Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thanks and Feedback

[Johnathan Clayborn]
First of all, dear readers, thank you. Today marks the day where readership of my blog has reached over 1,000 views. It’s a small milestone, I know, but it’s not too shabby for a small intellectual blog that I don’t really advertise.
On average I get about 168 views a month when I only post an average of 5.5 posts. That breaks down to about 30.5 views per post.
I have had readers from all over the world; the United States, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Malaysia, Turkey and Georgia.
A lot of the more interesting follow-up conversations happen off-site, either through Facebook or through email or on the phone. But, as I was explaining just last night, the purpose of this blog isn’t to shove my ideas down people’s throats and assert my “rightness” on these issues. It’s simply to provide me a place to vent the deep thoughts that I have sometimes have and to provide my readers with an article that makes them think or question or ponder, even if only for a moment. Being highly intellectual I crave those topics that really make me think, even if I disagree with the overall point of view. Those opposing points of view that have been carefully represented and backed up by research or other empirical data I truly appreciate it as it makes me re-evaluate my own thoughts and I’m able to ask myself “does this opinion come from biased feelings that I have, or is there actually a valid reason to think this way?”
What I would like to know is this; what topics do you want to hear about? Do you have any specific requests for articles for me to research? What do you like or dislike about this blog?
Also, as an Athenaeum is an institution that is dedicated to the promotion of learning I have tried to keep many of my articles as unbiased as possible. I have been toying with the idea of opening up this blog to other authors who may also wish to write intellectual articles of a similar fashion. In the promotion of knowledge and making people think it could be good to present ideas from more than just one person. What are your thoughts on that? Would you be interested in reading articles from other authors as well?
Anyway, thank you all for your readership this far. I sincerely hope that I can meet some of my self-imposed goals and that you do (at least occasionally) leave this blog thinking about the topics that I’ve written about.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Evolutionary Musings

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Based on all of the new information I have learned about the plethora of member species with the genus Homo and the genus Australopithecus I have been wracking my brain with all kinds of questions about evolution and humanity.
Clearly, in my mind, the mountain of data and fossils that they have uncovered seem to soundly refute the notion of intelligent design as even being a possibility. A glance at comparison photos of known hominid skulls speaks more to this than I can ever do with words: http://jisciences.blogspot.com/2010/01/human-evolution-101.html. The resemblance between several of these skulls as compared to modern humans (bottom right) is astounding.
But, of course, having stated that I do not believe that intelligent design is the answer is not the same thing as saying that I believe that scientists have the right answer either. Clearly, they’re still trying to figure it out as well. Much of the evidence that I’ve seen leads me to believe that they are on the right track, however, it also makes me wonder how long it will take before we fully understand and ancient family tree, if that day ever comes to pass.
The first thing that should be pointed out to continue this discussion intelligently is to consider the entire mountain of research that has been completed with regards to the Human Genome Project. The entire human DNA genome was sequenced and decoded. Many hundreds of studies have been done on the DNA of modern humans and we now more about ourselves than ever have before.
In fact, by studying the different genetic mutations of the human hapologroups scientists have been able to recreate the historical migratory pattern of our human ancestors for tens of thousands of years. Maps such as this one: http://www.kerchner.com/images/dna/ydna_migrationmap_(FTDNA2006).jpg and this one: http://www.roperld.com/graphics/MigrationMap.jpg. One interesting thing about these DNA studies is that they seem to loosely confirm some of the biblical concepts found in Genesis; every living person on Earth is descended from one common male ancestor and one common female ancestor. The only scientific hitch is that these individuals did not live at the same time.
All of this type of information, dating back to around 200,000 years ago, is a relatively small amount of time on the time-scale of human evolution. Scientists had believed that they had found a generalized “tree” of evolution that showed that humans descended from Neanderthals, and that if you go far enough back there was a common ancestor that tied everything neatly together. Many, many times this concept has been referenced within popular culture. The Geico commercials featuring the “cavemen” is one such example, as are movies like “iceman” and “homo erectus” and even an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled Genesis where the crew de-evolves into more primitive species. Commander Riker turns into a Neanderthal.
Now, this is one point where I want to stop and explain one surprising counter-argument that I’ve found against evolution. There was one particular blog post I was reading a few days ago where the gentleman who wrote the blog was essentially saying that evolution is wrong because it’s racist and that it was only intended to prove that Africans and other non-white peoples were primitive and stupid, and then worthy of enslavement and mistreatment. Naturally, I had to set the record straight. In terms of evolutionary biology the word “primitive” does not mean “stupid or unintelligent”, it means “most like the original specimen.  As one example, suppose that you were to look at all of the different models of cell phones that exist today. Some a flip-phones, some are touch-screens, some are smart phones, some so-called “candy bar phones”. But, if you look at all of the different models of phones and their styles and functions there are many traits and characteristics that they have in common. But there is one trait or feature that all cell phones share; a number keypad; thus logically we can deduce that if all phones have a numbered keypad, then that is something that that must have come from the original model of cell phone since it is a trait that is present on its modern day descendants. Scientists refer to this “common denominator trait” as the primitive trait (as opposed to the advanced trait, which is the result of the process of evolution).
Putting that analogy to application in the evolutionary sense, “eyebrow ridges” (aka; supraorbital torus) is a trait that is found in every species of the genus Homo, Australopithecus, Pan, and Gorillini. Based on this, scientists have concluded that eyebrow ridges are a primitive trait, one that our common ancestor had as well. Based on genetic sequencing of fossil remains, scientists also believe that fair skin is a primitive trait and that darker colored skin is a more advanced trait; an evolutionary defense mechanism that people developed to protect themselves against the sun.  This particular topic, and this word in and of itself is one that is misunderstood and has been the cause of many debates over and over. For the record; scientists no longer believe that we are descended from Neanderthals, but instead that they were a sister species. They also do not believe that the Neanderthals were unintelligent. There is evidence to support that Neanderthals made tools, used projectile weapons, had language and some researchers even postulate that they may have developed art and music. In fact scientists now believe that one of the hominid ancestors, Homo Erectus sailed the ocean on rafts more than 700,000 years ago. When a scientist is calling a species primitive it is not in regards to its intelligence. Even modern day Gorillas and Chimpanzees can be taught to speak in sign language and understand human language, even if they are not able to reproduce those sounds. Clearly this is a sign of intelligence as well.
There have been a lot of changes in the concept of human evolution recently. Much of it is the result of new fossils that have been found within the last 10 years. Take, for example, this fossil found only two years ago: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/03/24/new-ancestor-scientists-ponder-dna-siberia/ or this one found in 2007: http://news.softpedia.com/news/New-African-Fossils-Further-Complicate-Human-Evolution-62257.shtml. Many opponents of evolution will cite these are arguments that these finds disprove evolution. I would disagree with them. Evolution has been proven as a concept as far as I am concerned. You want examples? Look at the donkey, a cross-breed between a mule and a horse. Take modern almonds as another example; the historically ancient version was poisonous to human consumption. And what about modern corn? It’s more than 3 times as large as its ancient ancestors with larger kernels.  The fact that there is so much ambiguity and confusion about the process of human evolution just means that we don’t have all of the answers. Look at the how many times we’ve been wrong before; the world was flat, the sun revolved around the earth, reflex was the result of an internal hydraulic pressure system, etc. Whenever you are trying to piece together a puzzle and old and as complex as this one you are bound to run into instances where the pieces don’t quite fit just right, even though it looks like it belongs there. This process is no different. As evidence that evolution is not only possible, but probable, consider this naturally occurring hybrid shark found off of Australia a few months ago: http://news.discovery.com/animals/hybrid-shark-australia-climate-change-120103.html.
But, even understanding that there are some margins of trial and error there are many questions that I have about humanity and evolution. One such example is the consideration given to the competing theories on human evolution. One of the most popular and widely accepted theories is that Humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens specifically) migrated out of Africa and colonized the rest of the planet starting at around 150,000 years ago. This is called the Recent African Origin theory (RAO). The biggest evidence supporting this theory as being correct is the many hundreds of thousands of DNA studies conducted during the Human Genome Project (the maps I posted earlier). This is regarded as fact; humans did migrate out of Africa, no one is disputing that claim. But is this the only possible explanation?
The main competing explanation of the Recent African Origin Theory (also called the Recent Single-Origin Hypothesis (RSOH)) is the so-called Multiregional Origin Hypothesis. This model states that the human beings are different all over the world because they are all one species that diversified to fit their environment and that these “ancient bones” are all also human and just other examples of this diversification. Their primary arguments center around the fact that Homo Erectus is found in both Asia and Africa at the same time and that Homo Ergaster is physiologically similar to Homo Erectus to the point that some experts believe them to be the same species.
Pragmatically, there are issues with both of these theories. With regards to the multi-region theory, if all of these fossils are the diversification of a single species, then where did that species come from? This particular theory is most-often posited by those who favor intelligent design. But, on the other hand, if the RSOH is correct, then where did all of the other species of Homo go?  If they are so genetically close to us, why did they die off and we survive?
These questions lead me to profound questions of my own. It has been pointed out numerous times that the overall skeletal morphometry of modern humans is wildly diverse. It’s also been pointed out that some modern humans have physiological characteristics in common with these ancient bones. Therefore, one question that comes up is did the ancient Early Human Ancestors (formerly known as “cave men”) interbreed with the other species of Homo during the last few hundred thousand years and is there evidence of that today? The results seem to indicate that this is likely true. Some studies have shown that some middle eastern DNA sequences have between 4-8% DNA genome in common with Homo Neanderthalensis. This is suggestive of interbreeding.  It’s also been pointed out that the skulls of Malaysians, some Asians, and Aborigine Australians (among others) have many physical traits in common with Homo Erectus, such as the prominent supraorbital torus, and the sloping forehead.  There have been some studies that seem to support this (http://ethesis.nitrkl.ac.in/2406/1/brijeshthesis.pdf, http://unsw.academia.edu/StephenWroe/Papers/1527145/Human_remains_from_the_Pleistocene-Holocene_transition_of_southwest_China_suggest_a_complex_evolutionary_history_for_East_Asians) however, the data and the studies that have been done on non-Africans and non-Europeans have been very limited. Thus, it begs the question; are those humans examples of cross-breeding between Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Erectus, or are those humans modern day living examples of actual Homo Erectus specimens? The studies conclusively show that modern human skull characteristics differ considerably across the globe. This further begs the question; are these morphometric variances within tolerance for a shared taxonomic classification as evidenced by scientific standards, or should the variances be broken down into different taxonomic classifications? And does the entire genus Pan deserve to be moved within the genus Homo based on the close genetic kinship? There is a precedence for such an action based on prior DNA comparisons of other non-human species. And if that happens then would chimps then be considered “human”? Paleoarchelogists have determined that many species of early hominids used fire, tools and had developed language and some of them they theorize had art. Many of them lived in social settings much like we do. Thus, I can’t help but wonder, what does it mean to be “human” and where does one draw the proverbial line in sand between “human” and “nonhuman”? As you reflect on that question go take a look at the reconstructions of the fossils found here; http://www.daynes.com/en/reconstructions.php and really ponder what it means to be human.

Friday, March 16, 2012

In Search of Answers

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Sometimes the most interesting things that you learn are things that you discover entirely by accident. This was certainly the case for me this week. Before I get to the meat of my article, I beg you to indulge me a paragraph or two explaining how I stumbled across all of this information.
To begin this story properly I need to take you back to 2005. I was very active in the online genealogy circles for people researching the Clayborn family. I was literally getting a few emails a week from people asking if I had heard of this person, or if I knew what happened to that person, etc. Then I had received an email from Dr. Alex Waldrop, a genetic researcher who was overseeing the Clayborn Family DNA Study. I was intrigued. I had never heard of this before.
Dr. Waldrop explained how Y-Chromosome DNA was passed down genetically from father to son with only very minor mutations over vast periods of time. This is the same basic test that courts use to determine father-son paternity. In theory, if you traced your family tree back to your great-great-great-great-great grandfather and you found his brother and you followed the line down through his son’s son’s son’s son, etc. until you found your modern day cousin, then you and he should have these exact same genetic markers in common. Naturally, this type of tool would be invaluable to genealogists because it could provide clues and links when a paper trail runs cold. Dr. Waldrop was compiling a results database of Clayborn DNA and he asked me to participate in the study. I agreed and in a few weeks a kit came and I swabbed my cheek and sent it off.
About a month later the results came back. The accompany report turned my world upside down. While I was part of Haplogroup R1b1 like the Clayborns, my DNA was not even remotely close to anything that even resembled a Clayborn. There was no doubt of my recent ancestry due to strong family traits and characteristics. I look as much like my father as my son looks like me. So then we went back to the paper trail and noticed a discrepancy in the 1860 census and came to discover that my ancestors were adopted by the Clayborns at that time.
Armed with this knowledge I examined my ancestors’ mother, Christina Croy. Naturally, I compared my DNA to that of the Croy family. Much to my disappointment I did not match them either. And that’s where the trail goes cold. Christina Croy totally disappears prior to 1850. Her early life, and the clues about the father of my ancestor are buried in some scrap of information that I have not been able to located on paper.
Naturally, I turned back to what I did have, my DNA results. I routinely search Y-Chromosome DNA databases in the hopes that a match will just appear one day where previously none had existed. So far my searches have been utterly fruitless. I do know that I have two extremely rare genetic markers for my specific haplogroup. One marker occurs only in 0.5% of the R1b1 population. The other marker occurs in 0.3% of the population. I often joke that due to this I’m a freak of nature, but the truth of it is that the statistical probability of some other family that’s not genetically related to me having these exact same mutations is so low that they should be considered an extreme improbability.
I was reading more about Y-DNA research as it relates to ancestry and some of the articles that I stumbled across took me from looking at Y-DNA studies of the recent ancestry and paternal lineage to Y-DNA studies of ancestry of the human species as a whole. I was surprised, but I learned to two important things; first, the taxonomic classification system is far more complex than they taught me in high school, and second, there is a massive amount of evidence that would seem to disprove the very notion of intelligent design.
First, the taxonomic classification system according to High School science is 8 levels deep. It goes; life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. In truth, this is infinitely more complex. Humans are 25 levels down in the classification system. There are also sub-kingdoms, sub-phylums, sub-orders, infraorders, parvorders, superfamilies (like the mob, I guess), sub-families, and tribes. Logically, I should have realized that High School science barely scratched the surface here, but I did not image that it would be so complex. The main reason for this is because prior to that time I did not have a need to know.
The second lesson was the most surprising; intelligent design seems more and more like a far-fetched idea with each passing year. Why do I say this? Because of the large amount of data that exists about other species in the genus Homo.
Everyone knows that we’re Homo Sapiens. What most people don’t know is that we’re actually Homo Sapiens Sapiens. This is to differentiate us from our extremely closely related genetic cousins, Homo Sapiens Idaltu who lived around 160,000 years ago. In fact, artists renditions of the skulls found of Idaltu show that they are so closely related to us that it would difficult to distinguish them on sight alone if they were alive today.
And, of course, let’s not forget Homo Neanderthalensis, once thought to be a direct ancestor of the human species scientists now believe them to genetically related cousins, albeit ones that did not contributed any considerable DNA to our present physiology, thus making them a parallel and separate species. The same thing is true of Homo Erectus.
Among the many other species within the genus Homo are; H. Gautengensis, H. Rudolfensis, H. Habilis, H. Ergaster, H. Antecessor, H. Heidelbergensis, H. Erectus, H. Rhodesiansis, H. Neanderthalensis, H. Floresiansis and the newly discovered Denivosa Hominin.  While some of these species are decidedly ape-like or inhuman in their appearance, others are quite similar to modern humans.
For me, the biggest question that is raised by the discovery of all of these different species is this; if God is perfect, and if intelligent design is truly the explanation for the origin of the Human race, then why were there so many different variations of human-related species? And why did none of them survive? Surely God would not have created a species that he knew to be flawed. It is obvious that scientists today still do not have definitive answers, but with each passing discovery it seems less and less likely that Humans are the direct creation of God.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012?

[Johnathan Clayborn]
I was watching the news last night and the reporter was talking about this viral video with over 40 million hits. The video was about something called Kony 2012. Naturally, in typical news fashion, they didn’t explain a single thing about the video other than it was something that everyone should take the 30 minutes to watch.
Being the ever-curious person that I am, I saw the video. Being a compassionate person I’ll admit that I got suckered into it too. Luckily one of my friends was quick to send me over some other information that made me re-evaluate the video more critically.
I will summarize the video for those of you who haven’t seen it. The video brings to light the actions of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel army operating in central Africa. According to the video, the film-maker first learned of Kony in 2003 when he was visiting Uganda. He met a small child named Jacob whose brother had been murdered by Kony. Kony burned the schools and would steal away small children while they slept. The video shows horrible conditions of thousands of people practically sleeping one on top of another for safety. The interview with Jacob continues and the boy says that he’d rather die than stay alive because there’s no hope for his future.
It’s pretty heart-wrenching stuff. The video explains that the young girls that the LRA steals away are forced into prostitution rings. The young boys that are stolen are forced to shoot and kill their parents and become part of Kony’s army, which is, according to the video, more than 30,000 strong.
The video talks about how news about Kony has spread and that the US government finally went to help by sending 100 military advisors over to Uganda to help train and advise the Ugandan Army on how to find Kony. The video also explains that through the donations of people like you, new schools and jobs have been built and people have hope now.
The video further goes on to say that they need your help right now in order to keep the pressure up and ensure that Kony is stopped, and for a donation of just a few dollars a month you can receive a free kit that has posters and stickers and things that will make Kony famous and make the government bring him to justice, this year, before December 31st, 2012 so that our children can inherit a world better than the one that we were born into.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to watch that video and not feel something; anger, pity, bewilderment, something. However, as the link my friend sent me points out, not all may be as it seems. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that Kony is evil and should be brought to justice, that’s not the case at all, but let’s look at some of the other things.
First, there are some people who object to the video’s makers, Invisible Children, Inc, to wanting to make him “famous”. They argue that they should be trying to make him “infamous”. On this point I say that the opponents of this video are splitting hairs. It’s clear that the film maker is using the word “famous” as a synonym for “notorious”. Okay, so maybe vocabulary isn’t the guy’s strongest suit. To me that seems like a rather petty issue to argue.
Some of the opponents of this video take objection with the manner in which the message is spread. They argue that by using campaign signs that say “Kony 2012” that they are, in fact, endorsing him and his actions lending credibility where none is deserved. Really? Come on, give me a break. This is a basic marketing ploy. Film-makers do it. The news does it. Car companies do it. They feed you some tiny snippet of information to get your curiosity up so that you’ll go figure out what it is. In marketing terms this is called a “hook”.  Okay, so they see the campaign signs. I’m willing to admit that I might be suffering from false-consensus effect, but I would like to believe that’s not the case. I think that most people would say to themselves “Kony? I’ve never heard of Kony.” And then they would Google “Kony 2012” and stumble across their campaign to bring him to justice.
The rest of the arguments against the video are far more serious though. First, the video claims that “for a donation of just a few dollars a month you can get a free kit”. What they don’t tell you is that this “few dollars” is $15 per month, minimum. Anything less than that and you have to buy the kit at $30….oh yeah, and they’re backordered and they aren’t even guaranteeing that they’ll ship in time for their big to-do on April 20th either.
Okay, so you decide to give $15 a month a month and you got your free kit. Where is that money actually going? Well, the first thing that you should be aware of is that only 31% of the money that’s donated actually goes to helping anyone. Don’t believe it? Look at their financial statements (http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/737/original/FY11-Audited%20Financial%20Statements.pdf?1320205055)
The video also alleges that they need to provide equipment to the people and the army to better stay on top of Kony’s movements. The video calls this “real-time tracking”. However, according to Page 9 of their financial statements (see Note 1, paragraph 3) it very clearly states that this technology will be used for a twice-daily broadcast.  Last time I checked “twice daily” is not “real time”.
So where is this money going and can you trust your donation? By default donations are available for general use. So they can use them to buy the $751,000 of computer equipment that they own, or the $177,000 it cost them to make that video. But, donors can “flag” or “earmark” their donations to go to a specific cause, like, you know, actually helping out the Ugandans and other Africans that they’re promoting help for. But, there’s a catch; this earmark is only temporary (as mentioned in their financial statement). Thus, all they have to do is sit on your donation until that time frame expires and then they’ll be able to use it for whatever they want. Pretty cool, huh?
There are some websites that do independent verification of charities to help ensure that you aren’t donating to some scam-scheme and pissing your money away. One such website is Charity Navigator. I went to that site and I looked up Invisible Children and four other similar charities who claim to help people in Africa. The other four charities were; water.org, Amref USA, Africare and Children of the Nations. (Links are posted below).
The first thing that I noticed is that Invisible Children has an overall rating of 3 (out of 4) and a score of 51.52 out of 70. Not bad, right? Would it surprise to learn that out of the 5 charities I looked at this one scored the lowest? All of the others were a rating of 4 with a score in the 60s.
Charity Navigator also breaks down where the money is going as well. In addition to being the lowest overall scoring charity out of the five charities it’s also the one that spends the most on “administrative costs” in comparison to the rest of their expenditures.
There are some opponents that claim that the Invisible Children is claiming that they want peace, when in truth they are just war-mongering bastards who want Kony dead, not tried. Their proof? This photo of the founders of Invisible Children holding weapons. (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_-PnDZmngAhM/Sa_KBGNySiI/AAAAAAAAAJY/uBOfiAysghs/s1600-h/IMG_2941.JPG) I say, so what? There’s a picture of them holding weapons. Just because they’re holding weapons doesn’t mean that they intend to use them on Kony. A) They’re guys. The vast majority of guys would pose for a picture with a weapon if given the opportunity. B) You can’t tell intent from a still photo that can be easily taken out of context. It’s possible that the soldiers of the army asked them to pose with them for thanks in bring the US troops and supplies over. I don’t know. There’s no other references thus making it impossible to know what this photo is all about. And if they are right and they really want Kony dead? Again, I say, so what? Let’s not forget that Osama Bin Laden was hunted down and executed while he slept for war crimes against America. Why should Kony’s treatment be any different? Sure, the ideal solution would be to peacefully arrest him and make him stand trial so that the ICC can sentence him to die. But, let’s be pragmatic about it. This man is a war criminal. He’s spent the last two decades of his life fighting one group after another; the National Resistance Army (NRA), the Ugandan Army and many other smaller warlords and tribal villages. Based on his prior behavior what in the world makes anyone think that this man will suddenly denounce his entire way of life and give up peacefully?  Especially after two of his top commanders; Vincent Otti and Raska Lukwiya had already been killed in action rather than surrendering.  Allegedly, in July of 2006 Kony told the Vice President of Southern Sudan that he is not willing to stand trial (although admittedly the proof of this statement is sketchy).
Next, I’d like to address this notion that the video puts forth; we should all write our elected officials and demand that they bring Kony to justice and insist that they keep the troops in Africa. First, I’d like to point out that the US had been involved with the search for Kony since 2008, with our assistance to the Ugandan Army in the unsuccessful Operation Lightning Thunder. They were successful in driving Kony out of Uganda, but he evaded capture.
Second, since American support is going on its fourth year let’s talk about something that the video fails to mention; US support is not likely to wane and US troops are not likely to leave. Why do I say this? Because in May of 2010 President Obama and the US Congress passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Ugandan Recovery Act. President Obama stated that this bill signed into law US Policy to “kill or capture Joseph Kony and crush his rebellion”. (press release is the links below).  The link to the details of the law can be found here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-1067. The funding of this law continues at least through 2014.  So hurry up, write congress and tell them to do what they’re already doing.
Other opponents of the video point out that this video is not relative any more. They point out that it was filmed in 2003, and most people are watching it now in 2012 for the first time. One person gave the analogy of watching a video of 9/11 today and then having someone ask for donations to help with the cleanup effort. In 2003 this story was legitimate and real. However, in 2006 the Ugandan Army pushed Kony out of Uganda and into the Congo and Sudan. Uganda has had 5 years of peace, and 5 years to develop a completely different set of problems. Also, as Dr. Ernesto Sirolli of the Sirolli Institute points out, not all “relief aid” to Africa is actually helpful. (http://www.sirolli.com/DesktopModules/UltraVideoGallery/UltraVideoGallery.swf?vId=33&portalId=0)
Many opponents of the Invisible Children video point out that their timeline to bring Kony to justice is unrealistic. There are 100 US military advisors supporting the Ugandan Army. However, the Ugandan Army is highly inept and they lack training, technology and discipline. The US Marine Corps, arguably the best, most capable fighting force in the world, could not find Osama Bin Laden in the deserts of Afghanistan for 10 years. Thus, it’s completely unrealistic to expect that an untrained rag-tag army of soldiers will find and capture or kill Kony in the Jungle in less than 1 year.
As one opponent of the video points out “it’s hard to take any documentary of Northern Uganda seriously when a 5 year old white boy features more prominently than any of the Ugandan children or survivors”. He makes many other great points too, and you can read about them on his blog here: http://justiceinconflict.org/
Other opponents of the video are quick to point out that awareness does not equate to action. As examples they cite; Osama Bin Laden, a “household name” for nearly a decade before he was killed, and all of America learned his name in one moment. There’s also Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi, and Hitler. These too were powerful, evil men that the world knew about but was unable to stop when they wanted, and certainly not for lack of trying.
The video makes several mentions of the fact that Kony is “top of the list” for wanted persons by the International Criminal Court in Hague. Interestingly, I have not been able to find a single delineated list of wanted persons issued by the ICC ranked by importance or notoriety. Sure, I can find arrest warrant information, and I can see that he is on their wanted list (which is housed over at Interpol), but nowhere does it indicate that he’s at the top of the list. The video also fails to mention that Kony is only 1 of 5 members of the LRA who are on the ICC most wanted list. One of those five is confirmed dead, killed in a shootout. Another of the five is presumed dead. But that still leaves Kony and two more of his top commanders. In this case there is a clear succession of leadership if Kony is removed. The LRA would simply replace him and keep on keeping on.
The video also poignantly portrays the image of Kony’s army being filled with as many as 30,000 child-soldiers, ready to fight and die for him. However, experts in Uganada, Central Africa and the LRA point out that this is simply nowhere near the current state of the situation.  Not to mention that Kony himself has not personally been since 2007. The last reported communication from him to the outside world was in April of 2008 when he backed out of peace talks with Uganda. There is some speculation that he may already be dead.
Probably the most alarming thing about the Kony 2012 video can be summarized by the follow quote by German Philosopher Frederick Nietzsche: He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.  What does that have to with Kony? Let’s recap; Kony is evil because he press-gangs children into his army, he’s bad because he kidnaps women and girls and rapes them and prostitutes them out, and he’s bad because he steals valuable resources from the people who live in the area. The Kony 2012 video asks you to support them so that they can help the Ugandan Army catch Kony before he causes any more harm or conflict in Congo or Sudan.
First of all, Kony isn’t causing much conflict in Sudan. In fact, Sudan gave Kony military support to fight against the Ugandans. Sudan only withdrew support for Kony after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest. Maybe it’s the whole, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but Kony isn’t causing trouble against Sudan, at least not right now anyway.
Secondly, let’s turn the focus onto the soldiers tasked with hunting Kony down. In 2001 the UN released a report stating that the Democratic Republic of Congo was guilty of forcibly recruiting child-soldiers into its army. The Ugandan People’s Defense Force also forcibly recruited young children into their army as well, according to the same UN Report. Hold the phone, isn’t that the exact same thing that Kony is guilty of?
But Kony killed innocent civilians and raped all kinds of women. As it turns out, so did the UPDF. In another report from the UN the armies of Uganda and Rwanda were responsible for crimes such as mass rape, targeted killing of civilians, and “other crimes against humanity”. These crimes took place between 1993 and 2003. And allegedly, after 2006 during their hunt for Kony the UPDF is responsible for looting diamonds, timber and other natural resources out of the Congo.
So, as the Kony 2012 video shows, it’s perfectly okay to use one group of people who commit crimes and atrocities to hunt down another group who commit the exact same crimes so long as someone profits from it in the end.

UPDATE:
The LRA attacked a small village in the Congo on March 7th. But, as this article explains, the LRA is now only down to around 200 soldiers, which is certainly a far cry from the 30,000 that the video alleges. Here's the article: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Keep-Calm/2012/0307/Lord-s-Resistance-Army-After-long-silence-the-US-tracked-rebels-attack

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