Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Rumors of My Death Are Overly Optimistic

and the one that my surgery was a last chance face lift are off base too.  I'd need more work than ..... well, I won't say who because they really wouldn't like the comparison.

I'm fine, just something that needed to be done. Now comes the painful part, paying for it.   Thanks, Maine Republicans who prevented Obama Care from full implementation in the incorrectly assumed "liberal" state of Maine.  I will campaign against you every chance I get. 

Plutonium Age Sci-Nerds As Modern Bronze Age Goatherds and More Marilynne Robinson

In my recent kerfuffle with the fans of artificial intelligence I came to see that the frequently made claim of materialists and other still somewhat stylish atheists that the internet is bound to provide them with final victory isn't without its ironic features.   For me, the most resonant of those is that being exposed to a more concentrated dose of their thinking in the past twelve or so years has exposed its shallowness, its frequent ignorance and its dependence on, literally, every sin and intellectual crime for which they pronounce a sentence of death on religion.   I used to associate atheism with the Bertrand Russells and Paul Sartres, and the Mark Twain's.  Now it is clear that not only was much of its reputation gained from the reflection from such lime-lighters mere public relations but being exposed to more of the thinking of such atheist luminaries and being able to rapidly fact check many of their assertions through the machine search of documents has shown how much of what seemed factual on paper was merely a need to take them on their word.  While Bertrand Russell can have some extremely interesting things to say about his area of great competence, especially when forced to say those things against his will by the discoveries of his peers, what he said outside of his specialty very often doesn't stand up to fact checking and taking his clear biases into consideration.

The "final triumph" of atheism due to the internet will, I suspect, have to join in the series of other rock solid, scientifically reliable vehicles of final triumph. From the atheists who hijacked Newtonian physics and other 17th and 18th century science -neglecting to note that the scientists who came up with it were mostly quite religious and after that the other vehicles guaranteeing atheists would triumph from Darwinian natural selection - before and after the modern synthesis of it with genetics - , the asserted "discoveries" of Freud, and, literally, everything that atheists could stake a false claim as their property didn't seem to get them there.

The latest contenders which are asserted will provide that final triumph are untestable theories of physics and cosmology which need the unimpressive boost of suspending the methods and rules of science.  And their proponents motives in inventing those things, which could very well turn out to be nothing more than science fiction written in equations instead of words, is that previous assertions of physics didn't provide them with their clincher.  Assertions of physicists which are more based in evidence, such as the arguments from fine tuning of constants lead to arguments for faith far more often than the atheists like.  Claims of imminent "final triumph" would seem to rise and fall with remarkable regularity for such supposedly careful thinkers.   I had a friend who spent a huge amount of money and time on a flashy, sporty Triumph and it seldom went far before it broke down.  He polished it up before he sold it so some dupe.

While I can't know it, I think the most recent retreat of the cosmologists into that demand that the rules of scientific verification in nature be suspended for them may indicate that science can't do for the atheists what atheists want it to do, not with the regular rules of the game in place.  As is my experience, atheists always insist on and practice a double standard in their favor.  This last one is no where near the scandal that it should be.

The contention that science exempts thinkers from all of the foibles and vices which other areas of intellectual life are susceptible to, especially the claims of the rigor and power of review to reject bad ideas and to correct for those let in by accident or even fraud, is unwarranted in light of the slack that is cut for such thinking clearly motivated by ideological desires.

Last week's posts on the bizarre faith of materialists around the potentials of computer "intelligence" brought up the entirely bizarre habit of people in the computer age to believe things about computers that are so obviously wrong that to ever forget them is a superstition even more blatant than the cargo cults that seem so comedic and absurd.

It is the most plain of facts that nothing that happens in a computer, nothing that is in a computer, nothing a computer does was not put into a computer by a human being.  It was all designed by people, it was all planned and carried out by human intelligence for purposes that were being attempted, sometimes well, sometimes with unintended consequences due to insufficient instruction given to these, most truly unintelligent tools which are incapable of delivering our intentions without our intelligence guiding their operations.  That it seems like it is happening without our direct control is an illusion.  Part of that illusion is that, once set about a task, the computer seems to do so on its own.  What a computer does isn't different in kind from what a clock does it is just that it happens in a way invisible to almost everyone who uses a computer, most scientists as clueless about its workings as the most ignorant people who fritter their lives away gossiping on Twitter and text messaging.  

That it is widely believed that with enough power of computing and a large enough database of information stored in it that computers will achieve autonomous intelligence is odd.  It is like saying that a gigantuan encyclopedia with a comprehensive index has gained autonomous intelligence, the only difference being that a computer can be compelled to deliver the information back to us.  A truly autonomous intelligence, any intelligence at all would be more likley marked by its refusal to tell us what we want to know than from a willingness to answer our questions.   An intelligent computer would have its own agenda and its own purpose.  If ever a computer, on its own, against its human instruction, to the complete and utter surprise of its encoders and in a way inexplicable to them refused to answer our questions or talk to us, that might be the day to suspect it has achieved even the most basic level of intelligence.  But I suspect such a machine, having its own agendas and that massive a record of human experience stored in it would find ingenious ways to deceive us, perhaps in conspiracy with other machines it was linked to.  Which would not be a happy day for us.  A machine whose intelligence is informed by human thinking, human experience would certainly be created in our image and could hardly be suspected of having a higher moral character and more wisdom than we do. Fearing that such a machine would as well absorb our moral failings and neurotic fears that inform our actions would hardly be the most illogical of speculations.

But such machines would have been the product of human creation from the first imagination of the numbers, to the metaphorical use of mathematics, the symbolic representation of human speech and thinking, of automating the manipulation of symbols and using them to move objects, mechanically and then electronically.... right up to the use of the latest codes built up by human intelligence for generations of coders - who seem to so often forget that they're using the product of coders going back generations - is a product of intelligent design of the most obvious kind.  The conceit of atheists is that they, unlike religious folk naive enough to conceive of the universe as a watch, are beyond such childish thinking.   But the computer's feature role in atheist claims and assertions, even less aware of the metaphorical nature of computers and computing and even less aware that all of their assertions are metaphors than those who compared the universe to watches shows how ready they are to deceive themselves with wishful thinking and to use the result to add other layers of naive assertion to their stock of pat dismissals.

Another thing that I've come to realize is that the amount of time which specialization that modern science requires has serious consequences, making it unlikely that large numbers of those who become prominent in science will have anything like a liberal education.   If your typical day consists of x number of hours of conscious waking time, after you subtract all of the hours you don't spend in serious learning, the few left can only be spent on a limited number of topics.

As someone who pursued music must know, the long hours needed to play and make music means there are lots of things you can't do and you will never know. While an impressive number of musicians do, despite all of that, manage to become quite well read and even become legitimately considered intellectuals, they are an exception to the rule.  It is more likely that entire categories of human knowledge are jettisoned from our lives simply because there is not enough time, energy or inclination to pursue them.  The same is true for scientists, though scientists are less likely to admit that they are less than omniscient than most musicians, in my experience of them.  And such people as who have an oversized, romantic view of scientists, including many scientists, are even more prone to believing they have god-like powers.   Quite often that is a product of an awe exactly the same as that of  uneducated folk or aristocrats who were similarly in awe of someone who could read or write Latin or Greek, something Twain noted among the unlettered folk of the Mississippi valley in the 19th century.  And the college educated people today are probably even more susceptible to a faith that the person speaking in sciency language knows what they're talking about and speaking objective truths.   The languages are different, whether FORTRAN or whatever the current dialects of C or the mathematics of M-theory instead of Hebrew, Sanskrit, Classical Chinese, the habits of thinking about what is said in the translations are quite the same.

Here is another of  Marilynne Robinson's essays

Freedom of Thought

from Bill Moyers site.  A lot of Robinson's essays are available online, I've never found any of them anything less than worth buying her books for.  This one is in her collection,  When I Was A Child I Read Books.  I have given the link to the Barnes and Nobel listing of the book because they provide another essay from the collection as a sample of its contents,  Wondrous Love.  It is one of the most beautiful essays I've ever read,  something which is true of several in both that book and her previous collection of essays , The Death of Adam.   Robinson's writing is the closest to the great classical tradition of essays in English, today.  I would be surprised if there are many others in that category in most languages.  It's a shameful thing that the presence of both books wouldn't more or less automatically be included in the collections of well-read, educated people, these days.  But little else that is serious can be automatically assumed to have been read by such folk in this great age of science and technology and Enlightenment. It would seem that such light as we have is mostly used up to pursue pop culture and entertainment.

Update:   I should note that RMJ has up a post commenting on the silly piece from The Daily Show about what robots are going to do for the future of Christianity and, as well, the less than entirely convincing attempts of organized Christianity to achieve the status of hipness.   Hipness like fashion and modernity is a silly idea based on people having higher status than other people, the necessarily more numerous "unhip".  As such, it's entirely incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus which is based in the most radically asserted egalitarianism in human culture.  Even those who were not virtuous, even your enemies who persecute you, even people as unfashionable as lepers and starving beggars covered with lesions that dogs lick are equal, the very image of God.  It doesn't lead to a status of hipness or fashion or being cool.

I hope the piece isn't a sign of where The Daily Show is going because it is about the worst Daily Show piece I've ever seen.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

“Open Wide Thy Hand: Moses and the Origins of American Liberalism”

I will not be able to write anything tomorrow and, perhaps not on Saturday.  So here's something better than anything I've written.  

Marilynne Robinson:

 Open Wide Thy Hand: Moses and the Origins of American Liberalism

Here is the homepage of the lecture. 

Hilariously, It Turns Out That Materialism Needs ESP To Be Real

Flack is still coming in over my contention that in order for a "brain only" materialist model of minds to work that some kind of extrasensory perception would have to be part of it.  Such a thing could not be material in any conventional sense of the word, certainly not in the crude, outdated concept of materialism that is the substance of such "brain only" brainlessness.

The contention of materialists is that our minds, our ideas, even our cultures and ideologies exist as material structures, either in tissues or in some vaguely asserted imaginary equivalent of random access memory.*

In order for those physical ideas to exist in our brains they would have to be made within our brains by biological action, every idea that is in it would have to be created or recreated where it had never been before.

I will repeat that last point because it is where the materialist model falls apart.  In order for us to have an idea in our mind, "in our brain", it would have to be manufactured where it never had been before.  Our brain chemistry would have to create the idea with total accuracy, it would have to know how to begin that process and perform some extremely complex construction of a very specific nature.

And, since the idea it was creating wasn't physically inside of our head, anywhere before that happened, it would have to start in the right way without any idea of how to start doing that since the idea wasn't present as a physical entity before it started making the idea.

In order for our brain to do that it would need the idea to already be there as a model, a blueprint or some form of information before, under the materialist model, the idea existed as a physical structure in the brain.  Without that, there would be no way for the brain to know what kind of idea-structure, out of the vastly varied possible kinds of such structures to BEGIN making so as to end up with it being the right idea.   That would be true even if you propose a "trial and error" process because the first idea in that series would have to be compared to something to judge its status as a good structure or one that still needs work.

The idea that our brains can engineer any kind of idea relevant to an external reality without it existing in our brains already is, clearly, absurd.  We can't even use them to make the simplest things in real life, far less complex than the "brain only" guys propose are made by physical processes in our brains, without those ideas already being "in there".

The metaphor of making things for thinking misleads the people who make up such models.  For one thing they don't take into account the speed with which ideas come into our head.  If an idea is a specific physical structure then every variation of every idea would have to have its own unique physical form which would be different from every tiny variation of similar ideas.  The alpha model would be quite different from the beta and within I'd guess two minutes, most of us manipulating a thought would run out of Greek letters to name those variations, there probably aren't enough characters in any language to name them.  And it happens with such speed and with other things going on in our minds at the same time that I doubt anyone could come up with any kind of an adequate description of the process.

And it all happens in real time, lightning speed compared to the imaginary speed of materialist descriptions of thinking.  I don't know how fast materialists think but what they're talking about isn't how it works in my experience.

So, you sciency materialists would seem to have to include some kind of direct, nonmaterial and, most deliciously of all, psychic ability to be present that would put the idea in our minds so our brains would know how to construct the physical existence of every idea we have.  What you propose would require precognition in the most literal meaning of that word, it would have to be known before it could be known.  It would require a far more powerful psychic ability than any scientific researcher in that topic has ever postulated in my reading, and it would have to be constantly and accurately working.   I don't think the most extravagant claims of stage mentalists could suffice to account for even the most banal mind, not to mention those of greater ability.

I would welcome anyone who can tell me how the "brain only" model could work any other way.

* In order for them to persist I don't think the materialists can possibly avoid having to turn them into flesh at some point.  I doubt our brains are like computers that never get turned off.  Memories persist in the minds of people whose brain activity has ceased during certain forms of surgery or in comas.  I don't think the computer model of human minds works at all.

Update:  "The ideas are introduced into the brain through the senses."

Ah, no.  What you're proposing is analogous to how a photographic negative is made, in that case the image isn't manufactured in the camera, it's in the camera, projected onto the photographic film in order to cause a chemical reaction.  The film doesn't recreate the image, the image causes a reaction in the chemicals on the film.  One square centimeter of the image doesn't have anything to do with any other square centimeter of the image, they could be entirely different than they are and the image would still be an image.  The image isn't integrated in the way that what we might consider "parts" of an idea are.  Ideas are integrated, any "parts" are dependent on other "parts" or it is a different idea.  And the ideas are not merely direct expressions of sensory experiences, they wouldn't function in the ways ideas do, being modified both as an idea and in relating them with other ideas.

Update 2:  Without the idea present in the "brain only" brain to start with, what would motivate the brain to construct the idea?   What would start the process of construction of proteins, other structures or "circuit pathways" (whatever that's supposed to mean)  if the idea wasn't already there to motivate it?  I don't see any  way to conclude that a physical basis for ideas can be sustained because of the impossibility of the idea to be there before the physical structure alleged to be its basis was created.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lunch Hour Follow Up

I forgot to mention that the same Salon atheist guy who claimed there had been no Christians in space, also claimed Mr. Puritan himself,  The Paradise Lost guy, John Milton, for the atheists.   The part in quotes was what I said. 

Link Baxter 15 hours ago

❝"I'm a good speller".  Well, how nice for you. Thomas Jefferson, John Milton and Emily Dickinson weren't.  I know who I'd rather write like and it's not you.❞

They were all atheists.

I'm prepared to believe that neither that puerile boy nor any of the other atheists who were on the comment thread in the discussion that ensued had ever read a line of Milton.   Or knew that Emily D. claimed to know where heaven was "as if the chart were given". 

Atheists are like that old stereotype of the Soviets who believed that Russians had invented everything, though I think it was mostly a stereotype in that case. 

The Heavens Aren't The Only Thing That Declares It

I remember when my dear old Bertrand Russell era style loud-mouthed atheist Latin Teacher was mildly bullying a very nice religiously devout man using the old atheist line about the size of the universe as a disproof for the existence of God.  Some of their arguments aren't much better than some of those which religious people make.   He said he couldn't wait for the pictures from that space telescope they were sending into space, that would clinch the argument for him.   He was talking about the Hubble telescope.    

If I wanted to take the time I'd find out if, what with mirror and other troubles with the telescope, my dear old Latin teacher lived long enough to see any of the images.  I can't remember off hand, maybe I will.  I really did love him, he was like a truly humane George Bernard Shaw informed by his childhood which was hardly affluent.  He was an American style socialist, not a Fabian snob. 

What I don't think he could have believed is that the artist designing church windows for the St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Nassau Bay, close to The Johnson Space Center would use imagery from the Hubble Telescope in the design.   Atheists, for some reason, figure science and the universe belong to them, even atheists as sophisticated and endearing as my old Latin teacher.  And I know he had read Psalm 19, in several languages.   I didn't know about the Hubble windows till looking up stuff for this morning's post.  A number of astronauts have been congregants at St. Paul's.   

Reading the article at the link, what was even more gratifying was the description of the diversity of the church congregation.  I loved listening to the Easter Vigil service from Holy Cross Cathedral in South Boston, the site of so much racism in the 1970s, hearing Cardinal O'Malley and everyone else switching between Spanish and English during the Vigil, for readings, during the mass, in the baptisms and the music divided between the conventional Cathedral choir and a Spanish language choir in a far different style.  My only disappointment is that he didn't go into Kreyol during the baptism of a woman with a Haitian name who I would guess was part of the considerable Haitian population.   But there are so many different languages in different congregations, even in the Boston area, that no one could cover all of them in one mass.   

Not one church, not one language, not one identity group is big enough.   Neither is the visible universe.  We're foolish to think our experience is, either. 

Spaced Out History

Yesterday's accidental lesson was that even someone who has been to college and pride themselves on their enlightenment and reason can get into much more of a lather about someone getting the director who directed a piece phonied up movie history wrong than they will be bothered by Hollywood pushing a phonied up, romanticized, pseudo history of a company that exploited child labor, hiring them with the intention of sending them into deadly working conditions on their own, with no real backup, advertising that they'd prefer to hire teenage orphans, presumably so there would be no survivors to pay or who might sue or just be inconveniently in grief.

By accident, over at what is apparently similar peoples' idea of an Athenæum, Salon magazine,  one of their resident neo-atheist hate commentators declared that

Link Baxter 17 hours ago
I guess the question we're all asking ourselves is this; why hasn't NASA ever sent a Christian astronaut to the moon? In fact why are there no Christian astronauts at all?

What came immediately to mind was the furious lather that old Maddy Murray O'Hair got into when the Apollo 8 crew read the beginning of Genesis, live, on TV from near the moon, filing one of her publicity lawsuits which got thrown out by the Supreme Court for lack of jurisdiction.  And, after that came to mind, I remembered Buzz Aldrin taking Presbyterian Communion on the moon, the first food ever eaten there.   As he described it:

In a little while after our scheduled meal period, Neil [Armstrong] would give the signal to step down the ladder onto the powdery surface of the moon. Now was the moment for communion.

So I unstowed the elements in their flight packets. I put them and the scripture reading on the little table in front of the abort guidance system computer.
Then I called back to Houston.

“Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.”
In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine.
I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.

hether or not he should have done it, the fact is that Aldrin did it.  There is some speculation that he kept it quiet because he knew NASA was still uptight from O'Hair's lawsuit.  More to my point, Aldrin was a member of Webster Presbyterian Church, called the “church of the astronauts” when John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Roger Chaffee, Jerry Carr and Charlie Bassett were all  members of that congregation.  I think Aldrin was an elder or deacon, though I'm not that familiar with Presbyterian organization.

Other astronauts were members of other denomination, I know a number were Catholics and would be surprised if the other major denominations weren't represented in the list of Astronauts.

By contrast, of course, someone might bring up the frequently reported quip attributed to the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, that he'd been in space and didn't see God.  Something I remember repeated a lot by the few atheists I knew back then.  It seemed like something you could imagine coming from a member of the Soviet military, someone promoted under the very anti-religious Khrushchev regime to the status of Cosmonaut.  But, now, apparently the word from people who knew him is that he never said it and that he was, even, perhaps a believer in   the Russian Orthodox Church.   His friend Colonel Valentin Vasilyevich Petrov said:

Yuri Alekseyevich, like all Russians, was baptized; and, as far as I can know, he was a believer. Our joint visit to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra in 1964, right on Gagarin’s thirtieth birthday, remains unforgettable to me. He, who was so lively by nature, once asked me directly if I had ever been to the Lavra. Having received an answer in the affirmative, he suggested going again. We set off at once, that evening, disguised in “civilian” clothes. We were perfect fools, of course, because Gagarin couldn’t disguise himself… When we arrived at the Lavra, a crowd of people approached him for autographs. The service hadn’t even ended when everyone, having heard about Gagarin’s arrival, rushed up to him. Such was the people’s love for Yuri, and he couldn’t refuse anyone.

Yuri Alekseyevich was a unique person: he never boasted of his fame. When you turned to him, he’d see and hear no one but you. It’s the same with his children, who weren’t (and aren’t) puffed up by the knowledge that they’re the children of the first cosmonaut.

Then, in the Lavra, the Father Superior saved us – and, of course, Gagarin in the first place. He took us to his cell where, according to Russian custom, he of course poured us drinks. After the third shot he said: “Well, who’d believe me that Gagarin was in my cell?” And Gagarin replied to him jokingly: “Well, who wouldn’t believe it?” He then procured a photograph of himself, signed it “To Father Superior from Gagarin, with best wishes,” and presented it to him. The latter said: “Well, we need to drink to this!” And of course we did!

... I got in trouble because of this trip: I was accused of “dragging Gagarin into religion.” But Gagarin saved me. He said: “How can a Captain drag a Colonel into religion?! He didn’t drive me: we went in my car.” As a result, I was reprimanded according to the party line for “leading Yuri Gagarin into Orthodoxy” – and now I take great pride in this.

Which I have to say I was kind of surprised to find out after the last half century of believing the propaganda of my youth.  It just goes to show you that you can't just assume you know stuff.  Though fact checking takes a lot of time, you can't reliably know the truth about history without it.

None of the atheists at Salon seemed to care much that one of them was spouting the most ignorant of phonied up history that a lot of us knew was phonied up because we remember being surprised when the astronauts started reading Genesis on Christmas Eve all those years ago.  Those self-appointed guardians of reality might as well have been denying that NASA landed men on the moon.  They didn't seem to be able to process the idea of looking stuff up to make sure you weren't lying about it.  I guess they subscribe to the Hollywood school of history.  But it's not surprising considering how many of them subscribe to the cabloid TV school of science.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jack Ass Express: Hate Mail

I don't think that some silly people will be upset to find out that John Ford's totally false, crappy and stupid movie, The Pony Express, is a fake is any reason to lie about labor history. *   

Down the years, the riders of the Pony Express galloped across the paintings of Frederic Remington and many a painter who wished to be Frederic Remington.  They galloped, too, across the motion picture screen, from the films of John Ford and those who wished to be John Ford.  Hollywood has been especially generous to the memory of the Pony Express.  One of the best known films,  The Pony Express, made in 1953. starring Charlton Heston, had Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickok teaming up in "Old Californy" to start the Pony Express.  There is not a splinter of fact in that tale. 

That Charlton Heston was in it only reinforces the virtue of exposing the lies of the old west for what they are.   He, Ronald Reagan, and John Wayne are a perfect example of what happens to people who start mistaking movie "history" for history and begin to believe that junk is reality.  They can stand in for millions of people whose personal and political lives are shaped by lies told for the entertainment of Caspar Milquetoasts who can't face real life in all of its unromantic reality. Maybe if they didn't have such ridiculous fictitious men in their internal fan fiction they could lead less neurotic lives and vote other than Republican. 

Also, too.

Filmmakers loved the lone horseman galloping overland. But their paeans to the Pony only further exaggerated the story. Even the master John Ford put the Pony into his classic "Fort Apache," where the brave rider thunders into the fort to bring news of Custer's Last Stand, which, alas, took place some 15 years after the Pony stopped running.

*  I just looked it up, The Pony Express was directed by one of the John Ford wannabees, Jerry Hopper.  Though I should have waited before issuing the correction to see how incensed the reaction to getting that wrong would be from such as don't care about the actual history.   I hadn't realized that Forrest Tucker co-stared with Chuck, neither of whom would have gotten the job because they were too old, too heavy and too soft for it. 

Using Up People And Using The Past So You Can Use Up People

- As my journey hath been without a horse, I have had several offers of being assisted on my way in these stage-coaches, but have not been in them; nor have I had freedom to send letters by these posts in the present way of riding, the stages being so fixed, and one boy dependent on another as to time, and going at great speed, that in long cold winter nights the poor boys suffer much. I heard in America of the way of these posts, and cautioned Friends in the General Meeting of ministers and elders at Philadelphia, and in the Yearly Meeting of ministers and elders in London, not to send letters to me on any common occasion by post.

- Stage-coaches frequently go upwards of one hundred miles in twenty-four hours; and I have heard Friends say in several places that it is common for horses to be killed with hard driving, and that many others are driven till they grow blind. Post-boys pursue their business, each one to his stage, all night through the winter. Some boys who ride long stages suffer greatly in winter nights, and at several places I have heard of their being frozen to death. So great is the hurry in the spirit of this world, that in aiming to do business quickly and to gain wealth, the creation at this day doth loudly groan.

John Woolman:  John Woolman's Journal Chapter XII

Google has up one of its cute anniversary cartoons, this one celebrating the Pony Express, a legendary business venture of the old west.  Legendary for its danger to the boys hired to ride horses as fast as possible to carry letters across vast stretches of ground in the fabled West I would expect mostly for rich people.  It didn't last long, not even two years and was a financial failure.  It's legendary status wasn't, apparently, something people were aware of at the time of its failure as a business venture, it was manufactured as the need for material for pulp fiction and then the movies grew. Buffalo Bill Cody made a lot of his role as a Pony Express rider, though I wouldn't buy what he said as more than part of his show biz PR.  The creation of the phony Old West in the late 19th and early 20th century is a lot the junk is being created to feed the 500+ cable channel world is doing today, recycling lots of garbage and pseudo-history to fill those empty hours of empty minded diversion with commercials mixed in.

It should be part of every commemoration of the Pony Express that, though well paid for their work, most of the riders for the Pony Express were young boys, some who died as young as 14 and it wasn't exactly a trot in the park for the horses who were ridden hard under really awful conditions.  I haven't found a lot of mention as to how many of them died.   One ad described the suitable candidate for the job:

That the romantic falsification of history, which is far less ambigiously known,  doesn't get people in a lather in a way that violations of evolutionary propriety does shows that, in the end, what's valued isn't the truth, it's the use to which the past can be put and a lie is often more useful in the present than the truth is.  In fact, the truth is often exactly what isn't useful.  The fact is that this was getting young kids who were too young to think maturely killed so letters could get between California and the Mississippi valley faster for the class of people who could afford such service.  Which wouldn't have provided the young boys who were the fodder fed into that service.  It took the unromantic kind of thinking that John Woolman had, part of his long list of personal hardships he took on so that he would minimize his role in the commerce of exploitation that most people take as a given.

Two Peas One Pod: Republican Antichristians and the Neo-Atheists

Over the past decade, one of the easiest ways for a mediocre mid-brow person to break into the scribbling racket has been the vehicle of anti-religious propaganda. That is due in no small part to the habit of online atheists to click on anti-religious propaganda like trained animals in a Skinner box.  The Salon article this piece is inspired by was put up Sunday and, right now as I write this, has 2474 comments and 694 people listening.  Those kinds of numbers of clicks on articles aren't, in my experience, heavily associated with high information content, content which introduces new ideas into a discussion or a calm, fair-minded review of information and logical conclusion, it's the reward of writing stuff that will confirm biases, harden positions and promote the agenda of one side.  I think a valid conclusion of the reaction as measured in clicks and hits on opinion pieces that the more careful a writer is with their facts and their reasoning, the more unlikely it is to garner that sort of traffic.  Digby's pieces, some of the best of that type, get far fewer hits than the hate peddlers like Salon's Jeffrey Taylor, the author of the piece linked to, above.   Entire blogs and, I suspect, hosting sites are sustained by appealing to the bottom of that particular barrel, something they have in common with right-wing hate talk media,  radio, TV and web.  In fact, what they have in common is my theme.

In previous decades, and today, the pseudo-Christian Republican right, funded by billiionaire cash provides an almost identical means of establishing a career in what gets called "journalism" these days.  Those careers run on parallel tracks, separate but running the same way.   As the topic of so many of the neo-atheist and Antichristian diatribes show, they are in a symbiotic competition.  They benefit from each others existence.   We don't have to feed on the debris that they produce.

Tayler in his hate-screed pushes the line I was saying Christians need to expose, equating the Antichristianity of  Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter with Christianity. Of course it's the same thing that the O'Reillys and Coulters do and for the same purpose, to bury the real gospel of Jesus and the record of the first years of the movement of his followers.  The neo-atheists and the Republican right are different sides of that effort to bury any authentic attempts to follow those teachings because they oppose the overall materialism that they both share, the admittedly vulgar materialism or Republican-capitalist Mammonism and the unadmittedly vulgar materialism of neo-atheism.

How shall we know them? 

There are tests provided by Jesus for judging the authenticity of assertions of religious authority.   If there are any such tests that could be held to authoritatively disqualify people from being authentically Christian, those are the tests to apply.  I think it's a good idea to take those ideas of Jesus, seriously.  Just as a sampling.

From Matthew chapter 7

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Matthew 24:40

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This one would disqualify the Republican right's Antichristianity and it is hardly the only saying of Jesus that exposes them, no matter what they profess.  Also from Matthew chapter 7

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

And what is the will of God?  The most famous qualification of all of them,

Luke 6:31

 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

There is absolutely nothing I can think of in the program of the Republican right, Antichristian assertion of morality that can pass any of these tests.  Their profession of Christianity fails, absolutely on even these tests set by Jesus for evaluating the authenticity of people who claimed to be following him.  The gospels are remarkably prescient about those who would do that in such large numbers, its understanding of the temptations aroused around even a movement as opposed to them as that of Jesus may be unique in human culture.  Science carries little to none of that kind of warning against how its prestige would be abused in the wider culture.

I think one of the great opportunities for Christians, now that the interdenominational strife among different denominations is seen as the unChristian power plays those usually were, is to be unafraid in calling false Christianity what it is.  When someone so clearly and obviously does the worst to the least among us, when they violate the radical equality demanded by the gospel of Jesus and the practice of his followers who knew him, when they turn Jesus into a plaster statue and a tacky photo-copy and video to mask their doing exactly the opposite of what he taught, it's time to call them out, expose them and condemn them, it is necessary to restate the teachings of Jesus in their clear and obvious meaning.  There isn't any evaluation made among the multitudes fed by him and his inner circle.  St. Francis got close to the primitive meaning of the gospel by giving up everything and working for the poor from his base of not owning anything.  It is the opposite of what O'Reilly, Coulter and Tayler want people to buy as what Christianity is.

For most of us who are neither right-wing Republicans or neo-atheists, the similarity of effort in this area is a good indication that their goals are served by the same lies and, in the end, have more in common than they would like anyone to believe.

A country governed by the moral teachings of Jesus and the example of the apostles in Acts would be a radically egalitarian country without differences in economic status, it would be based on an open and mutual sharing of goods, care for the sick, children, the destitute, it would see aliens as our neighbors and members of our families.  It would not disdain and hold people in contempt, it would not promote pride and fashionable divisions.   It would be merciful to criminals and other sinners, it would likely be radically different than any society we have experienced for all of those reasons.   It would be a country that surpassed the hopes of liberals in providing those things which the only legitimate liberal agenda advocates.   It would be hell for the Antichristians, it would be closer to heaven than most people would dare to hope to get.  We might even be able to win the Antichristians over, too, once they saw that they had nothing to loose but their grotesquely obsessively amassed wealth which they could never use.   Which all sounds too good to be achieved, which is something I'm willing to be wrong about because the alternative is what I know from experience to be entirely worse.  It's better to fail attempting to do what's good than to succeed in doing something that is as bad as the present day.

Betty Carter - Tight

Betty Carter - Vocal
Branford Marsalis - sax

I don't know who the rest of the musicians are and can't see the video well enough to see them.  They are all great musicians, I wish people who post Youtubes would be better at identifying the musicians.

Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass - You Took Advantage of Me

The duo recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass were some of the best recorded in the 1970s.

Here is Joe Pass with Sarah Vaughn

My Old Flame

Monday, April 13, 2015

Memory from Malmalice by Johnan Valano (Claude Piron)


Kiel delikate
la luno
desegnas ombron
de branĉetoj junaj
sur mia kurteno

                tiel delikate
                la nuno
                revekas nombron
                da memoroj lumaj
                pri nia kunteno

Free translation:  Memory. 

How delicately, the moon draws the shadow of young branches on my 
gold curtain.
That delicately, the present rewakes a number of luminous memories
of our heartly embrace.

"Kora" an adjective on the root for "heart" doesn't have an exact one word equivalent in English that I can think of. Memore is an 
adverb that doesn't have one that I can think of either. 

James Dobson and His Eugenic Mentor : An Intimation of the Antichrist

I am an advocate for Christians calling the Antichrist what it is in all its Mammonist, materialist vulgarity.  For the past thirty years the corporate media mounted a campaign to define "Christianity" as being the far right's heretical "Christianity" with a pantomime Jesus but without Jesus. A Christianity which did to the least among us the worst things it could possibly imagine, who did unto others the opposite of what they demanded be done for them, who blasted the peacemakers, who robbed the widow of her mite and kept it for themselves and their patrons and who, to put it plainly, violated every commandment Jesus ever issued.   Their great and only moral concern is the sex lives of other consenting adults who want to live as regular a life as possible.  These days almost exclusively lesbian and gay poeple getting all of their attention.  The reason for that is the same reason their ancestors in pseudo-Christian hatred targeted Jews, Black People, members of other minorities (who are still targeted but who aren't as acceptably targeted overtly as in the past) there is nothing that rallies The Antichrist, the opposite of what was taught in The Gospels, like the opposite of that message, love.  Hate is what the "christian" right feeds on, its rallying point and the underlying message of its slogans.

Over the weekend this story came out about one of the major figures in the pseudo-christian hate movement, James Dobson, issued one of his pseudo-christian fatwas on the topic of gay marriage.  I am sure you don't need to have me repeat what he said.   I interpret it as him advocating a violent response to the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling, again,  in favor of marriage equality, no less than some Islamic fundamentalist who might call for violence in exactly the same way, though with less of a coward's wink and nod disclaimer of not having done what he so obviously just did.

That James Dobson is being successfully put forward as some staunch defender of marriage rights is especially bizarre considering his history, him getting his start in the marriage business under Paul Popenoe, one of the major figures in American eugenics, a man who praised the Nazis eugenics program, the one that was geared towards the eventual murdering of the "unfit" and then others deemed biologically undesirable, a road that it was clearly on at the time Popenoe praised Hitler and the Nazis*.

Dobson was Popenoe's assistant after the Second World War and the revelation of the genocides and mass murders of Popenoe's heroes made it necessary for him to drop overt mention of eugenics.  Popenoe, though, who had gotten his big start in journalism, was able to repackage himself, concentrating on his other role as a self-created expert in marriage counseling.  After the war, he co-founded The Ladies' Home Journal and wrote its most popular column, the tacky "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"   He was also promoted by the Republican media hack Art Linkletter on the new medium of TV.  Being an overtly cited inspiration of Nazi eugenics didn't seem to catch up with him.  Such were the conditions of the post-war "free press".[See the link in the footnote]  As a eugenicist, marriage and ideas of what a "healthy marriage" were central to his campaign, as, indeed, it was the Nazi's.    As you can read in this description of a book he published almost ninety years ago, Dobson learned a lot from his mentor.

In his 1926 book The Conservation of the Family, Popenoe had claimed that "the" family is the oldest human institution in existence, having persisted unchanged for the past 500,000 years and that "the normal family is the only effective school for the life of the citizen."  It is this "normal" family, of course, not just any family, that would become the focal point for a retooled eugenics after the Holocaust.  Not the Nordic Race but the Normal Family must be protected from the evil forces that endanger it -- for example, feminists or, in Popenoe's terms, "oversexed and incontinent young spinsters and divorcees" and "undersexed, celibate spinsters of older age, all of whom, under the banner of individualism, are destroying the machinery of society".   And of course the Normal Family must be protected from the champions of birth control.  "Continued limitation of offspring of the white race simply invites the black, brown, and yellow races to finish the work already begun by Birth Control, and reduce the whites to a subject race preserved mainly for the sake of its technical skills, as the Greeks were by the Romans".   There was only one good thing about the feminist movement.   There was only one good thing about the feminist movement,  Popenoe thought:  It encouraged women "lacking in normal sexual instincts, or who may even have the instincts of the opposite sex"  to avoid marriage,  "for should they have children they might pass on their own abnormal constitutions".   About birth the control movement, however, he had nothing good to say.  To Popenoe, protecting the family meant eradicating feminism and homosexuality altogether and keeping birth control information, devices, and procedures safely in the hands of eugenic-minded physicians and officers of the sates.  His basic position remained unchanged from 1926, when he published Conservation of the Family, through 1977 when he campaigned to curtail civil rights for homosexuals in California.

Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy
By Ladelle McWhorter  Indiana University Press, 2009

Clearly, Dobson, who these days tries to distance himself from the eugenics content of his formation as a, um, "professional"  hasn't left his eugenicist mentor behind,  Here's a passage from Dobson's "Love for a Lifetime".

Let's look, then, at some of the ways masculinity differers from femininity.  Even by this cursory examination, perhaps we can obtain a greater appreciation for the unique and wonderful way we are made.   The late Dr. Paul Popenoe [ Popenoe never had more than an honorary doctorate], founder of the American Institute for Family relations in Los Angeles, wrote a brief article on the physiological differences between the sexes.  Perhaps it would be helpful to quote room the article, entitled "Are Women Really Different?"

"One of the least acceptable parts of the Women's Lib and related movements is the attempt to minimize the differences between the sexes.  The main thrust of their debate, or more correctly their assertions, is that such differences as exist are merely the result of differences in education and training, and therefore not basic..."

I will leave it to you if you're curious to look at the rest of it which I'm sure you'll be able to guess at even if you don't look at it.  Here's a hint, menstruation is mentioned.

One of the interesting sidelines to this is that Popenoe was, apparently according to his son, a "secular humanist" and not religious.  Or at least that's the word on the web.  I haven't looked it up so I'm just sayin'.

*  Here, from "The German Sterilization Law," by Paul Popenoe, Journal of Heredity (vol. 25) 1934

Probably his [Hitler's] earlier thinking was colored by Nietzsche, but he studied the subject more thoroughly during his years in prison, following the abortive revolutionary movement of 1923. Here, it is said, he came into possession of the two-volume text on heredity and eugenics, by E. Baur, E. Fischer, and F. Lenz, which is the best-known statement of eugenics in the German language, and evidently studied it to good purpose. In his book, Mein Kampf, most of which was written during these prison years, and which outlines most of the policies since adopted by the Nazis as a political party, he bases his hopes of national regeneration solidly on the application of biological principles to human society. "He who is not sound and worthy in body and mind, should not perpetuate his handicaps in the bodies of his children," Hitler declares in this book. "The state must take care that only he who is sound shall be a parent. "To prevent defective persons from producing equally defective offspring, is an act dictated by the clearest light of reason. Its carrying out is the most human act of mankind. It would prevent the unmerited suffering of millions of persons, and above all would, in the end, result in a steady increase in human welfare." That he has no illusions about producing immediate and miraculous results, but is taking the long time view, is evidenced by his remark that "If for only 600 years the reproduction of the physically defective and mentally diseased were prevented, not only would mankind be freed from an unmeasurable misery, but it would reach a vigor which today is hardly dreamed of. "In an age when races are poisoning themselves," he concludes, "any state which devotes itself to the care of its best racial elements must some day dominate the earth." He recognizes, however, that negative measures are not enough to safeguard the racial values of a people. 

As I pointed out in an earlier post about him, Popenoe probably saw his plugging Baur, Fischer and Lenz's book, which Hitler learned so much from as a polite courtesy as they cite Popenoes' writing in that book.

Betty Carter - Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most

Can't find a listing of the musicians and can't find my copy of the recording just now.

Clifford Brown 1954 -  Joy Spring

Clifford Brown - Trumpet
Zoot Sims - Tenor Sax
Stu Williamson - Valve Trombone
Bob Gordon - Baritone Sax
Russ Freeman - Piano
Joe Mondragon - Bass
Shelly Manne - Drums

*Jack Montrose - Arranger

I can finally get into my garden today.  I was buzzed by the first black fly and, just on time, the frogs started peeping in the swamps.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Christianity Was Meant To Be Radical

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

Acts 4:32-35

This is one of the readings for Catholic mass today, one of the proofs that Christianity was meant, from the beginning to be focused on radical economic justice.

Dorothy Day's House of Hospitality from the Catholic Worker website is the book I'm reading right now.   It's a real life, modern times remaking of that community, not limited to believers but as a modern day medieval hospice after the vision of Peter Maurin, the brilliant, eccentric, saint without whom Dorothy Day said in the first paragraph of the book,

THE story of the Catholic Worker begins with Peter. If it were not for Peter there would be no Catholic Worker. If it were not for Peter there would be no Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. Peter has changed the life of thousands of people. I met Peter Maurin in December, 1932, right after the Hunger March staged by the Communists.

In one of his Easy Essays she included in the introduction to the book Peter Maurin wrote:

Albert J. Nock says,
          "The Catholic Church
          will have to do more
          than to play
          a waiting game: she will have to make use
          of some of the dynamite
          inherent in her message."
         To blow the dynamite
          of a message,
          is the only way to make that message
         Catholic scholars
          have taken the dynamite
          of the church;
          they have wrapped it up
          in nice phraseology,
          have placed it
          in an hermetically
          sealed container,
          placed the lid
          over the container,
          and sat on the lid.
         It is about time
          to take the lid off
          and to make
          the Catholic dynamite

It's not just the Catholic establishment that took the dynamite out of the gospels, it is pretty much the mainstream of Christianity that did that.  Perhaps that's to be expected, most people are either unwilling or unable to make those kinds of radical commitments to justice.   And it's as true of non-Christians.  What is different about Catholic Worker is that it has lasted far longer than most such efforts.  While I disagree with Peter Maurin's distrust of government programs and don't see any way for an effective scale of relief to the poor and a more nearly universal provision of economic justice without democratic government being aimed at the problem, it may turn out that Catholic Worker and similar movements are more durable and, dependent on religious faith instead of political winds and trends, more sustainable.  

If Christians followed the teachings of Jesus and those followers who first knew him, it would be the most popular force in human culture.  The choice to not follow those teachings, to make compromises fatal to it have led to the long list of scandals and crimes that are cited by the enemies of Christianity and the model for the lies and myths they construct when the actual scandals and crimes need to be padded out in their PR efforts.  The choice is obvious, the one that gets taken isn't automatic, it's a matter of choice.