Saturday, January 3, 2015

The NYPD’s mini-rebellion, and the true face of American fascism -

The NYPD's mini-rebellion, and the true face of American fascism

The NYC cop crisis taps into a vein of authoritarian longing -- but the real risk of fascism may be harder to see

Topics: Police, New York Police Department, Police brutality, police violence, police state, Patrick Lynch, Bill de Blasio, New York, New York City, eric garner, michael brown, NYPD, Fascism, Politics News

In 1935, with Hitler and Mussolini forging a historic alliance in Europe and the world sliding toward war, Sinclair Lewis published the satirical novel "It Can't Happen Here," which depicted the rise of an indigenous American fascist movement. Lewis is a fine prose stylist, but this particular book has an overly melodramatic plot, and is highly specific to its era. It has not aged nearly as well as "Brave New World" or "1984," and not many people read it today. (At the time, it was understood as an attack on Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana, the populist firebrand who was planning to run against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, but was assassinated before he could do so.) But certain aspects of Lewis' fascist America still resonate strongly. His clearest insight came in seeing that the authoritarian impulse runs strong and deep in American society, but that because of our unique political history and our confused national mythology, it must always be called by other names and discussed in other terms.
Oh, yeah — Happy New Year, everybody! Now let's get back to fascism. When the "Corpo" regime installed by tyrannical President Buzz Windrip in "It Can't Happen Here" strips Congress of its powers, tries dissidents in secret military courts and arms a repressive paramilitary force called the Minute Men, most citizens go along with it. (Yeah, some of that sounds familiar — we'll get to that.) These draconian measures are understood as necessary to Windrip's platform of restoring American greatness and prosperity, and even those who feel uncomfortable with Corpo policies reassure themselves that America is a special place with a special destiny, and that the terrible things that have happened in Germany and Italy and Spain are not possible here. No doubt the irony of Lewis' title seems embarrassingly obvious now, but it was not meant to be subtle in 1935 either. His point stands: We still comfort ourselves with mystical nostrums about American specialness, even in an age when the secret powers of the United States government, and its insulation from democratic oversight, go far beyond anything Lewis ever imagined.

I'm not the first person to observe that the New York police unions' current mini-rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio carries anti-democratic undertones, and even a faint odor of right-wing coup. Indeed, it feels like an early chapter in a contemporary rewrite of "It Can't Happen Here": Police in the nation's largest city openly disrespect and defy an elected reformist mayor, inspiring a nationwide wave of support from "true patriots" eager to take their country back from the dubious alien forces who have degraded and desecrated it. However you read the proximate issues between the cops and de Blasio (some of which are New York-specific), the police protest rests on the same philosophical foundation as the fascist movement in Lewis' novel. Indeed, it's a constant undercurrent in American political life, one that surfaced most recently in the Tea Party rebellion of 2010, and is closely related to the disorder famously anatomized by Richard Hofstadter in his 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."
There's no doubt that the NYPD crisis has disturbing implications on various levels. Amid a national discussion about police tactics and strategy, and the understandable grief following the murders of two NYPD officers, it amounts to a vigorous ideological counterattack. In effect, many cops (or at least their more intransigent leaders) want to assert that law enforcement is a quasi-sacred social institution, one that stands outside the law and is independent of democratic oversight. Sometimes this is taken to ludicrous and literal-minded extremes, as in a recent column by Michael Goodwin of the New York Post celebrating the NYPD and the United States military as "Our angels in a time of danger and cynicism." (Without realizing it, Goodwin was buttressing the conclusions of James Fallows' must-read Atlantic article about the way American society has become disconnected from the military and sanctified it at the same time.) As Salon columnist and veteran New York reporter Jim Sleeper has noted, this tendency also makes clear how little the tribal, insular culture of big-city policing has changed, even in an era of far greater diversity.
We still don't know where this confrontation between de Blasio and his cops will lead, or how it will be resolved. (So far, the city has been peaceful – and nobody on my block got a parking ticket all week! So it's win-win.) But I'd like to strike a counterintuitive position and insist that it's important not to overstate the threat, or to give an arrogant blowhard like Patrolmen's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch more importance than he merits. My fellow Irish-Americans will recognize Lynch as a latter-day example of the small-minded bigots and "begrudgers" too common in the tribe. But set him against Joe McCarthy and Father Coughlin, and he barely registers on the historical scales of infamy.
In the final analysis I don't find Lynch and his minions especially terrifying, for exactly the same reasons I don't find Sen. Ted Cruz especially terrifying. Both may dream of a Corpo America, in which dissent is crushed with an iron fist and our glorious national destiny is reclaimed from the appeasers and multiculturalists and pantywaists. But they lack the political finesse or rhetorical subtlety to make it happen. Ultimately, the real dangers may be closer at hand, and more difficult to see.
With both the disgruntled NYPD leadership and the so-called intellectual leader of the Tea Party, the appeal to fascism – no, excuse me, to "patriotism" and "true Americanism" – is just too blatant, and their rejection of democracy too obvious. Many people inclined to feel sympathy for the police, and skittish about the street protests of recent weeks, were dismayed to see cops turn the funeral of a murdered officer into a petty political confrontation, against the wishes of the dead man's family. It was, or should have been, a moment of mourning and contemplation, when the city and the nation were poised to reflect on the uniquely difficult lives of police officers, who so often bear the brunt of policies they did not create and attitudes they cannot realistically be expected to escape.
Instead, Lynch and his followers got buffaloed into a political protest that may have served the ends of right-wing strategists, and galvanized the Fox News audience, but is exceedingly unlikely to improve the lives of NYPD officers and their families. Ted Cruz is a craftier character than Lynch, no doubt, but his entire career has been self-serving political theater meant to enhance his star status and thrill his zealous core of followers. He is widely disliked within his own party for his pattern of ideological overreach and political blunders, and many conservatives will never vote for him. He's not remotely qualified for the role of Buzz Windrip or Huey Long, who had enormous popular appeal and campaigned on a platform of Mussolini-like public handouts. Republican apparatchiks will do everything possible to stop Cruz from becoming the party's 2016 presidential nominee; if he wins the nomination anyway, he might well lose 40 states in the general election.
As I said earlier, despite their different contexts, the NYPD's cold war with de Blasio, the Tea Party movement and the not-entirely-fictional American fascism of "It Can't Happen Here" all have the same philosophical roots. It's not just about race, although America's racial divisions play an inescapable and central role. (In Lewis' novel, Windrip's movement seeks to suppress blacks and Jews, and revoke female suffrage.) At root it's also not about police-state policies and tactics, even if those might seem to be the desired outcome. (Tea Partyers claim to oppose those things, with varying degrees of sincerity — except when Muslims or other varieties of dark-skinned immigrants are involved.) Rather, these worldviews rest on the idea that America is not defined by its democratic institutions, but by a mystical or spiritual essence that cannot be precisely described — but is understood far better by some of its citizens than by others. If those attuned to this patriotic frequency overwhelmingly tend to be white males, that is not evidence of racism (they might say) but of the clarity and selflessness of their political vision.
In this view, Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people" takes a distant second place to John Winthrop's vision of America as a transcendent "city upon a hill." This vision does not have to be specifically religious or Christian (though it sometimes is) to be infused with a puritanical sense of manifest destiny, and of the unbridgeable gulf between the elect, who perceive the true nature of America, and the damned, who do not. (I would argue that this kind of American exceptionalism is an inherently religious idea — but that's a topic for another time.) Democracy is only valued insofar as it produces the "correct" results, and comes to be seen as debased and perverted when it does not. So for the committed patriot of the Pat Lynch/Buzz Windrip/Ted Cruz persuasion, only some democratic outcomes are legitimate expressions of "America" (see Bush v. Gore, 2000), only some elected leaders are worthy of respect, and only some exercises of authority require deference.
I'm no defender of the Democratic Party in general or of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama in particular, a pair of Wall Street flunkies and national-security ridealongs who are both to the right of Richard Nixon on most meaningful issues. But the concerted and unceasing campaign to depict both men as criminals and usurpers, whose spurious claims to the White House could magically be undone with a stained cocktail dress or a Kenyan birth certificate, provides one of the clearest manifestations of America's proto-fascist disorder. The central issue was never whether Clinton should be impeached for lying about a sleazy affair, or whether Obama qualified as a "natural-born citizen." (Which he probably would have, even had he been born overseas.) Those things were headline-grabbing expedients, symbolic fictions from the Leo Strauss playbook (Benghazi!), meant to stand in for an esoteric truth the benighted public was incapable of grasping: Those guys were not real Americans. The Force was not with them; they had no right to the throne; any method used to defeat them was justified.
These have been upsetting and dramatic weeks in New York and across the nation, and 2014 is likely to be remembered as a pivotal year in our society's relationship with the police profession. But I suspect the spectacle of those cops turning their backs on Bill de Blasio is best understood as a rearguard action, a pathetic echo of the campaigns of vilification and de-Americanization conducted against Clinton and Obama. It's fascist wishful thinking, a nostalgic appeal to a white working-class, "Reagan Democrat" demographic that is fading away. It might yield some short-term political benefits for the Republican operatives who apparently orchestrated it, but it is not the first stage of a putsch.
If there's an urgent lesson to be drawn from Lewis' 1930s allegory, it might come from turning its premise upside down. We don't need an unctuous hypocrite like Buzz Windrip, or a buffoonish blackshirt like Pat Lynch, to end up with something close to fascism. (Lewis was arguably not fair to the real-life Huey Long, who was an exceptionally complicated figure – part Napoleon, part Occupy Wall Street. He would be viewed as a dangerous radical today, not acceptable in either political party.) Congress has already rendered itself irrelevant; any president who stripped it of its powers would be applauded. We already have the secret courts and the secret police, in the form of agencies we do not have the right to know about. Our president is charming and urbane, and despised by the old-school, would-be fascists with the Dad pants and the bad haircuts. So the fact that he has amassed unprecedented executive power he will hand on to his successor, and stands astride a vast subterranean "deep state" no one can see or control, is not something to worry about. This is America, and America is a special place. It can't happen here.

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History Lesson: America Is the Same 'Ol Oligarchy It Was over a Century Ago | Truthstream Media

History Lesson: America Is the Same 'Ol Oligarchy It Was over a Century Ago

(Truthstream Media) When Americans see charts like this one which illustrate that virtually all the food on grocery store shelves basically comes from no more than 10 megacompanies, or hear statements like this one from our own Attorney General Eric Holder who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that some banks are just too big to prosecute, or check out studies like this one out of Princeton which openly declare we are not a democracy but an oligarchy…it's kinda hard to believe we aren't an oligarchy (because we are).
Come on, even our Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen (you know, the lady that runs the place that prints our money and sells it to us with interest) has basically admitted it.
But are things really getting worse these days or is this just par for the course — the same course we've been on for over a century now?

Tinkering around in an old bookstore in a small Texas town, we came across a set of old books on democracy; we got the first seven volumes of a set entitled, "The March of Democracy: A History of the United States" written by James Truslow Adams — the guy who coined the term "The American Dream" — for a mere $20.

The first book's copyright is 1932. The last book ends in 1958.
Fascinating stuff…
For example, in volume four "America and World Power," the book discusses how "Gradually and quite naturally, there grew up the belief in a great conspiracy on the part of the very rich to ruin the poor."
Read this and tell me — does any of it sound even the least bit familiar to you?
Most strikingly in the public eye were the great Titans of the new business era, the coal and meat "barons" and the copper, railway, steel, and other "kings," men of the type of the elder J.P. Morgan, of James J. Hill, William H. Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Frick, William H. Clark, and Rockefeller. Such men had certain broad traits in common, differ as they might from each other as individuals. They were men of wide economic but intensely narrow social vision, and of colossal driving power and iron wills. They could lay their economic plans with imperial vision in time and space, but for the effect of their acts on society they cared nothing whatever. They claimed the right to rule the economic destinies of the people in any way that would enure their own personal advantage. Illogically, they insisted upon the theory of laissez-faire for all except themselves, while they demanded and received every favor they wished in the way of special privileges from the government, as in the tariff and the silver purchase Act. The whole machinery of government must be at their disposal when desired — legislation, court decisions, and Federal troops. They combined their business units into "trusts" and combinations of almost unlimited power, yet they insisted on "freedom of contract" when dealing with labor, whose organization in any form they almost wholly refused to sanction.
They never taught you any of that back in school, did they?
That was written, by the way, in 1940; the author was discussing how America was run back in the late 1800s.
Not only is the emphasis on Democracy a distortion of the fact the nation was founded as a Constitutional Republic, where rights are preserved rather than subjected to the whims of the majority, but these passages demonstrate the familiar snow job surrounding the all-but-official banker's oligarchy that has ruled this country and many others for some time.
In fact, in volume five, "The Record of 1933–1941," Adams records the death of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., as the end of the era of this great wealth — never to occur again.
On May 23, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., died at the age of 97. Owner at one time of the largest fortune in the world, his lifespan had covered the entire history of American business from before the Civil War… Nearly $350,000,000 are handled by three of the Rockefeller Foundations for education, medical research and other uses. Whatever may be thought as to the methods of accumulating the beginnings of the fortune in a period of different business ethics and social outlook, no other man through his financial gifts has ever so widely benefited mankind. With our income and inheritance taxes no other such fortune will ever again be accumulated, and his death marked the end of an era in American history.
And so that's the end of the story, kids…
Everything ended happily ever after.
Well, not quite.
Despite appearances, the shift on the part of the Rockefellers and other Robber Barons of the day from outright monopoly to "philanthropic" "non-profit" charity work was not an end to the dominance by the super-rich of the early 2oth Century, but an intensification of their undue influence. The taxation of the wealthy as well as the anti-trust actions of the day, which included busting up megacorpses like Standard Oil and AT&T, were perhaps well meaning but fundamentally failed to reign in the disparity of power.
Instead, new tax laws, in reality, acted to restrict new wealth from reaching the heights of the oligarchy, allowing "the elite" the keep their own, and initiate new members as desired. The tax-free status of many institutions – including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Ford Foundation – allowed the incredibly wealthy to a) shield their fortunes from taxation, b) appear to do good works and boost public opinion of their principle members while c) influencing, writing and developing official public policy through the steering mechanisms of its own tax-free grant making, think tank and research powers. Much social engineering has taken place – with far too little public notice – through these bodies. Additionally, d) many of its directors and board members were in "respectable" positions to shift into official government positions through the revolving door without appearing to be acting on behalf of their corporate masters.
The Reece Committee Hearings, conducted in 1953, attempted to probe the role of tax-free foundations in public life and uncovered many outrageous and conspiratorial actions taking place, including very apparent agendas advancing a one-world corporate-dominated government. However, it did not succeed in a general public understanding of what was taking place, nor did it reign in their powers.
Yesterday, the markets in gold, silver, oil, steel and other commodities were successfully cornered by the Rothschilds and other top bankers. Under Wall Street direction, and through the powers of the then newly-created Federal Reserve, these titans were able to officially dominate nearly all the important areas of public life, including great expansions in consumer spending and government agency powers. The icons of this magnificent and terrible wealth were John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, E.H. Harriman, Cornelius Vanderbilt and a handful of others.
Today, those icons of wealth are the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, Larry Ellison, the Koch Brothers, Michael Bloomberg, Steve Jobs (now deceased), the Walton family descendants of Walmart and, again, a handful of others who are largely known for their role in the age of computers, the Internet, telecommunications and electronic devices.
The real wealth, from older robber barons accumulated in land, resources, banking and investment and commodities are still there, but remain under reported on the Forbes' list of the world's richest, instead ruling largely from the shadows and influential but secretive groups such as Bilderberg.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Gates-Buffett led billionaires' "giving pledge" are keeping in stride with the groundwork laid and continued by the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation. Heavily funded initiatives to push vaccines, birth control, population control, Western-oriented "education," GMO and corporate-dominated agriculture and the like remain some of the most consequential and troubling policies done in the name of "good" by tax-free entities wielding enormous, nearly incalculable wealth and power.
In short, the myth of "democracy" and freedom in the United States – the beacon around the world – perpetuates, despite a few blemishes. But in reality, the Oligarchy took hold some time ago, has not let up and perhaps never will.
Let that sink in, kids. Take a good look, and let it all sink in.
And don't forget to read Charlotte Iserbyt's revealing and TRUE work, loaded with documents and footnotes, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.
It helps to explain why you don't know this stuff, why the reigns of power have been stolen from us, and why things are not soon going to get better.
Unfortunately, the late comedic genius George Carlin was all-too-right when he explained the owners of America and why the education system is broken:
And like Carlin said of James Truslow Adams' American Dream,
"The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it."

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Tim Curry talks about the Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Sacred Valley: A Prototype for Psychedelic Society | Don Charles

The Sacred Valley: A Prototype for Psychedelic Society

The dream of a free society where psychedelic exploration is not prohibited is coming true. Acknowledgment of the medicinal and spiritual benefits of such activity is steadily breaking through to the mainstream. It's hard to say when this transformation will be complete but that we are headed in that direction is increasingly obvious. Those of us with direct experience of intentional psychedelic therapy have seen that the personal effects that can arise will range from the subtle to the dramatic. Gentle bursts of creativity as well as total emancipation from addiction are not at all uncommon. How these personal breakthroughs will translate into a more generalized social shift is being slowly revealed. The transformation is of course more evident in some areas than in others.

One of the more pronounced examples of this trend exists just outside of the historic city of Cusco, Peru, where a community of international seekers have settled in the area known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The valley is studded with ancient ruins perched along the surrounding mountaintops. Only a few hours away sits the stunning wonder of Machu Picchu. That the area has long been utilized as a hub for spiritual activity is practically certain. The vast majority of travelers who have made the pilgrimage to the valley seem to be engaged in a modern continuance of the same spiritual impulse that must have existed in the area since the first stone blocks were cut and placed on a lonely desolate mountaintop. The current practice of choice seems to be the ceremonial ingestion of psychedelic plant materials.

Besides the spiritual magnetism that seems to act as a sort of vortex for the sensitive passerby, there are other more pragmatic reasons as to why the valley has grown to become a mecca for psychedelic activity. Thanks to the timeless tradition of sacramental use of psychoactive plants among many indigenous peoples in the surrounding area, the Peruvian government has remained relatively tolerant in terms of allowing the religious practice of plant-based shamanism to continue unabated. The fact that the recent boom of psychedelic tourism is being more or less capitalized by many Peruvians probably doesn't hurt either. The effect of all this has fostered the creation of a distinct community of western spiritual seekers where psychedelic ceremonies are openly practiced and publicized.

I had been hearing about the psychedelic scene of the valley for several years already when I finally arrived in the fall of 2014. Members of certain ayahuasca drinking circles had advised me that the town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley of the Incas was the best place to go to find regularly occurring huachuma (a.k.a. San Pedro cactus) ceremonies. Within a week of my arrival, I was sitting next to a scenic rushing river with the energetic force of the medicinal cactus flowing through me. The casually conducted ceremony was led by a Russian expat and I was accompanied by several other members of the community that I would get to know over the next month.

I eventually found my way into a shared living situation in a house just outside of town. My housemates were an international mix of seekers in their twenties and thirties. All of their lives had been changed by the power of psychedelic medicine. In fact, almost every single member of the local spiritual community had at one point gone through some sort of personal transformation that was usually brought on by ayahuasca. It was very rare for me to witness any consumption of alcohol. If I had chosen to indulge, I'd have worried that my new friends might consider me to be some kind of weirdo for doing so. Being a budget traveler in his mid-twenties doing a tour of South America, this environment was certainly an exception to the usual boozy vibe of the gringo trail.

If the Sacred Valley can be considered an experiment on how a modern western community might function if it were to have psychedelics as a primary influence, I would suppose its success would be determined by the overall mental and physical health of it's members. I will go ahead and assume that a near complete lack of alcohol abuse is a good indication that one's faculties are in order as any sort of self-destructive behaviour is usually a sign of inner turmoil. And although it is fairly common to stumble across a conversation that may consider the actual existence of inter-dimensional reptilian overlords, the fact that such talk is followed by either yoga, meditation, or a hike in the mountains negates any suggestion of mental deterioration. These popular activities also demonstrate the general tendency to maintain an active lifestyle. In comparison to a typical western neighbourhood, the apparent level of health seems to be much higher in the valley. That much of the produce comes from local and organic farms would help to account for this.

The tendency for denizens of the valley to explore lesser known areas of human experience is undoubtedly impressive. I doubt there exists anywhere else in the world with such a varied array of shamanic practice. There is obviously a large number of ceremonies that utilize the more commonly known sacraments of huachuma and ayahuasca. But there are also other sacraments making the rounds that I imagine most people have never heard of. Among these are the tobacco snuff known as rape (pronounced rap-EH), an eye-drop medicine called Sananga, and the infamous frog medicine known as Kambo. As far as I could tell, each one of these substances would be administered with a high regard for the original tradition from which it arose.

And if one should happen to seek enlightenment outside the realm of psychoactive substance, options also abound. In the space of a couple months, one could become trained in a wide range of disciplines. From Ancient Thai Massage to Reiki energy healing, many of the courses offered are taught by certified professionals at a cost much less than what one would encounter in a modern western city. It's almost as if some kind of decentralized and alternative university is being unconsciously set up for the area. As the community continues to grow and mature, I imagine the loosely established education programs will continue to evolve alongside.

It would be disingenuous to proclaim that the Sacred Valley is a template for a perfect existence. There is still an abundance of human foibles that serve as the basis for much gossip and even distrust. Whether someone is profiteering off of the distribution of sacred plant medicine or whether someone may be succumbing to the all-too-common "guru complex" are some of many legitimate concerns that float around the valley. There is also the important question of how the spiritual community relates and interacts with the local populace, most of whom live in considerable poverty when compared to the so-called developed nations. To be fair, I did notice that the locals of the area seemed to be friendlier and more courteous than other areas I visited that had been overrun with tourism. I would hope that this behaviour is a response to the greater social awareness that can arise with a regular spiritual practice.

If there exists anywhere else in the world with such an established modern psychedelic community that is able to practice their discipline in an open and public manner, it would be worth looking into the similarities it may have with what's happening in the Sacred Valley. As psychedelic therapy continues to infiltrate mainstream society, these experimental communities will offer an increasingly valuable window into how the world might look if we were to fully embrace the healing potential of psychedelics. My own brief journey into the Sacred Valley lifestyle has only further solidified my conviction that this direction must become an essential part of our near future if we are to evolve into a healthy and productive civilization.

photo found via Flickr @

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Fox News: Pope’s acknowledgment of climate change reveals ‘population control’ agenda

It amazes me that  that the United States military has been developing methods to deal with Global Climate Change, weening itself off fossil fuels for decades now, completely expecting these changes to occur and acting on it because it has...but has rarely been reported and especially those who should know don't seem to know

Fox News: Pope's acknowledgment of climate change reveals 'population control' agenda

Pope Francis blesses the crowd after a mass at the San Giuseppe all'Aurelio parish on Dec. 14, 2014, in Rome. Photo by Andreas Solaro for Agence France-Presse.
In recent weeks, Pope Francis has made statements regarding climate change, urging Catholics worldwide to take measures to protect and preserve the environment. It's said that the pontiff is planning to issue a major edict in 2015 regarding the environment and to hold an enclave of world religious leaders ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, slated for November in Paris.
According to Media Matters, Fox News has chosen to portray the Pope's attention to climate change as a radical decision to side against his own church and align himself with "environmental extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution."
On Dec. 30, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway claimed that Francis will be "aligning himself with some church enemies" by taking up the climate change gauntlet.
The conservative news network also welcomed paid shill for the pro-business, anti-environmentalist group Climate Depot Marc Morano, who blithely lied that there's been "no global warming" for "almost two decades."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported earlier this week that 2014 was actually the warmest year on record around the world. All of Morano's spurious claims have been debunked by science and yet he insisted that the ice caps are growing, that the planet isn't warming and that climate change is a hoax that a naïve, radical Pope is signing on to after the science has been settled the other way.
Media Matters' Denise Robbins wrote, "But acting on climate change already has widespread support among Catholics. The pope's move comes after senior bishops from around the globe called on the world's governments to phase out fossil fuels completely in order to 'protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change.' Christian leaders have been promoting climate action for many years, citing its disproportionate impacts on the poor as a main concern. In 2006, the Evangelical Climate Initiative urged members of the church to act on climate change because it 'hit[s] the poor the hardest.'"
McElway also fretted that the Pope's acceptance of climate change science will damage world faiths as a whole, eroding confidence in both science and religion. On the December 30 edition of Happening Now, McElway said that climate change science is dangerous because it "may play well into the hands of skeptics who've long seen global warming fears as almost religious in its fervor, with biblical themes of a pristine Eden-like planet tarnished by man, followed by a loss of grace and a coming doomsday."
Robbins noted that McElway was fired from his job at ABC News over his attacks on environmental groups and a discredited news segment that wrongly accused President Barack Obama of receiving major campaign funding from BP.
Watch video about this story, embedded below:

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Terence McKenna - Death by Astonishment

Letter to the editor | Richard Dawkins Foundation

Dec 31, 2014
ote:  On Dec. 26, 2014 an opinion piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled  "Science Increasingly makes the case for God." Lawrence Krauss responded with the following letter disputing its specious science claims. Unfortunately the editors of the WSJ failed to print his response. Since then, the opinion piece has gained traction on right-wing and religious websites, spreading inaccuracies and misinformation. Lawrence's letter corrects the record.
By Lawrence Krauss
To the editor:
I was rather surprised to read the unfortunate oped piece "Science Increasingly makes the case for God", written not by a scientist but a religious writer with an agenda.  The piece was rife with inappropriate scientific misrepresentations.  For example:
  1. We currently DO NOT know the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe.  We know the many factors that were important here on Earth, but we do not know what set of other factors might allow a different evolutionary history elsewhere.  The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.
  2. We have discovered many more planets around stars in our galaxy than we previously imagined, and many more forms of life existing in extreme environments in our planet than were known when early estimates of the frequency of life in the universe were first made.  If anything, the odds have increased, not decreased.
  3. The Universe would certainly continue to exist even if the strength of the four known forces was different.  It is true that if the forces had vastly different strengths (nowhere near as tiny as the fine-scale variation asserted by the writer) then life as we know it would probably not evolved.  This is more likely an example of life being fine-tuned for the universe in which it evolved, rather than the other way around.
  4. My ASU colleague Paul Davies may have said that "the appearance of design is overwhelming", but his statement should not be misinterpreted.  The appearance of design of life on Earth is also overwhelming, but we now understand, thanks to Charles Darwin that the appearance of design is not the same as design, it is in fact a remnant of the remarkable efficiency of natural selection.
Religious arguments for the existence of God thinly veiled as scientific arguments do a disservice to both science and religion, and by allowing a Christian apologist to masquerade as a scientist WSJ did a disservice to its readers.

Lawrence M. Krauss is Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Directors of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, and the author most recently A Universe from Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing.
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Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God - WSJ

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God

The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Eric Metaxas
Dec. 25, 2014 4:56 p.m. ET
In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he's obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a "God" to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God's death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here's the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: "In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable."
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn't be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth's surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn't assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There's more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the "strong" and "weak" nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all "just happened" defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term "big bang," said that his atheism was "greatly shaken" at these developments. He later wrote that "a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that "the appearance of design is overwhelming" and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said "the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here."
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.
Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of "Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life" ( Dutton Adult, 2014).
An earlier version understated the number of zeroes in an octillion and a septillion.

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Satan's Hollow - The Tunnel To Hell

Satan's Hollow - The Tunnel To Hell

Media Inquiries:

Join the team as they investigate Satan's Hollow in Cincinatti, Ohio. Satan's Hollow is an old tunnel underground the streets of Blue Ash. Legend has it that satan worshipers congregate there and sacrifice animals and even humans. There are stories of a demonic creature dubbed "the shadow man" and even satan himself lurking these tunnels. 

Trivia: David cut the investigation short due to the high levels of bad energy and the scary words the Ghost Box was speaking. He also stated, "this is one of the scariest locations I have ever investigated". The team has investigated over 150 locations. 

Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Novel

Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Novel

Photo by Sylvain Bourmeau

It's 2022, and France is living in fear. The country is roiled by mysterious troubles. Regular episodes of urban violence are deliberately obscured by the media. Everything is covered up, the public is in the dark ... and in a few months the leader of a newly created Muslim party will be elected president. On the evening of June 5, in a second general election—the first having been anulled after widespread voter fraud—Mohammed Ben Abbes handily beats Marine Le Pen with support from both socialists and the right.

The next day, women abandon Western dress. Most begin wearing long cotton smocks over their trousers; encouraged by government subsidies, they leave the workplace in droves. Male unemployment drops overnight. In formerly rough neighborhoods, crime all but disappears. Universities become Islamic. Non-Muslim teachers are forced into early retirement unless they convert and submit to the new regime.

This is the world imagined by Michel Houellebecq in his sixth novel, Soumission (Submission), which will appear next week. Should it be read as a bad op-ed, as pulp fiction for an election year, or as the attempt of a great writer to air a social critique through farce? In an exclusive interview—the first he's given about this novel—Houellebecq explains what led him to write a book that has already created a scandal in France, even before its publication.

Why did you do it?

For several reasons, I'd say. First of all, I think, it's my job, though I don't care for that word. I noticed some big changes when I moved back to France, though these changes are not specifically French, but rather Western. As an exile you don't take much of an interest in anything, really, neither your society of origin nor the place you live—and besides, Ireland is a slightly odd case. I think the second reason is that my atheism hasn't quite survived all the deaths I've had to deal with. In fact, it came to seem unsustainable to me.

The death of your dog, of your parents?

Yes, it was a lot in a short period of time. Part of it may be that, contrary to what I thought, I never was quite an atheist. I was an agnostic. Usually that word serves as a screen for atheism but not, I think, in my case. When, in the light of what I know, I reexamine the question whether there is a creator, a cosmic order, that kind of thing, I realize that I don't actually have an answer.

Whereas before you felt

I thought I was an atheist, yes. Now I really don't know. So those are the two reasons I wrote the book, the second reason probably outweighing the first.

How would you characterize this book?

The phrase "political fiction" isn't bad. I don't think I've read many similar examples, but at any rate I've read some, more in English literature than in French.

What books are you thinking of?

In a way, certain books by Conrad. Or by John Buchan. And then more recent books, not as good, which are more like thrillers. A thriller can unfold in a political setting, it doesn't always have to be tied to the business world. But there's a third reason I've written this book—because I quite liked the way it began. I wrote the first part, up to page twenty-six, practically in one sitting. And I found it very convincing, because I can easily imagine a student finding a friend in Huysmans and dedicating his life to him. This didn't happen to me: I read Huysmans much later, I think when I was almost thirty-five, but I definitely would have liked reading him. I think he would have been a real friend to me. And so, after I wrote those pages, I did nothing for a while. That was in January 2013, and I must have gone back to the text that summer. But my project was very different at the beginning. It wasn't meant to be called Soumission, the first title was La Conversion. And in my original project the narrator converted, too, but to Catholicism. Which is to say, he followed in Huysmans's footsteps a century later, leaving naturalism to become Catholic. And I wasn't able to do it.

Why not?

It didn't work. In my opinion, the key scene of the book is the one where the narrator takes one last look at the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, he feels a spiritual power, like waves, and all at once she fades into the past and he goes back to the parking lot, alone and basically in despair.

Is this a satirical novel?

No. Maybe a small part of the book satirises political journalists—politicians a little bit too, to be honest. But the main characters are not satirical.

Where did you get the idea for a presidential election, in 2022, that came down to Marine Le Pen and the leader of a Muslim party?

Well, Marine Le Pen strikes me as a realistic candidate for 2022—even for 2017 … The Muslim party is more … That's the heart of the matter, really. I tried to put myself in the place of a Muslim, and I realized that, in reality, they are in a totally schizophrenic situation. Because overall Muslims aren't interested in economic issues, their big issues are what we nowadays call societal issues. On these issues, obviously, they are very far from the left and even further from the Green party. Just think of gay marriage and you'll see what I mean, but the same is true across the board. And one doesn't really see why they'd vote for the right, much less for the extreme right, which utterly rejects them. So if a Muslim wants to vote, what's he supposed to do? The truth is, he's in an impossible situation. He has no representation whatsoever. It would be wrong to say that this religion has no political consequences—it does. So does Catholicism, for that matter, even if the Catholics have been more or less marginalized. For those reasons, it seems to me, a Muslim party makes a lot of sense. 

But to imagine that such a party might find itself poised to win a presidential election seven years from now

I agree, it's not very realistic. For two reasons, actually. First—and this is the most difficult thing to imagine—the Muslims would have to succeed in getting along with each other. That would take someone extremely intelligent and with an extraordinary political talent, qualities that I give to my character Ben Abbes. But an extreme talent is, by definition, an unusual occurrence. But supposing he existed, the party could take off, but it would take longer than seven years. If we look at the way the Muslim Brotherhood has done it, we see regional networks, charities, cultural centers, prayer centers, vacation centers, healthcare, something not unlike what the Communist Party did. If you ask me, in a country where poverty will continue to spread, this party could attract a lot more than just "average" Muslims, if I can put it that way, because really there is no longer such a thing as an "average" Muslim since we now have people converting who are not at all of North African origin … But such a process would take several decades. The sensationalism of the media plays a negative role, really. For example, they loved the story of the guy living in a little village in Normandy, as French as he could be, not even from a broken home, who converted and went off to wage jihad in Syria. But we can reasonably assume that for every guy like that there are several dozen who convert and don't go off to wage jihad in Syria, who don't do anything of the kind. After all one doesn't wage jihad for the fun of it, that sort of thing only interests people who are strongly motivated by doing violence, which is to say, necessarily a minority.

You could also say that what really interests those people is going to Syria, rather than converting.

I disagree. I think there is a real need for God and that the return of religion is not a slogan, but a reality, and that it is very much on the rise.

That hypothesis is central to the book, but we know that it has been discredited for many years by numerous researchers, who have shown that we are actually witnessing a progressive secularization of Islam, and that violence and radicalism should be understood as the death throes of Islamism. That is the argument made by Olivier Roy and many other people who have worked on this question for more than twenty years.

This is not what I have observed, although in North and South America, Islam has benefited less than the evangelicals. This is not a French phenomenon, it's almost global. I don't know about Asia, but the case of Africa is interesting because there you have the two great religious powers on the rise: evangelical Christianity and Islam. I remain in many ways a Comtean, and I don't believe that a society can survive without religion.

But why did you decide to tell these things in such a dramatically exaggerated way when even you acknowledge that the idea of a Muslim president in 2022 is unrealistic?

That must be my mass market side, my "thriller" side.

You wouldn't call it your Eric Zemmour side?

I don't know, I haven't read his book. What does he say, exactly?

He and a number of other writers overlap, despite their differences, in describing a contemporary France which strikes me as essentially fantastical, where the menace of Islam looms over French society and is one of its principal features. In the plot of your novel, it seems to me, you accept this as a premise and you promote the same description of contemporary France that we find in the work of those intellectuals today.

I don't know, I only know the title of Zemmour's book [Le Suicide français], and this is not at all the way I see things. I don't think we are witnessing a French suicide. I think we are seeing practically the opposite: Europe is committing suicide and, in the middle of Europe, France is struggling desperately to survive. It is almost the only country that is fighting to survive, the only country whose demographics allow it to survive. Suicide is a matter of demographics, it's the best and most effective way to commit suicide. That's why France is not committing suicide at all. What's more, for people to convert is a sign of hope, not a threat. It means they aspire to a new kind of society. That said, I don't think people convert for social reasons, their reasons for converting are deeper—even if my book contradicts me slightly, Huysmans being the classic case of a man who converts for reasons that are purely aesthetic. Really, the questions that worry Pascal leave Huysmans cold. He never mentions them. I almost have trouble imagining such an aesthete. For him beauty was the proof. The beauty of rhyme, of paintings, of music proved the existence of God.

This brings us back to the question of suicide, since Baudelaire said of Huysmans that the only choice he could make was between suicide or conversion

No, it was Barbey d'Aurevilly who made that remark, which is fair enough, especially after reading A Rebours. I reread it closely and, in the end, it really is Christian, it's astonishing.

To go back to the question of your unrealistic exaggerations, in your book you describe, in a very blurry and vague way, various world events, and yet the reader never knows quite what these are. This takes us into the realm of fantasy, doesn't it, into the politics of fear.

Yes, perhaps. Yes, the book has a scary side. I use scare tactics.

Like imagining the prospect of Islam taking over the country?

Actually it's not clear what we are meant to be afraid of, nativists or Muslims. I leave that unresolved.

Have you asked yourself what the effect might be of a novel based on such a hypothesis?

None. No effect whatsoever.

You don't think it will help reinforce the image of France that I just described, in which Islam hangs overhead like the sword of Damocles, like the most frightening thing of all?

In any case, that's pretty much all the media talks about, they couldn't talk about it more. It would be impossible to talk about it more than they already do, so my book won't have any effect.

Doesn't it make you want to write about something else so as not to join the pack?

No, part of my work is to talk about what everyone is talking about, objectively. I belong to my own time.

You remark in your novel that French intellectuals tend to avoid feeling any responsibility, but have you asked yourself about your own responsibilities as a writer?

But I am not an intellectual. I don't take sides, I defend no regime. I deny all responsibility, I claim utter irresponsibility—except when I discuss literature in my novels, then I am engaged as a literary critic. But essays are what change the world.

Not novels?

Of course not. Though I suspect this book by Zemmour is really too long. I think Marx's Capital is too long. It's actually the Communist Manifesto that got read and changed the world. Rousseau changed the world, he sometimes knew how to go straight to the point. It's simple, if you want to change the world you have to say, Here's how the world is and here's what must be done. You can't lose yourself in novelistic considerations. That's ineffectual.

But you don't need me to tell you how a novel can be used as an epistemological tool. That was the subject of The Map and the Territory. In this book, I feel that you have adopted categories of description, oppositions, that are worse than dubious—the sort of categories relied on by the editors of Causeur, or by Alain Finkelkraut, Eric Zemmour, even Renaud Camus. For example, the "opposition" between anti-racism and secularism.

One cannot deny there is a contradiction there.

I don't see it. On the contrary, the same people are often militant anti-racists and fervent defenders of secularism, with both ways of thinking rooted in the Enlightenment.

Look, the Enlightenment is dead, may it rest in peace. A striking example? The left wing candidate on Olivier Besancenot's ticket who wore the veil, there's a contradiction for you. But only the Muslims are in an actually schizophrenic situation: on the level of what we customarily call values, Muslims have more in common with the extreme right than with the left. There is a more fundamental opposition between a Muslim and an atheist than between a Muslim and a Catholic. That seems obvious to me.

But I don't understand the connection with racism

That's because there is none. Objectively speaking, there is none. When I was tried for racism and acquitted, a decade ago, the prosecutor remarked, correctly, that the Muslim religion was not a racial trait. This has become even more obvious today. So we have extended the domain of "racism" by inventing the crime of islamophobia.

The word may be badly chosen, but there do exist forms of stigma, toward groups or categories of person, which are forms of racism

No, islamophobia is not a kind of racism. If anything has become obvious, it's that.

Islamophobia serves as a screen for a kind of racism that can no longer be expressed because it's against the law.

I think that's just false. I don't agree.

You rely on another dubious dichotomy, the opposition between antisemitism and racism when actually we can point to many moments in history when those two things have gone hand in hand.

I think antisemitism has nothing to do with racism. I've spent time trying to understand antisemitism, as it happens. One's first impulse is to connect it with racism. But what kind of racism is it when a person can't say whether somebody is Jewish or not Jewish, because the difference can't be seen? Racism is more elementary than that, it's a different skin color …

No, because cultural racism has been with us for a long time.

But now you're asking words to mean something they don't. Racism is simply when you don't like somebody because he belongs to another race, because he hasn't got the same color skin that you do, or the same features, et cetera. You can't stretch the word to give it some higher meaning.

But since, from a biological point of view, "races" don't exist, racism is necessarily cultural.

But racism exists, apparently, all around us. Obviously it has existed from the moment when races first began mixing … Be honest, Sylvain! You know very well that a racist is someone who doesn't like somebody else because he has black skin or because he has an Arab face. That's what racism is.

Or because his values or his culture are

No, that's a different problem, I'm sorry.

Because he is polygamous, for example.

Ah, well, one can be shocked by polygamy without being the least bit racist. That must be the case for lots of people who are not the least bit racist. But let's go back to antisemitism, because we've gotten off topic. Seeing as how no one has ever been able to tell whether somebody is Jewish just by his appearance, or even by his way of life, since by the time antisemitism really developed, very few Jews had a Jewish way of life, what could antisemitism really mean? It's not a kind of racism. All you have to do is read the texts to realize that antisemitism is simply a conspiracy theory: there are hidden people who are responsible for all the unhappiness in the world, who are plotting against us, there's an invader in our midst. If the world is going badly, it's because of the Jews, because of Jewish banks … It's a conspiracy theory.

But in Soumission, isn't there a conspiracy theory—the idea that a "great replacement" (to use the words of Renaud Camus) is underway, that Muslims are seizing power … ?

I don't know much about this "grand replacement" theory, but I gather it has to do with race. Whereas in my book there is no mention of immigration. That's not the subject.

It's not necessarily racial, it can be religious. In this case, your book describes the replacement of the Catholic religion by Islam.

No. My book describes the destruction of the philosophy handed down by the Enlightenment, which no longer makes sense to anyone, or to very few people. Catholicism, by contrast, is doing rather well. I would maintain that an alliance between Catholics and Muslims is possible. We've seen it happen before, it could happen again.

You who have become an agnostic, you can look on cheerfully and watch the destruction of Enlightenment philosophy?

Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense too I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear. 

Why did you choose to set your novel in the world of academia? Because it embodies the Enlightenment?

Is it all right to say I don't know? Because really, I don't think I do. The truth is that I wanted there to be a long subplot dealing with Huysmans, that's where I got the idea of making my character an academic.

Did you know from the beginning that you would write the novel in the first person?

Yes, because it was a play on Huysmans. It was like that from the beginning.

Once again, you've written a character who is partly a self-portrait, not entirely, but There is the death of his parents, for example.

Yes, I have used things, even if the details are really quite different. My main characters are never self-portraits, but they are always projections. For example, what if I'd read Huysmans when I was young, if I'd studied literature and become a professor? I imagine lives that I haven't led.

While allowing actual events to insert themselves in your fictional lives.

I use moments that have struck me in real life, yes. But more and more I tend to transpose them. In this book, all that's left of reality is the theoretical element - "the death of the father"—but actually everything about it is different. My father was very different from this guy, his death didn't happen that way at all. Life just gives me the basic ideas.

In writing this book did you feel you were a Cassandra, a prophet of doom? 

You can't really describe this book as a pessimistic prediction. At the end of the day, things don't go all that badly, really.

Not so badly for the men, but for the women

Yes, that's a whole other problem. But it seems to me that the project of rebuilding the Roman empire isn't so stupid, if you re-orient Europe toward the south the thing starts to make a kind of sense, even if it doesn't make sense right now. Politically, one might even welcome this development—it's not really a catastrophe.

And yet the book is extraordinarily sad.

Yes, it has a strong underlying sadness. In my opinion, the ambiguity culminates in the last sentence: "I would have nothing to mourn." Really, one could come away feeling exactly the opposite. The character has two things to mourn: Myriam and the Black Madonna. But he happens not to mourn them. What makes the book sad is a sort of ambience of resignation.

How would you place this novel in relation to your other books?

You might say I did several things that I'd wanted to do for a long time, things I'd never done before. Like having a very important character whom one never sees, namely Ben Abbes. I also think it's the saddest ending to a love plot that I've ever written, because it's the most banal: out of sight, out of mind. They had feelings. In general, there is a much stronger feeling of entropy than in my other books. It has a somber, crepuscular side, which accounts for the sadness of its tone. For example, if Catholicism doesn't work, that's because it's already run its course, it seems to belong to the past, it has defeated itself. Islam is an image of the future. Why has the idea of the Nation stalled out? Because it's been abused too long.

There is no trace of romanticism here, much less lyricism. We've moved on to decadence.

That's true. The fact that I started with Huysmans must have something to do with this. Huysmans couldn't go back to romanticism, but for him it was still possible to convert to Catholicism. The clearest point of connection with my other books is the idea that religion, of some kind, is necessary. That idea is there in many of my books. In this one too, only now it's an existing religion.

Whereas earlier one might have invented a religion, along Comtean lines.

Auguste Comte tried in vain to create a religion and, indeed, I have sometimes created religions in my books. The difference is that this one really exists.

What is the place of humor in this book?

There are comic characters here and there. I would guess that it's about the same as usual, really, with the same number of ridiculous characters.

We haven't spoken much about women. Once again you will attract criticism on that front

Certainly a feminist is not likely to love this book. But I can't do anything about that.

And yet you were shocked when people described Whatever as misogynistic. This book won't help your case.

I still don't think I'm a misogynist, really. I would say that this isn't the crucial thing, in any case. The thing that may rub people the wrong way is that I show how feminism is demographically doomed. So the underlying idea, which may really upset people in the end, is that ideology doesn't matter much compared to demographics.

This book is not meant as a provocation?

I accelerate history, but no, I can't say that the book is a provocation—if that means saying things I consider fundamentally untrue just to get on people's nerves. I condense an evolution that is, in my opinion, realistic.

While you were writing or rereading the book, did you anticipate any reactions to its publication?

I still can't predict these things, not really.

Some might be surprised that you chose to go in this direction when your last book was greeted as such a triumph that it silenced your critics.

The true answer is that, frankly, I didn't choose. The book started with a conversion to Catholicism that should have taken place but didn't.

Isn't there something despairing about this gesture, which you didn't really choose?

The despair comes from saying goodbye to a civilization, however ancient. But in the end the Koran turns out to be much better than I thought, now that I've reread it—or rather, read it. The most obvious conclusion is that the jihadists are bad Muslims. Obviously, as with all religious texts, there is room for interpretation, but an honest reading will conclude that a holy war of aggression is not generally sanctioned, prayer alone is valid. So you might say I've changed my opinion. That's why I don't feel that I'm writing out of fear. I feel, rather, that we can make arrangements. The feminists will not be able to, if we're being completely honest. But I and lots of other people will.

You could replace the word "feminists" with "women," no?

No, you can't replace the word feminists with women. Really you can't. I make it clear that women can be converts, too.

Sylvain Bourmeau is a producer at France Culture and an associate professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Translated from French by Lorin Stein.

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31 Things You Can Do Instead Of Spending Money : Body, Mind, Soul & Spirit – UPDATED DAILY! |

by Kyle Robbins

Believe it or not, there are still fun, interesting, and inspiring things to do in every corner of the country that cost absolutely nothing, which is good since prices are rising to historic rates. The average cost for a movie ticket is an all-time high at $8.38 nationally, making a simple night at the movies too costly for many families. Finding activities that you can do without spending money has become a top priority.

No matter where you live, there are plenty of things to do without spending money. From amazing places with breathtaking views, to sports and activities that can keep you entertained, to the joy of learning, building, and exploring new things, here's a list of 31 meaningful things you can do instead of spending money.

  1. Find the most beautiful place within 100 miles and go there. Explore it. Or just find a bench and take in the view.
  2. Read a book. Start with a classic like Catch 22 or Great Gatsby.
  3. Visit a local museum. Art museums often have amazing grounds to explore.
  4. Go to a park. Play on the playground or dip your toes in the stream.
  5. Clean your house. There's never a bad time to check it off the list.
  6. Write. Anything. It doesn't have to be the next American novel, and no one else has to read it. But putting your thoughts on paper can change your life.
  7. Visit the library. They still exist. And they are better than you remember.
  8. Ride your bike. Just make sure to wear a helmet.
  9. Take a walk. And not with iTunes blaring. Get to know your area.
  10. Volunteer. There are hundreds of opportunities daily to make a difference. Today's the day.
  11. Exercise. You'll feel better and get healthy. Skip the gym and find somewhere outdoors.
  12. Spend time with a friend. In person. The only reason for a phone is to take a selfie to remember the good times.
  13. Call your grandparents. They miss you.
  14. Update your resume, even when you're not looking for a new job. You never know when an opportunity will present itself.
  15. Spend time in the garden. Your plants will thank you.
  16. Play tennis. Or basketball. Or soccer. Any sport really.
  17. Take a nap. A hammock, back yard, or beach are the ideal spots.
  18. Learn a new language. Practice with native speakers.
  19. Learn how to code. No matter what your profession, learning new computer skills can help you stand out.
  20. Clean out your email box. It's time to get organized.
  21. Learn to play guitar. Or go fishing. Find your next hobby.
  22. Make time for romance. Channel your inner high school-self and have some fun with your spouse.
  23. Build something. If you're handy, use old wood to create a table. If you're not, find a project on Pinterest that anyone can do.
  24. Experiment in the kitchen. Use all those ingredients that got shoved to the back of the pantry and experiment. You may discover your inner Bobby Flay.
  25. Groom and bathe your pets. Fido and socks will thank you. Your family will too.
  26. Find a heavily traffic spot and people watch. Reality TV has nothing on an hour of people watching.
  27. Have a bonfire. Invite your friends or enjoy the time with your family.
  28. Sit on your porch or deck. Your favorite spirits optional.
  29. Host a game night. Play cards and board games. Make it a pot luck to save money.
  30. Go to a high school sporting event. You may have to pay for football and basketball, but many sports don't cost a dime.
  31. Get a second job. The only thing better than saving money is making money. Find a part time job you enjoy with people you enjoy.

And many, many more. Just remember that the simple things in that matter. And often times, those simple things are free.

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Tags: free fun, free stuff, free things to do, free things to do for fun, how to save money, saving money, self improvement, ways to avoid spending money

Category: Body & Mind

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