Saturday, September 14, 2013

Interruption of Service

First the power was out, then there were some serious family matters to deal with.  I will post a piece on Sunday.  

In the meantime, if I may, RMJ has been on fire and posting great stuff. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Being a "Skeptic" Means You'll Never Suffer Disadvantage For Your Lies.

Earlier this year I did a series exploring the interesting fact that materialists are allowed to get away with lying and distorting the truth, what some would call "reality", by virtue of their being champions of "reality". Some of them have made a career of it, some becoming rather wealthy from it.   In this case "reality" means some species of materialism.  When that materialist assertion is made in the guise of journalism it compounds the problem because journalists, like scientists,  pretend to be answerable to enhanced mechanisms of review insuring a higher level of reliability in what they say than we mere non-journalists.  In reality those mechanisms are frequently bypassed and platitudes less expensive and time consuming than careful fact checking and strict editing are substituted.  In no other area of journalism is that as true as when something purported to wear the mantle of science or even just something that can be passed off as sciency is being written about. And that last venue of journalistic fraud, the merely sciency, has become an article of faith within the industry that journalism is. There are scientists who tear their hair out as they read or hear science reporters making a total hash of the science in a way that misleads their audience.  But other scientists - I'm trying hard to cut down on the number of quote marks I'm using -  seem to have no problem with it, especially when they are also part of the march away from reality.

To a great extent, I suspect, it is tied in to the cult of cynical manliness that replaces other values in journalism and the larger commercial and popular culture.  Values such as careful reporting of facts, of, you know, REPORTING THE TRUTH NON-IDEOLOGICALLY.    Ironically, a lot of it is cowardly acquiescence to an open campaign of intimidation practiced, first by CSICOP and its successor organizations in ideological atheism.  This post looks at a recent example.

Dr. Eben Alexander wrote a book which became a best seller about his experiences during a long coma caused by a severe case of bacterial meningitis.  The case of meningitis is medically documented and Alexander, as a neurosurgeon at Harvard Medical School, among others and a surgeon in some of the most respected hospitals in the country is more than a reliable judge of his own case.  And, in the appendix of the book, he presents the evaluation of another doctor,  Scott Wade, who was involved with the case*

What he said he experienced is known as a near death experience, an entirely internal experience of which the person having the experience is the only possible expert.  I have never had that kind of experience and know of only one story in our family or among my friends that is sort of indicative of something like that, it happened when my great-grandmother was dying**.

I have no stand on the "reality" of near death experiences except that, since it's a personal experience,  the person having one is the only possible expert on it, what they choose to say about it is nothing that anyone has to believe but it is also nothing anyone else can refute.  In other words, I take that lost and unstylish stand in this world of pseudo-skeptical coercion, that, short of clear and obvious and actually harmful irrationality, people have a right to their own thoughts and experiences.

As Dr. Alexander's book hit the best seller list, the predictable happened, the big guns of the modern atheism industry started on the attack.  Sam Harris was one of the early ones, whose debunking effort preceded his reading the book.  And even some of the minor guns came out, such as the lovable Dr. Oliver Sacks, who agreed with the far less than lovable Harris.  That neither of them were involved with the case and had no direct evidence to base their assertions on didn't prevent them from making what goes as definitive statements on what "must have been going on".   That both of them have ideological positions, in which they are as invested and interested in as any TV preacher or celebrity psychic, is not to be considered in judging the validity of their pronouncements.  Being an atheist means never having your motives explored. Being based on nothing but conjecture, their statements aren't the most useful for exploring that little explored filter on our culture.  But a far more elaborate debunking effort is useful for it because it asserts to be reporting of fact and is presented by a major publication as such.

Luke Dittrich, a writer at Esquire magazine, wrote what was clearly intended as a debunking of Alexander's story and it is being marketed as such by Esquire's Editor in Chief, David Granger.  No doubt it will become part of the armamentarium of pseudo-skeptics to try to keep people from talking about such things.

I had not read Alexander's book or anything about it but, while looking for something to listen to while I snapped a large amount of green beans last Saturday, I happened across this Skeptico podcast of Alex Tarkiris talking with Robert Mays, the author of a long article in which he documents what appear to be scandalously shoddy journlistic practices by Dittrich.  If the article is accurate it seems very possible that Dittrich misrepresented what Dr. Laura Potter said about Alexander's case.  She was the emergency room physician who originally handled Alexander in the earliest part of his hospitalization, on which Dittrich bases most of his debunking campaign.   He apparently failed to get other doctors who handled more of the case to talk to him.   Maybe they didn't want to be involved, no doubt knowing that they could expose themselves to a damaging ideological campaign of the kind that can destroy a career if they got on the wrong side of the "skeptics".   If they said anything supporting what Wade and Alexander said about his conscious state during the coma - the reality of which has become important for the "skeptics" to attack - their competence would be attacked, very likely damaging their reputations and careers.   I suspect that Dr. Potter didn't realize how dangerous it was to do more than issue a no-comment to Dittrich, but after his article came out, Potter seemed to regret having done so.  She did send out an e-mail that said:

“I am saddened by and gravely disappointed by the article recently published in Esquire. The content attributed to me is both out of context and does not accurately portray the events around Dr. Eben Alexander’s hospitalization. I felt my side of the story was misrepresented by the reporter. I believe Dr. Alexander has made every attempt to be factual in his accounting of events.”

Considering his status as a reporter, that Dittrich failed to talk to other witnesses to the periods and events which Dr. Potter says he misrepresented, is a rather serious lapse.  He didn't talk to Alexander's wife, Holley, or Michael Sullivan, the Alexander's next door neighbor, who were with Eben Alexander during events Dittrich asserted couldn't have happened.  Unlike Dr. Potter, they were with him continuously while Dr. Potter may not have been because she was in and out of the room as any emergency room physician has to be.  In one instance that could make all the difference in his debunking effort, whether or not Alexander cried out to God is the issue.  He claims that Dr. Potter said she had intubated Alexander an hour earlier so he couldn't have cried out.  If he had asked other people who were there, such as his wife he would have gotten a report less useful to his debunking.

“It happened before they sedated him, while the doctors were trying to get vital signs and spinal fluid and all that. I said to Michael [Sullivan], ‘He spoke!’ and Eben kept writhing. Dr. Potter might not have heard it. She was in and out, checking scans, spinal fluid, so it’s very likely that she wasn’t there.”

A lot of what Dittrich says can't be checked by those of us without access to witnesses, some of whom have dispute what he claimed,  but in one case what he said can be clearly seen to be a total distortion, turning what was said to mean the opposite of what was said.  He reported that the Dahli Lama dressed down Alexander, shaking his finger at him and asserting his unreliability.  As Robert Mays points out in his article, the Esquire editors put what he claimed in capital letters, making His Holiness sound like the eternal CSICOP tape loop:


But Dittrich's account of what the Dahli Lama said about Eben Alexander's account is clearly a misrpresentation.  You can hear that yourself because the video of those comments is available, if a bit hard to hear due to the combination of his English interspersed with his speaking Tibetan with the aid of a simultaneous translator. [Note:  It was part of a college convocation which is why Alexander is wearing an academic robe.]  If Dittrich had taken the time to actually listen to it numerous times and watch, using headphones and full screen as I did, he couldn't have failed to hear that the Dahli Lama said that Alexander had no reason to lie about his experience and had no history of lying so his account had to be taken seriously.  I saw and hear nothing like what Dittrich described, what I heard and saw were favorable to Alexander's account.  As Mays transcribes it (as it appears on the video, not in the order it appears in the article. which I indicate with elipsis):

...Then [at 44:25 in the video] His Holiness turned to address Dr. Alexander...

... [44:25, DL gestures to EA] As for your own, as your explanation, on the basis of your own sort of experience, quite sort of, ah, amazing. (emphasis added) ...

 ... Here Dittrich picks up the story: [45:50] His Holiness explained that phenomena are categorized into "evident phenomena" that can be studied by direct observation, "hidden phenomena" that can be inferred based on observed phenomena, and then the third category is "extremely hidden phenomena" which can be accessed only through our own first-person experience or the first-person testimony of someone else.

[46:54] "Now for example," the Dalai Lama says, "his sort of experience." He points to Alexander. "For him, it's something reality. Real. But those people who never sort of experienced that, still, his mind is a little bit sort of..." He taps his fingers against the side of his head. "Different!" he says...

[47:46] "For that also, we must investigate," the Dalai Lama says. "Through investigation we must get sure that person is truly reliable." He wags a finger in Alexander's direction. When a man makes extraordinary claims, a "thorough investigation" is required, to ensure "that person reliable, never telling lie," and has "no reason to lie." (emphasis added)...

... [46:54, DL gestures to EA] Now for example, his own sort of experience: for him it's something real. But those people who never sort of experienced that, still, his mind is a little bit sort of different. It's possible like that. [translator] So when we touch upon the third category of phenomena which is really extremely hidden and obscure, then, for the time being, for the other people -- there's no real access, direct or inferential, so the only method that is left is to really rely on the testimony of the first-person experience of the person himself or herself.

[47:46] [DL] And for that also you see, we must investigate. Through investigation we must get sure that person is truly reliable and his experience is something not just illusion of these things. [48:02] Through then thorough investigation, that person is reliable, never telling lie – and in this particular case this is no reason to tell lie – therefore, [translator] so then one can take the testimony to be credible. [translator] So the point I'm trying to make is that with respect to science and its scope for discovering knowledge, we need to make a distinction about the fact that there might be certain types of phenomena which are beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. (emphasis added) ...

... And His Holiness goes on to show his acceptance of the validity of Eben Alexander's experience:

[49:12] [DL] Among the scientists so far as I notice, the later part of the twentieth century, they [created] a sort of knowledge or field, they carried a sort of research about the brain – quite subtly. [49:30, pointing to EA] At a more deeper level there is still more mysterious things. (emphasis added)

You can listen for yourself and compare the accuracy of Dittrich's report of what the Dahli Lama said with what you can hear and see for yourself.   I would encourage you to read both his debunking effort and Mays rather detailed debunking of the Esquire debunking - taking into account that Mays is obviously a less skilled writer than Dittrich - I would assert that he's obviously been a more careful reporter in this case.  And, unlike Dittrich,  Mays has been entirely up front about his ideological intentions.  I'm not surprised that he is a more careful reporter on this topic.  He, as anyone who writes seriously on topics on the "Skeptics" index of prohibited ideas, he knows he will be the subject of attacks and ridicule and dishonest debunkery of the kind that atheists are seldom subjected to in the allegedly serious corporate media.

The media takes materialism, "Skepticism", atheism, as a sort of Underwriters Lab style guarantee of reliability and they almost never bother to do even the most basic level of fact checking of claims made in that framing.  And, heavens knows, their vehemently, at times viciously, asserted ideological position is never to be taken into account when testing what they say.  That is the opposite of how they treat people holding other beliefs.  Religious people, people who accept even the possibility that there are things which don't fit into the most primitive style of materialism are automatically held to be suspect, even when there is no rational reason to suspect them of lying.   I am sure that Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Scott Wade, and any doctor or scientist who support them have far more to lose in their professional lives than they will ever gain from it.  I would expect Dittrich will be invited to join in "Skeptical" events and groups.  And his rather large lapses of journalistic practice have yet to even be noticed by his employers.

I am not more than mildly interested in "NDE's" other than to assert peoples' superior right to their own experience as compared to ideologues and putative journalists pushing an ideological agenda.  It is that last thing that hooked my attention enough for me to listen to the podcast and read the articles.   Does a journalist who is pushing a pseudo-skeptical, and you can read that to mean "atheist" agenda get to take the liberties that Dittrich seems to have taken in his debunking effort?   Does he get to ignore possible eye-witnesses on an alleged basis of their unreliability while ignoring the possible ideological distortions caused by materialism, "skepticism" or atheism of other witnesses?   And that doesn't include the writers biases and those of his editors and publishers and fellow journalists.   Those are as evident as the blanket requirement that people who write for magazines either suppress any beliefs they have in anything on the "skeptics" list of prohibited ideas - including religion - to merely being open to considering their possibility.   If someone submitted an article supporting even some of Alexander's book to Esquire, I am certain it would have been rejected, probably the topic of derisive laughter around the office and at the bar after work.  The author would find it difficult to be published elsewhere.

* As an Infectious infectious diseases specialist I was asked to see Dr. Eben Alexander when he presented to the hospital on November 10, 2008, and was found to have bacterial meningitis. Dr. Alexander had become ill quickly with flu-like symptoms, back pain, and a headache.  He was promptly transported to the Emergency Room, where he had a CT scan of his head and then a lumbar puncture with spinal fluid suggesting a gram-negative meningitis.  He was immediately begun on intravenous antibiotics targeting that and placed on a ventilator machine because of his critical condition and coma.  Within twenty-four hours the gram-negative bacteria in the spinal fluid was confirmed as E.coli.  An infection more common in infants, E. coli meningitis is very rare in adults (less than one in 10 million annual incidence in the United States), especially in the absence of any head trauma, neurosurgery, or other medical conditions such as diabetes.  Dr. Alexander was very healthy at the time of his diagnosis and no underlying cause for his meningitis could be identified.

The mortality rate for gram-negative meningitis in children and adults ranges from 40 to 80 percent.  Dr. Alexander presented to the hospital with seizures and a markedly altered mental status, both of which are risk factors for neurological complications or death (mortality over 90 percent).  Despite prompt and aggressive antibiotic treatment for his E.coli meningitis as well as continued care in the medical intensive care unit, he remained in a coma six days and hope for a quick recovery faded (mortality over 97 percent).  Then, on the sixth day, the miraculous happened—he opened his eyes, became alert, and was quickly weaned from the ventilator.  The fact that he went on to have a full recovery from this illness after being in a coma for nearly a week is truly remarkable.

*  Shortly before she died in the early 1950s, my grandmother and mother reported that she said,  "I thought it would be Willie who came for me because he's been there so much longer (her youngest son who died of an acute illness, probably a burst appendix, in 1911) but it's Papa who's come."  She then kissed her daughters and my mother and shortly after that died.  That was more than two decades before the "near death experience" was named.   I wasn't there but I do know that my grandmother and mother both believed it's a serious sin to bear false witness.  I don't know them to have lied.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brought To You By The Freest Press In History: I Have The News On It Is Lying

The local news channel is on where I am, they are talking about 9-11 and the "Flag Ladies".   They are more than just implying that the invasion of Iraq had something to do with the attacks on 9-11.   The lies about the invasion of Iraq, the lies about Saddam Hussein involvement with it, have become ingrained in the mythology of the past decade.   It is the freest press and media in our history which has sold that lie first told by the Bush II Cheney regime in order to justify an illegal war that has killed scores of thousands so far and is still going on today.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What is This Thing Called Love Eldar with Chris Potter

Live at the Blue Note in New York City May 2012
Eldar Djangirov (piano)
Chris Potter (sax)
Armando Gola (bass)
Ludwig Afonso (drums)

Chris Connor - Moon Ray

Either You Say What You Mean or You Don't Mean What You Say: On Losing Readers

It was in late fall 2006 while writing for a different blog that I got the first comment saying, "I'll never read you again".   I didn't know why they bothered saying it.  Well, it's clear the reason they said it, they didn't agree with something I wrote - probably on the foolish, futile new atheist war against the vast majority of the population.   But was the declaration supposed to get me to change what I was writing about?  Was it kind of a threat to shoot the dog if I didn't stop writing on that topic?

When I have had students interested in composing, my very first instruction is that they have to find out what the music that they want to write is, in the end.  That's the real goal.  If they write music because they think it will get the approval of other people, they should let those people write that music because it won't be their music.  Before any attempt to train someone in harmony and counterpoint, they've got to have practice in writing music they like.  My approach to writing is the same.

I write what I think is true, what I think makes sense and what I believe is most likely to produce something closer to a decent result, a livable planet, a tolerable society that is headed into the direction of a good society and world on the way to a good an just world.  That is my absolute bottom line, more than any other goal.  More than what I would like to be true, more than what any reader wants me to say, more than what I might want to be saying, more than I want people to like what I say.  Though it's really nice when they do.  I can't guarantee that is going to happen but I can guarantee something else.   When someone goes to the bother of reading what I write, the least I can give them is the promise that I mean what I'm saying.

Elizabeth Warren At the AFL-CIO Convention

I could listen to this a thousand times and never get tired of it.

Fails The Laugh Test

Am I really supposed to get upset that the American Government has been spying on Brazilian oil companies?   

If only they'd spy on American, British, Dutch..... oil companies and crack down on them.  

Hard Teachings

The role of a white person looking at a political conflict among black people should be primarily to look and learn. Or at least that's what I think.   It's the same for men in a political conflict among women.  There will be things that those primarily involved with issues know about them, points that are important to consider that the experience of those not involved will not know or weigh accurately.   But in the conflict between Cornel West, speaking on behalf of the black prophetic tradition and those he names as sell-outs involved the President of the United States and the soul of the country, the actions of the United States government inside the country and in the world so it concerns us all.  I would assert that in the past it was when liberals and the left not only learned from that prophetic tradition but acted on its witness that things got better, that the country acted in a way at all in line with its asserted faith, in equality, in democracy, in justice.  That gives all of us a legitimate interest in the issues, though I still think it is best to let the primary figures tell us what it is about.  And on that:

“It is a spiritual issue,” West said. “What kind of person do you choose to be? People say, ‘Well, Brother West, since the mass of black folk will never be free then let me just get mine.’ That is the dominant response. ‘I am wasting my time fighting a battle that can’t be won.’ But that is not what the black prophetic tradition is about. History is a mystery. Yes, it doesn't look good. But the masses of black folk must be respected. Malcolm X used to say as long as they are not respected you could show me all the individual respect you want but I know it’s empty. That is the fundamental divide between the prophetic tradition and the sellouts.”

There is a conflict between those holding out for ultimate justice and those who begin by compromise and end up compromised, between those who really believe to the core of their being and at a real cost to themselves and their families that justice is not optional and those who think it's a nice sounding slogan, not much different from those the advertising industry uses to lie twenty minutes out of every hour, not counting product placement.

The disappointment with Barack Obama is legitimate, he sold himself as something he clearly is not and never intended to be, the head of an alternative to the corporate state, a progressive, if not liberal opposition to that.  Instead he has been the champion of it.  In the article about Obama's attempt to silence the prophetic tradition, by Chris Hedges,*  Cornell West practices the witness that is guaranteed to not be welcome by many, observing that it has always been the case that before prophets are accepted or, as is often the case, coopted, they are often opposed, imprisoned and not infrequently killed  

“The most pernicious development is the incorporation of the black prophetic tradition into the Obama imperial project,” West said. “Obama used [Martin Luther] King’s Bible during his inauguration, but under the National Defense Authorization Act King would be detained without due process. He would be under surveillance every day because of his association with Nelson Mandela, who was the head of a ‘terrorist’ organization, the African National Congress. We see the richest prophetic tradition in America desecrated in the name of a neoliberal worldview, a worldview King would be in direct opposition to. Martin would be against Obama because of his neglect of the poor and the working class and because of the [aerial] drones, because he is a war president, because he draws up kill lists. And Martin King would have nothing to do with that.”

“We are talking about crimes against humanity—Wall Street crimes, war crimes, the crimes of the criminal justice system in the form of Jim Crow, the crimes against our working poor that have their backs pushed against the wall because of stagnant wages and corporate profits going up,” West said. “Abraham Heschel said that the distinctive feature of any empire in decline is its indifference to criminality. That is a fundamental feature of our time, an indifference to criminality, especially on top, wickedness in high places.”


For a white, American tradition, Liberal, the product of the past half century of American history, it is extremely hard to figure out the lines between the possible and the ideal.  The fact is that Obama is one in a line of merely the best we could get elected to office.  But with Obama and his campaign to sell another involvement in yet another hopeless foreign civil war, it's clear that is not enough anymore.

It is clear to me that Obama has not had any intention of striving for the ideal at a cost to himself.  He has almost never spent political capital on the legitimate program of liberalism.  For example, it's called "Obamacare" first by his opponents, trying to put a black face on health care reform in order to use racism to destroy it. They've done the same with most of the social welfare programs dismantled during my lifetime.  But Obama did nothing to push a really great bill whose implementation would transform the country, socially, economically and politically.    He didn't even do very much to get what was passed through.  He left it in the hands of people like Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman, trading away anything that would have comprised a really good bill in his futile attempt to woo the likes of Olympia Snowe in order to be able to duck behind the empty slogan of bi-partisanship.  And even that almost failed but for the insistence of Nancy Pelosi that the bill be passed.   That was the template for virtually every real liberal issue during the Obama administration.  He spent his political capital - ALL OF IT GIVEN TO HIM BY HIS SUPPORTERS - on behalf of those who were far more interested in using his race to whip up the most vicious and potentially violent opposition to a president in our history.  There is something pathological in Obama's repeated quest to get people who hate him because of his race and his party affiliation to like him even as it's obvious he expects the adoration of his supporters who he disdains and disrespects.   He might give us a speech on a special occasion, he might use symbolism to woo us when he needs us, he gives us way too little for the cost of having him as the voluntarily weak president he has been.   We must never give our most valuable political asset, out votes and our support, to someone who will so profligately throw it at those who will oppose us and the most basic of our values.   That is justice, equality, economic equality, not free trade, not bank deregulation.   I strongly suspect that Obama is prepared to give away more of that on behalf of Larry Summers than he ever would for even a moderately liberal member of the Supreme Court.


As I said, my primary role in the dispute between Obama and West is to listen and learn and, though I don't agree with everything he has said and the way he says it is very hard,  West gets the last word in this post.

“Obama is the highest manifestation of the co-optation that took place,” West said. “It shifted to the black political class. The black political class, more and more, found itself unable to tell the truth, or if they began to tell some of the truth they were [put] under surveillance, attacked and demonized. Forty percent of our babies are living in poverty, living without enough food, and Obama comes to us and says quit whining. He doesn’t say that to the Business Roundtable. He doesn’t say that to the corporate elites. He doesn’t say that to AIPAC, the conservative Jewish brothers and sisters who will do anything to support the Israeli occupation against Palestinians. This kind of neglect in policy is coupled with disrespect in his speeches to black folk, which the mainstream calls tough love.”

“He is a shell of a man,” West said of Obama. “There is no deep conviction. There is no connection to something bigger than him. It is a sad spectacle, sad if he were not the head of an empire that is in such decline and so dangerous. This is a nadir. William Trotter and Du Bois, along with Ida B. Wells-Barnett, were going at Book T tooth and nail. Look at the fights between [Marcus] Garvey and Du Bois, or Garvey and A. Philip Randolph. But now if you criticize Obama the way Randolph criticized Garvey, you become a race traitor and an Uncle Tom. A lot of that comes out of the Obama machine, the Obama plantation.”

*  Hedges, who I respect even as I sometimes disagree with him, has the kind of earned credibility that few other figures in the left opposition to Obama have.  He does a fine job of letting Cornel West speak for himself even as it's obvious he's also saying things Hedges would like to say.   Hedges sometimes manages the uneasy dual role of someone trying to balance between the roles of journalist and prophet,  I think it would be good for him to realize that someone who has witnessed as much as he has can't any longer function as a journalist and go back to his pre-journalism roots.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chris Connor Ridin' High

Chris Connor(vo)
Herbie Mann(fl,ts)
Ralph Sharon(p)
Joe Puma(g)
Milt Hinton(b)
Osie Johnson(ds)

4,1955 NYC


Babbitt: Portrait of a Serial Composer (Robert Hilferty documentary)

A Quick But Closer Look At Claims From The Atheist Equivalent of Chick Publications

The Atheist version of Chick Publications, Prometheus Books, has published a book by Avi Tuschman called Our Political Nature, The Evolutionary Origin of What Divides Us.   Being a Prometheus book, it has to include a percentage of anti-religious content, that being the basis of everything that Paul Kurtz founded and had a hand in.   Everything that comes out of Prometheus has that as a goal, the degree of directness the only variation.  And, now that popular atheism has turned from the unfashionable Behaviorist ideology it used to use to construct plausible seeming explanations from to the ultra-adapataionist, evo-psy style, you could predict that would be what such a Prometheus Book these days would push as well.

I haven't read the book but I've read an excerpt by Tuschman,  "Why Racist People Tend To Be Conservative."  In outline, Tuschman claims

In relation to the political spectrum, tribalism breaks down into three components: (1) ethnocentricity, (2) religiosity, and (3) sexual (in)tolerance. High measures of ethnocentricity, religiosity, are commonly associated with one another. Individuals with this cluster of traits tend to have political views on the right. On the other end of the spectrum, attraction to out-groups (xenophilia), secularism, and higher sexual tolerance are well correlated with one another and with political views on the left. 

The excerpt develops something like a case, which I found only seemingly plausible in places, clearly nonsensical in others, based largely on Just-so story telling which is rather racist in its assumptions of non-progress in "primitive" cultures* and entirely clueless about atheistic racism, the history of which is quite floridly extensive and developed. Among the more clearly ahistorical and absurd statements is this:

What is the logic between these three components of tribalism? The more ethnocentric, religious, and sexually intolerant people are, the more likely they are to reproduce with a mate from their own in-group.

Which apparently doesn't take into account such things as the rape of African American slaves by their thorougly racist, ethnocentric, hetero-centric, conventionally religious etc. white masters, producing many offspring known by everyone to be the products of such "mating".   The instances of those who believed themselves to fully believe that their own "in-group" was superior refraining from raping or having sex with members of other groups would have to count as remarkable in their rarity.  Of course taking such things into account would mess up the Just-so story but there is no denying that it has been common to the human species.

But in order to assert the things Tuschman does, he has to deny much, much more than that, including the history of evolutionary biology, the ideological character of exactly the ultra-adaptationist school in that history, its endemic racism, its associated political, social and philosophical results in combination with icons of the "liberal" culture he believes himself to be complimenting.

For example, there is the rabid racism and concurrent advocacy of genocide in Ernst Haeckel - someone who I've read and studied at length as well as many of those who admired and promoted his materialist monism.  It was extremely popular with atheists and, apparently, still is in diluted form.  That materialistic monism is intrinsic to Haeckel's racism and advocacy of murder and it is inescapable to anyone who has read Haeckle because it pervades his writing.  Apart from those in the circle of Charles Darwin who promoted Haeckel's writing of that kind,  Lankester, Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin, himself,  Haeckel was also advocated by Joseph McCabe.   McCabe was probably the first person to make atheism a profession in Britain and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century.   McCabe is the subject of a hagiographic "biography" published by Tuschman's publisher and, in fact,  Prometheus republished some of McCabe's translation of Haeckel.   McCabe translated Haeckel into English well after there was any question about his extreme racism, his advocacy for the murder of those he designated as "unfit" and any number of other depravities relevant to Tuschman's thesis.  Since those are present in Haeckel's writing from the beginning of it, any uncritical promotion of him would have to include it.   And McCabe's advocacy of Haeckel was nothing like fluke. You can see that in such publications as the  "Little Blue Book" number 579, Ernst Haeckel Evolutionist, number 598,  Ernst Haeckel - Philosopher-Naturalist and 599, Haeckel's Monistic Philosophy.   The Little Blue Books and their publisher E. Haldeman-Julius could serve as the template for Prometheus and Paul Kurtz and the modern atheism industry.

To see some of the result of that,  among others inspired by the atheist propaganda that came from McCabe and through the "Little Blue Books" and related atheist literature, was the pretty repellent, thoroughly racist and antisemitic James Hervy Johnson**,  the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism who is being given a new life on such atheist web resources as "Positive (sic) Atheism", they also promote McCabe as well.

That is just a tiny bit of the atheist promotion of  "scientific" as well as "historical" racism, antisemitism (a lot of atheist diatribe is inevitably antisemitic) and bigotry.   I would, however, deny that it has anything to do with any real progressive, liberal or leftist political identity, though in its time and today, atheists did and still assert that such materialist depravity is liberal.  If you think I'm agreeing with Tuschman due to that, I don't think it has anything to do with genetic heritage.   That's just the current pseudo-scientific framing of a malignant ideological assertion.  If it were done forty years ago, it would have been Behaviorism based.   People whose genes don't change can change their hearts and minds, for the better as well as for the worse.   Materialism doesn't do much to improve people.

I'd go a lot farther than that if I had the time, though whenever I dip into those notes, the next thing that happens is a series.  I don't have time for it just now.

* Any human culture that can be looked at in the history of anthropology or through the lore of literature is not reliably related to any presumed culture in the pre-historic past.  The idea that the people in such "primitive" cultures don't go through cultural change, cultural development, periods of greater and lesser depravity must as "advanced" cultures is pretty racist, in itself.   You have to wonder how they could get by the idea that the cultures that began the presumed climb from a "primitive" state to "advancement" weren't genetically superior to such "primitive" cultures which they presume didn't develop in the past few tens of thousands of years.   There is no culture that is know of today which isn't materially advanced from the handfuls of material evidence we have from the ancient past.  Assuming their culture hasn't undergone change is a hallmark of scientific racism.

**  The war between Johnson and Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her outrageous attempt to grab hold of his large estate is quite interesting reading.   There is as much insight to be gained from a good long look at the underside of the atheist ideology as there is any other.   Atheists are as unwilling to take that look as any other group I'm aware of, though there are religious traditions which at least advocate looking at their sins and confessing them.   I'm unaware of any moral holding of atheism that promotes that practice.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jack Teagarden: Misery and Blues

Mary Lou Williams: Out of Nowhere

Erroll Garner: This Can't Be Love

The Post-Obama Period Has Begun Democrats In Congress Need To Say No to Bombing Syria

Barack Obama and John Kerry seem to be determined to bomb Syria, egged on by those of such proven irresponsibility and irrationality as John McCain and Lindsay Graham.   If this crackpot idea is to go ahead, it's important for as many Democrats as possible to say no to them,  When it comes to irresponsible and clearly futile bombing and military action, party loyalty comes in no where near first in consideration.   If David Cameron can't bring the Parliament along, it's a good sign that Democrats should consider what that means.

So far I've heard nothing from Barack Obama or John Kerry that explains which side of the multi-side Syrian civil war is supposed to benefit from this and how they are supposed to benefit from it.  That it took so long to figure out that one of them wasn't responsible for using chemical weapons should make people realize that those who are likely to benefit from U.S. action could be at least as bad as the Assad government.  It's reported that even his side has factions which are likely worse and better placed than others to assume control.

The frustration of men up in the heroic fights against fascism in the 1940s and the one against slavery in the 1860s, that there is no side to support that is a clearly better alternative than the status quo can't be allowed to govern us.  TV, movies, novels are structured according to human imagination, which selects from the wider universe of historical and human experience to make up a story.  It isn't reality.  To an extent neither is written history, though taking into account a wider range of what historians write can provide us with those parts we like and find inspiring and with those which we find disquieting can inform us of reality in a way that fiction can't sustain.   Syria in 2013 has no side that can win and unite the country with a reliable chance at having a better government than the awful one in place now.

Syria, to me, seems to be a lot like Afghanistan  during the nominal communist rule during the 1980s.  If Obama starts bombing and training it won't be enough for McCain and Graham who will constantly press for more and more.  Bombing the hell out of a few places for a few days won't do anything to end things, it will almost certainly make things worse and the tendency in that situation is to ramp up the bets and go for broke like a drunk gambler.

It's long been clear that Barack Obama is an extremely unskilled politician whose practice, since law school, has been to profit from volunteering to be coopted by his adversaries.   Having watched him do that during the entire course of his presidency, it's time for the rest of the Democratic party to realize it is well into the post-Obama period, that is in the period after anyone has a rational expectation that he will be a strong Democratic president.   He simply will not be one.  He would have been one already if that was ever going to happen.  It's time for Democrats to face that and think ahead to next year.  Obama's track record of supporting Democrats in elections he isn't running in is pretty abysmal.  Democrats are on their own next year and they don't need to get sucked into the burden of an unpopular war in Syria enabling our opponents, who are the people Obama has allied himself with.   Democrats should approach Obama in the same way, any cooperation with him has to be on the same basis, admitting that he has always had a greater affinity for our opponents than us.  If they vote to support Obama's and Kerry's bombing in Syria, they are voting to enable John McCain and Lindsay Graham.