and Bundy

Saints Lyman and Bundy

Supporters of convicted San Juan County, Utah, Commissioner and land-use protester Phil Lyman have lined up to hand him cash to help out with his defense and fines.  Utah’s Governor Herbert and Lieutenant Governor Cox were first to toss crisp bills in Lyman’s direction. http://www.sltrib.com/home/2656452-155/taxpayers-off-the-hook-gov-herbert  Contributions to aid someone convicted of a federal crime?  What’s going on?

And Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who hasn’t paid his grazing fees to the government for years, is visited by presidential candidate Rand Paul (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/07/01/why-rand-paul-should-back-away-from-cliven-bundy-now/ ) who says that they’re “in tune with each other.”

Now, supporters of Lyman have created an organization called the Recapture Institute (www.recaptureinstitute.org), that supports Lyman. And someone has created a T-shirt that shows Lyman alongside Gandhi, Rosa Parks, the Tiananmen Square protester, and Chief Joseph, implying that Lyman is some sort of inspirational leader of significance (http://www.sltrib.com/news/2690889-155/t-shirt-salutes-gandhi-rosa-parks-chief).  Really?  It’s much more than mere exaggeration, although it was likely done tongue-in-cheek, with an attempt at humor, the kind of silly Utah humor that led the Orem Owlz to schedule Caucasian Night.  A typical case of Utah cluelessness.

Are Bundy and Lyman heroes? 

Some apparently think so.  But who?  Oil company executives, for sure.  The Koch brothers, for instance, whose firm supports western states' efforts to take control of federal lands (http://www.sltrib.com/news/2669342-155/rolly-firm-hired-by-legislature-for ).  The Kochs surely don’t care where Lyman and his motorhead pals ride their trail machines, but they would certainly rather deal with weak state environmental laws than have to comply with federal regulations that serve to protect the land and the health of our citizens.

Bundy and Lyman are not devils.  They are regular guys trying to get ahead.  Trying to get something that belongs to all of us for themselves.  Bumbling and self-serving, for sure, but not devils. And they, and many others, see the federal government as an obstacle, and worse, as an enemy.  (For instance, see Anne Landman’s piece on anti-government sentiment in western Colorado: http://annelandmanblog.com/2015/06/grand-junctions-growing-hate-community/ ). 

They are, unfortunately, being egged on, with encouragement and piles of tainted cash, by politicians and corporate land users, people who care only about making money, even at the expense of our natural and cultural environment. People and corporations who do not care about environmental destruction and the health of our citizens, who don’t really care about Lyman’s ride on an old dirt road, priceless Anasazi cliff-dwellings, or Bundy’s cows, people who care only about their own profits. 

No, Lyman and Bundy are not saints, heroes, or even devils.  They are pawns.  Dupes.  Little people being painted as leaders by conniving capitalists intent on getting all they can for themselves, and leaving average citizens with nothing but a toxic wasteland to ride their little scooters on, scooters bought from those same corporations that conspired to scorch the earth Lyman and Bundy claim to love.