Disorganised atheism in America

From the good boys over at the Economist:

What accounts for the failure of atheists to organise and wield influence? One problem is that they are hardly a cohesive group. Another issue is simply branding. ‘Atheist’ has an ugly ring in American ears and it merely defines what people are not. ‘Godless’ is worse, its derogatory attachment to ‘communist’ may never be broken. ‘Humanist’ sounds too hippyish. A few have taken to calling themselves ‘Brights’ for no good reason and to widespread mirth. And ‘secular’ isn’t quite the word either; one can be a Christian secularist.

But another failing of the irreligious movement has been its tendency, frequently, to pick the wrong fights. Keeping the Ten Commandments out of an Alabama courthouse is one thing. But attacking a Christmas nativity scene on public property does more harm than good. Such secular crusades allow Christians-after all, the overwhelming majority of the country-to feel under attack, and even to declare that they are on the defensive in a ‘War on Christmas’. When a liberal federal court in California struck the words ‘under God’ from the pledge of allegiance, religious conservatives rallied. Atheists might be tactically wise to accept the overwhelming majority’s comfort with such ‘ceremonial deism’.


Draconian copyright laws in the States. Consider Canada?

Good ol' Bush Salute

In the context of all the good advancing copyright law can do for us as we move further into the twenty-first century (see “How creativity is being strangled by the law“), I almost shed a tear for Americans this afternoon because of these two bills being rushed into action:

House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including “obscene” cartoons and drawings–or face fines of up to $300,000.

That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user’s account be retained for subsequent police inspection. [cont.]

Download A Song–Lose Your Loan

Page 411 of this 747-page bill is “Section 494(A): CAMPUS-BASED DIGITAL THEFT PREVENTION” wherein the bill’s meaning takes a serious detour from its title. To prevent college students from illegally accessing copyrighted material, the section says all schools shall (when you see the word “shall” in a law, it’s a requirement, not a suggestion):

1) Have “a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property”
2) Have “a plan to explore technology based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.”

The craziest thing about this is that noncompliant schools would lose all their federal funding, for all their students. No more Pell Grants. No more federal financial aid. No more student loans. This is not just draconian punishment for students who break the law, this punishes all students at that institution even if they did nothing!

Beyond that, both requirements actually work against the point of the bill itself–implementation would likely raise school fees. [cont.]

I won’t name names, but recently I helped out a friend occultist in California review Canadian cities to expatriate to. I sent him a bunch of info on crime, lifestyle, popular job markets, and some ethnic/religious backgrounds to the cities to help him decide which was more his flavour.

As we move into an era where identity exists more and more online, and who knows as more transhuman technologies become more mainstream over the next decade. Copyright, essentially communications in general, has become the quiet battleground in the American government. Because these Draconian laws benefit not only the corporations down there, but the right-wing zealous nuts who want the world safe for their Sears-inspired Christian regime, might I suggest you, too, look at moving abroad rather than putting up with the weird Fourth Reich that is bubbling and brewing.

For those of you not caring or fighting your government before it swelters and your personal freedoms are abandoned in favour of a “safe, secure Christian state,” please feel free to inquire with any of us Canadian occultists about which cities might be welcome to you. There’s always South America, Asia, or Europe if you’re thinking more exotic, and I have friends that are always flying down to South Africa to work.

For those of you that decide to fight on your native soil, kudos to you. To the rest of you, if you don’t feel it’s your battle, the world is your oyster. America is not the end-all, be-all of the human experience.

Just a friendly word from Fell. And if there is any interest, perhaps I should put together an Guide to Canada for American Counterculture Expats. Aforementioned Californian seemed to appreciate it and is checking out his city of choice this winter. And I know we’re not exactly 100% sovereign from the U.S.’s influence, but things are nowhere near the psycho state that is growing down there. =]

EDIT — A bit of a perception/context update for the SAFE Act, via the good boys at Ars Technica:

Despite hyperbole to the contrary, the SAFE Act that passed the House yesterday won’t force local coffee shops, libraries, and home users to monitor their network connections for child porn.

Platform from Timothy Leary’s Campaign for Governor of California

Before The Open Source Party. Before The Guns and Dope Party. Before The Revolution Party. In 1969, Timothy Leary ran for governor of California against Ronald Reagan. The motto was “Come together – join the party” and John Lennon originally wrote the song “Come Together” for Leary.

According to a letter from Leary published in Mondo 2000 # 6 in 1992, this was Leary’s platform:

1. The basic function of government is to protect individuals against organized gangs and groups.

2. Decentralization: California secedes from the USSA.

3. Another basic function of govt. is to entertain/educate.

4. The government makes a profit. Instead of paying taxes, the citizen received dividends.

5. The profits derived from licensing pleasures: Marijuana license like an auto license/registration, hard liquor, gambling; prostitutes were professionals like dentists or lawyers; LSD, etc., used in state parks or theme parks; Entry taxes – California would be like an amusement park – entrance fees and daily residence fees; Education – California specializes in education – non-Californians paid substantial fees.

The only other info I could find about the platform:

Revealing part of his guber-natorial platform for the first time, Leary pledged solutions to California’s 10 major political problems.

He leaked out only a few of those solutions, but what did emerge was unique — to say the least.

“I’m going to legalize marijuana and charge a $1,000 a year permit fee for those who want to make it,” he said.

“Given the size of California population, that will generate a huge amount of additional revenue each year.

“Then I’ll turn that money over to the police and the forces of the right wing to keep them happy and off people’s backs,” Leary explained.

Wouldn’t that be discriminating against the poor who can’t afford $1,000 a year for the privilege of turning on? he was asked.

“That’s not really a problem,” he explained, “because it’s only a short-term situation — in five years I’ll eliminate all money from Californian society and return to a barter system.”


See also: Timothy Leary Dossier

Sunday School for Atheists

TIME — ‘When you have kids,’ says Julie Willey, a design engineer, ‘you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on.’ So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.

An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. ‘It’s important for kids not to look weird,’ says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it’s O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have.

Read the article here.

Other universes may be detectable, published study claims

If there are oth?er un?iverses out there-as some sci?en?tists pro?pose-then one or more of them might be de?tect?a?ble, a new study sug?gests.

Such a find?ing, ‘while cur?rently spec?u?la?tive even in prin?ci?ple, and probably far-off in prac?tice, would surely con?sti?tute an ep?och?al dis?cov?ery,’ re?search?ers wrote in a pa?per de?tail?ing their stu?dy. The work ap?pears in the Sep?tem?ber is?sue of the re?search jour?nal Phys?i?cal Re?view D.

Cos?mol?o?gists gen?er?ally hold that even if oth?er un?iverses ex?ist, a con?tro?ver?sial idea it?self, they would?n’t be vis?i?ble, and that test?ing for their ex?istence would be hard at best.

A half-sky map of slight tem?per?a?ture vari?a?tions in the cos?mic mi?cro?wave back?ground ra?di?a?tion, thought to map struc?tures in the very ear?ly uni?verse. Blue stands for colder ar?eas; red for hot?ter re?gions, where it’s be?lieved mat?ter was dens?er. These dense re?gions are thought to have lat?er be?come ga?laxy-rich zones. The boxed ar?ea marks an un?u?su?al “cold spot” re?search?ers rec?og?nize in the da?ta. An un?ex?plained gi?ant cos?mic void has also been found in the di?rec?tion of that spot. In a new stu?dy, the?o?ret?i?cal phys?i?cists ar?gue that some sort of ir?reg?u?lar?ity in the mi?cro?wave back?ground, and in mat?ter dis?tri?bu?tion, might in?di?cate where our uni?verse once knocked in?to an?oth?er one. But the re?search?ers take no po?si?tion on wheth?er this cold spot could be the anom?a?ly they’re look?ing for. Much more work is needed, they say.

But the new stu?dy, by three sci?en?tists at the Un?ivers?ity of Cal?i?for?nia, San?ta Cruz, pro?poses that neigh?bor?ing un?iverses might leave a vis?i?ble mark on our own-if, per?chance, they have knocked in?to it. For such a scar to be de?tect?a?ble, they add, the col?li?sion might have had to take place when our un?iverse was very young. Just how the bruise might look re?mains to be clar?i?fied, they say.

Full Story: World of Science.

(Thanks James!)

The Right to Be a Sleazebag

Jack McClellan was arrested in Los Angeles yesterday for exercising his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Well, officially he was arrested for violating a restraining order that forbids him to come within 10 yards of any minor in California. But the restraining order was issued based on his public discussion (online, on TV, and in print) of his sexual attraction to little girls, coupled with the perfectly legal photographs of (clothed) girls that he took in public places and posted on his now-defunct website (which was shut down by the company that provided his server space due to public complaints). McClellan, who has never been convicted of a sex crime, says he has never acted on his impulses and will not as long as doing so remains illegal. According to Fox News, he “said he created the Web site to promote association, friendship and legal, consensual cuddling between men and pre-pubescent girls.”

Full Story: Hit and Run.

Festival of Fire Celebrates Truly Dangerous Art

fire arts

The Fire Arts Festival, held July 11 to 14 in Oakland, California, showcased the work of more than 400 artists, actors and sculptors whose medium of choice is flame.

Hosted by arts collective The Crucible, the festival included showings of The Fire Odyssey, a theatrical interpretation of Homer’s epic story with lots of fiery special effects. The festival also included what organizers called “the largest collection of outdoor fire sculpture on the West Coast.” It added up to a huge, mesmerizing display of flickering flame — and a blazing celebration of creativity and industry.

Full Story: Wired.

The Visionary State: An Interview with Erik Davis

Erik Davis talks about his new book, The Visionary State (with Michael Rauner), about the psychogeography of California.

This landscape ranges from pagan forests to ascetic deserts to the shifting shores of a watery void. It includes dizzying heights and terrible lows, and great urban zones of human construction. Even in its city life, California insists that there are more ways than one, with its major urban cultures roughly divided between the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Los Angeles. Indeed, Northern and Southern California are considered by some to be so different as to effectively constitute different states. But that is a mistake. California is not two: it is bipolar.

Full Story: BLDGBLOG.

(via Abstract Dynamics).

Also, Davis’s site Techgnosis has been re-designed.

Kabbalah Centre energy drink


In its apparent never-ending thirst for increased cash flow the so-called ?Kabbalah Centre,? run by the Philip Berg family of California and favored by Madonna, has launched a new energy drink.

The ?Kabbalah Energy Drink? is sold in a red; white and blue can and produced through the same company that puts out 7 Up.

Full Story: Cult News: Kabbalah Centre energy drink banking more on buzz from celebrities than caffeine

Taking narcotics may be part of our evolutionary inheritance

A different spin on things:

Taking narcotics may be part of our evolutionary inheritance

IF DRUGS are so bad for us, why do so many people use them? Because they helped our ancestors survive, argue two anthropologists.

Our predilection for psychotropic substances is usually seen as a biological accident. The conventional view is that drugs fool the brain into thinking it is getting a reward when in fact it isn’t.

But anthropologists Roger Sullivan of the University of Auckland and Edward Hagen of the University of California at Santa Barbara point out that our ancestors were exposed to plants containing narcotic substances for millions of years. In the April issue of Addiction, they argue that we are predisposed to drug-taking because we evolved to seek out plants rich in alkaloids.


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