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Opportunity

In the southbound lane of the long, high metal and asphalt bridge over the Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire from Maine, a grate covers a storm-water drain. Out of that drain, a lone sunflower plant has grown. Today it is in full blossom, facing its bloom toward the sun.

If you are a designer of inspirational greeting cards, pull out your high-speed camera.

If you are an author of motivational business books, start counting the ways in which low-paid corporate drudges aren’t working as hard as that sunflower.

If you have a sermon to write for next week, ask, “isn’t Jesus like that?”

If you are a cynic, think about the chances of a bumblebee making it all the way out there.

Monday Effects

Among investors, the “Monday Effect” is a theory that financial markets will, on a Monday, tend to follow trajectories similar to what occurred on the previous Friday. Vijay Gondhalekar and Seyed Mehdian, in a study in the Quarterly Journal of Business and Economics, extended discussion of the Monday Effect into a “blue-Monday hypothesis”, positing an “inherent gloom” among investors because of a relatively high level of risk in Monday trading.

Brandon Holmquest reacts to the following lines in the poem Monday in Seven Days, by Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku, by telling us that if we don’t grasp “how truly excellent the choice of the word ‘hurl’ is and how excellently true the observation contained in the lines is”, then we must not like poetry very much, and should read more of it.

“Preparing for winter
isn’t tradition, but instinct. We hurl our spare anxieties
like precious cargo from a shipwreck.”

What does it mean for something to be excellently true? Can something be true, but not excellently so?

I think I must not like poetry very much, and should read more of it. Is “hurl” a truly excellent word choice because it suggests vomit? Does it do so in the original Albanian?

Wolfram Alpha tells me that next Monday, there will be 30 minutes less sunlight than there will be this Monday.

About half of the images representing Monday on Giphy show disoriented non-human animals.

The web site for Monday Magazine in British Columbia hasn’t been updated for three Mondays, because it is a monthly magazine. Even back in the days when it was a weekly magazine, Monday Magazine was distributed on Thursdays, not Mondays.

The town of Thingal Nagar, in Tamil Nadu, was once known as Monday Market, because it had a noteworthy market on Mondays. The name is gone but the market remains.

make dollars not senseThis year, Target and Walmart extending the Cyber Monday holiday in November into an entire Cyber Week (Amazon is intent on celebrating only Cyber Monday, because it’s on the orthodox commercial calendar). Is it a coincidence that this week will come on the heels of a Halloween on which Amazon is encouraging children to place Cyberman helmets over their heads, to be assimilated?

Halloween is on a Friday this year, not a Monday, but according to the Monday Effect theory, it’s pretty much the same thing.

I’m not worried if that doesn’t make sense to you, because, according to the web site Motivational Monday, we should make dollars, not sense.

The most prominent Monday legislation currently in Congress is H.R. 681, from Frank Wolf: “To amend title 5, United States Code, to provide that Washington’s Birthday be observed on February 22, rather than the third Monday in February, of each year.” At present, the bill has nine cosponsors.

The Brown Skinny Dog is Howling?

For half a decade now, the self-proclaimed prophet Linda Newkirk has been sending us her lamentations and predictions for the future. In 2009, Newkirk declared that the Messiah had been in training to set goat-people free for 42 months and would soon be revealed. In April of 2012, she declared that a massive earthquake and volcano reaping widespread destruction was “imminent” — but it actually turned out that 2012 was a subdued year for volcanic activity. Later that year, Newkirk and Pamela Rae Schuffert engaged in a series of dueling “prophecies” each revealing that the other prophet was false. Third-party prophet Sherry Shriner piled on to declare that both Newkirk and Schuffert were frauds, and that if a body really wanted protection from the forces of Satan, they should buy miracle magnets from her instead (special miracle magnet bargain price: 12 pack for $99!).

Linda Newkirk’s latest prophetic e-mail declaration continues the inter-prophet smackdown, quoting Yahweh’s warning for all who question Newkirk’s genius (Yahweh’s “Beloved One”):

“Woe to you, who assemble against her in numbers and cry “foul.” For, I shall pluck you clean. I shall de-feather you and no longer will you rise up in your abominations to put a foot in the face of My Beloved One, or to put a knife into her back! I am moving forth with My judgements against all, who mock her, against all, who lie against her, against all, who torture her and abuse her and I am going to make your faces bald! I am going to make your heads bald! I am going to make your legs bald! I am going to break your teeth! I am going to wreck your smile!”

You know, that’s not all too bad. Sure, broken teeth hurt, but with a little Propecia we’ll have a full head of hair again soon, and we won’t have to worry about shaving elsewhere. For every few cents we save on razors and Nair, we can buy more Tootsie Rolls.

Newkirk further tells us that we’ll getting it from the land and the sea:

“Repent, or perish, oh My people! Repent, or perish! The avalanche is upon you! The dark tide is rolling in! You are on a crash course for it and a head-on collision! The raven is circling! The brown skinny dog is howling! The eagle is sick and dying. Its wings are crippled! The bushes are afire and burning! The air is full of toxins and poisons! The ground is parched and full of lifelessness! The whores are languishing and the tables are coming up empty! The black birds are circling and the babies are crying!”

Dying eagles, I get. Circling ravens and crying babies and bushes that are both afire and burning, sure. But “the brown skinny dog is howling”? Does it matter that the dog is brown? What it if were a yellow skinny howling dog? Would that be better? Or a brown portly dog? I’d always thought the sign of the apocalypse was the quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog.

And if you think that’s all silly, try this:

“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” Revelation 1: 14-16.

An Alabama Christian’s Strange Alternative History

Many of the threats against Amanda Scott by Alabama Christians, in retaliation for her request for equal legal rights for atheists, were frighteningly violent. I described some of those earlier this week.

Many of the angry responses, however, were so incompetently made that they’re more laughable than scary. Among these were the comments made by David Ritch of Fowl River, Alabama. Ritch wrote, “This country was founded by God fearing people,not Godless people. If they dobg wish to believe that’s fine,our way of life shouldn’t change,they can join isis. I don’t like stupid people”

If atheists don’t like America being dominated by Christians, they can join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?!? It seems that David Ritch isn’t quite getting the point of Amanda Scott’s request for equality under the law. ISIS shares the anti-secular attitude of many Alabama Christians, differing only in the particular religion that they seek to impose on their neighbors.

When someone wrote back to Ritch, saying, “No it wasn’t founded based on God,” Ritch replied, “Sorry but it was.the pope had much to do with it. If you don’t believe in God that’s fine,don’t take our rights to suit others,the minority.”

The Pope had much to do with the founding of the United States of America?!? Actually, no. In 1776, the Catholic portion of the population of the 13 colonies was much smaller than the atheist portion is today. There were only six Catholic priests in the colonies at the time of the revolution. As documented in the book Nature’s God, by Matthew Stewart, people who, like Amanda Scott, were considered infidels by their Christian neighbors were prominent among the most prominent leaders of the American Revolution.

It seems that, in Alabama, faith-based education has led to a strange alternative interpretation of history, and of interpretation of the law. In other places in the United States, it’s understood that democracy isn’t the same thing as allowing the majority to do whatever it wants. A true democracy balances the will of the majority with some fundamental guarantee of legal rights for everyone, in order to protect dissent.

The malicious ignorance of David Ritch indicates how dangerous it would be to allow a religiously-established government to replace the current secular government of the United States of America. If Ritch can believe that a Catholic Pope was central to the founding of the United States and that atheists and Islamic fundamentalists are allies, then he could just as easily believe that the government has a right to search and seize private documents, that the Constitution allows for the violent interrogation of prisoners, that English was the only language allowed in the early United States, that Saddam Hussein was behind the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001…

Hm. Maybe there are more Americans like David Ritch than I had presumed.

Hard Dawn’s Beautiful Satire Of Right Wing Conspiracy Theorists

Right wing conspiracy theory web sites are adept at skirting the line between leading questions and blatant falsehoods. They offer questions that suggest to gullible readers that the ideas being questioned are, in fact, well-established, supported by evidence. For example, the sites Pakalert Press and Before It’s News are currently presenting articles with the following headlines:

- Ebola – Another Illuminati Psy Op?

- Is Israeli Aggression Based on End Times Prophesy?

- ‘There Will Be No Water’ by 2040?

- CIA Bonded With Nazis To Sex Traffic, Kill Naked Children At Human Hunting Parties?

- Ruins Of Ancient City Found In Antarctica?

cat chemtrailsThese articles tend to follow a routine formula because their authors have found that certain writing patterns are especially effective at exciting the furious attention of right wing nuts. When an odd formula develops in writing, it’s a perfect opportunity for satire. Such satire is offered, in beautiful heaping piles, by Hard Dawn“Because Morning In America Won’t Be Easy”.

Among the leading questions asked at Hard Dawn:

- Are Deep-Sea Dinosaurs Living Proof of the Biblical Timeline?

- Are Militant Atheists Using Chemtrails to Poison the Angels in Heaven?

- Why Doesn’t the Liberal Media Identify Murderers as Atheists?

- Is the Gay “Bear” Scene Opening the Door to Homosexual Male Pregnancy?

- Can your iPhone turn you gay? The science is still inconclusive…

Other choice items:

- Richard Dawkins May Be Using the Shroud of Satanism to Cover His True Communist Agenda

- Many Atheists Believe That Eating Puppy Fetuses Will Cure Their Sexual Impotency. Here’s Why They’re Wrong

- Why Isn’t America Sending Bibles Into Space?

- Atheists, Abortionists & the ACLU Must Take the Blame for Ferguson Riots

- Legos: How One Vulgar, Ambidextrous Toy Opened the Door for Gay “Marriage” in Denmark

- New Zealand Debates Changing National Flag, Yet Forgets Its Moral Obligation to America

- Dorito Danger: How Mexican-Style Snack Chips Are Threatening America’s Borders

Mayday Super PAC sends $$ to GOP, but Hardly Any of its Donors are Republican

Blogger DocDawg has delved into the financial records of the Mayday Super PAC. This year, the Mayday PAC is identifying eight congressional campaigns to fund, ostensibly on the basis of campaign finance reform, and so far those campaigns benefitting from Mayday’s largesse are half Republican, half Democrat.

Actual support for campaign finance legislation is not so evenly bipartisan. We already know that only 1.4% of the congressional candidates supporting the Mayday PAC’s slate of favored campaign finance reforms are Republicans, and that 96.2% of pro-reform candidates are Democrats. As DocDawg’s analysis shows, this pattern also hold for donors to the Mayday PAC itself. Of the 13 donors giving Mayday $100,000 or more who have given to other candidates, 12 give exclusively to Democratic candidates; only 1 has given to a Republican candidate. Of the 22 donors giving Mayday $10,000 to $99,999 who have given to other candidates, only 3 have given to Republican candidates.

Among candidates for Congress and campaign donors, support for campaign finance reform runs heavily Democratic and hardly exists at all among Republicans. Yet the Mayday Super PAC is splitting its support down the middle, sending half to Republican candidates and half to Democratic candidates. The effect is, perversely, to reward the Republican Party for mostly not supporting campaign finance reform and to punish the Democratic Party for overwhelmingly supporting campaign finance reform. If you are one of the very rare conservative campaign finance reform supporters, you’ll love this arrangement. If you are truly a single-issue citizen who only cares about campaign finance reform, this is not a problem. But if you believe that campaign finance reform is one of a set of liberal reforms that are all important, donating to the Mayday PAC may be a counterproductive way to further your goals.

Amazon.com Seeks To Convert Your Children Into Cybermen

Few companies invite as many conspiracies as Amazon, the gigantic online retailer that specializes in selling… stuff. The zombie web site of Andrew Breitbart notes that Barack Obama visited Amazon.com headquarters just six days before the company announced its purchase of the Washington Post. Could that be a coincidence?

amazon cyberman maskAlso, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has been discovered arranging the funding of a spaceship to fly to the Moon. As we know from cinema, when tycoons construct bases on the Moon, secret plots to destroy the Earth inevitably follow.

Besides, it’s noted, Bezos is a member of at least one organization linked to the Illuminati. “Bezos is a billionaire,” writes one conspiracy theorist, “but he’s not just a billionaire. His net worth is nearly $30 billion. He’s the 13th richest person alive. And he was a member of the Executive Committee of The Business Council in 2011 and 2012. And he’s a member of the Bilderberg Group.”

Add all this to the fact that Amazon has begun to construct an army of robots. One concerned citizen asks, “Is no one else concerned that the amazon drone delivery program may be the beginning of making the populace complacent with drones flying in the US? It could very well lead to the Government and local Police forces having their own drones.”

Perhaps it isn’t enough for Amazon.com to dominate the commercial world with its robot army. Perhaps Jeff Bezos is thinking ahead to another technological innovation: What if Amazon’s customers themselves became robots?

Shockingly, there is some small evidence that such a plan may have been set in motion. Amazon is openly selling Cyberman masks. Cybermen are robotic monsters on Doctor Who that seize human beings and convert them into emotionless robots. In Doctor Who episodes, once a human being has a Cyberman mask placed on their heads, they have their bodies cut away by razor blades, so that their brains can be implanted into cybernetic bodies, to add to the Cyberman army.

Given that, would you buy this Cyberman mask from Amazon, and invite your child to slip inside it?

The Declaration On Freedom of Thought and Expression

The following items are the core items from the Declaration On Freedom of Thought and Expression approved by the World Humanist Congress at the beginning of this week.

Are these values universal? Should they be?

world humanist congress 2014The right to freedom of thought and belief is one and the same right for all. The human right articulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elaborated elsewhere is and should be a single right, indivisible, protecting the dignity and freedom of all people by protecting their right to their personal beliefs, whatever those beliefs, religious or non-religious. As Article 7 of the Declaration says, ‘All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.’

No one anywhere should ever be forced into or out of a belief. Freedom of thought implies the right to develop, hold, examine and manifest our beliefs without coercion, and to express opinions and a worldview whether religious or non-religious, without fear of coercion. It includes the right to change our views or to reject beliefs previously held, or previously ascribed. Pressure to conform to ideologies of the state or to doctrines of religion is a tyranny. Laws that prescribe or criminalise beliefs contravene human dignity and must be abolished. Every citizen of every state has the right to demand the repeal of such laws, and all states should support those, wherever they are, who demand that their social freedoms and personal liberty be upheld.

The right to freedom of expression is global in its scope. The human right articulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. No parochial nationalism or state insecurity should prevent the global human community from fulfilling the promise of our new technologies, our mass media, our social media, and our personal access to transnational networks. States should invest to allow their citizens’ participation in this global conversation.

There is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions. Respect for people’s freedom of belief does not imply respect for those beliefs. The expression of opposition to any beliefs, including in the form of satire, ridicule or condemnation in all media and forms is vital to critical discourse and any restraint that is exercised in this expression must be self-restraint alone. The best response to the expression of a view we disagree with is to reply to it. Violence and censorship are never legitimate responses. All laws that criminalise language on grounds of ‘blasphemy’ or of offence to beliefs and values impede human freedom and should be abolished.

States must not restrict thought and expression merely to protect the government from criticism. States that criminalise criticism of government policies or officials as treasonous, or as threats to security, are not “strong governments” championing the best interests of the public, but censorious bullies exercising tyranny in their own interests. States should ensure in the law of the land, in their education systems, and in the conduct of their national life generally, that freedom of thought and expression are actively promoted and pursued to the real benefit of every member of society.

Freedom of belief is absolute but the freedom to act on a belief is not. As responsible members of a community we accept that our freedom to act must sometimes be restricted, if and only if our actions would destroy the rights and freedoms of others. Freedom of belief cannot legitimise overriding the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law. These balances can be hard to strike but with a focus on freedom and human dignity, we believe legislators and judiciaries can strike them in a progressive manner.”

North Carolina NAACP Announces Moral Week of Action, August 22-28

Thanks to frequent visitor Bill for alerting me to the latest development in the “Moral Mondays” protests against conservative regression in North Carolina. From August 22 to August 28 the North Carolina NAACP is holding a “Moral Week of Action” with daily rallies in Raleigh. Every day demonstrators will meet on the Bicentennial Mall on 16 West Jones Street at 3:30 pm, then march to the North Carolina State Capitol building. These rallies will call on North Carolinians and North Carolina state legislators to “vote your dreams, not your fears.” If that sounds overly vague to you, fear not; each day has a particular substantive focus:

August 22: Labor Rights, Fair Living Wages and other Economic Issues
August 23: Education and Criminal Justice
August 24: Equal Protection Under the Law
August 25: Youth Issues
August 26: Women’s Rights
August 27: Health Care and the Environment
August 28: Voting Rights

North Carolina is riled up and agitating in the right direction. Help spread the word.

Despite Prominent Promotion in News Media, Few Americans Agree that “We Need Smith”

We Need Smith, a mysterious effort to independently promote unidentified presidential and congressional candidates who favor good things and oppose bad things, has been getting some prominent promotion in the news media lately.

A FOX News segment on July 5 of this year devoted a full five minutes of airtime to promoting We Need Smith, with Doug Schoen of No Labels and Americans Elect chipping in choreographed words of agreement to bolster We Need Smith’s leader and frequent FOX commentator Patrick Caddell. On that day and the day before, Huffington Post published glowing articles promoting We Need Smith. Also on that day, the Daily Mail published a favorable piece. A hundred blog posts on We Need Smith followed in the month of July 2014. Nothing says “news blitz” like such concentrated coverage.

What did We Need Smith win from this news blitz? Not much. On July 5, as a clip from the FOX video shows, 2543 people had signed up for accounts on the We Need Smith website. Since early August I’ve been tracking the count of followers named on the We Need Smith website. On August 5, the number of supporters had risen to 4,999. At most, the four professional news media stories and a hundred blog posts led to at most 2,556 new adherents, a low conversion rate for a large number of views and readers. Since August 5, We Need Smith has gained an average of just six new followers a day.

What about Facebook and Twitter? So far this week, We Need Smith’s Twitter account has lost 14 followers. Since yesterday, We Need Smith’s Facebook account has lost 1 like. That’s not the direction an honest-to-goodness grassroots movement should be hoping for.

Shirley Chatel Makes Alabama’s Christianity Look Bigoted

Alabama Christians are showing their true colors this week, in their responses to a public speech by atheist Amanda Scott, who requested that the government of Mobile, Alabama recognize the equal legal status of atheist residents of the city, rather than giving Christians preferential treatment.

In response to an invitation by local TV station WKRG to share judgments about Amanda Scott, some Christians said that Scott should be killed, assaulted, or commit suicide.

shirley chatel mobile alabamaLess physically violent, but just as abhorrent to the democratic values upon which the United States was founded, were calls from Christians for Amanda Scott to renounce her American citizenship and live outside the USA.

Shirley Chatel of Mobile Alabama called for the exile of Americans who don’t believe in Christianity’s god, writing, “She needs to go to another country!”

Shirley Chatel wasn’t alone in this idea. She was joined by Shirley Ard Coburn, who wrote, “She needs to fall on her knees and repent and ask Jesus to open her eyes to the truth. Then if she chooses not to do that go to a country that does not believe in God.”

But then, many Alabama Christians didn’t think that the exile of atheists out of the United States should be voluntary. Katrina Mullins Turner urged a forced deportation of Amanda Scott: “Just ship her out of this country!”

Ron Pierce of nearby Neely, Mississippi added in a strange connection to ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, making a proposal to, “Send her to ISIS they would love her”. At first, this seems like a contradiction, given that Amanda Scott is an atheist, and ISIS soldiers are devout Muslims who threaten to kill anyone who doesn’t share their religion. Then again, it’s possible that Ron Pierce rather admires the ISIS attitude toward nonbelievers, and is hoping that ISIS soldiers will kill her.

katrina mullins turner alabama christianOther Christians joined in on the call for voluntary exile or forced deportation:

Malinda Causey: “Send her to a country that was not founded on God!”

Donna Martin: “She can like it or lump it! Whine to someone who gives a f—-…I don’t!! She could also MOVE!!”

Tony Kramer: “Send her to the planet Venus! Maybe God won’t be there but HE IS HERE.”

Diedre Koontz Cowart: “Our country was founded by men of great courage and faith. If you don’t like it, leave.”

Tammy Ellzey Harold: “Tell her to move to a Communist country…country should not have to change anything to suit a small minority….what happened to majority rules???”

John Owen Anderson: “Get the hell out of the United States”

Dawn Donnelly: “This country was founded on Christianity and that’s who it’s going to be and stay!!! You either continue to live here and except OUR RULES,LAWS and RELIGIONS or LEAVE, take your pick!! We’re NOT Athiest or Muslim,we are Christian….period!!”

Becky Smith Williams: “This country was and is based on God , if u dont like that move to some other place or better yet ur own little island.”

Cheryl An Dell Worley: “she should move out of America we were founded own in God we trust”

Ruth McKinley: “I think if she doesn’t like it she can get out of America, We this Country, is founded on faith and love and God is Love!”

Carrie Brush Dickens: “Dont like it LEAVE America!”

Susie Hepstall: “if she don’t like god she needs to go to a different country”

Phyllis Dommert Hagler: “This country was founded on Christianity so if that offends people go back to your country.”

Joy Corbitt: “Send her to iRock Afghanistan anywhere but here”

Patricia Maynard: “She should pack her bags and leave the U.S.A.”

Tommy Kirksey: “This country was founded on GOD, The Bible and If you don’t like it , Please feel free to MOVE to another country”

Karen Peacock Hoof: “Send her out of this country!!”

Donnie Calloway: “i say no the atheist if they don,t like it let them leave the united states”

Jordan Shaw: “I think that athiest needs to go live else where… This nation was founded on God.”

Dana Ashley Moss: “Send her to an atheist country. Our country was founded on God.”

Sharon Lavender: “Send her to the Iraq to live with them. See how fast she prays to god.”

Henry Jolley: “Dump her off at the Iraq border and tell her she’s home, hit the road.”

Debra Roberts: “Tell her to get out of God’s country”

Peggy Burt Burke: “Send her a$$ to a Muslim country!”

Jeremy Smith: “Atheists should all be removed from our God loving country.”

Ashton Wolverton Shirley: “Whoever doesn’t like what this country was founded on is welcome to SHUT UP OR PACK UP”

Lynette Stanley: “Why don’t all these atheist and non believing people get on a bus to no-where. If she wants an atheist world she is going to get it when she gets her place to rest for eternity. Burn, burn.”

That’s by no means all the messages from angry Christians calling for Amanda Scott and other atheists to leave so that the USA can be a purely Christian country. It might take all day for me to find them all. The point, I hope is clear. The next time you wonder why atheists aren’t willing to join in with Christian worship, and to accept Christian attempts to claim the federal government as an instrument of their religion, remember what Amanda Scott has faced as a result of her request for simple equality. The religion that these Alabama Christians are showing is not a religion of compassion.