Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Exodus story reveals Bible's dishonesty

By Marc McDonald 

Although some might be loath to admit it, many educated adults (even non-fundamentalist Christians) are aware that the Bible is perhaps not the best source of history.

I mean, how many people still take the story of Adam and Eve seriously any more? But I suspect that most people are still unaware of just how totally wrong the Bible is as far as anything remotely approaching real history.

This wouldn't be that big a deal, except for the fact that so many people take the Bible very seriously as a profound book of wisdom. The massive and growing population of Fundamentalists continue to believe the Bible is nothing less than the divinely-inspired, inerrant Word of God.

But the Bible is profoundly wrong in its historical accuracy. The Exodus story (now the subject of a big-budget Hollywood movie by Ridley Scott) is a good example. Some people might question certain fantastic aspects of the story (like the parting of the Red Sea). But I think most people accept that there must be at least a kernel of truth to the story's main points (such as that there really was once a big enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt). Many people continue to believe that this has been confirmed in the archaeological record.

But there's a big problem to this belief: it's simply not true. Nothing in the Exodus story has ever been confirmed by any serious archaeologist, despite long quests to try to confirm anything remotely related to the Bible story.

The fact is, even many Bible apologists have quietly abandoned their quest to try to confirm the Exodus story. The problem is that there is simply not a shred of historical evidence that any of this really happened. Forget wild tales like the parting of the Red Sea -- there isn't even the slightest bit of evidence that there was an Exodus captivity in the first place.

This whole story is a fairy tale. The fact is, the story of Exodus is one big lie. And if this well-known Bible story is a lie, then, really, how truthful is any aspect of the Bible?

The Bible is a dishonest book, period.

A lot of agnostics spend their time attacking the absurdities, contradictions and sheer nonsense of the Bible's philosophical teachings. But if they're trying to convince believers, they're wasting their time. The Bible is so vague and archaic that the sort of people who take it seriously are never going to be dissuaded via that approach.

What agnostics should be doing is attacking the historicity of the Bible itself. People should be aware of just how many of these Bible tales lack the slightest shred of historical evidence to support them.

It's time for humanity to move beyond the fairy tales, nonsense and superstition of absurd books like the Bible.

In much of Europe, this is already taking place. Sadly, in America, large numbers of people continue to take the Bible seriously (and try to ram their twisted beliefs down the throats of other people).

(Cross-posted at BeggarsCanBeChoosers.)

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Why go on?

By Capt. Fogg

There's really no point, is there? I mean, I've been protesting and griping and occasionally exulting about things for over 50 years and although it sometimes seems I've been on the right side, sometimes on the winning side, the wins have been so slow to grow into anything and the losers so able to readjust their stories to define the losses as wins that perhaps it doesn't matter. Even angels have to fear the sticky epithets falling on the guilty and the innocent, fear to tread on the right and the wrong because right and wrong can't be discerned through the fog of politics of any denomination. Descriptions mean nothing when our language, our history, our morals are written in water and change with the tide. We are not saved by works, but damned at random.

I don't believe in protests any more. I don't believe in elections. I don't believe in the public's ability to pay attention, to be objective, rational or enlightened enough to do anything but make noise and make it all worse. If we actually feel we've been allowed anything like good government, it's often really that we've been thrown a bone to distract us from seeing that the chuck wagon has rolled off  with dinner. Take the amazing fact that Congress passed a budget rather than shutting down the country they pretend to love. Reading it you may feel like the patient who learns his illness is gone, but there's a disturbing spot on his lungs. The spot, the shadow, the tumor, the poison pills, are riders you won't hear about, unless the Fox decides they can blame them on Obama.

And of course the president will have to support it else we hear more of the chorus of "he's a tyrant, an emperor ignoring the will of the people" even though there can't be a whole lot of "the people" who approve of allowing a huge increase in the amount of money one can contribute to the Republican Party (up to three million for a married couple) and of allowing a return to the reckless bank chicanery with exotic derivatives that caused the recent recession. After all that protest and demonstration and passion! Should we just admit there's no way to control the course of events that involves democracy? 

And of course I've always been told that I hated America, because I opposed a whole shooting gallery of things, like the war in Vietnam or segregation or torture or the end of probable cause or forfeitures without due process. I hated America, it's said, for warning that paying  for our most expensive and lengthy war with tax cuts for the wealthy wouldn't work. I hated America for making a fuss about My Lai 4, for the abomination of HUAC. I hated it for not hating enough.

Perhaps now, with the voice of evil, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros claiming that the only reason we finally admit to illegal and immoral practices like torture, is that Obama wants you to think America isn't awesome, with the ability of  war criminals to define their crimes away, perhaps now I can decide that, yes, I really do hate this evil empire. This abomination of a country that dares screech about FREEDOM but won't let you leave, won't let you live abroad and wants to make you pay U.S. taxes even if you're a foreign national and don't live in the U.S. -- unless you're a corporation of course. I have to oppose it. I can't do otherwise.

No, the center isn't holding. 

Yes, I'm a fool for protesting, for blogging, for hoping. I can't change minds or anything else and even if I did, our country is a runaway train anyway because people do not vote, corporations do. It's a runaway train because no one can do anything without the permission of  the ruling party. Even old John McCain who lost an election because he had to pretend his masters weren't evil, because he had to run with that Alaskan millstone around his neck must hate America for trying so eloquently to hold it to a moral standard higher than the Spanish Inquisition. It brought tears to my eyes. Misery makes strange bedfellows indeed.

Are there enough of us to rebel, to force the money grabbers, the tyrants out of the government? Of course not, and not only because only the worst of us vote. We can't unite because we truly are a small-minded, self-absorbed, uncompromising, and gullible group of fractious fools, and because it's too late anyway and it's all our own fault. The enemy is us. It always has been.

(Cross-posted to Human Voices.)

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Friday, December 05, 2014

#CrimingWhileWhite

By Carl




As you may know, one of the responses on social media like Twitter and Facebook to the tragic grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as to the countless stories of police abuse of power specifically against black men and boys, is for white people to contrast the treatment by cops.

The theme is for a white person to post their worst crime that they got away with, then attach the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.

For blacks, a similar trope of #AliveWhileBlack calls for a person to post the most dangerous encounter with either the cops or a white person that they survived.

It seems sophomoric, particularly as most of the white folks end up posting things like shoplifting or driving while drunk, even getting pulled over by the cops and being sent on their way with just a ticket or worse, a warning.

As I was writing mine up (which was a little harder to figure out. I ended up settling on smuggling Cuban cigars into the States, altho there was all that public sex,) the realization of the power of this hashtag meme hit me:

See, I could smoke a joint in public. I could walk around stoned or drunk out of my gourd. I could steal a Playboy from a newsstand, or smuggle a cigar in my coat, or duck down an alley because I really had to pee, and I could do all this in front of the cops and you know what? I'd never be suspected of committing any kind of crime, and moreover, never even be subject to arrest much less a potential date with death.

My brothers and sisters of colors can't say that, they don't have that guarantee that even if they "behave themselves" -- which I'm betting they hear as "Be good little darkies," because how patronizing is it for white folks to tell black folks how to live? -- that even if they are model citizens and speak slowly and carefully and in modulated tones to a cop, they won't be arrested. They won't be thrown into a chokehold.

There's no guarantee they won't be shot. If the African American or Latino version of me ducks down an alley and a cop sees him, the cop isn't thinking that the guy just needs to pee really badly, and he's going to follow that Carl, and bad things are going to happen.

If a cop sees me standing there, back to the street, legs wide, he's going to assume I'm taking a leak and turn away, because the devil you don't know. If he sees the darker version of me, he's going to look down and see if there's something worth investigating, and even if he decides there's nothing more than an urgent call of nature, he may still decide to primp his statistics and arrest the guy.

If I'm driving too fast, the cop will pull me over and while he won't be completely relaxed until he's reached my car and ascertained I'm just a moron -- and yes, I've had cops yell at me to remain in my vehicle or keep my hands in view -- if this happens to the minority Me, he's not even going to relax once he's got my license and registration in hand.

It's a stunning realization once you start to put it in perspective, this imbalance in treatment by law enforcement officers. And here's the thing that I really want to stress: these are not random cops who are deciding to let me go while harassing a black man or Latino. In some instances, they really are all but KKK members (I know, I've dealt with a few NYPD brass who with a straight face will call black and Latinos "thugs and gang-bangers.") In most instances, these are the good guys who swear they aren't racist but who have had an institutional racism drummed into their heads from day one that a dark skinned man is scary and even subhuman.

The worst part is, they're right, they aren't really racist until they are out on the streets "To protect and serve". They forget the second part of that and are overzealous in the first. And that has to stop. And that's going to take all of us to read those hashtags and realize we have to link arms and stand up.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanks

By Carl


I know, I've been one poor correspondent, and I've been too too hard to find, but that doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind...

2014 was a tough year for everyone. I feel grateful and fortunate that I skated past a lot of crap but what I did endure was enough for two years. 

I'm still not working but I have enough to live on. I haven't really pursued a job but then I've been working on other projects around my world.

I'm grateful to the Smithsonian for using seven of my photographs this year. I'm grateful to the Ocean Conservancy for using one to promote sustainable fisheries. I'm grateful to my old employer for being more than fair with me on my way out the door, and for the friends I made while in his employ. 

I'm grateful for my health and my extended family, which grew a little this year in the Old Country. I'm grateful for those closest to me who helped me bridge the gap from miserable job to the quietude of self-employment. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have stopped out and gotten some of the kruft out of my personal life: you know, the kipple that builds up because you get home from a job too tired to fix this, paint that, build the other. 

I'm grateful for the advice I've been gifted with and the motivations put in front of me. We all need a carrot or a stick and I'm pleased to say that I've eaten more carrots than splinters.

And finally, I'm grateful for you, gentle reader. Often, I'll see echoes of something I've written in some of the strangest places and I know that, while I have a tiny readership, you are influential. I feel good about you and about my contributions to this blog.

Thank you, all. And Happy Thanksgiving.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: "We the Common (for Valerie Bolden)," "Move," and "The Feeling Kind"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'd never heard of Thao Nguyen, nor of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, until I saw her, and them, on Austin City Limits this weekend.

I'm now a fan.

And I highly recommend you check her, and them, out, including their most recent album, 2013's We the Common.

Here are "We the Common (for Valerie Bolden)," inspired by one of the women Thao met through her volunteer work for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, from ACL, "Move," a web exclusive from the ACL performance, and the official video for "The Feeling Kind," the latter two also from We the Common.



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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

That's the way we like it

By Capt. Fogg

I used to bridle at the title Flori-duh. Now I don't think it's adequate to describe the stupidity, delusion, ignorance, bigotry, tribalism and dishonesty that permeates the atmosphere and saturates the ground of Florida.  Yes, we have, amongst other acts of  self-destructive idiocy, re-elected one of the biggest crooks in American history, albeit by a small margin.  Rick Scott's "debate" with his opponent Charley Christ was the most resounding defeat since Lincoln and Douglas but of course few watched it and many heard only the edited snippets that had former Governor Christ to blame not only for the credit crunch that torpedoed the real estate market that is the backbone of Florida's economy, but indeed he caused the global recession that followed the 8 years of no job growth and soaring debt the Republicans gave us.  Did one Floridian pick up on Scott's declaration that government cannot create jobs which came immediately before his declaration that he had created 600 thousand of them? 

A feeble presentation, stumbled through without answering one single direct question, yet today's paper insists the negativity was on the Democratic side.  One frequently aired ad had a voice simply sneering Charlie Christ. The most negative, dirties, sleaziest and most scurrilous campaign I remember in my long  lifetime.  Did I mention that Scott claimed he'd do everything all over again when asked how he'd got away with stealing a billion dollars from Medicare without going to jail?  It wasn't his fault - he didn't know - which, if true, says much about his "leadership" and executive ability.

Florida's medical Marijuana bill failed as well, largely on the offensively fallacious argument that it would offer protection to drug dealers (by making it legal to be one) and would increase crime although the evidence is otherwise, but we're talking about Florida -- we're talking about Republicans, we're talking about stupid, delusional, self-destructive, ignorant, superstitious, neurotic, insular, dishonest and prejudiced: the idiot state, the dumbass state, the backward state where the vultures of big sugar and Disney drool over the festering corpse of our former beauty. 

And we like it that way.

(Cross posted to Human Voices)


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rand Paul is right and wrong

By Richard K. Barry

Senator Rand Paul says the Republican brand sucks, and because I don't like to disagree with the Senator, I won't. I will, however, take issue with his understanding of history.

“Remember Domino’s Pizza? They admitted, ‘Hey, our pizza crust sucks.’ The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” he said.

In fact, 80 years overstates the case by a fair bit, as the New York Times reported in June of this year.
In 1960, [Jackie] Robinson endorsed Nixon for president, declaring that the civil rights commitment of Nixon’s Democratic rival, John F. Kennedy, was “insincere.” In those times, an African-American Republican was by no means unusual. About 39 percent of black voters had supported the re-election of President Dwight Eisenhower and his Vice President.

The historical relationship between African-Americans and Democrats is, of course, complex. My intention here is only to report the facts.

Paul is still right that the Republican brand sucks, just to clear.

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