From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
Question. Does Christianity advance or retard civilization?
Answer. If by Christianity you mean the orthodox church, then I unhesitatingly answer that it does retard civilization, always has retarded it, and always will. I can imagine no man who can be benefitted by being made a Catholic or a Presbyterian or a Baptist or a Methodist—or, in other words, by being made an orthodox Christian. But by Christianity I do not mean morality, kindness, forgiveness, justice. Those virtues are not distinctively Christian. They are claimed by Mohammedans and Buddhists, by Infidels and Atheists—and practiced by some of all classes. Christianity consists of the miraculous, the marvelous, and the impossible.
The one thing that I most seriously object to in Christianity is the doctrine of eternal punishment. That doctrine subverts every idea of justice. It teaches the infinite absurdity that a finite offence can be justly visited by eternal punishment. Another serious objection I have is, that Christianity endeavors to destroy intellectual liberty. Nothing is better calculated to retard civilization than to subvert the idea of justice. Nothing is better calculated to retain barbarism than to deny to every human being the right to think. Justice and Liberty are the two wings that bear man forward. The church, for a thousand years, did all within its power to prevent the expression of honest thought; and when the church had power, there was in this world no civilization. We have advanced just in the proportion that Christianity has lost power. Those nations in which the church is still powerful are still almost savage—Portugal, Spain, and many others I might name. Probably no country is more completely under the control of the religious idea than Russia. The Czar is the direct representative of God. He is the head of the church, as well as of the state. In Russia every mouth is a bastille and every tongue a convict. This Russian pope, this representative of God, has on earth his hell (Siberia), and he imitates the orthodox God to the extent of his health and strength.
Thanks to Bruce
I don’t care if it
Rains or freezes
As long as I’ve got my
Ridin’ on the dashboard
Of my car
Through my trials
And my travels
Through the nation
With my plastic Jesus
I’ll go far
Ridin’ down the thoroughfare
With a nose up in the air
A wreck may be ahead
But he don’t mind
He don’t see
He just keeps his eye on me
And any other thing that lies behind
With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car
When I’m in a traffic jam
He don’t care if I say damn
I can let all my curses roll
‘Cos Jesus’ plastic doesn’t hear
‘Cos he has a plastic ear
The man who invented plastic
Saved my soul
With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car
An if I weave around at night
Policemen think I’m very tight
They never find my bottle
Though they ask
‘Cos plastic Jesus shelters me
For his head comes off you see
He’s hollow and I use him like a flask
Woa Woa Woa
I don’t care if it’s dark or scary
Long as I got magnetic Mary
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car
I feel that I’m protected amply
I’ve got the love of the whole damn family
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car
With my plastic Jesus
I said goodbye
And I’ll go far
And I said with my plastic Jesus
I said sittin’ on the dashboard of my car
When I’m goin’ fornicatin’
I’ve got my ceramic Satan
Sittin’ on the dashboard of my car
Women know I’m on the level
Thanks to the wide-eyed stoneware devil
Sneerin’ from the dashboard of my car
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.”
Never in my life have I wanted to be proven wrong more than I do right now.
I can see what you’re doing right now. You’re shaking your head wildly – “No, Mike, this won’t happen!” Unfortunately, you are living in a bubble that comes with an adjoining echo chamber where you and your friends are convinced the American people are not going to elect an idiot for president. You alternate between being appalled at him and laughing at him because of his latest crazy comment or his embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him. And then you listen to Hillary and you behold our very first female president, someone the world respects, someone who is whip-smart and cares about kids, who will continue the Obama legacy because that is what the American people clearly want! Yes! Four more years of this!
You need to exit that bubble right now. You need to stop living in denial and face the truth which you know deep down is very, very real. Trying to soothe yourself with the facts – “77% of the electorate are women, people of color, young adults under 35 and Trump cant win a majority of any of them!” – or logic – “people aren’t going to vote for a buffoon or against their own best interests!” – is your brain’s way of trying to protect you from trauma. Like when you hear a loud noise on the street and you think, “oh, a tire just blew out,” or, “wow, who’s playing with firecrackers?” because you don’t want to think you just heard someone being shot with a gun. It’s the same reason why all the initial news and eyewitness reports on 9/11 said “a smallplane accidentally flew into the World Trade Center.” We want to – we need to – hope for the best because, frankly, life is already a shit show and it’s hard enough struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck. We can’t handle much more bad news. So our mental state goes to default when something scary is actually, truly happening. The first people plowed down by the truck in Nice spent their final moments on earth waving at the driver whom they thought had simply lost control of his truck, trying to tell him that he jumped the curb: “Watch out!,” they shouted. “There are people on the sidewalk!”
“To appreciate satire, sometimes you need to lay a whole foundation of acceptance of criticism by others. And being at peace with being put on the spot and being responsible for your actions. Sadly, many of these elements are not present in that part of the world. And this is why satire could be viewed as an insult, or a direct attack.” –Basssem Youssef, Egyptian satirist
Organized religion has not shied away from voicing its vehement resentment of “blasphemy.” (Or, more aptly, organized religion has not shied away from ending the lives of those who commit “blasphemy”.) It is not altogether surprising to note this, in fact–authoritarian, oppressive forces have never exactly appreciated criticism against itself. Critics must be decimated, their mindsets lead them to believe. Blasphemy is treason.
I’m fond of placing the word blasphemy in quotation marks (like “blasphemy”) since the act of “blaspheming” entails that the person has committed some kind of a crime. And what crime has he or she committed? Criticizing religion. I find that laughable. I find it laughable that simply criticizing religion deservedly earns you death threats, or death itself. I find it laughable that organized religion has mangled the concept of skepticism and curiosity to make it seem like a “sinful” act. I find it laughable that an all-powerful deity would ever be offended or disgraced or even intimidated by a mere human criticizing His holy book. I find it laughable that a god, if he really is as wise as he professes himself to be, will prefer us to blindly submit to him and believe every claim he makes on just the basis of faith, rather than analytically evaluating the word of God and using the sense of logic that He claims to have given us. Established religion spurs us to appreciate and use the wonderful gifts and abilities granted by God…except for the sense of reason and skepticism. No, when it comes to God, always suppress logic. Never doubt. Always believe.
Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist and television show host, is featured in the Big Think video above, expressing his understanding of why satire and criticism deals stunning blows to authoritative, oppressive governments and forces in power. Here’s a well-put excerpt from his eloquent and heartfelt speech:
“…Fear is an incredible mover of the masses. It brainwashes people. It makes people accept and even vote or something that’s against their own personal interests totally out of fear. And speaking about that particular point, it is the same reason why fascisms have a very poor sense of humor because when you have satire you’re not afraid anymore. They don’t want you thinking – they don’t want you to think and laugh, they want you to be in constant state of fear. If you’re laughing at them you’re basically laughing at their brainwashing techniques, at their use of fear and it’s not effective anymore, but if they don’t want that.”
Though Basssem Youssef in this video is elucidating his thoughts on fascist governmental systems rather than organized religion, chilling parallels between the two are hard to miss. Both the latter and the former have amassed notoriety due to their intolerance of dissenters. Both have suppressed the sense of skepticism and preached blind submission. Neither are known for hosting civil discussion and dialogue pertaining to its policies. Rather, the practice of suppressing doubt and promulgating the message of just believe has become synonymous with fascism—as well as the authoritarian nature of organized religion and evangelism.
Youssef, who himself was persecuted in his nation for his so-called “criticism of Islam” (although he himself is a Muslim) and satirical portrayal of the government, explains this issue far better than any writer on this blog can. Watch this enlightening video about why exactly fascist, oppressive forces are so intimidated by satire and “blasphemy.”
From Obama to Black Lives Matter, everyone is talking about structural racism—something Trump’s supporters don’t want to own.
Despite the talk of “Make America Safe Again” at the Republican National Convention, the real message in Cleveland was that Obama is to blame for growing racial divisions that are weakening America.
Darryl Glenn, Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado, called Obama “the divider-in-chief” and said the country is “more racially divided today than before he ran.” House Speaker Paul Ryan castigated “the other party” for “always playing one group against the other as if group identity were everything.” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul alleged, “Obama and Hillary apologized for America and allowed jihadists to spread like wildfire.” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions rebuked Obama for capitulating to lawlessness in not cracking down on undocumented immigration.
In accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump himself emphasized this theme: “The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment for everyone.”
The Obama era has changed how many Americans look at race.
These claims are dubious at best. But the Republican Party exists in an elaborate fantasy land ruled by group hatred and fear of the other. It wants to lay on Obama’s doorstep centuries of racism, as well as the deteriorating race relations of late. In effect, the right blames Obama for the results of its own racist arguments, which picked up steam in the 2008 election when they slammed him as a Muslim “palling around with terrorists.”
From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
“the two figures, male and female, are naked and gracefully huge. their raised right feet begin a dance that never continues.” Ann Menebroker
I moved to Sacramento in 1980. I was thirty-one and experiencing a bit of success with my writing. I bought a piano and an old house in a quiet neighborhood and thus began my fifteen-year residency in that river town. I still own the piano and play her every day.
Immediately upon settling in Sacramento, I got involved in the vibrant poetry scene, though I was not a poet, and my first new friends there were poets, one of them Ann Menebroker. Known as Annie to her many pals, I met her when she was forty-four, a beautiful charming woman, shy and brave, funny and deeply serious—a humble and brilliant maker of poems. She died a week ago at the age of eighty. I got the news from our mutual friend Martha Ann, and I have been crying off and on since.
Annie was never anointed by academia, but she published over twenty books of poetry and her poems appeared in dozens of poetry magazines all over America. She was revered by hundreds of poets and is, to my mind, one of our greatest unknowns—unknown in the sense of never being ballyhooed by the grand poohbas of the American literary scene. Her poems were consistently good and often great. She was highly self-critical, but knew she had a gift and continued writing poems until the end of her life.
On this date in 1951, actor and comedian Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago, Ill., to parents Laurie McLaurin, a model, and Robert Fitzgerald Williams, a Detroit auto executive. He grew up in Bloomfield, Mich., and Marin County, Calif., with brothers Robert Todd Williams and McLaurin Smith-Williams. Williams studied political science at Claremont McKenna College (then Claremont Men’s College), but left to study theatre at a community college before receiving a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in 1973. Scoring a guest-starring role on the sitcom “Happy Days” in 1978, Williams gained instant recognition for his role as the eccentric alien Mork. The reaction from fans earned him a show of his own based on the character in 1978. Following the success of “Mork and Mindy,” which aired for four seasons, Williams was catapulted into a long and illustrious career, beginning with major movie roles in “Popeye” (1980) and “The World According to Garp” (1982). At the same time, Williams achieved success for his standup specials: “Off the Wall” (1978), “An Evening with Robin Williams” (1982) and “Robin Williams: Live at the Met” (1986). Williams’ many films included a selection of critically-acclaimed dramatic roles such as “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987) and “Dead Poets Society” (1989). He portrayed Oliver Sacks in the 1990 drama “Awakenings,” based on Sack’s moving memoir about briefly reviving catatonic patients. Williams captured Sacks’ mannerisms so perfectly that Sacks notes some people have actually accused him of imitating Robin Williams. Other films include “The Birdcage” (1996),“The Fisher King” (1991), “Hook” (1991), “Aladdin” (1992), “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993), “Jumanji” (1995), “Good Will Hunting” (1997), “Flubber” (1997), “Insomnia” (2002), “Night at the Museum” (2006), “Happy Feet” (2006), “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009), and “The Butler” (2013). Williams starred in the Off Broadway production of “Waiting for Godot” (1988) and in the Broadway show “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” (2011).
From Internet Infidels
Anyone who has ever bumped into a theist has probably heard of the supposed miracles that come about through prayer, faith, and devotion to a particular deity. Miracles are important to the believer because they, in the theist’s mind, help to prove the reality of the supernatural. That is, if miracles can occur today then they certainly could have happened in the 1st century. Christopher Hitchens once proposed that he could grant Christians all of Jesus’ miracles and it still would not prove that Jesus was divine or that anything he said was true or moral Still, this belief in the magical, as a method to justify faith in a deity which cannot be proved to exist, has and does persist in our culture. To be fair, not all Christians believe miracles happen today, but many, many still do.
Miracle claims can come in a variety of forms. Before the advent of social media, when chain-emails were still a thing, one might have expected to be spammed with miracle stories about persecuted Christians driving otherwise inoperable cars after praying, Jesus saving people buried alive, or villainous atheist professors who drop chalk to prove God does not exist (because that’s a thing atheists do). Beyond chain-email and Facebook spam stories lie the ever revered anecdotal accounts of miraculous occurrences in the everyday believer’s life There is also the phenomena of miracle photographs, supposedly depicting angels or light from heaven. Statues, too, can be miraculous when they allegedly weep or bleed. There is even miracle food, such as the “Virgin Mary” grilled cheese which sold for $28K in an eBay auction in 2004.
From Neil Carter
Godless In Dixie
Here on the eve of the start of the Republican National Convention, I’ve finally turned a corner in my understanding of what Donald J. Trump is up to. I know a ton of my friends have been saying this for months, but I’ve been withholding judgment because it seemed to me that a megalomaniac driven by ego as much as the short-fingered vulgarian from Queens would actually want to occupy the highest office in the land. Surely a person as hungry for power and attention as Trump would want to be Commander-in-Chief, right?
No, I really don’t think so. I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think Trump wants to be president. I think U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit the nail on the head last week when she remarked:
He is a faker…He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego.
How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.
She later said she regretted speaking her mind in the middle of an election season, but I cannot help but agree with her diagnosis. Trump is faking his way all the way to November.
I think he wants to win the election, but I’m not sure he has any intention of actually serving as president. Let me explain what I mean, and what finally made things click for me.
Of course most of you will answer “No way!”, and I do, too, but accommodationists and science-friendly believers make this argument often. Here are a few specimens:
“. . . the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.”—Paul Davies, “Taking Science on Faith“, New York Times.
“Moral laws are promulgated by God for free creatures, who have it in their power to obey or disobey. The laws of nature, on the other hand, are promulgated for the inanimate world of matter; physical objects don’t get to decide to obey, say, Newton’s law of gravity. In each case, however, we have the setting forth or promulgation of divine rule for a certain domain of application. It is important to see that our notion of the laws of nature, crucial for contemporary science, has this origin in Christian theism.” —Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, p. 276
“Indeed, a distinctive feature of the Scientific Revolution is that, unlike other scientific programmes and cultures, it is driven, often explicitly, by religious considerations: Christianity set the agenda for natural philosophy in many respects and projected it forward in a way quite different from that of any scientific culture. Moreover, when the standing of religion as a source of knowledge about the world, and cognitive values generally, came to be threatened, it was not science that posed the threat but history.” —S. Graukoger, The Emergence of a Modern Scientific Culture, p. 3
“faith in the possibility of science, generated antecdently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.” —Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 19.
“Recent scholarship, most of it conducted by secular academics, has established that religious belief was entirely compatible with scientific progress, even encouraging it in many cases.”—K. Giberson and F. Collins, The Language of Science and Faith
Inevitably accompanying these claims is the assertion that because many early scientists (e.g., Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, and Maxwell) were Christians, Christianity must claim some credit for science. Other faiths too take credit; it’s common for accommodationist Muslims to point out that the real scientific achievements of Islam, coupled with bogus exegesis of the Qur’an, show that Islam was important in encouraging science.
Washington, D. C., January 8, 1882.
MY FRIENDS: I know how vain it is to gild a grief with words, and yet I wish to take from every grave its fear. Here in this world, where life and death are equal kings, all should be brave enough to meet what all the dead have met. The future has been filled with fear, stained and polluted by the heartless past. From the wondrous tree of life the buds and blossoms fall with ripened fruit, and in the common bed of earth, patriarchs and babes sleep side by side.
Why should we fear that which will come to all that is? We cannot tell, we do not know, which is the greater blessing—life or death. We cannot say that death is not a good. We do not know whether the grave is the end of this life, or the door of another, or whether the night here is not somewhere else a dawn. Neither can we tell which is the more fortunate—the child dying in its mother’s arms, before its lips have learned to form a word, or he who journeys all the length of life’s uneven road, painfully taking the last slow steps with staff and crutch.
Every cradle asks us “Whence?” and every coffin “Whither?” The poor barbarian, weeping above his dead, can answer these questions just as well as the robed priest of the most authentic creed. The tearful ignorance of the one, is as consoling as the learned and unmeaning words of the other. No man, standing where the horizon of a life has touched a grave, has any right to prophesy a future filled with pain and tears.
May be that death gives all there is of worth to life. If those we press and strain within our arms could never die, perhaps that love would wither from the earth. May be this common fate treads from out the paths between our hearts the weeds of selfishness and hate. And I had rather live and love where death is king, than have eternal life where love is not. Another life is nought, unless we know and love again the ones who love us here.
They who stand with breaking hearts around this little grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest. We know that through the common wants of life—the needs and duties of each hour—their grief will lessen day by day, until at last this grave will be to them a place of rest and peace—almost of joy. There is for them this consolation: The dead do not suffer. If they live again, their lives will surely be as good as ours. We have no fear. We are all children of the same mother, and the same fate awaits us all. We, too, have our religion, and it is this: Help for the living—Hope for the dead.
Thanks to Bruce
I used to be a sinner, used to have my cake and eat it
They warned me of my fate, but I was quite prepared to meet it
You’ll go to Hell they smiled at me
And told me of the roaring fires
But I was happy living wild
And fueling my own desires
I was a wild man
Drinking, smoking and messing around with women
Lots of women
No, not swimming, women
I wanna go to Heaven
The place to be is right up there
I wanna go to Heaven
It’s gonna be good so I won’t despair
Terminally ill California residents may now legally take medicine to end their lives, thanks to a new law that is now in effect.
Under the “End of Life Option Act,” California has become the fifth state in the nation to create a legal process for patients to obtain aid in dying.
And how the law fares in such a large and diverse state could shape whether this controversial option gains traction in the rest of the nation.
Advocates say people should have the right to decide whether they want “aid in dying,” while opponents argue patients could feel pressure to take their own lives.
‘I love my life’
From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
“On a hot day in the southern desert of Africa I wanted to speak to one of my favorite Bushmen. He was sitting in the middle of a thorn bush, huddled in an attitude of the most intense concentration…but his friends would not let me get near him, saying, ‘But don’t you know, he is doing work of the utmost importance. He is making clouds.’” Laurens Van Der Post
Yesterday, the basketball player Kevin Durant signed a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors for 55 million dollars and I read Chris Hedges’ interview with Mumia Abu Jamal, who has now served thirty-five years of a life sentence for a murder he may or may not have committed.
During the interview, Mumia, who is quite ill and not receiving adequate health care, said many troubling things. “The black political elites, including Barack Obama, are powerless. They are emblems. They are not the voice of black America. They are like a ventriloquist’s dummy. They mouth the same words the white corporate masters mouth. They do not name unpleasant truths. They never lifted their voices to denounce Bill Clinton’s decision to massively expand our system of mass incarceration. And they do not lift their voices now. They go right along with the repression. And they are well paid for it.”
He went on to say: “Black people will probably vote for Clinton, but this symbolizes the emptiness of hope. They fear Trump. They should look closely at the pictures from Trump’s third wedding. Hillary Clinton is in the front pew of the church. Hillary, Bill, Trump, and Melania are shown embracing at Trump’s estate during the reception. These people are part of the same elite circle. They represent the same financial interests. They work for the same empire. They have grown rich from the system. The words they shout back and forth during political campaigns are meaningless. Trump or Clinton will deliver the same political result. They will serve, like Obama, corporate and military power.”
“Everything that happens is at once natural and inconceivable.” E.E. Cioran
In this article, I present evidence that an intimate and largely unrecognized connection exists between childhood trauma and religion. In particular, it appears that many of the world religions have been deeply shaped by historically widespread practices of childhood corporal punishment, abandonment, and neglect. These influences have long been hiding in plain sight: close to the surface yet culturally invisible. It is only recently that our understanding of the needs of children, the mechanisms of trauma, and the history of childhood has advanced to the point where the role of childhood trauma in forming religious myths could be clearly described.
Among the religions we will consider are the major monotheistic faiths—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—and those Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, that are based on teachings about karma and reincarnation. The influence of childhood trauma on these religions appears to have taken two main forms. First, the traumas shaped the religious myths during their formative periods, so that themes of child abuse, abandonment, and neglect were built into the core narratives and salvation teachings of the religions. Second, the traumas contributed to the cultural spread and persistence of the religions by helping make them emotionally resonant and cognitively believable. Although many factors affected the development and longevity of these religions, I believe that the influence of childhood trauma has been especially profound, often providing the central organizing principle of the religious myths, and functioning as a key driver of their cultural dissemination.
This article is substantial and much longer than a typical web post. But the topic is important and one cannot do justice to it in an abbreviated or superficial presentation. The best way to proceed is systematically—developing key concepts as we go. Accordingly, to lay a foundation for our discussion of current world religions, we begin by considering several ancient Greek and Roman myths.
From The Atlantic here
For most of the country’s history, white Christian America—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national conversations and shaped American ideals. But today, many white Christian Americans feel profoundly anxious as their numbers and influence are waning. The two primary branches of their family tree, white mainline and white evangelical Protestants, offer competing narratives about their decline. White mainline Protestants blame evangelical Protestants for turning off the younger generation with their anti-gay rhetoric and tendency to conflate Christianity with conservative, nationalist politics. White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, blame mainline Protestants for undermining Christianity because of their willingness to sell out traditional beliefs to accommodate contemporary culture.
The key question is not why one white Protestant subgroup is faring worse than another, but why white Protestantism as a whole—arguably the most powerful cultural force in the history of the United States—has faded. The answer is, in part, a matter of powerful demographic changes…
From Media Lens
Last week, seven years after the Iraq Inquiry was set up, Sir John Chilcot finally delivered his long-awaited report. Although it stopped short of declaring the Iraq war illegal, and although it failed to examine the real motives for war, the report was not quite the whitewash that had been feared by peace campaigners.
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, gave a succinct summary of the Chilcot report, listing four of the main findings (each followed by our own comment):
1. There was no imminent threat to Britain from Saddam Hussein, so war in March 2003 was unnecessary.
In reality: utterly devastated by war, bombing and 12 years of sanctions, Iraq posed no threat whatsoever towards Britain or the US. The idea that there was any kind of threat from this broken, impoverished country was simply a lie; a propaganda fabrication by warmongering cynics and corporate hangers-on eager for a piece of the pie.
2. The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was presented with a certainty that was not justified. It was never ‘beyond doubt’ that the weapons existed. None have been found in the subsequent 13 years.
In reality: it was completely clear, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the whole ‘weapons of mass destruction’ issue was a propaganda fabrication; a way of suggesting a ‘threat’ where none existed. Iraq only ever possessed battlefield biological and chemical weapons that were of no conceivable threat to the West. Iraq didn’t even use them when the West attacked the country in 1991. Not only that, but UN weapons inspectors had overseen the near-complete destruction of even these tinpot devices between 1991-1998; only ‘sludge’ remained: a known fact. Iraq was of no more threat to the West in 2002-2003 than Thailand or Iceland; that is all that needs to be said. Almost everything else is superfluous: cynical propaganda which was, and is, manipulated by violent Western leaderships that think nothing of smashing other countries to bits for whatever reason they declare ‘necessary’.
‘The War You Don’t See’ (2011) is a powerful and timely investigation into the media’s role in war, tracing the history of ’embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’ in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?
John Pilger says in the film: “We journalists… have to be brave enough to defy those who seek our collusion in selling their latest bloody adventure in someone else’s country… That means always challenging the official story, however patriotic that story may appear, however seductive and insidious it is. For propaganda relies on us in the media to aim its deceptions not at a far away country but at you at home… In this age of endless imperial war, the lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth or their blood is on us… Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power.”
From WILL PARRISH
East Bay Express
Tar sands is the oil industry’s newest threat. Local activists want to put limits on refinery emissions to halt this dense and dangerous crude from coming to the Bay. But are the regional air district and state government on board?
Health problems have plagued Soto and his family. His youngest brother succumbed to brain cancer at the age of three. His other brother developed tongue cancer in his thirties, despite having abstained from smoking and heavy drinking. Soto and his two sisters suffer from adult-onset psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the skin’s surface. The condition also beset their parents.
“Can I prove in a court of law that Chevron caused our health problems?” Soto asked. “Probably not. But I know what we’ve experienced.”
Today, Soto is an organizer with Communities for a Better Environment, an environmental-justice organization at the forefront of the fight against the California oil industry. Since 2013, oil corporations have intensified a push to bring more polluting fuel sources to the Bay Area and other West Coast oil-production centers, in particular hydro-fracked Bakken shale oil from the Dakotas and Montana, and the Canadian tar sands, a sticky mixture of sand, clay, and bitumen trapped deep beneath Canada’s boreal forest.
Numerous experts have cautioned that greenhouse-gas emissions, or GHGs, from expanded tar-sands production would lock in dramatic increases in global temperatures — with devastating impacts to ecosystems and communities both here in the East Bay and globally.
“California has become the biggest and most important battleground in the tar-sands fight,” observed CBE senior scientist and longtime refinery expert Greg Karras.
Increased tar-sands production would spike local refineries’ emissions of the heat-trapping chemicals that fuel climate change. It also would release greater quantities of pollutants into the predominantly low-income communities of color immediately downwind of the five refineries in Contra Costa and Solano counties. Already, oil processing is the Bay Area’s largest industrial source of toxic contamination and lung-penetrating particulate matter, making it a major cause of asthma, cancers, and other maladies.
As a means of preventing a so-called “West Coast tar sands invasion,” CBE and a coalition of other local groups have proposed that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District quickly impose quantitative limits, or “caps,” on regional refinery emissions of GHG, toxins, and ultra-fine particulate matter.
But officials at BAAQMD and the California Air Resources Board have opposed these blanket caps, saying the plan would simply push GHG emissions to other parts of California. They have even said the caps would interfere with the state’s effort to combat global climate change, through its cap-and-trade program — a stance shared by the oil industry.
Soto, Karras, and other advocates assert the opposite. They say the refinery caps are a necessary means to protect local residents and refinery workers, and also to head off the catastrophic impacts of global warming.
The stakes are high. “If the tar sands proceed on the scale the industry intends globally, you can kiss the climate good-bye,” Karras said.
From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
Is it necessary that Heaven should borrow its light from the glare of Hell?
Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal gaoler hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.
Against the heartlessness of the Christian religion every grand and tender soul should enter solemn protest. The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved – cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell – in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.
The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge. This idea testifies that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens, lairs, and caves, only from mouths filled with cruel fangs, only from hearts of fear and hatred, only from the conscience of hunger and lust, only from the lowest and most debased could come this cruel, heartless and bestial of all dogmas.
I would not for my life destroy one star of human hope, but I want it so that when a poor woman rocks the cradle and sings a lullaby to the dimpled darling, she will not be compelled to believe that ninety-nine chances in a hundred she is raising kindling wood for hell.
I would not for anything blot out the faintest star that shines in the horizon of human despair, nor in the sky of human hope; but I will do what I can to get that infinite shadow out of the heart of man…