Jan 15

A Simple Reading Assignment

In Brief—A change from the usual approach to religion to one from an easy-to-read scientific point-of-view. It does require reading and looking at colorful illustrations, but it’s guaranteed to be painless and rewarding. And see the end of this piece when I introduce a new feature.


Simple Basic Facts of Reality—

dawkins-bookThis illustrated book of clear and simple-to-understand facts about Earth, nature and the universe is easy to read in just one or two days and replaces human myths with beautiful reality. It’s a detective story that’s filled with thought experiments that will engage you and light up the synapses in your brain.

The book is “The Magic of Reality” by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and the illustrator is the famous and multi-talented Dave McKean whose drawings make clear the words written by scientist Dawkins.

Whoa! Lest you allow the author’s name to turn you off without reading what he has written suggests that erroneous preconceived notions lurk in your subconscious to poison your always inquisitive brain. Dawkins writes a charming book and McKean’s lovely images will doubtless win another prize. If I can be charmed, surely you will be too.

Not everybody has an e-reader like a Kindle, but if that is the case, check the book out at the local library or, heaven forfend, buy it as I did. Your local bookstore has it and Amazon offers it at low prices, but by all means, get one that has the colorful explanatory illustrations and pictures. The whole package is definitely worth the price of admission.

The Book’s Contents—

The book has twelve chapters starting with “What is Reality? What is Magic?” through chapters such as “Why are there so many different kinds of animals?” and “What is the sun? to “Are we alone?” and the concluding “What is a miracle?” Each chapter dazzles the reader with information and captures the imagination. You’ll feel like a kid opening anticipated presents on a special occasion.

This is a book that’s not to be missed. Do yourself a favor, get it and read it. You’ll be happy you did.

A New Feature: The Weekly Sampler.

  • Starting this week, you’ll find The Weekly Sampler. Go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured sampler.  Each piece for the chosen month will provide a thumbnail of the piece. The early pieces simply start with the first paragraph, but in later months the pieces settle into a rhythm of about four or five pieces per month. Then pictures started appearing after In Brief appeared at the top. The blog evolved!
  • If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue reading.” Lo and behold, the rest of the piece appears. When you want to read the next piece, simply use your cursor to swipe across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.
  • It’s up to you whether you reading all the pieces in the chosen month at one time or drag them out over the week. You have a week so don’t feel rushed. Next week will be a new Weekly Sampler. Subject matter will vary: Personal, Political, Religious, Animals, Books, whatever. Each piece is different, but you will know where I stand.
  • Don’t miss the Comments and my replies attached to each piece. Even though the pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not. My blog administrator will post any comment you choose to make in the current Comments and I will reply. Both will then be attached to the original piece no matter when it was written.
  • See how my thinking and the blog evolved.
  • And I won’t be angry if you tell two people that my blog is well worth reading. It’s almost as good as sex (Okay, so I exaggerate a bit). So much for the promotion.

Tune in today and every week to The Weekly Sampler. Enjoy!

The Weekly Sampler:  Go to the Archives. Click August 2013.

Jan 08

Call Me Lucky?

In Brief—The author wonders if he has been lucky or if there is more than luck going on.

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Luck or Circumstances?—

imagesAm I lucky that I am white? Am I lucky that I am an American? Am I lucky that I have a good education? Am I lucky that I have lived at the right time in history? Am I lucky that I have experienced good health throughout most of my life? Am I lucky that I have the friends I have?

These may seem like luck, but is it really good luck or is it more? Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” He has also said, “Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.” Others have said that it’s being in the right place at the right time. I think it’s more than this.

In looking back over my life, there have been occurences that could be labeled good luck, but after due consideration I believe there have been instances that weren’t luck. Here are some of them.

When I was a little kid, I liked to climb trees. The higher, the better. One day, high in a tree, a branch gave way. I was falling head down toward the ground. At the last moment, a thick branch struck my legs and flipped me over causing me to land on my feet. Luck?

When I was ten I ran in front of an unnoticed turning car. The driver didn’t see me, but I reached out, vaulted over the fender and kept on running. I was unharmed and the driver was no doubt swearing. Luck?

In my haste to catch an updraft, I launched my hang glider off the side of the mountain without paying attention to the straps that suspended me above the distant valley floor. To my horror, I discovered my error and gingerly, ever so slowly, placed the straps where they should have been before I took off. The flight continued without incident. Luck?

On another occasion about which I have written, the late afternoon lift turned into downdraft. I figured my only chace to avoid landing in the rubble below was to pick up speed in a shallow dive in an effort to reach the landing zone. It worked. I made it…barely. Luck?

After visiting the doctor for a suspicious spot on my chest, I was speeding down Santa Monica Canyon when I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop. In my ignorance over being told I had a simple basal cell carcinoma, I blurted out to the cop that I had just been told I had cancer and wasn’t paying attention to my speed. He paused, saw the look on my pale face, handed me my license and said, ”Slow down. You’ll live longer.” Then he returned to his bike. No ticket. Luck?

On my way home from San Diego and facing snails-pace slow-moving traffic, I pulled onto the paved apron and sped past the long line of cars. I was pulled over by a Highway Patrolman who told me I was traveling in an illegal lane. I explained and pointed across the grassy divider where numerous cars were speeding southward down the apron I had been on the previous day. The patrolman saw them, listened to my explanation and said, ”You can tell your friends you talked a Highway Patrolman out of a ticket.” Whereupon he got back in his car and I dutifully joined the slow-moving traffic file. Luck?

It is said that a person is known by the company he keeps. Essentially this means that people are similar in character to their friends. If true, then I have truly wonderful friends who have shaped the person I am. At a bare minimum, the individuals in my circle of friends are reflective of me and show that both they and I have good taste and discrimination in the folks we choose to hang around with. Certainly, my friends are thoughtful, kind, smart and add to the person I have worked hard to be.

Now, am I lucky or is it something else? In the fall from the tree, the circumstances of my fall were the governing factor. The lower branch was there regardless of my fall. Had been for years. Its presence was simply coincidence…and my good fortune. Luck? Possibly.

My carelessness in running in front of an oncoming car was compensated for by my physical speed and youthful athleticism. Luck had nothing to do with it.

My carelessness in the hang gliding incident was overcome by reasoning and caution. It was brains, not luck.

My ignorance and the compassion of the cop saved me from a ticket, nothing more. Luck? Maybe…

The San Diego freeway incident depended on my glibness, coincidence and a reasonable patrolman. Maybe I was lucky that the patrolman was working that day.

Luck, you say? Maybe it’s somewhere in the mix. What do you think?

 

Jan 01

All That Glitters Isn’t…

In Brief— A belated review of the slickly produced but potentially dangerous pseudoscientific documentary The Living Matrix. This is a reminder that the internet has lots of junk along with the good stuff.

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Slick and Potentially Dangerous—

As a preamble, I must point out that it has been shown that people tend to read material that fits their belief system. As a skeptic, I will generally accept only material that holds up to the legal and scientific standard of solid, reliable evidence.

stop-pseudoscienceA friend in LA occasionally asks my opinion on material that pollutes the Internet. Racists, Islam haters and other ignorant folks circulate baloney without questioning its authenticity. Of course, most of that material is crude compared to the slickness of The Living Matrix, the subject of this piece.

Despite its pseudoscientific content, I watched The Living Matrix in its entirety…twice! Slick production and it’s clear that they know how to manipulate Google’s algorithm to get their message dominant on the Internet.

That aside, the Living Matrix documentary has more than a little pseudoscience and is, to say the least, misleading and even potentially dangerous in a variety of ways. I suggest that before you invest your time, you check out what the skeptics have to say about The Living Matrix.

Notwithstanding the ample evidence, supporters will still say that this confirms their view that I am closed-minded. Bushwa! This simply confirms my willingness to get solid, reliable evidence before I accept material that too many folks accept without question. The day I start accepting without question the nonsense believed by many is the day I realize I have gone over the edge into cloud cuckoo land.

Here are some facts about Lynne McTaggart, the woman who’s a major part of The Living Matrix. She runs the What Doctors Don’t Tell You web site and calls herself a ”pioneer of medicine.” She is not a medical doctor, but a journalist and writer. The presumed goal of her web site is to provide “independent information on medicine’s dangers and the alternatives that work.” Instead, it denigrates proven medical treatments, emphasizes infrequent side effects and uncertainties and attempts to influence readers to accept what informed experts have characterized as ”quackery”. She even advocates that group meditation alone can affect the outcomes of experiments at distant locations. In short, hers is a strange world view.

In order to get a sense of the documentary, I did a random google search on some of the individuals who appeared in The Living Matrix. I learned for example, that Dr. Eric Pearl learned his waving hands healing energy method from a gypsy who told fortunes at Venice Beach, California. Pearl is best characterized as self-deluded.

Dietmar Cimbal, a German veterinary doctor and alleged biophysics researcher claims that birds are connected to ”the field” and change direction instantaneously when flying. In fact, scientific researchers have discovered that the change of direction is not instantaneous and relies on individual birds observing the moves of six or seven other birds and coordinating their direction change according to what they see. Cimbal’s theory is bad science…it’s pseudoscience.

Peter Fraser, uses speculation instead of relying on scientific research because there has been no scientific research supporting his ”field” theory.

Rupert Sheldrake, author, biologist, parapsychology believer in telepathy and advocate for pseudoscientific ”morphic resonance” has the unique distinction of having his fluke TEDx talk removed from TED’s roster of otherwise interesting talks.

Last but not least is Edgar Mitchell, former astronaut who is noted for his belief in flying saucers and ESP. Proof that simply being an astronaut does not mean that a person does not wear a tin hat.

Well, you get the idea. The Living Matrix is populated with men who hold some really odd beliefs about how the world and the universe works. Save your money and time. Don’t buy into the pseudoscientific nonsense peddled by the slickly-produced The Living Matrix.

All that glitters isn’t gold.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Dec 18

‘Tis the Season to Donate

In Brief—Bay points out the necessity for ignoring the commerciality that smothers the real meaning of the season and spending your money on the worthy causes that can really make a difference.


“Ho, Ho, Ho!” Donations That Have Real Impact—

make-a-donationWe all need another tie or toy like we need water in our shoes. How many times have you smiled gamely at the giver and thanked her/him while thinking, “Oh, God! Not another gift that will never get used.” Well, here’s a solution.

For the past several years our family has agreed that we have enough “things” while there are folks who have little, who are sick, who fled their homes just to survive. We have made donations to worthy causes that address these needs and can always use more. You should do the same thing if you are not already ahead of us.

Here are organizations that can put those donations to use where they’re needed. These are the truly worthwhile organizations. I’ve also provided a list of organizations that are already receiving attention but don’t really need the money they receive. By all means remember them if you need to but give where it truly counts!

Worthy Smaller Organizations that Need Your Donations—

These organizations are just a few of those recommended as worthy causes by both Bay and the courageous journalist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Most of the groups listed are relatively small and all give considerably more bang for the buck than the big guys.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)—This organization provides medical treatment to all comers in areas often in conflict zones. Their personnel work where other organizations fear to tread. As if that isn’t enough, they provide much-needed treatment to sick people throughout the world where poverty is the killer.

Reading is Fundamental—This organization provides free books to kids who live in poverty in the United States. It’s a way for children to advance in America’s unequal society.

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation—Despite what right-wing whiners trying to steal our rights may say, this organization is devoted to defending the First Amendment and our civil liberties. We’d be living in a fascist country if it were not for this group and others who value our freedoms.

Afghan Institute of Learning—Operated by Afghan and Pakistani women, this organization focuses on health and teaching and builds a foundation for a civil society.

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee—Since 1972, this organization’s mission and efforts have been focused on turning poverty-stricken people into productive contributors to Bangladeshi society.

The Fistula Foundation—Operating in 32 countries throughout Africa and Asia, this organization provides surgery to eliminate the pain and isolation arising from a childbirth gone wrong.

GEMS (Girls Education & Mentoring Services)—In New York, young women who have been sexually exploited and trafficked learn solid gender-oriented principles in how to turn their lives around.

Partners in Health (PIH)—Focused primarily in Africa but with programs in other parts of the world, this organization works hard to improve the health of the poor.

Planned Parenthood—With the unexpected election of Trump, this organization devoted to women’s health is under great threat and needs both money and your support.

Truthout—This small online news organization publishes little-known news that’s ignored by mainline media. In an era of threat to press freedoms, this organization is needed more than ever.

In addition, Nicholas Kristof annually mentions overlooked organizations worthy of support. By clicking on the highlighted (light blue) area, you can check out organizations that are both effective and in need of donations to carry out their missions.

Organizations that have More than Enough—

The following organizations may be helpful, but they get more attention and money than the smaller worthwhile groups listed above. Why do these large groups get all the attention and so much money? They spend millions in advertising, they recruit mega-stars to advance their causes, they are enormous religious organizations. Less bang for the buck. They don’t need your donations to survive.

The Red Cross—Sometimes effective, sometimes not. Enormous advertising costs. Wasteful.

The Cancer Society—Both private and government support. Enormous world-wide research focus.

The Roman Catholic Church—The wealthiest organization on earth. Richer than the United States. Global reach and influence.

The Muscular Dystrophy Foundation—Worthwhile but heavily funded by the American government. Recruits mega-stars to promote contributions.

Your Local Church—By all means drop your small contribution in the basket they pass around every Sabbath, but be aware that your local church is part  of a wealthy religious organization.

I’ve just scratched the surface of the organizations that don’t need your contribution. There are others, but be aware that these groups have more than ample support while the smaller organizations above need your contributions to carry on their work.

Give Where it Really Counts—

However you celebrate the holidays, give thought to the small organizations that work to improve the lives of people less fortunate. Make a meaningful donation today.

Note—This piece will run for two (2) weeks because many readers will be involved in activities and travel during the holidays. I suggest you post this piece on Facebook and other social sites.

The next piece will resume on Sunday, January 1, 2017.  Be there or be square.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Dec 11

The Frightening Republican Platform

In Brief— An examination of the Republican platform that’s supposed to be the blueprint for what the party stands for. It’s downright scary!


The Monster Crawls Out from Under the Bed—

dead-elephantWith the 2016 bizarre election now history and the unexpected election of Donald Trump, we need to focus on the really bizarre and dangerous Republican platform.

This is the document that’s supposed to represent what the Republican Party believes in 2016. Well beyond the Republicans’ previous aggrandizement of an imaginary past and a fight against reality, this document was made in Hell. Like all party platforms, it’s dense and hard to plow through. They don’t want to make it easy for voters to read. The guts of the Republican Party’s vision are hidden in a thicket of verbiage, but if you trim away the rosy words, the meaning is not only clear, it is downright scary.

I have written about the party platforms before and, while I’m well-beyond partisan, it’s a slog regardless of party. That said, the Republican platform is without reservation the scariest I have ever seen. Here is the worst nightmare you may ever have.

The Wish List of Horror—

Screw the Environment—Weasel words can’t hide the fact that the Republican Platform advocates ending the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By preventing the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act, it would politicize science by eliminating carbon dioxide enforcement. Naturally, everybody knows that air pollution screeches to a halt at state borders. And there is lots more like allowing the Keystone Pipeline to continue.

Climate Change is Bogus—The platform claims that climate change deniers are being prevented opposing the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change. It would destroy the international agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It would stop any efforts to save humanity’s bacon

Force LGBTs back into the closet—The Republican platform turns back the clock to the days when lesbians and gay men could not marry the one they love, when it would be dangerous for bisexual men and women to be with the partner of their choice, when transsexual individuals could not use the restroom conforming to their gender. The clear statements of courts or common sense are ignored because of fear of change, fear of reality. One man and one woman is the Republican mantra. The Republicans who wrote this platform are refighting lost wars.

Make the Supreme Court an Ultra-Conservative Bastion—Not only would the Republicans appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court, but they would fill all the empty judicial positions with certifiable conservatives who would assure America conforms to their conservative agenda.

Make America a Christian nation—The Republican platform would permit the return of Christian prayers to the classroom and require Bible study. The Ten Commandments would be permitted to be displayed in all public places. Citizens would be free to reject anything that offended their religious sensibilities.

Anti-choice, ban abortion, end fetal cell research, etc.—Women can kiss their reproductive health care goodbye. Scientists will be banned from experimenting on fetal stem cells in the search for disease prevention therapies. Sex education will be limited to abstinence-only instruction.

Limit the right to vote and prevent the Popular vote—Require specified official documents proving American citizenship before voting. Only the Electoral College of the 18th century will be permitted in selecting America’s president.

Permit gas and oil drilling and expand “fracking”—The states will be given the right to determine all regulations. Drill, Baby, Drill! Earthquakes be damned!.

Privatize Medicare, states control Medicaid, eliminate Obamacare

English must be the official national language

Build a southern border wall to exclude immigrants—All Muslims will be terrorist suspects in disregard of the First Amendment.

Dramatically increase military funding, support Israel and oppose legitimate efforts to oppose Israeli policies. Both parties lavish money on the military and Israel, but the Republican Party excels at this give-away.

 These are just a few of the frightening elements in the 2016 Republican platform. No exaggeration here. If you want to be scared out of your wits, click on the link (it’s the light blue area) that quotes from the document or google Republican Platform 2016. The question is…will Trump embrace this platform? Right now, it doesn’t look promising for America.

The moral to this story is…Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

Dec 04

Prejudice is Down Deep

In Brief—A peek at the often hidden prejudice that hides within most of us as well as the blatant prejudice we find in some misguided individuals.


Prejudice is a Plague Hiding Within—

prejudice-slashcircleIt emerged from hiding in my subconscious in the unlikeliest of places. Dressed in my hippie trousers, flowered shirt and with my wallet tucked in my waistband, I was walking through Disneyland, “The Magic Kingdom,” when I saw them…two young well-dressed African-American men walking toward me enjoying the sights amid the happy crowd. Instinctively, I tapped my wallet to see if it was there. Busted! My hidden prejudice arose from my subconscious to reveal itself in all its ugliness. Fortunately, I recognized it and have dealt with it…but it’s there.

Scientific research shows that prejudice toward outsiders is an inborn defense mechanism that came from our early ancestors who were suspicious of those not in their group. It’s usually easy to identify “The Other”: Those who have a different skin color. Those who speak a different language. Those who come from a different culture. Those who flee deadly violence, corruption and privation.

What drives us to experience prejudice? Fear is usually the culprit. Economic fears: “They’re going to steal our jobs or our possessions.”

Personal Security: “They’re going to attack me or my loved ones.”

Health Threats: “They’re dirty or disease-ridden and will infect us.” Fear of immigrants or vagrants carrying diseases.

Traditional Values: “They love others of the same sex; they have a feminist agenda; they don’t revere our national anthem; they want to bring down our system of government; they worship in a different way.

You can probably add to this list, but in every case, the outsiders are different in some way that sets them apart from the majority.

A look around this chaotic world shows how destructive prejudice is. People of color are forced into substandard housing or jobs that pay less…if they have job at all. Researchers have found that people with African-American sounding names are not hired despite having the same education or experience as the white applicant.

They are shot by police or civilians who imagine they are under threat. Flip open the daily newspaper. They are denied justice in the unjust court system. They receive substandard education or their parents are denied food stamps and childcare. They are targeted by politicians selfishly interested in advancing their own careers…and bank accounts.

Using fear, right-wing political parties inflame the gullible citizenry to oppose rational solutions. It’s happening in America. It’s happening in Europe. In Asia and Australia. Lack of empathy and compassion are ignored, and prejudice driven by fear of “The Other” is inexorably leading humanity to extinction in the not-too-distant future.

Rational thought is abandoned as primitive instinct is released from the depths of millennia of evolution. Civilization gives way to our basest instincts.

A number of famous people have written about prejudice. It’s worth considering what they have said…

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”― Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

“Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice.”― Michael Crichton, State of Fear

“Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.”― Emma Goldman

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”― Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

All of us need to explore our subconsciouness to recognize prejudice that’s hiding within and tame it. We need to recognize the wisdom of Audre Lorde and celebrate our differences, not let them frighten us. We must rise above our unreasoning fears.

Nov 27

Human Nature: An Unconventional View

In Brief—Bay explains why he believes humanity has no better than a 5% chance of survival beyond the end of this century.

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Humans are Flawed Creatures—

uncertain-future-signCapitalism, seeking profit, is just one reason why humanity has only a small chance of surviving beyond the end of this century. Greed, short-sightedness, forcing one’s way of living on others, fear of “The Other” that ignores their fears, winning at any cost, scientific ignorance and illogical religious dogma are some of the other reasons. These are why I hold the view I do.

There is a small possibility that humanity might muddle through, that they might survive for a while in a much-reduced state in some remote location, but science won’t save humanity and certainly the imagined deity of the majority won’t appear to pull our fat out of the fire. Indeed, the dumbing down of society written about by so many observers does not bode well for survival.

Let’s look at the reasons that lead to my conclusion.

Greed—The symbolism of Wall Street comes most readily to mind. Many traders and corporate executives earn more in a week than most humans will ever see in their lifetimes. Research shows that the wealthy look down on the common folk. They are reported to be markedly meaner, even sociopathic. Writers have pointed out that America leads the world in inequality, and inequality is growing.

 Short-sightednes— The world is changing rapidly and humans don’t adapt well to change. Reams of research show that humans are still living in an era when change came slowly and was relatively easily digested. That isn’t the case today…and the speed of change is accelerating.

Take a look at the cars on the street and absorb the fact that manufacturers and buyers want the size and horsepower they had twenty years ago. Further, given that many can’t afford a low-polluting car, do you think that polluting vehicles are going to suddenly disappear?

Forcing one’s way on others—Isn’t war one way of forcing others? What do you think those politicians, extreme religionists, those who fear fleeing immigrants want? They all want us to think and act as they do.

The Koch brothers want to keep pumping oil, mining coal, influencing politicians to insure their continued profits. Are they likely to reconsider the harm they are causing regardless of what the majority want?

Fear of “The Other”—People who speak a different language, dress in different clothing, worship a different way, eat strange foods, have darker skin are “The Other.” They are feared for irrational reasons, but fear is the driver. Right now, whole countries are consumed by this irrational fear. It’s only going to metastasize as the fleeing grows.

Scientific IgnoranceGlobal human-caused climate change is terrifyingly real, but numerous influential and ignorant people believe that it is a hoax because their local weather doesn’t fit the pattern. Too many people in the world whose crops wither or who watch the rivers dry up or are driven from their homes by war and corrupt leaders don’t even think about the climate changing. They just flee for safety. It may be too late to stop the warming and its wider affects.

Winning at any cost—The globe is chock-a-block with people who aren’t happy with anything but coming in first. Whether it’s the Olympics, a football team or at the track, winning is what’s it’s all about. Forget Win-Win or social good, it’s a zero sum game. Winning is in the human DNA.

Religious Dogma—Neither God, Jehovah, Allah nor any of the other deities will save our asses. Although humans will believe what they want to believe even when confronted by contrary evidence, no deity is going to step in to reverse the inescapable. Science is a day late and a dollar short, so don’t look to them for help.

These are just a few of the reasons that humans are unlikely to make it into the next century. Human nature is such that we are unable to stop our headlong plunge into the abyss.

As animals with an opposable thumb who are not nearly as advanced as we’d like to believe, humans are locked by evolution into destructive ways that won’t change. And the universe will go on its way not caring that humanity was ever there. As the Christian Bible says, eat, drink and be merry, the end is just around the corner.

Nov 20

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 10

In Brief—Bay reflects on the past weeks in the warehouse where he lives. This time it’s different.


Cranial Pinball Machine and Random Thoughts—

Sign (head-on)The fog of depression over the election results lifted to reveal the trees standing naked, with sparkling snow having nudged autumn’s oranges and golds aside. By the time this column makes its appearance, winter’s snow will have spread a thicker blanket on the ground.

Though it arrived a bit late, the train all of us are on stopped to let two of us off at their destinations. One empty room has been filled with another passenger who will join us on our journey.  Another room waits for a new occupant. More gray hair.

Gray hair fills these rooms, these halls, so I was jolted to see dark hair on a girl of about eight passing me in the corridor. “Hey,” we both said. Without another word she continued down the hall to visit her grandmother. This warehouse is filled with gray hair.

Messages from distant friends bring me news of other lives, other activity, other places. Recipes for cherry tomatoes and brie [Oh, God, I miss the taste of cherry tomatoes!] remind me of the past. I savor those recipes. At first, it was torture to watch others eat, and I would absent myself. Now I try not to think of the tastes as I’m fed through a tube. We don’t appreciate how our social life is enhanced by eating.

Close-by friends send me comedy, issues of justice gone astray, films and photos. They stir my synapses and, as anticipated by sensitive friends, give me reason to face another day here in the warehouse.

Other valued correspondents share their thoughts on the screwed-up politics of the day. It gives me a chance to reveal my skepticism and cynicism about what I see in the media. The media are designed to attract eyeballs to keep those profits rolling in. Journalists are just humans with the same biases we all have. It pays to remember that their paychecks are signed by the elite who own the media. We all believe what we want to believe. Are friends just allowing me to be me, cynicism and all?

Like a well running dry, my blog motivation seems at times to be drying up only to return with gifts that propel me forward. Sometimes two or three gifts; sometimes the well is dry. I wonder if an empty bucket is the future. Will I be like those people who sit and stare, lost in their own world?

Gifts from a dear friend feed my reading addiction. I read voraciously, non-fiction, fiction. The eyesight is fading now, my world is a bit dim, so the reading is becoming a bit manic. Just one more book! One more after that! Will an operation at my age arrest that dimming or is the future dark?

I realize people in the outside world have other interests, other experiences, other talents. They think in ways that are different. We are all unique. When I’m being mellow I say “Thank heavens.” On occasion my baser side emerges: “Some folks are three bricks shy of a load.” Never make the mistake of believing someone else thinks as you do. If you do, that’s a big mistake. The election results clearly show that.

My train ticket destination is written in invisible ink. Most are the same. Since this is my first time waiting for the conductor to announce my destination, I shouldn’t be surprised. Awareness of our respective destinations would devastate most ticket-holders. Not me. I would be reassured. The train moves on. The waiting continues. What does the future hold?

Nov 13

The Catholic Church Does Its Dance

In Brief—Bay recognizes that this may step on some toes, but facts don’t lie. That said, this is also a look at the Catholic Church that has made Mother Teresa a saint.


All that Glitters Isn’t Gold—

sm-black-crossReused hypodermic needles are assuredly not a healthful way to go. Nevertheless, this is one example of the way the recently canonized Mother Teresa ran her clinic in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. This is just the tip of the dirty iceberg that the Catholic Church just elevated to sainthood. Goes to illustrate the delusions and propaganda that continue to drive the Catholic Church.

Part of the requirement for sainthood is that the candidate must be shown to have performed at least two miracles. The Pope can waive that requirement, but it is usually adhered to. That leads us to how a miracle is defined.

For our purposes, a miracle is define as an extraordinary event not explainable by natural or scientific laws that is brought about by God. Candidly, there is no such thing as a miracle. In rational terms, a miracle is either an uncommon event, fudged imagination, a lie or a delusion.

But what about Mother Teresa? She was born in Skopje, Macedonia in 1910 and died in 1997. She studied for a year in Ireland to learn English before moving to India and becoming a nun in 1937. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1948 at the request of the Vatican.

Some of the practices that are reliably reported to have been carried on by Mother Teresa’s ”cult of suffering” were chaining babies to their beds, reusing hypodermic needles, secretly baptising dying patients who were unaware of what was going on, allowing patients to receive questionable treatment leading to their needless deaths, no isolation of patients with communicable diseases and generally deplorable conditions. Suffering rather than alleviating pain was an important element of Missionaries of Charity. The word is that they are belatedly trying to clean up their act. ”Out, damned spot!”

Then we must look at Mother Teresa’s excessively dogmatic views about contraception, abortion and divorce. Who knows how many poor women died when denied a necessary abortion? Who knows how many women had children they were unable to support as a result of lack of contraception? These moral crimes are the wages of dogmatism. But then, those are some of the unbending stances of the Roman Catholic Church throughout its history.

We won’t do more than mention Mother Teresa’s fullsome support of vile Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha or her plea for leniency for fellow Catholic Charles Keating, convicted of fraud, who just happened to be a generous contributor to Mother Teresa’s organization. For someone who was purportedly committed to poverty, she sure loved money regardless of its source and accumulated quite a pile of it…all with the approval of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church—

Now, let’s move on to the Roman Catholic Church that for years has flacked shamelessly for Mother Teresa and has elevated her to sainthood. That plaster saint statue will sell briskly in Roman shops.

Pope Francis is saying some positive things that need saying but, however sincere, Francis is just the present pope. A subsequent pope may reverse his liberalisms. Notwithstanding Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s position is set in concrete. To change their dogma—for example, on male heierarchy, abortion and contraception—is to undermine their traditional reason for being.

Eighty-one of the popes have been made saints. Not all have been saintly. A number of them have sired children while pope, but the church dances around that by casting doubt on their lack of celibacy, saying stuff like, ”Well, that was before he became Pope.” Of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t like to discuss priests—or popes—abusing or having sex with vulnerable children. They prefer to keep it in-house if not well-hidden from the outside world.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Roman Catholic Church is a supremely wealthy business organization with a worth comparable to or in excess of that of the United States, but it’s impossible to nail down because the Church won’t disclose its value. We know it is heavily invested in real estate holdings and corporate shares, but it’s extensive works of art and architecture have never been valued. Suffice it to say, the Catholic Church is believed to be the richest entity on earth.

I could go on, but this morally corrupt organization has just made Mother Teresa a saint. This little woman is a warped, publicity-seeking, money-grubbing fraud, and she is now a saint. The deluded dupes will be praying for her to help them when she wouldn’t even help the poor women who looked to her for succor.

The Catholic Church has its saints. Don’t you feel better?

Nov 06

Only a Pig, You Say?!

In Brief—A look at one of the smartest animals on the planet, the pig, and it’s destiny to be slaughtered for your gustatory enjoyment.


Smarter than a 3-Year-Old Human—

baby-pig-in-armsAn Ontario, Canada, woman with a conscience is being prosecuted for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. No joke, this compassionate woman who merely gave water to condemned pigs is charged with criminal mischief and is facing a fine of up to $5,000 or jail. What’s criminal here is that a compassionate woman was prosecuted and Ontario’s taxpayer money was wasted.

Facts About Pigs—

Did you know that pigs are smarter than a human 3-year-old? They are more sophisticated than your beloved family dog. They enjoy play and even abstract video games, complex puzzles and mazes. They can vocally communicate with one another or clearly express their wishes. They learn from each other, are empathetic and have been found to have superior long-term memory. They like music, have extraordinary homing ability that allows them to find their way home over great distances and, unlike their reputation, are clean and easily housebroken. Science has repeatedly established their wide-ranging cognitive ability. BUT we eat them!

I suggest you read naturalist Sy Montgomery’s book “The Good Good Pig” about living with her pet pig, Christopher Hogwood. Not only is it a fascinating book, but you may never think of pigs as food again.

Pigs as Food—

A number of months ago, I told you about countries that raise pigs for food. At the risk of boring you with the gory details of raising pigs to be slaughtered—sometimes in the most agonizing way—here are the facts about this grim practice.

It’s no surprise that China, with a population of 1.4 billion, leads the world with about half a million pigs at any given time. The United States, with a population of 320 million souls, comes in second with roughly 65 million pigs. Brazil, with a human population of about 200 million, is in third place with about 37 million pigs and Germany follows with about 28 million pigs versus 80 million people. That’s a lot of people eating pigs.

Speaking of just America, a substantial number of Americans eat pork products. Excluding vegetarians and vegans, the only exceptions are some Jews, many Muslims and some Hindus. Pigs are part of the diets of most Americans. What if they knew about the intelligence of pigs? Might they think twice before dining on pork products? Might they decide that a vegetable diet is healthier and better than killing animals?

By now, you have undoubtedly realized that we are almost totally blind to the monumental suffering we cause. We just don’t want to know some very uncomfortable facts. Might we want to save the planet and its inhabitants by becoming vegetarians or vegans? If millions of Hindus throughout the world can be vegetarians, then we can, too.

Pigs, Vegetarian and Vegan—

“But wait,” you say. “Can I get the protein I need to be healthy?” The simple answer is, “Yes.” If you hate tofu, then whole grains, nuts, beans of all types, dark greens, peas, avocado, broccoli, possibly eggs, yogurt and cheeses will provide you with more than enough protein to keep you healthy. The bonus is that you will be able to shed unwanted extra weight while eating all you want.

I encourage you to find out for yourself how you can help save the planet and its animal inhabitants while eating tasty vegetarian food at the same time. There are several different types of vegetarianism, and one of them will surely fill your needs.

Will you miss meat? Probably so at first, but eventually that omnivorous craving will pass. If you choose to believe otherwise, then at least think about those poor animals, those pigs, that are shown to experience fear as they are herded to their deaths, that are being slaughtered to fill your stomach.

Try compassion toward pigs and those other creatures humans destroy to feed themselves.

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