Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why I Never Needed Rock

Don't Fight Farces, Use Them

steve simelsSeptember 26, 2015 at 10:55 AM
The Mormon Church issued a statement this week cautioning members that this weekend’s rare lunar eclipse and supermoon double-occurrence does not mean the apocalypse is nigh. The Associated Press reports that Sunday night’s “blood moon,” along with recent natural disasters and political unrest “have led to a rise in sales at emergency-preparedness retailers.” Combined with a prominent Mormon author’s apocalyptic statements, a small number of Mormons have begun fearing the end times. In its statement, the Mormon Church urged followers to “avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events.”

The solution is obvious, Sparky. We liberals need to reach out to these idiots.

The Thought CriminalSeptember 26, 2015 at 11:33 AM
You seem to think there's something wrong with them telling people who might believe otherwise that those banal astronomical events are harmless.

If Mormons could be convinced to vote for Bernie Sanders and he won the presidency with their support I can think of no liberal reason to not welcome that support. If he or any liberal Democrat could win without the ballot box poison of conceited snobs who love to insult other people so they can feel superior to them, I don't see any lose in that equation.

P.S. Let me add that I'd certainly trade the entire "Eschaton Brain Trust" for a hundredth of a percent of the vote in any congressional or just about any legislative district race any day.   I'd certainly trade the Simple thinking behind such a comment in exchange for something more likely to produce a better campaign strategy.

Update:  If he sat on a tack he wouldn't get the point.

Political Reality

My P.S. suggesting to Bernie Sanders and any other liberal politician that when they address a large group consisting of, mostly, those who take The Bible very seriously, that it might help them to communicate and persuade to use The Bible in addressing them got the typical "secular" objections. All of which are ill-conceived, ill-considered, entirely unnecessary and entirely counter-productive.

1.  No, there is no requirement in The Constitution for a politician to avoid making religious arguments.  The separation of church and state is a requirement of the actual process of governance and the administration of those processes.   Furthermore, the separation of church and state is there to serve The People as a whole, since there is not one church which The People agree on.  Separation of church and state is there to serve the interests of The People, the minorities who have a right to freedom of religion and non-discrimination and the majority who have that same right but not in greater measure than the minorities do.  And we all have a right to domestic peace of the kind bias in any regard by the government, not merely in the matter of religion, tends to shatter.   The separation of church and state is not there exclusively for the convenience and edification of atheists, agnostics and other non-believers.   They, also, have no more right to the benefits of separation of church and state than Catholics or Southern-Baptists or members of any other large church do.

2.  The "no religious test to hold office" or any other mentions of religion in The Constitution apply exclusively to members of and employees of the government in their official duties, it has never and could never be applied to or enforced as a law governing the choices of voters.

Voters can make any test of religion on any candidate or any ballot measure they want to, no one can stop them from doing that, singly or in any number.  Those same voters are who politicians have to have vote for them or they aren't politicians for long.  And, let me break this to you, no one has ever disqualified any politician from holding office because they made appeals to voters on the basis of their religious beliefs and even their feelings or prejudices.   If that were the case the Republican-fundamentalist coalition that has held power for much of the past fifty years would never have happened, and, let me point this out to you, the previous period of Democratic domination would not have happened, either.   It was when Democrats, in the wake of such things as the school prayer decision of the Supreme Court and the coercion of anti-religious figures in the media became allergic to appealing to voters on the basis of religious belief that Democrats stopped winning elections.

Perhaps even more important, in many ways, the left, in the period when the internal competition to such groups as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The REVEREND Martin Luther King jr.  and even MINISTER Malcolm X asserted themselves and made so much of the left allergic to religious arguments, the left failed and has failed, consistently, in the same period.  I know you've heard me say it before, but the history of full equality for LGBT people in my state is a good example.  It was only when a coalition of liberal religious organizations got on board with secular proponents of full equality, including the right to marry, that The People, by majority vote, voted to include full equality in the law of my state.   That is not a mere coincidence, it is evidence that only when an appeal is made to the religious dogma of equal justice that such positions have the persuasive power to gain the consent of a decisive majority of voters.

The corporate, Republican right has the persuasive power of self-interest, liberals have the persuasive power that equal justice is commanded by God.  The right didn't give up its strength, liberals gave up theirs.  The results are the past fifty years of decline and defeat for liberals and the gradual, progressive destruction of the entire range of progress made since the adoption of the original document by those secular aristocrats whose disregard for equal justice allowed them to count people as property and, for the benefit of their owners, counted them as 3/5th of a person.

I will never stop repeating these points as long as the nonsense that has become the current and popular recipe for continued liberal defeat is the flavor of the day among liberals and those who are more wedded to that taste than they are to winning elections and changing laws for the better.  If Bernie Sanders or any other Democratic politician doesn't understand these points and change their campaign strategy to face the realities of them, they will join the ranks of those who lost and became failed politicians.   We might have some romantic regard for them for "fighting the good fight", a description I'd disagree with because in politics "the good fight" is the fight that wins the election and changes things.  I'd rather be romantic about those who succeeded than those who failed because they were unrealistic.

You don't have to like it but the United States is a majority Christian country and it will be for the rest of your lives, certainly for the rest of mine.  It is those Christians you despise who voted in the people who adopted any of the laws you like, all of the Constitutional provisions you like and who appointed all of the judges and justices whose interpretation of those you like, as well as those which you don't like.  You can choose to appeal to the Christians who produce the results you like or you can refuse to do that and you'll, then, get those Christians who produce the results you don't like.  That is the political reality we live in.  That, kids, is as real as the friggin' Higgs boson.  Realism is facing that and using it.  Its exigencies even apply to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and anyone else who is asking The People to give them a majority of the votes so they can hold office.  That's the only way it happens for liberals, that's the only way liberalism happens.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Leo Brouwer - El arco y la lira (premier)

Yo-Yo Ma and Carlos Prieto, cellos
João Luiz and Douglas Lora, the Brasil Guitar Duo

The Brasil Guitar Duo may be the best such duo around,  I don't know of any other which is better.
Yo-Yo Ma is, well, what else can you say but Yo-Yo Ma, one of the most adventuresome of top name classical musicians who have vastly expanded the repertoire and the range of playing.  Carlos Pieto is excellent, as well.

Leo Brouwer must rank as one of the most significant composers for guitar in the history of the instrument, his compositions have a place like that of Debussy or Bela Bartok for piano in both the repertoire of the instrument, its musical language and in its position in music, in general.

You're Excusing Slavery!

That is the accusation made because I hadn't taken a side in the canonization of Junipero Serra during this visit to the United States by Pope Francis.   I haven't written about it for the best of reasons, I don't know much of anything about it.  I have no real knowledge of the reasons for the choice to canonize him or the devils' advocate case against that.   Nor, do I suspect, do most of the people who are blathering about this online.  I think, for most of them, what they are saying on it reflects their pre-existing preferences and biases about either the Catholic church or religion, in general, not anything to do with the person, Junipero Serra.   I prefer to say nothing about something I know nothing about but, if it were my decision, I probably would choose not to canonize him.   If he is, in fact, a saint, it would certainly not hurt him to not enter into the canon of saints,  part of being a saint is perfect happiness.

I think there are probably two, distinct camps of opponents, those who have a real stake in this and real knowledge about Serra, certainly the natives of California and their real, direct supporters and allies, and the larger group of anti-Catholic haters who would grasp any opportunity they could find or invent to bash anyone associated with the Catholic Church.   I will only address that second group, the first groups' case deserves to be discussed in more detail than I am competent to do.

It's pretty amazing how the passionate denunciation of the Catholic church in the matter of the oppression of the native population of California during the period of the mission system you'd think they were the only white people there.  That lets the Spanish government, the colonial administrators, the military and white occupiers pretty much off the hook.  That alone tells you that the anti-Catholic anti-Serra campaign isn't interested in the complete picture.  Contrary to what I suspect is in line with their beliefs, one of the most informative sources of information and opinion, against and for the canonization, has been The National Catholic Reporter's many articles about the controversy.   This one, Junipero Serra: Saint or Not, from last May, an interview with the historian of California, Robert Senkewicz, was especially revealing and honest.   It's likely to tell you more than the online bather and blither will.

I would, again, make a distinction between those who oppose the canonization of Serra on the basis of what they have read from the direct, historical records available and those who haven't.

The issues involved in this kind of canonization are complex, with different, sometimes opposite motives possible on either side.   In deciding whether or not you're going to take a side, it's certainly not a bad thing to withhold judgement until you've got some reason to have the position you decide on, at least if it's the truth and not ideological propaganda you're interested in.

Another article, also from the NRC, proposes Fr. Luis Olivares as a better choice for canonization, I will post the case as presented in the article.

I would like to propose such a candidate albeit a little known one. This is Claretian Fr. Luis Olivares, someone who gave his life for the protection of Latin American political and economic refugees in Los Angeles. I am currently writing a biography of Fr. Luis, and in researching and writing his story, I have found an individual who in his life exhibited saint-like qualities. Born in San Antonio on February 13, 1934, Fr. Luis very early felt he had a vocation to the priesthood and followed that feeling to the Claretian seminary in the Los Angeles area. After many years of training, he was ordained in 1960 and quickly rose to become a top official in his order. For several years, Olivares served as the treasurer of the western province of the Claretians. In this capacity, he was in part in charge of investing Claretian funds in the stock market and as a result he was wined and dined by Wall Street executives. He came to love this attention that included flying to New York City where he was picked up by a corporate limousine, stayed in fancy hotels, taken to Broadway shows, and dined in exclusive restaurants.

However, like St. Paul, Fr. Luis underwent a conversion. In 1975, he met for the first time César Chávez, and by Olivares’ own admission this was his conversion from being part of a religious bureaucracy to a community priest serving the poor and oppressed. Meeting the humble and saint-like Chávez, who, in turn, had devoted his own life to organizing the Mexican and Filipino farm workers in California, the lowest of the lowliest, impressed Olivares and convinced him that this should be his mission in life and as a priest. He commenced to work with Chávez in doing what he could to minister to the farm workers. He visited them and comforted them. He joined picket lines in the boycotts of the United Farm Workers led by Chávez and Dolores Huerta against the powerful California growers to force them to treat their workers humanely.

Wanting to also help in the urban Mexican American barrios, Olivares requested a transfer to a poor East Los Angeles parish, Our Lady of Solitude or La Soledad. There he joined and helped lead the United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO) that, beginning in the late 1970s, successfully organized and empowered Mexican Americans in East L.A. to confront both governmental and corporate power though the use of people power to improve their lives. Olivares, for example, led the struggle against the big insurance companies that were redlining the eastside and charging exorbitant auto insurance rates, clearly a discriminatory and racist practice. Fr. Luis became the lead organizer and spokesperson on this issue, and UNO forced the companies to rescind their rates and provide lower ones for Mexican Americans. But the auto insurance issue was only one of many others that Fr. Luis contributed to, along with other devoted UNO members, to improve living and economic conditions in the eastside, whether getting traffic lights on unsafe and congested street crossings, to better services by large grocery chain stores, to improving the public schools in the barrios. Fr. Luis did this because he knew or came to know that this is what it meant to be a Catholic priest and that his mission was to prioritize the poor and oppressed. Olivares became a liberationist, not only by reading liberation theology that called for the church to have a preferential option for the poor, but also, like César Chávez, living it.

In 1980, having become a community priest, Olivares accepted another transfer, this time to the historic La Placita Church (Our Lady Queen of the Angeles Church) in downtown Los Angeles, a place that represented the original early Catholic church established by the Spaniards in Los Angeles. La Placita was the heart of Mexican American Catholicism in the city. It was not so much a parish as a symbol of the peoples’ faith in a church that spoke to them in Spanish and that accepted their particular devotions such as that of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Olivares hoped to expand his work with UNO out of La Placita. However, something happened that would further transform Fr. Luis’ ministry. Civil war in Central America, in particular in El Salvador, led to thousands of Salvadoran refugees, and to a lesser extent refugees from Guatemala, entering the United States and especially to L.A. seeking political refuge. Many had family members who had been tortured or killed by the Salvadoran military and death squads. Some had themselves experienced torture. In the 1980s about a million Central American refugees crossed borders (including the U.S.-Mexico border) to reach the United States where they hoped they would be given political safe haven based on U.S. and international law. Unfortunately, the Reagan administration turned them away and declared that the Central American were not legitimate political refugees, but just more “illegal aliens” like those entering from Mexico seeking jobs and supposedly taking jobs from “real Americans.” By both U.S. law and international law, these were political refugees and yet the Reagan administration in order not to embarrass its Cold War anti-Communist client states in El Salvador and Guatemala refused to accept the refugees.

Fortunately, many other Americans came to the assistance of the refugees through what came to be known as the sanctuary movement. In Los Angeles, the heart and soul of the movement was Fr. Luis Olivares. In 1985 he declared La Placita a sanctuary church and established a program administered by Jesuit Fr. Michael Kennedy that fed and clothed the refugees as well as housed them. Some were even allowed to sleep inside the church and the church hall. Olivares and Kennedy and their staff also assisted in finding jobs for the refugees and schools for their children. Since many of the refugees arrived with emotional traumas as well as physical injuries, La Placita arranged for medical assistance. La Placita, due to its small size, could in no way support the thousands of Central American refugees who arrived in L.A., but Olivares did what he could to help as many as possible. But more than actual assistance to some of the refugees, Olivares and La Placita stood as a symbol that some Americans cared for the refugees and, that guided by their sense of morality, were prepared to protect them from immigration authorities so that they would not be deported back to El Salvador, for example, where they might be tortured and possibly killed. Fr. Luis’ love for the refugees would not allow him to be party to this offense against humanity. It didn’t matter to him if in sheltering and caring for the refugees, he was breaking the law for, as he often said, there was a higher law that he adhered to — God’s law — and he would first and foremost be guided by this.

Not restricting this love to the refugees, Fr. Luis two years later in 1987 did what no other sanctuary movement in the country did — he expanded sanctuary to include undocumented Mexican immigrants and further defied the Reagan administration and immigration officials who focused on deporting such immigrants. It’s true that in 1986, the U.S. Congress passed a new immigration law that in part contained an amnesty provision that allowed undocumented immigrants who had been in this country up to 1982 to legalize their statues. It also provided employer monetary sanctions for those who hired the undocumented. Olivares supported amnesty but also recognized that still thousands of the undocumented who had arrived after 1982 would be subject to deportation and, secondly, that some employers would refuse to hire not only undocumented Mexican immigrants but any person of Mexican origin in order to avoid any possible sanctions. Olivares confronted this new law and said that in order to protect the undocumented, he would offer them sanctuary at La Placita and that he as pastor would hire the undocumented and called on others to do likewise. Once again, Olivares appealed to God’s law in defying “Caesar’s law.” This expansion of sanctuary led to confrontations not only with immigration officials, but with the church hierarchy. Archbishop Roger Mahony (now Cardinal) attempted to pressure Olivares to back down and not defy immigration law. Olivares refused and continued his ministry.

Despite these pressures, Fr. Luis for the rest of the 1980s continued his work with the poor and oppressed especially in the form of the Central American refugees and Mexican undocumented immigrants. He could not serve them all, but he still reached many and again served as a shining beacon of love and care. In 1989, no doubt due to the pressures from the Los Angeles archdiocese, the Claretian order announced that Olivares would be transferred to Fort Worth, Texas. Fr. Luis did not want to leave La Placita, but knew that he had no other choice. However, he did not end up leaving, because in 1990, he was diagnosed with HIV that, according to church officials, he had contracted on one of his visits to El Salvador to take aid to those in refugee camps and in the countryside. Olivares himself noted that he became ill on one of his visits from his diabetes and had to be given an injection in a rural clinic. According to Olivares and others, the needle was infected with the virus. Fr. Luis lasted two more years, years of much pain and physical suffering, but he never complained, and he remained as involved as possible with continuing to call for support for refugees and undocumented immigrants. He died on March 20, 1993, at age 59. At his funeral at San Gabriel Mission hundreds attended, including many of those whom he had ministered to as well as those who had worked with him; a weak César Chávez who would, himself, die in a few weeks, was among them. The refugees and immigrants present both before and after Mass saluted their beloved priest by calling out “Presente!” meaning that Fr. Luis was present with them and would always be.

Fr. Luis’ family believe that he is a saint, and they pray to him. Many of his fellow clergy also believe that he was saint-like. I agree. But what about miracles? We know that such criteria for sainthood can be somewhat arbitrary in canonization. However, let me say that, in my opinion, ministering to the poor and oppressed such as Fr. Luis did for the refugees and undocumented and saving the refugees from possible torture and death they would have faced if returned to El Salvador is a form of miracle. Fr. Luis helped to transform people’s lives and, in a sense, gave them a new life and hope. Isn’t this a form of miracle?

But it would be far more controversial if someone whose advocacy of the least among us in living memory, in opposition to the rich and powerful, some of whom are still alive and exercising power and some whose children and associates are around than an 18th century friar.  I can imagine the FOX gaggle would be going nuts over it and it might even get a Pope doing it uninvited to address the Congress.  But the scriptural case is unambiguous, in one of the most meaningful of all Gospel passages Jesus said that those who did what Fr. Luis did for the least among us were the ones who were getting into heaven.   If Junipero Serra belongs in that group, I don't know.  I'm quite sure Fr. Luis is.   I have no doubt that St. César Chávez is, as well.

Update:  I should point out that Dolores Huerta, to the best of my knowledge, lacks one essential feature to be a saint, she is still with us.  

On DNA And Traits And The Murder Of The Mind

One of the great things that happened in the past forty or so years is the preservation, revival and promotion of old varieties of apples.   The FEDCO coop, here in Maine was involved with a lot of that effort, as it happens I just got their annual tree and plant catalog in the mail the other day, even as I was contemplating the issues of DNA, traits and associated things.   And as I've been picking apples from the trees we planted from their catalog.   The wonderful sweet, dry chestnut apples, classified as crab apples but bigger than any crab apples I've ever seen have been coming in for a while, the great fameuse apples from an old Quebec variety are at their peak right now, the late black oxfords from a very old tree my own Oxford county have yet to turn black - some of them really do look black.  All of them with their own, subtle and not so subtle qualities that vary from year to year, rivaling the subtitles of wine varieties.   I would think that organized apple tasting parties could be a thing, a table, perhaps of four, quartering, tasting and making artistic, adjective and adverb laced comments on the various varieties.

Anyway, apples from a single tree are a good example of why just saying "DNA" doesn't tell you nearly everything about even one organism, not its physical aspects, certainly not everything about our minds.

Apples from a single tree will produce an effective infinity of  different skin color patterns, you will get different patterns from apples growing right next to each other on the same tree.  Apples growing right next to each other will be of different sizes and shapes, as well. Sometimes you'd be hard put to come up with a reason for that, though reason there must have been to create the difference even though the DNA is the same for both apples and, presumably, the biological function of the apples is the same.  Since the function of an apple (in so far as human beings have discerned) is to make and carry seeds, the reproductive function of the tree, the fate of those apples and their seeds would be a rather important aspect of the evolutionary place of that tree and its potential offspring.   In that case the different appearance of different apples might be quite an issue.  Which apple will be attacked by various parasites could be an issue of appearance, some insect parasites of apples being attracted to red, perhaps.  Which apples will be chosen to be eaten by which mammal after it falls to the ground, perhaps, has a role in which seeds will be moved from under the shade of the mother tree.

Is the appearance of the apples a biological trait?   If it is one that trait exists in a range of possibilities on any given tree, all of those possibilities produced by the same DNA in one tree, under varying conditions and as a result, I would guess, of many random factors that the DNA doesn't have anything to do with.  How can you discern which part of those ranges of factors will account for what happens to the tree and its fruit and the seeds in those apples?    I don't think it makes any sense to talk about "DNA" as an explanation of what is seen on the tree and as an explanation of the enormous range of factors in determining which seed, out of the thousands that tree may produce in its lifetime will, on average, grow in the wild and pass on its line of life into future generations of trees, if any of them do.   It would be interesting to know what the rate of that biological success is for any given apple tree in the wild, in central Asia where apples are believed to have originated where enormous numbers of cultivars grow in the wild,  not waiting to be discovered by human beings but living for whatever reason those apples and their ancestors lived entirely unnoticed by human beings for millions of years.

I really wonder why the fact that "traits" are a matter of human perception and articulation, trying to dissect those out of the vast myriad of aspects of the whole life of a tree and its potential and actual, surviving descendants, which trees continue in the line of life, which don't, doesn't seem to be considered.   None of those "traits" exists apart from any of the other "traits" known and unknown in any given tree growing in its particular location, subject to enormous numbers of possible, decisive, events and actions by other organisms which will determine which "traits" lead to which trees reproduce successfully and which don't.   I doubt to talk about any "trait" as decisive in that happening across an entire variety of apples in the wild makes much sense, never mind across the entire Malus genus with its many, varied, named species.  

And that's only a tiny range of visible, physical "traits" in apple trees that would have to be teased out and for which our explanations are a spotty, vague, and probably deceptively, hopefully and wrongly regarded complete explanation of.   If apple trees have any kind of purpose, it is quite likely to never be translatable into our animal consciousness, appearing invisible and non-existent to us.  We can't even admit to the more obvious purposes of our own lives, scientifically, pretending that has nothing to do with anything because the implications are intolerable to our modernistic, scientistic sensibilities.  Fashion, really.

We throw terms like "trait" around and think we've come up with far more of an explanation of reality in doing that than we really have.  We're fooling ourselves about the completeness of our knowledge because it sounds far more impressive to think we've more than scratched the surface and we like feeling impressive to other people who are impressed by such talk.  In subjecting life to the same habits of thought that so successfully - though still partially - treated inert objects in motion and combination, we've overlooked how vastly complex life is.  That habit has also led us into denial of the simple fact that living beings are far more than mere non-living objects.  Doing that is what a career in the life sciences has devolved into.  And what they insist on in their professional lives extends to human and, certainly, animal minds, which must be defined out of anything not of a physical character.   But it little profits a thinker to gain the world and lose their mind, which is what that problem I've been dealing with this week amounts to.  The materialist program of radically reducing everything to things so the materialists can gain status by seeming so sciency forces the reduction of the mind doing it to nothing.  There's a story about the consequences of eating of the tree of knowledge producing death. I fear that metaphor was one of the more apt ones created by those derided and mocked "goat herders".  I suspect as goat herders they knew their apples a lot better than the guys who buy them in the grocery store and never look at them on the tree.   Or whatever fruit it was.  They were looking at real, living organisms, experiencing them in their real lives, not trying to shoe horn them into a narrow enough frame to get published in Nature or some other magazine. They're the ancestors of those farmers who cultivated and propagated the huge range of old varieties that were almost crushed out of existence by scientific agriculture in the past century.   Lord help us once they start engineering the DNA of apples for commercial purposes.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Leo Brouwer - Sonata De Los Misterios

Edin Karamazov, archlute

Edin Kramazov is a brilliant lute player, probably best known as the lute player on the, um.... ambiguously successful album of songs of John Dowland as sung by Sting.  The issue was Sting's shot voice and his less than impressive grasp of the songs, not the lute.

I don't find any documentation of this sonata by the great, very great, classical guitar composer, Leo Brouwer.  If it was not originally for archlute it certainly should have been.  It is extraordinary.  I'd like to know more about it.   The coughs in the audience have me tearing my hair out.  I'll need to listen enough to ignore those.   If Brouwer can, he should write more for this instrument.

A Hierarchy of Hatreds

It is striking how the self-designated reality community has a distinct ordering of hatreds, though it's not a totally fixed ordering but one in which the same group of people can be hated and disdained one day and defended against a more hated group on another day.  The visit to the United States by Pope Francis is a case in point, they lurve Francis when he's talking about climate change and economic justice, they hate him when he's being Pope of the Roman Catholic church.   They defend him when he's being attacked on FOX "news" over climate change and economic justice, they loathe him when they're not concentrating on him being attacked by the FOX family of haters.

And there is a similar phenomenon when it comes to Muslims.  They adore the world population of Muslims when they are under attack by American "Christian" fundamentalists and, to a lesser extent when the aging white men of neo-atheism slam them,  they hate them for being Muslims in most other contexts, making quite similar and frequently inaccurate universal stereotypes about them that they do of, say, Catholics and Christians.

It wouldn't be nearly as annoying for the "reality community" to do this kind of thing if they weren't so dishonest about it and so cluelessly conceited and arrogant about it while they do it.   Most of all, their unequal treatment of other, huge groups of people, like Muslims, like Christians, is no less bigoted than the kind practiced by FOX liars and spinners.  And, for those with political pretensions, it is massively stupid since there are just about certainly more liberal Catholics in the United States than there are neo-atheists, by a very large number, alienating them is certainly divisive of the left.  When you expand that to the number of liberal Christians and even more to the liberal religious folk of any identity, the clear reality is that the left can far more afford to give up the splinter faction of bigots among us than it can even one of those religious groups.  

Liberals have been kow-towing to a tiny percentage of bigots among us when, as explored in a huge number of the posts I have written, those bigots aren't really liberals, at all and their ideology is corrosive of liberalism.  It is no great mystery that under that domination for the past forty or so years liberalism has corroded and lost its coherence as a force and has been without political power.  Just about every counterproductive stand which liberals have taken, the empowerment of lies, the alienation of huge numbers of voters, even the insane denial of the reality of free thought and free will on which liberalism is founded, has been the result of that domination.   If liberals continue to placate and accommodate those haters who don't really belong among us, the prospects of ever exercising political power are non-existent.  


Bernie Sanders' address to Liberty University was brave, going into the lions den, sort of, though I found it quite frustrating.   He could have cited, literally, hundreds, thousands of verses in the Bible to support the contention that the natural result of taking the Bible seriously would be the basic program of liberalism in the United States.  Before he, or, in fact, any liberal Democratic politician speaks to such a group again, they should consult liberal clergy who are familiar with the Bible and who know all of those verses which swamp the ones popular with the Republican right in number, in force and in context.  That someone of Bernie Sanders intelligence didn't realize that was a fantastic opportunity to make a powerful case for liberalism can only, I would guess, be a reflection of his unfamiliarity with the Bible.  The Mosaic Law contains the basis of traditional American liberalism, the real liberalism that informed all of the great reform movements of the past three centuries.  Even if Sanders had ignored the Second Testament - which would have been very useful in sealing his case - there was more than enough to work with.   Sanders is too smart and too good a politician to have lost that opportunity to make an overwhelming case,  I hope his staff is smart enough to make that campaign correction,  the number of religion haters it would lose is tiny compared to the huge number of potential converts it could gain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Prophetic Grief

I got a link in my e-mail yesterday to this really interesting interview with the successor pastor at The Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church in Chicago, The Reverend Otis Moss III.   Which led me to look up the father-son sermon he gave with his father,  The Reverend Otis Moss jr. a Father's Day tradition for them.  It happened this year that the timing led to them giving an extraordinary sermon, Prophetic Grief,  in the wake of the mass murder at the Bible Study at Emanuel AME Church in Charlotte, South Carolina.

It is quite extraordinary and powerful.  I challenge anyone to produce anything out of a religious context which approaches it in meaning.

I hadn't realized till listening to this kind of preaching that giving a sermon is a form of religious art, surpassing drama, surpassing mere narrative story telling, but on a level with the best of religious music, if not higher than it.   This kind of preaching isn't done much among Catholics, Catholics have a lot to learn from it.


Never stop trying to dodge and deny this problem do you.

Let me explain a bit about how cause and effect works.  In order to get a specific effect the causes that led to that effect had to have produced that effect and only that effect.  You might not understand that effect in its entirety or how the antecedents produced that effect but if those antecedents produced some other effect cause and effect would be rather too chaotic to make reliable predictions of the sort scientists do and test.  Not to mention logic and math not working, at all.

First, there has to be a reason for the effect, in this case the atheist-materialist brain-only-brain (maybe we should call that the "AM BOB" to save time) would have had to have had a reason to make a new idea-structure.  It would have had to sense new information that would lead it to make what it is supposed to make.

Now, I wouldn't be surprised if some physical change happens in the brain when we have a new idea, though I doubt that's anything like what the idea really is.  The materialist claim that a physical structure is the reality, that the idea and the mind only a by-product of that physical structure, isn't the only way to look at that.  Meaningful words that someone writes aren't the ideas, the impression in clay, or wax or ink on animal skin or paper aren't the meaning, they aren't even the words, they certainly aren't ideas.  Until someone reliably interprets those marks, they are just marks.   The mind that wrote those words, those minds which came up with the systems of representation of words could also make a means of introducing those ideas into biology and that accounts for any changes in the brain.   The old fashioned assumption made by the critics dualism's model of the mind posed the problem of an immaterial mind having effects on the physical body.  That was held to be the conclusive point on which that model failed.  But they were insisting on treating the mind like a physical thing, an object or an energetic force.  There is no reason to believe that our minds are much of anything like physical objects or forces and it is quite possible that what they are, what kind of thing they are is not accessible in a way that physical forces acting on physical objects are.   The nature of physical causation was sufficiently subtle to be difficult to formalize scientifically, it is certainly nothing like a completed project or even one which is reasonably believed to be anything like nearly complete.

Those problems I pointed out, that there is no way to account for the specific antecedents that produce an accurate or even true idea have to be present in the actual, physical object which is the brain for the process to start and there is no way for that to be true if the brain is what makes the idea. That is a huge problem for materialism which, by the way, is also an idea which is just as ephemeral and insignificant as any other idea is under the materialist framing of reality.   It simply doesn't work. I will post those same problems of materialism every month unless someone comes up with the actual solution to that problem within materialist framing, where it must be answered for materialism to be true.  If you exit that framing to come up with a solution, then you've already conceded that materialism is a failure, you just don't realize that, yet.

I would say try again but you haven't even tried once.

Update:   I'm told that the Eschatots are engaged in competitive Chick Publications style Catholic bashing.  And water is reported to be wet.   Let's see, about 69.3 million Catholics in the United States, about 27 Eschatots, give or take a few occasional commentators plus those who are in the continuing process of being Heathered out of it.   Who do you imagine has some political clout?

A Quick Lunch Hour Post

I'm looking around the alleged liberal, neo-atheist websites and it's striking how much they're hating on Pope Francis even as they're hating on the Republican-fascists for hating on Pope Francis.   And they're not even sensing any kind of conflict over their weird double dip hating.  I wonder how many of those who are complaining about the crowds and traffic issues would think it was just great if it was some kind of event other than a visit by The Pope causing the feared inconveniences.  I'll bet if it were some rock star they'd think it was groovy. 

We need a new left, the one we have now is brain dead from all the hating on stuff.   I have to say it again, I didn't know just how dysfunctional the "secular" left was until I went online and started reading what they said in large doses.  I used to just get it from reading what of it was put out by The Nation and The Progressive and, to a lesser extent, In These Times.  And when I got those in print, through union-delivered U.S. mail, the insanely counter-productive hate talk was mitigated by more rational voices.  Now it's obvious why the left fell down and will not get up any time in the near future.  Not until the real left rejects the hate-left and lets them stew in their own bile. 

Hatin' on Pope Francis, one of the most popular and most progressive world leaders of the past century, is just plain and complete stupid politics.   There is no American politician of the left who has any chance of doing more good than he does. If you think there is, name them, I'll guarantee you they're not spending time hatin' on Francis. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Leo Brouwer - Variations on a theme of Django Reinhardt (Nuages)

Francesco Diodovich, guitar

Repentence - Always Topical, Especially Today

Louis Newman talks with Krista Tippett about repentance, about as unfashionable an idea as could be imagined but one that couldn't be more timely, at any time. 

Here's the show transcript.

And here is the uncut discussion which has valuable stuff edited out for radio.

One thing, it's refreshing to hear someone say, "Well, I would say that I grew up here in St. Paul in a family that was very deeply Jewish. My parents were both leaders in the Jewish community in a variety of ways. I grew up in a home in which Jewish affairs and issues of Jewish life were just kind of dinner table conversation all the time. So that was kind of in the air. And then they felt that it was important for me to get a strong Jewish education..."   You don't hear that so much on the American media.  It would seem that real, religious Jews are almost as completely disappeared as liberal Christians.

Leo Brouwer - Nuevos Estudios Sencillos

William Ghezzi - guitar

I've Posted This Before But....

listening to it again, it is so excellent, so clear and so competent that I'm posting it again.

Richard Lewontin's Hitchcock Lecture,
Gene, Organism and Environment:  Bad Metaphors and Good Biology.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Bestest And Brightest

So, I just go to check on my e-mail at 10 PM, our time, just before I go to bed and I find a link to this:

Steve Simels, blog malignancy  15 minutes ago

Isn't it amazing how many alleged 
adults are obsessing over this. It's really no different from the 
"Obama birth certificate" in its motivation. I'm taking this as 
evidence that the neo-atheists are really just the flip side of the 
 A 14-year-old boy and they're ganging up on him like 
Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. And Dawkins and Maher are supposed to be 
the cream of the intellectual crop. Looks more like crop failure, to 
So that kid with a clock is piece of shit because he doesn't believe in whoever the god of the West is. Or maybe his skin color.
Yeah, sure, whatever.
For anyone who suspects that the Eschaton Brain Trustifarians have brains that are trust worthy.  This is so bad it's not even incoherent, it's demented.   Someone, check Sims before he chokes on his own drool. 

Update:  I don't care what the ever decreasing number of regulars at Eschaton think they know about what I've said, if they were interested in what I said they could read it.   Mendacity is the mother tongue over there.  

Imagine That The Emeritus Chair For The Public Understanding of Science Slamming a Budding Geek For Doing An Engineering Project*

It's not every day that I can endorse what Mary Elizabeth Williams says but I agree with her about those great big tough guy "rationalists" Richard Dawking and Bill Maher using their fame and vastly over-sized reputations to go pick on a skinny, geeky, 14-year-old high school Freshman over his clock making project which he brought in to impress his Engineering teacher.   And to do it even as that other flamer, Sarah Palin was making similar veiled accusations based on the kid's ethnicity and color should put a dent into their vastly over-sized reputations.   Really, grown men, one of them an emeritus quasi-faculty member at Oxford University, for pity sake, bullying a 14-year-old boy.

I came to the conclusion yesterday that the kid was pretty much the adult in the situation, the one who said his clock was a clock, at no time calling it the bomb that the ENGLISH TEACHER, not the Engineering teacher, suspected it was.  Really, the principal should have called in the Engineering teacher to verify that the thing was what the kid called it if he had any suspicions.  I assume he has more competence in such stuff than the, what is it, four or five cops they called because the English teacher was afraid that the clock was a bomb when it beeped in her class room.   I hope all of the educators learned something from this.   I will exclude Dawkins from that wsh because, given his position, he doesn't deserve the title, educator.   He's a vector of bigotry and he has been one for pretty much the entire thirty or so years.  I wouldn't be surprised if that's not where Maher picked up that anti-social disease from Dawkins.  

What I thought of when I read that was the part of that great American novel, Dear Mr. Henshaw when Leigh's lunchbox alarm lay between him and his lunch the first time he'd set it.   Imagine if that teacher had been in charge of the lunch room that day.  The plot line would have been a lot different, Imagine what would happen if the kid had done this suggested school project?  He'd probably have gotten led off in cuffs when he was in fifth grade.   You  have to wonder if there is another category of crime forthcoming, carrying a lunch box while Muslim.  I'm surprised Dawkins and Maher haven't joined up with Palin in proposing one.   I have pointed out a number of times that neo-atheism is a lot closer to neo-fascism than they'd like to admit.

It has been more than ten years since I read Dear Mr. Henshaw to my niece, one of the truly great pieces of American fiction from the last half-century.   Young Leigh learns something in the course of the book.   Some people learn, some just become celebrity atheists and FOX level pundits.   I'm going to go read it, again.  Maybe someone should hand them a copy.

*  But, maybe it's understandable.  I don't get the impression from any of his writing that Dawkins ever does much with his hands to test the ideas he just cooks up out of conjecture.

Update:  Hate Mail - Well, of course he suspects someone else of thinking it's all about him when Sims knows it's really all about HIM .   It's rather hilarious for a guy who makes Zaphod Beeblebrox look self effacing to make that particular accusation.

The Blind Mind Maker

I'm still getting flack from the Friday Night Fight,  I invite anyone who is literate to go over what was said, keeping in mind that someone giving "DNA" as an answer to the questions asked was, in fact, not giving an answer to the questions because that word isn't a magic formula.  In order for "DNA" to be an answer to the question, what DNA does is kind of relevant to any possible understanding of it.  Apparently for the sciency tag team of "Brain Trusters" you can give that as an answer while ignoring what DNA does and providing no explanation based on that as your answer. 

If you want to bring the matter of heredity into the mix, which, one would think, was kind of, you know, relevant when the proposed answer to a question is "DNA" you can't, also, sidestep the matter of inherited traits and their expression in actual, living organisms.  Which, apparently, is also to be ignored in explaining how "DNA" is an answer to those questions.  

Yet I'm told I was the one who wasn't being honest about it when I wasn't even the one who gave "DNA" as a pat answer to those questions and could give some reasons for why it couldn't be.  

Is there anyone more whiny than a stuck-up blog atheist who you won't just give in for?

If either those two or anyone else can tell me how "DNA" figures into how the atheist "brain-only" brain could make an idea before that idea existed anywhere in that brain to tell it what to make I'll post the answer.  I'm not waiting up nights though. 

Oh, and "you're a stupid head" isn't an answer to the problem, either.  I'm talking to you Skepsy.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pat Metheny -Missouri Uncompromised - Matija Dedić & Šimun Matišić

I know nothing about them except that they're very good and, I believe, are Croatian.

Matija Dedić - Piano
Šimun Matišić - Vibraphone

"Don't Be Evil" Why I'm Giving Up The Google

Those weekly google doodles this year, promoting the neo-Roman gladiatorial celebration of violence and mayhem, American football, have led me to switching to some other search engine.  If it will lead to me to find another blog hosting service, I don't know yet.  It could.

While I have always loathed everything to do with football, as I become older and take what Jesus said more seriously, not to mention the Jewish Law and other insights into morality, I can't overlook that something that kills and maims people every year, that leads their brains to deteriorate, which encourage a huge number of serious moral wrongs, ego, vainglory, chauvinism - both local and in terms of misogyny and any number of other things is incompatible with honestly taking those moral teachings as how to conduct your life.

The demonstrations of religious profession associated with sports have always been hypocritical, especially in any religion which holds that you are to do to others what you'd have them to to you.  No one in sports wants their opponents to defeat them.  In football the attempted association of a game which is totally at odds with the entire corpus of the teachings of Jesus with Christianity reaches heights of vulgar hypocrisy that are matched only by associating Christianity with military conquest and capitalism.   The extent to which someone puts the teachings of Jesus into practice is the extent to which they are sincere in their professions of their faith.  Covering up the violation of those teachings with vulgar, elaborate, falsely pious demonstrations of religiosity only adds to the obscenity of it.  The protest that so-and-so is a nice guy is done only by overlooking what they have chosen to do and to become a part of.  If they were really nice they wouldn't be involved with something where people get killed and maimed as a part of the intentional design of the game.

Google's corporate motto, Don't be evil, is just PR unless they put that into their practice.

Update:  Competitions are for horses, not artists.   Bela Bartok

Materialist Miracles Are Happening Everyday According To The Materialist Opponents of Miracles

I pretty much took yesterday off, I'm finding that working two jobs at my age is a lot harder than doing it when I was in my fifties.   This morning I went back to read through the comments on Friday's post and am struck at how the response to my challenge of the materialist model of the human mind consists, entirely, of issuing claims that, somehow, DNA explains it all, though even if that magical molecule, DNA, were involved in the mechanism of making physical idea-structures in the brain, the material "things" that the materialist "brain-only" dogma holds gives rise to the phantom which they regard consciousness as being, the problems I raised are still there.  Any proposed mechanism to explain how any brain could possibly do what is proposed before the idea was present in that brain would face those same problems.

It all made me think of the famous cartoon:

which I've seen presented as a mockery of religion but which is, really, how the entire insertion of materialism into science works.   To answer those questions with "DNA" or, as I expected "random access memory" does nothing to explain how that mechanism could make actual physical objects that embody "ideas", which would have to have a very specific material structure to "be" any specific idea and each and every variation on that idea that existed in the "brain-only" brain would have to have its own, specific physical structure in order for it to enter into the mind which we experience.  To just say "DNA" or "RAM" or whatever material structure or process doesn't get over the problem of how the brain would know how to make what it would have to make.  

And that's only the first step in the problem because, once made, that idea-structure would be all that the brain-only brain would have of that idea to go on.  How would it know if it had made the right structure?  For example.

The extent to which the invasion of materialist ideology on science consists of these promissory notes is interesting.  The "missing heritability problem" the rather embarrassing fact that the identification of genes has been found to be remarkably spotty in explaining the inheritance of traits, diseases, etc arose rather quickly in the wake of the grand announcement of the publication of the human genome. Given the hype that surrounded the Human Genome Project, its accomplishment being done through a grand announcement with president and prime minister present, could be taken as a rather big scandal in science as a product.  Though it's not talked about very often.   What looks to me to have the potential to be the classic example is the height of children as compared to that of their parents.  I'll be provocative enough to quote the biologist Rupert Sheldrakes' description of it.

In the wake of the Human Genome Project, the mood changed dramatically.  The optimism that life would be understood if molecular biologists knew the "programs" of an organism gave way to the realization that there is a huge gap between gene sequences and the actual human beings.  In practice, the predictive value of human genomes tended to be small, in some cases less than that achieved with a measuring tape.  Tall parents tend to have tall children and short parents short children.  By measuring the height of parents, their children's heights can be predicted by 80 to 90 percent accuracy.  In other words, height is 80 to 90 percent heritable.  Recent "genome-wide association studies" compared the genomes of 30,000 people and identified about fifty genes associated with tallness or shortness.  To everyone's surprised, taken together, these genes accounted for only about 5 percent of the inheritance of height.   In other words, the "height" genes did not account for 75 to 85 percent of the heritability of height.  Most of the heritability was missing.  Many other examples of missing heritability are now known, including the heritability of many diseases, making "personal genomics" of very questionable value.  Since 2008, in scientific literature this problem has been called the "missing heritability problem". 

Rupert Sheldrake: Science Set Free, p. 168-169

A study published in 20013 claimed to have "cracked the missing heritability problem"  but for a definitive "cracking" of the problem, the language being used to describe their experiment done on yeast cell lines is rather deceptively tentative.

A new study by Princeton University researchers, however, suggests that missing heritability may not be missing after all — at least not in yeast cells, which the researchers used as a model for studying the problem. Published in the journal Nature, the results suggest that heritability in humans may be hidden due only to the limitations of modern research tools, but could be discovered if scientists know where (and how) to look.

In other words, they haven't found the definitive and complete explanation of "inherited traits" just because they lack the tools and methods to find them.   That's always the claim of promissory notes of materialism, that, just give us the right lever and we can move the world, which is an easy claim to make when the lever exists as a promised potential and there is no way to test it.   

As much of the study in Nature that I can read this morning says:

For many traits, including susceptibility to common diseases in humans, causal loci uncovered by genetic-mapping studies explain only a minority of the heritable contribution to trait variation. Multiple explanations for this ‘missing heritability’ have been proposed1. Here we use a large cross between two yeast strains to accurately estimate different sources of heritable variation for 46 quantitative traits, and to detect underlying loci with high statistical power. We find that the detected loci explain nearly the entire additive contribution to heritable variation for the traits studied. We also show that the contribution to heritability of gene–gene interactions varies among traits, from near zero to approximately 50 per cent. Detected two-locus interactions explain only a minority of this contribution. These results substantially advance our understanding of the missing heritability problem and have important implications for future studies of complex and quantitative traits.

"We also show that the contribution to heritability of gene–gene interactions varies among traits, from near zero to approximately 50 per cent. Detected two-locus interactions explain only a minority of this contribution," is rather a strange statement to make of the problem of missing heritability has been "cracked".   If the contribution to heritability is from near zero to 50 percent, I'd like to know what the average of of those studied is.   And those are only a small range of proposed traits* in a species which is rather remote from us in evolutionary history.  And which, so far as I can see, no one suspects of consciousness or having ideas, as of now.  Though I have every faith that the "brain-only" materialists would grasp this study to their bosom and declare that it had nailed the coffin of the immaterial mind shut, once and for all and that all kinds of ideas like free thought and free will have to go.   Being a liberal political blogger, that means that the entire program of liberal politics would, then, be total bunkum. 

In the article describing the "cracking" of the problem the evidence is that this is being sold as a promissory note of materialism. 

The study sheds light on the role of nature (genetic factors) versus nurture (environmental factors) in determining traits and disease risk, according to Bert Vogelstein, director of the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

"The nature versus nurture argument has been brewing for decades, both among scientists and the lay public, and 'missing heritability' has been problematic for the 'nature' component," said Vogelstein, who was not involved in the Princeton study.

"This beautiful study demonstrates that the genetic basis for heritability (nature) can be precisely defined if extensive, well-controlled experiments can be performed," Vogelstein said. "Though the results were obtained in a model organism, I would be surprised if they didn't apply, at least in part, to higher organisms, including humans."

"Though the results were obtained in a model organism, I would be surprised if they didn't apply, at least in part, to higher organisms, including humans."

As far as I can see, the revelation of the missing heritability problem was just that surprise expressed somewhat differently.  The surprise was due to previous faith in the explanatory power of DNA turning out to not be the simple, one shot thing that it was believed.  In the comments on my Friday post one of the materialists seemed to figure that epigenetics in the materialist bag of tricks was just what was needed to nail down the case of materialists.   Of course a materialist would be surprised if their ideology turned out to be wrong in any way, which is why they so strenuously come up with ways to prop up the models of such things as minds even though their ideology is, in every way, a total disaster for the entire range of human thought, including science, including logic, including their own materialist ideology. 

That is the  reason I've not just let my questions go, questions about how the brain would know what to make before it knew what it was making is that I really can't see any way for them to get by that, certainly not by any mechanism that would explain it in the real-time experience of getting new ideas and the modification and manipulation of those, applying those to new and imagined conditions at the speed of experience.  It's easy to come up with some alleged mechanism of how things are supposed to work if you remove the time factor in it, even some absurdly inadequate schemes can seem plausible if you ignore the time in which we experience learning new ideas or creating them.

No matter what proposed mechanism of the materialist mind is asserted it can't get past those questions that I raised.  And since there is one thing that anyone with the ability to read this will have, having new ideas, some of which are entirely novel, any proposed material mind will have to answer those questions or it can't possibly be true.   I think this issue is a definitive refutation of that model. I await a materialist who can come up with a coherent reason that isn't the case.  Just intoning "DNA" as if it were the magic in the middle of that equation in the cartoon doesn't do it. 

* I've got some real questions about whether or not identifying some quality in an organism of "a trait" is such a clear and unambiguous matter and how many of the "traits" talked about exists as an objective "thing".   I am skeptical that a lot of such identified "traits" are not actually a compound of many things.   But I don't have time to get into that this morning.  A trait would have to be a definite thing for it to be the result of a specific, physical cause.   There are some such traits like Huntington's disease, though its expression is certainly not one "thing".   And even in obvious physical traits there are a vast range of difference in expression.  Even identical twins are not identical.  Among other things there are aspects of indeterminacy in the expression of genes that have nothing to do with heredity.  The identification of "traits" is riddled with problematical features.  When those "traits" are not material but aspects of the mind I wouldn't buy much of any of it.