Why?

Why do people with Judeo/Christian/Muslim beliefs so frequently disagree with the Theory of Evolution? Why do they always ask the same questions: what gives life purpose without gods; how would you know the difference between right and wrong if there wasn’t a god? They ask these questions like the answers are as unfathomable as the mystery of existence itself, but the real question is how can people be programmed to live counter to everything that made them Human.

People’s inability to grasp the possibility that there is any other answer than the one they were taught as children, is the real mystery. And, since we’re asking questions, Non-believers have questions too: why is evolution such a dangerous idea; why would someone kill someone to stop the acceptance of this theory; what is it they fear?

For those who hold positions of wealth and influence, I mean power and influence, within the religions operating on this planet, the most alarming thing about the Theory of Evolution is the implication that for millions of years humans lived, successfully, in large complex social groups without religion. Add to this the discovery that we are just one of many sentient species on this planet and we lose our exclusivity. Evolution, along with the knowledge that humans are not the only sentient creatures, implies compassion and morality is the natural result of the evolution of a sentient mind, not something handed down to human beings, exclusively, by a god.

The danger, therefore, is that once we accept that evolution is true and that there are many other sentient creatures doing just fine without gods, everything underpinning religion and theism falls apart. Evolution doesn’t just make gods unnecessary for the creation of life; evolution makes gods unnecessary for the creation of morality, ethics, and purpose. Evolution takes from religion its most central tenants and robs religion of its power to control society. Evolution robs a few million bureaucrats of their jobs.

This is why the Theory of Evolution, which the leadership of these religions know is a fucking fact of life, is instead delivered to the masses as an attack on God. This is why people are willing to kill other human beings. The fear these institutions have instilled in people for thousands of years causes them to believe that an attack on their beliefs is an attack on their soul. The Theory of Evolution, when fully understood, as it stands today, is such a dangerous threat to the leadership that mass-murder becomes a necessary option.

How then did morality develop? Morality and ethical behavior came to exist in the same way any other successful feature of a species develops, by evolution. Morality, ethics, and even a sense of purpose in one form or another, as evidenced by the behavior of many modern non-human species, is a natural byproduct of the evolution of the sentient mind. Creatures that develop the characteristics necessary to create large, complex social groups have an evolutionary advantage over those that do not.

If it is true, then, that gods are not required, and there is overwhelming evidence it is true, then this would mean religious beliefs and theism are superfluous to human flourishing. In other words, everything religious people believe is not only wrong, but completely unnecessary and has, also, caused unimaginable harm to human civilizations. Religion is the Neanderthal of human inventions, and, like the Neanderthal, religion is doomed to extinction. The only real question is how many more lives will be destroyed before it is gone.

The answers to theists’ questions are simple truths. Life has always had meaning, and we behave morally, because it is evolutionarily advantageous to do so. We know this is true because it has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years before the creation of gods.

What gives life meaning? Meaning was created with life. Life gives life meaning. Nothing else is required, it really is just that simple and evolution proves it to be true. This scares the hell out of people who have been taught as children that life is pointless and meaningless without a god. This is why they will kill to stop the spread of these ideas.

And, BTW, there are few things more destructive to humanity than teaching children that without gods and religion they could be murderous bastards, living pointless lives. These destructive beliefs rob children of their humanity, ultimately robbing humanity of the contributions of billions of people.

This is why the damage religion has inflicted on humanity, and continues to inflict, will always be greater than whatever minor achievements to which religion lays claim. Achievements that would have happened earlier and with less loss of blood had we not found religion first. Religion is the lock, not the key.

Religion has been a disastrous idea; evolution proves it was an unnecessary idea. Evolution isn’t just a theory, it is the most dangerous theory in modern history. Exposing children to the Theory of Evolution is a revolutionary act that will help free humanity from the tyranny of religion, something we must do if we are to survive as a species.

To quote the late Christopher Hitchens, who famously proclaimed, “Religion poisons everything.”

“It attacks us in our deepest integrity, in the core of our self-respect. Religion says that we would not know right from wrong, we would not know an evil, wicked act from a decent human act without divine permission, without divine authority or without, even worse, either the fear of a divine punishment or the hope of a divine reward. It strips us of the right to make our own determination, as all humans always have, about what is and what is not a right human action.”

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The Jellyfish Tragedy

 

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Windsor Locks, CT, December 16, 2010 - Last week in a rarely-seen or photographed event, thousands of hapless jellyfish on their way to spawn were stranded and frozen along the shores of the Connecticut River. The gelatinous creatures are not uncommon, but usually go unnoticed because they are a cold water species that do not sting. But the necessities of reproduction bring them together in great numbers this time of year, as they return to their traditional spawning grounds. That, combined with a freakish combination of weather conditions allowed lucky and observant onlookers to enjoy this serendipitous spectacle.

“As a rule, we don’t even notice them.” explained Caleb Shoeworthy, whose family have fished these waters for shad for five generations.”The thing is, you just can’t see them in the water. They have no color. You could have half a dozen in that bucket and you’d swear there was nothing but water. Even the big ones are pretty much invisible.”

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Invisible they may be, but any creatures are hard to ignore when they come drifting in to narrow channels in the hundreds of thousands. Continue reading

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This Damn Gun Thing

 

Guns and Grenades(Note: I sent this out as an email with a link to CT. Senator Blumenthal’s petition to support his background check for ammo purchase bill. It’s one of many steps we can take…)
So the shooting thing in Newtown turns out to be my breaking point. Not like there haven’t been hundreds of crises and more every year. But this one was kids, and the response of the right wing extremists has shown just how thin the veneer of our civil society is. (And maybe that is all it ever was, veneer. And maybe things only ever felt safe if you were part of white middle class America in the baby boomer years. And probably then you only felt truly safe if you were male, the rest of us whistling in the dark or being very busy with denial.)

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The Knowing of Hurakan

Harry Reid, I think it was, just came out and said that Katrina could not compare to Sandy. I read that and my jaw just dropped. I guess human life must not matter much to the Senator.

Inside a Hurricane House

There have been countless hurricanes that have destroyed homes, lives and cities. Hurricanes have been doing their thing since before there was anyone around to notice. Hurricanes are going to keep coming and it looks like we’ll have more of them and fiercer.

When you think about the destruction of Galveston in 1900, of New Orleans Katrina in 2005 and this most recent storm, Sandy, what they have in common is that the death and destruction are not simply the result of nature, but of human greed. Developers will have their profits, oh yes they will. We build and build and build at the edge of the sea, in lowlands, on unconsolidated sediment, on barrier islands. We destroy habitats that actually allow some protection and then we are shocked at the damages from the storms.

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Faux Will

Many years ago someone said to me, well, they could have done differently, I wouldn’t have done that. These statements stuck with me for a very long time. The back burner of my mind is unrelenting, it is never off. I am always thinking about something, whether I know it or not. And this simple thought, which we all accept as true, suddenly required my attention. When the conclusion finally bubbled to the surface it was this: Things are they way they are, because this is the only way they could be, if things could have been, they would be.

The statement we all accept without analysis, and upon which we base our western religions and system of justice, is false. We do not have unlimited choices and our capacity to chose is also extremely limited by the totality of our circumstances. We make the only choice we are capable of making at the time our limited choices are presented.

Over the ensuing years the full realization of my conclusion has become clear. Recently, Sam Harris has reignited those thoughts in his latest lectures and book Free Will. I’ve come to realize or acknowledge, or accept, that we are not the authors’ of our lives. We are the product of everything that has come before us and has happened to us. This not only limits our choices, by placing limits on our opportunities, but limits our ability to choose.

Our genes, our place of birth and to whom we are born, and our epigenes all create a state of being of which we are not only largely ignorant, but unable to control. We may not want to believe this now, but neuroscience is discovering things about our brains that will one day require we accept this truth.

This will change everything about how we perceive ourselves and our actions. For many of us this will create the same conflict as the realization that there is no god. Without gods how will I know right from wrong; why will it matter whether our actions are right or wrong without the punishment of a god? If we do not control our causes, then I am not responsible for the effects. That many of us will suddenly react differently free of the illusions of gods and free will is predictable.

For me this has the affect of reaffirming my empathy for those whose lives are different from my own. Some may do things we find distasteful or require we separate them from society, but they are not evil, they are humans whose lives are not the result of an evil will, or weakness, or stupidity, but a product of circumstances beyond their control. This makes punishment instead of compassion especially cruel. Once we accept the limits within which we exist, forgiveness of our own actions and those of others becomes far easier.

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Beautiful Jelly Death

I’m sick with jealousy when I meet people who live close enough to a real beach, on a real ocean. But you knew about that lust. There is so much to see and photograph and just gasp over at a beach. Like beached jellyfish…

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Picking and Choosing

A friend recently posted and then deleted a Facebook status update, “You cannot pick and choose what you believe in the bible, it is all or nothing.” With a lot of help from Sam Harris let me explain the truth of this statement.

The following are true statements, like it or not: Continue reading

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See You Later, Newt

I’m kind of fascinated by Newt Gingrich. I’ve known him, or at least
his sort, all my life. He was the plump kid in junior high who smiled
a lot and carried a leather briefcase instead of a football and served
on a mysterious entity called the student council. He was neither
geek, nerd, jock, brain, nor of any other clique, What he was had no
name back then, but would now be called a politico. He was a
second-tier honor student intent on Going Places and eagerly doing the
busy work it takes to get there. He reminded me of a mouse running
the maze in Science class.

They love elections, people like Newt, and the constant rearranging
process that comes with electoral democracy. Think Rahm Emmanuel, or
Karl Rove. But  mostly they love to aid and abet power, whether they
are seen to directly wield it or not, and grow hot and inflated with
self-importance. When they fail it is like watching air leak out of a
balloon.

My favorite image of Newt Gingrich is that after his campaign against
the Democratic party imploded in the 1998 congressional elections, he
is reported to have put his head down on his desk and cried, the big
sissy. His sobs were  heard offices away. When his vindictive effort
to get Bill Clinton impeached failed, his own party fired him.

But such people have remarkable tenacity. They are shameless, which
adds weight to the notion they live high on the narcissism spectrum.
Although Newt was disgraced and out of office he did not leave the
Washington maze. He grasped his leather briefcase tighter and hustled
in the halls of congress as a lobbyist for one special interest or
another, scurrying about and looking for all the world like a fat kid
on his way to an after-school student council meeting.

Guys like him never give up and they never go away.

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Solutions

These are my solutions to the economic and social problems facing the United States of America.

1. Stop taxing corporations and businesses, and end corporate welfare. Continue reading

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good slop

There are these bacterial mats, these hunks of orange gloppy biota that live in a side stream not far from where I live. They’re in a park through which the little Wepawaug River ambles along. The town dump used to be right next to the park and I guess it was covered over some years back and the new dump is somewhere else now. The site of the old dump is on a hill right smack next to the side stream and whatever was put in that dump, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy years ago, well it’s still probably oozing out now, as these things do. And this stuff, this bacteria, must really groove on it.

I’ve shot it before, the orange gunk. I have a whole set of it.

Continue reading

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You Get What You Pay For

Well, all they needed to do was pay a tiny bit more in taxes, show a little compassion, and don’t do anything to inflame the general population’s sense of fear and distrust. Had they done this the OWS movement would either not exist at all, or run it’s course.

However, they did just the opposite. Continue reading

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Redefining War, Eroding the Law

We have redefined a word and based on this new definition our president has given an extra-judicial order to kill a citizen of the United States in a foreign country. How has our new definition of war brought us to the point that our president has essentially nullified the 5th and 14th Amendments to our constitution? This action not only serves to provide fuel to our critics, but threatens each and everyone of us. All because we have allowed our government to redefine one word, war. Continue reading

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Happiness vs. Well-being

A wonderful upbeat, reasonably well adjusted, happy friend posted this
link
with the following comment attached:

“Well-being cannot exist just in your own head”…..hmmmm…I’m not so sure about that! Sometimes just having the belief makes it so.

The linked NY Times article, which I recommend reading, states the Dr. Martin Seligman, author of the bestselling book Authentic Happiness, has since found the concept of happiness too limiting and subjective, and is now seeking to quantify well-being by asking respondents a set of questions designed to produce a more objective view of their overall well-being, as uncolored by their current emotional state as possible.

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Girls and Boys

One of the greatest revelations fatherhood supplies is how innately different girls and boys are at a very early age. Having had only brothers, growing up in a male dominated world, and working almost exclusively with men left me clueless concerning women’s formative years. There have been times in my life I have been truly surprised when the woman I was dating suddenly appeared in a dress or is revealed to actually prefer the color pink. While boys are bouncing off walls like their entire existence is controlled by a random number generator, most little girls are already planning their future, including the number and names of their children.

Obviously, many of us are born one gender, but identify with the opposite gender. So, there are little boys doing the same thing most girls do and vice versa. The point is at a very early age the differences between the sexes are far more pronounced than I had ever imagined. This thought, which has been moving back and forth between the front and back burners of my mind, finally culminated in a wonderfully lucid dream. Continue reading

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Religions, Bigotry, And The Greatest Lie Ever Told

I’m tired of being assigned the title bigot, because of my extreme dislike and complete distrust of religions. As a disclaimer, I hate religions, not an entirely healthy state of mind, but in my defense I have more than the usual reasons for doing so.

I have spent time in churches, cathedrals, temples, and mosques searching for the truth, the secret of life. I have sat and listened for hours to priests, rabbis, and mullahs, earnestly hoping for a glimpse of the secret they profess to hold. In all cases none was forthcoming, leaving no doubt religion not only possesses no great secrets, but is rapidly falling behind as we learn more about ourselves and the universe. Continue reading

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Bumper Strip Of The Year?

“Read My Lips: NO NEW TEXANS”

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Dancing With The Worser Devils Of Their Natures

The thing I like about having a non-commercial blog, or column, is that I can write any goddamn thing I want, any way I want, whenever I want. I have no boss and no editors—except for a friend who is given carte blanche to do whatever’s necessary with my stuff. This is freedom of speech, that’s what it is, this blogging thing, and I love it. I can even start and stop writing any time that


Mrs. Michelle Bachmann, a tiny deranged woman who is running for the office of President of The United States, is married to Marcus Bachmann, a man who owns and operates unlicensed family counseling clinics that allegedly offer, among other things, therapy to ”cure” homosexuals. Since its ministrations are called ”Christian counseling” I am not surprised. For if there is one thing Christian fundamentalists profess to hate worse than dancing it is cock sucking. At least when practiced by men. They are also against whatever it is lesbians do, which I gather involves a lot of snuggling and sharing complaints about former husbands and boyfriends. (It’s not? Well, then, lesbianism is probably as great a mystery to Dr. Bachmann as it is to me.)

The unlicensed ”doctor”, although a product of an equally unlicensed correspondence school, is no doubt aware that the American Psychological Association rejects therapeutic attempts to convert gays into straights, calling such reparative counseling ”ineffective and possibly even dangerous.” If the allegations concerning his clinics are true, then they are renegade operations, so to speak, and Bachmann can rightfully be called a “quack.” And since his clinic has received federal and state tax monies, contrary to prohibitions against public funding of religious groups, he is open to further allegations of being a crooked quack. In his interviews and public appearances he does appear to be a strange sort of duck. Hearing him talk and watching him walk, he seems a little light in his tasseled loafers, so he might even be a queer crooked quack.
Continue reading

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A Day at the Beach

A Day at the Beach from Buffer Boesch on Vimeo.

This is a wonderful video created by a very talented man who is constantly surprising everyone he knows.

Enjoy!

Posted in Art, Doug | 1 Comment

This is not fate, this is life.

Somewhere in our minds
Lies a feeling, never fully understood,
Ancient vestige, animal instinct.
Genetic fossil, limbic brain,
Driving us, our will be damned.
Pretending to control our thoughts,
The limbic and endocrine systems control our lives.
Pleasure as pain, pain as pleasure,
Dangerous, timid, fearless or fearful,
Calculating or foolhardy,
We do our best, rarely believing we did.
Things are the way they are,
Because this is the only way they could be,
If things could have been,
They would be.

And so we live and die,
Forgiving the inevitable, rewarding good fortune.
Measuring ourselves with a fantasy,
An illusion of free will.
They should have known better!
Why? How? What difference would it have made?
And time after time the answer is the same,
“I don’t know why I did this thing.”
And the obvious is revealed,
We do our best, rarely believing we did.
Things are the way they are,
Because this is the only way they could be,
If things could have been,
They would be.

This is not an excuse for damage done
Or meant to rob us of victory.
Each event stands on another,
An unbroken string of chances and choices
Begun billions of years before our births.
Neither master nor slave, we live in between.
Nothing to forgive or regret, only acceptance and love.
This is not fate, this is life.
Never longer than a breath.
We do our best, rarely believing we did.
Things are the way they are,
Because this is the only way they could be,
If things could have been,
They would be.

Posted in Authors, Doug | 2 Comments

I Pledge …

Grover Norquist is a Republican operative. He is called by some a political strategist, which just a fancy way of saying a scheming no-good son of a bitch. Google him and you’ll see what I mean. One of his buddies is the loathsome Jack Abramoff, now doing time for fucking over an already fucked-over Native American tribe; another is the slimy Ralph Reed, who should be in the big can with Jack but somehow dodged the silver bullet that kills blood-sucking vampires. Grover is also something of a libertarian when the mood strikes him, but like others of that breed he is only doctrinaire when there’s a political profit to be made. Scheming no-good sons of bitches have to be flexible and can’t be tied to the hitching-post of principle.

Norquist’s contribution to America’s political discourse is the catchy metaphor of reducing government to a small enough size to drown it in a bathtub. I’ve got to admit that’s pretty good. But what is not pretty good is a ”tax pledge” that he urges all Republican office seekers to sign, and most have actually done so. Its exact wording changes from time to time but essentially it says, I will never vote for taxes, never, nohow, nowhere, no way, no, no, No! Grover missed the history lesson at Harvard that points out how every civil society is and/or was sustained by taxation. Every single fucking one. No exceptions. Only hunter-gatherer cultures escape the burden. Thus it is and thus it has always been.

But I love the picture of those no-tax pledges being printed up, passed around, signed in triplicate, notarized, and indexed. A flurry of paper at every level of American government, from town councils to the halls of Congress…

“Have you signed yet? Here, sign this! Take some with you for your friends. Sign as many as you can. Take two, they’re small. Pass them out! Hold the line—and sign, baby, sign!”

It reminds me of nothing more than the late great Joseph Heller’s Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade in Catch-22. Heller merely wrote satire, but lucky us, we get to live it.

Let us take time to appreciate a master:

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Life, Liberty, Estate, and Internet

I am and always have been, a staunch supporter of net neutrality bills and heavier regulation on the purveyors of this grand information super highway we find ourselves on. I have a reason to be; the world wide web is a part of me. I’ve grown up with it- I was on AOL and talking to strangers by the age of nine, somehow avoiding becoming an eight-o-clock news special along the way. When I first crawled onto the internet and made my place, it was nothing novel to me as it is to those who grew up in the years before it.

I cut my teeth quickly, gravitating from children’s virtual pet sites to their message boards, from there to the text-based epic fantasy RPG systems early on, then on to news forums and political boards and special-interest e-mail groups. From early diary systems to wide social networks, I’ve been here, watching my world expand at a rate I never thought possible. There was a time when what the internet meant, for me, was nothing more than a multi-user dungeon and an IRC client. I did not then see what I do now; that the internet is nothing less than the platform on which humankind can truly attain freedom and equality.

I was not there for the beginning, no, but I have grown with the internet, and around it, and as such am afforded a perspective that while not unique, I cannot believe is common. If it were common, every other citizen of the world wide web would be in the rage I find myself in.

The problem with the prevailing attitude toward internet services, it seems, is a fundamental lack of understanding as to what the internet is for, and what, precisely, it is. The internet, some would have you believe, is a privilege. They frame it as an amenity, something that you should not quail at paying exorbitant prices for, because it is, on some level, like attending a movie theater or going to a park. The ‘three strikes’ proposals make this apparent, because denial of service without due process would be perfectly acceptable, perhaps, in a business place, a place in which your behavior did not suit the management. The attitude also shows in the recent bill passed requiring- not permitting, but requiring- ISPs in America to monitor their customers and keep those records on file for a year, in case the police might need them. That sort of attitude is what leads to cameras in businesses and areas of high traffic, constantly monitoring, ready for analysis at any given time.

I never attribute to malice what might be attributed to stupidity, but I never mistake for stupidity what is certainly malice.

What is happening now, with the calculated destruction of your internet rights, is malice. It is targeted, it is direct, and every single detail of the current status quo is part of a greater plan. There is an end game. For the ISPs, and the copyright profiteers, it is as it has always been, profit in the next quarter, ignorant of the ripples ten years in the future. On the part of the government, it is altogether more sinister.

I charge many of our lawmakers and enforcers, worldwide, with being actively engaged in what I say without hyperbole is the deliberate subjugation of the population. For as long as man has stood, there have been those who have stood at the fringe and said “That- there- that is what is happening. They seek to control you.” As time passed, that message became- “They seek to control you, and it will be done with technology.” Great authors have seen it in different ways- Orwell in controlled communication, Huxley in controlled population,  and while they wrote well to the spirit of the thing, they could not have foreseen the way it would be done any more than Asimov could have predicted miniaturization.

What is being done is this: The world has been opened up and laid bare in a way that far transcends any jump we have made in the past. First we began to sail the oceans; now we sail the stars. From the advent of written language to the invention of the printing press to the use of the Pony Express to the presence of party-lines in every town, man’s ability to communicate with his neighbor has changed who his neighbors are. Where once we stared with suspicion at the next tribe over, we now find solidarity with Egyptian protesters and follow, minute by minute, as moguls fall and iconoclasts rise.

And now they want to take it away from you.

They won’t say it that way, of course.

It’s merely the cost of doing business. You’re using too much bandwidth. If you want the best, shouldn’t you pay for it? Everyone’s spoiled, they don’t want to pay for service. People are thieves, they should be monitored. Copyright violation will destroy creativity- nobody will do anything if they’re not making millions for their publishers. It’s a matter of national security. Your children might be victims of the next terror attack.

But what they mean is: we’ve seen this new world, and we must control it.

The great, wicked machine is turning, the dystopian nightmare has already begun. It is most visible in those countries we deplore aloud for their policies- for the nation-wide filters against certain types of content, for their shut-downs of systems during times of unrest. But it is most insidious, and proceeding without great alarm or even awareness, in every nation in the world.

The use of the internet is not a privilege. It is the natural right of the twenty-first century human being, and the denial of access to the internet community, to any internet community without just cause, is nothing less than an intrusion on your liberty. If we allow anyone- the government, the ISPs, the copyright industry- anyone at all, to lay restrictions on how we communicate, globally, then the restrictions will be laid upon the same people restrictions are always laid upon- the people without coffers full of money or political influence.

The beautiful thing about the internet is that it is mass communication, unbound. Every man, woman, and child can have their say, instantaneously. If we let them win this fight- if ISPs are permitted to cap data and not provide tiered plans or unlimited options, if the largest companies persist in buying up the smaller companies and a market without choice erupts, then the only part of the population that will have completely free speech, world-wide, will be the same people who have always had it. This new world we have seen glimpses of will never flourish, it will die still-born.

You’ve seen what kings do, when peasants cannot rise against them. Every time, when peasants have brought them down and become kings themselves, it has been done because those peasants communicated, and moved as one.

They wish to take hot coals to our tongues, these kings of today, as all kings have always done to those who speak against them. But in all other times, they have been only able to silence the speaker, not the platform. When assembly is prohibited, peasants whisper. When whispering is prohibited, peasants write. Never before has there been such an equalizer, a system that allows peasants always to shout and assemble.

Don’t let them take it from you. If you do, they will keep it for themselves, and they will cement their hold over you with it.

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My Friend … The Hijacker?

My friend William Wolfgang Gossett, “Wolf,” died 8 years ago at Newport, Oregon when he was 73 years old. He was an amazing and interesting old man, not least for his fantastic stories and alleged adventures which spanned decades, continents, and professions. We bullshitted a lot and swapped tall tales to our mutual satisfaction. I enjoyed trying to top his lies even when some of them were true. But I remember him most for his wonderful wife, Marilyn Smith, and their matched pair of Scottish Terriers that I pretended to be terrified by, much to their barking delight, when encountering the four of them on their nightly walk, calling out, ”Beware! Beware! The Scotties From Hell! The Scotties from Hell!”

During the ten years I knew him he told me many stories, most of which I discounted or disbelieved. He seemed a classic fabulist and yarn spinner, but he was well-mannered all of the time and funny most of the time. It never occurred to me, even remotely, that his fantasies were a kind of, well, cover.

He never told me he might be D.B. Cooper.

Posted in Tobias Flint | 4 Comments

A Madman’s Logic

The first reaction to last weeks slaughter of innocents in Norway was horror, and rightly so; it was an astonishingly horrifying event. The second reaction was confusion: Why did this madman, Anders Breivik, who hated Muslims, kill Norwegian children? I have long despaired of understanding homicidal lunacy, but there is often a terrible logic behind a lunatic’s actions. Breivik’s hatred of Islam is matched and perhaps even overshadowed by his hatred of those who aid and abet Muslim immigration and multiculturalism. But why did he target a youth camp full of blue-eyed, fair-haired Nordic children?

The answer soon became clear when it was learned that the site was a summer camp for the children of politically progressive parents—children who would most likely grow up to think and vote like their parents. His logic was the same that Shakespeare’s Brutus uses to rationalize the plot to murder Julius Caesar:

… think of him as a serpent’s egg
Which, hatch’d, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.

Breivik believed he was crushing serpent’s eggs! This human monster’s insanity follows a horrifying logic. It is from the same mad paradigm as the Bush-Obama doctrine of preemptive war.

Mad Anders took that logic to the extreme end of madness.

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Texas, Our Texas

Texas is the Red State. Presidential candidates don’t pander to us, they know where our vote is going. No matter how much the rest of you sneer and mock us, we’re good, God-fearing men down here. We don’t teach no filthy sex-education. We’re pro-life, because we follow God’s law.

Here in Texas, we only kill people who deserve it. Like Mexicans. Those filthy, murderin’, no-good illegals. It’s thanks to them, you know, that Texas is in violation of the Vienna Convention.  It’s all their fault. If Humberto Leal hadn’t killed somebody, we wouldn’t have had to kill him right back. We had the right: it’s our state, dammit.

We’re equal-minded, too. Somebody kills a raghead and attacks another, we’ll kill him dead too. Even if he is a good ol’ boy. We ain’t racists here. Course, the bastards don’t appreciate us for it. Rais Bhuiyan, that poor ugly dog who got his face shot off, wanted mercy for his attacker. He just didn’t understand how important it was that we handle this permanently- out here on the frontier, there’s no such thing as prison, the sheriffs don’t have the time.

Posted in Charlie, Thoughts | 1 Comment

The Beagle God

Early one evening I was driving on an old parallel blacktop road that runs alongside Dort Highway, a north-south artery connecting Flint and Detroit. It was early October, pheasant hunting season in Michigan, when it is not uncommon to hear the sound of shotguns in the nearby fields and the barking of excited dogs. There were few cars on the two-lane asphalt and I didn’t see the one that hit the dog, but it couldn’t have been more than a curve or two in the road ahead of me.

When I saw the dog lying on the pavement ahead of me, I slowed and pulled over on the gravel shoulder. I can’t remember if I saw it move, but I somehow knew the dog was alive and had just recently been struck. I reached under the front seat and grabbed a road flare, popping it as I got out of my car, and tossed it as far back down the road as I could to warn oncoming drivers. Then I went to the dog to see what if anything could be done. It was a small black and tan female Beagle and she was not wearing a collar of any sort. Her coat was glossy and she looked young and sturdy.

Continue reading

Posted in Tobias Flint | 2 Comments

On Vulnerability

I was catching up on The Atheist Experience blog this week and came across the flying debris of a rather puzzling shitstorm. A female atheist/skeptic blogger had recently commented on an awkward late-nigh encounter in an elevator at a convention and had- consequently- advised men to generally avoid propositioning lone women in elevators, late at night…

Not only was it rather shocking that Richard Dawkins shared his thoughts on the matter, the tone and nature of his response was, in my humble opinion, baffling.

As a lover of science (and a gemologist- which makes me sort of a bona fide Scientist, in some way, no?) and an atheist, I obviously have been closely following Dawkins’ excellent work and contributions to the science world. Perhaps this is why his extremely sarcastic and- worst of all- ineloquent response was extremely sobering to me:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

I must admit, I was actually wondering if this was indeed penned by Dawkins’ hand; the same hand that wrote ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, a sensitive, lovely, shining description of the wonders of life and world…

It seems to me that Dawkins has somewhat misunderstood Rebecca Watson’s statement. My greatest disappointment in his dismissive reply is that, despite being deeply immersed and knowledgeable in life itself, in every animal’s drives, challenges and motivations, he could somehow completely disregard a state that all beings must contend with:

Vulnerability.

Rebecca Watson’s story about the man in the elevator was not a story about all men being crass and violent. It was an honest statement about vulnerability.

Women, everywhere, in all countries and all walks of life, are vulnerable. They are vulnerable of course because all living beings are vulnerable; it is such fine line between a living animal and a dead one, between vigor and crippling injury… They are also vulnerable as women; generally smaller and lighter, more empoverished, more underestimated and, quite simply, more fucked with. Mrs Watson’s was describing a situation in which she was isolated (in a foreign environment) and confined with a perfect stranger. This, while not necessarily a dire situation is indeed a vulnerable one. This, I believe, was the gist of her comment: If one wishes to engage a person positively, especially a woman, an elevator in a strange environment at a late hour is not a good place/time to do it because it makes her extremely vulnerable. Vulnerable beings are simply not in a prime state to socialize, just ask any cornered, trapped, frightened, injured or ailing animal…

Being vulnerable is, in most contexts, not an enjoyable state. It is stressful not to know if harm is right around the next corner or moment. While men tend to be raised to deny their own vulnerablility outright (for better and for worse), most women are conditioned to deal with their vulnerability on a daily basis: Avoiding dark alleys, listening to their ‘gut feeling’, not letting their drinks unattended, not leaving their doors unlocked, not travelling alone, not hitchhiking, etc, etc… They also often take a lot of blame when they dare letting their guard down and walk the dark alley alone, wear too short a skirt, get a bit too drunk, etc, etc… So, indeed, a lot of women ARE mindful. They prize their physical integrity and life and act accordingly. It makes for a bit less spontaneous get-togethers in late-night elevators, but it is also a tactic to maintain some measure of control and safety in a STILL relatively unsafe world, America included.

I don’t know what Mr Dawkins’ advices to his own daughter were when she was young: Did he encourage her socializing with men at 4am in hotel elevators? Would he had coldly chastized her for ‘whining’ about an uncomfortable exchange in a foreign, isolated spot?

I would have thought that, of all places, the atheist and so-called ‘rational’ circles would have been a tiny bit more open to a dialogue about basic human (or, hell, animal) interaction and gender issues. Men and women need to openly discuss about ways to make their relations healthier and more empathetic. A tiny bit of acknowledgement of the Other’s true situation and- often very legitimate- concerns goes a long way.

I still respect Richard Dawkins’ contribution to science but I sure expected a bit more empathy from him.

We are all animals; humans, women… We are all vulnerable at times.

Posted in Celeste Ewing, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

And You Thought Only Televanglists Raked In The Loot

www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/world/asia/05india.html

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A World Without Free Will

Why?

This is probably the shortest and most difficult question we face, and we face it every moment of our lives. Why? Why do we do what we do? How much of what we do is free will? Or is free will an illusion we use to place credit or blame on the shoulders of the successful or unfortunate. How much of what we do is choice? What guides, influences, or controls those choices?

My immediate response, at this point in my life, is free will is non-existent and the few choices we believe we are making out of our own free will are so heavily influenced and limited by our genes, our location, our past, our undependable perceptions, incomplete knowledge, and faulty logic as to be virtually meaningless. Accepting this proposition and living without the illusion of free will creates an opportunity to change how we view and accept ourselves and others. This acceptance of the why, or the lack of why, in the choices we make leads to compassion and assistance instead of derision and punishment. Continue reading

Posted in Doug | 1 Comment

Why Is Allen Ginsberg Shadowing Me? (1965)

North Beach, San Francisco

Wherever I go this morning I see Allen Ginsberg, the poet and author of Howl. He was in City Lights Books earlier when I left a message at the sales desk for my wife, Gina. He followed me next door to Vesuvio’s where I went for my breakfast of tomato juice and beer. Later, when I again checked the bookstore for Gina’s possible reply, he was on the sidewalk schmoozing with a couple of guys. Finally, when I went across the street to El Cyd for some serious drinking, he again followed. No doubt about it, Allen Ginsberg is shadowing me.

I don’t know Ginsberg, but I know a lot of people who do. Gina and I saw him read in Los Angeles earlier this year at some sort of “happening” at UCLA. He had recently returned from India where, I am told, he studied with some Swami or another, and now sports a full beard and wears traditional Hindu garb at public appearances. For most of his UCLA reading he sat cross-legged on the stage while plucking at a stringed instrument and chanting mantras. Or maybe singing, I don’t know. He is becoming as much a California curiosity as he is a poet.

But why is he following me around North Beach? I don’t play in his league. Continue reading

Posted in Tobias Flint | 3 Comments

My Nomination For Man Of The Year

Some people who need medical care but can’t afford it go to the emergency room. Others just hope they’ll get better. James Richard Verone robbed a bank.

Earlier this month, Verone (pictured), a 59-year-old convenience store clerk, walked into a Gaston, N.C., bank and handed the cashier a note demanding $1 and medical attention. Then he waited calmly for police to show up.

He’s now in jail and has an appointment with a doctor this week.

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