Posts By ds

Religion Supports Nobody…



No More Make Believe: God gets stoned?



Freethinker: Alex Honnold



On this date in 1985, rock climber Alex Honnold was born in Sacramento, California. Honnold is one of the top free-solo climbers in the world. In free solo, the climber does not use any ropes or protective gear but relies only on physical and mental strength. He also does big-wall climbing, which is defined as a route that takes more than a day to climb.

A self-described “atheist rock climber,” Honnold was taken to church as a child, but instead of finding meaning in bible readings, he daydreamed about climbing the church’s rafters. Honnold began rock climbing at age 11. He attended the University of California-Berkeley to study engineering but dropped out to pursue his climbing passion and lives out of his van, traveling to different climbing spots. In a video by filmmaker Chris Johnson, Honnold described why he’s an atheist: “I was taken to church for maybe five or six years as a kid and at no point did I ever think there was ever anything going on with church. I always saw it as a bunch of old people eating stale wafers, and that’s totally weird to me.”

Honnold, along with climber Hans Florine, holds the world record for the fastest ascent of “The Nose” of El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, in California’s Yosemite Valley. It’s is the most popular route to ascend the mountain. Honnold and Florine climbed it in the record time of 2:23:51. On June 3, 2017, he became the first person to scale El Capitan without using ropes or other safety gear, in 3 hours and 56 minutes. According to National Geographic, the ascent “may be the greatest feat of pure rock climbing in the history of the sport.”

“By not believing in an afterlife, it forces you to make the most out of this life to get the most out of the time you have.”


TODD WALTON: Postcards & Notecards



Card Quest notecard and postcard by Todd

Under The Table Books

I love the postal service. I love getting letters and postcards and packages. I’m sixty-seven; thus for much of my life there were no such things as personal computers and email and smartphones. The mail, the actual hold-in-your-hands letters and cards, was the great connector over long distances, especially among artists and writers and less conventional folks.

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I got two or three letters and postcards every day, and some days I might get seven or eight. Nowadays I get a postcard or letter, if I’m lucky, once a week. And though I gladly partake of email and depend on my email connections for an important part of my daily happiness, I still think of letters and cards I find in my post office box as holy relics.

In response to what I consider the new Dark Ages that have descended upon us, I have revived my habit of writing and sending out letters and cards each week. I don’t expect these missives to elicit replies via the post office or otherwise. I write these notes and letters because I find the process satisfying, and because I know such communications bring pleasure to the recipients.

To facilitate my pleasure and the pleasure of people I write to, I like to create postcards and notecards that are the kinds of notecards and postcards I wish to find in stationery stores or bookshops, but never find them—because they don’t exist unless I create them. In the last year, since reviving my habit of sending handwritten messages on one-of-a-kind postcards, and handwritten letters in one-of-a-kind notecards, several correspondents have asked if they could purchase copies of my cards. One thing led to another and I decided to launch a line of notecards and postcards and offer them for sale from my web site. If you’d like to see the new line, go to and click on CARDS in the menu. Then on the CARDS page click on Postcards or Notecards. Voila.

Losing Our Religion: Movie Trailer…



It is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true…



All You Fascists Bound To Lose…



JEFF COX: Intolerance


Kenwood, Sonoma County

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, are not an isolated example of white supremacists voicing their opinion about the glory of Robert E. Lee and the Old South. Those alt-right marches are just one small node in an interconnected web of right-wing agendas that now extend widely through our entire society, church and state, corrupting our institutions as they spread.

This wide web of agendas smells strongly of racism, fascism, and religious and political fundamentalism. In a word: intolerance for anything but the Trump-approved line.

For example, take Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s plan to siphon money from our public schools to pay for vouchers that will be given to parents to pay for sending their kids to private schools. Sounds pretty benign, right? Wrong. Most of those private schools are religious—and not just religious like Catholic schools, but fundamentalist Evangelical Christian schools, where the kids will be indoctrinated in alt-right ideas about the superiority of the white race and the Christian equivalent of Sharia law. Does that sound hysterical? Get a copy of “The Good News Club” by Katherine Stewart, published five years ago, that details how far underway this agenda already is, and Google “Betsy DeVos and the move toward Evangelical Christian education” to see how far the movement has come in the past five years.

Freethinker: Robert Ingersoll



On this date in 1833, Robert Green Ingersoll, who became the best known advocate of freethought in 19th-century United States, was born in Dresden, N.Y. The son of an impoverished itinerant pastor, he later recalled his formative church experiences: “The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered ‘yes.’ Then we were asked if we would be willing to go to hell if it was God’s will, and every little liar shouted ‘Yes!’ ”

He became an attorney by apprenticeship, and a colonel in the Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh. In 1867, Ingersoll was appointed Illinois’ first Attorney General. His political career was cut short by his refusal to halt his controversial lectures, but he achieved national political fame for his thrilling nomination speech for James G. Blaine for president at the national convention of the Republican Party in 1876. Ingersoll was good friends with three U.S. presidents. The distinguished attorney was known and admired by most of the leading progressives and thinkers of his day. “Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind?” (Some Mistakes of Moses)

Ingersoll traveled the continent for 30 years, speaking to capacity audiences, once attracting 50,000 people to a lecture in Chicago—40,000 too many for the Exposition Center. His repertoire included 3 to 4-hour lectures on Shakespeare, Voltaire and Burns, but the largest crowds turned out to hear him denounce the bible and religion. Ingersoll’s speaking fees ranged as high as $7,000, in an era of low wages and no income tax. He married Eva Parker Ingersoll, a rationalist whom he deemed a “Woman Without Superstition,” in dedicating his first freethought book to her. He initially settled in Peoria, Illinois, then in Washington, D.C., where he successfully defended falsely accused men in the “Star Route” scandal, the most famous political trial of the 19th century. The family later relocated to New York.

A devoted family man, he lived with his extended family, and the Ingersoll “at homes” were celebrated, both in Washington D.C., and in New York. Religious rumors against Ingersoll abounded. One had it that Ingersoll’s son was a drunkard who more than once had to be carried away from the table. Ingersoll wrote: “It is not true that intoxicating beverages are served at my table. It is not true that my son ever was drunk. It is not true that he had to be carried away from the table. Besides, I have no son!” The 12-volume Dresden Edition of his lectures, poetry and interviews was collected after his death and has been reprinted many times. D. 1899.

“All religions are inconsistent with mental freedom. Shakespeare is my bible, Burns my hymn-book.”

“I do not borrow ideas. I have a factory of my own.”

“I do not believe in putting out the sun to keep weeds from growing.”

“With soap, baptism is a good thing.”

“[Of William Jennings Bryan] He talks, but he does not think.”
—-Robert G. Ingersoll.

For more information on Ingersoll see


Freedom From Religion Foundation unveils “The Most Unpleasant Character” webpage…



The Freedom From Religion Foundation unveils its new “Unpleasant Companion” webpage, a searchable database of Old Testament verses proving that God is, indeed, the most unpleasant character.

The pro-blasphemy site was inspired by biologist Richard Dawkins’ sentence in chapter 2 of his book “The God Delusion,” in which he writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist,infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential,megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

That sentence prompted volcanic criticism. To back up this claim, Dawkins asked FFRF Co-President and former minister Dan Barker to compile a list of biblical citations for each unflattering descriptor. This resulted in Barker’s book “GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.”

Now, FFRF is introducing the “Unpleasant Companion,” a site built to allow visitors to easily search through and share bible verses from Barker’s book that serve as evidence for the 19 adjectives Dawkin’s used to characterize God. The site categorizes the characteristics Dawkins used, along with eight additional sacrilegious attributes Barker gives to God in Part 2 of his book.

“God is every bit as depraved as Dawkins painted him, and more,” said Barker. “The new site includes biblical passages revealing that God is also pyromaniacal, angry, merciless, curse-hurling, vaccicidal, aborticidal, cannibalistic and a slavemonger.”

Recently, there has been an influx of blasphemy charges around the world, including one that Irish authorities brought against actor Stephen Fry over irreverent comments he made LINK TO STORY. In response to the investigation, Dawkins publicly denounced Ireland’s law that makes blasphemy a crime in a letter to the Irish Times quoting his famous slew of holy insults. There is an ongoing campaign by Atheist Ireland to repeal that law.

On Monday, June 12, Dawkins will be speaking in Dublin on the topic of blasphemy and will reference the verses to be found on FFRF’s new webpage.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to promote nontheism and the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

Rational Suicide: Dr Philip Nitschke in Darwin, Australia to show people how to end their lives…


Nan Maitland.

From NTNews, Australia

FORMER Northern Territory voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke is back in Darwin to teach Territorians how to “practically, peacefully and reliably” end their lives.

Dr Nitschke, who now lives in the Netherlands, helped four patients end their lives in the NT before the law allowing him to do so was overturned in 1997.

The workshop in Lyons on Saturday is one of 10 to be held around Australia and will give the elderly and terminally ill advice on how to buy, store and use drugs or gases to kill themselves.

“It’s a very practical guide on peacefully and reliably ending your life,” Dr Nitschke said.

He acknowledged the workshops were controversial, but said there had been minimal opposition to them in the Territory.

“Territorians are by and large much more amenable to the idea (of voluntary euthanasia) than people down south,” he said.

“There’s always opposition in Sydney and Melbourne – usually from religious groups – and from people who say it upsets politicians and lowers the chances of having laws passed.”

Dr Nitschke said he didn’t buy the argument that teaching people how to end their lives led to higher suicide rates.

“We have thousands of 75-year-old members who want to have the drugs in the cupboard, and feel a whole lot happier when they do and when they’re happier, they live longer and better lives,” he said.

Dr Nitschke said he believed legislation in the works for Victoria would pass this year, which could lead to the repeal of the federal legislation which prevents the NT and ACT from allowing the practice.

But, any legislation would likely be “extremely conservative” and require those wishing to die to “jump through hoops” to prove their eligibility to end their lives, he said.

While in Darwin, Dr Nitschke will also attend the Casuarina screening of Fade to Black, a film documenting the final six months of Peter Short’s life as he lobbied politicians to give the terminally ill the right to die.



fawns 2017

Twins photo by Todd

Under The Table Books

We were visited this morning by the twin fawns who share these woods with us, and today our coming to the window to look at them did not scare them away, but precipitated a pleasant staring game that went on long enough for me to get my camera and take a picture. The deer hereabouts are quite hungry now in early August and are eating things they don’t bother to eat when their preferred foods are more abundant. When we see deer going up on their hind legs to eat camellia leaves, we know pickings are slim for the local ungulates.

We just saw the excellent and upsetting movie Incendies by Denis Villeneuve based on the play of the same name by Wajdi Mouawad. If you are squeamish about violence as I am, this is not a movie for you. Had I known what the movie was about beyond what I saw in the trailer, I would not have watched the film. Yet I think Incendiesis an important work of art and a brilliant illumination of the religious and cultural madness gripping the Middle East and much of the world today. The movie involves twins, a man and a woman, attempting to unravel the secrets of their deceased mother’s past.

Some years ago, I read several articles about twins. One of the articles suggested that many more twins are conceived than ever come to full term; and most left-handed people are the surviving twin of identical twins, one of whom did not survive the first weeks in utero. For some reason, that tidbit, which may or may not be true, has stayed with me.

Rebuttal to the Richard Dawkins Controversy…


From AlterNet

[Original articles here]

My article “The Dangerous Delusions of Richard Dawkins,” which appeared on AlterNet recently, has stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest of controversy. Within a few hours of publication, it has catalyzed over 350 comments, most of them antagonistic. To give a sense of the flavor and tone, here’s a typical entry:

Yep. This piece isn’t just fallacious, it is flagrantly intellectually dishonest. The only way for AlterNet to save face on this is to retract this tripe in its entirety.

I should have been prepared. In a recent article on Salon, Phil Torres writes how the New Atheist movement has degenerated into a tribal ethic of intolerance. His piece initiated its own torrent of comments, such as, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.”

However, along with the vitriol, some arguments made in response to my article raise important issues worthy of a considered response. In the hope of catalyzing a more productive dialogue, I’ve attempted to distill what I see as the key criticisms and offer my feedback. I encourage a continuing discussion, in a civil and respectful tone, of what I see as vitally important topics regarding the underlying structures of thought that predominate in our civilization.

‘Attacking the “Selfish Gene” idea is a straw man tactic’

Why Losing God Hits Some of Us Harder…


From Neil Carter
Godless In Dixie

I wasn’t active in the skeptic movement long before I discovered how different my perspective on religion was from that of other atheists. In time I came to understand that people who have never been religious come to the subject as outsiders who cannot always sympathize with those who formerly were.

But I most definitely was religious. Except I never would have used that word to describe myself. In fact, I would have recoiled from that word as I had been thoroughly indoctrinated against accepting the label by years of hearing that I was “spiritual but not religious.” What I enjoyed was not a religion, you see, it was a relationship.

That’s utter nonsense, by the way. It most definitely is a religion. But Christian exceptionalism has always been a key component of the evangelical faith, and ironically I don’t think they are exceptional in that regard, either. I believe a majority of world faiths harbor the notion that they are uniquely authentic while all other faiths are dim reflections of the truths of which they themselves are the sole proprietary owners.

That said, my religion was absolutely relational. For me, the Christian faith was best summed up in that statement of Jesus in John 17:3 where he said:

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

That’s the lens through which I was taught to view my religion—I viewed it fundamentally as a relationship with a living person who was to be known and experienced in daily life just like any other person would be. Well, not exactly in the same way, I suppose, since this particular person was invisible—detectable only to those who believed in him. In this relationship, one must come with a sincere expectation that God is real and that he can indeed be known by those who want to know him. As another key verse, Hebrews 11:6 explains:

Jazz at the Blues House



Religion takes on Richard Dawkins and He Responds In Kind…

The Dangerous Delusions of Richard Dawkins

His rationalist crusade creates a false impression that the only alternative to religion is reductionist science.

From Jeremy Lent

[Two articles, then responses below…]

The recent cancellation of a book event with Richard Dawkins by the radio station KPFA has caused reverberations around the world. KPFA cited offensive remarks Dawkins has made about Islam. Dawkins and his followers have claimed these were taken out of context and that he’s been equally critical of Christianity. What this controversy misses, however, is the far greater destructive force of other ideas Dawkins has promulgated over decades, which have helped form the foundation of a mainstream worldview that endorses gaping wealth inequalities and encourages the wanton destruction of the natural world.

Richard Dawkins is seen as a superhero by rationalist thinkers seeking to overturn the delusions of monotheistic thought, which have wreaked havoc on the experience of billions of people over the past two millennia. In a 2013 poll, the readers of a respected British magazine, Prospect, voted him as the world’s top thinker. His bestselling popularization of evolution, The Selfish Gene, published in 1976, was recently named the most influential science book of all time in a Royal Society poll.

In fighting for science against religious superstition and climate deniers, Richard Dawkins deserves some of his popular acclaim. However, rational as they appear at first, Dawkins’ ideas are based on delusions of their own. The flaws implicit in his own belief system may be less obvious than those of monotheism, but they are at the root of much that is wrong in the current mainstream worldview. Important as it is to point out the dangerous delusions of monotheism, it is equally important not to replace one set of misconceptions with another.

In my book, The Patterning Instinct, I explored the underlying misconceptions that have led to our current crisis of civilization, and realized that Dawkins has been popularizing two of the most pernicious. One is the idea that all living organisms are controlled by selfish genes, and that humans, by implication, are innately selfish. Another is the notion that nature is nothing more than a very complicated machine. Both of these core ideas have been shown by countless scientists to be fundamentally wrong. Yet, partly because of the popularity of Dawkins’s own writing, they are widely taken on faith by the same intelligentsia that reject the fallacies of monotheism—and are used to justify some of our civilization’s most destructive behaviors.

The ‘Selfish Gene’ Is Bad Science and Bad Economics

Evangelical Christians and Donald Trump: They love him because they don’t trust facts or reason…


From Salon

Donald Trump is a man of many notable qualities. He is ignorant and a brute. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women by grabbing them by their genitals. He is a serial womanizer and has been divorced several times. He has also admitted to finding his own daughter sexually attractive. He is a serial liar who adores autocrats and dictators. He may even have gone so far as to collude with Russia and Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 presidential election. Trump is also violent, moody, vain and impulsive. He does not read and is proudly ignorant.

Why would anyone support such a leader? More specifically, why would any supposed “Christian” support Donald Trump, who appears to represent the antithesis of Christian virtues in so many ways?

Writing at Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall offers the following insights:

But Trump is able to take people of some apparent substance and attainment and destroy them as well. The key though is that he doesn’t destroy them. In his orbit, under some kind of spell, he makes them destroy themselves. It is always a self-destruction. He’s like a black hole. But for this there’s no ready explanation. Because what is the power? The force?

I puzzled over this for some time. Eventually I sensed that Trump wasn’t inducing people’s self-destruction so much as he was acting like a divining rod, revealing rot that existed already but was not apparent. … The rot was there but hidden. Trump is the moonlight. Perhaps better to say, to invert our metaphor, Trump is the darkness. …

Jesus: I love you unconditionally…



TODD WALTON: High Summer


High Summer

High Summer photo by Todd

Under The Table Books

Woke in the middle of the night. I’ve been sleeping well lately, so I wondered why I was awake. Wide awake. And then I remembered I broke my rule about not reading any news in the evening, and I also watched a video blurb about Trump—my first Trump visitation in several weeks. I might as well have had two cups of coffee and chocolate truffles before going to bed.

I haven’t liked a President of the United States since Jimmy Carter. I am aware that Jimmy presided over lots of horrible things done by our government, but I was thrilled by his willingness to talk about the planetary environmental crisis way back in the 1970s, about how we needed to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. And then he pushed through government programs that helped accelerate the solar power revolution. He walked his talk a little.

Our presidents since Jimmy have been consistently dishonest servants of the supranational monsters who began their complete takeover of our government with the election of Ronald Reagan. All our presidents after Jimmy facilitated the transfer of wealth from those with not much to those who already have everything. They all expanded the military and continued the policy of endless war. They all knowingly presided over the killing of thousands of civilians in essentially defenseless countries. They all did nothing to address global warming, over-population, and the environmental crises threatening life on earth. They all allowed our healthcare system to deteriorate and be taken over by the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. They all played golf.

Stoic Reminders For Everyday Practice…


From How To Be A Stoic

During the recent Stoic Summer School I have taught in Rome, one of the exercises for the group was to come up with a list of short phrases summarizing key Stoic teachings, to keep handy for everyday practice. Below is the list (which, I’m sure, could easily be expanded), organized according to Epictetus’ three disciplines of Desire, Action and Assent, with each phrase accompanied by a sourced quotation and a brief explanation. (Here is a downloadable version for ease of use.)

DISCIPLINE OF DESIRE (virtues of courage and temperance)

Some things are up to me, other things are not up to me

Arguably the most fundamental doctrine in practical Stoicism, certainly for Epictetus, is the dichotomy of control: focus on the stuff you can act on, take the rest as the universe will serve it to you (very similar to the famous Christian Serenity Prayer).

“Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.” (Epictetus, Enchiridion I)

Fate permitting

The famous Stoic reserve clause: your plan is always subordinate to the occurrence of things you cannot control.

“When you’re about to embark on any action, remind yourself what kind of action it is. If you’re going out to take a bath, set before your mind the things that happen at the baths, that people splash you, that people knock up against you, that people steal from you. And you’ll thus undertake the action in a surer manner if you say to yourself at the outset, ‘I want to take a bath and ensure at the same time that my choice remains in harmony with nature.’” (Epictetus, Enchiridion IV)

There goes my cup

Other Gods Before Christ…



Our Aged Have Earned The Right To Die…



From Philip Nitschke
The Australian

As the euthanasia issue heats up again, many are wondering aloud what the fuss is all for.

For some, Victoria’s proposed law will represent a historical breakthrough. Since the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Termin­ally Ill Act was quashed by federal parliament 20 years ago, Australia has led the world in going backwards on end-of-life choices. ­Others like it this way.

As Victoria’s assisted-dying law looks increasingly like a sure thing, deep splits along conscience, ­rather than party, lines are emerging at Spring Street.

Similar divisions happened in Darwin in 1996. The NT law got up by one vote, that of the sole Aboriginal member, Wes Lanhupuy.

However, 20 years later the world has moved on and we are talking about a new law, one that Victorians boast is the safest law ever, anywhere in the world.

What I would add is that the law is so ridiculously cautious that few people will be able to use it. With its 60-plus safeguards, the law is destined to fail even if it passes.

Here’s why:

Islam: Only the Truth Will Prevent Harm…


From Sarah Haider
Secular Humanism

Sarah Haider is a writer, speaker, and activist. Born in Pakistan and raised in Texas, she was a practicing Shia Muslim until she left the faith in her teenage years. In 2013, she cofounded Ex-Muslims of North America.

Nothing is as destructive to a political ideology as a hypocrisy exposed. An accidental hypocrisy indicates ignorance, and ignorance, thankfully, can often be remedied with evidence and reason. A willful hypocrisy, however, eats away at the foundations of the ideology, leaving it vulnerable to collapse.

Conservatives and dissenting liberals alike have noted a tendency in progressive circles to whitewash Islamic ideology and practices. Activists who (rightfully) decry intolerance against Muslims in the West will too often turn a blind eye to intolerance by Muslims anywhere in the world. The very same activists who denounce religiously motivated hostility toward gay rights by evangelicals and Mormons will ignore, or attempt to explain away, the same hostility when it is motivated by Islamic belief. Western feminists join “slutwalks” by the thousands to protest the notion that immodest clothing justifies sexual assault. But few among them speak out against Muslim norms idolizing female modesty and chastity. The ones who do face being smeared as “Islamophobes.” In a similar vein, the same progressives who recognize the importance of defending the civil liberties of Muslims in the West will overlook the abhorrent treatment of apostates in Muslim countries.

Conservatives declare that this double standard reveals the politicized and discriminatory nature of the Left’s commitment to human rights and civil liberties. The blind spot for Islam provides evidence, they argue, that “liberal values” are only a pretense, a mask of moral superiority underneath which hides a cynical tribalism. Dissenting liberals (like myself) believe that the Left’s hypocrisy points instead to a moral confusion, based on a well-intentioned desire to protect Muslims from xenophobic aggression, albeit one that provides a shield for Islamic theocrats.

At the beginning of my own activism, I had imagined that the protectiveness I saw toward Islam was due to ignorance. The solution, then, was to educate my fellow liberals. I could offer evidence that the practice of Islam by Muslims around the world is far more literal than that of the followers of most other faiths. I could point to the history of the East and prove that Islamic fundamentalism is not a unique phenomenon triggered solely by Western intervention. Fundamentalism has appeared (and been vanquished, and reappeared) countless times in the Muslim world.

Bible Literately?



Mum’s torture broke my heart…


Nitschke and mother Gwen.

From Philip Nitschke
Exit International
The Australian

Euthanasia activist Philip Nit­schke has used the case of his mother to illustrate why he ­believes Victoria’s voluntary ­euthanasia laws will not work for the vast majority of people who are calling for them.

Dr Nitschke’s mother Gwen died in December 2015, aged 95, after spending more than six years in a South Australian nursing home which, he says, she compared to torture.

“She had in fact wanted to ‘check out’ the same year she had to leave her granny flat and move into institutional care. At least, she said she wanted the choice,” Dr Nitschke writes in an opinion piece in The Australian today.

Because his mother was not able to plan for death, Dr Nitschke could not get home from The Netherlands in time to be with her for her final moments.

“(It) broke my heart and ­remains the profound regret of my life. Not that Gwen died but that the process of her dying was so drawn-out, torturous and unable to be planned,” he said.

Dr Nitschke has used the ­example to illustrate what he ­believes to be the flaws in Victoria’s new right-to-die laws: that the restrictions are too onerous and that people would have to be ­“almost dead” to use them.

“Old ladies like Gwen will never be able to use the Victorian law because they aren’t sick, let alone terminally ill, about to die. Gwen was old, frail and lived without dignity. But this is different from being sick,’’ he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel ­Andrews is pushing ahead with formulating legislation for a voluntary euthanasia program that would restrict access to the sound of mind and those suffering a terminal, incurable disease that is likely to kill them within a year.

Patients would have to go through a process requiring them to ask three times for access to the scheme. They would have to be assessed by two doctors who could verify they qualified for the program.

Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan yesterday said he would use the weekend to look over the plan.

“I haven’t made my mind up, but I’m erring on the side of supporting the bill,” he said. “I’ll take some time to reflect on the issue, read the final reports and then come to a decision.”

However, resistance is firming in other pockets, with some MPs ­arguing that compliance would be ­impossible even with the strictest safeguards in place.

Chlorinated chicken? Yes, we really can have too much trade…


From George Monbiot

Global trade once made us rich. Now it unleashes a full-spectrum assault on our well-being.

What’s wrong with chlorinated chicken? It’s not as if chlorine is absent from our lives: we drink it in tap water every day. Surely it’s a small price to pay for the trade deal with the US the British government seeks? There are several answers to this question, that range from the instrumental to the existential. Let’s begin with the immediacies.

Washing chicken carcasses with chlorine allows farmers and processors to save the money they might have spent on systemic sanitation, throughout the chicken’s life and death. You need only dunk the meat in a chlorine bath to kill any accumulated germs. Does it work? It is true to say that rates of foodborne illness are similar between the EU and North America*. But chlorine-washed chicken, remarkably, could be the least offensive of the US meat regulations a trade deal might force us to adopt. It has been pushed to the fore because it’s less politically toxic than the issues hiding behind it.

While European Union rules, that currently prevail in the UK, take a precautionary approach to food regulation, permitting only products and processes proven to be safe, the US government uses a providential approach, permitting anything not yet proved to be dangerous. By limiting the budgets and powers of its regulators, it ensures that proof of danger is difficult to establish.

An investigation by Reuters discovered that chicken companies in the US use a wide array of antibiotics as routine feed supplements, both to prevent disease and as growth promoters. Among these drugs are some listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as “critically important” in human medicine. They’re administered to the chickens in low doses, creating perfect conditions for bacterial resistance and the emergence of new superbugs.

Christian Crock…



TODD WALTON: Medicine Birds



Hawk pen and ink by Todd

Under The Table Books

Long ago when I lived in Sacramento, someone gave me Medicine Cards, a book and accompanying deck of cards written by Jamie Sams and David Carson, and illustrated by Angela C. Werneke. Each card features a picture of an animal or bird or insect or reptile or amphibian. For purposes of divination, the user randomly chooses cards from the deck and reads the text in the book corresponding to those cards.

Each animal represents some aspect of power in the natural world. For instance, ant medicine involves patience and trust and hard work, badger medicine is the wise use of aggression, and beaver medicine helps us pursue our goals through cooperation and planning and persistence. The text of Medicine Cards reflects the teachings of various indigenous peoples of North America regarding the physical, energetic, and spiritual attributes of forty-four non-human beings.

When I moved from Berkeley to Mendocino twelve years ago, I found myself in a world populated by most of the beings represented in the Medicine Cards, so I no longer needed to draw cards from the deck to ignite my wondering about what Nature wanted to tell me. And last week, in the course of a single day, I had three extraordinary meetings with non-human beings that gave me much food for thought.

In the morning of that remarkable day, I walked from our house to the commercial district of Mendocino—about a mile—and upon completion of my errands decided on a circuitous route home that took me through the graveyard at the south end of town. And there amidst the gravestones I came upon a magnificent Great Blue Heron, stalking gophers—the living seeking sustenance among the dead.

The New York Times covers Dawkins’s Berkeley deplatforming…


From Why Evolution Is True

As we all know, radio station KPFA in Berkeley decided to withdraw its sponsorship of a book talk by Richard Dawkins, cancelling the fundraising even; the reason, they said, was that Dawkins had insulted Islam (see my coverage here and here).  As they explained, “While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech.”

That’s ridiculous, for criticizing a faith is not “abusive”. KPFA’s de-platforming was an unconscionable breach of free speech, especially by a Left-wing station that has, over the years, broadcast a lot of what could be seen as much worse “hate speech.” As I’ve noted, this wasn’t an explicit violation of the First Amendment, as KPFA is not a government-run station nor has anything to do with the University of California, but free speech goes far deeper than the Constitution. It’s a tradition—a sine qua non—of progressivism, and to do what KPFA did violates that tradition and erodes an underlying principle of democracy.

And, of course, we all realize that it’s Islam that caused it all; as Dawkins said in his response,

The Republican Party: Are Greed and Catering to Powerful Religions Its Primary Operating Principles?…


Donald Trump sat down with CBN Founder Pat Robertson for an exclusive interview at the White House, July 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

From Church and State, UK

I noticed that on Thursday evening, July 12th The Donald had a heart to heart with the televangelist Pat Robertson who despite his long history of Cold War cavils did not quibble in endorsing the Trump position on dealing with Russia and ignoring or dismissing Trump’s involvement in his alleged influencing of the last Presidential election.

The absurdity of Robertson’s positions and Trump’s evasions was captured perfectly in an Atlantic magazine piece which you can access here.

The Republican Party just keeps hitting political potholes on every important social and environmental issue. That interview with Robertson reminded me of what the late Senator Barry Goldwater counseled his party to do in numerous interviews which I subsequently chronicled on this web site.

The embrace in the 1970’s by the Republican Party of the Evangelists augmented Catholic power against women’s reproductive rights despite a warning from Mr. Conservative, Senator Barry Goldwater. That powerful religious alliance has been the primary basis for anti-women ever since. Goldwater and his wife Peggy helped start the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Phoenix.

In my 2/14/13 article on this web site, I quoted the late Senator’s warning in the late 1970’s onward to his colleagues about what has now come to pass.

JEFF COX: Advantage of age…



Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

Now that I’ve reached the advantage of age, I can see that time makes a circle around infinity. From the pinnacle, I can see the path of my life circling the mountain.

There’s that time when I was two and cried because the barber was going to cut my rich golden locks. There’s me at 10, total pals with my dog Debbie, inseparable from her and our wanderings in the fields and woodlands together.

And look, there I am at 25, sitting in the slot at a daily newspaper, the sleeves of my white Gant shirt rolled up, a cigarette dangling from my lips, writing headlines for hometown newspaper stories. I can see it all, at once if I wish, and from this place of heightened vision, I can dispense my version of wisdom.

I’m not saying that I’m right. I am saying that I can see for miles and miles. Nobody has the absolute truth, because nobody is infinitely wise. But I have the wisdom derived from my long life. Over all these years, the insights and lessons that I have distilled from my experiences are a brew that is worth something. Juice pressed from unripe fruit is sour. Juice from ripe fruit is delicious.

I suspect this is why the elders are respected in many societies around the world. When problems arise, why not go to those who have the long perspective and the wisdom that comes with it? They may not have the answer, but they may have an answer. And you can put it in your bag of possible answers. And eventually let them trickle through your fingers until one feels right for you, and can inform your own personal decision.

As I age, I find myself becoming less and less visible. Sales people and checkout clerks call me “honey,” or “sweetie,” of which I am neither. I am a towering, full-blown, mental repository of an entire life’s experience. You think you know things? You should inhabit my mind for an hour and see the kind of things I know. I’m sure it would blow your mind.

It seems obvious: respect your elders. Not because you should be in servitude to them, shackled to their past, but because they just may be miles ahead of you on the path, full of insight and wisdom, aching to share it with you, if you only respected them enough to ask.

How a secretive network built around a Nobel prizewinner set out to curtail our freedoms…


From George Monbiot
The Guardian

It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book Democracy in Chains: the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year, whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She writes that the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch.

Her discoveries in that house of horrors reveal how Buchanan, in collaboration with business tycoons and the institutes they founded, developed a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich. The programme is now reshaping politics, and not just in the US.

Buchanan was strongly influenced by both the neoliberalism of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises and the property supremacism of John C Calhoun, who argued, in the first half of the 19thcentury, that freedom consists of the absolute right to use your property – including your slaves – however you may wish. Any institution that impinges on this right is an agent of oppression, exploiting men of property on behalf of the undeserving masses.

James Buchanan brought these influences together to create what he called “public choice theory”. He argued that a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions. What he meant by this was that no one should be taxed against their will. But the rich were being exploited by people who use their votes to demand money that others have earned, through involuntary taxes to support public spending and welfare. Allowing workers to form trade unions and imposing graduated income taxes are forms of “differential or discriminatory legislation” against the owners of capital.

A Deconversion Story…


From Graceful Atheist

These kinds of messages have become cliché, but I find the need to write it anyway. Mostly this is an attempt to communicate to my friends and family as succinctly but thoroughly as possible the what and the why of my deconversion from Christianity. This is also for those of you readers who have had doubts and have struggled to keep them contained.

What I am

I am no longer a Christian. In the summer of 2015 after it became increasing more difficult to hold my beliefs against surmounting evidence to the contrary I admitted to myself I no longer believed. I was a Christian for approximately 27 years, until the Jenga tower of contradiction between belief and facts came crashing down. I could no longer sustain the mental effort it required to maintain belief against the overwhelming lack of evidence for that belief.

I am an atheist. Others, wiser than I, have pointed out that this does not tell you very much about me. To say that I am not something is not very descriptive. The list of things I am not is infinite. But I am not afraid of this moniker. I am not a theist. This means I do not believe in God or gods. I do not believe in the supernatural of any kind. The natural is more than sufficient.

I am a humanist. This means that I believe humanity is the most precious existence in the cosmos. It means that loving people trumps ideology. Julia Sweeny said it better than I can. In “Letting Go of God” after tentatively putting on the “Not believing in God glasses” she says:

And I thought wait a minute, wait a minute, what about all those people who are unjustifiably jailed? … There is no god hearing their pleas and I guess this goes for the really poor people too and really oppressed people who I had this vague idea that they had a god to comfort them and then an even vaguer idea that god had orchestrated their lives for some unknowable grand design. I walked around and thought oh, no one is minding the store! … And slowly I began to see the world differently.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Conversation with Richard Dawkins…



George Clooney: I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell…


TODD WALTON: Four Grandmothers


Four Grandmothers

Under The table Books

Once upon a time there were four grandmothers who were best friends—Tamara, Myra, Amy, and Vivienne. They first met when they were young mothers with children in the same elementary school in a medium-sized town in California; and they stayed friends and kept living in that medium-sized town after their children graduated from high school.

Tamara was sixty and had five grandchildren. Her daughters lived nearby and she was daily involved in the lives of her grandchildren. She was married to Fred, her husband of forty years. Her grandchildren called her Tama.

Myra was sixty-four and had three grandchildren. She spent time with one of her grandchildren several times a week, but the other two lived across the country in Virginia. She only saw those distant two for a week at Christmas and a week during the summer. Myra was married to Arno, her third husband. Her grandchildren called her Gammy.

Amy was sixty-seven and had two grandchildren. Amy’s grandchildren lived in Seattle with their mother who was divorced from Amy’s son. Amy only saw her grandchildren for two weeks in December, but she talked to them twice a week on the phone. Amy was not married. She divorced her one and only husband when she was thirty-five. Her grandchildren called her Grandma.

Vivienne was sixty-eight and had one grandchild. This child lived with Vivienne because Vivienne’s son and daughter-in-law died in a car accident when their little girl was three. Vivienne was a widow. Her husband Jeff died the year after their son died in the car accident. Her granddaughter called her Vivi.

The four grandmothers got together as a foursome twice a week. On Wednesday evenings they went out for Chinese food, and on Sunday afternoons they gathered at Vivienne’s to drink wine and watch a movie.