Monday, January 31, 2011

Food Poisoning is No Joke!

The ordeal began some three hours after breakfast yesterday with a steady, building nausea and a feeling that nothing good was forthcoming. Even as I looked at the pizza, beer and hot wings I’d just purchased for the afternoon’s Pro Bowl game, I realized that consuming any of it might be wishful thinking. By 2 p.m. it turned out to be so as the non-stop vomiting began. Everything I’d eaten for the past 12 hours resurrected itself in a hurling mess and went on for another eight hours.

I couldn’t hold down any liquids, though I understood the biggest threat from any food poisoning is dehydration. But each drink – even a small one – whether of Gatorade (to replace electrolytes), or plain water or Camomille tea, met the same outcome: splattered into the toilet bowl.

By 10:30 when I turned in I was desperate as I didn’t want to be up all night losing even more fluids. For some reason I reached for an Echinacea-based (sugar free) cough lozenge to get rid of the taste of residual vomit if nothing else. I slowly sucked on it and found the nausea gradually abated and by 2 a.m.had nearly disappeared. For good measure I took another lozenge around 4.30 a.m. and was able to wake up and take liquids (mainly chicken broth) with no problem. Did the Echinacea lozenge really work? A glance at the University of Maryland Alternative Medicine website brought up this information:

Results of archeological digs indicate that Native Americans may have used echinacea for more than 400 years to treat infections and wounds and as a general "cure-all." Throughout history people have used echinacea to treat scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria. Although this herb was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, its use began to decline in the United States after the introduction of antibiotics. Echinacea preparations became increasingly popular in Germany throughout the 20th century. In fact, most of the scientific research on echinacea has been conducted in Germany.

Today, people use echinacea to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat (pharyngitis), cough, and fever. Many herbalists also recommend echinacea to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.”

This made sense and pretty well convinced me that taking the echinacea lozenges actually had worked and the vomiting bout had not merely run its course .

Since severe food poisoning generally runs at least 24 hours (often three days), and my overt symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea) stopped after barely 10 hrs. though residual effects continued another day. I concluded there was a causal connection and rather more preferable than taking two tablespoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of crushed garlic – which I don’t think my stomach would have appreciated!

In the meantime, the lesson learned is to toss out anything in the fridge not used in within 1 week (in this case it was a brine-based, not mayo –based, German potato salad that I'd eaten the night before).

Waste not, want not” – maybe, but much better: “Waste – rather than get wasted by eating it

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Clueless Economic Imbecile!

Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) replied to Obama's State of the Union speech and couldn't even get right the difference between the causes of the Greek and Irish financial crises.

As we behold the hypocritical Tea Baggers and their enablers bellowing to reduce the federal deficit and offering prescriptions, we need to stand back and query their qualifications to assert anything on economics. Two blogs ago I showed why Michelle Bachmann's Tea Party prescription is bollocks, now I will do the same in respect of Pau Ryan's response to Obama's State of the Union address.

As TV-viewers may recall, Ryan occupied the slot that Bobby Jindahl did last time. So we were entertained by another smug little clown with pretensions to knowledge and insight who doesn't know diddly. In an earlier blog:

I noted Ryan's quote on the failure to cut deficits, in an issue of The Financial Times even before he took center stage in his response to the SOTU:

"We will have the riots in the streets. We will have the defaults. We will have all of those ugliness problems, like those French kids lobbing Molotov cocktails at cars, burning down schools because the French retirement age was moved from 60 to 62"

But what amazes me is how little thought these screech monkeys invest in what they're really asking - for example, when they demand the retirement age be raised to 70 for Americans. Have they really processed the economic costs? I doubt it!

If indeed the average senior is forced to postpone full retirement for an additional four years, that will add (conservatively) some 12 million oldsters competing with the young for jobs! If even now newly minted college grads can't get jobs, how do Ryan and his cronies think they will competing with 12 million folks over 65-66?

And make no mistake, as more of the high profile - better benefit jobs are farmed out(to India, China), all the ones left (several notches lower in pay and benefits) will be fought over by an increasing number of people - and this is even if Americans are smart enough to stop reproducing! (As of now, an additional 125,000 jobs is needed each month merely to keep pace with expanding population - and we're still in a reproductive "down trend"!)

Given this, it makes far more sense to keep the system as it is, let those seniors who want to retire do so with full Social Security benefits at 66- and thereby ensure less competition for a dwindling number of decent (non-agriculture, minimum wage) jobs among the young. In addition, those seniors thereby retired will be spending money thereby priming and pumping the economy - using it for groceries, eating out (tips for wait staff), mortgages, and maybe even travel. The young dude meanwhile won't have to compete with Gramps for that new Best Buy job.

Ryan's other screwed up notion, offering a "voucher" for Medicare services, is something tailor made to fuel massive social unrest if ever passed. And by that I mean unrest that probably rivals what we behold in Cairo and Alexandria right now. Does anyone in the Repuke party really want those scenes played out on TV for the next hobnob event of the Overclass elites (and their 20-odd theological enablers) at Davos?

Nope, didn't think so!

Another howler made by Ryan, in his actual SOTU reply went:

"Just take a look at what's happening to Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn't act soon enough and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefits cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody".

Here, Ryan displays his ignorance by conflating the source causes of the Greek, Irish and UK examples.

The Greek style of debt crisis I already dealt with in a previous blog last year:

Therein, I observed:

"in the case of the sovereign debt crisis, nations – not banks- are on the verge of default and are seeing their national bond ratings plummet because their debts are too high in relation to their gross domestic product (GDP). The most recent victim was Greece, which finally received a $140 billion (U.S.) bailout (in the form of loans mainly through the eurozone and IMF) but at horrific cost. The Greeks now face massive public cuts – with layoffs to their public sector and the slicing of public pensions along with increased retirement ages. Many public projects also stand to be cancelled, wages cut, and taxes raised. No wonder they’re rioting in the streets."

The Greek situation developed precisely because it allowed its public sector to grow overly much at the expense of its private. By three months before the bond ratings changes, nearly 1 of every 2 jobs in Greece was somewhere in the official government bureacracy compared with barely 1 in 25 jobs in the U.S. Moreover, enabling anything to be done - say even to obtain a birth certificate copy, or pave a new road or lay a pipe - often required paybacks and favors to the bureacrats!

Worse, its pension scheme was way too generous, allowing retiring Greeks (most at age 55 or less) to receive nearly 60% of their original pay.

The whole Greek system was one waiting for collapse and the degraded bond ratings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's provided it.

The Irish case was 180 degrees different! Indeed, one of the top conservative think tanks, The Heritage Foundation, ranked Ireland (in its Index of Economic Freedom) highest of any Weestern nation based on its low taxation, low public spending regime. This was actually merited, given that for the 2006-07 fiscal year Ireland had one of the lowest debt levels in the developed world while running a budget surplus.

So what happened?

Well, the Irish let their banks get out of control and run wild. Using their own credit default swaps these banks created a mammoth property bubble which could no more be sustained than the U.S. subprime mortgage bubble. The proveribial shit hit the fan, the deficit soared and public debt exploded because the Irish government was saddled with bank debts. It was either take over those bank debts or let the banks fail - not an option when one recalls bank failures led to the Great Depression.

So the cause of Ireland's austerity was totally different from Greece's.

Then there was the UK under its conservative (Tory) Prime Minister, David Cameron. A few months ago Cameron promised spending cuts because the UK was "living too high off the hog" and he also promised the markets would rejoice and all would be well with increased economic growth as a result.

How wrong he was! Britain actually found itself further ensnared in a debt crisis. According to Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf ('A Warning Shot for the British Experiment', Jan. 28, p. 13) there was "no robust recovery that justified the government's rapid retrenchment" and "output fell by nearly 0.5% from the previous quarter".

In other words, applying the same sort of formula for spending cuts advocated for the U.S. (by Republicans) the UK has dug itself further into an economic hole- which can even possibly usher in a new recession.

Is THIS what Ryan wants?

The fact this imbecile cannot even discriminate between the causes of the assorted debt crises shows he's not competent enough to offer economic advice or admonitions, to anyone.

Americans need to take this fool with a grain of salt, just like Michelle Bachman and her Tea Bagger morons!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ho-Hum! Another Demon Possession flick....

Generally, I like the horror genre in films. My horror dvd collection probably extends to nearly 300 flicks, most of them to do with zombies, vampires. Though I do have two of the better exorcist films. (Exorcist, and Exorcist II). The 360 degree swivelling head of Linda Blair in the first was especially good.

But the joy of horror goes out when films are done merely for the sake of sending a subliminal or hidden message, and that applies to "The Rite". The intent here is merely to provide more fulsome twaddle to the fundagelical -conservative notion that the ultimate protection against the demonic hordes inheres in a faith and morality bestowed by conventional, bible-banging religions.
In 'The Rite' - though he's portrayed as an RC padre, Anthony Hopkins comes over more as a kind of Protestant Elmer Gantry type. How did this connection (apart from Pastor Mikey) ever get started?

We can probably trace it back to Martin Luther. In his ‘Teufelsbucher’ or Devils’ Books, written from 1545- 1600, he laid out the whole warp and woof of how the Devil involved himself in human affairs.

According to this “first Protestant", the Devil was involved in everything that made life worth living: dressing up, food, party going, dancing to poetry, drama, writing. The Devil was behind virtually all the vices and manifestations of the world. Especially sex! The other bottom line made clear is that Satan was not to be trifled with or taken lightly. Woe to those (like atheists) who did, and all that!

This theme wended its way throughout Protestantism and into its modern era. By the 19th century it had been brought to a pinnacle, where perhaps the earliest Evangelical in the United States, Josiah Strong, made Satanist beliefs and ritual part and parcel of a normal “Christian” cult. He probably also was the one who paved the way for latter day, evangelical "exorcisms" (and if you've ever seen one, like on 20-20, you will recall how funny they are, with the supposed possessed putting on an act that almost rivals Hopkins' staid acting in 'The Rite')

As Strong put it: “If you don’t have Satan as part of your theology, then you have nothing to control the people with. No fear.”

Thus, evangelical Christianity probably originated in the U.S. ca. 1885 with the publication of the Rev. Josiah Strong's book: Our Country - Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis. Interestingly, this wasn't long after the "Rapture" idiocy got started in Scotland...after which the tow memes met, and delivered the present incarnation of Armageddonish-Antichrist baloney: the multi-million dollar business from the "Left Behind" series bunkum.

Basically, Strong invoked “survival of the fittest” thinking to pave the way for a new variant of Christianity which would no longer tolerate weak “appeasement”, conciliation or common cause. He wanted no part of other religions, except to use them to show how inferior they were compared to his version.

His basic tenet was simple: If you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ you were not only saved in spirit, but your earthly life was better because God was with you. Those who became homeless, or were constrained in perpetual poverty or disease were victims of their unbelief, or Satan. In this way, he and his ilk (like modern day conservatives and Tea Baggers) could wash their hands of the poor.

Other religions and followers became “Satanic expressions” and their own rituals were stigmatized and rejected. The Catholic Church, for example, became the “whore of Babylon” and the Pope the Antichrist. Thus did the extreme evangelicals set up barriers against even their fellow Christians.

In his chapter, ‘The Fundamentalist Fringe’ (The Devil, p. 227), Peter Stanford recites how Josiah Strong’s perverted Devil- obsessed form of Christianity has come into our relatively modern times. He uses the words of the Rev. Billy Graham as an example:

"The Devil is real and that he is wielding unholy power and influence, there can be no doubt. Switch on your radio and television if you feel you need concrete evidence

Of course, in the last part, he is merely regurgitating the extreme demon paranoia marked by Luther in his Teufelsbucher.

But why the obsession? Why the need for Satan, devils or Hell if Christianity is so powerful? And why condemn other Christians to it? Why the need? Wouldn't they be better off getting their act together to gang up on infidels?

Seems stupid to me!

Philosopher Alan Watts probably put it best in his ‘Wisdom of Uncertainty’ , that some extreme religions and sects can’t feel complete or justified unless they're assured their competitors are all destroyed. Only then can they relish their own existence.

Similarly, it isn’t enough that they win paradise, all others have to burn and be destroyed. Such is the way demonic influence has actually crept into their consciousness. They don't need films like 'The Rite' to achieve it - though they foist such fare on the rest of us.

Alas, harsh and terrible reality in real human history has trumped the mythical tortures dreamed up by these psychos. The Holocaust of Nazi Germany in which 6 million plus were gassed then incinerated, and then again at Hiroshima and Nagasaki - when nearly a hundred thousand were incinerated in atomic flames hotter than the hottest Hell any bible pounder (including Josiah Strong) ever conceived.

All of those real historical images render the phantasmagorias of "Hell" laughable.

Once the searing images of real life human -created hells spread, the power, and impact (not to mention fear) of the supernatural Hell lost its hold. It became more like a kiddie’s tale or something to tell the mentally feeble. As Lauran Paine has put it (op. cit. p. 173)

In a world where problems are vast and nihilistic in nature- where the great majority of people know little beyond suffering and deprivation, a concept of Hell is likely to be a source of dread than a source of irony"

Surely, the most extreme Christian Fundies must be intelligent enough to recognize this at some level. So why do they keep on trying to perform the social terrorist act of “witnessing’ in the hope of scaring people who can no longer be scared to the salvation altar?

There is only one plausible reason: Satan and Hell are now so much a part of the theology of these extremists, that in some sense they now idolize Hell and Satan more than they profess to love their God.

In a very real sense, they have become the modern Satanists.

Just like those who make and promote movies like 'The Rite'!

Lies, Damned Lies and Deficits!

It should not be surprising that since Obama's State of the Union address, in which he refused to kowtow to the radical Tea Party deficit hypocrites, the lies have spread far and wide. Most of these concern which president "has created the most massive deficit in the history of the U.S."- and this is being egregiously pinned on Obama.

The lying and disinformation began with Michelle Bachman's Tea Party reply (to Obama's State of the Union address) telecast over CNN, in which she proclaimed:

"Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our president, unemployment was 7.8%, and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion. We wondered whether the president would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies.

Unfortunately, the president's strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money. The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8%. Not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months, the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4%. It hasn't been lower for 20 straight months. While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs."

Unfortunately, Bachmann, like most Tea Party morons, has no remote grasp of economics...period. She does deserve credit for noting that before Obama entered office the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. And since it stood at $4 trillion when Clinton left office (he had actually created budget surpluses his last five years), this means that George W. Bush amassed a total debt in that interim of:

$10. 6 trillion - $4 trillion = $6.6 trillion

Where did that debt come from? We can easily add it up here, line by line for the slow of wit, or math deficient:

$1.7 trillion (2001 tax cuts)

$500 billion (2oo2 capital gains tax cuts)

$1.9 trillion ("Operation Iraqi Freedom" - including $300 billion to pull equipment out)

$600 billion (2001- 2008 period of Afghanistan invasion-occupation)

$1. 4 trillion (2003 Medicare Modernization Act, most of which goes to Big Pharma, as per a 2003 Goldman-Sachs analysis)

$500 billion (2008 bailout for Banks, Lehman Bros., AIG etc.)

Thus, we see in fact that the president who has racked up the largest cumulative deficits is none other than that 'born again' bozo, Gee-dumbya Bush.

Now enter Obama. His deficit tally is as follows:

$858 billion (2009 - for a combined stimulus package with tax cuts, plus project money)

$600 billion (2009-2010 costs of Afghan occupation- most of this due to finally entering the costs legitimately rather than having them "off the books" as was done under Geo. W. Bush)

$225 billion (2010 - additional stimulus package for food stamps and extension of unemployment benefits)

$30 billion (2010-2011: total cost of implementing Obama health care reform law. Most costs will not kick in until 2014)

$960 billion (2010: Cost of the Bush tax cuts extension tax package and extension of unemployment benefits passed by Democrats AND Republicans in December)

This marks a total of just under $2.7 trillion.

Why is Obama's deficit estimate inflated? Because the Repukes and Teepees like to add mandatory costs of government operation (due to passive automatic expenditures via government entitlements payments) to his deficit creation when this was never done under Gee Dubya. Thus, the debt ceiling will indeed reach $14.3 trillion by late March - not due to active legislation passed by Obama or the Dems - but because of the passive and automatic increases of paying out Social Security checks for 43 million beneficiaries, as well as their Medicare benefits, plus a further supplement of at last $170 billion for Afghanistan. Oh, and one half the amounts for Medicaid recipients in the states!

All of this is white washed by the liars who want to make Obama out the bad guy!

What would Reeps and their liars have us or Obama do? Stop payment of all Social Security checks forthwith so the elderly have to dive into dumpsters for kibble and tossed out cat food? Stop paying Medicare benefits so elderly just crawl into ditches and die from their pneumonias, flus, heart attacks or whatnot? WHAT is it these lying fuckers want? Well, to see their inflation of Obama's deficit contributions, that's exactly what they want! To pull the plug on seniors, and maybe even totally pull out of Afghanistan too. (Though turkeys like Florida TEE PEE Reep-Rep Marco Rubio insist they want us there until the last dog is hung, or at least the last Taliban.)

Now, what of Bachmann's other reckless claims? Such as "the president's strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money"?

In fact, most serious economists (not the cartoonish supply siders of the Right) agree that the Stimulus achieved its most important mission in preventing another Great Depression. This perception is based on the correct insight that the demand side of the economy had gone kaput. No one was spending, not the private sector, not the consumer and not the banks (who were overladen with credit default swaps from the subprime mortgage crisis) and didn't even trust the equity of OTHER banks, i.e. in lending to them!

Thus, government became the spender of default. Without the Stimulus, no spending would pump a dime into the flailing economy, the banks would cease all credit issues - including for mortgages, student loans and businesses, and we'd have been in the grips of another 1931 world! The unemployment rate, which Bachmann bitches about being nearly 10% would be at least 15-17%.

But the problem with yahoos like her, and other teepee morons, is they never know what they don't know. They think, in their 200 cc craniums, that because the worst didn't happen, then what they beheld in reality was worse than the worst. They are idiots! They rank right up there with the anti-Kennedy idiots and media imbeciles who claim he "did next to nothing" when he literally spared us from nuclear war in October, 1962.

If Obama could be faulted for one thing in his Stimulus package, it was in going way too far over the line for tax cuts - which comprised nearly one-third of the total Stimulus, and weren't even obvious to most people (hence, little appreciation therefrom). This was because they were bungled into paychecks as opposed to being given in one lump sum payment. But in order to get the deal done at all, which required the vote of at least Repub - Olympia Snowe - he had to allow the tax cuts, while cutting back on the food stamps, never mind the latter would have delivered more bang for the borrowed buck!

Had the tax cuts been disallowed, and the food stamps increased in place, while spending projects also enhanced, we'd have seen a lowering of the unemployment to below 8%. I estimate, along with Nobel winning economist paul Krugman, that Obama needed to pump for at least $1.6 trillion in stimulus - minus any dampening tax cuts. Hence, his error was in not being bold enough.

It is a shame that instead of thanking Obama for sparing them the suffering and travails of another Depression, the Tea Party and its toxic demagogoues are more into tarring the first black president - which of course fully discloses their racism. All these critiques (including the insipid birther lies that he was really born in Kenya) are merely subterfuge tactics because actual racism is now frowned upon.

It is truly sad that we must perforce share this nation with a pack of howling screech monkey morons.

But having exposed their claptrap for what it is, we are then entitled to ignore them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Should Astrologers Be Allowed to Get Away with Horse Pockey?

The geometrical aspects for the planets defined. (From 'Astrology' by Hugh Arthur, 1979)

The interpetations of planetary "aspects" in relation to the zodiacal signs (from 'Astrology' by Hugh Arthur)

Well, in the wake of astronomy professor Parke Kunkle's recent exposure of astrology as fraudulent:

showing clearly all the astrological signs used for horoscopes are actually displaced by ~ 30 degrees (meaning a Cancer is really a Gemini, and a Leo is really a Cancer and a Virgo is really a Leo ) - all hell broke loose among the social network types crying and begging for clarification.

In the meantime, it seems assorted astrologers have come to the fore in the media and insisted, 'Oh please! The astronomers are just ignorant and got it all wrong! Of course, we've known this for over two thousand years!"

BULL SHIT! It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Bajan astrologer-ess ca. 1977, when I noted how the Earth's precession had actually altered the horological signs and shifted them by 30 degrees. She pegged my pre-occupation with zodiac signs as "out of step" and the zodiac wasn't not a matter of genuine signs at all, but the constellations (star patterns) associated with them! In her incredible view, the zodiacal constellations are shifted by the Earth's precession, but not the fundamental signs! These signs remain firmly anchored in the sky, immune to all Earth's motions, forever and ever! They always remain exactly where they are!


Even if one is generous enough to grant astrologers the benefit of the doubt on this, other serious problems arise. For example, Greek horological astrology is based on the entirely fallacious concept of a geocentric (Earth-centered) cosmos. In this view (of Ptolemy), the Earth was the center of the solar system and the Sun just another planet going round it! The very brightness of the Sun was like a kind of beacon which, when it appeared in a given sign at the time of birth, disclosed the nature of the person.

The modern crop of astrologer nutbags seem to be little changed from the ones I argued and debated in the 70s. Modern Western astrology, according to these whiz bangs, is based on the movement of the Sun and planets through the seasons, not even signs! In other words, the tropical zodiac is merely divided into 12 regions for "convenience" and "the stars themselves are irrelevant to the zodiac" - in the immortal words of astrologer Jeff Jawer.(Never mind the arrangement and star patterns were used to designated the original 12 signs which today are used for "convenience")

So the good news for devotees of this bunkum (mostly those who never completed one physics or astronomy course, like most fundies) is that the "sign" you were born under is still your sign, but the bad news is (according to the astrologers) it's not really a star sign - more a "planet sign" because the import trades on any given planet's apparition in the sign!

To fix ideas I show two graphics from the (1979) monograph 'Astrology' by High Arthur. The table shows each named "aspect" by angle and its name (e.g. "conjunction", etc.) and whether the putative "force" is weak, strong or moderate. The other graphic shows the geometric relations in terms of the planetary aspects. For example, in conjunction two planets, say Venus and Jupiter, essentially "line up" so the planets' principles combine in unity with each other.

By contrast, any two planets, say Mars and Venus, in a "square" aspect, will emit a discordant influence and result in frustration, imbalance and inner conflict. In other words, the planetary aspects determine the outcome of one's day or life or whatever.

The planet principles themselves antedate from ancient conceptions, mostly based on first impressions. For example, astrologers generally attribute a "maleficent influence" or prinicple to Mars. Its presence is associated with undefined aggression, hostility or some kind of impending confrontation or war. (Naturally, as its color is red!) Some astrologers have insisted that those born with Mars in their Sun sign are destined to become warriors, or soldiers. All these associations follow from the color. In truth, the color is not from blood at all but a chemical comprising most of soil of the planet: iron oxide, or rust. So in truth, Mars' color is not really "red" like blood, but rusty!

According to astrologer Rick Levine, given these planetary associations, "We could call it planetology instead of astrology but that would be stupid!"

Why, if it's closer to the truth? If indeed the stars are "irrelevant" then why persist in the use of a misnomer "ASTRO-logy"? It makes no sense! Worse, it's blatantly dishonest!

But of course changing the term might make a dent in their pocket books, because the substitution of a less well known title would mean fewer people recognizing it, spending time on its gibberish or what not.

In the end, all this tap dancing around terms, meanings and definitions shows me the astrologers are just as dishonest in their own way as the biblical authority fundies are in theirs. Neither admits that their preferred bag of tricks - bible or astrological charts - is essential humbug and not worth the paper written on. The astrologers won't admit that the altered zodiacal sign positions (from precession) totally eradicates any real meaning from their horoscopes - just like the fundies won't admit that the 1000+ contradictions in their good Book render it a fictional work at most.

Let us hope that eventually humans will grow up enough to no longer rely on either of these ridiculous crutches.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Danish Abortion Study Sets the Record Straight

So long as people are hostage to the anti-abortion lobby and zealots, they're likely to believe all manner of nonsense. One of the false memes that's been circulated is that when vulnerable women choose to abort they seriously risk their own mental health and may fall prey to serious depression or even suicide. Now, a new Danish study shows this is a load of ripe horse pockey.

The research, funded by grants from the Danish Medical Research Council and due to appear in today's New England Journal of Medicine, included 365, 550 teenagers and women who had a first time delivery or abortion between 1995 and 2007. None had a history of psychiatric problems requiring hospitalization.

Using assorted national registries, researchers were able to track the women's mental health counseling at hospitals or outpatient clinics before and after either an abortion or delivery.
Doing so, they compared the rates of mental health treatment among women before and after a first abortion. They found within the first year after an abortion, 15 per 1,000 women (or 1.5%) needed psychiatric counseling - or similar to the rate of those seeking help nine months before an abortion.

Meanwhile, the first time moms were found to have lower rates of mental problems overall, the proportion of mothers seeking mental help after giving birth was dramatically higher than the women choosing abortions. The rates of women needing mental counseling after giving birth was nearly 1.75 times greater than those needing it before. In other words, post-partum depression is much more serious an affliction than any depression resulting from having an abortion.

According to researcher Trine Munk-Olsen of Aarhus University:

"A woman should know that her risk of having a psychiatric episode is not increased after an abortion"

This is excellent news, and encouraging for those women considering abortion who are in a particular demographic risk group for serious mental problems if they have a child. According to the study, this risk group is more likely to be beset by serious economic difficulties and pre-existing emotional problems which will only be compounded on adding a child to their woes.

Lastly, let me make it clear that unlike his fundie counterparts, the atheist as a moral provisionalist, isn't absolute concerning abortion. Many of us tend to agree with the late Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan (April 22, 1990, PARADE) who showed a responsible middle ground in the abortion fracas is to bar all abortions in the last trimester - or around the time that fetal brain waves (and incipient consciousness) first manifest.

And certainly no moral provisionalist would ever countenance the monstrous atrocities perpetrated by Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia and taking scissors to infants already born!

Once more, to refresh readers' memories: "moral provisionalism" or what I would call "ethical incrementalism" can be defined thusly (Michael Shermer, The Science of Good and Evil, p. 168):

"Provisional ethics provides a reasonable middle ground between absolute and moral relative systems. Provisional moral principles are applicable to most people, for most circumstances, for most of the time - yet flexible enough to account for the wide diversity of human behavior"

As we see, moral provisionalism follows the principle of moderation and balance first taught by Aristotle. In this sense, it steers a sensible and sane midway tack between moral absolutism and moral relativism. It is one solution, perhaps the best, to the ongoing cultural war over abortion.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The "True Christian" - A Genuine Phrase or Malarkey?

"Hmmmmm....this note reads: 'No true human should solve a large Rubik's cube in more than 1 hour- are you a true human or not?"

Is there such a thing as a "true Christian"? What with over 400 Protestant sects alone in the U.S. of A. one is justified in asking! The reason is that not all can be "true" and certainly not "true Christians"! It is also very clear that each one, if you ask, will fully lay out its precepts and criteria by which to be adorned with the mantle of the "true Christianity".

But, personally, any time I hear or see the word "true" preceding any philosophy, political party, religion etc. my humbug and logical fallacy radar goes off. The reason? The use of the term almost certainly means the claimant will be committing the "No true Scotsman" logical fallacy. And I suspect that the most logical offenders will be the fundies who commit all the other logical fallacies in trying to defend their creed as the only true one, including resorting to: Argumentum ad Ignorantium (argument from ignorance), the Burden of proof fallacy, and the argument from authority. So add this one to the list!

It was humanist Philosopher Antony Flew, in his Thinking about Thinking, who first made people aware of the "No True Scotsman" Fallacy.

As he put it:

"Here we have Angus, a Glaswegian (inhabitant of Glasgow), who puts sugar on his porridge, and who is proposed as a counter-example to the claim “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge”.

Then the ‘No true Scotsman’ fallacy would run as follows:

(1) Angus puts sugar on his porridge.

(2) No (true) Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

(3) Therefore:Angus is not a (true) Scotsman.


(4) Therefore:Angus is not a counter-example to the claim that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

Thus the 'No true scotsman fallacy' is a way of reinterpreting evidence in order to prevent the refutation of one’s position. Proposed counter-examples to a theory are dismissed as irrelevant solely because they are counter-examples, but purportedly because they are not what the theory is about. The fallacy thereby entails discounting evidence that would refute a proposition, concluding that it hasn’t been falsified when in fact it has.

This fallacy is also a form of circular argument, with an existing belief being assumed to be true in order to dismiss any apparent counter-examples to it. The existing belief thus becomes unfalsifiable.


I. Maury Le Fontaine was born in Texas (Dallas), has a French name and enjoys eating escargot with his French wine and is therefore a counter example to the claim that no (true) Texan eats escargot and drinks French wine.

Then the ‘No true Scotsman’ fallacy applied here would run as follows:

(1) Maury Le Fontaine enjoys escargot and drinking French wine

(2) No (true) Texan enjoys escargot and drinking French wine.

(3) Therefore: Maury Le Fontaine is not a (true) Texan.


(4) Therefore: Maury Le Fontaine is not a counter-example to the claim that no (true) Texan enjoys escargot and drinking French wine.

II. Here we have FORMER evangelical and born again Bart D. Ehrman who is an evangelical no more. He is therefore a counter-example to the claim “No true Christian - especially one born again- would leave his faith”. Since Ehrman was indeed born again, and has since left that faith, and also rejects the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, then he qualifies as a counter example.

1) BUT Ehrman turned his back on evangelicalism and the inerrancy of the Bible

(2) No (true) Evangelical rejects the inerrancy of the Bible, or being born again.

(3) Therefore: Ehrman is not a (true) Christian.


(4) Therefore: Bart D. Ehrman is not a counter-example to the claim that no true Chrisitan rejects biblical inerrancy and being born again.

In some Christian groups, for example, there's an idea that faith is permanent, that once one becomes a (true) Christian one cannot fall away. Or if one does some unproven outside agent ("Satan") is blamed which can't be seen, and for which there isn't even circumstantial evidence.

Thus, people who appear to have faith but subsequently lose it, are written off using the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy: they didn’t really have faith, they weren’t true Christians. The claim that faith cannot be lost is thus preserved from refutation. Given such an approach, this claim is unfalsifiable, there is no possible refutation of it.

The sad and inescapable fact is that whenever we behold one using "true" anything, we may be 100% certain s/he is falling for the "No True Scotsman" fallacy!

Another 'Sputnik moment'? Hardly!

Rocket design I used to launch lizards, crickets and roaches (inserted into a cotton-lined payload section) to be part of the Rocket Age that swept the USA in the wake of Sputnik.

In his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama was mostly very fuzzy with the speechifying, only becoming exact and precise in a couple of places- including the necessity to not grant any further extensions of the Bush tax cuts.

The part that caught my attention was when he invoked the Russian satellite Sputnik - launched on October 4, 1957, in asserting "This is our generation's Sputnik moment" - in terms of a revival of American competitiveness. In this respect, he outlined initiatives in five areas: innovation; education; infrastructure; deficit reduction; and a more efficient federal bureaucracy (vowing to freeze federal spending for five years). He also pledged to increase the nation’s spending on research and development, as a share of the total economy, to the highest levels since John F. Kennedy was president, and vowed to prepare an additional 100,000 science and math teachers over the next 10 years.

For those who weren't alive at the time, Sputnik was a resounding event, and had the impact of a train collision on the American consciousness. As the attached graphic shows, Sputnik was a 184 lb. satellite that orbited the Earth every 96 minutes at an altitude of about 900 km (600 miles).

I was 11 at the time, and had much more interest earlier on that particular day (a Friday) in how my Milwaukee Braves would fare in Game 3 (the next day, Saturday) of the World Series against the New York Yankees - than in any space exploits. So far the Series was tied 1-1, with the Yanks taking the first game at Yankee stadium 3-1 on Oct. 2nd, and the Braves coming back to tie it 4-2 on Oct. 3rd.

So Oct. 4th was a travel day with the Series to resume in Milwaukee (I was living in Miami at the time, and had been since January, 1956). Because of this, the evening news of the Sputnik I launch had even more impact on me than it otherwise might have (say if a game had been played). The entire news was dominated by the weird looking craft and its 4 long antennae.

Some days later, we got the first radio 'beeps' from the thing. The signal had been picked up by an RCA receiving station at Riverhead, New York and relayed to the NBC studios in Manhattan, when most of us alive then in the U.S. heard it over the Huntley-Brinkley Report.

How did the nation react, as well as politicos? (This was during the Eisenhower administration which alas, for most of the population today constitutes ancient history!) According to Paul Dickson, author of Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, p. 20:

"Ross Perot recalled in a 1997 interview: 'This is just like Kitty Hawk, the world is forever changed and I'm going to be part of that new world.' Ralph Nader, then a third year student at Harvard Law School, told Air & Space magazine, 'It hit the campus like a thunderbolt'.

Dickson notes three pages later:

"Polls taken within days of the launch showed that Americans were concerned - so concerned that almost every person surveyed was willing to see the national debt limit raised and forgo a proposed tax cut in order to get the United States moving in space".

THAT - specifically - encapsulated what was necessary to translate THAT rhetorical Sputnik moment into a space competition that would ultimately see the United States reaching the Moon before the Russians. It disclosed a collective willingness to sacrifice financially, via raising the debt limit and rescinding a proposed tax cut, to achieve it. Compare that to the current predominant meme that "we've already spent too much" and factor in Obama's implicit cooperation with it by announcing a 5-year federal spending freeze the same time as a putative "Sputnik Moment". Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

By the time of Sputnik's launch in October, 1957, the Russians were producing some 66,000 engineers a year compared to the United States' 22,000. In addition, the key subjects of higher math and physics were almost nowhere to be found in the U.S. secondary school curriculum - nor were there the teachers to teach them. All this had to be factored into the coming expense to get the U.S. on a competitive par with the Soviets. Teacher education and training alone came to over $1 billion by the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Let us also quickly understand and acknowledge the marginal highest tax rate was then 91% compared to a measly 36.5% now and that not even allowed to rise to 39% by rescinding the Bush tax cuts. So again, how can anyone be serious about calling for a Sputnik moment when the money isn't there, and no one really wants to provide such funding - whether for training new teachers (100,000 according to Obama, but more realistically 250,000 is what we need), as well as repairing our crumbling infrastructure.

Hell, most Americans today are more focused on the DOW crossing 12,000 than that the American Society of Civil Engineers has awarded our infrastructure condition a 'D' and estimated its repair cost (merely to being rendered serviceable) at $1.7 trillion!

But this indicates how much further we've willingly divorced from reality since those Sputnik days back in October, 1957. We place more inherent value on a number in Maul Street's Casino than on the actual fiscal sacrifice required to ensure a "Sputnik moment" becomes reality!

And how mammoth would the JFK inspired Space Race project be? Dickson again (p. 217):

"On May 25, 1961, Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and asked for a joint commitment to 'landing a man on the Moon and returning him to Earth', within the decade. America's biggest, costliest and most ambitious effort ever was under way, rivaled only by the building of the Panama Canal and the Manhattan Project's building of an atomic bomb to end World War Two."

Dickson goes on to note that a $20-40 billion estimate of cost was provided, with $20 billion being the final tally. Or, about $100 billion in today's dollars. The problem here is that the cost to accommodate Obama's "Sputnik moment" could easily be $2 trillion, just to repair the existing infrastructure so all our roads and bridges don't collapse, and the training of 100,000 teachers. (Some independent news assessments have been around $500 billion for the whole thing, but this lowballs the total infrastructure expense dramatically.)

If you want to factor in an alternative energy project to attain the goals Obama mentioned last night, making us virtually oil-independent by 2020 (meaning more than 50% of energy would have to come from non-oil sources) you better toss in another trillion!

But WHERE is this going to come from? Well, a trillion of it might have been available had the Bush tax cut extension not been passed last month - but that train's left the station. As it is, the Repukes want more tax cuts, and vast spending cuts on the order of $500 billion or more. In this sort of climate - and with most of the population concerned over debt, there's little leeway to launch massive new projects on a par with what we did as a nation after Sputnik.

Back to the early 1960s, the American educational system was truly transformed as for the first time up to 50% of high school students actually took a physics, as well as advanced math classes (trig and algebra II). Many of us were on a "rocket high" as we followed each rocket launch in the race to beat the Russians.

I got into the design and construction of amateur (model) rockets, which I used to launch either lizards, or roaches up to altitudes of 1500' or more. Some of those launches actually filmed by Miami TV station, WTVJ. A design and computational graphic are shown above. Most of the calculations for the design could be done in under three hours, using my trusty Mannheim style slide rule. (There were no electronic calculators back then, folks!)

That was an era where an entire generation's imagination had been captured, and teachers of math and science could enter a classroom and fully expect 100 percent attention, because all of us wanted to learn. We wanted it so we could become rocket engineers, astronauts, or anything remotely allied to space and the distant planets.

Sadly, in the diminished age of Twitter, Facebook, i-pods, i-pads and X-box game stations most of that wonder has been lost, and I doubt it can be recovered, even if the funds could be found to fuel a "Sputnik Two".

It just isn't in the cards.

But hey, nice thought, Mr. President!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keeping the Baying Austerity Hounds at bay!

Kudos and commendations must be extended to President Barack Obama for his decision not to play the austerity card in tonight's State of the Union message. According to reports this morning out of The Washington Post: "President Barack Obama has decided not to endorse his deficit commission's recommendations to raise the retirement age and otherwise reduce Social Security benefits in tonight's State of the Union address, cheering liberals and drawing a stark line between the White House and key Republicans in Congress".

Make no mistake this is a wise decision, because frankly, Mr. Obama's re-election hinges on getting his base aboard for 2012, as opposed to their massive abandonment in last year's mid-terms. (Which was the major reason for the Dems losing so many House seats, not a Repug "tidal wave"!)

But bullshit often passes muster especially in this country, where even college grads are found to lack basic critical thinking skills because of diminishing time investment in their studies- see:

As for those Republicans who are on the other side, it pains me to say that none is more prominent right now than Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. (A state that had featured for most of the early 20th century Socialist mayors, e.g. in Milwaukee - such as Frank Zeidler). Quoted in a recent Financial Times piece ('Pay down Problems', Jan. 14, p. 7), Ryan avers, in respect of the country refusing to tackle its "mounting debt":

"We will have the riots in the streets. We will have the defaults. We will have all of those ugliness problems, like those French kids lobbing Molotov cocktails at cars, burning down schools because the French retirement age was moved from 60 to 62".

Well, not quite! Especially since American college and high school age kids are more wedded to their Facebook and Twitter than exhibiting any kind of remote activism or political consciousness!

But anyway, the point is there is likely to be lots of hostility and probably instability, including protests that will might make the tea Party anti-Obama Health reform ones look like.....well, tea parties!

But maybe fewer benefits and more need for 'nose to the grindstone' is exactly what the Washington-Wall Street axis wants! A clue can be found in an Economist piece ('A Boomer's Wrinkle', Jan. 1, p. 25) wherein it was observed:

"Andrea Campbell of M.I.T. believes it was the creation of Social Security in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s that transformed the elderly into the most politically-engaged group in America. Ever more comfortable in retirement, they had the time and the means to follow politics ....."

Which gets to the heart of the matter, because truly following politics is not easy or straightfoward, especially in a nation that has a corporate-owned media which often substitutes PR dreck for actual facts and news. Hence, unlike in many other nations, one must spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find out what's really going on, as opposed to what we're merely told is going on.

Add in to this mix Americans' traditional historical amnesia and you have a potent brew designed to keep people ill-informed or half-informed, particularly on issues that most concern them.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but had most of us lacked the time back in 2005 to ascertain what privatizing Social Security would really mean, we might not have done the spade work that provided the fuel to overturn Dumbya's efforts! The sad aspect here is that most Americans do lack the time to follow politics, which also explains why most are ignorant of critical issues and hew to a "moderate" (read: know little or nothing) path. It is exactly for this reason so many moderates base votes on vapid personality issues like whether Mr. X is "someone you can have a beer with". (To which Bill Maher once responded on seeing a poll weighted that way: "Hey, dummies! We're not taking the prez to a bar!")

Meanwhile, those of us who survive via political consciousness (or what we call "deep politics") want to know how he plans to protect our entitlements, or if he's inclined to immerse us in costly, undeclared wars and occupations.

Clearly then, it serves the stealth interests of the elitist, Neoliberal capitalist Overclass to ram austerity down the throats of the people to divest them of ever more benefits and support, to thereby render their existence marginal unless they're working 24/7. If so working, then they can't meddle in or track political issues or events, and hence become ever more the expendable serfs of the same Overclass. So dumb and ignorant (ultimately) they can't even parse when their own welfare is being gutted and extirpated. Not surprisingly the loudest calls are coming from the richest turds around, such as billionarie Peter G. Peterson and his cohort, as well as useful idiots like Ernest Bowles (himself an investment banker) and Alan B. Simpson.

Now, back to the issue! The real hobgoblin that Paul Ryan needs to worry about is forcing austerity measures down the throats of middle or working class folks while he intends to lessen the tax burden on the wealthy. This is almost a surefire way to initiate or instigate social instability leading to ...who knows what? But the Weimar Republic in Germany before Hitler seized control can serve as an object lesson.

A key insight is derived by examining the events following March 30, 1930 and concerning then Chancellor Heinrich Brüning. This is based on a recounting in Ian Kershaw's excellent monograph, Hitler Hubris(1889-1936), which documents the history leading up to 1936 and Hitler's seizure of power-consolidation of the Nazi state.

First some background. Brüning was an austerity maven and learned this fell philosophy as a doctoral student at The London School of Economics - where it was promoted by "free-market Austrian school" whores like Friedrich von Hayek (one of the heroes of the modern Libertarian Right, and their Ayn Randian nattering nabobs). As Kershaw notes (p. 324):

"By June (1930), Brüning was running into serious difficulties in his attempts to reduce public spending through emergency decrees"

Note here that under existing German laws for the Weimar Republic, if no majority could be achieved for financial reform in the Reichstag (which was the case, ca. March, 1930), the Chancellor had the option of issuing an "emergency decree" and attempting to obtain a majority for that. If such presidential decrees even failed to gain a majority, then - under Article 48 - the President could dissolve the Reichstag (which necessitated new elections within 60 days)

Unfortunately for Brüning, on July 16, 1930 his financial reform bill aimed at a (deflationary) policy of massive public spending cuts was rejected by the Reichstag. He then resorted to an emergency decree to make the bill law, but when this was rejected by a majority- so he resorted to dissolution of Parliament by July 18, 1930.

The dissolution provided the opening gambit for Hitler and his brown shirts, who beat up socialist and workers, trade union members to the delight of big Business. Hitler totally exploited the weaknesses of the Weimar system, calling down his wrath on its failed promises of tax reduction, flawed financial management and failure to trim unemployment. In vague terms, and with the massive austerity still threatening terrified Germans, Hitler promised security - financial and personal- with the central idea of "national liberation through stength and unity"

The result of the election was a resounding success for Hitler and the Nazis with nearly two-fifths of all votes coming from the German middle classes (Kershaw, p. 334). The major paper, The Frankfurter Zeitung, called it the "bitterness election" and cast the middle classes as villains for being motivated by the desire to "overturn the current political system."

Not long after, Weimar austerity did strike as the World War I allies called in their war debts and credits and Brüning got the Reichstag to go along with huge spending cuts . After just two years of “austerity” measures, Germany’s economy had completely collapsed: unemployment doubled from 15 percent in 1930 to 30 percent in 1932, protests spread, and Brüning was finally forced out. After just two years of austerity, Germans were willing to be ruled by anyone or anything except for the kinds of democratic politicians that administered their “austerity” pain. In Germany's 1932 elections, the Nazis and the Communists came out on top — and by early 1933, with Hitler solely in charge, Germany’s fledgling democracy was shut down for good.

In the wake of this,von Hayek and fellow Austrian aristocrats were forced to flee from the fruits of their economic programs, then did a complete revision of history. Once safely ensconced in England and America, funded by oligarch grants, von Mises and von Hayek pushed a revisionist history of the collapse of Weimar Germany. Rather than blaming their deflationary austerity measures, they tagged big-spending liberals who were allegedly in charge of Germany’s last government.

The Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels, not willing to let a good piece of bullshit go to waste, incorporated this into propaganda posters for the elections of 1932 and 1933, incredibly depicting Marxism (conflated with liberals) as being the "guardian angels of capitalists"! (This, at the exact same time big business was applauding the Nazi SA street thugs thumping and killing Marxists, communists and any ordinary workers demanding more assistance!)

Today much of the same sort of horse manure comes to us compliments of shills like Paul Ryan, who insist it is the big public spending that is ruining our finances - as opposed to unwinnable, undeclared wars and occupations, and over ten years of massive tax giveaways to the rich. but bear in mind, Ryan is a stooge of von Hayek just like most of the free market worshipping Repukes.

Meanwhile, the clarion calls for cutting public spending continue to sound (e.g. 'Indebted America Risks an Age of Austerity', Financial Times, Jan. 24), and from investment bankers like Ethan Harris of Merril Luynch and the Bank of America, who writes (FT, 'Paydown Problems')

"We are playing a dangerous game and we will start to pay a price for fiscal irresponsibility"

Indeed, we're playing a "dangerous game" - but that is precisely the Hayekian stupidity of further gutting public support and benefits for a financially-strained middle and working class already on the ropes. As opposed to going for the money where it already is, concentrated in the hands of the über-rich.

Venezuela’s austerity programs created greater poverty, richer oligarchs, worse corruption, and the inevitable backlash in the form of Hugo Chavez, who staged a coup in 1992 that almost succeeded and later won the presidency through the ballot box. Austerity programs in the ex-communist Soviet countries led to similar disastrous results. And last year's Sovereign debt austerity saw fire bombing all over Greece, and then later mass riots and burning autos in London (when the Brit PM introduced his austerity measures).

Don't we ever learn? Must we continue to worship discredited fruitcakes like von Hayek and von Mises and their Tea Party fawning idiots over and over? Is the example of the fall of the Weimar Republic not enough to remind us that this Republic may also be at risk?

Those who sincerely believe von Hayek-style austerity is the way to go, would be well advised to process Baltimore Sun columnist Jay Bookman's words below, which appeared in a 1999 piece (''The New World Disorder Evident Here, Abroad'):

"The global economy has been constructed on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences"

At least President Obama has appeared to sense the risk of public spending cuts for now, and we duly applaud his good sense for that!

More Afterlife Twaddle & Threats: Is There No End?

Seems now Pastor Mikey is lecturing atheists on their unbiblical “beliefs’ (actually we have NONE,) and trying to convince us that, oh YES – spiritual apartheid does exist and sheep really are separated from goats and so (putatively) one can exercise such segregation in this life too.

Okay, let’s go through this one more time on the very unlikely assumption (based on near zero probability) that a SUPERNATURAL afterlife exists. (Note here: I distinguish between natural and supernatural afterlife possibilities, since the former was invoked by Sir A.J. Ayer after his near death experience in 1998, and on coming back from that he noted ‘just as there can be a godless life, so also there can likely be a godless afterlife”)

And I then expatiated on this by noting how consciousness could exist in the form of de Broglie waves that would meet that criterion. (To summarize: At death, these de Broglie waves are enfolded into p-wave packets that can escape their associated particles, and act like very finely scaled Electromagnetic waves. The waves also exhibit a similar form to propagating electro-magnetic waves, e.g. E(x, t) = E_o exp [i(kx – wt]) (j) and B(x,t) = B_o exp [i(kx – wt]) (k)) However, the consciousness that results is nonlocal rather than individual or personal- because the expelled waves mix with all other released waves, from all other dead.)

In any case, at least Sir Ayer acknowledged in a London Sunday Times piece published soon after his NDE that his “natural afterlife” was pure conjecture. Not so the extreme zealots and hyper-religionists! They claim the existence of such but as we saw before:

they mess up by committing a number of logical fallacies to make their case. In particular, the afterlife believer’s whole argument rests on the fallacy of Argumentum ad Ignorantium or appeal to ignorance. Thus, the logic proffered by the afterlife believer fails as an argument (in the case of appeal to ignorance) since it requires us to accept the lack of knowledge (about an afterlife) as knowledge, and the lack of evidence as evidence!

One of the most notable illustrations of this nonsensical form of argument was given by Bertrand Russell. He was fond of suggesting that a teapot orbited the Sun just beyond Mars. He said that since no one could disprove his claim, therefore it must be TRUE! In like manner, clueless believers argue since no one has been able to disprove their claims that an afterlife or god exists, these claims must be true!

Following this line of specious reasoning, one would have to accept that the more evidence we lack the greater the likelihood the claim (afterlife or god) is true! This is total bollocks since it's based on the total sum of knowledge not yet acquired! Hence, total ignorance!In addition, it commits the ‘burden of proof’ fallacy which states if one cannot prove ‘X’ (e.g. “There is an afterlife”) to be false, then ‘X’ is true. Thereby, the inability of the atheist to disprove that there is an afterlife becomes the proof of an afterlife.

But this is invalid! The onus of proof (as well as knowledge and evidence) is on the believer, and it is HE who must provide it in the case of either his God or his afterlife, especially his “Hell” phantasmagorias– which as I’ve demonstrated at least six times before- is totally inconsistent with the postulation of an infinite deity since this would presume ONE all-embracing Being leaving no room for ‘Hell’ (unless it is inside or part of GOD!)

Up to now the inept pastor has steadfastly avoided addressing this logical conundrum, but given he’s already flubbed a basic test on logic, I’m not surprised.

Lastly, invoking scriptures or the bible to try to make any case is useless because it commits yet another fallacy: appeal to authority. One can’t base a claim of existence on what some scribe writes in a book, or in a chapter and verse (or hundreds of them) in his KJV.

Anyway, let’s see what Mikey offers in his latest rant:

It doesn't surprise me that you , as an atheist would say :"The fact is, "salvationism" introduces a false and VERY un-Christian exclusionary isolation and apartheid which Yeshua himself never evinced..."Well , I'd sure like to know what YOUR definition of "Christianity" is . Oh Yeah , I forgot - I DO know . It's letting proverbial spoiled brats like you and your ilk live as you please , and STILL enjoy the ETERNAL bliss of Heaven , RIGHT? Well , sorry 'Charlie,' - if ya don't get right with God before ya die - you may just be neighbors with 'da Popey , our "Catechist" friend , and others like y'all...IN HELL !!”

Here, his meds (or lack of them) seem to have induced total mental confusion. He appears to believe we (atheists) require some kind of benign definition of Christianity in order to assure ourselves (likely based on the specious Pascal’s wager) that if we’re wrong on our unbelief we can still make it to the Pearly gates – failing to grok that it DOESN’T MATTER TO US! (Since we are 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999% sure there is NOTHING after death)

What we are demanding from him is simple evidence for his claims, but he’s unable to give it. All he does is a lot of hand-waving and citing from his defective KJV to try to make a case- and it falls flat because no case is made.

The bottom line here is that the atheist doesn’t assert there’s no afterlife (or that "real Christianity requires no "Hell") because he’s “afraid of death” but because the extremist fundies (like Mikey) haven't provided any significant evidence to counter that proposition! All the evidence shows that when we die, that’s it, finito! Also, by the Ockham's Razor precept (the simplest hypothesis is generally the true one), non-existence after death trumps existence after death (since the latter is more complicated by having to posit special afterlife realms and beings as well, like heaven, hell, demons, angels etc....all way too complex!)

In truth, the atheist isn’t the “spoiled brat’ but the ADULT here! It is Christianoid whiners and infants like this guy who are the spoiled brats because they refuse to be held accountable for their insipid, delusional claims. Because believers haven’t delivered, the atheist is quite justified not to take their claims seriously.

Emotional cripples needing god crutches like Mike, who feel there "must be an afterlife" or life itself has no purpose otherwise, also exhibit a general tendency to resort to another copout that goes by the name, "Sob story". This also includes the claim, by extension, that if life has no purpose and it ends at physical death, then BOO HOO HOO...we could as well off ourselves right now!

Not so! We can act like grownups instead of bawling infants groveling for relief, and create our own authentic purpose! But see, those emotional invalids like the goodly pastor are too needy and mindless to stand up on their own feet - which is why they need to have their god and Bible crutches. Take their precious crutches away and they can't walk two steps on their own, far less THINK one independent thought not already spouted by some deluded scribe in the bible. Thus, only the existentially courageous can conduct their lives and direct and initiate their thoughts, without such crutches.

Worse, he entertains the ideation (based on his defective bible, the KJV) that only HE knows the truth and everyone else that doesn’t measure it the same way (including 900 million Muslims, 950 million Buddhists, 800 million Hindus, and 1 billion Catholics) are all headed for “Hell” and he knows it! And yet he still hasn’t been able to solve the Infinite Deity –Hell conundrum I posited. Thereby showing that minus his minor quotation and copying ability (which a well trained Capuchin monkey could do), he possesses not one minor brain cell capable of resolving a basic logical problem!

There is one word for this: PATHETIC!

Sadly, instead of logically and rationally addressing our critiques it is all too likely this pretend pastor will simply hop on his crutches again and bawl as he bangs his widdoo good book, cranking out quote after quote while demanding "there must be a God and He must have a Hell" for infidels like us. Never thinking that emotional tantrums have never substituted for coherent and compelling reasons and arguments, and never will. And calling us "spoiled brats" does not excuse or exempt him from acting like a true spoiled brat in refusing to provide EVIDENCE as opposed to stupid bible citations and more pouting.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Catechists v. Fundie Witnessers: Is there a difference?

On certain fundie blogs it has come to our attention that Catholic Catechists have been singled out as some forlorn source of spreading "unscriptural" and "Satanic" messages to young people in their most vulnerable stages. Of course, these critics might say the very same about freethinkers and atheists!

What are Catechists? Well, surely not the possessed "demons" they're made out to be but rather ordinary members (laity) of the Catholic Church who feel a calling to go beyond their prosaic daily tasks and make a contribution to society. They choose to do this by integrating the precepts of their Church with social justic imperatives as well as environmental awareness and stewardship.

Having been out of the Catholic loop for years (actually decades) I thought I'd do some checking up and try to find out whether these Catechists were indeed the simple, ordinary folks of the nation out to make it better, or some kind of sinister threat with an aim to seize minds. As it turns out, they are much more the former than the latter!

On one of the sites for prospective Catechists:

One is introduced to their general aims, and principles as well as resources. Basically, their function is very simple: given the current critical shortage of religious in the Church (what with vocations falling each year) these folks who sign on as Catechists assist the Church in its traditional educational role for inculcating religious principles in the minds of the young.

It is also to be noted that these certainly aren't "demonic" by any stretch. Indeed, free files and resources available, e.g. at:

Provide a deep insight into the nature of the material taught. One such file deals with 'The Life and Dignity of the Human Person'. Certainly something any rational person would agree with. Among the basic precepts:

† The human person is central, the clearest reflection
of God among us.

† Each person possesses a basic dignity that comes
from God, not from race or gender, age or economic

† The test of every institution or policy is whether it
enhances or threatens human life and human dignity.

† We believe people are more important than things.

The last two no atheist would disagree with, while he'd have 'druthers' regarding the first two, preferring to accept a human's basic worth comes from his very existence and his centrality from the acknowledgement that we are all "in this together". No man is an island, and all that!

Related to the above are the Rights and Responsibilities:

† People have a fundamental right to life, food, shelter,
health care, education, and employment.

† All people have a right to participate in decisions
that affect their lives.

† Corresponding to these rights are duties and
responsibilities to respect the rights of others in
the wider society and to work for the common good.

† Any denial of these rights harms the persons and
wounds the community.

Again, none of which the atheist would dispute! (Especially the last). Most interesting and important to me are these social justice imperatives:

† The moral test of a society is how it treats its most
vulnerable members.

† The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the
conscience of the nation.

† We are called to look at public policy decisions in
terms of how they affect the poor.

† The overarching Gospel principle is the obligation to
attend to the poor-”the least of these.”

The last refers to Christ's admonition: "Whatever thou doest to these the least of my brethren, that thou doest unto me".

Which makes me wonder why more Protestant fundies aren't out there serving the homeless at soup kitchens, than dispensing useless pseudo-scriptural nonsense about "hell" and "Satan" (both fictions) on their damnation-heavy blogs.

This brings me to the differences between Catechists and Fundamentalist witnessers. The first and most important is that the Catechist doesn't force herself on anyone or accost hapless bystanders at Malls or on sidewalks like the witnesser! She instead has a specific venue where people come to her! Thus, choice is involved.

There are also rigorous principles to which the Catechist must adhere, so any old odd thing can't be taught. The Catechist must adhere to the time-honored precepts that the Church has endorsed for the past 2,000+ years. As for being "unbiblical" this is over-exaggerated and over played. The truth is the bible alone - while useful for inspiration- can't be fully trusted to impart principles or truth because it itself isn't reliable.

For one thing, its moral authority is questionable. What we behold are the actions of a quixotic and petulant deity which no small child will comprehend. For instance, 2 Kings 2, 23:24 allows children to be slain by wild animals if they insult their elders (in this case a "prophet"). Well, good luck on that, elders! I daresay that if some young sprats were to taunt you with "Baldy!" and you set your three pitbulls loose on them, citing this Kings text, no cop or judge or jury in the world would accept it and you'd likely do time. Thus, the bible is not offering any kind of absolutist moral teaching here! It is regurgitating the bloodthirsty thoughts of the vengeful moron that wrote it - who is saddled with a deformed brain.

Then there are the more than one thousand contradictions, which are bound to screw up any kid's sense and intellect. Just consult a few of the 105 contradictions pertaining to "salvation" alone, e.g.

Will everyone get saved?

YES: John 12:32; Ro 5:18, 11:32; 1Co 15:22; Col 1:20; 1Ti 2:4,6; 1Jo 2:2

NO: Mt 7:13-14; Lu 13:23-24

Are unsaved sinners eternally tormented?

YES: Isa 33:14; Mt 13:40-42, 25:41,46; Mk 9:43-48; Jude 6-7; Re 14:10-11

NO: Eze 18:4; Mt 7:13, 10:28; Lu 13:3,5; John 3:15-16; Ac 3:23; 1Co 15:18; 2Th 2:10; Heb 10:39; 2Pe 3:7,9

Is one who believes in God's son, but who has never repented, saved?

YES:John 3:15-16,36, 6:40,47, 11:25; Ac 16:31; Ro 10:9; 1Jo 5:12

NO:Lu 13:3,5

Is one who believes in God's son, but who has done no good deeds, saved?

YES: (See the verses for the “yes” answer above)

NO: Mt 25:41-46; John 5:28-29; Ro 2:5-10; Jas 2:14-26

Given this much confusion, it makes eminent sense to leave "scriptural" references and reading out, as far as possible. Much later, when the child has matured, he or she can be slowly introduced to the New Testament - while leaving the Old Testament (which bears the vengeful Jewish God) on the shelves. (Note: Many bibles today are produced with the OT and NT separate which makes things easier)

Thus, it would be totally idiotic to turn impressionable kids loose on the bible without strict guidance and control.

A second most important difference, is that Catholic Catechists are not entitled to terrorize their charges like the wayward Witnessers of fundyism do, invoking "Hell" and "Satan" baloney. (Which again, are only used to demonize, thus being contrary to the basic precepts taught by the Catechists, especially "We are one human family and are interdependent".

Clearly, if one segment is consigned to "Hell" - if even figuratively, this cannot be so. Rather a de facto spiritual apartheid is used to segregate the human family into sheep and goats: the "saved" on one side, and the "usaved" (and supposedly 'demon-possessed') on the other!

On this score alone, the Catechist operates on a higher moral plane than her fundie witness counterpart, whose first words to a stranger in a Mall are often:


There is only ONE correct answer: you are no place. (Though the Catechist will say that one is ascended to heaven- but that is less offensive than threatening "Hell")

Your consciousness no longer exists, since your brain is dead- so there is no “YOU” anywhere to be found other than in a newly cooling corpse that will soon be rotting unless special measures are taken (in the case of burial, using special preservatives to feed into the veins, and otherwise – burning the body in cremation)

Here we detect the thrust and underlying meme of the question. Translated to the target’s sub-conscious: “Death is a terrifying experience and as soon as you die there is a supernatural part of you that will TORTURED forever and ever unless it is SAVED!”

But this is bare bollocks on a number of fronts. First, death is wholly natural. Unless old beings are removed by death, so new beings can take their place, the world will: a) become vastly over-crowded – soon ending with not enough food available for all the multiplying (undying) species, b) Since no new genes are introduced into any species, since there is no death, then species’ genomes will not change. Thus, NO evolution will occur!

Thus, death is an essential element of the natural world in controlling the numbers of species and populations that can occupy the planet at one time or one era- given limited planetary resources which need time for replenishment. Thus, death is critical in enabling the basis for further evolution of new species.

Thus, the psychological terror inheres in taking a perfectly NATURAL act, and transmogrifying it into a fearful, fretful possible transition to HELL. In this way, the natural human fear of death is metastasized and magnified out of all proportion to its actual import – leaving the person in near despair unless they are prepared to surrender control of their minds to the agenda of the “witnesser”. (Much like the sad and forlorn folks duped by the Rev. Jim Jones had to surrender their possessions as well as minds to him before they could emigrate to Jonestown, Guyana- where, of course, he promptly demanded those same zombified minds to ingest cyanide-laced kool aid on his demand.)

Truth be told, though we disagree with many of the Catechist's fairy tales on the afterlife, we fully concur with her principles - especially to do with social justice and protecting our environment!

In this sense, we have to side with the moral imperative and actions of the Catechist before the fundie witnesser, more interested in terrifying "souls" into the fold than educating them on a Christly life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Congrats to NFC Champs!

Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers in victorious form after today's win over the Chicago Bears.

Inside the Atrium at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin, December, 2009, with the Packer Hall of Famers on the main display wall.

Well, my team, the Green Bay Packers, has claimed the NFC Championship after a (sometimes) nail biting victory over their arch Nemesis, the Chicago Bears. So now the Pack will be on to Dallas to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. This final step arrived after the Packers (the no. 6 seed) had to win three straight playoff games on the road.

They did it in style, beating the Philadelphia Eagles first, 21-17, then the top seed Atlanta Falcons, 48-21, and finally the Bears. The last championship match up between the Bears and Packers was on Dec. 14, 1941 or a week after Pearl Harbor. The Bears took that one, 33-14.

This win was all the sweeter coming on the heels of my visit to Green Bay last year to see the Pack play at historic Lambeau Field (see photo of the Atrium there) and beating the visiting Baltimore Ravens, 28-14.

This game opened with two quick touchdown drives that opened a 14-0 Packer lead, and for a moment looked like a blowout. Then the Bears defense stepped up and scrunched extra TD efforts using turnovers. One turnover came off a bounced ball and catch missed by Donald Driver (into the hands of Lance Briggs), and the other came off a Brian Urlacher pick of an Aaron Rodgers ball aimed at the end zone - which would have put the Pack up 21-0.

Fortunately, however, Rodgers managed to tackle Urlacher before he could rumble into the end zone for a Bears' score.

By the third quarter the Bears QB Jay Cutler had left the game with an apparent leg injury, and backup Todd Collins entered, playing an uninsipiring 15 minutes. Bears Coach Lovie Smith finally had enough with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter and brought in a rookie named Caleb Hainie who almost emulated Johnny Unitas as he damned near brought the Bears back - getting them to 21-14 and on the way to 21-21 (with a minute left in the game) when he was picked by Packers' DB Shields.

So now the Pack are off to the Big Show, their first Super Bowl appearance since 1998 when they lost to the Broncos.

Let's hope (at least I hope) they can bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay!

Are College Students Really Wasting Their Money?

LEFT: Loyola freshman Theology class, ca. 1964.

(BELOW): One night's freshman Theology homework for Loyola University, Sept. 1964)

On one of Keith Olbermann's last 'Countdown' episodes last week, the lead story was the deplorable condition of today's college students who appear to be wasting their parents' hard-earned money and being more invested in "social connections" than academics. Keith noted that 36% come out of the college experience with not much more in terms of academic skills than they entered. One college freshman (according to this survey based on some 24 innominate colleges and universities - and when one sees these results one can understand why they opt to remain innominate!) asserted that her first year of college was even easier than her senior year of high school.

Worse, barely one -fifth of freshman are required to take any course in which they have to read more than 30 pages per week, or write (compose) more than three, 3-page essays or homework papers per term. To top this off, the plurality leave college or university with next to zero critical thinking skills, as betrayed by one stat which indicated most of these graduates are unable to read an editorial or newspaper page and discern the facts presented from opinions!

How the hell has it come to this sorry state?

My recollection of my own first year college experience (at Loyola University, New Orleans, 1964) was that it was a quantum jump relative to my high school senior year (in which I earned my scholarship to attend Loyola by consistently being ranked first in grade point average).

Escaping writing? You've got to be kidding! Attached for example, is one night's homework from the Freshman Theology class. Each of these questions had to be finished to completion with sound and well-reasoned responses provided - no short cuts and no doing the equivalent of copying from books (for today's students)! (By going online to ask for help on or!)

This type of assignment, which usually consumed at least seven written pages, sometimes eight (depending on the questions) was given three times each week conforming with the frequency of the class. In addition, more detailed questions would often be asked in the class pertaining to the assignment.

Given the recent U.S. college survey results, it appears not 1 in 20 of today's students would be able to keep up with such a course. I warrant most would probably take a drop class before two weeks elapsed.

Even more appalling to me, is how today's students seem to be getting breaks galore regarding grades. Keith mentioned one set of students that garnered a 3.2 GPA based on about 10 hours overall study (all classes) per week study time. THIS is truly ridiculous! The rule at Loyola (as at many other universities at the time) was that to garner a Gentleman's 'C' you did 2 hours of outside study for each hour in class attendance. (This did not include written assignments). To get a 'B' for a typical 18-credit hour (normal- at that time) load, one would have to invest at least 3 x 18 = 54 hours a week in study! In other words, nearly all these college kids today would have flunked out at Loyola.

Of course, much of the problem to do with grade inflation began with the absurd "teacher evaluations" - which placed a power in students' hands hitherto unavailable. Trouble is, the power has been misused and abused to the point profs are terrified of giving anything less than a 'B' for fear of retribution on the eval form! I myself, when I began teaching 3rd semester Calculus-physics at a Maryland College (after returning to the U.S. from Barbados in 1992) was informed by the lecturer whose place I was taking not to give anything less than 'B'.

That simple request revealed to me how much grade achievement had become detached from the actual process of earning a grade!

All of which suggests to me that many college students are simply wasting their parents' money. Especially if they believe their degree will gain them some critical foot in the door in terms of work and remuneration.

A perceptive take ('The Myth of Higher Education') offered by Dr. S. Mason in an issue of Integra (No. 9, Oct. ) the journal of Intertel, is that a huge error of American education is orientating it explicitly for the utilitarian purpose of making money or getting a job. As he writes:

"the bottom line regarding a well -rounded education is that it has nothing to do with any kind of bottom line. Its value (non-monetary) is to be found in the quality it adds to one's life. It allows one to better appreciate music, art, history and literature. It contributes to a better understanding of language and culture, nature and philosophy. It expands rather than limits horizons and replaces faith and belief with reason and logic"

Mason adds that it "teaches a person to live - not to earn a living" and that living encompasses an impetus for further learning just for its own sake. If a fantastic, well-paying job also comes with it, that's icing on the cake.

Sadly, from the recent survey, it appears today's spoiled college kids will be left in the lurch on both earning and quality of life fronts.