Posts By ds

WILL PARRISH: California’s Thirsty Wine-Grapes

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

In the San Joaquin Valley heartland town of Livingston, located along Highway 99 between Turlock and Merced, the United States’ most lucrative wine corporation, E&J Gallo, operates the world’s largest winery: a place where serried ranks of massive, 200,000-gallon tanks tower over the surrounding countryside, in a compound ringed by security fences.

Were California its own nation, its wine industry would be the world’s fourth largest in terms of revenue. Roughly 570,000 acres in the state are under the vine, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (which chairman, incidentally, was president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers for 13 years). And about half of that acreage is located in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, which operate in conjunction with the area’s enormous industrial wineries.

Much of this grape-based alcohol production is enabled by California’s unparalleled water infrastructure, which transmits water from north to south, thereby turning the arid lands that supply Gallo’s oil refinery-like facility into a bountiful — and profitable — farming region. On the other side of the Coast Ranges, and further north, resides another thirsty portion where the wine industry places inordinate demand on its watersheds.

TODD WALTON: Play Ball

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From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“When they start the game, they don’t yell, ‘Work ball.’ They say, ‘Play ball.’” Willie Stargell

The day before Opening Day of Baseball Season 2015, Lon Simmons died at the age of ninety-one. Lon and his broadcasting partner Russ Hodges were the San Francisco Giants radio announcers when I was a boy and a teenager, and Lon’s voice and laconic style are etched in my memory as deeply as the voice of any close relative.

Opening Day 2015 was five days ago as I write this, and in the first game of the new season the Giants eked out a victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in our usual nail-biting fashion. Our super hero starter Madison Bumgarner pitched seven dominant innings and left the game with a four-run lead courtesy of our boys hitting singles and doubles in bunches. Our bullpen promptly gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth and we went to the bottom of the ninth clinging to a one-run lead.

Comedian Julia Sweeney Urges You to be “Openly Secular”

I’m urging you to just say you’re openly secular… You’d probably be surprised how much of an affect it has on other people. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say once I admitted that I wasn’t religious, it gave them the feeling like they could say that [too].

I love how honest she is about the harsh connotation of the word “Atheist,” and why alternatives might help make the idea more palatable for other people. Sweeney is behind the excellent one-woman show “Letting Go of God.”

This is all for the Openly Secular campaign, which is urging people to come out as non-theistic to at least one person on April 23.
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The science is in, and god is not the answer…

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From Epiphenom

Social_Progress_2015Yesterday the international polling organisation WIN/Gallup released the results of a massive new survey into religion worldwide (here’s their press release). You’ve probably seen the news reports, mostly talking about which countries have the most (or fewest) religious people, and speculating what that might mean.

Some other important data come out just last week – the latest update of the Social Progress Index.This also is a mammoth undertaking, painstakingly assessing the nations of the world against a battery of benchmarks divided into three categories: “Basic Human Needs”, “Foundations of Wellbeing” (health and basic education), and “Opportunity” – personal rights, freedom, tolerance and advanced education.

So here’s the question. Are the two correlated in some way – and if so, how? I downloaded the data to find out.

Atheist ‘terrorists’ face death threats…

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From The Freethinker UK

Pictured above are a happy group of Turkish atheists enjoying a fraternal day out in the sun. It was taken before the authorities decided to equate non-believers with terrorism – and the Facebook page on which the photo first appeared has disappeared.

Furthermore, the Turkish Atheism Association’s webpage can no longer be accessed in Turkey. It was blocked in March. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned people to beware of “atheist terrorists”, accusing them of conspiring to overthrow his government.

The Atheism Association, the first of its kind in any Muslim-majority country, was officially founded in Istanbul in April 2014. It was upbeat when it launched, saying:

Now, there are finally civil rights organisations in Turkey for atheists and non-theists. It was to everybody’s surprise that these organisations were founded with virtually no legal or bureaucratic problems. 

People speculate that Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s current government may have seen this as an opportunity to demonstrate that they are actually not a totalitarian and anti-democratic government as they are often accused of being, and they even allow official atheist organizations. This may have been an easy way for them to try to polish their image.

Then it turned sour. And dangerous.

GENE LOGSDON: Watching The Basketballs Float By

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

There’s always something new headed your way, especially if you live beside a river. I visited Wendell Berry recently and we had the most marvelous time just sitting on his porch watching the Kentucky River flow by. The whole state had been experiencing serious flooding at that time and the river was way out of banks, licking up against his garden. Not as high as the “Thirty Seven Flood,” as it is referred to in Kentucky, which covered what would become his garden. (Everyone along the river knows exactly how high that famous flood rose, either in memory and with in-land markers.) We were discussing the awful erosion this part of Kentucky has suffered because of last few years’ corn and soybean craze that suckered landowners to once again cultivate land that their ancestors had learned the hard way should be kept in pasture. We had seen lots of gullies newly gouged out the rolling landscape on our way to Wendell’s farm. I was wondering how much mud would be deposited in the Gulf of Mexico just from this flood. Then Wendell said, in that tone of voice he assumes when he is about to say something droll: “But I haven’t seen any basketballs float by for an hour or so.”

“Please?” We were at the height of March Madness at the time, but basketball was not a part of the kind of madness we were discussing.

“When the water comes up this high this fast, hundreds of basketballs and soccer balls come floating past,” Wendell said.

Congratulations to Vyckie Garrison, the 2014 “Atheist of the Year!”

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From Neil Carter

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the American Atheists 2015 National Convention at the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.  The hotel was beautiful, the speakers were top notch, and the company was delightful. I spent a good chunk of my time working a table for Recovering from Religionin my new role as their Director of Group Development as well as plugging their new Hotline Project, which in the space of a month has already received over a thousand calls. I also had the honor of presenting a workshop on “Southern Atheist Living” alongside Mandisa Thomas of Black Nonbelievers and Liz Hoffmaster of the Memphis Atheists. Then to top off the weekend, we were treated to the guys from MST3K riffing their way through a live showing of God’s Not Dead. I cannot imagine a more enjoyable way to watch that cinematic disaster. It was glorious.

I am thrilled to see secular organizations in America targeting the South because I believe it is the fountainhead of the culture wars, despite its relative economic disadvantanges. This region of the country wields a disproportionate influence over national politics for a number of reasons that I’ve written about before herehere, and here(tl;dr: it’s about the Southern Strategy), and it’s clearly the seedbed for many national denominational trends. In September of this year Apostacon will also be held in the South—in Dallas to be exact—which means even more southern groups will get a chance to meet each other and network, drawing strength from the greater numbers while also having a great time.

The Critics of Islam Were Right: An Apology to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Other So-Called Islamophobes…

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From CP Opinions

For years I was an apologist for Islam, as regrettably, many still remain. I only read books and believed those who painted Islam in a peaceful, glowing light. I made excuses for radical Muslims and lived in a flood of denial that religious teachings could still, in this modern age of drones and clones, motivate a person to commit evil. I criticized the numerous atheists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher warning of the dangers inherent in Islamic doctrines, recklessly labeling them Islamophobes.

Today I’m writing to say I’m sorry, I apologize, and I ask for your forgiveness. We who have blindly defended Islam and called you Islamophobes are tragically wrong.

My mind first began to change last May when I read an interview by Sam Harris with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in which she addresses the misapplication of the term Islamophobia. This article, along with the seeds atheists planted over the years urging me to do more research, motivated me to delve into the religion. I read the Quran, many Hadith, the biography of Muhammad, the history of Jihad, and Islamic law. This is what I learned:

One of America’s Reddest States Embraced Socialism to Fight Robber Barons and Bankers. Here’s Why They Aren’t Looking Back…

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From Nation of Change

In agriculture and finance, North Dakota, more than any other state, has proven itself to be a living example of how public ownership benefits far more and is more profitable than other privately-owned entities in those industries. All concerned Americans scratching their heads on how to fight back against Wall Street need only look to North Dakota’s embrace of socialism for a solution.

The word “socialism” is often thrown around by those who least understand it as a way to criticize left-leaning economic reforms. In essence, socialism is simply a collective group of people stepping in to fill a niche and provide goods and services when the only other options are too expensive or too inefficient. In that sense, North Dakota — whose state government leaders and congressional delegation are all right-wing Republicans with the exception of one Democrat U.S. Senator — is ironically the most socialist state in the U.S.

In the early twentieth century, agriculture-dominated North Dakota was swept by a populist agrarian movement borne of farmers sick of watching bankers and railroad bosses take advantage of their work and run amok with their savings. That agrarian movement produced two entities that are still flourishing over 100 years later – a state-owned grain mill, which has become the largest grain mill in the United States, and a public bank that ensured North Dakota would be unaffected by the recession of 2008 that rocked the other 49 states and the rest of the world.

Happy Birthday, Christopher Hitchens…

I want to answer [the] implied question… Why don’t you accept this wonderful offer (of eternal life in heaven) ? Why wouldn’t you like to meet Shakespeare, for example? I don’t know if you really think that when you die you can be corporeally reassembled and have conversations with authors from previous epochs. It’s not necessary that you believe that in Christian theology and I have to say that it sounds like a complete fairytale to me.

The only reason I want to meet Shakespeare, or might even want to, is because I can meet him anytime because he is immortal in the works he’s left behind. If you’ve read those then meeting the author would almost certainly be a disappointment. But when Socrates was sentenced to death, for his philosophical investigations and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city, and he accepted his death he did say, “Well, if we are lucky perhaps I will be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters, too.”

In other words, that the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true could always go on. Why is that important? Why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know. But, I do know that it is the conversation I want to have while I am still alive. Which means that to me the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way is an offer of something not worth having.

I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet… that I haven’t understood enough… that I can’t know enough… that I am always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I’d urge you to look at those who tell you, those people who tell you at your age, that you are dead until you believe as they do. What a terrible thing to be telling to children. …and that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poisoned chalice. Push it aside however tempting it is.

Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way. Thank you.
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For Nader, Defiance Is a Way of Life…

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From Chris Hedges

There was a time in Washington when a letter from Ralph Nader to the president or a Cabinet official might evoke not only a response but a press conference, news reports and action. Nader, with his armies of lawyers and citizen action committees behind him, could mobilize formidable forces, inside and outside government, on behalf of citizens. But with the rise of the corporate puppet Ronald Reagan, and once Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party sold out to corporate power in exchange for corporate money, electoral politics became farce, legislation and laws were turned over to lobbyists and corporate attorneys, and the citizen, whom Nader has spent his life defending, became irrelevant.

Nader still writes letters to the powerful, pounded out on his 50-year-old manual Underwood typewriter, but they are rarely answered. That he writes them, that he refuses to surrender and doggedly struggles against all odds for a restoration of American democracy and the rule of law, makes Nader one of the moral and intellectual giants of our age.

Nader’s newest book, “Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015,” a collection of letters to Barack Obama and George W. Bush (whom Nader once called “a corporation running for the presidency masquerading as a human being”), was inspired, he said, by the letters between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and between Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Harold Laski. In Nader’s letters the path to ruin built by corporate and imperial power is laid bare and the vision of a future freed from environmental catastrophe, corporate totalitarianism and financial exploitation and collapse is spelled out with quixotic clarity. Bush and Obama may not have read these letters, but American citizens should. True to Nader’s understanding of the vital importance of public utilities and public service, he dedicates the book to “the U.S. Postal Service, the people who make it work, and those citizens who have defended its critical role in thousands of communities throughout our country’s history starting with Benjamin Franklin.”

Truth — The Cure for Cognitive Dissonance…

From Washingtons Blog

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ― George Orwell

Every time the BLS puts out their monthly propaganda report on the wonderful state of the U.S. jobs market and states with a straight face the unemployment rate is a measly 5.5%, their corporate mouthpieces in the mainstream cheerleader media regurgitate the fake numbers and urge you to buy stocks. The millionaire talking heads on CNBC and the corrupt bought off politicians in D.C. make broad sweeping declarations about economic recovery, strong job growth, GDP advancement, record highs in the stock market, and soaring consumer confidence.

The people living in the real world know otherwise, but they want to believe the “experts” and “leaders”. This dichotomy between reality and what they are being told is causing a tremendous amount of mental stress. This cognitive dissonance of attempting to reconcile what they are experiencing in their every day existence and the propaganda being peddled at them on a daily basis from big media, big bankers, corporate titans, and captured politicians pulling the strings and running the show, is causing psychological discomfort. Most people want their lives to get better, so to reduce their cognitive dissonance they choose to believe the government and media reports about economic improvement.

It is only a small minority who want to know the unvarnished truth. They are drawn to alternative media websites, which the the captured corporate media refers to as doom sites. These critical thinking individuals understand the facts. The Deep State propaganda has no impact on these people because they have no cognitive dissonance. They know things are far worse than what is reported by the government and their media whores. Knowing the truth and seeing how the majority remain willfully ignorant results in rising anger among truth seekers. Huxley was right.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” ― Aldous Huxley

Life is so much better now that I am not a christian…

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From Godless Mom

Upon hearing that I left Christianity and have become an atheist, many of my friends and acquaintances show pity for me. They seem to assume that my life is not as happy or full without a god belief. This reaction always amazes me because I view my life as much more than when I was a Christian. Below are five of the ways my life has become better without believe in a god:

1. My life is more my own

At church, we were taught stories about biblical characters, such as Jonah, who were punished for putting their own desires over God’s. Stories such as Jonah and the whale (or great fish or sea monster) were told to remind us that God had a plan for each of us and that we must follow his plan. Our job was to discover God’s plan and to follow the path he had chosen for us. We were told to trust that God knew best.

Now that I am an atheist, I no longer have to try to determine what God wants for me. I feel free to determine what I want out of life. I can set my own goals and make my own decisions. The realization that we create our own purpose in life has been a very freeing experience for me.

2. Intellectual Growth

WILLIAM EDELEN: Robert Ingersoll

From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

What is surprising is that Robert Ingersoll is so little known in our time. He lived from 1833 to 1899 and was internationally known as the “great Agnostic,” one of the most brilliant thinkers, lawyers, orators, debaters and authors of his day, or any day. Twelve volumes of his works are still available and are a collector’s treasure. He lectured all over the United States and abroad to standing-room-only audiences.

He spoke on many subjects, but thousands upon thousands turned out to hear him demolish the absurdities of orthodox religious dogmas. He found them repugnant due to the damage they did to the human mind and spirit. He and Thomas Jefferson shared similar views regarding organized religion. And yet, on a deep and profound level he had a sense of the mystery that was breathtaking.

I can tell you that without exception his funeral eulogies are the most beautiful that I have read in the English language. The poet laureate of the universe, Walt Whitman, said that only one man could speak at his funeral, and that man was Robert Ingersoll.

Carl Sandburg said of Ingersoll’s eulogy of Whitman, “It was a most precious treasure.”

Mark Twain literally idolized Ingersoll. Twain wrote: “I heard four speeches which I can never forget by that splendid soul Bob Ingersoll. It was just the most supreme combination of words ever put together since the world began. His words will sing through my memory always as the divinest that ever enchanted my ears. America will never again see his equal. Of all men, living and dead, I love Ingersoll the most. Except for my daughter, I have not grieved for any death as I have grieved for his.”

Hey Christians! We Freethinkers Can Save You From Your Hell! No, Really…


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Freethought: Bill Maher terrifies Bill O’Reilly: An atheist has the Fox News host running scared…

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From Salon

What flabbergasts O’Reilly & Coulter is nonbelievers are no longer keeping mum about Christianity’s rank stupidity 

Refuting the likes of Fox News’ popular talk-show host Bill O’Reilly and the razor-tongued television pundit and spewer-out of bestsellers Ann Coulter may seem pointless.  They say the same things time and again to Fox’s mostly white, badly informed audience which is in danger of dying off; the median age of O’Reilly’s viewers is seventy-two.  However, when it comes to religion, much of what they say reflects tacit anti-rationalist assumptions shared by far too many people from all walks of life – assumptions that must be challenged and refuted.

A case in point: on April 2, O’Reilly opened his show with a segment entitled “The War on Christianity Getting Even Worse.”  In it, he provides a distressing video overview of recent terrorist attacks against and executions of Christians in Africa and Pakistan, and declares that “Christians are being slaughtered all over the place.”  He segues to the United States, where “verbal attacks against Christians are the headline,” and “some far-left people . . . are smearing Americans who oppose things like abortion and gay marriage,” from which he concludes that “it is open season on Christians.”

The evidence?  “Well-known religion hater” Bill Maher (shown calling religions “stupid and dangerous”) has a “free pass to bash people of faith,” with his “vicious behavior toward Christianity largely ignored in the press.”

TODD WALTON: Water

FLOWFlow photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Sylvia Earle

As I was getting off his table today, my acupuncturist said, “Remember. Water is your friend. Be sure to drink lots today.”

Checking my email when I got home, someone had sent me a link to an article about Governor Brown announcing a mandatory reduction in water use by California residents and businesses. There was a little video with the article, so I watched Jerry speak to the people of California as if we are idiots, which, collectively, we are. Jerry was performing on a meadow in the Sierras where, for the first time in the seventy-five years they’ve been measuring snow on that meadow, there is no snow on April Fools Day. Zero white stuff that makes water when it melts.

WILL PARRISH: MRC’s Private Meetings with the Supervisors

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Large, politically-active corporations tend to employ influence peddlers who can talk when even money can’t. A perfect example is playing out here in Mendocino County. The county’s largest land baron has summoned each individual member of the Board of Supervisors into a series of closed-door meetings.

Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) officials begin these private, friendly dialogues with Mendocino County supervisors John McCowen, Carre Brown, Dan Hamburg, Dan Gjerde, and Tom Woodhouse this week.

The topic at hand, according to a group e-mail to the supervisors from MRC, is “significant capital investments” MRC is making in its Ukiah mill site on North State St., a manufacturing center that converts redwoods and Doug firs extracted from local forests into decking, fencing, and other lumber products on behalf of Home Depot stores from the Bay Area to Guam. Several Mendocino County loggers I interviewed for a story about MRC in January had mentioned the company’s plans to expand the mill.

‘Water Man of India’ Makes Rivers Flow Again…

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From Climate News Network
Thanks to Todd

Revival of traditional rainwater harvesting has transformed the driest state in India, and could be used to combat the effects of climate change across the world.

School textbooks in India have been telling children for generations that Rajasthan is an inhospitable state in the northwest of the country, constrained by the hot, hostile sands of the Thar Desert.

But the driest state in India has a softer, humane face as well – that of Rajendra Singh, known as the “Water Man of India”, whose untiring efforts in water conservation in arid Rajasthan have led to him being awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize for Water.

Singh did not attempt to design a new technology to address Rajasthan’s water problems. He began simply by de-silting several traditional surface level rainwater storage facilities – called “johads” in the local Hindi language − that fell out of use during British colonial rule. And, in doing so, he has quenched the thirst of villages that were dying.

Thousands of villages followed his example, and so much water was captured and soaked into aquifers that dry rivers have begun to flow again.

Drugs: A War Well Lost…

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Sam Harris and Johann Hari discuss the “war on drugs”

Johann Hari is a British journalist who has written for many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Slate, El Mundo, and The Sydney Morning Herald.He was an op-ed columnist for The Independent for nine years. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge with a double first in social and political sciences in 2001.

Hari was twice named “National Newspaper Journalist of the Year” by Amnesty International. He was named “Environmental Commentator of the Year” at the Editorial Intelligence Awards, and “Gay Journalist of the Year” at the Stonewall Awards. He has also won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for political writing.

Hari’s latest book is the New York Times best seller Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. You can follow him on Twitter @johannhari101.

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