Freethinker: Ingersoll’s Vow…

 

i

 

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

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.

There was for me no master in all the wide world – not even in infinite space. I was free – free to think, to express my thoughts – free to live to my own ideal – free to live for myself and those I loved – free to use all my faculties, all my senses – free to spread imagination’s wings – free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope – free to judge and determine for myself – free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past – free from popes and priests – free from all the “called” and “set apart” – free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies – free from the fear of eternal pain – free from the winged monsters of the night – free from devils, ghosts and gods.

For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought – no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings – no chains for my limbs – no lashes for my back – no fires for my flesh – no master’s frown or threat – no following another’s steps – no need to bow, to cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain – for the freedom of labor and thought – to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains – to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs – to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn – to those by fire consumed – to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men.

And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.
~~

What Is God’s Problem With Women?

 

g


The Genesis of Misogyny

From Church and State, UK

It all started with Eve. Or did it?

The Alphabet Of Ben-Sira, a Judaic document derived from a Talmudic script, asserts that Lilith, not Eve, was Adam’s wife. Since it comes to us through the same mythological lineage as the Bible itself, the historical veracity of The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is not what matters here. What does matter is that this ancient text gives us a female who makes Germaine Greer look like Mother Teresa.

Unlike her successor, Eve, Lilith was not made from Adam’s rib. She was made from clay in exactly the same way as her husband was. Her job description, as given to her by God, was to submit to Adam and be “under him”. But she had no sooner morphed into existence when she told God “I will not be below; I will not lie beneath him – I am as him; made too from clay.” God, not used to being spoken to like this, became angry. Lilith, however, didn’t give a toss; she just flew away and joined a hoard of screaming female demons.

And that’s how we have Feminists.

But Lilith came back for revenge, as you do. She verbally assaulted the angels that God sent to return her to Adam and generally threatened screeching mayhem on any male, or Deity for that matter, who came within screeching distance. She was never incorporated into the bible as a real human being; instead she is listed among abominable animals and evil spirits in the Old Testament. No surprise there, then.

It is said by contemporary scholars that The Alphabet of Ben-Sira was a satirical commentary, all well and good. But what is wonderful about the story of Lilith is the fact that the ancient satirist who wrote her into being did so because he was smart enough to recognise that the secondary/submissive role assigned to women by God was a crock of shit.

Freethinker: Scott Dikkers, The Onion

 
s
From FFRF

On this date in 1965, humorist and entrepreneur Scott Dikkers was born in Minneapolis. While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he started drawing a comic strip called Jim’s Journal that gained a small measure of local notoriety. He parlayed that into an unpaid spot on the staff of The Onion, a student humor newspaper started in 1988. The next year, he and Peter Haise bought the paper and started expanding it in terms of content and circulation beyond Madison. The Onion’s small staff (described in one story as a “lone Jew surrounded by a collection of lapsed Lutherans and lapsed Catholics”) focused on making the mundane both irreverent and hilarious. A fair amount of that irreverence lands on religion’s shoulders. “Christians Growing Impatient for Third Coming of Christ” was the headline on one story. There are many, many others. Dikkers, described as reclusive and somewhat of a loner, was, according to one story, married for a time, something that no one on the staff reportedly knew.

The Onion went online in 1996, which vastly increased its audience and renown. Dikkers co-wrote and edited The Onion’s first original book, Our Dumb Century, a best-selling spoof of recent history through Onion front pages, and Our Dumb World, a world atlas parody. In the mid-2000s, he spearheaded “The Onion News Network” web series, which won a Peabody Award in 2008 for its “ersatz news that has a worrisome ring of truth.” That same year he addressed the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s national convention in Chicago.

Dikkers was also included on Time magazine’s list of the Top 50 “Cyber Elite” along with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, George Lucas and others. Headquarters moved to New York City in 2000-01 and to Chicago in 2012. The enterprise had been sold in 2003 to David Schafer. Dikkers remained as editor-in-chief from 2005–08 and is current vice president for creative development. Print publication ended in 2013. He has written more than 20 humor books and developed the “Writing with The Onion” program at the Second City Training Center in Chicago.

“See, atheists and agnostics aren’t scary. Listen to their laughter! It’s a joyous sound, like the laughter of innocent children. You can trust us!

Furthermore, I want to say to the world, you need us. As I hope I’ve demonstrated here, atheists are fun. We’re fun to be with. We like playing make believe as much as the next guy, but we know the difference between fantasy and reality. And our crucial role in society is to remind everyone else of the cold, hard facts.”

—Speech, FFRF national convention, Oct. 12, 2008

~~

Pennsylvania school 10 Commandments marker to be removed due to FFRF lawsuit

 
ff

From FFRF

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the successful settlement of a longstanding federal lawsuit challenging a 6-foot Ten Commandments monument in front of a Pennsylvania public high school.

FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, along with a student and parent, Marie Schaub, filed suit in September 2012. Schaub, an atheist, ultimately withdrew her daughter from Valley High School in the New Kensington-Arnold School District because of the monument.

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry dismissed the New Kensington challenge in July 2015, ruling that Schaub and her child did not have frequent enough contact with the decalog monolith, which meant that they did not have standing to sue over the violation.

In August 2016, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Schaub’s legal right to challenge the bible monument. The three- judge panel unanimously found that Schaub’s removal of her daughter from the school due to the presence of the monument, and prior contact with it, established their clear injury to sue.

That ruling set in motion negotiations with the school district, which has now agreed to remove the Ten Commandments monument within 30 days. The district’s insurer will pay attorneys’ fees of $163,500, of which more than $40,000 will go to FFRF for its attorney fees as well as reimbursement for its costs.

“It’s been a drawn-out fight but my family and I are grateful to everyone who has helped us finally right a wrong that was committed so long ago,” says Schaub, who received FFRF’s Atheist in a Foxhole Courage Award at its annual convention last fall in Pittsburgh. “I hope this settlement serves as a lesson and a reminder that the separation of state and church is especially important when in comes to our kids in public schools. The removal of this religious monument will provide a more welcoming environment that will promote equality and neutrality.”

FFRF is gratified that reason and our secular Constitution have prevailed.

“The First Commandment alone is reason why public schools may not endorse the Commandments,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students in our public schools are free to have any god they like, as many gods as they like — or none at all! In America, we live under the First Amendment, not the First Commandment.”

In August 2015, McVerry had ruled in favor of FFRF’s challenge of a similar marker in front of the a junior high school in Connellsville, Pa. That bible monument was removed in October 2015.

Representing FFRF is local attorney Marcus B. Schneider, with FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott serving as co-counsel.

FFRF has 27,000 nonreligious members nationwide.
~~

TODD WALTON: Little Men

 

vito, tood, marcia

Vito and Todd and Marcia photo by Clare Bokulich

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“For every complex problem, there is a simple solution. And it’s always wrong.” H. L. Mencken

Marcia and I recently watched Little Men, the 2016 movie written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, and directed by Ira Sachs, and for my taste it was the best American movie I’ve seen in a very long time. By Hollywood standards, Little Men would be called a European film made in America. Character-driven, subtle, no villains, no heroes, ultra-real, and entirely free of violence, the film is about essentially good people caught up in the cruel realities of economics in a capitalist society, and how those realities shape the courses of people’s lives and the lives of their children.

Because the story of Little Men focuses on the friendship of two thirteen-year-old boys, adolescence and emerging sexuality are also subjects of the movie, each handled with marvelous subtlety and sensitivity. I was so touched by the friendship depicted in this movie that for days after I was swamped with memories of my friendships in junior high school and high school, and the events that led to the demise of those friendships.

The movie is beautifully wrought, and Sachs uses exquisite imagery to tell parts of the tale, imagery without dialogue, so the viewer’s imagination and personal experience are invited to co-write the back-stories of the characters in the film. The acting is nuanced, the dialogue never predictable and always believable, and the sensibility of the film deeply compassionate.

In thinking about Little Men, I realize that most of the American films made available for viewing these last forty years do not honor the viewers’ imaginations or intelligence. I think this trend in movies began with the rise of television as a dominating fixture of our culture, and by the early 1980s Aim Low became the ironclad rule of commercial cinema. Now, of course, most movies are aimed at children or teenagers or young adults, a population that has no experience of great literature, and no experience of subtlety or nuance or complexity in writing or music or cinema.

Three Decades Of Trump’s Russian Ties Exposed In One Democratic Coalition Report…

 

img_2213

t

From HUFFDonald Trump has been visiting Moscow since 1987, has extensive Russian business ties and is lying to the American public by denying his active businesses and multi-decade venture to extend the Trump Organization into that country.

That’s the conclusion of a Democratic Coalition report written by Scott Dworkin, which provides a 24-point explainer of the President-elect’s lengthy ties to Russia.

“This evidence further calls into question the recent conclusion made by the FBI,” said Dworkin about America’s top federal law enforcement, “which stated that there was no clear connection between President-elect Trump and Russia to be found.”

President Obama reviewed an earlier draft of the “Dworkin Report” immediately following the election.

This final “Dworkin Report” details Trump and Vladimir Putin’s shared network of friends, allies and associates, a video interview in which the President-elect unmistakably and forcefully tells MSNBC that he has a relationship with Putin – TWICE – and the 250 Trump-branded companies which pose an immediate threat to America’s national security.

Impeach the Indolent Imposter Now!


 img_2202

From Dave Smith

Louise Mensch is connecting the dots like no other… tracking Trump’s bag man lawyer as he pays off the computer hacker hit men who installed Trump in the presidency…

https://patribotics.wordpress.com

Twitter #trumprussia #russiagate #resist #theresistance

~~

Sunday Sermon: Immortality Of The Soul

 

img_2201

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

I neither assert nor deny the immortality of the soul; I simply admit that I do not know. Upon that subject I am absolutely without evidence.

This is the only world that I was ever in. There may be spirits, but I have never met them, and do not know that I would recognize a spirit. I can form no conception of what is called spiritual life. It may be that I am deficient in imagination, and that ministers have no difficulty in conceiving of angels and disembodied souls.

I have not the slightest idea how a soul looks, what shape it is, how it goes from one place to another, whether it walks or flies. I cannot conceive of the immaterial having form; neither can I conceive of anything existing without form, and yet the fact that I cannot conceive of a thing does not prove that the thing does not exist, but it does prove that I know nothing about it, and that being so, I ought to admit my ignorance.

I am satisfied of a good many things that I do not know. I am satisfied that there is no place of eternal torment. I am satisfied that that doctrine has done more harm than all the religious ideas, other than that, have done good.

I do not want to take any hope from any human heart. I have no objection to people believing in any good thing—no objection to their expecting a crown of infinite joy for every human being. Many people imagine that immortality must be an infinite good; but, after all, there is something terrible in the idea of endless life. Think of a river that never reaches the sea; of a bird that never folds its wings; of a journey that never ends.

Most people find great pleasure in thinking about and in believing in another world. There the prisoner expects to be free; the slave to find liberty; the poor man expects wealth; the rich man happiness; the peasant dreams of power, and the king of contentment. They expect to find there what they lack here.

I do not wish to destroy these dreams. I am endeavoring to put out the everlasting fires. A good, cool grave is infinitely better than the fiery furnace of Jehovah’s wrath. Eternal sleep is better than eternal pain.

For my part I would rather be annihilated than to be an angel, with all the privileges of heaven, and yet have within my breast a heart that could be happy while those who had loved me in this world were in perdition.

I most sincerely hope that the future life will fulfill all splendid dreams; but in the religion of the present day there is no joy. Nothing is so devoid of comfort, when bending above our dead, as the assertions of theology unsupported by a single fact. The promises are so far away, and the dead are so near. From words spoken eighteen centuries ago, the echoes are so weak, and the sounds of the clods on the coffin are so loud.

Above the grave what can the honest minister say? If the dead were not a Christian, what then? What comfort can the orthodox clergyman give to the widow of an honest unbeliever? If Christianity is true, the other world will be worse than this. There the many will be miserable, only the few happy; there the miserable cannot better their condition; the future has no star of hope, and in the east of eternity there can never be a dawn.

~~

Sunday Song: Strawman

 

Thanks to Bruce

We who have so much to you who have so little
To you who don’t have anything at all
We who have so much more than any one man does need
And you who don’t have anything at all, ah

Does anybody need another million dollar movie?
Does anybody need another million dollar star?
Does anybody need to be told over and over
Spitting in the wind comes back at you twice as hard?

Strawman, going straight to the devil
Strawman, going straight to hell
Strawman, going straight to the devil

Strawman
Strawman
Strawman
Strawman, yes

Does anyone really need a billion dollar rocket?
Does anyone need a $60,000 car?
Does anyone need another president?
Or the sins of Swaggart parts 6, 7, 8 and 9? Ah

Does anyone need yet another politician
Caught with his pants down and money sticking in his hole?
Does anyone need another racist preacher?
Spittin’ in the wind can only do you harm, ooohhh

Strawman, going straight to the devil
Strawman, going straight to hell
Strawman, going straight to the devil

Strawman
Strawman
Strawman
Strawman, yes

Does anyone need another faulty shuttle
Blasting off to the moon, Venus or Mars?
Does anybody need another self-righteous rock singer
Whose nose he says has led him straight to God?

Does anyone need yet another blank skyscraper?
If you’re like me I’m sure a minor miracle will do
A flaming sword or maybe a gold ark floating up the Hudson
When you spit in the wind it comes right back at you

Strawman, going straight to the devil
Strawman, going straight to hell
Strawman, going straight to the devil

Strawman
Strawman
Strawman
Strawman

~~

The Catholic Church’s Cruel Response to Assisted Suicide in Canada…

 


~~

Church and State: The Children of Dogma

 

j

From Church and State, UK

In the 1500s the Vatican aligned itself with its favorite despots — and the Protestants cuddled up to their preferred tyrants. Each religion claiming divine sponsorship — each ruler laying claim to whatever land the ruler next door happened to occupy. After the Diet of Speyer, the principle of cuius region, eius religio (The religion of the ruler is the religion of the ruled) was established and this really clarified matters for all concerned — at least it did if you were a ruler. As battles raged, frontiers shifted backwards and forwards, countries were claimed and conquered depending on who was victorious. Armies advanced and retreated and a peasant could find himself being a Protestant at breakfast time and a Catholic by lunchtime (if you were a Jew you would be dead by teatime).

With the capture of land came the capture of souls. The religion of the victorious army was imposed on the conquered: it happened with almost all religions all over the world.

In Saudi Arabia during the 18th century a man called Ibn Al-Wahhab, an extreme Islamic fundamentalist who believed that music and reproductions of the human image should be banned and that all non-believers should be beheaded, cozied up to Mohamed Ibn Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia, promising him that the Wahabi movement would help him achieve “power and glory” and gain him conquest over “the lands of men.” And conquer, he did.

But let’s deconstruct such a scenario.

Any invading army with colonial aspirations first gains control of the resources and geography of their “enemy.” They then forcefully impose the religious and political ideology on the extant population of adults. But what about the children? If a religion is not to die with the first generation upon which it has been imposed, then that religion must be propagated through the generation which will succeed them. Children must therefore become indoctrinated, and such indoctrination comes at the hands of their parents and whatever teacher/priest/imam happens to have access to them.

TODD WALTON: Ignorance

 

strength for tw

Strength painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

The earwigs are a plague on the garden.

Jonathon—a thickset man with an unruly gray beard—wanders up and down the rows of decimated bean plants searching for surviving leaves, finding none. How curious, and what a disaster for the community. He has been gardening for fifty years, since he was six years old, and he has never experienced such an infestation—nothing even close to this. Only the garlic shoots have weathered the onslaught of the ravenous bugs, and even they show signs of being nibbled.

Having tea with Malcolm, his predecessor at the helm of the abbey garden, Jonathon says, “I went out last night at midnight and there were thousands and thousands of earwigs clinging to every stem and leaf. I’ve scoured the garden for their nests, but except for one small concentration near the old greenhouse…”

Malcolm, eighty-seven, a slender man with boyish dimples, shakes his head. “You won’t find concentrations.” He swirls the tea in his cup to bring out a last burst of flavor from the leaves. “They’re everywhere in the ground.”

“But why this year?” Jonathon gazes at the slice of garden he can see through Malcolm’s open door. “There’s nothing much different about the weather this spring than last. Our methods haven’t changed.”

Malcolm settles back in his rocking chair, a smile playing at his lips. “I must tell you, I’m glad it’s not my worry now. I’d be out there all night picking the buggers off one by one.”

“But what do you think it is?” Jonathon frowns at what he can see of the ruined planting. “We’ll have to start over again. And we’ll have to buy vegetables this year. I feel like such a fool.” He turns to Malcolm. “Can you make a guess?”

Richard Heinberg: Awaiting Our Own Reichstag Fire…

 

r1

 

From Richard Heinberg

This month’s Museletter brings together three essays that sound alarms on the early days of the Trump administration.

Millions of Americans now share the profoundly disturbing experience of watching and waiting as their nation lurches toward authoritarianism. In a previous essay, I described the Trump administration as a “presidency in search of an emergency”—i.e., a crisis that could be used as a pretext for seizing unchecked power. I opined that the emergency could come in the form of an economic meltdown, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster.

As a result of the events of the last two weeks we now know what the crisis will almost certainly be (a terrorist attack) and how it will be used—namely, to do the following:

  • Nullify the constitutionally mandated independence and authority of the courts.More on this below.
  • Shut down congressional investigations. These are soon likely to include probes into collusion with Russia to influence the election (if the worst of the allegations are substantiated, Senators and Representatives could soon be bandying a word that starts with “T” and rhymes with “reason”), along with financial conflicts of interestthat go vastly beyond the recent dustup with Nordstrom’s. The evidence of profound misdeeds is getting so hard to ignore that even a Republican Congress will likely eventually get rambunctious. The forced departure of national security adviser Michael Flynn can only fan the furor, rather than quelling it (again, more below).
  • Criminalize dissent. Millions have already taken to the streets to voice their displeasure with the new administration, and thousands are showing up regularly at congressional town hall meetings. The time-proven ways authoritarian governments discourage anti-government activism are to increase surveillance and to heighten the perceived risks entailed in joining protests (prison time or worse).
  • Rein in and discredit the mainstream media. White House strategist Steve Bannon has called the media “the opposition party.” Authoritarian regimes always attempt to marginalize and control the press and broadcasters. Given a sufficiently compelling national emergency, criticism of the government could be declared unpatriotic and even criminalized (as happened during World War I).

The events of the week of February 6 provided some clues on how Trump’s war on the judiciary is likely to play out. Jack Goldsmith writes that the way the executive order banning entry by residents of seven Muslim-dominated nations was drafted suggests a couple of possible interpretations. One is that White House Counsel Donald McGahn is simply incompetent; the other is that the executive order was deliberately botched in order to flush out judicial opposition for later retribution: “….Trump [may be] setting the scene to blame judges after an attack that has any conceivable connection to immigration. If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack.”

Why I Became a Socialist…

 

so

From VICE

After Bernie lost and Trump won, I realized the Democrats weren’t going to win my battles for me.

I first heard the word “socialist” in the movie Clue. It’s an early laugh line delivered by Tim Curry as he discusses his deceased wife’s previous indiscretions that led him into this murder mansion mess. You see, she used to hang out with *dramatic pause* socialists. “We all make mistakes,” he confides to the room of murderous Washingtonian shit-heels and the dead body among them.

 As the product of the American public education system, that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of this concept of “socialism.” Sure, there were the tales of “communist” Hollywood types being blacklisted during the red scare, and sure, I had read enough Howard Zinn to know that “trickle-down theory” just meant “rich people pissing on the poor,” but that was it. Most people don’t acquire much more than a back-of-the-napkin understanding of politics, and mine was: There are two options available, and one is full of the most hateful, bigoted, dumbest, racist people imaginable, so the other one is good enough.

Like so many others, I was heartened by Bernie Sanders’s campaign—particularly his desire to work on developing free or cheap higher education options, his dedication to “Medicaid for all,” and his continual highlighting of income inequality—but when Sanders inevitably lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, there was a sense of air being let out of the balloon. The specter of a potential Trump presidency loomed on the horizon, forcing most Sanders supporters to back away from their hopes of an actually progressive candidate in favor of yet another lesser of the two evils ticket. Sure, maybe Clinton won’t prosecute corrupt bankers or give us the government-backed healthcare system we need, but the alternative would be worse in so many ways.

That all changed on Election Day.

The Democratic Party, however reasonable and adult, clearly was not going to save us.

Those Seven Savage Hitchens Carpet Bombs…

 


~~

WILLIAM EDELEN: Jesus and Wives

 

From Our Archives
WILLIAM EDELEN (1922 – 2015)
The Contrary Minister

A very live and contemporary issue today, with many magazines and newspapers covering it, is the question “Was Jesus Married?” This is all due to a lost manuscript that has surfaced. An outstanding article in the New York Times for Sept 27th, was Fighting Over God’s Image. Please find a copy and read it if this is a subject that appeals to you.

A number of years ago when Dr. Robert Funk had his Jesus Seminar here in Palm Springs with over 100 leading New Testament scholars present, he asked me to give the lecture on The Sexuality of Jesus. The fear among many of pursuing this subject has been revealing and shocking. Also a number of years ago The Sexuality of Christ in the Renaissance Art and in modern Oblivion received rave reviews from all quarters. It was written by Leo Steinberg, who delivered the material at a Lionel Trilling Seminar at Columbia University and was honored by the College Art Association of America with its annual award. Some will find it offensive… those who find all expressions of sexuality offensive. The sexuality of Jesus is very obvious in the paintings.

Jesus was a Hebrew male, a man in the fullest sense and a sexual human being in the same sense that all men are sexual human beings. And yet, for some strange, neurotic and weird reason, many want to keep this subject

Sunday School: Instruction Manual for Life

 

~~

Sunday Song: Overdrive

 

~~

Jesus and Mo

 

img_2178
~~

Trump Infrastructure Plan Is Nothing But Privatization…

 

stopprivatization

 

From In The Public Interest

Wondering what a “public-private partnership” is? Here’s what you need to know…

America has an infrastructure problem. Residents in Flint, Michigan, still can’t drink water from their faucets. Last week, damage to the country’s tallest dam forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people in Northern California.

We aren’t investing enough in the foundation of our society and a clean, healthy future. State and local spending on roads, bridges, schools, water treatment plants, and other infrastructure is at a 30-year low. Federal infrastructure spending has fallen by half over the past 35 years. Washington spends around six times more on the military.

Trump thinks he can get one over on the American people. His infrastructure plan is nothing more than privatization with a tax break on top. Even congressional Republicans are starting to voice concerns.

A few weeks ago, we released a guide to understanding and evaluating the deals at the heart of Trump’s plan. “Public-private partnerships” tap private investors to finance—and often operate and maintain—infrastructure projects. There’s plenty to be wary of—the public often loses control, transparency, and revenue for decades. Just ask Chicago. Or Texas. Or Indiana. Or Washington, D.C.

As anti-tax politicians continue to starve public budgets, many state and local governments are turning to risky public-private partnerships to fill the infrastructure spending gap.

Understanding and Evaluating Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships includes a list of key questions you can raise with policymakers to make sure projects meet your community’s needs. What are the long-term impacts on our city’s budget? How many jobs will be created, will they be local, and what will the wages and benefits be?

Get in touch if you have questions or need help evaluating a project in your community.

We’ve got a lot of things to build and repair—let’s make sure our voices are heard loud and clear in the process.
~~

Freethinker: Natalie Angier born on this day in 1958…

 

n
From FFRF

On this date in 1958, Pulitzer Prize-winning science columnist for The New York Times Natalie Angier was born in New York City to a Jewish mother and a father with a Christian Science background. She attended the University of Michigan for two years, then transferred to Barnard College, where she studied English, physics and astronomy, and graduated with high honors.

At 22, she became a founding staff reporter for the science magazine Discover. Throughout the 1980s, Angier worked as a senior science writer for Time Magazine, as an editor for the women’s business magazine Savvy, and as a professor of journalism in a graduate program at New York University. She began writing for The New York Times in 1990 and won a Pulitzer after just ten months on the job for a series of ten feature science articles.

Her hit books include Natural Obsessions (1988), about the world of cancer research, The Beauty of the Beastly (1995), and the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller, Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999), which has sold over 200,000 copies. Woman won a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood, was nominated for the Samuel Johnson Award (Britain’s largest nonfiction literary prize), and was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, People magazine, National Public Radio, amazon.com, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and the New York Public Library. In 2002, she edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and in 2010 The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of ScienceRichard Dawkins describes The Canon as “an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing,” and Barbara Ehrenreich says of it, “Finally, Nature has a found a biographer who’s up to the task.” Angier received the American Association for the Advancement of Science prize for excellence in science journalism, among many awards and honors. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, publications and anthologies. She began serving a five-year term as the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University in 2007, previously filled by Oliver Sacks, Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, and others who were “distinguished contributors to cultural achievement.”

nat
Angier, a self-proclaimed “lonely atheist,” was a guest on Freethought Radio in 2006. In The New York Times Sunday Magazine (Jan. 14, 2001), Angiers outed herself as an atheist in the article, “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist”: “I’m an Atheist. I don’t believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself, which seems quite high and powerful enough to me. I don’t believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance . . . I’m convinced that the world as we see it was shaped by the again genuinely miraculous, let’s even say transcendent, hand of evolution through natural selection.” She continued, “I may not believe in life after death, but what a gift it is to be alive now.” Angier received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the 2003 national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She is married to and has a daughter with Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post.

“Sure, I’m a soapbox atheist. But she [my daughter] doesn’t have to take my word for anything. All she has to do is look around her, every day, to find the bible she needs—in the sky, sun, moon, Mars, leaves, lady bugs, stink bugs, possums, tadpoles, cardinals, the wonderful predatory praying mantises that have gotten really big and fat this year on all the insects this rainy year has brought. Life needs no introduction, explanation or excuse. Life is bigger than myth—except in California.”

—Natalie Angier, during her acceptance speech of the Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the national FFRF convention in 2003

~~

Freethinker: Roll to Disbelieve — The Handbook

 

I had a GM once who used random objects when he didn't have a miniature that was the right size or whatever. One day we're fighting something and he gets out this gigantic stuffed six-sider and sets it down in front of our tiny little 1" minis. We were totally O.O (Dagny Mol, CC.)

I had a GM once who used random objects when he didn’t have a miniature that was the right size or whatever. One day we’re fighting something during a game and he gets out this gigantic stuffed six-sider that’s the size of a basketball and sets it down without a word in front of our tiny little 1″ minis. We were totally O.O (Dagny MolCC.)

From 

Hi! I’ve noticed an uptick in new folks lately and have gotten some emails asking me why I call my blog what I do, so I thought that today–the most chocolate-y day of the year, so to speak–was a good day to bring everyone up to speed. I haven’t written about it in a long time and I’ve learned a lot since then. So today I want to show you what “rolling to disbelieve is” and what it feels like to make your roll at last.

I was Christian for the first half of my life, deconverting in my 20s a couple years after graduating from college. And oh boy was I Christian. My entire Christian “walk” (that’s Christianese for someone’s journey through the religion to, I suppose, enlightenment) seemed like one long search for this gauzy notion of TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ that I was sure must exist out there somewhere.

Somewhere, if I searched hard enough, I’d find a group that was practicing the ideals of Jesus the way Christians everywhere should be, and I’d finally be okay. Looking back it’s both laughable and tearjerking to think of how anguished I was over the misery, dysfunction, and hypocrisy I saw around me, and of how hard I worked to find that group. I kept going from group to group trying to find the one that was doing Christianity right–and in the process, spiraled down into worse and worse groups and even almost ended up in Waco right around when that David Koresh stuff was going down (with a different and arguably even worse cult, though).

TODD WALTON: Pollination

 

t

Winter Mint photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.” Srikumar Rao

Well, maybe not. With bee populations in decline worldwide and the so-called civilized world in no hurry to eliminate the known causes of these precipitous declines, more and more flowers are going unvisited by those faithful little pollinators.

Fear not. Scientists in Japan recently tested miniature drones equipped with sticky tendrils and were successful in transferring pollen from one flower to another with the little robot copters. Soon, say these triumphant scientists, orchards and vineyards and backyards will be abuzz, so to speak, with millions of little hovering robots doing the work bees used to do.

Somehow I am not reassured. Why not just stop producing and dispensing the pesticides and herbicides known to be decimating bee populations? A silly question, I know. Kin to asking: why not stop producing and dispensing the substances known to cause global warming? The answers are the same. To stop producing pesticides and greenhouse gases would be unprofitable in the short term for the huge corporations who have more power than nations.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Albert Einstein

We recently watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. This movie turns out to be a perfect Trump-era movie, for it is about a not-very-bright narcissist with no talent and too much money, and the people who feed off her. I was hoping for something to take my mind off of the over-arching stupidity and insensitivity of the new regime, yet found I was watching a goofy and pathetic drama based on that same kind of stupidity and insensitivity.

WILL PARRISH: Stuart Bewley’s Outlaw Grows

 

s

 

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The Mendocino County Supervisors will soon vote on a series of environmental protections that would include putting 714,000 acres of rangeland off-limits to new cannabis cultivation permits and adopting an impressively strict oak woodlands protection ordinance, while also allowing existing growers to become legally-permitted.

The end of marijuana prohibition has opened up the possibility of a damaging “green rush,” which these measures aim to prevent.

The person who has most vocally opposed these protections is Stuart Bewley, one of Mendocino County’s wealthiest landowners, who made his fortune in the wine industry and has now moved aggressively into the cannabis business..

I’ve described in the past about how marijuana growing is often used as a scapegoat for environmental degradation, but it’s also the case that extreme marijuana grows are a major source of environmental damage, land speculation, and cultural upheaval, as many people who have opposed damage from the timber industry have also pointed out.

As with so many of Mendocino County-based backwoods cannabis proprietors, Stuart Bewley’s journey to the rugged hills and gullies of Bell Springs and west Laytonville began during the 1970s. In that heady time, young idealists flocked to the remote and disjointed terrain of California’s northern coastal mountains, in collective pursuit of a better life in a better place. Desperate to earn a living, some of the more entrepreneurial members of their sub-culture soon developed breakthrough techniques for cultivation ofsinsemilla, fostering what has budded out into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Gene Logsdon’s New Book Is Out: Letter to a Young Farmer

 

letter

~~

A message to those who claimed they suffered under President Obama…

 

o
From Scott Mednick, when a Trumpster Facebook friend told him, “We suffered for 8 years. Now it’s your turn.”

Scott’s reply: “There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did. And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.”

Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass,I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?’

So let me ask:
Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?
When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?
We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Freethinkers: Freedom From Religion Foundation

 

1CBSMorning

It’s another week and another busy period for us here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Unlike the weeks before, this week the lion’s share of our time and energy was not spent focusing on the Trump administration. Instead, we were active in a number of different directions.

A lot of local activity
So, we did what we’ve done in regular times: We kept an eye on local and state-level institutions for violations of state/church separation. We warned a South Carolina school district about a reading of an overtly Christian book to an entire elementary school. (We’ve put up some of the images from the book for you to look at.)

We’re having to refight another local-level battle, though. A Minnesota city is backtracking on its removal of a cross from a public veterans park. The Belle Plaine City Council seemingly caved in to immense local religious pressure and is permitting the cross to be put back up. We’ve told the city council members that if this is done, FFRF will propose for the park a memorial of its own: to atheists in foxholes. Reply awaited.

Another local-level legal battle seems to be going well for us so far. In a case where FFRF filed an amicus brief, a Florida judge says a prayer lawsuit against a high school athletic league should be tossed out.

Sunday Song: Here’s to the State of Mississippi…

 

Thanks to Bruce

Here’s to the state of Mississippi,
For Underheath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find.
Whoa the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin’ when it reads the present time.
Whoa here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!

Here’s to the people of Mississippi
Who say the folks up north, they just don’t understand
And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
The sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands
They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here’s to the schools of Mississippi
Where they’re teaching all the children that they don’t have to care
All of rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
And every single classroom is a factory of despair
There’s nobody learning such a foreign word as fair
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here’s to the cops of Mississippi
They’re chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door
Their bellies bounce inside them as they knock you to the floor
No they don’t like taking prisoners in their private little war
Behind their broken badges there are murderers and more
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And, here’s to the judges of Mississippi
Who wear the robe of honor as they crawl into the court
They’re guarding all the bastions with their phony legal fort
Oh, justice is a stranger when the prisoners report
When the black man stands accused the trial is always short
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the government of Mississippi
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they’re always bogging down
And criminals are posing as the mayors of the towns
They’re hoping that no one sees the sights and hears the sounds
And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the laws of Mississippi
Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay
While the Constitution is drowning in an ocean of decay
Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I’ve even heard them say
Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the churches of Mississippi
Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
And the Sunday morning sermons pander to their lust
The fallen face of Jesus is choking in the dust
Heaven only knows in which God they can trust
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of
~~

Bill Maher explains why he criticizes religion…

 


~~