Posts By ds

GENE LOGSDON: Gardening In The Nude (or New Use For Rhubarb)



From Gene Logsdon
The Contrary Farmer

One of the greatest mysteries of life for me is society’s ambivalence about the naked human body. People line up by the hundreds every day to get a look at Michelangelo’s anatomically-correct statue of David. But if a real live David were to stand naked beside that statue, the sex police would haul him away, even in Italy where nude statues are as common as pizza.

I once did a lot of “research” into the subject of outdoor nudity. Research for a writer means I “asked around.” What gives here, anyway?

Spoiled Food in Pretty Bottles…


From The Anderson Valley Advertiser

Beer, like wine, is spoiled food that contains alcohol (evidence of spoilage) that’s immensely more toxic, in quantities actually consumed, than every selective plant killing poison and every pesticide on the market. It’s infinitely more toxic than smoking weed: zero overdose fatalities for weed, ever, unless you count a loading pallet of weed falling on a dockworker’s head.

“Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years,” says the CDC. And that’s not even counting vehicle-and-domestic-violence-related deaths. Nor gun deaths. Nor /hold my beer and watch this/ deaths.

Also beer smells and tastes terrible. And its production makes a square mile (or more) of whatever city the brewery is in smell like a giant sink full of sodden, rancid breakfast cereal, which is exactly what a brewery is. —
Marco McClean


Richard Dawkins calls for religion ‘to be offended at every opportunity’…



From The Independent

Dawkins says it’s ridiculous to be accused of racism when you criticise Islam

Richard Dawkins has said he is in favour of offending people’s religion and it should be offended at every opportunity. The controversial atheist academic, 75, argued the public was too worried about being viewed as racist and claimed it is absurd to be accused of racism for criticising Islam.

Dawkins said this was the result of an “absurd double standard” in the Western world which means people are more anxious about attacking Islam than Christianity. “People are terrified of being thought racist,” he told The Times. “There’s an awful confusion in many people’s minds. They think Islam is a race, which of course it isn’t”.

Christianity is an immoral system…



Why Bernie Sanders Is Our Best Chance to Beat Donald Trump…



 From Common Dreams

Make no mistake, the values that we say we stand for will be compromised by a Clinton nomination…

Hand-wringing over party unity misses the point. No one cares about your precious parties.

As Hillary Clinton joylessly stumbles her way to the Democratic nomination, calls have increased for Bernie Sanders to either drop out of the race altogether or, at least, to stop fighting so darn hard. We’re told that Bernie should drop out for the good of the party. Bernie should drop out so that Hillary can make her general election “pivot” (which presumably means she can be free of the burden of pretending to be a liberal). Bernie should drop out so that Hillary can focus on Trump. According to this logic, Bernie and his band of loyalists need to get pragmatic, face the music, have a reality check. Hogwash. Doesn’t anyone see what I see? Bernie Sanders is our best chance to beat Donald Trump and to prove to the young voters backing him that the Democratic party actually stands for something.

Ingersoll’s Vow…



From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)

When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.

The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave.

Pie In The Sky


Thanks to Bruce

You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and pray, live on hay
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die (that’s a lie)

Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
But when asked about something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet

And the starvation army they play
And they sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they tell you when you’re on the bum

Faith vs. Science



From Atheist Republic

A friend recently told me that he believes earth was visited by alien beings many eons ago, and that they return from time to time to check on our development. When I questioned him about the evidence he used to support this conclusion, he referred me to articles he had read asserting the early Egyptian builders demonstrated skills beyond their capacity. The article stated that many of those same skills were also seen in other locations throughout the world. I suggested to him the possibility that there may be other more mundane explanations that could be investigated to discover the truth of coincidental technological development, but he rejected that possibility and chose to speculate.

Whenever we choose to believe in any proposition without supporting evidence to demonstrate the truth of that proposition, we must accept the fact that the proposition is probably wrong. Man is a curious species, and is always searching for the ‘reasons why’ things are the way they are and how they came to be that way. In the past, and without the benefit of scientific methodology, we have relied on speculation for answers, and in some cases accepted those answers as truth.

Jeff Cox: Does Matter Emerge From Consciousness? …



From Jeff Cox

Current thinking about consciousness has it that when matter becomes arranged with enough complexity, consciousness can emerge. As atoms make molecules and molecules participate in life, then brains form and evince consciousness.

It’s my contention that it’s the other way around. That consciousness is the basic ground of reality from which matter emerges.

Consider that consciousness enables experience. Without consciousness, nothing can be experienced. Without experience, there is no perception of space or time because space and time exist within the experience of a being. But, some might argue, space, time, and matter might exist before there’s a mechanism (i.e., a mind) to perceive them. I’d argue that their existence isn’t possible unless and until there is consciousness to perceive them, so consciousness must therefore precede materialization. Without the idea of space, time, and matter first, they can’t materialize on their own.

So, endowed with consciousness, what do we experience? Matter, fundamentally. We feel the cool breeze, the icy water, the hard rock, the clacking keyboards of our computers, the sense of movement through space and time as we drive our cars.

Sam Harris: The Mystery of Consciousness…



From Sam Harris

You are not aware of the electrochemical events occurring at each of the trillion synapses in your brain at this moment. But you are aware, however dimly, of sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and moods. At the level of your experience, you are not a body of cells, organelles, and atoms; you are consciousness and its ever-changing contents, passing through various stages of wakefulness and sleep, and from cradle to grave.

The term “consciousness” is notoriously difficult to define. Consequently, many a debate about its character has been waged without the participants’ finding even a common topic as common ground. By “consciousness,” I mean simply “sentience,” in the most unadorned sense. To use the philosopher Thomas Nagel’s construction: A creature is conscious if there is “something that it is like” to be this creature; an event is consciously perceived if there is “something that it is like” to perceive it. ⁠Whatever else consciousness may or may not be in physical terms, the difference between it and unconsciousness is first and foremost a matter of subjective experience. Either the lights are on, or they are not.

To say that a creature is conscious, therefore, is not to say anything about its behavior; no screams need be heard, or wincing seen, for a person to be in pain. Behavior and verbal report are fully separable from the fact of consciousness: We can find examples of both without consciousness (a primitive robot) and consciousness without either (a person suffering “locked-in syndrome”).

The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness…


The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness

From Brain Pickings

“While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie. To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege… an uplink to universal consciousness.”

“Despite centuries of investigation by everyone from natural historians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, to ethicists, neuroscientists, and philosophers, there is still no universal definition of emotion or consciousness,” Laurel Braitman wrote in her terrific exploration of the mental lives of animals. Virginia Woolf defined consciousness as “a wave in the mind,” but even if we’re able to ride the wave, we hardly know the ocean out of which it arises.

During my annual visit to NPR’s Science Friday to discuss my choices for the year’s best science books, my co-guest — science writer extraordinaire Deborah Blum — mentioned a fascinating book that had slipped my readerly tentacles, one that addresses this abiding question of consciousness with unparalleled rigor and grace: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (public library) by naturalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker Sy Montgomery.

Montgomery begins with a seemingly simple premise. The octopus is a creature magnificently dissimilar to us — it can change shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and is capable of squeezing its entire body through a hole the size of an apple. And since we humans experience reality in profoundly different ways from one another, based on our individual consciousnesses, then the octopus must be inhabiting an altogether different version of what we call reality.

TODD WALTON: Hollywood Salads


sunny days tw

Sunny Days painting by Nolan Winkler

Under The Table

From 1978 until 1985 I was entangled in the movie business as a novelist and screenwriter hoping to get my creations made into movies. I was not greatly successful, but I made a few chunks of money and had many strange adventures with the habitués of Hollywood.

Now and then something will happen in the very non-Hollywood life I now lead, and I will be reminded of one or another of those odd adventures. For instance, Marcia and I recently dined at our neighbor’s house, loved her salad dressing, and inquired of the ingredients. Our neighbor’s enumeration of those ingredients reminded me of a supping experience I had in 1981 at a trendy Hollywood eatery.

One of my three supper companions was Laura Ziskin, who would shortly thereafter produce Pretty Woman and other big hits and eventually settle into making Spiderman movies until her recent death. In 1981, she and her producing partner Ian Sanders had optioned my novel Forgotten Impulses and cajoled Warner Brothers into hiring me to adapt the novel to the screen.

Authoritarianism: The political science that explains Trump…



Our Right to Democratic Socialism…


In the run-up to the Second World War, the United States had suffered through the Great Depression, following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election at the end of 1932 was based on a commitment to reform the economy and society through a “New Deal” program. The first indication of a commitment to government guarantees of social and economic rights came in an Address to the Commonwealth Club on 23 September 1932, during his campaign. This speech was written with AA Berle, a professor of corporate law at Columbia University, and a key passage read,

As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.

Throughout Roosevelt’s presidency, he returned to the same theme continually over the course of the New Deal. Also, in the Atlantic Charter, an international commitment was made as the Allies thought about how to “win the peace” following victory in World War Two.

“The Economic Bill of Rights”

American Aggression Against China…


South China Sea crisis

A World Crisis Looms

From 4thMedia

The American aggression against China continued Tuesday May 10th with the invasion of Chinese waters just off the Spratly Islands by an American destroyer as China’s limited stock of patience continues to run out.

By sending their ships into Chinese territorial waters on the bizarre claim that they are exercising “their right of innocent passage” and that, the “United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” they are in fact claiming the right to go anywhere they want, anytime they want.

They might as well claim the right to once again send gunboats up the Yangtze River bristling with guns and marines, for their passage through Chinese waters was not only illegal, because without permission; it was also certainly not “innocent” since the passage was meant to be a display of power and control, which is prohibited by the Law of the Sea Convention.

The American claim of following international law is absurd because international law requires that a naval vessel of one county wishing to enter the 12 nautical mile limit of another country must have the permission of the country whose waters they wish to cross. They have to ask permission and they have to fly that country’s flag when they make the passage.

All foreign ships entering another nation’s waters fly their own flag and that of the host nation. The Americans refuse to ask permission and they certainly do not honour the custom of flying the Chinese flag. They might as well send their ambassador to a meeting with President Xi and, in front of everyone, spit in his face. For that is what they intend, to insult China, and to dare it.

Today’s Republican Party is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human History…



Boycott Walmart! Bring Costco to Ukiah NOW!…




GENE LOGSDON: Raw Deals Over Raw Milk



The Contrary Farmer

One of the saddest stories I have ever written appeared in the February, 1982, issue of The New Farm magazine. It was about a farmer in Iowa who went to jail for selling raw milk. I don’t know if he is still alive and I doubt he wants to stir up an old turd as we used to say so I won’t use his name. I confess to being prejudiced in favor of unpasteurized milk because I grew up on it and drank for most of my lifetime. I still have all my own teeth at age 84, have followed a rather rigorous life in spare time sports and broken only one bone, when I was in my 70s and had no business still playing football. But I am not against pasteurized milk if that’s what pleases you. We are supposed to be free enough in this land of the free and home of the brave, to drink whatever kind of milk we prefer.

The farmer who went to jail for bootlegging milk had a thriving business going, as many as 500 customers. When the law stepped in, one particularly persisted buyer would not take no for an answer. Her doctor had prescribed raw milk for her child and nothing else would do. The farmer decided to ignore the law. The law lowered the boom.

The Reason Rally, June 4, 2016, Washington D.C…



American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association is proud to be a major sponsor of the Reason Rally, likely the largest gathering of humanists, atheists, and freethinkers in history! On June 4, thousands of humanists, atheists, freethinkers, and allies will gather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for a fun-filled day of speakers and entertainers, all to celebrate reason!

If you’re planning to arrive to Washington, D.C. early, stop by the American Humanist Association headquarters at 1777 T Street NW (just a 10-minute walk from the Dupont Circle Metro station) and come meet our staff! That week our offices will only be open WednesdayFriday from 9am-5pm. Also, Wednesday night, June 1, our DC-AHA chapter is holding its monthly Happy Hour, which you can RSVP for while space remains via Meetup.

I disagree with my father that Islam is a religion of peace…



What About The Victims Of Islam?



From The Ex-Muslim

This is a guest post by Soran Tarkhani. He is of Kurdish origin from Iraqi Kurdistan. In addition to working as an assistant lecturer at Salahaddin University in Erbil and is currently pursuing his PhD in political science.

Growing up in “Kurdistan” which is often affiliated with secular philosophy I was naturally aligned with the political left and in opposition to conservative views, views that I considered being religious and looking backwards instead of to the future.

When I came to the United States to study, I continued that aspect of my life, joining various campus groups and associating with liberals with the resultant majority of my social circle avowedly left-leaning.  Excluding my deep support for the Iraq war and liberation of Kurdistan, I felt a shared sense of belonging w/my liberal colleagues and our shared ideals.

After the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris that sense of solidarity and belonging started to crumble. Due to expressing my opinion on the dangers of the religion of Islam I was shunned by my peers and accused of bigotry and racism. I have spent my entire life speaking up about issues related to the separation of Mosque and State within my home of Kurdistan but standing up against religious supremacy within the United States was somehow different. Apparently only certain religions were kosher to be criticized while others were still regarded as sacrosanct. As a result of my speaking up I was excommunicated from various leftists’ forums and Facebook groups that I had long been a welcome participant in. The situation devolved to such an extent that I was afraid of honestly speaking out about my opinion, something which I never experienced even in Iraq.

How to Socialize America’s Energy…


The most famous attempt at municipalization has been in Boulder, Colorado. Above, a solar farm under construction there in 2009. Photo by Let Ideas Compete via Flickr. 


From Dissent

To hear Lyndon Rive tell it, there is a war brewing between the private-sector innovators building the clean energy economy and the utility bureaucrats standing in its way. Rive is the cofounder and CEO of SolarCity, one of the country’s largest solar providers. In late December, the company came under sudden assault from Nevada regulators when the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously passed a law allowing it to raise the monthly fees charged to solar panel owners by 40 percent. The measure also reduced the amount customers could be paid for excess electricity they sell back to the state’s energy grid. PUC staffers say the move was a defense against an existential threat posed by private solar to the traditional utility model. If solar customers could take advantage of utility grids without paying for it, who would pay for upkeep on power lines and generators? Homeowners installing solar panels on their roofs, generating their own electricity, and selling the excess back to the utility at a profit, the PUC argued, were leading into a “death spiral.”

Solar companies saw the move in life-and-death terms, too. SolarCity retaliated against the PUC’s decision by announcing that it would withdraw from Nevada entirely, laying off 550 staff in the process. Another major solar company, Sunrun Inc., followed suit, cutting hundreds of jobs statewide. The PUC’s decision, SolarCity’s Rive warned Fortune, would “damage the state’s economy, and jeopardize thousands of jobs.” Similarly, he told ThinkProgress, “These jobs can be lost if you have a person [read: regulator] who doesn’t look at the future and only looks at supporting the monopolies of the utilities.”

Freethought is not ‘Everyone Is Right’ Thought



From Tri-State Freethinkers

One of the common responses to our billboard campaign from theists has been “Some ‘free’ thinkers you are! You dismiss anyone who thinks differently than you!”. The irony of these statements is overwhelming. There seems to be some confusion as to what “freethought” is and what it means to be a “freethinker”. Let’s start with the definition:

thought unrestrained by deference to authority, tradition, or established belief, especially in matters of religion.

Freethought is not, as many appear to think, the universal reverence and acceptance of
any idea or belief system.  As freethinkers, we believe that every viewpoint should be rigorously tested, examined, and criticized. We believe that ideas conceived from sources that cannot be questioned, such as religion, authority, or dogma, are dangerous. When an idea or belief is above criticism, it cannot grow or change with how we see the world.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell in his 1957 essay “The Value of Free Thought” wrote:

“What makes a freethinker is not his beliefs but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not he would be unhappy, his thought is not free; but if he holds them because, after careful thought he finds a balance of evidence in their favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.”

Our criticism of the story of Noah’s Ark is the result of a pragmatic examination of the Bible, and not, as some would believe, out of hatred for Christianity. The story of Noah’s Ark is part of the Christian creation myth. Believing this story to be fact, despite overwhelming consensus from multiple disciplines of science, is not only wrong, but dangerous. Teaching children and adults to ignore scientific fact in favor of unquestionable dogma will prevent our society from progressing in areas of science, medicine, and human rights.

550 Million Years of Human Evolution in a Flipbook…



William Edelen: Sacred Humanism


From WILLIAM EDELEN (1922 – 2015)
The Contrary Minister

That brilliant Renaissance man, Carl Jung, said of his Lutheran pastor father: “My father’s bible stood as a great wall between my father and the Living Present God”… What he is saying is this: organized, dogmatic, creedal and authoritarian Christianity has only one primary objective: to sustain, promote and maintain the institution. Individual spiritual growth and maturation become impossible within such an artificial construct.

The bigger the institution, the more stagnation in mediocrity, the more unavoidable is its blind stupidity, and very often immorality. To raise an individual out of this mindless mass and make clear to him/her that they are the one primary factor, and not the institution, becomes impossible.

The Doctrine of Eternal Pain…




From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)

I have concluded that I will never deliver a lecture in which I will not attack the doctrine of eternal pain. That part of the Congregational creed would disgrace the lowest savage that crouches and crawls in the jungles of Africa. The man who now, in the nineteenth century, preaches the doctrine of eternal punishment, the doctrine of an eternal hell, has lived in vain. Think of that doctrine! The eternity of punishment! I find in this same creed—in this latest utterance of Congregationalism—that Christ is finally going to triumph in this world and establish his kingdom. This creed declares that “we believe in the ultimate prevalence of the kingdom of God over all the earth.” If their doctrine is true he will never triumph in the other world. The Congregational Church does not believe in the ultimate prevalence of the kingdom of Christ in the world to come. There he is to meet with eternal failure. He will have billions in hell forever.

In this world we never will be perfectly civilized as long as a gallows casts its shadow upon the earth. As long as there is a penitentiary, within the walls of which a human being is immured, we are not a perfectly civilized people. We shall never be perfectly civilized until we do away with crime. And yet, according to this Christian religion, God is to have an eternal penitentiary; he is to be an everlasting jailer, an everlasting turnkey, a warden of an infinite dungeon, and he is going to keep prisoners there forever, not for the purpose of reforming them—because they are never going to get any better, only worse—but for the purpose of purposeless punishment. And for what? For something they failed to believe in this world. Born in ignorance, supported by poverty, caught in the snares of temptation, deformed by toil, stupefied by want—and yet held responsible through the countless ages of eternity! No man can think of a greater horror; no man can dream of a greater absurdity. For the growth of that doctrine ignorance was soil and fear was rain. It came from the fanged mouths of serpents, and yet it is called “glad tidings of great joy.”

Some Who are Damned.


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