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The Old Quaker strikes again

During a class in American history which Batrix teaches during her first year of her UCLA professorship, One girl puts up a hand.

“Yes – what's the question?” says Batrix.

“You said that guns were used all the time during the late 1770s and the 1800s in this country. Doesn't that prove that Amerika is fascist?”

Shaking her head at the sheer illogic and idiocy of that question, Batrix asks the girl, who looks rather like a young female Japanese animé character, with an oh-so-innocent expression that is too stupid to be feigned, “There were good reasons for having guns then – just as there are now. They are needed for hunting, to put meat on the table, and for self-protection. A great part of America is wilderness, though much less now than then. Most people were self-reliant when it came to food; they didn't dig potatoes and meat out of supermarkets, and didn't need to. So are you saying that self-defense and defense of others and hunting for food are fascist?”

“Well, no, but – well, everybody knows that anyone who picks up a gun gets drunk on power and starts killing and –“

“So you don't like having police there to help you in an emergency?”

“Well, we all knows that when they help us, they aren't fascist, but otherwise they are, and –“

“Here, let's consider the story of the old Quaker.

“This Quaker in question was probably born around 1860 or so. He lived on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a spaceious two-story house. One night he awoke at a time when he should have been asleep. Curious, he listened to try to discover what had awakened him, and sure enough, downstairs – his bedroom was on the second floor – he heard footsteps. So, taking up his blunderbuss, he went out of the room to the top of the stairs, which gave him a view of the parlor. Sure enough, there was a shadowy figure skulking around down there, inspecting things, looking for something worthwhile to steal.

“The Quaker, quietly putting his blunderbuss to his should, called down, 'Friend, I would not harm thee for all the world – but thee is standing where I am about to shoot!'

“The Burglar dropped his swag and tore out the front door and into the night, never to be seen in that neighborhood again.”

“That's all very nice,” said the girl, smirking, “but what does that have to do with anything?”

“If, as you claim,” said Batrix, “simply picking up a gun turns men and women into monsters, then that Quaker would have shot the burglar without giving warning. Instead, he warned the burglar, who, taking the hint, left and didn't come back. According to the logic of your claims, that makes that Quaker a monster. And he wasn't.”

“Well, Quakers are Christians, aren't they? And everyone knows that Christianity is the most hateful, murderous religion in the world!”

By this time, everyone else in the class was laughing at the young woman, who had tears in her eyes, hair dripping with sweat and wildly disheveled, and an expression that strongly suggested that she would love to rip out Batrix's throat with her bare hands, Only the fact that the rest of the class wasn't sympathizing with her held her back from doing violence.

Mustering what shreds of dignity left to her now, the girl stood up and, assuming a “noble-victim expression, the girl stalked out of the classroom and down the hall and out of Batrix's life for good, save for a confused and almost incomprehensible letter of complaint about Batrix to the UCLA administrators, who strongly suggested that the girl get some much-needed counseling and/or psychotherapy and also a good civics course before coming back to the university.

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That's right: Life causes change in conformity with its Will to survive and reproduce successfully.

Now, Thelemites everywhere will scream, "You stole that from Aleister Crowley, and that's not funny!!!." No, I didn't. I know what he taught, "Magick is the Art and Science of causing change in conformity with Will." But that's also the hallmark of all life, as well. As such, it puts the cap on all efforts to define life scientifically. It doesn't depend on genes, proteins, and other things that have been used to try to define life, whether here or elsewhere in the universe. It depends on behavior alone. If something displays that behavior, whether at a gross physical, chemical, or other level, then ipso facto, it is alive. Terrestrial plants, animals, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, extremophiles all do this. If we find alien things, things clearly from other worlds, doing this, they are alive and should be regarded as such.Read more...Collapse )


Is your food safe? Really safe?

The biotechnology industry has manipulated the government and the mainstream media, turned our food into toxic messes that are prepared with added flavorings and texturing agents to make them look and taste delicious in spite of their underlying toxicity, and put an entire generation of Americans at risk. The independence and integrity of America's food regulatory agencies and news media -- the USDA, the FDA, the SEC, and the FCC -- folded up their tents and stole away at the sight of all the bullshit and bribes from the GMO corporations thrown at Congress and the media.

This book gives you a good basic education on what you need to know about genetically modified organismsRead more...Collapse )

Review: Carl Zimmer, PARASITE REX



According to one reviewer, "Bacteria and viruses have received all the press when it comes to plagues. In this vividly written book, Carl Zimmer explores the complex world of worms, protozoa and other terrifying creatures that pose an equally great public health threat around the world. These organisms are even more subtle and challenging enemies, and Zimmer provides an excellent introduction to them." -- Christopher Wills, author of YELLOW FEVER, BLACK GODDESS. That is no less than the truth.

Parasites transform livesRead more...Collapse )
I got into a weird discussion the other day with a New Ager. You know, someone who believes in the power of crystals (especially that big 10-karat rock her boyfriend just gave her), astrology (as done by someone who doesn't know either astrology or astronomy worth a damn), Tarot cards (her Tarot packs are all beautifully arranged on the shelves of a glass-fronted cabinet that has been locked ever since she got the Tarot packs and put them in there), numerology "Lessee -- (counts on fingers) one, two three, duh, pork chops this Wednesday, 225 and must lose weight, six, seven, don't eight!, ten, fifteen, nine . . ." (I'm sure you can fill in the blanks which I didn't here). She's into aromatherapy, tai chi (she loves to watch others do it, but doesn't do it herself), loves animals and adores PETA but can't be bothered to clean up after a pet or spend money on a pet's health needs at the vet's, etc. etc. etc.

So she was trying to convert me to her belief in the Age of Aquarius, "When peace shall reign everywhere, there will be no wars, no one will commit crimes or be cruel to others," you know the drill. "And it will begin when that awful Age of Pisces is over with." So I asked her, all the while trying to hide those little horns peeking from under my halo, "What planet rules Aquarius?" "Um, Mars, maybe?" "Do you know what Mars rules?" "Um, Scorpio?' {sigh} . . . "As a matter of fact, Uranus rules Aquarius," I tell her. "Oh, you mean the new planet out between Venus and Neptune?" "No, it's between Jupiter and Neptune. And it rules (are you ready for this?) revolutions, civil war, science, scientific breakthroughs, electronics, tyrants, weird sex, you know, things like that . . ."

I seem to have this effect on certain people, causing them to break out in terrible rashes of prurient hissy-fits, scramble the fratissnazz and drop the eggs off high buildings. She's one of them . . .

Why I'm bigoted against bigots

Bigots are a lynch-mob looking for a target and a venue (any of which will do). They are bullies who make themselves feel POWERFUL and IMPORTANT by targeting people they don't know, who have never done them any harm, for their attentions, which are often murderous. Which makes them vampires. Ares, the bloodthirsty Greek G-d of War, is an undisciplined berserker whose appetite for blood is never fully slaked. Martius, the Roman G-d of War, rules highly trained, disciplined soldiers rather than the blood-crazed, kill-'em-all-and-let-the-G-ds-sort-'em-out savages that kill for the thrill (not to mention the loot, raping, acquisition of slaves, etc) of it.

Bigots manufacture "permission" to do their thing to innocent victims whenever possible by looking around for the least offensive, most harmless, and least defended group of people around, declare that they are "The Enemy" and "children of the Devil," etc. etc. etc., and use that "permission" to commit mass murder. Which is what Hitler and the Nazis did not only to Jews, but Christians, Gypsies, and Slavs under Hitler's reign of terror. They target Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, Christians, Americans, Native Americans, and numerous other groups. As individuals, some of them even target children, becoming child-beaters and child-murderers, using such empty excuses for their murderous rampages as "Nits breed lice.

I must confess that I, too, am a bigot. I am bigoted against psychopaths, bullies, bigots, the stupid (NOT those innocently ignorant, because ignorance can be remedied, nor the developmentally disabled, for most of them do the best they can with what they have, but rather those who KNOW damned good and well that what they're about to do is utterly stupid and do it anyway), the sadistic, control-freaks, misogynists, the cruel, the willfully destructive, the vandals, the politically and otherwise corrupt, those who teach corruption of any sort to our children, and all their repulsive kin. And I am PROUD of it. Would I lynch them all if I could? No, for I love justice far more than I hate crud like that. But if anything is Politically Incorrect, it is the sort of bigotry of which I am guilty. And don't bother demanding apologies from me for that. I am very, very proud of it.

Fastest wand in the West: Ribbitt! Moo!

Had a brainstorm this afternoon: How about a new TV series hearkening back to the old "Have Gun Will Travel" weekly TV series of the late 1950s and early 1960s called "Have Wand, Will Travel"? The central and continuing character, Abigail Lovecraft, is gorgeous, with long, blond hair; she is stacked, and wears boots with 5-inch spike heels. Like Paladin before her, she hires herself out, using her Magick wand rather than a gun as necessary. She turns men who get a little too rowdy around her into toads, telling them as they sit there on the floor, sadly croaking "Ribbit? Ribbit?", "Now, y'all behave, or I won't change you back." And since today's audiences are used to some of the more extreme rap music, some men refer to her by words and phrases normally used to indicate a woman's ladyparts or a certain kind of professional woman whose workplace is a room over a saloon where she attends to the needs of men for a price. She turns those men into cows, renting them out to dairy farmers, and doesn't ever change them back. Men are very polite to her once they learn about the ways in which she defends her honor, and the ladies find her reputation highly amusing and often hire her to rid them of rude, crude men who won't take HELL NO!! for an answer.

I figure that now Game of Thrones is beginning to favor the ladies, whereas the men in that series had it all their way before, it could set a new trend -- one which "Have Wand, Will Travel" could profitably exploit.


Brion McClanahan, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her

Who have the greatest American Presidents been? Who are the worst? The answers may surprise you.

As the author says, the problem with academic polls on this matter isn't the questions, but rather the perception of the executive office, a perception that has been skewed by the success of the United States in the 20th century and the growth of the power of the executive branch relative to the other branches and levels of government. The historians who usually participate in these polls lack an originalist perspective of the Constitution, and thus rank the presidents based on the outcome of their policies, not on how they upheld the oath they took when sworn into office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. It is on the latter basis that the author ranks the best and worst US Presidents.

Among the worst, those who screwed America up, are Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Barack Obama. Among the best are Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge. Those judgments depend on whether a given President upheld his oath of office or not, not on the results of his time in office. The Founders of this nation were terrified of untrammeled executive power unchecked or poorly checked by other branches of the government, and set up the new nation's government to provide checks and balance that would keep any one branch of the government, especially the executive branch, from seizing and wielding inordinate power not granted by the Constitution.

Not that any given President in the "Naughty" list was or is a bad man or a disliked one; nor were those in the "Nice" list necessarily "great" in the normal sense, that is, the sort of people about whom spectacular movies are made and that sort of thing. "Did they uphold the Constitution during their term in office, or not?" is the one measure by which Brion McClanahan ranks the Presidents, which is also a measure of the degree to which Presidents have protected our liberties or damaged them.

This book is an eye-opener. These days, thanks to rapidly declining standards in public schools and our colleges and universities, the average American citizen is not learned in Constitutional law and its applications. This book is a great introduction to that subject, in terms of both its history and the men charged with upholding and applying it, and a way for repairing the shameful gaps in our education when it comes to civics and American history.
Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind



I am not happy with this book.

In Chapter 2 of this book, "The Tree of Knowledge," the author discusses the "fictions" that hold us together as societies and cultures and enabled us to dominate our world, the most successful of all vertebrates. (Let's not go into the matter of rats, the inevitable outriders of civilization, able to establish huge colonies right under our cities, thriving on the detritus and forgotten storehouses of our world.) Yes, we do refer to binding contracts, the names of countries, and various legal rituals as "legal fictions<" but anything that can cause massive chances in our lives and the lives of other forms of life that exist all around us the way towns, cities, nations, map grids, last wills and testaments, etc. can are as real as earthquakes, droughts, massive population movements, and anything else in the human world (and beyond). The author tells us that gods and spirits don't exist, though they are useful fictions that bind us together as societies, as well, even though most Magickians, sorcerers, witches, priests, and others wielding Magickal power and/or representing whole religious communities honestly believe in such things. It never occurs to him to ask why they do, nor why attorneys believe in laws and legal systems. Beliefs are founded on what works, and what works either references real things or draws on them to create their own reality, and those who traffic in beliefs are generally no fools, not psychotic, but able practitioners of their own Arts and Sciences.

But there's an even deeper issue. All the things the author labels "fictions" are information. True, what information is, what it means and what it implies, are non-physical entities. Encoded in matter and energy, information is neither -- and yet it determines the course of human history and, indeed, life itself, of whatever kind, wherever it may be found. Apparently biological reality believes that information is real; all biological entities are encoded in biochemical "blueprints" such as DNA, RNA, or more exotic molecules, the information in which determines the course of development in each living being, its reproductive behavior, and all the other things that enable it to survive and pass on its genes. Yes, genetic information is nothing but patterns found in certain types of molecules -- but without it, there would be no life, and no us.

The sort of reductionist thinking that the author engages in closely resembles the grand folly of neo-Skinnerianism. B. F. Skinner, the founder of behaviorist psychology, decided that since you cannot weigh or measure the mind, the mind itself cannot be a true scientific subject, but behavior, which can be recorded and analyzed through objective means, can be. All right, as far as it goes. But then along came the neo-Skinnerians who, acknowledging that you can't weight and measure the mind, have decided that therefore the mind does not exist. (I asked my friend Fred, who was taking a survey course of all the psychological disciplines during his senior year and had learned this from the course, how the hell the neo-Skinnerians came to such an asinine conclusion. Shrugging broadly, Fred said, "Introspection?" Yes.) Similarly, the things that author Harari tells us are "fictions" sure are unusual forms of things that supposedly don't exist: they are information, not energy as such, not matter as such, but real in their own way and encoded in matter-energy media. They are not "real," because their reality does not exist in and of themselves, but rather in how we or other supposedly real entities experience and interpret them; they range from the nucleic acids that encode the genes to the characteristics of matter and energy that cause things around them to behave certain ways in response to them, to the millions or billions of documents and books printed up and published every year, to what we see on our computer screens (arrangements of colors and patterns encoded electronically and painted onto our screens due to the actions of our computers), to the behavior of the brain and other major organs in response to the information encoded in chemicals, physical impacts, and sound waves and printed missives created by other human beings, and so on and on.

Above all, if Harari is right, the mind itself doesn't exist, but is instead a plausible fiction -- i.e., a lying idea -- that we decided to believe in because it's convenient. And the same is true of everything the mind is involved in -- language, the processing of sensory input, decisions about what to do about stimuli coming into the mind from outside, and so on. We have no way to know objectively whether anything exists beyond the confines of our individual skulls -- but that doesn't keeps us from living our lives and making decisions as if it does.

No, I don't think Harari realized that that is what his arguments about human "fictions" come down to. But simply put, in a commendable effort to simplify certain aspects of human reality for the sake of making his arguments more understandable to the reader, he has opened the door to the sort of monster that can reduce all arguments, analysis, and thought to so many ideational matchsticks in the wind.

Needless to say, as bugged by the second chapter of Sapiens as I obviously am, I am not going to wade through the rest of it. I will leave that to braver and more enterprising explorers of the philosophical universe. Wish I could do more, but now I have this headache, because of which I will now bow out of the task of reading this tome and get on with other things.

Suspicions confirmed?

Someone just told me that there's a strong possibility that many of the posts on Facebook and other social media seemingly in support of Donald Trump are actually the work of Communists and/or people paid by the Democrats and even some Republicans to create them. These are the posts that seem to be written by non-stop pottymouths and functional illiterates or created by cartoonists to be as repulsive and vicious as possible. The posts in question seem to attack liberals and Democrats, above all Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, in ways that are utterly puerile, cruel, and stupid. They are driving many people to utterly reject not only Donald Trump, but all Republican nominees in all offices whatsover by creating sympathy even among Conservatives for the apparent targets of these attacks -- which may not be attacks at all, but rather left-handed ways of getting the country to vote for Democratic candidates and follow the liberal lines.

Whether that's true or not, those posts are so repellent that they turn one's stomach. The Billinsgate and nonstop verbal and graphic sewage with which these posts are replete aren't doing the Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Party any favors. I don't care how well-intentioned you might be -- and we all know what road is paved with good intentions -- and how much you want to defeat the Democrats in the coming November election, you aren't doing their opposite numbers any favors whatsoever with such posts. (If I see any more posts replete with runs of four or five exclamation points or posts talking about "Muslimes" one more time, I will vomit.)

You know who you are. The problem for you is, so do we, that part of the electorate that is literate, who think with our intellects and not our gonads, who appreciate skilled use of the English language and really don't much cotton to the endless and revolting tide of verbal filth and those ghastly cartoons about politicians' wives. You're either Communists, out to shoot down conservative America, or useful idiots who think they are helping conservatives but are doing precisely the opposite. To the former, we've had more than enough of you and your Islamist allies; to the latter, please SHUT UP AND STOP MESSING UP THE CHANCES THAT OUR COUNTRY WILL SURVIVE AS A CONSTITUTIONAL NATION OF THE SORT ITS FOUNDERS ENVISIONED.

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