Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Mark Wheatley - So You Want To Disappear

Fraser once tracked clients who jumped bail. Then he added a little twist to the business by helping people disappear instead, which is why Kathryn gives him a call. 

Kathryn ..... Lia Williams
Fraser ..... Neil Pearson
Ali ..... Tessa Nicholson
Mitch ..... Michael Shelford
Kyle ..... Miche Doherty

Producer: Eoin O'Callaghan.


I was tempted to break my resolution to not post videos of Majority Report to post their presentation of the blessed virgin Benny Shapiro's freak out when he was questioned by the conservative TORY!!! BBC interviewer Andrew Neil but then Michael Brooks went all Bernie Bot purity troll on Elizabeth Warren the other day I got too pissed off to overlook it. 

I was trying to think of who Ben Shapiro reminded me of.  At first I thought of Divine's insane, perverted, foot stomper son in Polyester but then I realized he reminded me more of Bruno Ganz's Hitler in one of the less well known scenes in Der Untergang.   Not the infamous and often used Bunker freak out scene. 

What I Did On My Sick Day

First, I will note that no atheist has taken up the challenge to answer those two questions posted here last weekend:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

What would a secular paraphrase of that sentence look like?  

In what nonreligious terms is human equality self evident?

Not getting an answer from anyone as to what a non-religious articulation of those self-evident truths on which depends, merely, the entire concept and justification of egalitarian democracy, I'm going to keep asking that.  Not getting an answer is as telling as getting the one I'd expect, an ineffective, arbitrary mish-mosh of verbiage which might be acceptable to those who agreed to it, temporarily, as it served their purpose but which would change no reality. 

As it happened, the other day Michael Brooks of Majority Report said something in passing about the atrocious Alabama ban on abortion that was passed into law this week that runs directly into that atheist-materialist-scientistic incapacity to come up with a durable and effective articulation of rights.  My quick transcript of the relevant passage. 

. . . You know, these things are settled legally, as written in a way . . .because - sorry to go all post-modernist here - but law is constructed - law is a political project that is not a natural thing that has descended from the sky but we've made a basic political-moral judgment that women's' capacity to control their own bodies their own sovereignty their own life trajectory is going to supersede the potential of life . . . 

Ironically, right before he said that, he pointed out Ben Shaiprio was "trying to create a back door out for himself" something which Michael Brooks' substitute for the endowment of rights by God is.  Clearly, as so many states controlled by Republicans, holding the entire legislative arms and governorships of many states are proving, they think the Republican-fascists - also holding the Executive, the Senate and the Supreme Court, will prove that Michael Brooks' claim that "we've made a basic political-moral judgement" supporting women's rights to the ownership and control of even their own bodies is about as dependable as rights writ in water. 

I commented and got into a bit of a brawl on this.  

Anthony McCarthy
1 day ago 
I totally agree with where Michael Brooks comes out, that women have the right to self-autonomy and the ownership of their own bodies and, though he didn't say so, that the state has no legitimate right to regulate what happens inside her skin or within her basic human capacity to exercise her rights in but unless you found those rights in an assumption of supernatural endowment, then you can't possibly claim that there is any wrong in what the Alabama state government did which, apparently, is OK enough with the society that elected Republican-fascists to such an overwhelming majority as they certainly knew what they were capable of voting into law.   Unless you hold, as Jefferson had to put it in the Declaration of Independence that rights are an inherent endowment by our Creator, then any level of depravity under law that has the temporary or long term acceptance of the majority in that society is as legitimate as the least depraved.  I have never read any atheistic articulation of that which makes it impossible to justify actions as depraved as the ones that the Alabama State government just took and, literally, every other such depraved action of any government anywhere.  I respect Michael Brooks' intelligence and if he knows of a secular articulation of what Jefferson wrote in the beginning of the Declaration of Independence that produces the same effect, I'd love to know about it.

Alas, Michael Brooks didn't give me one (as I suspect even an atheist of his intelligence would soon realize was impossible) but the usual level of atheist comment thread dolts typed unresponsively. 

1 day ago
Jefferson pulled that out of his ass and it certainly wasn't pulled out of christianity.

Anthony McCarthy
23 hours ago
@TheEvolver311  Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were on the committee to draft the Declaration, they didn't come up with something better as an absolute foundation of egalitarian democracy, neither has anyone else I've ever read.  Your declaration doesn't do a thing to found equal rights in anything that disqualifies what the Alabama legislature did because in Alabama, clearly, that is contained within the social consensus.

23 hours ago
@Anthony McCarthy actually it derives its power from the people and our government. The "creator" isn't even the god of the bible it was the prime mover from diesm. The bible actually advocates slavery and no human rights.

Anthony McCarthy
23 hours ago 
@TheEvolver311 First, by The Bible, I think you must mean the Mosaic Law which envisages a slavery which was far less terrible than American slavery, if you knew more than you pulled out of your own ass, you would know that, among other things, the American abolitionists cited The Bible in their arguments to abolish slavery to far greater effect than they did even Jefferson's clear basis of why egalitarian democracy is the only morally legitimate form of government, based in the equal endowment of rights by God. Only that's a more complex argument than I've ever seen a blog comment thread atheist be able to encompass.  I expect that the likes of David Walker, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman will be found far more credible in that than some inarticulate slacker gen blog atheist.   When white abolitionists pointed directly to the Mosaic law to condemn the fugitive slave laws, they proved its moral superiority even to the secular Constitution which is far more a document motivated by the interests of the slave owners who wrote it. 

Unless you hold that rights are an "unaienable" and equal endowment from God, all rationalistic, scientistic, atheist substitutes could be used to successfully argue that equal rights that are not a product of a majority opinion or whim are non-existent.  You could argue that any state or polity where  a majority held that women had no right to have an abortion were as right to make that the law than a state where the opposite had the approval of a majority.   You could argue that Alabama and the rest of the Confederate states were right to secede so they could keep and entrench slavery.  Michael Brooks, smarter than almost any comment thread atheist I've encountered, is about the best chance I can see of someone coming up with as effective a replacement for Jefferson's formula for making egalitarian democracy and unless he comes up with one, I'm going to conclude that is because an effective, durable one cannot be founded except in that assumption of endowment by God.

There's no real reason to go on, the atheist idiots didn't come up with anything but typical atheist slogans and bromides.  None of which founded the rights of women to even the ownership of their bodies in anything stronger than the clear non-consensus that Brooks claims.   

I did get to ask one who said that I'd have to "prove" the existence of God first"  if that meant that any claims atheists made to equal rights would, likewise, depend on that proof.  I don't think the boob even understood what the argument was about so I doubt he understood that without that Jeffersonian formula, all of the atheist whining about being deprived of their equal rights is as unfounded as Michael Brooks' substitute in social consensus is.  Any society, any state or country that wanted to have legal discrimination against atheists or members of religious minorities which held that as a majority or even consensus view of it would be as justified in making that the law as the one which Michael Brooks, clearly falsely creates out of the Alabama or even the national electorate which has resulted in the current political power structure that is poised to strike down Roe and reimpose who knows what depraved violations of natural rights as a result of that expressed consensus. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Fat Cat · Makoto Ozone · Gary Burton

Time Thread (For Bill Evans)

Makoto Ozone, piano
Gary Burton, vibraphone 

Bach Fuga from Sonata No. 1 - Henryk Szeryng

Score (page 4)
Not feeling great, not up to writing, I'll try to post later. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Past Which Will Be The Future

Hate Mail - "you're a cultist"

I have spent fewer words and fewer years of my life being impressed with the thinking and writing of perhaps the greatest living writer of English and far more probably our greatest essayist, Marilynne Robinson than some of us have spent on the Mop Heads, Mick and his old Stones, Clint Eastwood, and other various figures held up for untellectual and inartistic adoration in the profit-driven  commercial pop world that your mind remains stuck in.  

You can choose where you want to concentrate your inattention on and I'll decide whose writing my attention is concentrated on. 

My attention span is capacious enough to notice you didn't come up with a non-religious, secular articulation of Jefferson's formula for creating egalitarian democracy.  Did you not think to refute that claim, answer that challenge, prove me wrong?   That's your mind on commercial pop crap.  Shouldn't you be concentrating on getting attention from your fellow perennial tweens? 

Update:  Well, you don't go to Duncan's expecting to find intellectual stimulation, not since c. 2006, at least. 

How We Devolved Into Trumpian Fascism Through The Inadequacy Of Cultural Secularism

Well meaning as I'm sure a lot of them are, the series of former Department of Justice lawyers, lawyers connected to it and in that general orbit who have gone on the radio or MSNBC to express their shock at William Barr and Rod Rosenstein etc. who turn out to not be the stalwart "institutionalists" that they had always believed them to be and to turn out to be sycophantic enablers of the levels of Trumpian fascism on display in the stonewalling letter issuing out of the Trumpian legal arm this week is wearing entirely thin. 

You have to wonder why Rosenstein's exposure as providing Trump his obstructive excuse to fire the equally but differently compromised James Comey - whose ethical bona fides we had been assured of from the same crew - didn't clue them in that the little creep was the self-serving little creep he's turned out to be.  How many of these Republican thugs and punks do you get to be wrong about before you question your own judgement?  

You have to wonder why someone with Barr's known history of facilitating the obstruction of justice with the Bush I pardons and suppressing documents surrounding Bush II's torture program from Congressional oversight WHILE PROMOTING THE FASCISTIC THEORY OF THE UNITARY EXECUTIVE didn't clue these guys and gals in that William Barr was a seriously amoral danger to democracy in any form. 

I seem to have wandered in to a long discussion of some fundamental truths and mandatory prerequisites of democracy as those relate to a belief in God and the impossibility of discovering those fundamental moral principles in the absence of a belief in God.  Or, at any rate,the impossibility of otherwise finding them as something sufficiently strongly believed in to make an effective difference for the good.  I have to wonder if the most astonishing lack of moral probity in the matter of moderate to liberal lawyers who have worked with and observed Barr and Rosenstein isn't due to their acculturation and education into a devotion to secularism and the dereligionization of the public sphere.  

Perhaps the even-handedness in removing such inconvenient things as hard holdings of such inevitably religious morality from the law, from the administration of government and, as the Republican-fascist majorities in the Congress and, perhaps, on the courts, from law making, has led to a situation in which their substitution with mere professional ethics and mere predilection and habits of expression have proven to be entirely inadequate to keep us from disaster in the form of what might be called "anti-democracy" in which there's a vote that results in fascism.

I will throw in that any expression of them that doesn't match that interesting turn of phrase that Thomas Jefferson came up with, that such moral absolutes must be "self evident" in the terms in which they are asserted will almost certainly prove to be unsustainable and likely immediately found to be ineffective.*   I suspect that anything that is not in the form of a religious commandment to be held to have the status of an axiom will be ineffective. 

Marilynne Robinson's succinct and deep analysis of Jefferson's foundation of legitimate government, founded in the rights that he asserted were a self-evident and equal endowment of God contained the entirely sensible but brilliant insight into Jefferson, that if he, one of the smartest of politicians in the history of western culture, had been able to find that foundation anywhere else, in the new innovation of science which he was so devoted to,  he would have given that explanation of it.  

What is also certain is that the committee that was assigned with the task of editing Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence which  contained men such as  John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman,included those who quite likely would have preferred to find that foundation in other than religious terms (Franklin, Adams) and they definitely could not find them, neither could the rest of the members of of the Continental Congress who adopted the Declaration.   Neither has anyone else who I've ever read.  The atheists who like to troll me have not come up with any who I don't know.*

I think it's safe to say that those absolute foundations cannot be found in any other than the religious holding that rights sufficient to make government by the consent of those governed legitimate are an equally bestowed gift from God.  

That word, "legitimate,"  "legitimacy," which saturates the discussion of whether or not Trump will be our dictator or the mere executive officer of a representative democracy, means nothing if, ultimately, it doesn't reference absolute holdings of morality that are more durable than the transient holdings of rationalistic schemes like utilitarianism, the transient social consensus as substitutes.  

Without a holding of something more durable than human beings are capable of artificially constructing the very concept of law, legitimacy is unable to hold up democracy in any reliable manner.  As can be seen in the repulsive spectacle of the obviously insincere, fraudulent trappings of something called "evangelical" Christianity and an Orthodox Judaism able to work with neo-Nazism covering up the Mammonist debauchery and crookedness of the Trump regime, even when you call it "religion" it can twist any moral holding to support their opposites in reality.  

That prostitution of religion is something that is certainly no surprise, it is something that has been held up to discredit religion for centuries.  It's practically a stock-routine in the routine, repetitive pantomime that easily 90% of literature, theater and entertainment inevitably is. 

What is a shock to the prim and proper advocates of secularism, non-religion, anti-religion is that if the human institutions of religion are so morally corruptible, the merely secular and even more human institutions of secularism are as corruptible and their adherents - even with that secular substitute for religious instruction, advanced degrees and law licenses - are as corruptible and readily duped, as those whose Christianity is caught up in cultural racism and bigotry, the cult of toxic masculinity (and toxic femininity) the movie-TV melange of horse-operas and violent sex and the overriding substitute for Judeo-Christian-Islamic morality that issues out of every venue of secularism, the worship of wealth and things and violent sex.  

William Barr is a high-end fascist, the lawyer of a fascist strongman thug.  Fascism is a political ideology that favors unequal rule by gangsters.  All of the elite lawyers servicing the Trump regime, the Trump family in these matters, Democratic as well as Republican fixtures inhigh-power law that don't actively oppose them, are serving Trumpian fascism.  All of the perfumed, well-manicured, highly educated advocates of the unitary executive spewed out of Harvard and Yale and their equivalents, all of the creepy little toadies who can live with that like Rod Rosenstein are what you get when you suppress those truths which even the seriously morally compromised Jefferson found inexpressible in any but religious terms.  If we want to have a country that does better, we're going to have to just admit that you won't find those truths in an effective form anywhere else.  

Secularism may be an administrative necessity to prevent the corruption of religion and government that tends to come with sectarianism but if the common holding of The People doesn't hold those truths to be self-evident and based in the will of God, the results won't be egalitarian democracy, they won't be legitimate. 

*  What we can be certain of, it will be attacked on the basis of scientism, materialism and because of the inescapable implication of the reality of God and God's character as benevolent enough to equally endow people with those rights.  


For me,  Marilynne Robinson's observation that Jefferson held that people were doubly blessed, first with the privilege of being created, of being granted existence, and then being endowed with rights is an especially deep observation.  If we hold that then we can hardly avoid the idea that God also endowed our fellow creatures, all of creation with blessing and, perhaps, rights.   Though that's way past the step that people are willing to take.  It might be the last lesson humanity learns that it made a big mistake in not aspiring to such an Edenic view of reality as they concentrated on the merely utilitarian and materialistic.   Materialism is as human an invention as Mormonism is, so is science which was invented in utilitarian aspirations. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Got To Go Out Till Tonight So I'll Let Walt Whitman Answer It For Me - Hate Mail

And, topping Democracy, this most alluring record, that it alone can bind and ever seeks to bind, all nations, all men, of however various and distant lands, into a brotherhood, a family.  It is the old, yet ever modern, dream of Earth, out of her eldest and her youngest, her fond philosophers and poets.  Not that half only, Individualism, which isolates.  There is another half, which is  Adhesiveness or Love, that fuses, ties and aggregates, making the races comrades, and fraternizing all.  Both are to be vitalized by Religion, (sole worthiest elevator of man or State,) breathing into the proud, material tissues, the breath of life.  For I say at the core of Democracy, finally, is the Religious element.  All the Religions, old and new are there.  Nor may the Scheme step forth, clothed in resplendent beauty and command, till those, bearing the best the latest fruit, the Spiritual, the aspirational, shall fully appear..

A portion of our pages we must indite with reference toward Europe, especially the British part of it, more than our own land, and thus, perhaps not absolutely needed for the home reader.  But the whole question hangs together, and fastens and links all peoples,.  The Liberalist of to-day has this advantage over antique or medieval times, that his doctrine seeks not only to universalize, but to individualize.  Then the great word Solidarity has arisen.

Walt Whitman:  Democratic Vistas 1871

He'd seen the Civil War and the post-war flowering of corruption like few others got the chance to.  He clearly knew that secular ethics wasn't enough to pull a country towards egaligarian democracy. 

Scribblers Query - Any Advice On Switching to Linux?

I am going to be needing to replace my Windows 7 computer and I really, really, really don't want to replace it with a Windows 10 computer because I friggin' hate the Windows 10 updates - I went back to Windows 7 when the free Windows 10 update that Microsoft had to give out because Windows 8 was such a total piece of complete crap crashed due to one of the interminable series of involuntary Windows 10 updates.  

I never bought the Apple mystique, having no desire to pay so much to join a cult devoted to the phony faux moral superiority that issued out of Steve Job's ass.  Not only was the ridiculous price tag absurd, the much vaunted quality of its operating system was more than matched by the load of shitty hardware they sold and, on top of that, the many service agreements that totally screwed over their customers as their really shitty design and materials choices resulted in broken multi-thousand dollar computers and multi-hundred dollar fixes issued by the company.  I can't remember which one of their line would fail to boot due to their crappy design choices failing but customers who had paid big bucks for the piece of crap found out that by the contract they'd had to accept,  in order to have it fixed under warranty, it had to be bootable.   

But this isn't about either of those tech companies, this is about Linux and the really, really cheap Linux based computers that, with all the trimmings, cost less than $150.  I've read that the old used Dells I've been buying when a friend was done with his and the one I bought refurbished form Dell  don't take to Linux very well and I'm too old and computer unsavy to want to struggle with trying to make it fit.  I'm even willing to limit it to going online and doing my blogging and some news reading, maybe a little listening.  I don't need to watch movies and I don't play games - yech.  My alternative is to strip down one of the old Windows computers to run Windows 7 as long as that will last without - huh - "updates" and to just wipe it down and reinstall if it becomes infected.  But I'm afraid I might remain alive and functional enough so that, eventually, I'll wish I'd learned to use Linux so I figure I may as well learn it fresh.

Any advice?  

Stupid Mail - If You Want To See What Morally Neutral Governance Looks Like, We've Got It

The "civil liberties" industry, best symbolized by the ACLU and the legendary Earl Warren Supreme Court freed the American media to lie us into Trump.  Trump is , as Ronald Reagan was before him a 100% creation of the American media, the movies, TV, right-wing radio, the advertising industry.  The way for them was paved by every single Hollywood line complaining about the income tax, every false trope about the incompetence and lie told about the inefficency of the government, every line about "states rights" the false myth of the gun saturated old west in every horse opera ever made, every piece of racist and neo-Confederate propaganda, and in so many other genera that falsified American history in that direction.  

Clearly, by the political trends from the high point of American liberalism in the early part of Lyndon Johnson's administration through Nixon, through Reagan, Bush I, Bush II and now Trump, from the solidly and widely based Democratic control of congress to congresses under the control of Gingrich, Hastert, Ryan, the Senate under the likes of Mitch McConnell with Lindsay Graham as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee counselling Little Donny to defy a valid Congressional Subpoena, counselling him to thwart the Constitutional requirement of Congress to investigate subversion of American elections and even its own ability to compel witnesses to tell the truth, . . . All of that is a product of the American media freed by the Supreme Court and the FCC to lie an effective margin under the Electoral College into a country where people vote to support racist, fascist-strong-man government led by the biggest and most obviously mentally ill idiot who has ever held that office.  The ACLU, that beacon of secular, at some points arguably anti-religious leftism at every step of that march issued briefs in support of the Court allowing the media to lie us here.

And the ACLU was only one organ of the secular, pseudo-left that has harmed the real left, the left of egalitarian democracy, economic justice, protection of the environment, etc. through its pursuit of secularism which has pointlessly alienated so many voters over the years, promoting a materialistic, scientistic regime of public life which, as atheists, secularists, materialists, true believers in scientism prove is incapable of doing anything but denying the bedrock foundation of egalitarian democracy and moral government through their inability to articulate Jefferson's formula for that foundation, all People are endowed with rights by God, and among those are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

I hadn't reasoned out the actual history of the ACLU in relation to the destruction of egalitarian democracy very far when my illusions about that fabled group were permanently shattered by their support of Nazis to march and terrorize Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois.  If you think that's an exaggeration, it isn't, Skokie was chosen by the Nazis for that reason.

The exact number of survivors who lived in Skokie at the time remains disputed, but current mayor George Van Dusen told ABC News that it had "the largest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel," a refrain repeated in much of the reporting about Skokie both at the time and in the years since.

One estimate cited in a court filing from the time said that roughly 40,500 of Skokie’s 70,000 residents were Jewish, although the number of Holocaust survivors were believed to a fraction of that number, according to "When the Nazis Came to Skokie," a legal analysis by Philippa Strum. The most widely reported estimate was that there were 7,000 survivors in Skokie in 1977 and 1978, according to the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

It was because of the large number of Holocaust survivors that American neo-Nazi Frank Collin reportedly chose Skokie as the location for his march. Collin was the leader of the National Socialist Party of America and in 1977, he decided that his group was going to use their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly to march in Skokie and make their voices heard.

Anyone who believes that an egalitarian democracy has an obligation to allow Nazis another chance to get power and put their blanket violation of the rights AND LIVES of Jews, Black People, Native Americans, etc. at risk so they can preen in their higher free speechiness is a disgusting, discreditable and amoral moron.   

Anyone who rejects the idea that the First Amendment requires us to always start out of a position that never will learn from the hardest lessons of history as written in the blood and on the bodies of scores of millions of murdered people and that we must always allow the advocates of that to have another bite at the apple is so stupidly disgusting that I can't think of words strong enough to express how disgusting they are.  

And yet the pseudo-secular-left, the ACLU and other branches of the "civil liberties" industry, the advocates of Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, have led the entire American left into discredit by their advocacy for such positions, our most elite law schools, bastions of the legacy admissions class of oligarchs, training grounds of the would-be ruling class, have filled our courts with people devoted to that program of historical amnesia.  

That real liberals have been duped into refusing to practice moral discernment to the level in which we realize egalitarian democracy does not owe Nazis another chance, even after watching them in Charlottesville and having the as seen on TV Trump supporting them should really be asked if they really are too stupid to trust with the future of American liberalism. 

No, we have to get shut of them or we should forget about ever having equality under democracy, the only way it will ever be had.   If you want to see what American government in a state of  de-religionized "moral neutrality" looks like, look at the Republican-fascist caucus of Congress, the Trump regime and the majority on the Supreme Court. And they have hardly reached bottom in where that leads.

Any government which does not, at every point, maintain a posture of promoting the morality of egalitarian democracy will always, slowly or quickly, devolve into amoral inequality and, with time, lose democracy. And, as even that Founder who was, clearly, most reluctant to mention God in such a context, Jefferson found it impossible to articulate the basic truth that is the only logical foundation of egalitarian democracy and as American democracy has first evolved and then unwound, those God-endowed rights cannot be found any other way.   Without that the other essential formula of American democracy, Lincoln's extending from that of Jefferson, government of the People, by the People, and for the People will not long endure.  That is as dependent on the endowment with equal rights as Jefferson's. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Why Elizabeth Warren Is My Favorite Democratic Candidate

"I’ve done 57 media avails and 131 interviews, taking over 1,100 questions from press just since January. Fox News is welcome to come to my events just like any other outlet. But a Fox News town hall adds money to the hate-for-profit machine. To which I say: hard pass."

Elizabeth Warren

I Love This Guy, His Commentary Is Frequently As True For The US As It Is For The UK

This is about as complete a presentation of the dangers of the libertarian treatment of the media in the English speaking world as you're going to get.  I think if he wrote it out in a four-hundred page book it would come down to essentially the same thing.   I especially agree with him about the present day BBC which has become a disgrace to journalism through, among other things, the supposed journalists being so cosy with the politicians and others they're supposed to cover, one of the things that makes the corporate American media - including NPR and PBS probably as close to the BBC as we get - such a whore house.

Why The American Left Will Be A Religious Left Or It Will Fail

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

What would a secular paraphrase of that sentence look like?  

In what nonreligious terms is human equality self evident?  

I was not really expecting any of the atheists, secularists, materialists, true believers in scientism to answer the challenge I issued Sunday in reaction to one of them, I knew they couldn't.  If any of them would like to prove me wrong, I'm turning this into a continual challenge.  They will need to actually answer those questions to prove me wrong.  They will fail to answer them.

With that failure, the danger of those ideologies to any left based in egalitarian democracy is not only made clear, it will show that getting shut of them is a serious necessity.  Ideologies that can't produce the equal endowment of rights will inevitably destroy any genuine left which has any chance of gaining power and maintaining it on a democratic basis. 

The failure to find human rights in a form that is effectively strong and potent so as to become real in real human relationships, in socieities and in nations within those non-religious framings of what is asserted by each to comprise something called "reality" has been apparent since the advent of each of them in human culture.  Without the overtly religious expression of them  resorted to by Thomas Jefferson, a man who so many atheists have falsely claimed as one of their own since at least the late 19th century, it is impossible to make those claims. 

And if their failure to do that in terms of discovering such rights as democracy is absolutely dependent on, their inability to discover the universal equality which real egalitarian democracy depends on is even more obvious.  Even the most dedicated practitioner of the debunking of rights for other people they desire to harm or deprive of rights or ignore in inegalitarian misery are quite able to discover something like rights for themselves.  Especially their rights to exploit and to harm other people as comprises so much of the mindset of Republican-fascists in the United States in 2019 and their supporters among voters.  

Democracy, in every credible modern meaning of that word is either an expression of universal equality or it is bound to fall through its internal contradictions, as did the fabled Athenian democracy which so many have so stupidly taken as anything but a cautionary lesson in the dangers of aristocratic, ethnic, economic and gender privilege for those who favor democracy today.*  

That is what makes those two questions posed in the post below a long postponed question for the American left which is set in opposition to Republican-fascism, since so many whose framing insists on atheism, secularism, materialism, scientism or any other ideological framing claim to constitute some more reliable form of that left.  Such people, in my experience of them and in reading their own words, are quite able to allow their preferred ideological framing to override any mere emotional or habitual dedication they have to a universal dedication to rights.  

I don't think they are unique in that, it is certainly what is universally true on the right, even among those whose ideological framing is not atheistic or may even be secularist, indeed, it's clear that for a large percentage of those who self-identify as "evangelical" that they are as dedicated to the most extreme forms of inequality and the denial of rights as the most ardent of Stalinists and Maoists are, as the dedicated materialists** must be if the questions of rights and the devotee to Darwinian natural selection must be because they hold inequality is the very engine of evolutionary progress, equality imposed by human choice, the very subtance of democracy being transformed by that scientific ideology into an engine of dysgenicis - read the literature if you don't believe me, you'll find it even in the post-WWII period.  Years ago, here and on other blogs I wrote for I pointed out the irony that the most fundamentalists of Darwinian deniers of equality in the United States were to be found among those who most ardently denied the fact of evolution, who held the name of Charles Darwin in greatest disdain. 

* And it must be an equal right to a decent life.  It cannot be the universal equality of misery and inhumanity that the devotees of aristocratically imposed austerity and Marxism both enact.  That degraded equality will always guarantee that elites will destroy any such equality. Just about every Marxist hell of the twentieth century named themselves as "democratic republics" even as all of them were lorded over by strong men gangsters at the head of an elite of crooks.  What would seem to be almost the universal evolution of countries that had been so damaged by communism is into ultra-capitalist gangster regimes, not the placid stateless paradises that Marx hallucinated, should also be a warning of where scientistic materialism leads.   

**  Materialists, from my reading of them, including those who claim the title "free thinkers" are compelled by their ideology and their need to destroy any concept that implies a non-material consciousness 

Monday, May 13, 2019

I Think We Deserve An Answer To These Questions From Atheists, Secularists, Devotees of Materialism and Scientism Who Pretend To Uphold Liberalism

Atheists, secularists, anti-Christians, those who mock the wider Jewish-monotheistic traditions are always demanding that believers answer questions defending this or that aspect and consequence of their beliefs. holding them up against some purported real, reality so as to debunk that belief.  

Thinking about the passage from Marilynne Robinson that I posted yesterday afternoon, I think it contains two questions that any supposedly liberal*leftist even lukewarm quasi-democratic progressive atheist or secularist or anti-Christian needs to answer.  

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

What would a secular paraphrase of that sentence look like?  

In what nonreligious terms is human equality self evident?  

I think it's high time for those alleged leftists and liberals and progressives among the atheists and secularists to explain to us where in their ideological framing they find even the possibility of the equal rights contained in Jefferson's clearly essential foundation of egalitarian democracy.  Not to mention the assertion of other rights not listed by Jefferson as Marilynne Robinson discussed (see the last post below).  

The inability of science or mathematics or any other philosophy or ideology in any form to account for the reality of those rights in a potent enough strength to reform human character and so to make equal rights real in society, in the law and in politics, disqualifies any  ideological inclination from being genuinely democratic.  I would go so far as to say that any ideology or philosophy that can't find equal rights will at best carry the potential for their undermining as, in fact, materialism frequently does. 

If some atheist, secularist, devotee of philosophical materialism and scientism would like to identify how you assert the real reality of those in a way which might seem strong enough to produce that effect, they should do so, right now. 

I'm leaving this at the top of the page until at least Wednesday and will post any response to that challenge which seriously tries to answer it, no matter from who it comes.  If there is no answer given, I think we can confidently assert that, as Marilynne Robinson said, that" lacking the terms of religion, essential things cannot be said." In this case the unsayable thing is the potently effective assertion of the equality of all people and, through that inability,  atheism, secularism, scientism are all proven to be inadequate for that purpose. 

I think if American liberals had demanded an answer to those questions from Marxists, Darwinists**, etc. in the late 19th century a lot of the worst of the discrediting mistakes of liberals in the 20th century up till now could have been avoided and things may have been better, today.  Those anti-democratic ideologies should never have been mistaken for something compatible with American style liberalism when they were poison to it.  

Put it up or admit your philosophy can't find them. 

*  By "liberal" I mean a liberal in the traditional, American sense of the word, not the free market libertarian British-Continental meaning of it.   The American liberal tradition which asserts the real equal rights of all people and, as much as any other right, the right to an adequate life to ensure a decent life came out of a quiet serious reading of the Mosaic Law, the Prophets and the Gospels.  The British-Contiental meaning of the word comes out of 18th century libertarianism and was entirely compatible, with inequality, which it produced and even slavery. 

**  Meaning those who assert that Darwin's concept of natural selection is the ruling force of life, including of human life, NOT AS COMMONLY MISTAKEN, A BELIEF IN THE FACT OF EVOLUTION, which is not inherently incompatible with Jefferson's assertion.  Natural selection is incompatible with democracy, a statement made by Darwin's foremost German disciple, Ernst Haeckel,  which Darwin, as well as such of his colleagues as Thomas Huxley and Francis Galton, seem to have accepted.  I have never read any rejection of it from any of them. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"In what nonreligious terms is human equality self evident?" - Hate Mail

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."   This is the kind of thinking I would like to recommend.  We don't know the nature of Jefferson's religious beliefs, or doubts, or disbeliefs.  He seems to have been as original in this respect as in many others.  But we do know he had recourse to the language and assumptions of Judeo-Christianity to articulate a vision of human nature.  Each person is divinely created and given rights as a gift from God.  And since these rights are given to him by God, he can never be deprived of them without defying divine intent.  Jefferson has used Scripture to assert a particular form of human exceptionalism, one that anchors our nature, that is to say our dignity, in the reality outside the world of circumstance.  It is no doubt true that he was using language that would have been familiar and authoritative in that time and place.  And maybe political calculation led him to an assertion that was greater and richer than he could have made in the absence of calculation.  But it seems fair to assume that if he could have articulated the ideas as or more effectively in other terms, he would have done so. 

What would a secular paraphrase of that sentence look like?  In what nonreligious terms is human equality self evident?   As animals, some of us are smarter or stronger than others, as Jefferson was entirely in a position to know.  What would be the nonreligious equivalent for the assertion that individual rights are sacrosanct in every case?  Every civilization, including this one, has always been able to reason its way out of ignoring or denying the most minimal of claims to justice in any form that deserves the name.  The temptation is always present and powerful because the rationalizations are always ready to hand.  One group is congenitally inferior, another is alien or shiftless, or they are enemies of the people or of the state. Yet others are carriers of intellectual or spiritual contagion.  Jeffereson makes the human person sacred, once by creation and again by endowment, and thereby sets individual rights outside the reach of rationalization.

My point is that lacking the terms of religion, essential things cannot be said.  Jefferson's words acknowledge an essential mystery in human nature and circumstance.  He does this by evoking the old faith that God knows us in ways we cannot know ourselves, and that he values us in ways we cannot value ourselves or one another because our intuition of the sacred is so radically limited.  It is not surprising that the leader of a revolution taking place on the edge of a little-known continent, a an clearly intent on helping to create a new order of things would attempt an anthropology that would not preclude any good course history might take.  Jefferson says that we are endowed with "certain" rights, and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are "among these."  He does not claim to offer an exhaustive list.  Indeed he draws attention to the possibility that other "unalienable" rights might be added to it.  And he gives us tht potent phrase "the pursuit of happiness."  We are to seek our well-being as we define our well-being and determine for ourselves the means by which it might be achieved. 

That epochal sentence is a profound acknowledgment of the fact that we don't know what we are.  If Jefferson could see our world, he would surely feel confirmed in the intuition that led him to couch his anthropology in such open language.  Granting the evils of our time, we must also grant the evils of his and the cultural constraints that so notoriously limited his vision.  Yet, brilliantly, he factors that sense of historical and human limitation into a compressed, essential statement of human circumstance, making a strength and a principle of liberation of his and our radically imperfect understanding.

Marilynne Robinson: The Human Spirit And The Good Society

That was so well and beautifully said that I didn't want to break into it to comment.

So many places to start, perhaps first to point out to "the evils of his  [Jefferson's times] and the cultural constraints that so notoriously limited his vision."  His not only holding Black People in slavery but, also, raping and fathering children with a teenaged girl he held in slavery, his increasing both the number of those People he held in slavery and the intensity of scientific increase in their production, all of it dependent on and practiced through violence and the threat of violence.  All slavery is a product of violence and the absolute opposite of the acknowledgement of the self-evident truths that the young Thomas Jefferson wrote as the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.   It could have been that that document is the best thing about Jefferson, that year the best one he lived.  And there were certainly other issues.

His articulation of the ideas he set out couldn't have been more impressive, especially under the analysis that Marilynne Robinson subjected it to and expanded in her recommendation of it. I have never read any better such articulation of the meaning of Jefferson's words, the only possible source of those ideas and their expansive potential that is, as well, dependent on his attribution of those human gifts to God.   

As Marilynne Robinson asks, what would a secular, a scientific, a materialistic assertion of that idea look like?   I am entirely certain that there could be no such secular, scientific, materialistic, atheistic articulation of that idea that wouldn't collapse into a rubble of internal contradiction.  I am entirely certain that what she said is absolutely if not exactly self-evidently true, "lacking the terms of religion, essential things cannot be said."

And I think that her point that, "every civilization, including this one, has always been able to reason its way out of ignoring or denying the most minimal of claims to justice in any form that deserves the name," and, though she didn't state it, Thomas Jefferson's own biography proves that he certainly ignored his own claims, even if he didn't formally deny them, proves that anything short of a framing in which those truths are holdable to be "self-evident" even axiomatic will be a frame too weak to hold them up in practice.  I absolutely have come to the conclusion that nothing short of a holding of divine will supporting them will work in any human society, under any humanly administered government.

I do think that the extent to which Americans, those who are devoted or casual secluarists or those who pretend to believe in Judeo-Christianity ignore or deny the moral obligation to respect those rights as a co-equal, concurrent endowment of God to all people will be the extent to which they give in to those tendencies.  Jefferson doing so, with his words out there for all the world to see and to judge his actions by, proves that without that, even someone as able to articulate those claims as Jefferson was will give in to the temptation to ignore them.

I think that the ebb and flow of religious activity of the type that increases or decreases the explicitly religious foundation necessary for that truth to become not only self-evident but effecttively potent in real life can explain a lot about our national devotion to making those rights and their equal endowment real.  The post-WWII period in the United States saw a sharp increase in religious activity among the liberal Protestant churches and there was, as well, a liberalizing movement in the Catholic religion that, I have come to believe, accounts for the liberalism of the 1960s.  I believe our present day anti-democratic malaise is a product of that being made to be considered gauche among elites and that attitude trickling down the way to those who don't want to seem so.  That de-religionizing has happened at the same time when the Mammonism of the TV hallelujah peddlers and radio ranters replaced (or were replaced in) mainline Protestantism and the neo-integralist backlash against Vatican II took hold of the Catholic Church in the John Paul II, Benedict XVI decades.  That so many of the overt fascists on the courts are the product of that reactionary Catholic movement certainly accounts for their attacks on racial, gender and economic equality, even as those two arch-conservative popes issued encyclicals calling for the very things they attacked.  

I am even prepared to think that the Supreme Court, ACLU driven campaign to de-religionize the public sphere has had more than a little to do with it.  On top of that was their campaign to permit the media to tell any lie they chose to with impunity, and to bear false witness against those who were inconvenient or unprofitable to them, including the proponents of equality and equal justice and, especially, economic justice.  Such liberals as supported that may well count as the biggest suckers in the history of the United States because under that regime of secular deregulated media things have gone to hell.  It certainly wasn't the Gospel or The Law or the Prophets who brought us here, it wasn't Jefferson's greatest sentence of all of those he wrote which is entirely dependent on God to justify American democracy. 

We Have To Know Where Our Real Danger Lies And Our Failure In Encouraging It As Well As Failing To Discourage It

Donald Trump as a fat 73-year-old white man of demonstrably unhealthy habits, who showed and shows signs of serious drug use, a decadent slob, will not likely live to see the age of 80.  Even if he did establish himself as the dictator he clearly longs to be, a status that leads him to admire Kim Jong Un, a fat 35 year old Korean gangster king to the point of homophile adoration, he will soon die and go to hell as he so richly deserves.  He's hardly the first to occupy the Oval Office you can say that about, Ronald Reagan certainly falls in that category, as did Nixon before him.  Our danger didn't end with their administrations, or in the case of Trump and Bush II, their regimes*

Even as, demonstrably, the worst president in living memory, if not in history, Trump is a short term disaster. What is a far longer term problem for any hopes for a restoration of such democracy as we once held are the durable stalwarts of Trump's cult, the roughly third to two-fifths of the population who have been acculturated to accepting fascist rule by a gangster king, who are prepared to pretend to believe any lie that is told, any contradiction of previously believed lies that Trump told that serve later ends of Trump, denying even the video recordings of Trump telling lies at his rallies.   That level of willful gulling is a pathology that, if the topic weren't politics, would probably be considered grounds for declaring an individual incompetent.  But we're talking about a dangerously large percentage of the American People, many of them who are affluent people with professions and educational credentials, some of them up to and exceeding the doctoral level, many of them in positions of influence and power.  

This is no ordinary movie, fiction rallying of an ignorant, regionally despised rabble of "white trash" this is far more serious because it's not fiction, it's real.  And it's a very real product of the corporate media that invented the Donald Trump that they believe in, the tabloid papers, the tabloid TV shows, the talk shows,  the "reality shows" that he was on, most of all.  

Mark Twain once said that if Sir Walter Scott's pulp fiction hadn't been so universally popular in the antebellum South it is quite likely the Civil War would not have been fought, if The Apprentice had not been produced, if he had not been the entertainingly outrageous buffoon invited on talk TV and hate-talk radio, it is very unlikely that Donald Trump would be governing an ever worsening fascist-gangster regime that is destroying democracy.  

I was curious to compare that one-third to two-fifths figure that the polls give as Donald Trump's stalwart supporters to some previous depraved percentage of the population and the obvious one was the figures of those who supported slavery at the start of the previous Constitutionally guaranteed disaster of our history, the Civil War.   I haven't been able to find anything that looks like a reliable figure on the support of slavery in the non-slave states for that era.  If I don't really trust modern opinion polling, opinion polling then was not even done.  I did find this passage from a Slate article debunking myths of American slavery, based on the census of 1860, done immediately before the Confederate treason and the Civil War.

According to the 1860 census, taken just before the Civil War, more than 32 percent of white families in the soon-to-be Confederate states owned slaves. Of course, this is an average, and different states had different levels of slaveholding. In Arkansas, just 20 percent of families owned slaves; in South Carolina, it was 46 percent; in Mississippi, it was 49 percent.

By most measures, this isn’t “small”—it’s roughly the same percentage of Americans who, today, hold a college degree. The large majority of slaveholding families were small farmers and not the major planters who dominate our image of “slavery.”

Those figures are certainly in the same range as the percentage who support Donald Trump and I have absolutely no doubt, whatsoever, that his racism is a huge part of why they have continued to support him.  I don't know but am inclined to disbelieve that that percentage of the population whose thinking and whose overt expression of their thinking has stood as a constant. I think that the comfort of Americans, both in 1860 and 2019 in both harboring racist thinking and expressing it overtly and in political terms has risen as the informational environment that people live in has encouraged that.  I doubt that in 1976, when Americans voted for Jimmy Carter that the percentage inclined towards today's overt racism was nearly as large.  I suspect the very brief period when TV producers and others in the media to suppress overtly racist content that ended in the later 1970s had a very real effect in producing the presidency of Jimmy Carter but which, by 1980 was encouraged by Ronald Reagan beginning his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi using some of the crudest of racist tropes and images such as "strapping bucks" on welfare.  That got worse as the likes of Andrew Dice Clay made overt racism and sexism cool and the academic and "civil rights" industry campainged against "political correctness". 

But even at the height of the cultural, political and legal discouragement of racism, there was a significant percentage of the population which had no intention or inclination to give it up.  When we're talking about the change that made the election of a Trump or a Reagan possible, we're talking about  percentages of the population which supplement that constant hard-core of racism.  The media is and has been the largest component of both the temporary suppression of that margin of victory for racism-fascism and the oligarchic gangsters who harness it, and in nourishing the weakness of those who can be so-swayed.  

That constant part of the population who are predisposed to hard-core racism and the gangster-fascism that is inseparable from it, are part of a culture of racism, not at all unlike the one described  in the Slate article. 

Typically, this fact is used to suggest that the Civil War was not about slavery. If so few Southerners owned slaves, goes the argument, then the war had to be about something else (namely, the sanctity of states’ rights). But, as historian Ira Berlin writes, the slave South was a slave society, not just a society with slaves. Slavery was at the foundation of economic and social relations, and slave-ownership was aspirational—a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Whites who couldn’t afford slaves wanted them in the same way that, today, most Americans want to own a home.

Bottom line: Slavery was the basis of white supremacy, which united all whites in a racist hierarchy. “[T]he existing relation between the two races in the South,” argued South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun in 1837, “forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions.” Many whites couldn’t imagine Southern society without slavery. And when it was threatened, those whites—whether they owned slaves or not—took up arms to defend their “way of life.”

The work of defeating that permanent danger to American democracy is in changing the opinions of those who might give them a winning majority, and in the putrid Electoral College, undemocratically constituted Senate saddled United States, that sometimes means us convincing a large enough percentage of such people in many different states, to abandon that culture.  The American media, bent on getting the most viewers and listeners and owned by such oligarchs will always be inclined to work against that.  Democrats, and by that I mean anyone who favors democracy over gangster government have to abandon our own cultural predilections that have enabled that situation to happen. 

*  "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"   I really do believe that is the only safe basis on which to have any government, unfortunately the Founders, slave-owners and gangsters, didn't really believe it though it was how they got poor people to fight their revolution.  

No one should honor the illegitimate regimes of Bush II and Trump, gained through crooked legal gimmicks, the help of foreign despots, the corrupt influence of billionaire oligarchs, lies told by the corporate media,  the Brooks-brothers-Supreme Court putsch of 2000,  with the name "administration".  No election stolen by illegitimate means, including by the Electoral College, should be considered legitimate or called as such. 

The Third Difficulty

It was one of those eerie moments you sometimes get when I read Hans Kung's "Third difficulty" a couple of weeks ago because it so closely matched something that I'd thought of during Holy week, reading the Passion-Resurrection parts of the Gospels, that none of them actually depicted the actual event, the event held to be the most significant event in human history, the thing which guarantees the rest of the Gospels and, as Christian theology developed, the entirety of salvation history.  I agree with what Kung said, that that uniform resistance to the temptation to depict the actual Resurrection across all four Gospels is a significant fact that counts in the favor of the Gospel writers veracity.  It was reading this passage after Easter that led me to decide to post this series going through Kung's critical thinking on the subject.  

Before starting I will point out that contrary to a lot of perhaps Perry Mason and TV crime show learned assumptions, what is presented as eye-witness reporting constitutes evidence.  You can choose to believe or choose to not believe it or find it credible but it does constitute evidence, especially if it has been subjected to critical treatment.  More on that after the passage.

Third difficulty.  There is no direct evidence of a resurrection.  There is no one in the whole New Testament who claims to have been a witness of the resurrection.  The resurrection is nowhere described.  The only exception is the unauthentic (apocryphal) Gospel of Peter which appeared about A. D. 150 and at the end gives an account of the resurrection in a naive, dramatic fashion with the aid of legendary details;  these - like so many apocryphal elements - entered into the Church's Easter texts,  Easter celebrations, Easter hymns, Easter sermons, Easter pictures, and were thus mingled in a variety of ways with popular belief about Easter.  Even such unique masterpieces of art as Grunewald's unsurpassed depiction of the resurrection in the Isenheim altar can be misleading in this respect. 

The reverse side.  The very reserve of the New Testament Gospels and letters in regard to the resurrection creates trust.  The resurrection is neither depicted nor described.  The interest in exaggeration and the craving for documentation, which are characteristic of the Apocrypha, make the latter incredible.  The New Testament Easter documents are not meant to be testimonies for the resurrection but testimonies to the raised and risen Jesus

Clearly and sensibly, Hans Kung read the testimony of the Gospel of Peter and, subjecting it to critical analysis, he does not choose to believe the evidence presented in it.  In fact he uses that false witness to make his argument that the choice of the Gospel writers to NOT do what you would expect someone inventing a fiction to do, to describe the actual central event in their tale to give weight to their accounts.  If no one saw what happened in the tomb, as you would expect there to be no one in the sealed tomb, there would be no witnesses to the event, instead they give accounts of encounters with the risen Jesus.  

Given what Kung also points out about what the Resurrection is held to be by those witnesses, not the mere restoration of a human being to ordinary human life which would, finally, end in the death of that ordinary though extraordinary human, the Resurrection of Jesus is held to be a different state of existence, physical and more than physical - if my understanding of him is correct - perhaps something like I've heard a number of current Episcopalians assert in regard to their conception of what the final resurrection of the dead will result in.  

So all of the snark from would-be people of fashion informed by zombie movies and popular fiction, the kind of used and impoverished imagination apparently as much imagination as such people of fashion are capable of, entirely misses the mark if you take what Paul and the Gospel authors say as the definitive accounts of the risen Jesus.  

That view of resurrection and The Resurrection is generally a part of a larger conception of the Creation and the final end of the created universe that seems to be one of the most important ways of understanding the entire New Testament, perhaps including Revelation, the authenticity of which I'm not entirely sold on, to tell you the truth.  Though current events, the world going to hell more literally than any other point in human history, makes my skepticism of it lessen.  Its credibility rises in ways that the Marxist eschaton becomes less credible with every passing day.