They Still Lurk


In the last election, some of the worst of them were defeated. Kari Lake, a notorious election denier, lost in my own state of Arizona. The ignorant ex-football player lost in the Georgia runoff. And the malignity behind them all has lost much of his influence. If all goes well, he may yet pay for his crimes.

But it is no time to relax and celebrate the complete return of sanity. There are too many of the unhinged who have learned the value of the lie to convince the ignorant. They lurk, not in shadows, but in plain sight, and we need to keep an eye on them.

The slight Republican majority in the House has shown us some of them. Dana Milbank in the Post refers to “covidocy”– bizarre attempts at misinformation about the pandemic. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) kicked off with the unsupported allegation that “covid was intentionally released” from a Chinese lab because “it would be impossible for the virus to be accidentally leaked.” (Lesko is unfortunately “my” Representative due to redistricting). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said: “Researchers found that the vaccinated are at least twice as likely to be infected with covid as the unvaccinated.” Others claimed we should have just let everyone catch Covid (which would have killed hundreds of thousands more of us), that we shouldn’t even test, mask, or vaccinate.

This is EXACTLY the kind of misinformation that made the US more deadly than most of the rest of the world, despite the efforts and advice of the best medical science. These demented ravings were not just those of an obscure website-poster, but people actually elected to Congress.

Rep. James Comer from Kentucky has repeated the white supremacist “replacement” theory. He has made confused accusations not only against Hunter Biden, but his other son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015. Rep. Jim Jordan is friendly to the alt-right “constitutional sheriffs”, who include AZ Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, and Pinal County, AZ., Sheriff Mark Lamb. These are white supremacists who believe they can nullify any law they don’t like (especially civil rights and gun control), and associate with Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, and other election deniers.

These are not the old Republicans, who merely supported corporations and the wealthy and ignored the needs of the poor and sick. Many of those were insensitive to racism, sexism, and other discrimination, but most were not opposed to our democratic system. The old ones were bad enough, but there are far worse ones today.

There are 5 Supreme Court justices willing to disregard freedom of religion and the right to be secure in one’s person (the right to privacy), yet permissive of firearm proliferation among civilians. The governor of Florida, who may run for President, wants to censor education and ban books.

I believe there are enough of us who insist on preserving our freedom, who stand for racial, sexual, religious, and economic equality to defeat the enemies of liberty, in future elections and by enforcing laws that guarantee civil rights for all. But we cannot take victory for granted. We must not be apathetic. Our duty as citizens of a democracy does not end with casting a ballot.

A Major Misinterpretation

The absurdity of the US firearm permissiveness is derived from the deliberate misreading of the 2nd amendment.

Prior to the sudden insistence on the new interpretation in the 1970’s, the amendment had never had a “guns for everyone” meaning. City governments everywhere often banned carrying firearms in town, knowing it would be a safety hazard.

The purpose of the amendment was well known to guarantee the right of states to enable militias. That would never have been in doubt anyway in the northeast, but the main need in slave states was to have slave patrols to prevent rebellions and catch runaways, and there was fear in these areas that the patrols would be disarmed by Congress if there were a majority opposed to slavery.

The wording was clear enough without mentioning slavery or southern states. The 2 clauses in the sentence stated the intended militia purpose first, followed by the “ right to bear arms”

Even disconnecting the two halves of the sentence still leaves the phrase “right to bear arms”. Bearing arms did NOT simply mean “carrying a gun around.” It implied a military purpose, being part of an organized group authorized to provide security. A true originalist Justice would note and acknowledge that.

Former Justice Warren Burger said “the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

The very language of the Second Amendment,” wrote Burger, “refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires. … The Framers clearly intended to secure the right to bear arms essentially for military purposes.”

Former Justice John Paul Stevens agrees, and suggests that the amendment should be repealed. That would be difficult, but with a rational Supreme Court, it could be interpreted correctly.

A Metal Mental Problem

You may have heard the argument, “The problem is not guns– it’s mental health.”
That’s partly true. Guns ARE a mental health problem.

The current common interpretation of the 2nd amendment is a clear sign of that mental illness. The bizarre thinking that every citizen of a nation should be allowed to own and carry a deadly weapon for which they have no need, indicates a widespread mental dysfunction that should be obvious to any rational mind.
The desire to own and wield a device that can rapidly end another’s life almost effortlessly is a symptom of mental illness. The notion that any civilian “needs” such a weapon has been disseminated throughout one country in the world, the US. Hardly any other nation holds such a belief.

It is astounding that such thinking could spread so widely in one place while the rest of humanity looks on and scratches its collective head in bewilderment. It seems to involve a non-specific fear directed at potentially every other human being, though most will narrow that to imagine a category of dangerous kinds, perhaps “criminals”, people different from oneself and one’s family.

People globally recognize that a minority among them might wish to do them harm. If their area is at peace, they will have established police and a system of laws to control crime and protect them. Relatively little interpersonal violence occurs. The vast majority, if reasonably cautious, need not fear.

Allowing firearms to proliferate with very little control has had a predictable effect: tens of thousands of excess deaths every year. That in itself increases the societal fear level, leading to beliefs that everyone needs armed self-defense.
Being armed seldom protects any civilian. Gun violence does not happen from duels. Gun owners become more likely, not less, to suffer death or injury of themselves or family members. Added to intentional shootings are accidents, children finding and playing with guns, and suicides.

The belief that any civilian NEEDS a firearm is a delusion. Even the supposed excuse of hunting is not a valid need. How many of us live in a wilderness and survive by killing animals? Is there an inherent right to have “fun” with dangerous toys?

There is a serious additional problem: the fact that nearly anyone could be armed, whatever their intention, makes any encounter with law enforcement potentially deadly. Whether the officer is prejudiced or not, experienced or new, a threat can be perceived in an instant resulting in a needless death.

The existence of racist and/or power-obsessed police is a well-known problem, and knowing that anyone could be armed provides them an excuse to kill or maim. We hear the result of that much too often.

Even with the best of intentions, a subject reaching for a wallet might be thought to be pulling a gun, and end up just as dead.

As we have noticed, most of those who advocate for this insane armed society are on the political right wing, and have been since the 1970’s at least. They thrive on minimized interpersonal trust and political and cultural division on as many issues as possible. That enables wealth to maintain control, even in a democratic system that should empower the numerical majority of non-wealthy citizens.

Organizations of white nationalists and “Christian Nationalist” theocrats also welcome firearm proliferation. They acquire all the deadly hardware they can, with the goal of dominance by their ideologies. Whether they are compatible with corporate power remains to be seen, as they become increasingly militant.

It is possible the original John Birch Society and the NRA did not anticipate that result from their program, or the extent of random mass shootings. Do the political benefits to the power establishment justify the effects on society? They might want to re-examine that question.

For the rest of us who are sick of hearing news of gun deaths daily and KNOW how insane the American obsession with firearms is, we need to increase our influence on those who make our laws.

What we ask and demand should not be just minor cosmetic changes in laws. We should not be shy about going further than before.
No military-style semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and ammunition should be sold.
No one under 21 should be allowed to buy, possess, or carry firearms without direct adult supervision.
ALL firearm sales should require a thorough background check including a psychological screening by a trained professional.
All “stand-your-ground” laws should be repealed.
Concealed carrying of firearms should not be permitted.
Guns MUST be confiscated from those shown to be potentially violent.
Gun manufacturers and sellers should not be exempt from liability.

More may be added to that list, but that should be the minimum.

Some added facts:

States with relatively lax gun laws (most Republican-run states) have a higher rate per capita of gun deaths.

Stricter and better enforced state and local gun laws are effective, but it is nearly impossible to prevent firearms purchased elsewhere from being brought in. Only a nationwide regulation could avoid that.

Red-flag laws work when they are invoked and enforced. When local police or other officials fail to implement the laws, they can have no effect. Confiscation must be REQUIRED, not simply ALLOWED, and the process should be initiated by family members or endangered targets, not just police.

Although mass shootings get more public attention, and obviously show that assault weapons with high-capacity magazines need to be banned, we should remember that MOST shooting deaths happen one at a time, usually with common handguns. There are NO harmless firearms, and NO gun ownership can be considered entirely safe.



Slavery in Florida is more central to Florida’s history than it is to almost any other state. Florida’s purchase by the United States from Spain in 1819 was primarily a measure to strengthen the system of slavery on Southern plantations, by denying potential runaways the formerly safe haven of Florida.–Wikipedia

In Cuba and other sugar-producing islands, the Spanish were far from humane to their slaves, treating them cruelly and brutally.

It’s important to recognize that Spanish slavery pre-dated 1619, but that does not diminish the fact that American slavery was both more extreme in its harsh character, and was a major factor in US economic growth and development, to the degree that our present economic power in the world is due to unpaid black slave labor done in the past.

There had been slavery in Florida when owned by Spain as far back as the 1500’s, but it had a very different and varied character. There were fewer of them, because enterprises requiring massive labor had not been developed.

No one was born into slavery, and slaves could buy their freedom. After King Charles II declared that slaves escaping from the north could, if they became Catholics, become free, it became a haven for refugees from the British colonies.

“Miscegenation was also common practice in Spanish Florida. It generally involved a Black woman intermarrying with a Spanish man and raising their family side-by-side with his Spanish wife and children. Black members of such families were afforded more freedoms under Spanish law and a higher degree of social status in their communities.”

“In contrast, interracial marriage was illegal throughout the American South, and maternal slave laws dictated that a child born to an enslaved woman would also be enslaved. It was certainly common for slave owners to impregnate their female slaves, but those women, as well as their children, were seen as nothing more than the property of the slave owner.”

After purchase by the US, plantation farmers began migrating to Florida for the cheap land, and began bringing slaves, some in forced marches from Virginia and other states. The population doubled, and the percentages who were slaves increased from 40% to 60 or 70% is some counties.

Slaves were legally property like cattle, and were taxed according to value. Children 8 and younger were worth $800, workers from 16-25 $1200. By 35 the value was down to $900, and at 50 only $300.

The dollar value of slaves added up to be more than the value of the land they were forced to work on.

Florida has officially admitted its role in the history of slavery, but its current government has taken a position that it should not be learned, read about, or talked about from now on.

They have been trying to turn the term “Woke” into a negative. Ironically, in 1860, the “Wide-awakes” were Republicans– for Lincoln, of course, and strongly against slavery.

“We know, from the historical record, that the Wide Awakes began to assemble in Hartford, Connecticut, on the night of 25 February 1860. An anti-slavery politician from Kentucky, Cassius Clay, came to speak”

It is also odd that those who lamented “destroying history” when statues of Confederate villains are taken down (as if honoring the dishonorable was “history’), now wish ACTUAL history not to be taught to young people, fearing that these enlightened youth might want to right past wrongs.

Reading and Being

As individuals, we know how we feel, and we may have an idea how our environment affects us, and how we interact with the people we know. We may connect with some of them, and when we form positive bonds, we feel a little stronger, a little safer. But we are still nearly alone amid an immense world.

James Baldwin spoke of the value of books: “They connect us with everyone alive, and with everyone who has ever lived.”

Taken literally, that would require reading every book that has ever been written, but that is the potential; the possibility. When we are free to explore that, we are no longer alone in the world. We are no longer alone in time.

Humanity, the social animal, does not want to be alone. We are strongest when we act together, think together, learn together, and know, as well as possible, one another. When we understand one another, the barriers come down. The fears are reduced. The reasons for intolerance fade and disappear.

Whenever we see a threat or an attempt to limit what we can read, whether it is which stories and voices from our past or from the present that would be restricted, know that some forces want to keep us apart, keep us segregated by artificial distinctions, to divide us, control us, keep the status quo.

If we submit, even a little, to these forces, we become less human, less social, a weaker species more at odds with one another.

The other side of human nature, our individuality, is not in true opposition to our communal, cooperative, social side. In fact, it is most enabled by it. We are most free to be ourselves, to be as different as we are, or want to be, when we are most understanding, tolerant, and accepting of one another.

Individuality makes us all potentially valuable and innovative. When we create a new idea, then share it, we all benefit. The forces of control may exploit individuality, nudging us toward conflict and selfishness, but that perverts its value.

Reading (and listening to) the expressions of others, we learn a little of what it is like to be those others, and become more likely to let them be who they are.

Truth and Beauty

Atheism is more than simply rejecting the myths and lies that have been perpetuated and institutionalized to limit and control us.

It is more than the realization that belief in imaginary powers has weakened our resistance to political lies and deception, making us vulnerable to the impairment of our power to govern ourselves democratically.

Many see atheists in relation to what we say “No” to. Indeed, it is extremely important to say “No” to to lies of any kind, from any source, but the negative is only half the story. There is enormous value in saying “Yes” to proven facts, logical truth, observable reality.

More than being useful, truth is where beauty is.

The beauty of truth, and of undeceived pondering and expressing it, is not a new thing. A woman who died over a century ago, who might never have been known or read today if her words had not been so meaningful, knew it intensely, and lived and loved accordingly.

Extraordinary Letters on Love, Life, Death, Courage, and Moral Purpose Without Religion

A German-Jewish Englishwoman by the name of Olga Jacoby (August 15, 1874–May 5, 1913) — the young mother of four adopted children — took up the subject of living and dying without religion, with moral courage, with kindness, with radiant receptivity to beauty, in stunning letters to her pious physician, who had just given her a terminal diagnosis. These are more than letters — they are symphonies of thought, miniature manifestos for reason and humanism, poetic odes to the glory of living and the dignity of dying in full assent to reality.

 Words in Pain: Letters on Life and Death 

“My Dear Doctor,

Like you I believe in a higher power, but, unlike yours, mine is not a kind fatherly one. It is Nature, who with all its forces, beauties and necessary evils, rules our destinies according to its own irrevocable laws. I can love that power for the beauty it has brought into the world, and admire it for the strength that makes us understand how futile and useless it would be to appeal to it in prayer.

Love, like strength and courage, is a strange thing; the more we give the more we find we have to give. Once given out love is set rolling for ever to amass more, resembling an avalanche by the irresistible force with which it sweeps aside all obstacles, but utterly unlike in its effect, for it brings happiness wherever it passes and lands destruction nowhere.

Why start an infant’s life with ideas of fear and sin? Let love be their only religion — a love they can understand and handle. With so many people hungering for love, why give so great a part up to Deity? Acknowledge, Doctor, if you had not had your good share of human love, a mother’s, a wife’s, and your children’s, you would not so well understand the other. A child, I think, is taught untruthfulness when you make him say that he loves God.

As to children’s inquiries, they are often wrongly answered, and the higher the subject, the more you think yourself justified in lying to them. From these same children you expect in return truly felt love, good acts, truthfulness and a desire to learn… You absolutely cripple a child by not allowing him to think clearly on all subjects — and no dogmatic religion will stand thinking.

We always fear the unknown. I am not a coward and do not fear death, which to me means nothing more than sleep, but I cannot become resigned to leave this beautiful world with all the treasures it holds for me and for everyone who knows how to understand and appreciate them… To leave a good example to those I love [is] my only understanding of immortality.”

(There is more, and there is art, in the article.)

Can we take credit for doing right, for kindness, fairness, or sympathy for others, if it is done in expectation of a “reward” in the end?

To see the needs of our fellow humans and to know that they, like our own needs, should be fulfilled, and to do our best to assure that happens, this is how we know inside that we lived well, that we saw and felt the beauty, and knew love.



How we view a leak may vary significantly depending on what is leaking and what it is leaking from. A tire leaking air, or a pipe leaking water is almost always an annoyance. A leak of flammable liquid or gas can be alarming.

Then there are leaks of information. Your opinion on those will depend on who had it, who is getting it, and why. To those who desire to keep something secret, a leak is a bad thing. There can be valid reasons for keeping a secret; a password, how to build a nuclear weapon, or an embarrassing fact about oneself.

If you’re a journalist or an investigator, a leak may be a welcome and valuable discovery. It may be information about a dishonest government official or a corporation that the public, or law enforcement, should know.

Information in general, with limited exceptions, should be free to learn. That helps insure honesty in public life. Naturally there is personal privacy and certain things that would be dangerous in the wrong hands that need to be kept out of view.

There is another kind of leak. Bill Gates, who became extremely wealthy selling overpriced computer operating systems but then retired and began using his wealth for mostly good purposes, has taken an interest in these.

The concern is that the nearly 8 billion people in the world all periodically need to take a leak. They also need to take a shit. In most developed countries we often do both of these things in the same place, and submit the results to the same process: the flush.

The problem with that is that large amounts of water is used to make it all flow away from us, water that becomes unusable for anything else until it is cleaned up. It is a wasteful cycle, and that will be more of an issue as the population grows and more undeveloped places seek to use the modern conveniences that we take for granted in wealthy countries.

The fact is that leaks and shits are not the same. Urine can be streamed or sprinkled almost anywhere. It fertilizes and moistens plants and does no harm. Shit, on the other hand (don’t forget to wash your hands), is another matter. If it could be transported away from us without floating it , millions of gallons of water could be saved, In increasingly dry areas, that would make a big difference.

There is no need to dilute urine with fresh water to send it away. It will flow where you need it to go anyway, if your aim is accurate. Personally, I often like to find dry places to water. Trees, bushes, fences (non-electric ones)– there are many places than can be used unobserved. And even when there are other people in the vicinity, leaking often can be accomplished without notice by appearing to do something else.

Technology has brought us immense benefits, but sometimes we need to remember to be a part of nature.

Let’s Get Real

Just in case anyone wonders why I seem so concerned about the importance of factual truth, and of each of us taking the trouble to determine whether we are hearing it, note that virtually every social or political problem that can be identified remains unabated or is exacerbated because we, the public, are misinformed, or denied crucial information.

For example, as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “Big Oil peddled the big lie,” His point was that Exxon Mobil accurately forecast global heating as long ago as the 1970s only to then spend decades publicly contradicting their own research. He condemned fossil fuel giants for ignoring their own climate science, accusing the oil and gas industry of seeking to expand production despite knowing “full well” that their business model is incompatible with human survival.

This oil company deception has been known for some time now, but it wasn’t uncovered until decades were wasted doing nothing about it. If we can be deceived about the most serious global problem the world has yet faced, what falsehoods are we immune from?

Speaking of oil, remember how people were blaming the President for gasoline prices? And of course the companies themselves were saying they had to raise prices because of higher costs.

Oil majors Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and TotalEnergies will show combined profit of $190 billion for 2022, record annual profits, reaping a “windfall of war,” refusing to help lower prices at the pump.

The energy giants are expected to use their windfall profits to reward shareholders with higher dividends and share buybacks.

These two stories are as much about greed as they are about public deception, and we know that greed is one of the main motivators for lying. But as long as we have an inadequately regulated capitalist system, there will be enormous instances of greed and deception to go with it.

Liars lie because they think they will be believed. They do it because it works for them. They know that too many people have the bad habit of believing what they are told without verifying it. Does that bad habit come from believing religious myths? Yes, it does. It teaches sloppy thinking, a failure to apply logic and critical thinking. An increasing number of people have abandoned such beliefs, but progress is slow.

There is a way around this problem. As the song said “Keep ’em separated”. If you like the idea of a “Spirit in the Sky”, understand that you are just suspending your disbelief for that concept, but not opening your brain to every fantasy that comes along and winks at you. In other words, you can still have your imaginary indulgence, as long as you aren’t mentally promiscuous.

The history of deceptions is a long one. Indigenous people were defeated as much by broken treaties as by military force. More recently, many Americans were fooled by an idea known as “trickle down”. Even some who were highly doubtful didn’t realize that the concept would nearly destroy the middle class and accelerate income and wealth inequality, with economic damage that has continued long after Reagan’s burial.

Not all misinformation comes from corporations or ambitious politicians, nor has a rational motive. Those who spread fear-inducing lies about vaccination condemned hundreds of thousands to needless deaths and extended a deadly pandemic much longer than it would have lasted.

Our Reality Problem

There is a reason why we need to take a closer look at the human habit of believing things we are told without actual evidence that they are true.

Obviously, that has been done throughout history, and there is evidence that it began long before that. It likely began out of the desire to explain events before there was the knowledge to understand causes and effects. An imagined answer seemed better than no answer at all.

Stories of whole families of invisible beings with powers to make the world more friendly, or more hostile, were soon circulated and made more elaborate as they were retold. Believing them seemed reassuring, entertaining, and harmless.

But as civilizations developed in city-states, countries, and empires, those who wanted power and control found they could convince populations that their gods favored them, and get them to obey.

Even today the Russian Orthodox church supports Putin’s war, and he makes laws they favor, like targeting LGBTQ citizens.

In the US, right-wing Christians support Republicans, who in turn deny women the rights those churches disapprove.

In the past, most of the beliefs were about invisible powerful beings and the rules they were said to make about human behavior. Some of the rules were beneficial, and some weren’t, But outside of the world of religion, most people recognized reality as reality. Autocratic authoritarian governments often lied to their people, but people in democracies valued truth , a free press investigated government behavior, and usually made sure the facts came out.

Lying in politics was nothing new before Trump, but his use of it was so expansive that it rivaled entire centuries of religious dogma. A significant sector of the population believed his words, even when they could easily be disproved. The technique of proclaiming alternate reality has expanded to infect the secular world. How can we put this genie back into Pandora’s box?

It is making the political process in our democratic system of government much more difficult, Disagreement over policies is one thing, but disbelief in plain facts is entirely another. It’s no longer necessary for the lies to come from Trump himself. We’ve had Q-Anon and anti-vax conspiracy theorists, and it has become common for election losers to deny their loss.

Believing anything without evidence is a dangerous habit. It makes you vulnerable, and puts all of us and our rights and freedom at risk That doesn’t mean that everyone must abandon spiritual outlooks and myths of the invisible. But we should be careful to question anyone who claims to know what those invisible beings want. Too often those “wants” are your money, certain votes in elections, or to hate or discriminate against certain kinds of people.

Suspending disbelief is a way to enjoy fiction, but return to the real world when the story ends.

The Mongoose

A man was riding in a train. In his lap he carried a large cage with a cloth cover which obscured its interior. The train rolled on for hours. Finally, curiosity overcame the passenger sitting across from him, and he asked, “Excuse me, but what is in the cage?”

“A mongoose”, replied the man.

“Why do you have a mongoose?”

“To kill the snakes.”

“What snakes?”

“Sometimes I drink too much, and I see pink snakes. They frighten me.”

“But those are imaginary snakes!”

“I know, and this is an imaginary mongoose.”

That story might be thought to be merely absurd humor, but it actually captures the entire essence of religion. Recently I heard it said, “It is not enough for us to know that gods do not exist; the gods need to know it, too.” And actually, the gods have been telling us that for centuries, as interpreted by their human representatives, but many of us haven’t been paying attention. Yes, that’s correct: God is an atheist. The real meaning of the allegory of Jesus being crucified is “The god you thought existed is dead.”

It was easy to miss that point when those who knew that deluded populations were easier to control for the controllers’ ulterior motives keep insisting that JC was only kidding, while they invented their own versions of his philosophy.


That is the approach that underlies all rational thought. It tells us that any phenomenon, no matter how complex, can be reduced to its component parts and explained as a series of physical causes and effects.

It is true that there are phenomena that we do not entirely understand…yet. That does not contradict the fact that they CAN be understood with sufficient investigation and analysis. Interjecting non-physical causes is merely a lazy cop-out.

–CosmicRat Jan. 14 2023