TODD WALTON: Carrying On

 

And the dog walked, walked… site

And the dog walked, walked… painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.” William Stafford

We are feeling pampered and special because the power went back on after a two-day outage. We know there will probably be another outage when the next storm hits, but for now we’re on Easy Street. No more cooking on the woodstove. No more boiling water in the old kettle to wash dishes. No more writing by candlelight. Our computers work again. We can take showers. Luxury!

The first article to pop up on my computer when I ignited the machine after the outage was about Professor Guy McPherson who says, “There’s no point trying to fight climate change. We’ll all be dead in the next decade and there is nothing we can do to stop it.”

The second article was entitled “Why getting farmers to switch from tobacco crops is a struggle.”

Email brought an announcement from my niece, a yoga teacher, informing us that her Yoga and Art and Cooking retreat in Italy is sold out ten months in advance.

My sister called and told me of her summer plans to go camping in the environs of Mount Rainier. She is a biologist and knows well of the forces threatening the biosphere, but she carries on with her life as if we will all not be dead in the next decade. She catches her rainwater for watering her drought-resistant garden, walks to work most days, and looks forward to her children eventually producing a grandchild or two.

2016: The Warmest Year on Record, with a Dip in the Second Half of the Year

 

From Berkeley Earth

[No thanks on the nukes… ds]

2016 was the warmest year since humans began keeping records, by a wide margin. Global average temperatures were extremely hot in the first few months of the year, pushed up by a large El Nino event.  Global surface temperatures dropped in the second half of 2016, yet still show a continuation of global warming. The global warming “pause”, which Berkeley Earth had always stressed was not statistically significant, now appears clearly to have been a temporary fluctuation.

Robert Rohde, Lead Scientist with Berkeley Earth, said “The record temperature in 2016 appears to come from a strong El Nino imposed on top of a long-term global warming trend that continues unabated.”

In addition, 2016 witnessed extraordinary warming in the Arctic. The way that temperatures are interpolated over the Arctic is now having a significant impact on global temperature measurements.  Zeke Hausfather, Scientist at Berkeley Earth said, “The difference between 2015 and 2016 global temperatures is much larger in the Berkeley record than in records from NOAA or the UK’s Hadley Centre, since they do not include the Arctic Ocean and we do. The arctic has seen record warmth in the past few months, and excluding it leads to a notable underestimate of recent warming globally.”

Elizabeth Muller, Executive Director of Berkeley Earth, said, “We have compelling scientific evidence that global warming is real and human caused, but much of what is reported as ‘climate change’ is exaggerated. Headlines that claim storms, droughts, floods, and temperature variability are increasing, are not based on normal scientific standards. We are likely to know better in the upcoming decades, but for now, the results that are most solidly established are that the temperature is increasing and that the increase is caused by human greenhouse emissions. It is certainly true that the impacts of global warming are still too subtle for most people to notice in their everyday lives.”

Richard Muller, Scientific Director of Berkeley Earth, said: “We project that continued global warming will lead us to an average temperature not yet experienced by civilization. It would be wise to slow or halt this rise. The most effective and economic approach would be to encourage nuclear power, substitution of natural gas for future coal plants, and continued improvement of energy efficiency.”
~~

A Secular State is best for religious and atheist citizens…

 

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From Irish Times Opinion

Most atheists believe gods exist only as ideas in the minds of humans. Most atheists are open to new evidence that we might be mistaken.

Many people misunderstand the difference between atheism and secularism. Both are forces for good, but for different reasons. Atheism can mean actively believing gods do not exist, or passively not believing gods exist.

Most atheists believe gods exist only as ideas in the minds of humans. Most atheists are open to new evidence that we might be mistaken.

Secularism can mean philosophically focusing on the natural world, or politically separating Church and State. Many religious people support political secularism.

Indeed, Atheist Ireland has a working alliance with Evangelical Alliance Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland to promote a secular education system.

Atheist Ireland believes that reason and science are more reliable ways of understanding reality than are faith and religion, and that morality is a natural process based on evolved attributes such as empathy, compassion, co-operation, reciprocity, fairness, justice and reason.

Respecting rights

Why Do Republicans Hate Obamacare?

 

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From Mother Jones

Why are Republicans so hellbent on repealing Obamacare? This came up on Twitter the other day, and at first it sounds like a silly question. They’ve been opposed to Obamacare from the start, and they’ve been vocal about what they don’t like.

But it’s a more interesting question than it seems. After all, we no longer have to guess about its effects. We know. So let’s take a look.

The Good. Obamacare has provided more than 20 million people—most of them low-income or working class—with health coverage. It has done this with no negative effects on either Medicare or the employer health insurance market. It didn’t raise taxes more than a few pennies on anyone making less than six figures. It’s had no effect on the willingness of companies to hire full-time workers. Health care costs under Obamacare have continued to grow at very modest rates. And it’s accomplished all this under its original budget.

The Bad. Obamacare unquestionably has some problems. About 20 percent of its customers choose Bronze plans with very high deductibles. Some of the least expensive plans have narrow networks that restrict your choice of doctor. Some insurers have left the exchanges because they were losing money. And premium increases have been volatile as insurers have learned the market. But every one of these things is a result of Obamacare’s reliance on private markets, something that Republicans support. Insurers are competing. They’re offering plans with different features at different price points. Some of them are successful and some aren’t. That’s how markets work. It’s messy, but eventually things settle down and provide the best set of services at the best possible price.

The Popular. Obamacare is popular unless you call it “Obamacare.” If you call it Kynect, its negatives drop. If you call it the Affordable Care Act, its negatives drop. If you ask about the actual things it does, virtually every provision is popular among Democrats and Republicans alike. Even Obamacare’s taxes on the rich, which are fairly modest, are popular. Aside from the individual mandate, the only truly unpopular part of Obamacare is the name “Obamacare.”(And even that’s only unpopular among Republicans.)

So why the continued rabid opposition to Obamacare? It’s not because the government has taken over the health care market. On the contrary, Obamacare affects only a tiny part of the health insurance market and mostly relies on taking advantage of existing market forces. It’s not because the benefits are too stingy. That’s because Democrats kept funding at modest levels, something Republicans approve of. It’s not because premiums are out of control. Republicans know perfectly well that premiums have simply caught up to CBO projections this year—and federal subsidies protect most people from increases anyway. It’s not because everyone hates what Obamacare does. Even Republicans mostly like it. The GOP leadership in Congress could pass a virtually identical bill under a different name and it would be wildly popular.

In the end, somehow, this really seems to be the answer:

mj

Republicans hate the idea that we’re spending money on the working class and the poor. They hate the idea that Barack Obama is responsible for a pretty successful program. They hate the idea that taxes on the wealthy went up a bit. They hate the idea that a social welfare program can do a lot of good for a lot of people at a fairly modest price.

What kind of person hates all these things?
~~

Ingersoll: How To Find Truth

 

img_2058From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

Through millions of ages, by countless efforts to satisfy his wants, to gratify his passions, his appetites, man slowly developed his brain, changed two of his feet into hands and forced into the darkness of his brain a few gleams and glimmerings of reason. He was hindered by ignorance, by fear, by mistakes, and he advanced only as he found the truth—the absolute facts. Through countless years he has groped and crawled and struggled and climbed and stumbled toward the light. He has been hindered and delayed and deceived by augurs and prophets—by popes and priests. He has been betrayed by saints, misled by apostles and Christs, frightened by devils and ghosts—enslaved by chiefs and kings—robbed by altars and thrones. In the name of education his mind has been filled with mistakes, with miracles, and lies, with the impossible, the absurd and infamous. In the name of religion he has been taught humility and arrogance, love and hatred, forgiveness and revenge.

But the world is changing. We are tired of barbarian bibles and savage creeds.

Nothing is greater, nothing is of more importance, than to find amid the errors and darkness of this life, a shining truth.

Truth is the intellectual wealth of the world.

The noblest of occupations is to search for truth.

Truth is the foundation, the superstructure, and the glittering dome of progress.

Truth is the mother of joy. Truth civilizes, ennobles, and purifies. The grandest ambition that can enter the soul is to know the truth.

Truth gives man the greatest power for good. Truth is sword and shield. It is the sacred light of the soul.

The man who finds a truth lights a torch.

How is Truth to be Found?

Sunday Song: Send Me Your Money…

 

Thanks to Bruce

Lights, camera, silence on the set
Tape rolling, 3-2-1 action
Welcome to the Church of Suicidal
We’ll have a sermon and a wonderful recital
But before we go on there’s something I must mention
An important message I must bring to your attention
I was in meditation and prayer last night
I was awakened by a shining bright light
Overhead a glorious spirit, he gave me a message and you all need to hear it
“Send me your money,” that’s what he said
He said to “Send me your money”
Now if you can only send a dollar or two
There ain’t a hell of a lot I can promise to you
But if you wants to see heaven’s door
Make out a check for five hundreds or more
“Send me your money”, do you hear what I said?
“Send me your money”

Now give me some bass, um yea that’s how he like it
Now let’s have some silence, for all you sinners
Now give me more bass, yea that was funky
Now take them on home Brother Clark, send me your money
Here comes another con hiding behind a collar
His only God is the almighty dollar
He ain’t no prophet, he ain’t no healer
He’s just a two bit goddamn money stealer
Send me your money
Send it, you got to send it
Send me your money
You hear what I’m saying?
You got to send it, send it
Send me your money

Now how much you give is your own choice
But to me it is the difference between a Porsche and a Rolls Royce
I want you to make it hurt when you dig into your pocket
Cause it makes me feel so good to watch my profits rocket

Send me your money
Now dig in deep, dig real deep into your pocket
I want you to make it hurt!
We’ll take cash, we’ll take checks
We’ll take credit cards, we’ll take jewelry
We’ll take your momma’s dentures if they got gold in them
So whose gonna be the new king of the fakers
Whose gonna take the place of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker?
See my momma, she didn’t raise no fool
Cause you can’t put a price on a miracle
Amen
~~

Deepak Chopra’s formula of quantum nonsense…

 

chopra

Website here.

It has been said by some that the thoughts and tweets of Deepak Chopra are indistinguishable from a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order, particularly the tweets tagged with “#cosmicconsciousness”. This site aims to test that claim. Each “quote” is generated from a list of words that can be found in Deepak Chopra’s Twitter stream randomly stuck together in a sentence…

bs
~~

Christian Crock: You can have love, or you can have the culture wars where you try to dominate and control everyone. But you cannot have both…

 

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Sometimes it’s downright painful to see a Christian skate right up to the edge of understanding and then skitter and windmill away from it again. Richard Krejcir has managed that stunt in a post he wrote for an evangelical church leadership site, reminding me yet again that culture-war-loving Christians really don’t have a good solution for their current membership crisis.

It’s a doozy of a post. His group used US Census records and Assemblies of God denominational reports to come up with a set of startling statistics. At least, he sounds startled. You probably won’t be.

Like his peers in that end of the religion, he may be ever-so-slightly overstating things to get his readers suitably galvanized, but the gist of what he’s asserting is stuff we’ve discussed many times on this blog:

· Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!

· Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity.

· [T]here should have been over 38,000 new churches commissioned to keep up with the population growth.

· Half of all churches in the US did not add any new members to their ranks in the last two years.

I don’t think it’s a super-recent report–its latest copyright is 2006, but like most Christian posts this one doesn’t say exactly when it was written–so one wonders how panicky Mr. Krejcir would sound if the last few years were taken into account, when his religion’s leaders really began to engage with the fact that their religion was failing.

There’s Definitely Reason to Panic.

Vote Down Sessions…

 

sessions
~~

TODD WALTON: Captain Fantastic

 

Vito & Todd

Vito & Todd photo by Marcia

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“We may divide thinkers into those who think for themselves, and those who think through others. The latter are the rule, and the former the exception.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As the inauguration of Trump fast approaches, many frightened Americans talk of moving to Canada, in much the same way frightened Americans spoke of moving abroad when George Bush became President. But Canada and other safe haven countries only want us these days if we are wealthy or possessed of highly desirable technological skills. Thus we common folk must consider other responses to the new regime.

One vision of a response to the madness currently gripping and deforming American life is the 2016 movie Captain Fantastic, written and directed by Matt Ross, a California writer, director, and actor who lives in Berkeley. I mention where he lives because I seriously doubt that a writer/director living in Los Angeles could have written a screenplay as far outside the Hollywood box as Captain Fantastic. That Ross also raised millions of dollars to make this fairly outrageous movie and was able to land a distribution deal resulting in the film turning a profit is nothing short of miraculous.

I will not spoil the film by recounting the plot, but I will say that Captain Fantastic bears some resemblance to the excellent 2003 American film Off the Map, and the dreamy Swiss/Italian 2014 film The Wonders. All three films involve adult couples seeking to live independently of the dominant capitalist paradigm, and each of these movies focuses on the children of those seekers as they collide with the outside world.

I found Captain Fantastic by turns funny and sad and disturbing and uplifting and maddening and deeply moving; and twice during the movie I had to get up and go outside to catch my breath and calm down, but not because the film is violent; it is not, thankfully. Marcia and I have been talking about the movie for several days now, and that alone makes Captain Fantastic a rare American film for us.

Gene Logsdon 1931 – 2016

 

gl
From Filmers to Farmers

Yes, I’ve read the headlines, and once again – although perhaps a bit more so than previous iterations – the previous year (2016) was one for fawning over many-a-departed pop stars. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and many others. Pop stars aren’t really my thing, but if that stuff floats your dinghy, well, all the best with that. In the meantime, 2016 was also the year that several luminaries with a more agrarian bent also bade their farewell, beginning with the co-founder of Permaculture, Bill Mollison. Just a couple of weeks ago one of Permaculture’s most respected and more recent practitioners and teachers, Toby Hemenway, also made an all-too-early departure. But along with these, 2016 also saw us lose an agrarian outside the world of Permaculture, that somebody being the aptly named Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon.

I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near as familiar with Logsdon’s writing as I am with others of the American Agrarian Crew (as I call them) – Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Gary Paul Nabhan, etc. – or what Logsdon referred to as “the five musketeers, a quintet of somewhat radical thinkers and doers coming together in opposition to the steady consolidation of farming into an international mega-agribusiness monopoly” – Berry, Jackson, Maurice Telleen, David Kline, and himself. Having gone through a heavy and prolonged dose of the aforementioned and other agrarian authors a few years ago, I’d somewhat overdosed on said writing and had to take a break from it all, just as I was getting to Logsdon. I did however read just enough – to go along with a bit of a recent nudge – that I’ve been able to realize that Logsdon left us all with a rich treasure trove of writing to discover.

The first of Logsdon’s writings that I (unsurprisingly?) read – and thoroughly enjoyed – was his book Good Spirits: A New Look at Ol’ Demon Alcohol, but it was then with (misplaced) disappointment that I soon thereafter discovered his book Gene Logsdon’s Practical Skills: A Revival of Forgotten Crafts, Techniques and Traditionsin a thrift shop. “Seriously?”, I asked myself. “Did Logsdon actually write one of those hokey ‘101 Ingenious Ways to Using Baking Soda’ type books?” I of course bought it anyways (I probably paid $2.50 for it), and after languishing on my book shelf for a couple of years I one day found myself with nothing to read and so pulled it out.

Review: The Iron Heel — Jack London’s Classic…

 

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From Socialist Alternative

Jack London, the socialist author, died one hundred years ago on November 22, 1916. Probably his most well-known book, The Iron Heel, describes an epic struggle against brutal capitalism. Although fictional, contemporary events form the backdrop. The book was published in 1907, two years after the first Russian revolution was defeated. U.S. workers were joining trade unions. Big strikes took place, with the private security company, the Pinkerton Agency, infiltrating unions and recruiting thugs to violently attack picket lines. Rail union organizer Eugene Debs led the Socialist Party, receiving 88,000 votes for president in 1900, dramatically increasing this to 901,000 (6%) in 1912.

The Iron Heel describes the build-up to revolution in the USA and the ruling class’s vicious response to crush it in blood. Its central fictional device is a memoir, the Everhard Manuscript, by Avis, a professor’s daughter who marries The Iron Heel’s key character, the socialist leader Ernest Everhard. In the world of the book, her manuscript (which covers the years 1912 to 1932) was hidden and found centuries later. By way of footnotes, inserted after her manuscript is discovered, London makes clear that socialism eventually triumphed – some three hundred years later.

The book exposes the nature of capitalist society and powerfully argues for socialism. Avis initially believes the myths of capitalist justice and democracy until Ernest suggests she investigates the story of a destitute man, named Jackson. He lost an arm in a mill “accident” while exhausted, trying to save a machine from damage. The mill owners, management, foremen, lawyers and newspapers conspired to hide the truth and deny him compensation. He lost his job, too.

Professor McPherson: Human Extinction within 10 years from Climate Change…

 

From Church And State, UK

Prof. Dr. Guy R. McPherson’s Climate Change Summary here

There’s no point trying to fight climate change – we’ll all be dead in the next decade and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, a visiting scientist claims.

Guy McPherson, a biology professor at the University of Arizona, says the human destruction of our own habitat is leading towards the world’s sixth mass extinction.

Instead of fighting, he says we should just embrace it and live life while we can.

“It’s locked down, it’s been locked in for a long time – we’re in the midst of our sixth mass extinction,” he told Paul Henry on Thursday.

But Professor James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University, says people should not use his words more as an excuse to give up.

While he agrees that climate change is possibly the “biggest issue humanity has ever faced”, he says “giving up is not really helpful”.

Instead, Prof Renwick says he hopes Prof McPherson’s 10-year claim will encourage people to take action.

“This is a really big issue and the consequences could be catastrophic,” Prof Renwick says. “Though certainly [humans won’t all die off] in 10 years or even 1000 years.”

The effects of climate change were first noticed 30 years ago and Prof Renwick says the sooner we get onto working against it, the less there will be to do.

“I’d love to see [people] take it on board as it is a very serious issue.”

Prof McPherson’s comments come just days after Climate Change Issues Minister Paula Bennett appointed a 10-strong team to advise the Government on how New Zealand can adapt to climate change.

But if the visiting professor is right, it could all be a waste of time.

“I can’t imagine there will be a human on the planet in 10 years,” he says.

“We don’t have 10 years. The problem is when I give a number like that, people think it’s going to be business as usual until nine years [and] 364 days.”

He says part of the reason he’s given up while other scientists fight on is because they’re looking at individual parts, such as methane emissions and the melting ice in the Arctic, instead of the entire picture.

“We’re heading for a temperature within that span that is at or near the highest temperature experienced on Earth in the last 2 billion years.”

Instead of trying to fix the climate, Prof McPherson says we should focus on living while we can.

“I think hope is a horrible idea. Hope is wishful thinking. Hope is a bad idea – let’s abandon that and get on with reality instead. Let’s get on with living instead of wishing for the future that never comes.

“I encourage people to pursue excellence, to pursue love, to pursue what they love to do. I don’t think these are crazy ideas, actually – and I also encourage people to remain calm because nothing is under control, certainly not under our control anyway.”

New Zealand has been criticised by the international community for not doing enough to fight climate change – this month being awarded two Fossil of the Day awards at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech.

The awards are for the country’s failure to live up to climate promises and the continued use of “dodgy” carbon credits.


~~

Sunday Song: Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me…

 

Thanks to Bruce

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?

Everybody!

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

That’s it!

~~

Faith…

 

img_2056
~~

TODD WALTON: Earth Sorrow

 

Winter Buddha

Winter Buddha photo by Todd

 From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau 

Today is a beautiful sunny winter day in Mendocino. The town is full of tourists and locals, college kids are home for the holidays, the pace of life has slowed since the coming and going of the annual frenzy known as Christmas, and if I didn’t know what I know about human-driven climate change, and if we hadn’t just returned from visiting Marcia’s mother in Santa Rosa, I would be tempted to say all is right with the world.

But we did go to Santa Rosa, and that once bucolic town is now a sprawling mess of roads and housing developments and malls and a permanent kind of frenzy gripping the populous—a frenzy born of out-of-control growth with no real care for the future. And in that way, Santa Rosa is a microcosm of what humans have done and are doing to the entire planet.

We made it back to the hinterlands safely, and the first article I read upon our return was about the incredibly high temperatures being recorded right now in the Arctic, temperatures some fifty degrees higher than what used to be called normal, temperatures approaching thirty-two degrees—the melting point. Climate scientists are debating the ramifications of this fantastic temperature increase, but there is wide agreement that such elevated arctic temperatures in the depths of winter do not bode well for the global climate picture and are probably the cause of the current ferocious cold weather in the lower northern hemisphere.

Rational Suicide: Why Suicide Drugs Should Be Issued To The Elderly…

Suicide is a fundamental human right, not just a medical privilege conferred on the terminally ill. Euthanasia drugs should be issued to all those over 70 to use if they wish. Longevity and quality of life will increase.

For more than two decades Dr Philip Nitschke has been active in the Australian right to die movement, and has influenced the worldwide debate on voluntary euthanasia. In 1996, Dr Nitschke became the first physician in the world to administer a legal lethal voluntary injection to four terminally ill patients in 1996 under the Australia’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

As Founder and Director of Exit International – a leading end of life rights advocacy and information non-profit – Dr Nitschke has written extensively in the area of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide including two books, Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthanasia and the Road to the Peaceful Pill published by Penguin and The Peaceful Pill eHandbook published by Exit International USA. His autobiography Damned if I Do with Peter Corris was published by Melbourne University Press in 2013.

Dr Nitschke holds a PhD in applied physics from Flinders University and is a graduate of Sydney Medical School.
~~

Mike Pence Is A Theocrat. His Christian Supremacist Followers Seek To Take Over America. Seriously.

 

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“Imagine a world where Christian Supremacists plot a theocratic takeover of Washington, with the help of the Vice President. You’ve just crossed over into — 2017 America.”

From Daily Kos

Despite all the hand wringing and hysteria about the upcoming “presidency” of Donald Trump, the plain truth is that the Trump campaign stated in no uncertain terms that Vice President Mike Pence will in fact be in charge of “foreign and domestic affairs.”  What will that look like? Again, plainly, Mike Pence is not only the de facto leader of the Republican party, which is no longer the party of conservatism but is now the party of nationalism; but more importantly Mike Pence is at the head of another, far more dangerous Republican group, the “Christian Supremacists;” who are committed to taking over the government of the United States of America.  Preposterous, you say? Please read further.

Mike Pence found religion at approximately the same time that he found a way to succeed in politics. When asked about his religious conversion, Pence has stated that listening to a Christian music festival in college called him to Jesus. However, Pence’s appearance on the airwaves and his appearance at Grace Evangelical Church in Indianapolis both took place in the late eighties, early nineties, perhaps coincidentally.

Pence’s start in radio came when he lost a second Congressional race in 1988 and was commiserating in his law office when he got a call from a Rushville, Indiana woman, Sharon Disinger, who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.  Disinger wanted Pence to host a talk show on her small radio station in Rush County. Disinger told Pence that his hero, Ronald Reagan got his start in radio; and it goes without saying that Pence had other heros, notably Rush Limbaugh, whose fame on the airwaves Pence openly aspired to.

Pence’s primary hero, however, was evangelist James Dobson. Dobson invited Pence on his radio show on October 5, 2016 and Pence proclaimed that being interviewed by Dobson was, “the greatest honor of my entire life.”  Dobson is virulently anti-gay as is Pence. Dobson is the founder of two anti-gay organizations, Focus On The Family and the Family Research Council and through those two groups Dobson proselytizes anti-gay hate doctrines thinly veiled with evangelical and pro-family language.  Dobson blamed the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on same-sex marriage, and has also gone on record as stating that same-sex marriage could lead the U.S. into another civil war. Dobson’s political awareness is as astute as Ben Carson’s, if even.

Freethinker: Isaac Asimov born on this day in 1920…

 

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From FFRF

“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived”

On this day in 1920, Isaac Asimov, a self-described “second-generation freethinker” and one of the world’s most prolific authors, was born in Petrovichi, Russia. He moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, in 1923, and became a naturalized citizen in 1928. Isaac taught himself to read by age five. At age seven, he taught his sister to read.

He sold one of his earliest published short stories, “Nightfall,” in 1941, which was eventually voted the best science-fiction short story ever written, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor of science degree in 1939, earned his M.A. in 1941 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1948. He was hired by Boston University’s School of Medicine to teach biochemistry the following year, although he had never studied biochemistry. He wrote a textbook on the subject in 1951, became associate professor of biochemistry in 1955 and professor in 1979, although he stopped teaching in 1958 to devote his life to writing.

I, Robot, (1950), is the title of Asimov’s first collection of short stories (a recent movie was based on one of the stories). Employing the “Asimovian Law of Composition,” which meant writing from nine to five, seven days a week (often closer to 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.), he averaged at least 12 new books a year. Asimov won five Hugos, three Nebula Awards, and his best-known “Foundation” trilogy was given a 1966 Hugo as “Best All-Time Science-Fiction Series.” Nonfiction works by Asimov were typically encyclopedic in range, such as his well-known Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (1968) and Asimov’s Annotated Paradise Lost (1974). He wrote a series of popularizing books on science and history, and even a guide to Shakespeare.

Asimov was an atheist: “I am Jewish in the sense that if an Arab wanted to throw a rock at a Jew, I would qualify as a target as far as he was concerned. However, I do not practice Judaism or any other religion.” (March 17, 1969 letter). Asimov called himself “an orthodox, practicing atheist” (April 29, 1988 letter). Asimov wrote: “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived” (Feb. 22, 1966 letter). He also observed, “I must say that I stand amazed at the highly intelligent people who have taken so much of the Bible so seriously” (Oct. 28, 1966 letter). “Nobody but a dedicated Christian could possibly read the gospels and not see them as a tissue of nonsense” (Nov. 1, 1966 letter). “I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it, just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I considered detrimental to mind or body” (Aug. 22, 1963 letter).

“I am prejudiced against religion because I know the history of religion, and it is the history of human misery and of black crimes” (March 27, 1976 letter). Elected in 1985 as president of the American Humanist Association, Asimov rejected an offer to support “Jewish” humanism: “I want to be a human being, nothing more and nothing less” (June 21, 1985). (All letters cited from Yours, Isaac Asimov, a Lifetime of Letters, edited by Stanley Asimov, 1995). Asimov noted that “it is an excellent sign that the right wing is trembling before a few thousand Humanists. We are weak and yet feared. Let’s give them more cause to fear!”

Upon his death at age 72, he had written more than 470 published books, covering every category in the Dewey Decimal System, fiction and nonfiction. Asimov was married twice, and had a son and daughter. Isaac’s death from heart and kidney failure was a consequence of AIDS contracted from a transfusion of tainted blood during his December 1983 triple-bypass operation. D. 1992.

“Just the force of rational argument in the end cannot be withstood.”

—Isaac Asimov, Winter Solstice Speech before the New Jersey Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dec. 22, 1985

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Life and Death: It’s a good bargain… (meaning, purpose, values)


Bart Campolo: Freethinker, Humanist Chaplain (USC), former Evangelical Christian…

From NYT

The son of a famous pastor, Bart Campolo is now a rising star of
atheism — using the skills he learned in the world he left behind.

Democracy…

 

Thanks to Brain Pickings

Neil Gaiman’s Transcendent Tribute to Leonard Cohen, with Piano by Amanda Palmer…
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TODD WALTON: Here’s To You

 

You You

You You by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“We have not all had the good fortune to be ladies. We have not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast works down to the babies, we stand on common ground.” Mark Twain

I would like to propose a toast to the coming year, 2017. May this be a good year for you and your loved ones, and for your neighborhood, your community, and the world. May this be the year we start to turn things around as a species living on a planet of finite resources and a biosphere overtaxed by greenhouse gases.

It seems to me that sharing is the not-so-secret key to solving many of our problems, both as individuals and as a society—not just sharing the wealth and ride-sharing, but sharing our ideas and feelings with each other.

I was in the grocery store the other day and looked around at my fellow shoppers, and I realized we were all kind of ignoring each other, not in a malicious way, but in the way that has become the habit of people in our society. Even when I smiled at people, most of them were unaware I was looking at them, so they didn’t see the smile I was giving them.

What If We Just Gave Poor People a Basic Income for Life? That’s What We’re About to Test…

 

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From Slate

A rehabilitation project in a low-income and densely populated district in Nairobi, Kenya. A new experimental program will provide thousands of people in dozens of Kenyan villages with a basic income guarantee.

Over the past decade, interest has grown in an ostensibly unorthodox approach for helping people who don’t have much money: just give them more of it, no strings attached.

In the old days of policymaking by aphorism—give a man a fish, feed him for a day!—simply handing money to the poor was considered an obviously bad idea. How naïve—you can’t just give people money. They’ll stop trying! They’ll just get drunk! The underlying assumption was that the poor weren’t good at making decisions for themselves: Experts had to make the decisions for them.

As it turns out, that assumption was wrong. Across many contexts and continents, experimental tests show that the poor don’t stop trying when they are given money, and they don’t get drunk. Instead, they make productive use of the funds, feeding their familiessending their children to school, and investing in businesses and their own futures. Even a short-term infusion of capital has been shown to significantly improve long-term living standardsimprove psychological well-being, and even add one year of life.

How Leo Tolstoy Became a Vegetarian and Jumpstarted the Vegetarian & Humanitarian Movements in the 19th Century…

 

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Leo Tolstoy is remembered as both a towering pinnacle of Russian literature and a fascinating example of Christian anarchism, a mystical version of which the aristocratic author pioneered in the last quarter century of his life. After a dramatic conversion, Tolstoy rejected his social position, the favored vices of his youth, and the dietary habits of his culture, becoming a vocal proponent of vegetarianism in his ascetic quest for the good life. Thousands of his contemporaries found Tolstoy’s example deeply compelling, and several communes formed around his principles, to his dismay. “To speak of ‘Tolstoyism,’” he wrote, “to seek guidance, to inquire about my solution of questions, is a great and gross error.”

“Still,” writes Kelsey Osgood at The New Yorker, “people insisted on seeking guidance from him,” including a young Mahatma Gandhi, who struck up a lively correspondence with the writer and in 1910 founded a community called “Tolstoy Farm” near Johannesburg.

Though uneasy in the role of movement leader, the author of Anna Karenina invited such treatment by publishing dozens of philosophical and theological works, many of them in opposition to a contrary strain of religious and moral ideas developing in the late nineteenth century. Often called “muscular Christianity,” this trend responded to what many Victorians thought of as a crisis of masculinity by emphasizing sports and warrior ideals and railing against the “feminization” of the culture.

Tolstoy might be said to represent a “vegetable Christianity”—seeking harmony with nature and turning away from all forms of violence, including the eating of meat. In “The First Step,” an 1891 essay on diet and ethical commitment, he characterized the prevailing religious attitude toward food:

Hannah Arendt on Loneliness as the Common Ground for Terror and How Tyrannical Regimes Use Isolation as a Weapon of Oppression…

 

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From Brain Pickings

“Loneliness is personal, and it is also political,” Olivia Laing wrote in The Lonely City, one of the finest books of the year. Half a century earlier, Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975) examined those peculiar parallel dimensions of loneliness as a profoundly personal anguish and an indispensable currency of our political life in her intellectual debut, the incisive and astonishingly timely 1951 classic The Origins of Totalitarianism (public library).

Arendt paints loneliness as “the common ground for terror” and explores its function as both the chief weapon and the chief damage of oppressive political regimes. Exactly twenty years before her piercing treatise on lying in politics, she writes:

Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men* as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

What perpetuates such tyrannical regimes, Arendt argues, is manipulation by isolation — something most effectively accomplished by the divisiveness of “us vs. them” narratives. She writes:

Terror can rule absolutely only over men who are isolated against each other… Therefore, one of the primary concerns of all tyrannical government is to bring this isolation about. Isolation may be the beginning of terror; it certainly is its most fertile ground; it always is its result. This isolation is, as it were, pretotalitarian; its hallmark is impotence insofar as power always comes from men acting together…; isolated men are powerless by definition.

Although isolation is not necessarily the same as loneliness, Arendt notes that loneliness can become both the seedbed and the perilous consequence of the isolation effected by tyrannical regimes:

In isolation, man remains in contact with the world as the human artifice; only when the most elementary form of human creativity, which is the capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world, is destroyed, isolation becomes altogether unbearable… Isolation then becomes loneliness. […]

While isolation concerns only the political realm of life, loneliness concerns human life as a whole. Totalitarian government, like all tyrannies, certainly could not exist without destroying the public realm of life, that is, without destroying, by isolating men, their political capacities. But totalitarian domination as a form of government is new in that it is not content with this isolation and destroys private life as well. It bases itself on loneliness, on the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.

This is why our insistence on belonging, community, and human connection is one of the greatest acts of courage and resistance in the face of oppression — for, in the words of the beloved Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, “the ancient and eternal values of human life — truth, unity, goodness, justice, beauty, and love — are all statements of true belonging.”

The Origins of Totalitarianism is a remarkable read in its totality. Complement it with Arendt on the life of the mindhow we humanize each otherthe difference between how art and science illuminate human life, and her beautiful love letters.
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Atheist Christmas…

 

sg

From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

Again we celebrate the victory of Light over Darkness, of the God of day over the hosts of night. Again Samson is victorious over Delilah, and Hercules triumphs once more over Omphale. In the embrace of Isis, Osiris rises from the dead, and the scowling Typhon is defeated once more. Again Apollo, with unerring aim, with his arrow from the quiver of light, destroys the serpent of shadow. This is the festival of Thor, of Baldur and of Prometheus. Again Buddha by a miracle escapes from the tyrant of Madura, Zoroaster foils the King, Bacchus laughs at the rage of Cadmus, and Chrishna eludes the tyrant.

This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal.

This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions—the worship of the sun.

Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and most reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and the most reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful.

The sun is the god of benefits, of growth, of life, of warmth, of happiness, of joy. The sun is the all-seeing, the all-pitying, the all-loving.

This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought for revenge.

All evil qualities were in the breast of the God of darkness, of shadow, of night. And so I say again, this is the festival of Light. This is the anniversary of the triumph of the Sun over the hosts of Darkness.

Let us all hope for the triumph of Light—of Right and Reason—for the victory of Fact over Falsehood, of Science over Superstition.

And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival of the Sun.

ac
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All I want for Christmas is to…

 

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Why It’s Time to Call Bullshit on Prayer Requests…

 

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From Valerie Tarico

Asking God for help is not as harmless as it seems. 

Around the world and across America, people ask God for favors large and small, and praying gives them comfort. People pray over dying pets, dying parents, wars, forest fires, food, football games, parking spaces, tests, super-shopper discounts, erectile dysfunction, and excessive flatulence.

In the face of terrorist tragedies or natural disasters (sometimes called “acts of God”), preachers and politicians call for more prayer. And why not? It costs them nothing and earns them points. Public opinion and even the Bible are on their side. “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you,” said one Bible writer. “Ask and you will receive,” promised another.

Even though research shows that prayer requests don’t have any measurable effect—that God, at best, operates at the margins of statistical significance—pro-prayer platitudes and scripts are cherished and repeated and handed down from generation to generation. As a child at Camp Good News, I crooned along with my fellow campers: God answers prayer in the morning, God answers prayer at noo-oo-oon, God answers prayer in the eeevening . . . My youth pastor explained why it didn’t always seem that way: Sometimes God says yes, he told us, sometimes He says no, and sometimes He says wait. Forty years later, Christian children and youth still memorize the same lines.

Atheists, agnostics and other secular activists may think prayer is hogwash, but a lot of other people like praying and they like to think that it works. So, why not just leave the habit alone? It seems harmless enough. “Prayer makes us feel good.  It gives comfort.  It’s a way to feel like we’re doing something important with minimal effort,” says former Evangelical Seth Andrews.

It may even have other benefits.

Possible Perks from Asking God for Favors

Christian Crock: We’re the ones who finally got the Bible right…

 

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