Saturday, April 12, 2014

James Scott Ragtime Oriole Played by Scott Kirby

It's unusual to hear James Scott's music played like this, it's usually played as if it were a steeple chase.  It gains a lot played at this tempo.

Odetta You Don't Know My Mind

Why The Leftist Media Must Stop Disappearing The Religious Left

I had  just gotten done answering a twit at Mother Jones who declared that "religion poison's everything" when I found a link to this story in my e-mail.

Tutu: Climate Crisis Demands 'Anti-Apartheid-Style Boycott' of Fossil Fuel Industry  Nobel laureate says 'people of conscience' must break ties with oil and gas companies that are destroying planet's future

Which led to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's piece in The Guardian.

Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects.

This is why, no matter where you live, it is appalling that the US is debating whether to approve a massive pipeline transporting 830,000 barrels of the world's dirtiest oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Producing and transporting this quantity of oil, via the Keystone XL pipeline, could increase Canada's carbon emissions by over 30%.

If the negative impacts of the pipeline would affect only Canada and the US, we could say good luck to them. But it will affect the whole world, our shared world, the only world we have. We don't have much time.

This week in Berlin, scientists and public representatives have been weighing up radical options for curbing emissions contained in the third report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The bottom line is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps. The horse may not have bolted, but it's well on its way through the stable door.

Who can stop it? Well, we can, you and I. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so. It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden "to till it and keep it". To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.

Which is one of only scores and hundreds of similar examples of moral clarity issuing forth from those minds "poisoned by religion".  The reason more people aren't aware of them is that they are purposely and consciously disappeared by the American media and corporate media in other places.

That it is The Guardian that carried this piece is significant, if they cared to, various media outlets of the left could be filled with similar calls from religious figures exhorting people to do the right thing.  That they don't choose to is a different form of disappearing the religious left for reasons other than that they disagree on these issues.   The fact is, they don't disagree on these issues and the fact is that, as the enormously positive reaction to Pope Francis shows,  the world is starving for that kind of religious advocacy for justice, for the environment.   The secular advocacy for that has not been notably successful and there is no reason to expect it will succeed any more in the future than it has now.   I have noted before that religion provides people with a reason to perform some measure of self-sacrifice for reasons of morality that atheism doesn't provide.

The question is if the leftist media will service the ideological hatred of the anti-religious fragment of the left or if it will serve the agenda of the left by strengthening the most important force available to the left helping to strengthen and channel the moral convictions of the majority of people on the left into effective action.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gary Burton Joy Spring

I figure that he was about 17 when he made this recording.  How many of us can say that we had invented an entirely new instrumental technique in service to jazz music by that age?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mary Lou Williams Aires from the Zodiac Suite

..... the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,

I was thinking of doing a music post with an April theme and that passage went through my head.   I don't know anyone who made melody on that theme better than my favorite.

The Rwandan Genocide Was Brought To You By The Media And We Have That Kind of a Media As Well

The radio told people to go to work and everyone knew that meant get your machete and kill Tutsis.

I have been listening to the 20 year after reports about the Rwandan Genocide on NPR's morning edition and either I missed something or they, with all their resources and twenty years to get it right did.  I have heard no mention of how it was the radio, primarily, but the media in general that caused the genocide in 1994.  

Here's what as close a witness to the genocide as possible, Jackie Northam - she had a machete held to her throat by some drunken militiaman - said this morning:

And then there was the Hutu man I talked with several months after the genocide ended. Fat and middle-aged, he was in jail for beating to death more than a dozen of his Tutsi neighbors.

He told me they were people he'd been friends with and regularly shared dinner with. He was a godfather to one of the children he killed. He couldn't explain why; he said didn't know what came over him.

For me, this sums up the Rwanda genocide. It's like a madness took over the country, turning otherwise normal, reasonable, loving people into monsters. It took me a long time afterward to try to make sense of what I had witnessed.

But I finally concluded there was no use trying. I believe mankind, at its base, is good. What happened in Rwanda 20 years ago was an aberration.

In the few parts of our free press who aren't ignoring the anniversary, I have yet to hear or see any mention of the central role that the media played in inciting the "madness" that saw long time friends across ethnic lines, murder the people and families who they had lived next to for years.   But there isn't any possible room for doubt about that,  the media was what made the murders kill their neighbors.

Anti-Tutsi articles and graphic cartoons began appearing in the Kangura newspaper from around 1990. 
In June 1993 a new radio station called Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) began broadcasting in Rwanda… 

The station was rowdy and used street language - there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. Sometimes the announcers were drunk. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.” (Linda Melvern)

Its stated aim was “to create harmonious development in Rwandese society” but nothing could have been further from the truth. It was set up and financed by Hutu extremists to prepare the people of Rwanda for genocide by demonising the Tutsi and encouraging hate and violence.

And its danger was noted by people in Rwanda, even as the murder it was inciting, instructing murderers to slaughter their neighbors and telling them where to find people who were hiding.   In one of the most shameful parts of the grotesquely irresponsible inaction by the United States, our ambassador pretended that the instructions to commit genocide were open to interpretation.

Some people - including the Belgian ambassador and staff of several aid agencies - recognised the danger and asked for international help in shutting down the broadcasts, but it was impossible to persuade western diplomats to take it seriously. They dismissed the station as a joke. 

David Rawson, the US ambassador, said that its euphemisms were open to interpretation. The US, he said, believed in freedom of speech.

Many Rwandans, however, knew the threat. ‘I listened to RTLMC’, said a survivor, ‘because if you were mentioned over the airways, you were sure to be carted off a short time later by the interahamwe. You knew you had to change your address at once.” 

That there was no ambiguity in what was said is apparent in the transcripts of broadcasts recorded then.   And the use of the radio was apparent from the earliest days of the genocide.  Here is what General Romeo Dallaire, one of the Westerners with the least to be ashamed of said.  

In fact, on the second day of the genocide when the interim government of the extremists was established, they raised that [incident]. They said, "You U.N. guys are supporting the RPF. Look what you did on the 18th [of] November and the botched investigation." It was one of those creeping components that was well used throughout the propaganda exercise by the extremists and their radio station to try to discredit us as we kept moving ahead.

The refusal of the American government to take out the radio towers instructing the murderers in how to kill more people, using freedom of speech or freedom of the press as their excuse for inaction,  has to stand along side the refusal to bomb rail lines being used to transport people to the death camps as an unforgivable atrocity by omission.   

The gods that the secular society of the United States has made of "speech" and "press,"  putting it above even the lives of people as they are being threatened with murder and even as they are being murdered is a serious issue that it is forbidden to address.   No one needed to invent something like the stupid "Godwin's law" to stifle discussion of it because those who should be talking about it are inhibited by something far more effective, the slogans contained in the tragically poetic, insufficiently nuanced writing of the first several amendments of the Constitution and the idiotic absolutism that was adopted by liberals at the behest of the commercial media and the ideological libertarians who place those idols before the lessons of the past two centuries under that constitution. 

The First Amendment pieties that the American government used to avoid doing what was morally imperative in Rwanda twenty years ago this month, are to liberals what the Second Amendment is for the right.  And their use of both works better for them than it does for egalitarian democracy and liberal values.  The signs of that are all around us, with the arming of the far right in the United States, armed to the teeth, and even as their political arm talks openly of "second amendment remedies" as a legitimate means of overturning civil government, as the gun industry, acting hand in glove with them, whip up the paranoia and belief that their lives and rights are under attack, adding the fatal ingredient of self-righteous, self-protection as an excuse to use the enormous personal arsenal that they sold the paranoids.   

A dangerous number of those people have armed themselves with automatic weapons, of the kind that our government could not bring itself to ban even after the slaughter of young children at Sandy Hook and the Sandy Hooks that mount across America every week.   I am telling you right up front that they haven't amassed that arsenal without the intention of using it and we are their targets as certainly as the Tutsis were of the owners of the radio stations that urged the murderers on.   And it's a lot easier to kill lots of people with automatic rifles.   The American right also owns the hate-talk radio that saturates the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Only we aren't brave enough to do something about it even with the lessons of Rwanda there to be read. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nina Simone Love Me or Leave Me

Update:  Rags and Old Iron

Planting Season Isn't Leaving Me Much Time For Research

Bela Bartok, talking about his folklore research once said he was intrigued about a curse popular among the impoverished peasants,  "May you have to buy your bread."  He, living in cities all of his life, didn't understand it at first but eventually he realized that it was, in effect, a wish that someones crops fail so they would have to buy food, maybe starving or going into debt since money was rare to absent in the lives of the peasants.   It's something I can understand.  As someone who made the oh, so practical decision to pursue a career in music, I've long been dependent on gardening to provide a good part of my food.   The cold spring has made it a late start as it is and there are still problems with the arm I broke.  So, I'm reduced to posting an exchange I have had recently.   This is part of the comment thread from Jeffrey J. Kripal's excellent article at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

People who have read much of what I've written won't find a lot of new material in the exchange but, who knows, maybe there are some new readers here.   I hope to have a proper post on Jeffrey Kripal's excellent article later.

    • Seriously, who really knows exactly what Twain dreamed and what happened? Did Twain himself? Fact: Every time a memory is recalled it is recreated and it changes. Fact: At times of stress and emotional activity memories are even more unreliable. The evidence is in on this. What more, Twain was great at making believable stuff up and you don't have to know you are deceiving yourself to make stuff up.
      You can take this kind of story as the primary data on the nature of the universe. Alternately, you could look to the independently verifiable discoveries of physics, biology, evolution and psychology as primary data. Evolutionary theory suggests that making up believable, interesting stories that are tuned the proclivities of your fellow humans is highly adaptive. We are biased towards good stories.
      This is why gut feeling and anecdotes don't cut it in science. That's why, for example, they spent billions building the Large Hadron Collider rather than asking a great author for an opinion.

    Who knows when a materialist researcher asks the subject of an experiment what they were experiencing when the fMRI was lighting up, if they are giving an honest or accurate account of their experience? You don't get to dismiss peoples' reports of their experience when it isn't convenient for your ideology and then claim that reports of experience that you can turn into a story that supports your ideology are more trustworthy.
    You are absolutely wrong if you think that psychology isn't absolutely dependent on reports of subjective experience because it is saturated with those, it solicits those constantly. And there is nothing about the reports of subjective experience that it uses that makes it any more credible than any other reports of subjective experience. The only difference is in the pretense that, because it is called science, that that somehow purifies the reports it uses. The same is true for any part of biology that attempts to deal with behavior and thoughts. It is even worse when the subject is ethology because, then, it is a researcher, trained in the conventions and habits of his specialty, who is replacing reports by the subject of their thoughts, something only they can possibly know, with his own, creative narrative of what that is.
    Considering Twain's initial reluctance to share his experience under his own name, because he knew it would get attacked by 19th century version of today's pseudo-skeptics and his persistence in asserting its truth in the face of that, I'd say his story is credible in a way that the casual reports of people in fMRI based experiments haven't been tested as being.
    When it is that kind of experience, science isn't the method of evaluating it that will produce anything. It is too subjective, too complex and too one-off for science to do anything with. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have persuasive value of exactly the same kind that science is ultimately based in. Ultimately everything, even logic, mathematics and science, is dependent on persuasion and not absolute proof. People have a right to make their own judgement as to what they find persuasive, and even if you want to protest that is a right, it's what's going to happen anyway. Which is the reason that most people reject a materialist explanation of their experience of the world. They find that is wider than what materialism can account for.

    I don't dismiss people's subjective reports, I take them with a grain of salt. If a million people have 10 dreams in a night there's very likely going to be some that correspond remarkably well with the future, isn't there?
    Alternative 1: Einsteins General Relativity - a hypothesis that has a precise mathematical formulation, has been subject to stringent testing, has produced a number of very accurate predictions that have worked out, is basic to so much physics, and, makes a clear statement about how information can flow in spacetime - is WRONG.
    Alternative 2: Twain has some kind of dream involving his brother's death, possibly due to the fact that he noticed that the work he was doing was dangerous and he was worrying about it. A short time later, Twain's brother was actually killed and some aspects of the death process may - this is now untestable - have been remarkably similar to what actually happened or what Twain thought happened after he had been over it in his head numerous times. BTW: You might notice that intelligent creative people regularly strongly believe things that are wrong, and must be wrong because different intelligent creative people believe contradictory things, for example: you and I. Humans have unreliable memories and and a capacity to "storify" random events into juicy narratives.
    If you know much about physics and the amount of careful testing that is required to accept it, you wouldn't lightly drop it on the basis of a bunch emotionally resonant stories and fluffy ideas. (Ideas that when thought through actually produce more questions than they answer, like, "how does this work?" and, "why doesn't everyone do this all the time? it would be totally useful" and so on.) I'm very clear about which side of that particular line I come down on, and why. YMMV.
    (And, yes, General Relativity does have some problems, but, as I understand them, they are not the kind that makes your acceptance of Twain's dream divination any more reasonable at all. If you can come up with a theory of spacetime that matches the breadth and reliability of relativity, plus allows and explains predetermination, you will get not just a Noble prize and a very superior kind of celebrity, but likely a sainthood as well. Unfortunately, it probably won't resolve what happened in Twain's case because the old prosaic explanation works pretty well too.)

    Anthony_McCarthy  jim birch • 2 days ago
    Your choosing Einstein's work to make your argument doesn't work, it is a false comparison. Other than Einstein's report that his thinking was aided by an experience of imagining riding on a light beam, it has little to nothing to do with reports of subjective experience as you condemned in your first comment. My point is that materialists, always the first to condemn reports of subjective experience when they don't like the resulting conclusions drawn from it, have no problem with calling the collection of reports of subjective experience "science" when the results are something they can use in promoting their ideology. The profession of so many prominent "skeptics", Ray Hyamn, James Alcock, Barry Byerstein, Richard Weismann,... psychology, has continuously collected self-reports of subjective experience - often in a very leading and unreliable manner - and presented their analysis and conclusions of it as if it were hard science. If the standards they demand for the generally far more carefully conducted experiments psi researchers were applied to psychological research, their "science" would evaporate.

    Literally every alleged science that deals with human and animal behavior and thinking is based on subjective reports of experience by human subjects asked to report on what their experience is or was, or subjective reports from scientists of what they are seeing - pretending that those scientists don't have a professional and personal bias as they make those observations. All of science, really, is supposed to be based in reporting subjective experience, observation. If what is observed is simple and accurate measurement of it is possible, as with the objects that physics deals with, the reliability of those observations is high. If it is something vague and complex and open to interpretation, behavior, it is far less reliably accurate. When it is of something that is invisible, the experience of what happens in peoples' minds, it is of little to no reliability of the kind that you can get in physics. When it is guessing what animals and people in the lost past where thinking, that is only likely to tell you about what the scientist making up those narratives was thinking about it.

    There are other problems with your comparison but I've already made too many comments on this thread.

    Sorry, you don't understand science. All the raw data of science is subjective, just like any other field of human endeavour. Like everyone else, scientists can be deluded. Like everyone else they are prone to fashion, group think, cool stories, biases, error, fluffy thinking. Plenty of scientists have believed in spooky things. They are human and it's an evolved human propensity.
    It's a matter of how you treat this subjectivity problem. I won't go through the philosophy of science - there's plenty of stuff you can read - but some of the key points are testability, independent verification, internal consistency and compatibility with other established theory. These are why science works and we are not still back in the dark ages of basic impulses and fanciful stories.
    You might also like to find out a little more about Relativity and time before you casually claim that someone's subjective experience would trump the physicist's theory of time that is experimentally rock solid. I would want a hell of a lot lot more solid evidence before I'd take a attractively spooky personal narrative over highly confirmed basic physics. Where is the real evidence? How about someone who can consistently predict dice throws at better than chance? Can you point to someone who can predict lottery numbers and has grown rich doing so? I think not.
    Your derogatory term "materialist" is just a cover for fluffy thinking. If there is a non-material world out there, demonstrate it a reliable, intersubjective way. Guess what? Come up with anything more that one-off anecdotes and there would immediate rush of "materialist" scientists out there studying it. Until then, your grandiose theorizing remains in the realm of human fictional narrative, nothing more.
    * * * *
    If you are genuinely interesting in advancing your understanding of the world you might try this question: Just supposing the universe is a set material events, what needs explaining and what are those explanations? (Clue: traditional explanations are highly delusional, if sticky.) Supposing subjectivity was just evolved self-aware brain activity, how might this work and how does that change things? (Clue: A lot.) Would it be easy to for humans to understand? (No.) Is our capacity for spooky stories consistent with evolution, ie, adaptive? (Yes.)

    Anthony_McCarthy  jim birch • a day ago
    "but some of the key points are testability, independent verification, internal consistency and compatibility with other established theory"

    You're seriously out of date. Such scientists as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Sean Carroll, and others have removed the need for those old fashioned standards of science. Dawkins creates "behaviors" unobserved and unevidenced extending back into the paleolithic era and back far into the far remoter past. He has no evidence that such "behaviors" were ever engaged in but he doesn't stop there. He claims that those "behaviors" were the instructions of genes to the organisms that expressed them (he created the genes, by the way, making his words flesh, literally) and that the "behaviors" become "adaptations" because they constitute a reproductive advantage through natural selection ("natural selection" is a magic word in the mouths of "scientists" such as Dawkins, with power to create marvelous things out of nothing). Only, not only the "behaviors" are entirely unevidenced, neither are the animals that "did" them are imaginary, the adaptive stories are imaginary, the offspring are imaginary and the unstated statistics of how many offspring organisms performing Dawkins' "behaviors" left as opposed to the members of the species which didn't perform them did, is made up. Dawkins seems to regularly forget that for natural selection to be relevant to a "behavior" then there would have to be members of the species that didn't perform them, otherwise nothing would being selected. I analyzed his most famous creation myth and showed that it is also mathematically impossible and contradicts some of the most classic holdings of the very Darwinism that Dawkins uses in a most question begging manner.


    Which gets us to Hawking and his demand that physics and cosmology be permitted to entirely jettison its subject matter, the physical world and physical law, but just about all of the rest of those things you list:

    "We seem to be at a critical point in the history of science, in which we must alter our conception of goals and of what makes a physical theory acceptable. It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle. The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes." [The Grand Design]

    In short, he, his co-author Mlodinow and every physicist, cosmologist and scientist who let that extraordinary through unchallenged, want to be able to write science-fiction in equations and call it science.

    They were preceeded by others accepted as scientists such as Freud and many others working in the alleged behavioral, cognitive and neurological sciences, the very sciences that depend entirely on the subjective reports of subjects. Reviewing the history of those "sciences" how theories, holdings, entire schools rise up, are held to be science for a number of years or even decades only to topple into the boneyard of discontinued science (all except for the professionals who still see clients for "treatment" at three figures an hour). I have seen statistics that psychiatrists survey as the most atheistic of professions, which doesn't speak well for the relationship between materialism and scientific integrity.

    I have read a lot of science, including psychology, sociology, etc. and I have read a lot of the peer-reviewed literature of psi research and the psi research is, in most cases, entirely better conducted, more rigorous in its control of experiments, more modest in its claimed effects and more rigorously critiqued than any part of psychology. As the eminent statistician Jessica Utts has said, it has surpassed the requirements of science as required of other areas of research. Its un-acceptance is based on distortions of what that research is and the results it shows, when it isn't based in outright lies about it. The standards demanded by the professional pseudo-skeptics and their fans are not applied to any other science. At their worst, those who assert that James Randi is qualified to judge the validity of science, there is no lab that couldn't have its work debunked by his tactics and the license to lie given him by the media, by the pseudo-skeptics and by scientists, including critics of this article such a Jerry Coyne. That is also part of the insertion of ideological materialism directly into science which is as much a culture of scientists as it is any supposed standards of conducting research and analysis. Science exists nowhere in the known universe except in the minds and practices of scientists.

    I think I understand enough of science to have a more realistic picture of it than you seem to.

    Oh dear. Psi research. I get it now. To quote Wikipedia: "Most scientists regard parapsychology as pseudoscience. Parapsychology has been criticised for continuing investigation despite not having demonstrated conclusive evidence of psychic abilities in more than a century of research."
    Get it: no conclusive evidence.
    As far as I can see you are fighting some useless and dreary tribal war that I don't want to be involved in.
    Write a reply if you like but I won't read it. Have a spooky day.

    Anthony_McCarthy  jim birch • 3 hours ago
    1. Wikipedia is the target of an open effort to bias its articles on exactly that area by Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipeidia


    There have been efforts to correct obviously incorrect assertions in articles which would fall under their announced area of activity only to have those edits reversed and the editors blocked. Including information about scientists which I would think falls well into the category of slander. The people in charge of Wikipedia have been notified and they refuse to take action.

    2. And it's not only in this area in which Wikipedia's own establishment has shown it is not trustworthy, there are even more troubling problems with some Wikipedias in other languages, notably the Croatian Wikipedia which is under the control of neo-Nazis and some such as the Kazakh Wikipedia, is under the control of the dictator's government.

    3. Since you claim to be a scientist, what of your work or the work you use in your professional life would you want to be evaluated on the basis of a Wikipedia article instead of reading the reviewed research and evaluating it on that basis and by reading replications and other confirmation of it? I don't believe you would ever accept your own standards for judging psi research for topics you agree with. And that is a violation of the methodological requirement that the standard of criticism has to be controlled, so as to avoid the kind of bias that you and the pseudo-skeptics have made acceptable, substituting your bias for objective evaluation. The pseudo-skeptics demand a right to practice a double standard favoring their ideological beliefs. That is a recipe for destroying the integrity of science.
     • Edit• Reply•Share › 
    Anthony_McCarthy  Anthony_McCarthy • a day ago
    Rereading this, I can report that the worst, most shoddily conducted and most obviously useless psi research conduced in conjunction with an actual university, resulting in the granting of a PhD was that done by a grad student who would later become a star of pseudo-skepticism, Susan Blackmore. She attributed her entry into pseudo-skepticism to her disappointment at the results of her research. But her research was trash, I believe even she has admitted it was inadequately conducted, so it couldn't have shown anything. You can contrast that frequently cited (by pseudo-skeptics) junk with the psi research conducted by real scientists in line with scientifically rigorous requirements. Only I doubt pseudo-skeptics are really interested in a disinterested analysis of research or they'd have already done that.

    Update:   I just noticed that the links in this don't work.  I'll try to fix that later.  Until then, I've decided to put one of them in my bloglist, Dean Radin's Entangled Minds.  You can read he is an excellent experimentalist and analyst by reading his archive.  You will find his post that I linked to in my comments at the top of his blog right now.   

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    Jack Teagarden Mis'ry And The Blues


    No Idea Why I Wanted To Hear This Tonight

    Ivy Anderson vocal

    I love this song.


    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Question and Answer And Disbelief

    Why did the atheist cross the road?

    To get to the other side.  I knew you wouldn't believe it.

    Orlando di Lasso (Roland Lassus) Susanna And The Elders

    Today's Catholic liturgy reads the story from the Book of Daniel, Susanna and the Elders, about how two corrupt judges falsely accused an innocent woman of adultery after she refused to have sex with them despite their blackmail that would lead to her death.   As with the story of Abraham and Issac, the story ended in her exoneration as a young Daniel insisted on asking the two accusers, separately, under what kind of tree they caught her and a young man who they said had gotten away from them.   So they ended up being put to death for perjury in a capital case.  While I'm entirely opposed to the death penalty, I do think if it's going to be done that police, prosecutors, judges, etc. who put people to death by false testimony or withholding of exonerating evidence should have a mandatory death penalty.  I know that will never be done and it shows why the death penalty should be abolished because it is an open opportunity for the state to falsely kill innocent people.

    The gospel for today is the famous passage from the gospel according to John in which Jesus goes even farther, getting off a woman who was actually guilty of adultery by shaming her accusers and would-be executioners with their own sins, though there was no accusation that they were lying about her adultery.   The lesson I take from that is that none of us is qualified to kill someone, even someone guilty as charged.  You can see why that lesson might be good news for people without power and why it would be most unwelcomed news for people with the ability to exercise power.  I doubt that any of the conservatives on the Supreme Court who make a show of being religious would welcome having to consider their qualifications to kill people, which they do as certainly as the crowds who waited, no doubt with a similar thrill of power and self-righteousness, eagerly to kill Susanna and the nameless woman who Jesus, acting as defense attorney, got off with a far lighter reprimand than courts give to anyone but the rich and famous under our supposedly enlightened justice system.

    I would think that the questionable fashion of Catholic lawyers, judges and Supreme Court judges making a show of piety at a "Red Mass" on the feast day of St. Thomas More (I believe started by the ultra-conservative St. Thomas More society) would be better held on this day when the focus is on the victims of the legal system, both the innocent and falsely accused and the guilty and disproportionately punished and those destroyed by "justice" as meted out by fallible and less than fully qualified human beings.   Seeing the likes of Antonin Scalia preening for a camera as he comes out of the Red Mass turns my stomach.

    Update:  Score   Orlando di Lasso, what an incredible genius he was.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    Ah, Spring, Finally Monteverdi Zefiro Torna

    L'arppegietta Ensemble

    Mixed Feelings: Will Atheists Hate Ehrenreich's Memoir?

    This morning, I happened across an odd sight, several of what I will call the asshole type of blog atheists mocking another atheist who I would not describe that way, Barbara Ehrenreich.   It seems that in her early 70s, Ehrenreich has written a book about her life and experience, a memoir.

    "It seems very self-involved," she says by phone from her home in Arlington, Va. "I have anxiety about it." That anxiety is heightened at the moment because her new book, "Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything" (Twelve: 240 pp., $26), is as personal a piece of writing as she has ever done, built around a journal from her teenage years that traces both a spiritual quest and a youthful mystical experience, each having to do with "an impression of intention" — the sense that there is some underlying shape or meaning to the universe.

    I haven't read the book and probably won't, but if that description is accurate,  Ehrenreich has cunningly pushed a lot of hot buttons, writing a book that is likely to catch fire in the near apostasy of one of the more prominent atheists with more credibility than most of the big names and little minds who regularly get asked on Fresh Air to peddle bilge.   Ehrenreich is a skilled and experienced journalist who has had best sellers and she is cagey enough to know the sales potential of doing that.   She's no one's fool on that count.

    Of course she has not given up her atheism but she, as a PhD scientist as well as an ideological and, at times, obnoxious atheist, certainly realizes anything that smacks of teleology, of purposefulness in the universe will piss off a lot of atheists just as her frontier bar room savant style atheism will piss off the pious.   AND DON'T FORGET THAT EYE CATCHING TITLE.

    "[W]hat do you do with something like this — an experience so anomalous, so disconnected from the normal life you share with other people," Ehrenreich asks in the foreword to the book, "that you can't even figure out how to talk about it?" Such a conundrum drives "Living With a Wild God," which is part personal history and part spiritual inquiry.

    That is hardly the only thing that earned her the tongue lashing from those atheist assholes.  She is clearly out to provoke them as much as she has religious people in the past:

    And yet, she says simply of the revelation or epiphany she underwent as a high school student, "I couldn't put it out of my life." In the book, she explains in more detail: "[T]he world flamed into life. How else to describe it? There were no visions, no prophetic voices or visits by totemic animals, just this blazing everywhere. Something poured into me and I poured out into it. This was not the passive beatific merger with 'the All,' as promised by the Eastern mystics. It was a furious encounter with a living substance that was coming at me through all things at once, and one reason for the terrible wordlessness of the experience is that you cannot observe fire really closely without becoming part of it."
    If such an account seems more than a little amorphous — how can it not? — that's one of the difficulties Ehrenreich faced in "Living With a Wild God." "How do you write about something you can't communicate?" she asks, voice rising as if to echo the impossibility of the task. "I felt both uplifted and shattered. A few months later, I concluded it had been a bout of mental illness. It was the only rational explanation. But I kept asking questions in the journal: 'How do I get back to that level of awareness?' Reality seemed so mundane and deadly afterward."

    A famous atheist pushing woo, no?  And transcendent experience?  Worrying that her experience was a sign of mental illness?  I would note, that is a price for being that style of atheist when you have an experience that doesn't go along with the ideological program, religious folks would have an easier time rolling with it.

    The frequently encountered atheist canard that religious people merely believe what they were taught to believe by their religious parents is never applied by atheists to the atheism of  birthright atheists.  That Ehrenreich is one has been something she has crowed about for decades.

    Part of the disconnect, Ehrenreich suggests, involved her atheism, which remains a proud piece of her heritage. "I was born to atheism," she writes, "and raised in it, by people who had derived their own atheism from a proud tradition of working-class rejection of authority in all its forms, whether vested in bosses or priests, gods or demons. This is what defined my people: We did not believe, and what this meant, when I started on my path of metaphysical questioning, was that there were no ready answers at hand."

    I would expect that one of the signs of a free thinking teenage and adult is the questioning of your parents and grandparents conventions and beliefs but atheists don't seem to do that as often as religious people seem to.

    While I greatly admired several of Ehrenreich's books, especially her most well know, Nickled and Dimed (which, ironically, I would guess is largely read by people in church book groups, these days)  my feelings about her and her writing are mixed.  I admire her journalism, I don't find her especially honest outside of it. And I think she can be entirely blind to the faults of her atheist ideology, she greatly admired the entirely unadmirable Madelyn Murray O'Hair, mistaking that abusive, vicious, money grubbing, degenerate, capitalist huckster for some kind of leftist worthy of admiration.   I think perhaps that is something that was reinforced by the myopic understanding of science that scientists often have.

    Such a distinction is important, for "Living With a Wild God" is not a book of faith. Educated as a scientist, trained as a reporter, Ehrenreich does not believe in what she cannot see. As such, she turns to philosophy, chemistry and physics; she traces the influence of her home life, which was dysfunctional (both parents were alcoholics) but encouraged asking questions and thinking for oneself.

    In order to believe in large parts of chemistry, physics, biology, philosophy, you have to believe in what you can't see, no one has seen gravity, no one understands it, no one has seen a molecular bond.  Not to mention the invisibility of much of philosophy.   If that's your claim, that you only believe what you can see,  if that's what you practice, you can't believe much of science that is obviously true.  But materialists are really no better at looking, hard, at what it is they claim and what it is they believe.  And they refuse to acknowledge how much of what they hold is really the result of their conformity to their ideology and its coercive restrictions. I am pretty sure Ehrenreich knows those are there and I have every faith that Ehrenreich,  the journalist, would seem to deny that atheism is thoroughly dogmatic while she is making use of the dogmatism that the blog boys angrily accusing her of violating,  accusing her of believing in "woo",  of breaking the thought code and ban on expressing such ideas, breaking them in order to generate a hot topic, best seller.   Have I said that she's no fool when it comes to selling a book?