Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Saturday, October 31, 2015

John Nichols

John Nichols is coming to Houston soon to give a talk on separation of state and church. I love John. Great writer, great thinker, good all around guy.

Note the date of this program has changed to November 17, 2015
Religion in Today’s 
Presidential Politics
John Nichols Author, Journalist, Political Commentator
 November 17, 2015
7:30 pm

Emanu El
1500 Sunset Blvd. Houston, TX 77005 
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute . . ..”
–John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1960, addressing the Greater Houston Ministerial Association at the Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas

Fifty-five years ago, then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy famously explained his vision of an America with “a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

Please join The Houston Chapter of
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
for an evening with
John Nichols.

Mr. Nichols will discuss the role of religion in presidential politics.  Are we closer to Kennedy’s vision, or are we slipping further away?

John Nichols is the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine and associate editor of Madison, Wisconsin’s daily paper Capital Times.  Co-founder of Free Press, Mr. Nichols is also an author and co-author of multiple books, including the recently published Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.  Mr. Nichols has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs, including Thom HartmannThe Ed Show, and Up with Chris Hayes.

This event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

zen teachings

Levity, please!

1.         Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.   Do not walk beside me for the path is narrow. In fact, just leave me alone.
2.         Sex is like air. It's not that important unless you aren't getting any.
3.         No one is listening until you pass gas.
4.         Always remember you're unique. Just like everyone else.
5.         Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
6.         If you think nobody cares whether you're alive or dead, try missing a couple of payments.
7.         Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
8.         If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
9.         Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
10.     If you lend someone 20 bucks and never see that person again, it was probably well worth it.
11.         If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
12.         Some days you are the dog, some days you are the tree.
13.         Don't worry; it only seems kinky the first time.
14.     Good judgment comes from bad experience ... And most of that comes from bad judgment.
15.     A closed mouth gathers no foot.
16.     There are two excellent theories for arguing with women. Neither one of them works.
17.     Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
18.     When you are     dead,     you don't know that you are dead. It's difficult only for others.   It is the same when you are stupid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Good Without God

Finished reading another book, this one really good:

Good Without God, by Greg M. Epstein (2009). Greg is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, a bit of a strange title.

Greg should not be cast as a radical atheist. Indeed, he writes with warmth and affection for believers,  (indeed for all humanity), and not the ridiculing of faith you often get with books by the so-called "New Atheists", most of whom I love.  Greg wants humanists, atheists and agnostics to try to get along with believers and not try to shame or embarrass them. I can appreciate that, but...

I'm torn. 

I considered myself to be a humanist before I became an atheist, spending several years in the American Humanist Association. Now, I am still a humanist who happens to be an atheist. An often radical atheist. 

Greg helped me to tamp the fire down a little, which is probably a good thing.  

There is a particular passage of Greg's book that has stayed with me ever since I read it. It's actually the Conclusion of the book.  It moved me, and I hope it will move you too. We really are all in this together.

An unauthorized, but well-meaning excerpt from Good Without God, by Greg M. Epstein:


I write this as a call to action. The subject is Humanism, but convincing you to become a Humanist or to use that word to describe yourself isn't my goal. If you are not a Humanist, please go in peace. You have my respect. I ask you, for the sake of all humanity, for yours. And if you are a Humanist, and if you've been inspired by this book, please know that that in itself brings me no special joy if "Humanist" to you means merely "one who denies the existence of the gods." Humanists must be known for their actions.

We must act together for our own good and for the greater good. We are so fortunate to have evolved and been nurtured to possess reason, compassion, and creativity. It is what we do with those qualities that will determine everything. The fact that we live without God is, in a sense, not up to us. It's not really a choice. We see the world around us. We use our amazing human ability to think and believe with all our integrity that there is only this one natural world. But goodness is a choice. It is the most important choice we can ever make. And we have to make it again and again, throughout our lives and in every aspect of our lives. We have to be good for ourselves. We have to be good for the people we love. We have to be good for all the people around us, be they friend or foe. We are forced to be good without God. If we can accept that reality and act with courage, we can be very good indeed.

This is the beginning - only the beginning - of a movement that will change our world. I've been told that maybe in the future the world will be ready for Humanism. Maybe someday. But that's not an attitude we can afford to accept. As we can learn from a nearly two-thousand-year-old saying, it is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Let's go out and make a difference now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bad Lip Reading

The demented folks at Bad Lip Reading finally got around to the first Democratic debate.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Carson is nuts

With respect to the upcoming 3rd Republican "Debate" on CNBC, Ben Carson, the nutty neurosurgeon, is now running ahead of Donald Trump!

Ben's a "good Christian" and the evangelicals go nuts over the guy. Which is fitting, because Carson is truly nuts!

Ben Carson is plain nuts: The 7 most stupefying statements by the GOP’s favorite neurosurgeon

Endorsing the Confederate flag is tame by his standards. The good doctor is convinced we live in a gestapo state

Now we know for sure that education is no hedge against mindblowing irrational thinking. Our proof? None other than Dr. Ben Carson, highly trained pediatric neurosurgeon, man of science, leading GOP presidential contender and batsh*t crazy Bible-thumper in the first degree.
Last week, the soft-spoken former doctor, continuing a surge begun in late summer, closed the gap with longstanding frontrunner Donald Trump. Carson accomplished this feat after weeks (nay, months, years!) of spewing what can only be regarded as stupefying nonsense, including last week’s argument at the Values Voter Summit that a blatantly unconstitutional religious test be administered to Muslims seeking office in order to protect the Constitution. Denying global warming while in drought-stricken, wildfire-plagued California and denying police racism while in Ferguson, Mo. were other recent feats of the nimble neurosurgeon’s intellect. And all of these statements seem to have helped him among the base, where it seems nuttiness exists in direct proportion to popularity. It seems that a scientist who denies science and a black man who denies the existence of racism is catnip for these voters.
So, in honor of Carson’s surge in the polls, here are some of his greatest hits:
1. Gayness must be a choice, because prisoners who are raped come out gay.
Like any generic homophobe, Carson has no problem repeating tired falsehoods about how legalized gay marriage will lead to bestiality and pedophila. But he got some points for originality when he told Chris Cuomo in an interview that homosexuality was absolutely a choice “[b]ecause a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight— and when they come out, they’re gay.”
Cuomo’s jaw dropped long enough for Carson to add: “So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
This could absolutely take the cake for comedic idiocy, if only homophobic violence and prison rape were not horrific real-life problems.
What it proves is that Carson will say anything. And that, even when it comes to medical science—the preponderance of which indicates that homosexuality is not a choice—the doctor is out.
2. Obamacare is worse than slavery. We live in a Gestapo age.
Carson earns a lot of conservative love for his harsh criticism of Obama. A black man maligning the first black president is practically orgasmic for these folks. After uttering both of the above provocations, he doubled down on them in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, accusing everyone of going into a “tizzy” because he used the slavery and Nazi analogies. Here’s Carson claiming his comparisons were apt:
Nazi Germany experienced something horrible. The people in Nazi Germany largely didn’t believe in what Hitler was doing. But they didn’t say anything? Of course not, they kept their mouth shut. The fact that our government is using instruments of government like the IRS to punish its opponents, this is not the kind of thing that is a Democrat or a Republican issue. This is an American issue … A lot of people do not feel free to express themselves.
Which people are those, exactly? Not sure. Certainly, the Gestapo has not been able silence him. And on the slavery analogy:
Slavery was a horrible thing and affected many people in horrible ways, some of those effects still present today. So, no, it is not the same as slavery. However, what needs to be understood here is that the way this country was set up, the people—we the people were set up at the pinnacle of power in this nation. The government is supposed to conform to our will. By taking the most important thing you have, your health and your health care, and turning that over to the government, you fundamentally shift the power, a huge chunk of it, from the people to the government.
Never mind that the people’s will is to have health care. Details, details.
The point is, Dr. Ben Carson should be able to use whatever crazy analogy he wants in order to get people’s attention, and he should not be subjected to some random truth-telling standard. Because, Hitler.
3. The Big Bang is a “fairy tale” and the notion of evolution was encouraged by the devil.
There is no more telling evidence that the “man of science” in the Republican race not only cherry-picks his science to gel with his fundamentalist Christian beliefs, but denies the most basic science out there. While there is no word yet on whether Carson believes in gravity, it’s worth quoting Carson’s insane Big Bang ramblings at some length:
I find the Big Bang really quite fascinating. I mean, here you have all these highfalutin scientists and they’re saying it was this gigantic explosion and everything came into perfect order. Now these are the same scientists that go around touting the second law of thermodynamics, which is entropy, which says that things move toward a state of disorganization. So now you’re gonna have this big explosion and everything becomes perfectly organized and when you ask them about it they say, ‘Well we can explain this, based on probability theory because if there’s enough big explosions, over a long period of time, billions and billions of years, one of them will be the perfect explosion.’ … So I say what you’re telling me is if I blow a hurricane through a junkyard enough times over billions and billions of years, eventually after one of those hurricanes there will be a 747 fully loaded and ready to fly. (Carson adds that the Big Bang is “even more ridiculous” because there is order to the universe.) Well, I mean, it’s even more ridiculous than that ’cause our solar system, not to mention the universe outside of that, is extraordinarily well organized, to the point where we can predict 70 years away when a comet is coming. Now that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.
Later in the interview, Carson said he personally believed Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was encouraged by the devil.
As Charles Pierce wrote in Esquire: “What in the name of Edwin Hubble is this man talking about? Why is this man allowed out in public without a handler?”
4. There’s no war on women; there may be a war on women’s insides.
In a speech on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock this summer, Carson took on the notion that Republicans are waging a war on women, saying: “They tell you that there’s a war on women. There is no war on women. There may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.”
It was a mystifying piece of rhetoric that remains unexplained to this day. Just what part of women’s insides is there a war on? And why is that even remotely an OK thing to say, let alone condone?
No clue. It was not the only insanity of that speech, during which he called slaves immigrants who “came here involuntarily in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”
5.  Nope, I don’t see any global warming.
Unlike other conservative ideologues, Carson does not exactly deny climate change, and he certainly does not use the tired line “I’m not a scientist,” because technically he is. What he does say is that global climate change is “irrelevant.” Irrelevant to what, we’re not sure. He just thinks, unlike most scientists, that it’s not manmade, and “there’s always going to be either cooling or warming going on.” He also thinks discussion of what to do about climate change is a distraction. From what? Again, unclear. Maybe, he suggested, the EPA and how it over-regulates things.
Carson stayed true to this devil-may-care attitude about the environment on a recent jaunt to California in the midst of one of its worst droughts and most horrific wildfires in recent history.  He just did not see that as climate change. And if he does not see it, it isn’t there.
6.  Nope, I don’t see any racism.
Add racism to the ever-growing list of realities that Carson does not see. On a trip to Ferguson, Mo. this summer, Carson did not see racism. Never mind that whole Department of Justice report detailing chronic systemic racist policing in Ferguson. Not to mention a black community that has been starved of resources and services.
Rather than racism, Carson pitched the problem in Ferguson—and everywhere else black people suffer disproportionately—as one of education and respect. “Education is the great divide,” Carson said. “Children need to understand that they have to get a good education.”
So, to sum up, racism which does not exist is not to blame. Children, who do exist, are.
7. Planned Parenthood is a plot to kill black babies.
With this statement, Carson placed himself solidly in the Alex Jones insane conspiracy theory camp. He also called Planned Parenthood a bigger threat to black people than racism. We are running out of adjectives. Bonkers, insane, batsh*t crazy, certifiable… all seem inadequate to the task. A portion of Carson’s comments about Planned Parenthood:
…one of the reasons that you find most of their clinics in black neighborhoods is so that you can find way to control that population. And I think people should go back and read about Margaret Sanger, who founded this place — a woman who Hillary Clinton by the way says she admires. Look and see what many people in Nazi Germany thought about her.
Note how he cleverly worked in another ‘Nazi Germany’ reference. No need to shout when you can always use the dog whistle.

Original. It's no wonder the evangelicals love him. They are all wayyyy out on that limb together.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

the beginning of fascism?

They say it's a free country.

Donald Trump seems to be saying some outrageous things. Does he know he’s being divisive? It turns out he does, and his supporters seem to be getting the message. Cenk Uygur, host of the The Young Turks, breaks it down. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015


This tune really "grabs" me. The bass line. The words. The mood. It's by "Bluey", one of the main men from the band Incognito.

Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick (born 19 February 1957, Mauritius) is a British guitarist, bandleader, composer and record producer. He has led the British acid jazz band Incognito since its formation in 1979. With Incognito, he has released fifteen studio albums as well as a number of live albums, remix albums and compilation albums. Prior to forming Incognito, Bluey was a founding member of the group Light of the World.
His record production credits include artists such as Paul WellerGeorge BensonMaxi Priest and Terry Callier; he has also collaborated with Stevie Wonder.[1]

Friday, October 23, 2015

your drunk neighbor

Donald Trump is simply more evidence that there is no God and we're on our own.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Hillary thoroughly thumped the GOP clowns in the Benghazi hearing Thursday, simply by remaining calm and cool while the lunatic, sweaty inquisitors looked like tiny, smarmy little pipsqueaks. 

"First you said there were no classified emails on your server, and THEN you said there were no emails MARKED classified on your server.  Why do you keep changing your story?!"

They looked like idiots probably because they ARE idiots, blinded by their own partisanship while living in the right-wing bubble. 

Hillary is one tough cookie. A formidable candidate if ever I've seen one.

The below is a collection of media impressions of the hearing, and is from "Hillary HQ" a blog not affiliated with the Clinton campaign.


I actually subjected myself to almost all of the 11-hour hearing and in the aftermath I'm still trying to absorb and ponder its implications. At various times it was fascinating, ridiculous, infuriating, boring, annoying, exciting, nauseating, pathetic, and even occasionally funny. But in the end, it was only one thing: Triumphant...for Hillary.

There will be more on this soon, but for now it's time for a victory lap as we celebrate Gowdy's sham reduced to shambles in a special edition of Hillary News & Views.

Jamelle Bouie @ Slate - Hillary Clinton Has Won the Benghazi Hearing:
You don’t have to like Clinton to see that this is a coup for her campaign. Not only has she bolstered her image as a smart, competent policymaker, but she’s even defused her email controversy—or come close to it—by talking about the issue in a calm, nonadversarial way. Meanwhile, by the fifth hour, committee members like Roskam were hitting Clinton for having a skilled press team.
When this began, conventional wisdom was that Hillary had to survive the scrutiny. That at best, this would be a wash. Toward the end, however, that wisdom changed. “Unless something happens,” wrote conservative columnist Matt Lewis on Twitter, “it’s starting to look like Hillary Clinton won’t merely survive this hearing—she will have come out on top.”
Whether or not Republicans built the Benghazi committee to damage Clinton’s campaign, it’s clear they weren’t opposed to an outcome where Clinton was harmed. Instead, we have the opposite. Thanks to the committee, Clinton might escape a scandal, neutralize an attack, and enter the first major stretch of the presidential race with the wind at her back.
Peter Daou and Tom Watson @ #HillaryMen - Benghazi Bashfest: An Outrageous and Cowardly Spectacle from the GOP:
In Hillary’s case, the higher standard is nearly a superhuman one – she is being made to endure more negativity and surmount greater hurdles than all other candidates combined. 
The fact that she survives and thrives is a tribute to her indomitable spirit.
In the big picture, the Benghazi hearing, like the manic obsession with her emails, is yet another challenge in Hillary's American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course of a campaign. No other candidate has ever had to deal with anything remotely like it.
At the hearing, Hillary's dignity, composure, stamina and stature outmatched and outclassed the petty, smarmy gang-up from Republicans whose sole mission was to derail her campaign.
Many metaphorical showers will be required to wash the stench off this deplorable spectacle.
Amanda Terkel @ The Huffington Post - Republicans Fail To Take Down Hillary Clinton After 11-Hour Benghazi Hearing:
Hillary Clinton maintained a calm, unruffled demeanor for 11 hours Thursday, as Republican after Republican grilled her in relation to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi and about her use of a private email server as secretary of state. ...
Despite the long hours, Republicans failed to catch Clinton off her guard or come up with significant new revelations to argue that she was negligent in her duties that led to the death of four Americans in Libya.
Her appearance is likely to give her a boost with the base, especially coming off from a strong performance after the first Democratic debate last week. Republicans weren't able to score any major hits and knock her off her feet, and Clinton showed she had the stamina to withstand the GOP attacks -- a fact that Republican lawmakers grudgingly seemed to acknowledge.
Conservative columnist Byron York @ Washington Examiner - Benghazi Bust:
There's a reason Benghazi Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy offered Hillary Clinton the chance to testify in a private, closed hearing. And there's a reason Clinton wanted to appear in an open setting, with the whole world watching. ...
So a hearing billed as an epic, High Noon-style confrontation — granted, the hype came from the media, not Republican committee members themselves — instead turned out to be a somewhat interesting look at a few limited aspects of the Benghazi affair. In other words, no big deal. And that is very, very good news for Hillary Clinton.
Sahil Kapur @ Bloomberg - Conservative Reviews Are In: Benghazi Hearing A Bust:
To hear Republicans tell it, a series of unfortunate events culminated in a rough day Thursday for the House Benghazi Committee, leaving conservatives to wonder if they've lost their most potent political weapon against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Seven months after the panel revealed that Clinton used a private e-mail server as secretary of state—a scoop that committee chairman Trey Gowdy repeatedly took credit for—bringing heaps of negative press to the Democratic presidential front-runner and a dip in her poll numbers, Clinton effectively turned the tables on her most nettlesome GOP inquisitors. During 8 hours and 20 minutes of testimony, Clinton deftly handled some hostile and at times pointed questioning from Republicans, keeping her cool and letting Democrats on the committee handle the political attacks.
In the end, Republicans threw some red meat to their conservative base but failed to land a blow to Clinton's credibility or unearth a meaningful discovery about the 2012 attacks on a U.S. outpost that left four Americans dead in Libya. It wasn't just Clinton loyalists saying that.

"A hearing that was once a threat has really become an opportunity for her," John Dean, a former White House counsel for Richard Nixon who is now a political independent, said on MSNBC hours into the hearing. "I think this is really Hillary's day. It's going to help her presidential campaign. As somebody who's been both a witness and a counsel, this is a textbook example of how to be a good witness."
Among House Republicans, there were no high-fives: A half-dozen lawmakers surveyed offered a muted response when asked about the hearing on Thursday afternoon. Many conservative commentators were unimpressed, if not angry with the proceedings.
For more conservative dismay, don't miss this priceless post by kos.

There were so many more awesome tweets about the hearing, but we have to stop somewhere.

Original, with more pictures.