Category Archives: Facebook

#MAGA: Space Force. The Stupid Dreams of Stupid People

Countable

#MAGA=Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. This is a truism I’ve demonstrated more than once on this blog. (1, 2, 3) The latest whiz-bang idea from the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) is this idiocy he calls the Space Force. Even his Vice President, a strangely quiet man lost in the shadow of the OHM’s vast vanity, has gotten in on the deal. Yesterday he was promoting the idea publicly. Today on the Texas Standard I hear that Maddog Mattis is gungho to get right on this stupid idea and make it a reality. That’s weird, because I thought even Maddog was against it. When a guy nicknamed Maddog doesn’t want to do your idea, you should know it’s probably even crazier and dumber than you might have thought.

Let me spell out just how dumb this idea is, from the perspective of decades of Science Fiction reading. The Earth sits at the bottom of a pretty deep gravity well. It’s face would be more visibly pockmarked than it is were it not for the wind and water action on the surface, not to mention the verdant tree growth, masquing the damage inflicted on the Earth from simple rocks that it has encountered in it’s annual journey around the sun. There are tons of rocks out there in space. Tons of them. Asteroids that could extinguish all life on this planet, in an instant. If we want to destroy any spot on the globe, that potential is out there right now. It is just waiting for anyone, anyone, to go out there, strap a rocket motor to the thing, push it this way or that and hey, presto! you’ve vaporized the target of your choice on the surface of the earth, and probably several hundred square kilometers around it.

The stupidity of believing we could continue our warlike ways into space was spelled out quite well in Robert A. Heinlein’s libertarian exploration novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In that book we accompany the main character as he plots revolution against the Earth that sent him to a penal colony on the Moon. In order to avoid any major spoilers, I will simply observe that lobbing rocks at the Earth figures heavily in the plot of that novel. A Space Force is akin to the stupidity of placing the exiles from the Earth at the top of the Earth’s gravity well and daring them to get back at us. I expect a lunar penal colony will be the next great idea that the OHM will come up with, that’s how dumb the idea of a Space Force is. The world of Starship Troopers is waiting for us down that route through time, and I don’t recommend that future, either.

What life on this planet needs to understand is that we are at war with the rest of the universe, because the universe wants to kill us. Everywhere outside of the blanket of atmosphere that covers the Earth, death awaits. Gasping, freezing, boiling, death. We don’t need a Space Force because we don’t need to militarize space. Everything about going to space is a weapon. The rocket engines are weapons, the ships are weapons, that lug nut you forgot to tighten properly is a weapon after it comes loose, hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour just waiting to intersect some habitat somewhere and destroy it. We cannot be at war with other people in space, because killing each other is far, far to easy to do out there. A moment of carelessness and everyone dies. Not exactly the place for the murderous or the stupid. Our only hope for the future is demilitarization, and it’s a pretty faint hope at that.

Stonekettle Station

The demilitarization of space is the opposite of a Space Force. This is all aside from the fact that a Space Force is probably just another boondoggle like Reagan’s Star Wars. A boondoggle that will go nowhere and cost billions. It’s a stupid idea endorsed by stupid people. Or as Stonekettle Station put it, the money goes in the black hole and never comes out.

Splitting this so-called space force off from the Air Force (and presumably pulling the space-related components out of the other services as well), what does that give us that we don’t have now — and not just give us, but give us to such a degree that it justifies the cost and significantly increased complexity? What are the distinct requirements, the technology, skillsets, logistics, communications, training, facilities, targets, strategies, tactics, objectives, and missions that will define this space force? And how are those distinctly different from the current Air Force, distinct enough to warrant an entirely separate service with its enormous associated cost?

Why both an Air Force and a Space Force, instead of a single Aerospace Force?

Like everything else with Trump: what are the details?Stonekettle Station on Facebook

Stupidity is Not Funny; or, Laughter is a Suicide Pact?

h/t to the SGU and Reddit

I’m listening to Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World on Audible right now. I remembered reading this commentary on the celebration of stupidity somewhere online before deciding I needed to at least read the book once. The Facebook memories for today included a paragraph or two on the subject. Ah, memory hole plugged. I knew I’d read that somewhere before.

I started that status entry with,

It is a point of pride to me that I couldn’t sit through Dumb and Dumber. I never bothered to watch Beavis and Butthead; as in, ever watch. I know one joke from that series. I remember it only because I am unable to forget it.

A family member loved the show back in the day, and he and another friend enjoyed pretending they were Beavis and Butthead and would do that skit repeatedly until I gave up and laughed. Gave up and laughed, against my better judgement.

Stupidity is not funny. Stupidity is dangerous. Ignorance gets people killed. All. The. Time. Not knowing that your pool is the most dangerous place in your yard is what kills children every year. I stood outside on the deck in my backyard waiting for my now-crawling son to fall in the pool, and after he did fall in the pool I jumped in fully clothed to pull him back out. This was the third person I had saved from drowning in my life, the only time I knew that what was about to happen would happen. I knew that the baby would explore his world. I knew he would not know what to think of this thing called water and edge and pool. I knew he would probably fall in, and I watched to see if he did. When he did I was prepared to pull him out immediately, and the scare kept him from ever going near the pool again unless we were present and teaching him to swim. He swam like a fish at two or three, I don’t remember when exactly he took to water, but he was probably swimming better than he could walk for most of his childhood.

Knowing he would fall in allowed me to save his life and turn the unknown danger into a teaching moment that he carries with him to this day. Knowledge is power.

I don’t find stupid people amusing, I find stupid people threatening, and for very good reasons. Stupid drivers get other people killed. I see it pretty much every time I drive. Stupid people on their way to painful, deadly futures in their cars, and they’ll probably take someone else with them when they do that one stupid thing that gets them killed. Stupid voters elect poor leaders. It is not for nothing that MAGA=Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, this assertion is demonstrable, repeatedly. Stupid voters elected the Orange Hate-Monkey. The OHM himself acknowledges this with his damning with faint praise comment “I love the poorly educated.” Stupid leaders destroy entire nations. The OHM and his willful ignorance, his flock of the willfully ignorant in tow, are burning this country to the ground as I type this out right now. The idiots will not know they’ve destroyed the country until it is too late to save it from them, but they might as well be covering everything in gasoline and lighting the match themselves. Destruction is just about that certain.

I will not laugh at the OHM or his followers. They aren’t funny. They are threatening my life and the lives of my children, and I won’t allow those threats to go unanswered. There will be consequences for the two years of the OHM’s rule, one way or another. The stupid who voted for him need to feel this pain themselves, like discovering you are immersed in a liquid that you didn’t know was there, and no one told you how to swim before you fell in. They need to recognize danger and avoid it in the future. How will this lesson be taught? That is a very good question.


Robert Reich, How to Prevent Future Trumps, July 1, 2018 also on Facebook

A link to the radically expanded Facebook status. Laughter is a Suicide Pact is a paraphrasing Niven’s puppeteer Nessus from Ringworld

Grand Conspiratorial Fantasies

Other98

The image at right was culled from a friend’s Facebook wall a few years back. It is merely the introduction, the building 7 of this rabbit-hole of a conspiracy post.

You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn’t recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the  text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.

I have no problem with the image. I probably don’t have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren’t theories.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.

Grand conspiracies aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn’t like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.

Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than about anyone else.

I’ve argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study on that subject,


Rebecca Watson May 18, 2015, No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are delectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

The conversation with the Facebook friend proceeded to spiral down the rabbit hole, into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales, immediately following my attempt to explain their gullibility to them. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn’t want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That’s really all there is to it.  Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn’t a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn’t keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA’s spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.

After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I’m left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?

However this willful blindness to the state of US politics on the part of the people whom the government supposedly represents does have a cost. It is not all fun and games as we pretend that lizards run our country and that we narrowly missed being governed by a pedophile in the last election. Conspiracies do exist, yes. And when they are represented in plots hatched by a foreign government, especially on that speaks a different language and is on shaky ties with the US to start with, they can be quite large and even link to the leadership of that government, and still take years for us to catch wind of it.

It turns out that the Jade Helm 15 fantasy that took the nation by storm during the Obama administration came from somewhere, and that somewhere wasn’t inside the United States. It was created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord.

If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don’t understand how your government works – but then again that’s not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn’t understand how the very government he is part of works either.–  Stonekettle Station, Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas

So the answer was yes. Yes Russia could and did interfere with our politics; and they continued to do it from that point straight on through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) as president.


TEXAS STANDARD|Michael MarksMay 4, 2018 12:38 pm|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

Texas Tribune

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’” – Texas Tribune, Hysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

Does this mean that the OHM is a Russian stooge? No. No it doesn’t. Why? Because those links are tenuous and unproven. Likely unprovable. He is a money launderer and a client for Russian oligarchs, but he isn’t an invisible bomb-throwing ninja of the scale necessary to pull off that kind of spy intrigue. He’s just another conman who was used in a con that targeted the American people. The sooner we figure that out and get him out of office, the better everything will be.

However, he is one of the people who believed the Jade Helm story at the time. Just like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just like Ted Cruz. This is the cost of believing this conspiratorial fairytales. The cost being that these people have been shown to be unfit for office. They are far too gullible to be trusted with handling the daily business of our government. Unfortunately for the average American, they’re still caught up in so many other conspiratorial fantasies that they probably haven’t noticed that their leaders have been shown to be just as clueless as they are.

A previous version of this was originally posted here.

Caveat Emptor, Again

I’d accuse Jim of stealing my title, but I stole it from someone else.

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election. – StonekettleStation, Caveat Emptor

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station was referencing the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) military plans when he titled his piece Caveat Emptor. The OHM is selling us a military vision in his usual huckster fashion. The most glorious military you’ve ever seen. Anyone who believes this to be true is as dumb as the people wiring their account info to 419 scammers thinking they’re going to win big. Pretty much just as Jim tells the story.

When I used the title Caveat EmptorI was speaking to the selling of the OHM’s alter ego, Trump the businessman, Trump the deal-maker and fixer. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. You are being sold a bill of goods. You are being taken. Guard your wallet. The OHM is none of those things. The OHM is a money launderer, serial philanderer, and a thief, not necessarily in that order.


When I get a quotable snippet from one of Jim’s articles, I tend to post it all over the place so as to do him a favor and drive traffic to his website. Since I can’t afford to pay him for what he writes, the least I can do is promote him where he isn’t already being promoted. I posted the above quote to Google’s idea of a social platform, Google+ as well as a few other places, but I only got replies on G+, and what I got in response came out of the anarchist/voluntaryist wings of the political spectrum, a commandment to vote harder.

I recognized the flavor of this attack almost immediately. Voting is useless. Voting doesn’t fix anything. Ah, we’re dealing with a libertarian here. I have little to no patience with libertarians, having quit that cult not so long ago. I don’t participate in government (as the snippet demands) to achieve anything specific for me personally. My personal goals are not what voting achieves. This is a core problem with libertarianism specifically and individualism generally. Voting isn’t about me and it isn’t about you or anyone else specifically. This is true of most life experience, but try explaining this fact to a libertarian or anarchist. It’ll go right over their heads.

But that isn’t to say that voting and government as a structure haven’t achieved measurable good. General goods have been achieved and the list is nearly endless. Longer even than the evils that government has created through it’s existence. It is always that way with the tools we create. The evil comes with the good.

The elderly no longer have to die penniless and alone. The sick now have places to go to be cared for. The poor have the beginnings of structure that could end their poverty if used properly. Libertarians will say these goods were achieved by use of force because they don’t understand the nature of money, the meaning of money, etc.but they insist on force being applied to them before yielding so that they can say told you so. I know because I’ve seen this done many times over the years. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You libertarians and anarchists, you crazy right-wing ammosexuals, you are not any deader when the cops shoot you for armed resistance than the dead black guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What you are buying with your money is death, exactly like funding a military is buying death. The trick, just in case you are wondering, is to outlive the other guy, which means you are failing to understand what you are buying if you end up dead in the process. Caveat Emptor. There’s some good advice offered gratis. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

TL;DR? Maybe You Should Have Read It

StonekettleStation on Facebook

That is the most common response I get from people who think they disagree with me. “No links. Write your argument for me specifically. I don’t have time to read your articles.” I love the way they expect me to spend time they don’t have, as if I have their time and I’m hoarding it.

Many of the people that say this appear to have crafted this counter over years of dealing with disagreement. Having been confronted with a fact-based argument they couldn’t refute in the past, they simply insist on the facts being presented to them concurrently, probably knowing that most arguments are far too complex to be communicated succinctly in a comment thread. When their opponent becomes angry and ignores them, they feel vindicated. They never realize that their inability to accept facts in evidence is the real problem, not their opponent’s argument. That their opponent will not spend the time to hold their hand and lead them down the path to revelation somehow proves to them that they are right.

I have tried copying and pasting entire articles to comment threads in the past, and the resultant wall of text is then dismissed as Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) I dismiss long, rambling walls of text (like this one) as TL;DR myself, so I get it. But that doesn’t make them (or me) right. It means the reader isn’t interested in the subject or  interested in (even afraid of) changing their mind about whatever it is. I think this is the most common answer. They are bored. They really aren’t interested in the subject being discussed.

Now, imagine what the response would be if the bored person typing TL;DR really needed something, let’s say their air was poisoned and they didn’t believe it. They’d be dead before they figured it out. Or the other way ’round. What if they needed someone else to do a completely routine thing (like click a link and read a counter-argument) and the responsible person just couldn’t be bothered. “Why yes, I can see that you are bleeding out, and you need me to apply pressure to that wound. But I don’t want my hands to get all icky with your blood.”

If you are wasting time on the internet, reading a well-crafted counter-argument is probably the best use of your time. You learn what your opponent thinks. You learn what your arguments weaknesses are. The most frustrating thing is knowing you have the facts on your side, and the emotional believer of the contrary won’t even look at the facts for fear they might have to change their mind about something. It’s those kinds of people that make me despair for the future.

Politics and religion. A majority of people will not think critically about either one. Now that the Republican party has merged the two into one, becoming the party of Christianism, wanting to establish a christian nation, they think they’ve combined their strengths when they’ve actually multiplied their weaknesses. Like the person breathing poisoned air and doesn’t believe it, Republicans are blind to the threats they refuse to see. Here’s hoping they don’t take the rest of us down with them. 

Evidence of Society

When was the last time you stalked prey, ran it down and then ate it? That’s not a realistic question, is it? I mean silly, right? I’ll skip over asking if you’ve crafted your own weapons with which to hunt game, I know most people have not and the creation of the most basic tools an individual can make is a skill that vanishingly few people can exhibit. When was the last time you planted seeds, watched them grow, and then harvested the crop? Well, all of us have probably tended a garden in our lifetimes. Agriculture is in just about everybody in some way. There is something real about digging in the dirt and watching plants grow. Something very zen and rewarding about the entire process. However, gardening is definitely not the same as growing everything you need to survive all by yourself year in and year out.

Why am I asking these questions? Because that is what it means to be truly self-sufficient. To be able to produce the food you require independently. To be able to create all of the tools and clothing you require to survive in any climate in any region of the world. If I were to ask you about building your own shelter, even fewer people would understand just how difficult that process and others are. They would be clueless as to just how many people are required to create the many things we take for granted. Take for granted (i.e. an entitlement) especially in the US and other developed countries.

TED, Thomas Thwaites, How I Built a Toaster from Scratch

I have heard the challenge, repeated many times over my years in libertarian circles, to prove the existence of society. It is almost a mantra to some individualists, and I know there are survivalists out there who are convinced they could live on their own indefinitely. Some of them even can do it, I’m sure, but the number of people who could do it are a vanishingly small fraction of a percentage point of the entire human population currently living on Earth.

Coming from the other direction, the number of people the Earth could support if everyone had to live a hunter-gatherer life is probably less than one billion people. I haven’t seen anyone do a back of the envelope calculation on that in several years, so my number is off I’m sure. The point is that the number of people the world can support in a primitive lifestyle is smaller than the number of people our established technology can support. The systems built and maintained over centuries by people who just want to see their children have it easier than they did, to be able to survive without having to claw their way through every day wondering if they’d make it through the next day.

The nine-to-fiver who complains about the cost of his latte has no clue, none at all, just how many people who had to labor just to get him his coffee with milk in a container that he could just throw away when he’s had enough caffeine to keep him alert. And he gets that tasty beverage in exchange for a promissory note, a debt instrument, money, that the retailer then passes back down the chain eventually to the field workers in a far away country that actually touch the soil and grow the coffee that he thinks he paid too much for.

All of this, the high numbers of people, the ease of access to goods and services, the ability to do some task divorced from producing sustenance for yourself directly and still be fed, clothed, sheltered? All of it is evidence of society. Money is evidence of society, all by itself. Money is a socialist system, a system that exists because there are others to trade with in the first place. Without the group’s agreement, you’d still be running down prey like your ancient ancestors did, and hoping that the animal didn’t injure you before you killed it.

Watching the seventh season of The Walking Dead, I was struck by the notion that the entire group still wears clothing that doesn’t visibly disintegrate when they move. Seven years on, they still aren’t spinning and weaving thread and cloth. Patching shirts and jackets. For that matter the vehicles still run after being essentially without maintenance on the side of the road for years. Gasoline still burns even though (as anyone who has experience with small engines can attest) you’re lucky if you can get a lawn mower engine to start after it’s been sitting idle through one winter. Lucky to get it started because the fuel itself is unstable and will degrade over time. Rick and Carl and the rest of the crew? They’d be walking or riding horses everywhere by now because the fuel to run modern vehicles can’t be easily created without a vast infrastructure of technology that very few people understand.

That’s television, you say? Of course it is. It’s fantasy. And so is the notion that any of us are truly self-sufficient. None of us can replicate even the most simple of machines that we rely on daily, and yet we delude ourselves into thinking that we are capable and independent. Rational actors on a vast, mathematically predictable stage. That ability to delude oneself in that fashion? That too is evidence of society. Flat Earthers are a modern invention, and absolute proof of society’s existence. You don’t question that the Earth is round when you watch the people who will bring back your dinner tonight sail over the horizon to catch fish. The curvature of the Earth is as evident as the gnawing hunger in your belly.


I first thought about writing a post like this one after listening to this episode of Freakonomics,

I was inspired by the complexity of the process of creating one of the oldest tools modern man utilizes, the simple wooden pencil. As the episode goes into, the pencil is hardly simple at all. It took generations of tinkering and tweaking to create the object that you and I think of as a pencil when we say the word “pencil”. This TED talk portrays the complexity of the subject more quickly,


TED Ed: Small Thing Big Ideas, Why the Pencil is Perfect

Unfortunately the video is hosted on Facebook only. I apologize for the cludgy video interface design that comes along with that; the parts that aren’t directly copied from YouTube, I mean. Modern technology is so much not like the pencil. Facebook’s baldly abrasive and ham-handed attempts to acquire all internet traffic for itself are a hallmark of poor design, but that is a different subject for some other day. The subject for today is how the simplest of objects that we take for granted, a toaster, a pencil, are beyond the ability of any one person to put together and have work properly. So much for the dreams of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Would you mind passing me that cup of tea, please?

Facebook ≠ Good Governance

Facebook wants me to use Facebook to contact my representatives in government. I’ll get to the issue of my never giving Facebook the authority to be the messenger to and from my representatives in government eventually. First I would like to explain why none of these people really want to hear from me again.

There is one preliminary quibble I need to get out of the way. Facebook claims my local government representatives are on Facebook. this is false. Austin’s mayor is on Facebook as part of this new Townhall function they’ve come up with, so there is a representative of my local government. But not nearly all of them, or even more than that one. No one below that, local townsfolk who have actual knowledge of what I need and might want to say to them are on Facebook as part of this function that Facebook has given itself. None of them; City Manager, City Councilmember, County Commissioners, Justice of the Peace,  County Clerk, Municipal Court, Police Department, Fire Department, EMS, Austin Utilities, Texas Gas, Or the various information service providers, all of whom are between me and my access to Facebook who has deemed itself my conduit to speaking to my government representatives, are listed as being part of this townhall dublafluwichy they’ve invented for Facebook.

Now, these guys? These guys aren’t local, but one of them was. So I’ll follow him. He’s also the only one of these people who would willingly take a call from me personally and not actually ignore anything I say, so he’s the only one worth talking to. Now, you could say, What about Dawnna Dukes? She’s local. Yeah, she’s local, but there’s no point in talking to her. She wasn’t present to do her job this session in congress, and I voted for her for the first time in 2016 only because she promised she’d retire and let a special session pick her replacement. This time around I will vote for anybody who runs against her in the primary. Anybody. I’ll vote for anybody running against her in the general. Anybody. That’s how much I want her out of the seat she’s sitting in.

The other two state Schmos? The ones who represent the entire state of Texas? I’ve never voted for either of them at any point in history, and I doubt that I ever will. One of them is a crazed religious zealot who wants to kick all Hispanics out of the state of Texas and thinks that the transgendered, homosexuals and atheists are threats to the christian way of life, and the other one is Dan Patrick. The less said about him the better.

These guys are definitely not local. District twenty-five is a gerrymandered piece of shit that the Texas GOP came up with to get rid of what was then the only sitting Texas Democrat in the House of Representatives. They failed. He’s still there sitting in the seat he inherited from J.J. Jake Pickle.

Roger Williams is from Killeen, a place way up North of Austin. He’s not local. If Texas was broken up like the Atlantic states are, He’d be from Maine while I was from Connecticut. Not even vaguely similar. Killeen is as much like Austin as a Catholic is like a Baptist. Jesus is their shared savior but they aren’t exactly sure how that is.

Likewise John Cornyn is from Texas but his notion of what Texas is and mine will never be the same. Ted Cruz is Ted Cruz. I’ve talked to both of them before. I’d rather have a conversation with my dog. I’m pretty sure my dog understands me better and I’m quite comfortable calling my dog a friend I can relate to. If I could relate to those two I don’t think I’d be able to sleep at night.

All three of those guys, Williams, Cornyn and Cruz are on the same list as Dawnna Dukes, which is a low point for Democrats for me. The one Democrat who represents me is the one Democrat I want to be rid of; the one Democrat that I would vote for anybody on the ticket other than her. The other three are just typical Texas Republicans. People I generally have no use for but are stuck in the same state with anyway. Their twisted values are as familiar to me as the taint of oil refinery polluted air around Houston and Borger. The shell-shocked town of West. The destitute colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. No, I know these people quite well. They are the problem, not the solution.

All of the negative observations above goes double for both Mike Pence and Donald Trump. Mike Pence may end up being the person in charge of the federal government but that will only be because the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) is completely incapable of holding government office successfully. His probable presidency will not be because Mike Pence has the slightest clue in which direction reality lies or an idea of what good governance is or might be. He’s only the Vice President because the OHM picked someone everyone would be less inclined to trust than him. We can’t impeach Trump, then we’d have to face President Pence. Except we have to impeach Trump because he’s probably a lunatic, making him more dangerous to the world than a President Pence would be to us.

Having now taken the tour of Facebook’s townhall offering, I’d like to make a counter-offer. Be careful, Facebook. You are starting to look like the Post Office. The Post Office was Benjamin Franklin’s invention that allowed an informed public to be created and through it for representative governance to be possible. If you are the Post Office, then you are subject to direct federal oversight. You are a part of government; and as such, can be dictated to by the exact same representatives you list for me to contact. You can be altered, ordered or dismantled by the government without an appeal to the population at large. Without a claim to private business or privacy protections. Branches of government can come and go at the government’s whim.

With a user base of over a billion people, I have to wonder if there is anything with enough power to bring you to heel? I’m beginning to doubt that there is an entity with enough authority to govern the internet in general and Facebook in particular. But it may be about time that we starting talking about that kind of authority, if not well past that time.

Atheism is not a Belief System

“Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.” – Bertrand Russell, Is There a God?

Once upon a time there was a forum at Dan Carlin’s podcast website. The forum has since been deleted, and the posts only sporadically appear in the Wayback Machine now. It’s hit or miss to find any of the almost six thousand posts I logged there over the decade or more I haunted the forums. For a very long time I considered those forums the best place, the only place, to go to argue politics and philosophy. I was probably always wrong on that score, as I was wrong on so many other scores back then, but it felt almost like home for a period of a few years. Before it turned sour. Before it was dominated by the hateful few who had successfully driven off the thinkers there.

I discovered Dan Carlin’s podcasts, Common Sense and Hardcore History through an advertisement on Freetalk Live, back in the days when I was a hardcore Libertarian idealist. Back when I would show up to argue things I didn’t understand with people I didn’t understand and couldn’t figure out. I was lucky if I could extract a rebuttal from the cryptic lines of text they would type in reply to my (in my mind) clearly worded arguments. It took many years and lots of fumbling to realize that what I thought was clearly worded was generally the same mish-mash of disconnected and unconnectable personal anecdotes turned into text strings that I was presented with by other members of that and other forums. Groups of the blissfully unsuspecting that I would descend on like a vengeful wraith of anarchist freedom gone mad, sputtering coded gibberish that I’m sure most people couldn’t even wrap their heads around. At least, that is how it seems in hindsight.

Dan Carlin was one of the pioneers of what is now a burgeoning industry of informational and news podcasts, and I was an early listener of his starting with about the thirtieth podcast of Common Sense. I signed up for his community forum in January of 2007. I made enemies almost immediately and was driven off by old-timers there a few times. I was driven off only to return the next time Dan posted a Common Sense show that I wanted to argue about. I say driven off  because that is what was happening. Dan Carlin had and still has some quaint ideas about the value of input from those uninterested in conversation, what most of the world today labels as trolls. I wasn’t above trolling in my own way, but I never understood why clear attempts to end conversation were never stopped by the many moderators present on the forum. It was years later that I realized that they were never going to do anything about these trolls. Dan Carlin’s expressed opinion on the subject of freedom of speech was that everyone had a right to speak even when that speech was specifically intended to disrupt. As my willingness to be verbally assaulted waxed and waned, and as the membership in the group altered and new people appeared to take the place of old adversaries, I would come and go infrequently.

I would come and go infrequently that is until episode 172, an episode I retitled Texas SBOE Destroys Education; an essay that I posted to this blog at the time and also posted to the forum. In that podcast Dan appears to suggest that creationism could be successfully taught alongside modern scientific theories about the history and future of the universe, a point which he quickly denied on the forums and yet remains exactly as I stated in the podcast. When I protested that the last thing that should be done was to compromise the scientific method in such a fashion, I was immediately laid upon by a large section of the forum’s membership, an overwhelming number of which were christians (like the majority of American society itself) christians who wanted their views taught in school as if their beliefs were the unassailable truth. Truth with a capital T, better than the results of scientific inquiry.

After being badgered for days about how science is itself ultimately unprovable in a post-modernist sense, after being badgered for my atheism and how atheism also makes claims about reality which cannot be proven, I created a secondary thread with the title Atheism is Not a Belief System. I honestly thought I’d at least get the rest of the atheists on the forums on board with this subject line. I mean, not having a belief in a thing isn’t itself a belief, right?

It’s funny in hindsight, this naive belief that two people could agree about anything on the internet. What happened over the years, from June 2, 2010 to the day the boards went down late in 2016 can only be described as a cluster fuck. There really isn’t any other words that will cover the mess that resulted from the creation of that thread.

Part of the problem was mine. It took years for me to distinguish between those offering friendly criticism and those who were militantly convinced that all atheists were of the devil. The last group was pretty clearly demarcated because most of them were incoherent even though they offered walls of text as explanations. It was during the attempted shepherding of this rolling orgy in a cesspool that a lot of my current attitudes towards substandard attempts to troll, incoherent if firmly believed arguments, and just plain bad attempts to be funny were formed. Since the people trolling the thread to silence conversation were never going to be punished by the administrators of the forum, I was forced to simply block the trolls who could not be reasoned with. I blocked the dangerously deranged and mildly threatening alike, attempting to force the thread onto the course that the title implied, all to no avail. The militant christians of the forum made it a religion thread, until I finally gave them what they wanted. I changed the title to That Religion Thread. This was the first of several subject lines I gave to the thread. Every one of the new names I gave to the thread following that one were blatant attempts to murder it. I changed the title and the OP’s contents to reflect what the forum’s participants were saying at the other end of the (then 400 page) thread several times, over the course of years and it was largely ineffective, although I did get it to roll briefly off the front page of the forum once. Once.

As I became more and more disillusioned with the concept of online arguments per se, I spent less and less time on the one board that I had ever managed to get a foothold in. In the end my cutting wit would get me banned from forum after forum. If I was not banned outright, I would simply submit to the pressure to leave. I’ve never been one to overstay my welcome. This eventually became true at Dan Carlin’s forum as well. The only time I came back was when someone would resurrect the zombie atheism thread specifically to get us old-timers (now I was one of them) to come back and argue about something. The orifice-plugging spectacle reached a staggering 608 pages in length before Dan pulled the plug on the forum itself, finally admitting what I had attempted to illustrate to him several times; that some form of authority is required for a productive conversation to occur. He has now moved his community to Facebook, where any user can remove anybody for any reason they please from a conversation. This also impedes productive conversations, but at least those threatening your life can be kept from seeing your activity online there.

That is the story so far, the history of the title of this piece without the meat of the argument for it. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. I will now attempt to codify six hundred and eight pages of sporadic on-topic posts into one sound argument that I think will cover the ground intended. I’d like to hope that it turns out better than the time I told my mom I don’t want to talk about god anymore, I’d rather talk about something important, but please do not asphyxiate yourselves waiting to see if it will work.

Part of the problem of outlining this argument is that, for me, the argument has always been transparently easy to understand.  Ever since first discovering that belief in god wasn’t universal, way, way back when, back in the days of Sunday school religious indoctrination, grade school prayers and mandatory church attendance for the children while the parents stayed home and slept in. It was bound to happen eventually. As a voracious reader I was going to run across the fact that some people didn’t believe in god in some book somewhere.

Reading Bertrand Russell and Winston Churchill as a teenager was my introduction to disbelief. Black Velvet is what Winston Churchill called how he saw the afterlife. Rather than instantly converting me to atheism, the idea that there was an actual ending to existence scared the crap out of me. I doubled down and became a born-again christian, crawling to the front of the church in my desperation to believe the way everyone around me seemed to believe. The way my grandparents believed and were so happy with. I wanted to be like them.

But it was useless. I was never going to believe the way they did because I wasn’t them. I also wasn’t my parents who cheerfully packed us up and sent us to church with the grandparents while they went back to sleep. I had questions and I wanted answers to those questions, even if the answers to those questions scared the crap out of me. It wasn’t until I found a kindred spirit in the form of the Wife that I knew that it would be OK to simply admit that I didn’t believe the fairy tales written in the holy books that everyone took so seriously. Our children have never set foot in a church unless we went with them; which means they’ve been to several weddings and several funerals at churches and not much else. So I proved I was not like my parents or my grandparents to my children and to myself.

But what does it mean, Atheism? Is it different than Agnosticism? What about Freethought? The answer to that question is that every single person who takes on one of those labels has some different conceptualization of what the label means to them, exactly like any other descriptive term applied to any individual whether that term applies to sex, gender, race, religion, job function or area of study and thousands of other quantifying parameters that I can’t be bothered to mention. So if I tell you atheism means x I’ll get a majority of atheists who will probably disagree with me the moment I state it that concretely.

What my years of shepherding that thread proved to me is that the devil is in the details of the phrase Atheism is not a Belief System. Depending on how you define atheism, you will or won’t agree with it being a belief system, which itself has a definition that most people will argue with you about.

Christianity is a belief system. The system parameters involve accepting some basic tenets of the faith. Jesus Christ is the savior. He was born of a virgin. He is part of a triumvirate made up of the father, son and holy ghost. These rules were worked out in deep lines of blood over the course of centuries, and still there are those who want to be called christian and yet not believe in these three basic things.

Islam is a belief system. I don’t know it as well but it’s basic tenets are that Muhammad is the last prophet of god and that the Qu’ran is the word of god set down by him. What is in the book and the associated writings of historical mullahs makes up the system that constrains Islamic faith.

Every single religion has a book or philosophy associated with it that constrains it. Very few people before the enlightenment era in Europe (1800’s) knew what was written in the books that Catholics and Protestants venerated, and even today reading the Qu’ran in any language aside from Arabic is considered problematic by many islamic sects. So if you don’t speak and read Arabic, you won’t know what is in that book even now. That’s not to say that the books are not available, even to disbelievers, but that very few people actually read the books that contain the rules defining the religion they ascribe to. This leads to its own set of problems, but in the end even the hucksters who misuse tradition are constrained by the rules they invent to describe their variation of the religion they promote.

https://amazingjokes.com

This is not true of atheism. Even if I venture to define the word atheism there is no set of rules that an atheist can be punished with that constrains what an atheist believes or doesn’t believe about the universe. Other atheists will tell you that’s not atheism but they have no ability whatsoever to make you stop claiming you are an atheist. There is no rules committee that will kick you out, no authority that will seek to force you to conform, no structure of any kind aside from simply being willing to refer to yourself as an atheist and suffer the consequences. Consequences inflicted by believers everywhere. Here ends the discussion of belief systems.

Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. Strong atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists. – Atheism entry on Wikipedia

That is a workable definition of atheism, theism being the root word and a- being added to denote the lack of. A lack of belief in gods. Even that broadest of definitions will get some atheists’ panties in a wad, and they will definitely squall at my insistence that a lack of belief is not itself a system of belief. There are many, many atheists out there which share nothing in common with me aside from the fact that neither of us believe in gods. There are even some who believe in things which aren’t gods and also aren’t demonstrable by science, but that is another discussion and an entirely different article.

Atheism is loosely congruent with skepticism. Skeptics and atheists both question things that the vast majority of humanity agrees to, but that is about as far as their agreement goes. There is far more agreement between humanists and atheists in general than there is between atheism and skepticism, the latter being quite capable of disbelieving things which are actually demonstrable. They simply dispute the findings of science. Groups like The Skeptics Guide to the Universe combat that kind of silliness, but it’s a never ending game of whack-a-mole trying to keep the disbelievers from using skepticism as a cover.

Humanism arose in the enlightenment era, along with the re-emergence of atheism from the hiding that a millennium of persecution by Catholic Europe had forced it into. Humanism quickly split into two factions; Religious Humanism and Rationalist Humanism. Religious Humanism became loosely affiliated with Deism, both of which have almost vanished into history. Rationalist Humanism rebranded itself as Secular Humanism, and if you were going to point to an atheist belief system, Secular Humanism is its standard bearer. But not all atheists are comfortable with the Humanist moniker, making humanism its own belief system, functionally different than the looser term atheist.

people who describe atheism as philosophy, ideology, or something analogous are trying to depict atheism as being much more complicated than it is. – ThoughtCoIs Atheism An Ism?

When pressed by believers to explain what atheists believe, I am frequently forced to reference other sources as a bulwark for the concepts I’m trying to relate. Believers rely on the sureness of the majority to justify the things they believe. The empirical nature of human experience justifies doing this right up to the point where we start talking about things we believe but cannot prove directly. A freethinker cannot rely on the comfort of the majority because a freethinker has none to fall back on. A freethinker must be able to tie what they think to concretes that are demonstrable so that the believer will be unable to disbelieve the thing being demonstrated. An agnostic will simply claim no knowledge on subjects they cannot demonstrate. Agnosticism is useful when conducting experiments, I’ve used it several times myself when running experiments that I really want to understand the outcomes of. But I am not agnostic about the subject of the existence of god. I have found no proof for the existence of god.

Test it yourself. The next time you are asked to pray, don’t close your eyes and bow your head. Notice anything? No sense of otherness? No sense of being in the presence of some greater power? Look around. Do you see those other unbowed heads? They too question the existence of god, but not enough to stop going to church. To synagogue. To the mosque. Why do we do this? Jesus said that we should do our praying in private. Why do we insist we must pray in public? Force others to pray in public? Enforced compliance? Discipline that forces the next generation to tread the exact same path we were forced to tread? Break that mold and see what is outside of it. You might like it.

When you observe the beauty of nature, realize that the beauty is anchored in naturally evolved healthy forms. That is why fungus and disease repulse us. Not because they are supernaturally evil, but because they are evolved systems just like the human form; co-evolutionary systems that our evolved brains recognizes on some subliminal level as harmful.


BBC, A Brief History of Disbelief presented by Jonathan Ross. 

The observation by Jonathan Ross in the video above (within the first ten minutes) that he was “reluctant to refer to himself as an atheist because he didn’t see the need to define himself by what he didn’t believe in or scarcely thought about” is offered as the same reason that I prefer to be tagged with the label freethinker these days. Freethinker describes my process for coming to accept facts that I encounter. Atheist merely relates my lack of belief in gods. We as humans do not all agree on the importance of faith, of having faith or of belief of any kind, and it becomes imperative that those of us who question the rampant religiosity of today’s political climate to stand up and object to it. To do that we have to not alienate the people we hope to persuade. Not adopting monikers that come pre-loaded with hatred is one of the basic things we can do to achieve this goal. Freethinker is more subtle. Freethinker is so subtle that I have encountered christians in Facebook Freethinking groups who are unaware that freethinkers in general are atheists. Are atheists because there is little rational reason to profess a belief in gods beyond a nod to the concerns raised by deists.

What is the purpose in life? Why are we alive? Here? Now? None of these questions are the kinds of things that atheism can offer answers for. Belief in a universal god, a natural god, does lend some quietude to those kinds of epistemological questions. Deism or Spinozism can be bedrock to anchor the unquiet mind upon, but most believers remain unsatisfied with a deity that they cannot ask favors of. A maker who doesn’t hate the same things the believer hates, love the same thing the believer loves. Spinoza was himself ejected from Jewish society for atheism. There wasn’t enough of god left for the believers to believe in, apparently.

This country, my country, the United States, was founded by people escaping religious persecution. Religious people who turned right around and persecuted their own people for not adhering to the doctrines that had been imported with them. The few who have stopped to question traditional beliefs, people like Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, have been ridiculed down through history for their disbelief (in the case of Paine) or qualified belief (in the case of Jefferson) at the same time they are celebrated for the things that lead to the creation of the United States. A godless country founded on a godless constitution. Godless for good reason; because persecution of the people through authority not founded on demonstrable principles of justice is what lead them to leave the places they came from. The rich heritage of disbelief that is this country’s birthright is being forgotten, buried under mountains of false piety, demagoguery and self-righteousness.

The judicious application of Occam’s Razor to the mountains of bullshit we are confronted with on an hourly basis in this information age is a life-saving necessity. If we don’t learn how to find air in this ocean of data, we will drown for lack of sense. These observations bring me to the core of the argument. The argument that Atheism is not a Belief System.

There is a specific piece of baggage that believers want to saddle all non-believers with. That is the baggage of revealed knowledge. Atheists are equally in the dark because they cannot know the things they claim to know. There is an intellectually rigorous approach to knowledge which questions the basis of that knowledge. This is commonly referred to in professional circles as performing your due diligence; researching your precepts to make certain they are valid. Insofar as atheism resembles agnosticism (no knowledge of) on the subject of the existence or nonexistence of a generic god, a Deist or Spinozan god, one can say with a respectable level of certainty I know this. Consequently non-believers are not in the same boat as believers. Even the average religious believing person can escape that boat, the boat of claiming certainty for things they don’t actually know, if they simply adopt this intellectual rigor for themselves. As a recent news article summarized, be willing to adopt and use the phrase I don’t know.

This argument about atheism is at its root a legal argument. Can you prove the things you believe? Can you demonstrate the existence of god beyond a shadow of a doubt? Believe whatever crazy thing you want to believe, just don’t tell me I have to believe like you, or believe anything at all without providing some kind of proof to back up the claims that are made. Why would I take a different stand? I pick my battles carefully. I created that thread on Dan Carlin’s BBS forum all those years ago with this specific argument in mind. Never mind that the SNAFU (Situation Normal: All Fucked Up) continued around me beyond my ability to control for year after year. It was the attempt to place the onus of revealed knowledge as a shared burden on the shoulders of all humanity that I initially rebelled against. You, dear reader, may disagree with me, but I think I can finally say I’m happy with the argument I’ve laid out here. The defense rests, your honor.


It is a testament to how many times I’ve rehearsed this argument in my head that this post comes pre-equipped with an addendum. Many of the arguments thrown at me in the past have been incorporated in the longer post that appears today on my blog. Much longer and much better thought out than my stumbling attempts to communicate what I thought were simple ideas all those years ago.

Still, I know what kinds of arguments I didn’t incorporate, and what kinds of objections I’ve seen in the past and already have rebuttals for. I’m going to take a few extra paragraphs to deflate a few counter-arguments in advance. Saves time this way.

I’m going to start at the beginning. There is a segment of the human population who are simply afraid of atheists. Atheophobia is a thing. I’ve met quite a few of them over the years. When I run into new ones these days I can almost be bored while hitting the block button. Almost. Fear of atheists is very real and predominates a lot of political rhetoric in the world today. There is no group more targeted than the disbeliever; other than the sects of the majorities own religion that are considered threatening to those in power. Once those troublemakers are out of the way, the atheists are the main targets of hostility. We dare to say the emperor wears no clothes, and believers cannot produce the emperor’s garments or even the emperor himself in order to disprove the assertion. Fear of atheists is the basis for most of the arguments that follow.

The more determined philosophy majors decided early on to make a career out of repeating specific arguments, relying on the casual reader’s ignorance of a specific subject, philosophy and its arcane word usage and definitions, to allow their falsities to go unchallenged. If you really want to know something about fallacies and what constitutes one, here’s a list. Specifically, the Argument from Ignorance was oft-cited, so I feel that it warrants specific mention.

Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or “appeal to ignorance” (where “ignorance” stands for: “lack of evidence to the contrary”), is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false, it is “generally accepted” (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to prove the proposition satisfactorily to be either true or false. 

Argument from Ignorance is an informal fallacy; which means, the argument could also be true and still be fallacious. Life is a series of imperfect decisions based on partial knowledge; and that’s when things are most certain. The least certain involves a coin flip and deciding whether you want to believe the coin’s conclusion or doubt it. One can possess good reasons for thinking that something does not exist, an idea captured by Bertrand Russell’s teapot, the analogy I started this article with. However, the existence of a creator god, much more a specific religious conception of the creator god, would fall more duly under the arena of pragmatism (Occam’s Razor, the law of parsimony) wherein a position must be demonstrated or proven in order to be upheld, and therefore the burden of proof is on the argument’s proponent. That is, the person who wants you to believe in a thing. In this case, a god.

Believers will frequently fall back to Pascal’s wager next. “Ah,” they’ll say, “but if you believe in god you get to go to heaven. So it’s safer to believe in god and not go to hell.” In a side note about my personal journey to freethought, Hell was one of the first concepts that I discarded, and I did this for my own sanity. Which version of god is the god I need to believe in? This is important because if you postulate that avoidance of hell is the goal, you need to be sure to observe the right rules and not the wrong ones. Since religious texts are generally self-contradictory given enough time and permutation of belief, you really can’t know from them which laws to follow and which ones not to. How can you possibly know how not to end up in hell?

As for that, I deemed that if god was love then hell had to be of our own creation; literally, if you are living in hell you had a hand in making it, in its continuance. I can understand why suffering people don’t just kill themselves. I’ve been disabled and stricken with vertigo and migraines on a regular basis for ten years and more. But if you experience hell, you are the one that can change that experience. No one else will be as capable as you are of correcting your personal dilemma. You don’t go to hell when you die. That would not be the actions of a loving god. You would find perfection hellish if what you value is not the values of the inhabitants of the afterlife.

It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

After discarding the human-made construct of hell, I could breath a lot easier and it made the rest of the argument that much easier to deal with. A believer might well object “you can’t just get rid of hell,” but the truth is that you can. In the christian religion everyone has a personal god. You take god into your heart and if you listen to him he tells you the truth. Listen to your heart. You’ll hear it say “there is no hell” unless you need to punish others so much that you cannot let the concept go. If you can’t then I really do feel sorry for you.

The next target in the argument for god varies radically based on the personal experience of the believer. A favorite argument of my past tormentors was the concept that evidence proves something. They would call evidentialism into question, as if the requiring of evidence before ascribing to a certain belief is somehow suspect or disqualifying. Contrary to the hand waving excuses I’ve heard repeatedly, requiring evidence before believing something is a generally accepted practice for anything not involving high-browed philosophy and religion.

While no sensible epistemologists generally urge people to disregard their evidence when forming beliefs… – Wikipedia entry on Evidentialism

An oft-retyped summation of my willingness to accept evidence as proof runs as follows; while gravity may only be a theory, I wouldn’t suggest jumping off a tall building and expecting to float. Evidence dictates you will fall to the earth at a pretty predictable rate and cease to exist in a living state pretty shortly after contact with a hard surface. Please note that not only are all the concepts in this summation open to question if you start questioning evidentialism, but I could just as easily be describing how to bake a cake as I am trying to communicate a crucial fundamental understanding of the universe. Gravity exists whether you believe in it or not.

“Correlation is not causation but it sure is a hint.” Edward Tufte

I think this came up in relation to an argument about the Big Bang origin of the universe and whether or not all the stuff in the bang existed before the bang. Physics will tell you it had to exist before time/space existed or else there wouldn’t be a universe to exist now. So there was a before before space/time. What that might be is a matter of the highest speculation, but then we are talking about the suggested existence or non-existence of a creator god here. Hard to beat the infinite regress of creator gods to explain the previous creator god, much more likely is the infinite string of universes coalescing and dispersing in their own little space/time bubbles. Turtles all the way down as the saying goes.

Finally, the last argument worth mentioning is “Granted you can’t prove god exists; but then how do you prove love exists?” I always assumed the believer was wanting me to capitulate in a sobbing mess and swear my everlasting love for god almighty in light of this observation. I mean, you have to grant that love exists without proof, right? Except that you really don’t. This is one of the oldest problems in human existence, the foundation of what is responsible for more killing than every war in history. Does she love me? Does he love me? Luckily, science has an answer for that,

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

The researchers said that their study, entitled Love-related changes in the brain: a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study, had successfully obtained the “first empirical evidence of love-related alterations in brain functional architecture”.

There you have it, proof that love really exists. Yes, I know. I’ve just destroyed all of romanticism.

As an atheist or freethinker or agnostic or skeptic or whatever disbelieving label I choose to adopt later, I don’t have to prove the infinite nature of the universe, or the non-existence of an intelligent hand in it’s creation. I don’t have to prove these things any more than any believer is capable of proving that the opposite is true. That is the nature of a belief, as opposed to a fact or knowledge. I can freely believe in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) I can even refer to you that group’s website, venganza.org. I don’t have to provide one shred of evidence for the FSM’s existence to have a belief in him; or for that matter, to have him represented at any event in which participation by varying beliefs is encouraged. That was the purpose for which the FSM was created. A religion based on eating pasta, drinking beer and love for everyone. In the FSM, disbelievers finally came up with a god worth believing in.

The FSM is just the latest in a series of fanciful creations presented in an attempt to prove to believers that they were pretending that they could know things that can’t be known. A host of previous creatures that include the original satanism church, pink unicorns and the floating teapot mentioned previously all leading up to the FSM and Pastafarianism. May the blessings of his noodly appendages be upon you. All of these creations purposefully misunderstood by the believers who encounter them and refuse to understand. Believers who protest “you’re just being silly.” Yes. We aren’t the only ones that observation can be applied to.

Edit history: General wordsmithing throughout and the addition of the atheophobia section 03/24/2018

Remembering Tom Petty

I am very nearly without words today. It takes great effort to even think in words. Melodies and harmonies are all that are running through my head. I cried when we lost George Harrison. Despaired when Prince died too young. But those are just the wounds that spring to mind because they are contextual. Revived because of proximity.

Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others,While My Guitar Gently Weeps 

Tom Petty was more than a musician to me. Tom Petty described my soul to me, and he didn’t just do it once. He did it over and over again through the course of my life, the course of his career. I identified with his music in ways I simply cannot describe.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers –  Even the Losers

He died doing what he wanted to do, ending a tour in support of his latest album. He went quickly and without suffering. Most of us want to be that lucky when it comes our time to go.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers  – Breakdown

I could post tracks all day long, and I did post tracks all day long on the day I learned of his death. I read about it not too long after getting up that day, but his death wasn’t officially confirmed until later.

Petty’s final show was last week, performing three sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl to conclude their 40th anniversary tour, CBS News reports.  

He told Rolling Stone that he thought this would be the group’s last tour together.

“It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one. We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.” – Tom Petty obituary in The Independent

It was the day after the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. One more mass shooting in a near-infinite string of tragedies that, quite frankly, I refuse to pay attention to anymore. If anyone cared we’d actually talk about gun control in a way that might be productive. But we can’t and we don’t and so, like September 11th being my dad’s birthday, I didn’t and won’t post about another mass shooting that won’t change anything. Jim has it right. We are Bang, Bang Crazy.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – You Don’t Know How It Feels

So instead I will mourn the death of a man whose work I cherished above most others of his caliber. He lived a full life and died early. Not as early as many who had the kind of talent he had, but he also didn’t live as long as the rare few do. I’ll miss him. We all will miss him and the music he might have gone on to make.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Time to Move On

A Facebook friend and fellow fan challenged other fans to quick, give me your favorite Tom Petty lyrics. Rather than give her my favorite (which is Breakdown above) I posted the Lyrics that I went to the point of actually signing up to edit that day, Learning To Fly. I signed up so as to get the correct stanza structure for the song set down properly on Lyrically. Someone had just pasted content from another website (probably) and/or didn’t understand how poetry is written and why. But that is how much I thought this was the song to remember him by on that day.

Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County, October 3rd, 2017

Well I started out
Down a dirty road
Started out
All alone

And the sun went down
As I crossed the hill
And the town lit up
The world got still

I’m learning to fly,
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

Well the good ol’ days
May not return
And the rocks might melt
And the sea may burn

I’m learning to fly
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

Well some say life
Will beat you down
and break your heart
Steal your crown

So I’ve started out
For God knows where
I guess I’ll know
When I get there

I’m learning to fly
Around the clouds
But what goes up
Must come down 


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Learning to Fly

It has now been about two weeks since the day he died, but I’m back dating to the day because I really don’t care if anyone reads this or not. I finished watching the documentary Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down A Dream a few days ago. Watching it brought back some memories that I really wanted to put down in this post.


Stevie Nicks – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)

His album, Hard Promises came out the year I graduated. I remember going to the Hastings record store next to the Safeway I was courtesy clerking at in 1980 and buying that cassette (vinyl was and is the purview of music collectors with money. Something I’ve never had any of) and subsequently Damn the Torpedoes. I remember not being willing to buy the first album because of the cheesy cover art, which says a lot about the importance of graphic design. The title of You’re Gonna Get it I deemed too juvenile, like Fair Warning, Van Halen’s fourth album.

If you’re poor fighting is the norm. You fight to get everything, all the time. When your stepfather is abusive, conflict is a foregone conclusion. Using the phrases of the abuser you’re gonna get it is descend to their level. I always tried to be more than that, more than the abuser was in their petty little mind. So violence was to be avoided, not encouraged. If violence is inevitable you make sure you emerge the victor, you don’t worry about methods beyond their capacity to produce desired outcomes. Hit them from behind, above, with a blunt object and keep swinging until the target stops moving. Easier to do than thinking.

Tom Petty knew how to fight and proved it repeatedly. Proved it by filing for bankruptcy to get control of his music back, winning the first case against a record company, leading the way for others who had signed usurious record contracts to also get control of their music back. His lawsuit altered the face of the music business, leading the way towards the music industry of today which exists to serve artists and not the other way around.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mary Jane’s Last Dance The hit that almost wasn’t. 

After completing his Southern Accents tour, he was one of the best-selling artists in music history. So what does he do next? He and the Heartbreakers agree to go on the road, touring with Bob Dylan as his backing band. Who else has progressed from headlining his own shows to being the backing band for another artist? Has anyone else ever done that? After a few more albums and more success, they joined Johnny Cash’s studio back up band.

“What they call country today is like bad rock groups with a fiddle” – Tom Petty


The Traveling Wilburys – The End of the Line

Roy Orbison. George Harrison. Now Tom Petty. We’re running out of Wilburys. 

Disrespecting the Flag

“I was trying to think about the last time American history seemed to matter as much as it seems to right now. We’re minding our past in debates over monuments and standing or kneeling during our national anthem, aren’t we essentially asking ourselves over and over what it means to be an American? We’re testing our arguments, our old ones and new ones, we’re staking claims for ourselves and our families and whatever comes of this place we call home. Yeah, we can think of this as a fight I guess, or we can think of this as part of our natural destiny. We claim to be founded on ideas, well maybe this is how an enlightenment nation grows. How we settle the great divide will be the stuff our grandchildren will be reading about. And I suppose we do have this much in common; surely we want to make them proud.” – David Brown –The Texas Standard for Friday September 29, 2017

I have no use for football. I realize that I’m committing a cardinal Texas sin by saying that, but it is the truth. I don’t play it, I don’t watch it, I don’t care about it at all. I don’t know who won the Superbowl last year. I have no idea who is doing well or poorly or has done well or poorly since I moved out of my dad’s house as a teenager and stopped having to endure football viewing in order to watch anything on TV with him. However, I do know a thing or two about football because of those years of enforced viewing with my father. I also know a thing or two about how to properly treat a flag because of him and his desire that I spend time in the Boy Scouts as child.

For the purposes of historical context, there is a disagreement currently rampaging between the players of professional football and their right to protest, and the sitting Birther-in-Chief, the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) who has decided that the political speech of football professionals is more important than seeing that Puerto Rico gets the hurricane relief it needs. I have determined this because the OHM hasn’t mentioned Puerto Rico once since the last hurricane hit the island and left it without water or power. He has Tweeted about the dust up over taking a knee in protest during the pre-game tradition of standing for the US national anthem. Several times. It didn’t help him get Luther Strange elected to the Senate, but you can’t win them all.

The attending audiences at these giant government-funded sports arenas are shocked! How dare these players protest the treatment of black people by racially biased police departments! How dare they protest in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick who was excluded from playing this year after he dared take a knee in political protest last year!? These players are disrespecting the flag! They can’t be allowed to protest like this!

In the week since I wrote the original post [about Colin Kaepernickon Facebook I’ve received literally tens of thousands of responses. The overwhelming majority are positive, notes of encouragement and understanding, enthusiastic and even reluctant agreement.  It makes me proud to note many of those responses came from veterans, from cops, and from Americans who put their asses on line for their fellows every day without expectation of reward or thanks. They may not agree with Kaepernick, but they stand with him nonetheless as true Americans do. A number came from non-Americans, those on foreign shores who look to America with equal parts fear and fascination and wonder at that shining city on the hill and it makes me proud that they can still admire this nation for what it is supposed to represent. 

But in that same week I’ve daily posted a roster of those who don’t get it. Those who wrote me, many who claim to be veterans, who called me traitor and called Kaepernick nigger and who have daily sent me death threats and seething hate simply because I spoke of honor and duty and respect. It is these people, these haters, these dimwitted goons, who prove with their own words the validity and necessity of Kaepernick’s protest and why I stand with him. 

Jim Wright – Stonekettle Station Respect: Colin Kaepernick – The Extended Cut

These protesters, these professional football players aren’t disrespecting the flag, they are disrespecting the outrage of the fans who demand that their sport be free of politics. Free of politics that the votes of the fans have brought directly into conflict with the players on the field. The people who are booing? They are fans of the OHM as well as football; and I say this because only people dumb enough to believe that a billionaire wouldn’t line his own pockets at their expense would believe that you can isolate a sport and keep it from reflecting the world around it.

Daniel Haviland Steward‎’s image via Snopes

So let’s talk about respecting the flag and the nation, since I don’t care about football and really wouldn’t be writing this post if it was really all about football or the fans of football. Study the image in this post. Please notice the flag bunched up around the ring of the field in the foreground. Do you see it?

The US flag is not to touch the ground. US flags should not be bunched up or crumpled. How do I know? It’s right there in the flag code. I hear you asking there’s a flag code? Yes. Yes there is a flag code, as the most rudimentary search of the internet should reveal. Here is a link to the text on wikipedia. This should be common knowledge for anyone interested in seeing the flag of your nation treated with respect. Follow the code and you are respecting the flag; don’t follow the code and you run the risk of making a mockery of the flag.

Most national flags and battle flags are not to be allowed to lay on the ground. It is one of the highest forms of disrespect to treat a flag the way this flag is being treated, whether this is common practice or not at your average sports event. I don’t think that can be said loudly enough to not be ignored by the politically blind in today’s United States. They know what they want to believe, emotionally. Your words will not carry meaning for them unless those words agree with the things they already believe. But the president of the United States is lying to the people who are booing from the stands at these sports events, and he’s doing it because it makes him look better agreeing with their outrage at being disrespected.

I don’t know how many people know this but the US flag was never worn as clothing until the 60’s when Abbie Hoffman wore it in protest and was arrested and tried for doing so. The way we treat the flag these days in almost all venues is disrespectful. It should not be allowed to fly in the rain. It should not be left hanging on the flagpole after dark unless spotlit. It should not be allowed to touch the ground, with various theories as to what you should do with the flag after it has been allowed to touch the ground (the wiki article addresses this urban legend) the answer being, get it off the ground when you see it touching the ground. That flag on the ground is being disrespected by every fan in the stadium because they do not rush out onto the field and see that it is lifted from the ground immediately.

So those guys taking a knee in protest? That is the least of the flag code offenses currently occurring in football stadiums, and their failure to assume the accepted position of obeisance before the attending audience should be understood as a protest against those self-same people. Maybe these audiences should worry about some of the other violations of the flag code first. The violations of law and common decency running rampant amongst the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans (#MAGA) who are the ones destroying the fabric of American society. Destroying it by calling for an end to political speech by professional football players. It might fix the players need to protest in the process.

Stonekettle Station on Twitter


A few days after I had written this, On The Media riffs on the same subject. The benefit of just sitting down and banging out some text. When I hit publish, it’s done. A podcast has to write and edit, then interview, re-edit and narrate connective segments, at least.

They understand that it’s not really about flags or football either. It’s really about controlling speech, limiting the speech of unpopular speakers. They also have more resources so they can dig deep on subjects that deserve to be revealed to the light of day.

That’s right. The Star-Spangled Banner was based on earlier works. It was part of a valued tradition of protest and counter-protests set to song. On The Media also touches on the important story that isn’t being discussed while the OHM rants on about football players and tearing up the first amendment.

The OHM finally deigned to go to Puerto Rico a few days ago as of this writing. I guess they finally had an air conditioned room they could put him up in for his required stay there. So he could be seen being presidential at the site of the hurricane’s destruction. I’m betting the people of Puerto Rico would have preferred he stayed in Washington D.C. and actually got to work doing the job he was elected to do. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that occurring anytime soon.

There are three other segments in that episode of On The Media, one of the podcasts on my must hear list. One that I take extra time to listen to closely. Brooke’s editing is a masterwork. She wastes no time on filler. Facts and more facts are ladled on in rapid succession. Pay attention, there will be a test later.


The idea to take a knee came from a US veteran who saw Kaepernick sitting at his first protest. This is an excellent little montage that explains the reason why taking a knee is not disrespecting the flag as much as calling for an end to protests is.

Orf’s Patreon page, if you feel like supporting his work.