Forbidden Rites, A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century by Richard Kieckhefer (1997) “Possessing” a rather thick medieval collection of books this one may be considered the most insightful in terms of practice. This is part of a History of Magic series. (For a general overview of magic in early Europe, The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe by Valerie J. Flint is a good introduction.)

That said, having in one’s possession magical writings even in the late Middle Ages, was considered a wicked practice for it was felt that “you are what you read.” The fear of necromancy and of necromantic writings was considered an obsession. A man by the name of Bernard Délicieux, a Franciscan friar during the Spanish Inquisition, was charged with murdering the pope along with other charges, all but one of the charges were dropped, after he recanted. The charged not dropped was treason against the French king (for possessing a book of necromancy). He died following much torture in prison in 1320. Doubt was not allowed.

Context is everything and the church wanted to have the final say, though priests and clerics were practicing magic from the initial formations of their religions. Ritual and rites are forms of control, guidance and yet those rituals and rites opened the door to the forbidden.

This work is about magic with “practical” applications. The Latin portion of the text and the translation might serve as a handbook for magic but one’s knowledge of Latin would also come into play. This is a scholarly work. It includes an English commentary of the full Latin text with a detailed analysis of content as well as historical context and how it compares to other necromantic texts of the late Middle Ages. The original manuscript for which the book is based is preserved in the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

The author covers the nature of necromancy based on his research including the issues between magic and religion. Rituals and rites are discussed in-depth – illusionist experiments, love, favor and madness: psychological experiments, divinatory experiments, formulas for commanding spirits, and the magic of circles, spirits and spheres and so forth.

An example of the historical effect of magic is in the words we use such as “charm” and “fascinating.” The author delves into the language and the force that it holds over our emotions and thoughts. In areas of divination he also shows roots in Jewish sources among other ancient cultures and the use of such things as oils and incantations as well as prayer. I am also reminded of Elizabeth Butler’s Works on magic and its influence.

From a modern perspective it’s intriguing to see how far we have or have not progressed in our understanding of what influences us even today and the effects what we might perceive as being possessed by our own words. As noted, this work is scholarly and exceptional in its research – especially insightful for those with an interest in such matters and I would add, the effects of rituals on the human mind and subsequent actions.

The Temple in the House, Finding the Sacred in Everyday Architecture, Anthony Lawlor, AIA (1994) “Each room contains a mythic universe.” Robert Sardello. This is one quote among dozens in the margins of this fascinating work on “finding sacredness in common places.” Among the books piled on my shelves from years past is this is a particular gem that possesses the insights one might find in the religious historian and philosopher, Mircea Eliade’s work From Primitives to Zen.

Lawler, an architect, with the insight of a philosopher offers a perspective on how to achieve the sacred in our dwellings and “reflect the transformations in consciousness” people experience and seek in the buildings they inhabit. He writes of the intimate partnerships the human mind has with its architecture. Once we create within our mind the architecture and then transform into a physical structure, those buildings we design and build and share, in turn shape each of us and our personal lives.

Lawler suggests that “The spirit of the building is revealed through the architectural forms that give it structure.” And, “by receiving and reflecting the information we feed into them, building elements become repositories for out thoughts and feelings.” In a sense our structures reflect our search for fulfillment. By creating sacred spaces we offer an opportunity for more personal connections to our surroundings. Nature, body, mind and our architecture become one – our personal spaces are reflections of our soul and our soul is essential to our humanity.

This is a meditative work on how we all are connected on a sacred plateau of experience through our architecture. Our personal and public spaces can offer hope to seek a deeper understanding of meaning to life through our architecture while appreciating our relationship with our environment – “What you see, you become,” as the Vedic proverb observes.

A very good philosophical resource with supportive illustrations – architecture is the both science and meditative understanding of creating dwellings in which we live and work while acknowledging our interconnectedness on a metaphysical plane of existence and the energies around us.

Martin Heidegger, Between Good and Evil by Rudiger Safranski (1998) Martin Heidegger had a primordial mind. He was a thinker in the more provocative sense of the word.

I purchased this book when it first came out and have on occasion returned to it for a fresh understanding of this extraordinary intellect. As a reader that has collected and read more than a dozen works about Dr. Johann Faust and written one about some fragments of his writings in novel form, I was reminded of this 16th century character in Heidegger and his relationship with evil and how his philosophy evolved and affected other major philosophers, e.g., (Hannah Arendt) and theologians (Paul Tillich) among others of the 20th century.

And through Safranski we learn how complex the man was who sought to be a “master of beginnings.” This work delves into the inner working of his mind while exploring his life in all of it’s ambiguities, contrasts, flaws, contradictions and searching. The reader journeys from Heidegger’s seminary days to his relationship with Nazism and Hitler and his evolution in reason to arrive on a deeper level of thought that was in marked contrast to the society in which he lived.

“Human value is interrelated to the value creating process.” And, “A state of affairs becomes a state of values.” This biography may provoke the reader in re-examining the state of affairs in the world today and especially the nature of nationalism and the move toward unrestrained authoritarianism.

In Heidegger’s mind we possess the existential understanding of viewing and being within the world at the same time. For me it means being in the audience and knowing you are in the audience yet you are observing yourself on stage as an actor participating in the action. Reality is something that one constantly and philosophically is a participant and observer of, albeit through the filters of individual and cultural experience. Truth appears malleable but ultimately must be based on evidence.

“When Heidegger spoke about the “releasement of things” in our life, he was referring to technology. He saw no reasonable solution to the effects of technology. His concern was contemplative thinking. Technology can not do that for us. His mind ultimately would return to the “primordial” state of human consciousness.

The author gives examples of Heidegger’s thinking, his “backslidings” and  “brilliant insights” along the way in this journey of this unusual man and solitary mind that has influenced so many thinkers from the 1930’s to the present moment. This is an intellectual biography written with sensitivity without sparing the man and his flaws.

I Put A Spell On You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone (1992) Periodically a life has jazz written into its genetic code before the artist emerges years later. The rhythms are not discernible except to the artist. They are at times steeped in human suffering.

As an amateur listener of jazz on FM radio I never connected the rhythms with the person or his or her background until later seeing them in person on stage or in a bar or on television. There were exceptions. On the radio I would just like to close my eyes and listen to the sensual and sensuous rhythms. It was filled with sexuality and spirituality. Both very human and instinctual with words only in part expressing the depth of emotion.

There were moments that I would listen to a Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck or in this case , Nina Simone. What’s fascinating is I never connected her face with the voice, the person with the music that I saw decades ago not recognizing who she was at the time until later when I was told by a friend who said he noticed I was there in the crowd and she was nearby. I didn’t learn this until several years ago. Little did I know.

Be that as it may, my musical interests varied as I liked baroque and jazz. Both had ambiguous elements for me. And ambiguity is essential for an interesting life, which is probably why I was drawn to Simone’s music even though I would not always identify the name or face with the music though the music and rhythms affected me.

In her autobiography Simone writes from painful, tragic and spiritual experiences. Her rhythms are the coarseness of life’s rhythms for which she articulates so very well. Her story is raw as was the 1960s – as one decade of examples of rawness exposed. Simone felt the depth of an inner struggle and the suffering comes through in her music. Whether it was jazz, blues, folk this artist’s passion is expressive and yet hidden, painful yet uplifting, tragic and angry yet compassionate. She was a seeker – her music expresses the desires surrounding loves lost.

One plays the game with the cards one is dealt. That’s all that can be asked of anyone with compassion and love being deciding factors. As noted, Simone was a seeker her entire life. This work is an insightful struggle for human dignity for a person and her place in life.

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

Life is messy feels like a cliché, but then try living a paycheck away from the streets. Until you experience poverty you have little room to judge the impoverished while going home to a warm house, apartment, condominium or dwelling made of canvas. Shared bodily warmth, someone who understands you and is able to tolerate differences and laugh with you can be a mislaid premium in life. The rawness of existence may be measured by the conflicts that haunt and claw at your soul of which some are not of your own doing.

There are those conflicts that exist within and there are those that have been strategically placed in your life. The latter are the ones that are initiated in the most unexpected settings from the marbled floors and soft colored velour couches of a hotel’s boudoir to the high back brown leather chairs of an ambassador’s office with glasses of whiskey, vodka or wine in hand. Irrepressible and irresistible revolutions and wars of the 20th and 21st century have been planned in both settings.

The defining nature of irrepressible and irresistible is the prefix “irre” meaning “not. The intellectual and emotional architecture of irrepressible and irresistible is complex. Causation and correlation are matters of statistics. Much happens outside political cabinet rooms and academic auditoriums of discussion. Peace is not as profitable as an AK 47. Nuclear is apocalyptic and ends the profit.

Irresistible and irrepressible have interlinking qualities on the secular stages of a concert hall to the pseudo religious dais of a legislature to the philosophical altars of a human mind. Conflict can be strategically placed within the heart by the propaganda of those outside you.

To resist the propaganda of conflict not of your own doing is a courageous act of conscience, particularly in the midst of the theatrical machinations of the ruling classes that are ambiguous at best, and in which truths based on evidence may become lost in irresistible and irrepressible economic and political tactics.

Irrepressible conflict historically in America referred to the conflict between slavery and the labor of a free man. Irrepressible conflict were words used by Senator William H. Seward in a speech delivered in Rochester, NY, October 1858. The speech is noted in, among other works, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. Seward spoke eloquently concerning the catastrophic “collision” between slave and the labor of a free man being inevitable. It was a conflict between opposing forces.

Others before Seward spoke of the issue in one form or another that no country can remain both free and slave; examples may be found among the works of Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Prior to these men one can delve into the conflicts brought about by Martin Luther’s ideas and the Reformation, Jacque Rousseau and the Renaissance and Thomas Paine and the American and French Revolutions, and before…the list is quite long.

The 20th century witnessed diverse emerging types of conflict that proved to be irrepressible while exhibiting examples of irresistible impulsiveness. The late 1920’s and 1930’s began witnessing a conflict that focused on “the negation of the individual.” Freedom was found in “slavery-hood” amid the words spoken by the dictator. Heinous acts were committed in the name of an almost cultish belief that transcended the ordinary man and woman on the street. A feeling of the surreal encircled the human conscience. It was called fascism but the name is misleading and has morphed into many soft forms.

Irrepressible and irresistible have been clothed in a new fashion and the boutique of the conscious is caught between want and despair. Internal clashes in different countries occurring at this moment are forging a new destination as the irrepressible tacitly feeds into the irresistible, e.g., home-grown terrorists, cyber warfare, population displacement, bank rolled weapon and drug sales, mass incarceration in private prisons and sexual slavery among other outrages that are the surface of a deeper problem concerning survival and want.

The 21st century is bearing witness to irrepressible conflicts and irresistible impulsive behavior. Conflict and impulse are non-linear. The future is profoundly uncertain. It requires fashioning the irrepressible and irresistible into strategic policies for greater openness, tolerance, communication, literacy, education and meaningful work with a survival wage and less on fanning the flames of despair, want, greed and conflict. It’s global. The clothing of an open and tolerant mind and international civil societies has been stained.

In the fall of 1932 in a street off Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan as the Great Depression descended like an ominous cloud on people’s conflicted lives, my father, a young teenager at the time, heard a man in a breadline utter, “I was grasping for time, but there was none remaining.”

Pew Research Center        Global Attitudes & Trends

1. Language: The cornerstone of national identity

Of the national identity attributes included in the Pew Research Center survey, language far and away is seen as the most critical to national identity. Majorities in each of the 14 countries polled say it is very important to speak the native language to be considered a true member of the nation.

Roughly eight-in-ten or more Dutch, British, Hungarians and Germans believe the ability to converse in their country’s language is very important to nationality. Canadians and Italians are the least likely to link language and national identity. Nevertheless, roughly six-in-ten in Canada and Italy still make that strong connection.

In U.S., many say speaking English is important for being ‘truly American’

In the United States, about half of all immigrants were proficient in English as of 2014. Most Americans consider such language facility to be an important attribute of U.S. nationality. Fully 70% of the public says that to be truly American it is very important to be able to speak English, and an additional 22% believe proficiency is somewhat important. Just 8% assert that English is not very or not at all important.

U.S. generations differ on whether English proficiency matters to being an American. Among people ages 50 and older, 81% say such language ability is very important. Only 58% of those ages 18 to 34 place an equal premium on speaking English.

Americans with a high school education or less (79%) are more likely than those who have graduated college (59%) to voice the view that speaking English is very important to being a true American. Similarly, white evangelical Protestants (84%) are much more likely than people who are religiously unaffiliated (51%) to strongly hold such views.

There are virtually no racial or ethnic differences on the importance of speaking English to be truly American: Roughly seven-in-ten whites (71%), blacks (71%) and Hispanics (70%) agree it is very important.

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Double Think

Moyers & Company


Bill Moyers and Henry Giroux on Trump’s Threat to Democracy everywhere!

Bill reflects on Trump’s tweet storm and shares Henry Giroux’s remarks about George Orwell, authoritarianism and Donald Trump.

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Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom. (1980) This is the work of a prominent thinker that inspires and provokes. I read this work in the mid-1980’and still use it as a reference. It seems to be more relevant with each passing year. Irvin Yalom, a psychiatrist, writes in sensitive and scholarly terms and offers provocative insights about the primary problems of human existence. He tackles in-depth the issues of death, life, anxiety, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. If you are unfamiliar with existentialism this book is a primer on it, especially within a therapeutic context.

Yalom writes about the responsibility human beings have for each other’s welfare and the dilemma people face. “The human being seems to require meaning. To live without goals, values, or ideals, seems to provoke…considerable distress. In severe form it may lead to the decision to end one’s life.”

Yalom through patient experiences, draws upon philosophy, psychology and literature, among other studies and shows how “individuals facing death are able to live better lives…”

At one juncture Yalom talks about the prescient challenge for the seeker of meaning – how easy it is to give up responsibility and follow the dictates rendered under a populist authoritarian personality. The problem with authoritarian based systems is that they do not breed personal autonomy. (The authoritarian espouses activities and policies that encourage people to follow their, the authoritarian, rules and in effect turn over all authority to the “leader” that knows best). The consequence is the authoritarian “ends up stifling freedom….“It is sophistry to claim…that a product of personal responsibility may emerge from a procedure of authoritarianism.”

Where do humans find solace – in accepting the responsibility of their individual freedom to be…in man’s search for meaning Yalom quotes the philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel…”without the world God is not god…God is god only insofar as he knows himself and his self-knowledge of his consciousness of himself in man and man’s knowledge of God.

The poet Rainer Marie Rilke puts it in a different way:

“What will you do, God, if I die?

I am your jug, what if I shatter?

I am your drink, what if I spoil?

I am your robe and your profession

Losing me, you lose your meaning.”

Yalom’s approach to his work in existential therapy is a dynamic that focuses on concerns rooted in human existence. “Each of us craves perdurance (theory of persistence and identity), groundness, community, and pattern; and yet we must all face inevitable death, groundlessness, isolation, and meaninglessness.” And we must be wary of those who popularize their cause as if those causes were ours and offer a sense of meaning when their only purpose is greater power and wealth at others expense… this is an exceptional read and reference tool.

“The CDC and WHO are the Ministry of Fear. They use that emotion to front for pharmaceutical companies, who in turn sell vaccines and drugs.

“Be afraid. But don’t worry, we can help you and save you.”   Jon Rappaport……………..hmmmmm”

How very interesting……..Zika baby, sad, microcephalic………a mother at 31 weeks gestation leaves Honduras and comes to NJ to visit with relatives.  Her mother (the newborn’s grandmother) is allegedly a microbiologist that noticed a rash on her daughter’s body, drew blood from her pregnant daughter and sent the blood off to the CDC……….prior to leaving to visit relatives in the United States…NJ.  The pregnant woman, according to reports and the news, appeared at HUMC Emergency Department and was assessed.  Some time went by, and the pregnant mother was then brought in to have an emergency c-section, because this little unborn was in distress.   The notably excellent team of nurses and physicians delivered a baby with microcephaly.


“N.J. lab now has emergency test lab for Zika virus

1 / 9The mosquito is a vector for the proliferation of the Zika virus currently spreading throughout Latin America. The main type isn’t native to the United States – but an invasive species, the Asian Tiger mosquito, is. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)Kathleen O’Brien | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comPrintEmail By Kathleen O’Brien | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 

Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 24, 2016 at 8:00 AM, updated June 01, 2016 at 9:01 AM

New Jersey now has an in-state laboratory capable of testing medical specimens for the presence of the Zika virus, state health officials announced Monday.

The lab, located on the grounds of the State Police headquarters in West Trenton, began testing samples last week, according to the N.J. Department of Health.

“The ability to test residents for Zika and similar viruses will further enhance New Jersey’s preparedness and response to this evolving health emergency unfolding in the Caribbean and Central and South Americas,” Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “We continue working every day to prevent local transmission as mosquito season approaches in New Jersey.”

So far there have been no reports of Zika cases in the mainland United States that were transmitted by a mosquito. However, there have been more than 500 known cases of travelers acquiring the infect

“DIGEST: Washington PostWSJ, GM WatchBBC, NPR, ABC, New Scientist, CDC, Human Rights Watch]

The Zika virus has been blamed for thousands of cases of the birth defect microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with severely shrunken heads and brain damage. But Brazilian and Argentinian medical organizations have recently challenged that connection, claiming that the chemical larvicide Pyriproxyfen may be to blame instead.

The suggestion is one of a number of alternate theories regarding the cause of the crisis; however, health officials from the United States, Brazil and other regions have quickly rebutted any such theory.

The Argentine organization University Network of Environment and Health (REDUAS) released a report in February observing that most affected children live in areas in which the larvicide Pyriproxyfen was added in 2014 to local drinking water in an attempt to control mosquito populations. Pyriproxyfen is used to create malformations in mosquito larvae, in order to impair their development and reproductive abilities.

Credit: Source.

Their report cautions that “Many policy-makers, even PAHO and OMS, epidemiologists, public health experts, chemists and politicians in general easily forget that human beings, every one of us, have deployed embryonic development processes in which we go through very different stages. The evolution from zygote to embryo, from embryo to foetus and from foetus to newborn, is not far from the development process of the mosquito affected by pyriproxyfen. They also very easily try to ignore that in humans, 60% of our active genes are identical to those of insects such as the Aedes mosquito.”

Meanwhile, the Brazilian government has refuted the doctors’ claim, and says that it uses only World Health Organization-approved pesticides. In addition, the Brazilian Association for Collective Health – cited in the REDUAS paper as having questioned the link to the birth defects to Zika, and noting the possibility of other factors, including a chemical model for mosquito control – has also discredited any link between microcephaly and pesticide use. It cautioned against “spreading untruths and content without any (or enough) scientific basis.” The REDUAS doctors acknowledge that the group has not performed any lab studies or epidemiological research to support their claims.

The Zika virus has been found in only five cases of women who gave birth to babies with microcephaly, out of a study of 3,893 cases of the malformation confirmed before January 20, 2016. A survey of more than 3,000 currently pregnant women diagnosed with Zika found no evidence of microencephaly and birth defects have not been associated with previous outbreaks of Zika, which first affected humans in the 1960s. The doctors also note that birth defects have not been found in other countries affected by Zika. Colombia has counted more than 31,000 cases of the virus, with more than 5,000 pregnant women included in the current outbreak. Colombia has not seen a single Zika-linked case of microencephaly.

Microcephaly is associated with severe intellectual impairment and motor skills problems.Geoff Woods, a clinical geneticist at the University of Cambridge who is studying affected babies, says damage impacts the brain stem and the cerebellum, which control many involuntary functions, such as swallowing, controlling body temperature and blood pressure. People born with microcephaly have typically shorter life spans. They will need specialized care for the rest of their lives.

On February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a global health emergency requiring international response, in the same category as the Ebola virus. WHO general director Margaret Chan called Zika an “extraordinary event” .”

Fifteen of those travel-related cases are in New Jersey.”

Call me just another conspiracy theorist,  call me whatever you want, but come on……………How does any of this measure up?  Are we creating another sub-group of children that will suffer from this mystery???

What will we do now?  Create more pharmaceutical medications, more vaccines?

Our children are our future, our children bring us unconditional love, they bring us so much wisdom.  They are not gestational lab rats.  They are the next generation that have the potential to change humanity and to apply the “wisdom of the ages”, to develop the gifts of this world that have been buried within greed.

We should be nurturing life, honoring life. But will we choose to do so?

Or will we choose to remain ignorant, and continue to close door after door within the new life that we bring into this world.

All in the name of GREED.

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

 Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.1

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.3

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:

Sea level rise

  • Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century

    Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.4Image: Republic of Maldives: Vulnerable to sea level rise

Global temperature rise

  • All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880
    All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.5 Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.7

Warming oceans

  • The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969
    The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.8

Shrinking ice sheets

  • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass

    The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.Image: Flowing meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet

Declining Arctic sea ice

  • Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades

    Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.9Image: Visualization of the 2007 Arctic sea ice minimum

Glacial retreat

  • Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.

    Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.10 Image: The disappearing snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro, from space.

Extreme events

  • Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
    The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.11

Ocean acidification

  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent
    Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13 This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.14,15

Decreased snow cover

  • Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier
    Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.16


  1. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers, p. 5

    B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere,” Nature vol 382, 4 July 1996, 39-46

    Gabriele C. Hegerl, “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method,” Journal of Climate, v. 9, October 1996, 2281-2306

    V. Ramaswamy et.al., “Anthropogenic and Natural Influences in the Evolution of Lower Stratospheric Cooling,” Science 311 (24 February 2006), 1138-1141

    B.D. Santer et.al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes,” Science vol. 301 (25 July 2003), 479-483.

  2. In the 1860s, physicist John Tyndall recognized the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and suggested that slight changes in the atmospheric composition could bring about climatic variations. In 1896, a seminal paper by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect.

  3. National Research Council (NRC), 2006. Surface Temperature Reconstructions For the Last 2,000 Years. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.


  4. Church, J. A. and N.J. White (2006), A 20th century acceleration in global sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L01602, doi:10.1029/2005GL024826.

    The global sea level estimate described in this work can be downloaded from the CSIRO website.

  5. http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20160120/  
    T.C. Peterson et.al., “State of the Climate in 2008,” Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 90, no. 8, August 2009, pp. S17-S18.

  6. I. Allison et.al., The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science, UNSW Climate Change Research Center, Sydney, Australia, 2009, p. 11


    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/ 01apr_deepsolarminimum.htm

  7. Levitus, et al, “Global ocean heat content 1955–2008 in light of recently revealed instrumentation problems,” Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L07608 (2009).

  8. L. Polyak, et.al., “History of Sea Ice in the Arctic,” in Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitudes, U.S. Geological Survey, Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.2, January 2009, chapter 7

    R. Kwok and D. A. Rothrock, “Decline in Arctic sea ice thickness from submarine and ICESAT records: 1958-2008,” Geophysical Research Letters, v. 36, paper no. L15501, 2009


  9. C. L. Sabine et.al., “The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2,” Science vol. 305 (16 July 2004), 367-371

  10. National Snow and Ice Data Center

    C. Derksen and R. Brown, “Spring snow cover extent reductions in the 2008-2012 period exceeding climate model projections,” GRL, 39:L19504


    Rutgers University Global Snow Lab, Data History Accessed August 29, 2011.


Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

Humane rests with context. The 20th and 21st century meld together with higher technologies being one of the consistent artificial ingredients that produces a metamorphosis from mercy outside a technological context to mercy within a technological context. To do unto others as you would have others do unto you is a romantic concept. It has all but disappeared on the world stage.

The English word humane from an etymological standpoint is rooted in “human” as one might expect. According to, The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology and my bible of dictionaries, Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, unabridged (1959), the word arrived in writing and speech as “humayne” or that, which belongs to man in the mid 1400’s C.E. (Common Era).  Decades later around 1500 humayne attained qualities of human beings that were “gentle, friendly, courteous.” A couple centuries later (1700s) words such as kind, merciful and compassionate towards others became interchangeable with humane. The downstream effects of the French Enlightenment and American Revolution helped inspire the change and there were also changes in western cultures as well in Asia, Africa and South America under different names.

The effects of the Industrial Revolution added to the moods toward being humane. The Social Gospel written about by Walter Rauschenbusch in the early 1900s, talks about the individual’s responsibility toward society. The charitable efforts of that period are acts of mercy and compassion to the less fortunate. Cynicism was to become more noticeable with advent of advanced technologies, war and wealth in the hands of the few.

Wars change the fabric of society as new technologies are introduced. Since World War II and the use of nuclear bombs we find the word humane continuing to evolve within the context of technology. Technology can both enhance and deconstruct humanity. As robotic technology replaces people in their work at what point will it replace the need for the language that surrounds humanity and that which we have identified as humane or the idea of being merciful, compassionate and kind?

In Worse Than War, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen writes about genocide, eliminationism, and the ongoing assault on humanity. We live in an age where mass murder through the use of technology is greeted with a sense of awesome power in human hands that somehow we can control our own destiny when in reality such power ultimately describes man’s inhumanity and wickedness. Will we continue to become bereft of our moral obligations to each other through our competition for resources? Humane suggests we cherish individual rights and not obscure them and cast them aside for the sake of fear that generates power to a few. Humane becomes technologically contextual when deciding who is to live and who is to die.

The competition for resources, power and recognition is deceptive. “Soldiers are pawns” as former Secretary, Henry Kissinger has stated within a technological and geopolitical context. In the future will we define a drone as a soldier, just as we define a corporation as an individual as ruled by the US Supreme Court?

Wars are symptomatic of a more provocative dilemma facing moral humans. The competitive games and sports we play with technological precision may be signs of a deeper malaise. In a competitive world there are always winners and losers and to the victors belong the spoils. The table has been set so to speak. You either have access to become wealthy with homes of lavish splendor or living on the edge of impoverishment with the thought of suicide entering your mind within the emerging 21st century of technological redefinition of living standards.

On the flip side of the technological coin can technology be programmed “to be humane” while cameras and drones telecast our every move and where even our memories are not private, as noted by the current FBI director. Can cooperation for the sake of humanity  be developed on the same spirited level as those who seek wealth? In the years ahead, will we be able to decipher the difference between reality television and reality itself? And, in a competitive world on whose terms will the cooperation be conducted, for the sake of that which is humane?

Humane is evolving and morphing. Individually a woman or man may be merciful and compassionate. Will that mercy morph into an artificial computer chip? Who will then define humane? Final solutions by leaders are not needed, rather a sane process of mercy, compassion and kindness for those that suffer and otherwise are manipulated is necessary.

Humane is in the midst of an evolution in meaning.

Questions Are Forever, James Bond and Philosophy, Ed. James B. South and Jacob M. Held. (2006) Philosophical essays about James Bond. Life is not forever nor is James Bond. And life is not a James Bond movie or novel. Still the philosophical insights offered here causes the reader to pause and think about the life we live and language we use and how we have become technological beings. We have developed sufficient high technology to become  in the words of Steven Zani, “technological selves.”

On another level if I might digress, there is the technological self that leads to self-destructive behavior whereas even the wealthiest and most wicked in Bond’s world and in real life, regardless of where they escape to, die from their overindulging greed. One might also consider the past three decades and in turn the feeding of the illiterate and ignorant with dogmas that serve as the metaphorical equivalent of let them eat cake” in the 18th century. (See my review of Rousseau’s Confessions.) The greed in my estimation is also a species of the opium argument as Karl Marx suggested. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the people.” And if one wishes to pursue Marx’s thoughts on the existential edge I suggest reading Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski especially his view on the future of religion, page 583.

And this might be where the fictional Bond comes into play and the value of this book of essays as being more than mere entertainment. These essays are fascinating philosophical analysis of the James Bond character. Bond is a secular existentialist and a pragmatist. And it’s best to quote one of the writers, Beth Butterfield, who writes of existentialism’s focus on “being towards death,” in reference to Martin Heidegger’s work on Time and Being. The existentialist reminds us, “While, it is tempting to run away from freedom and responsibility, hiding from ourselves is not the answer.” Such attempts are transitory. Sooner or later we will be faced with our own mortality…and “it takes courage to keep ourselves from running away.” It is up to each of us individually to find meaning for our own life. We create our own values.

As James Bond lay on table in the movie Goldfinger and anxiously waits to be cut lengthwise by a laser beam he asks Goldfinger, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldinger replies. “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Bond’s existential nature and “primitive masculinity” are intertwined. He must rest control of the situation knowing that his mortality is inevitable.

In Bond’s we see a man whose values are seeking “great beauty, sensual pleasure and the personal vendetta.” Though as Butterfield points out that an existentialist like Bond experiences the darker side of the human condition, he periodically finds moments of the creative and the humorous seeking to enjoy the bright side of being alive along with appearances of an exotic and sensuous lifestyle. Reality is another matter. Knowing death is around the corner makes the existing moment more precious.

Throughout this book the various writers from the perspective of the setting and the dialogue in his movies and novels point out the very human flaws and positive attributes of the Bond character and the philosophical undertones to his existence in an engaging manner. The book is a search for meaning of that which from a cursory perspective of the surface reveals something more provocative and darker below. The final essay reveals the metamorphosis of the Bond character and the Yin and Yang of life and relationships between men and women.

Bond may appear a hero as in a Nietzschean superman sense (belief in an afterlife makes it more difficult to cope in this life) but being “half-monk and half-hitman” he knows better.  Bond lives and will die on the existential edge. He saves women from evil yet he may privately wonder about his own evil, his own ego, but perhaps only temporarily as it becomes too poignant, he has to stay in the moment to breathe and live regardless of the “brutality and joy of life.”

The essays beg further questions about how government and corporations act on behalf of their values and the people who they sell their “corporate values” to. The more recent Bond films reveal a deeper existential precipice in human relationships, though the coldness of what Bond does for a living remains. Something is amiss within Bond. Which brings me to the following.

The real life character from British Secret Intelligence or MI6, ex spy Christopher Steele, who is perhaps considered a superlative agent by British Intelligence, and one of the closest they had to a James Bond, allegedly gained access to information portraying just an aspect of the nature of the current US President and his dealings with Russia. Steele had uncovered something that had a surreal quality but he isn’t surprised by human actions. Steele is more of the enigma (cyber) type of man and not the licensed killer, as we know of the fictional James Bond. Steele understands this and more. And perhaps he will come forward. Who knows? This is just a floating fragment of what lay below the surface.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/donald- trump-russia-dossier-christopher-steele-ex-spy-british-a7616326.html

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman, Philip Fernbach (2017) Officially this work doesn’t hit the marketplace until the next week or so. And my opinion expressed here is just that – an opinion. Thinking is a complicated business. In “What is Called Thinking,” Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher once asked in a series of lectures in the early 1950s about the nature of this thing called thinking especially within the context of the individual’s experience and in relation to society.

Ignorance and the community of knowledge intrigue the cognitive scientist with a mathematical/computational mind. Between Sloman and Fernbach they have provided an insightful and thought-provoking read on how much the individual knows in relation to the community of knowledge. Not much. That would seem obvious on the surface but is it? For how much does or can an individual, no matter how brilliant, really know without a community? They can’t. And therein perhaps is an issue. I suppose within the framework of true believers (see Eric Hoffer’s works) that there is a belief that a person’s particular community possesses superior knowledge, regardless of the evidence. This is a “confirmation basis” where belief outweighs facts. Ignorance as bliss is dangerous and the authors warn of the delusion that any one individual faces when they think their thinking is derived at singularly. What is the nature of thinking within a particular community of believers? What does historical and sociological experience suggest?

The point being is for the reader to acquire intellectual humility as suggested by the authors.  Communities and individuals have a symbiotic relationship. We’re not so knowledgeable alone. Primitive people to modern societies have discovered they were most successful in survival in relationship to others.

Being intellectually humble especially during times of populism and authoritarianism would seem to be common sense. Unfortunately, it isn’t. If ignorant of specific subject matter how easy it to become saturated in the thinking of a community that’s willfully ignorant of evidence that is demonstrably at odds with a particular group or community thinking of which one is a member? How does the individual step away and question?

What do we mean by expertise? What is it based on?  If you are an “expert” on a given subject you are still limited by the context of you and your community’s experiences and thought processes. And the more your share in knowledge, based on evidence, the more you gain, rather than deluding yourself in thinking that you have the prerequisite knowledge as an individual “expert” that makes you superior in your grasp of a given subject.

Further, I would think that the individual that is abundantly narcissistic (read insecure) treads on volatile ground if he or she thinks they are the final authority and arbiter of the truth. Once we deceive our self in believing we are in great measure “the authority” what will it take to become intellectually and emotionally humble? Or will we? Is our ignorance too much of an agreeable place to live? To become knowledgeable might cost a person his or her accumulated power and competitive edge that perhaps was also at least based on “the ignorance of the other.”

As a historian and philosopher my thoughts wander back to Benjamin Franklin who reportedly observed while signing the Declaration of Independence, We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” How many people did it take to think through America’s independence? The “Founders” were brilliant, courageous, self-confident, argumentative, angry and humble enough to share their knowledge in creating a new country and such characteristics are essential for discerning the truth rather than succumbing say to a “post-truth?

The thought processes in this work tantalize the imagination on one level and may seem obvious on another level. Cognitive scientists like to measure cognitive stuff. That’s gives this study of “ignorance and the community of knowledge” a strong foundation.

At least that’s my read and I’m sticking with it. That is, until I read, reread, commiserate and learn more.

In October 2017, Picton Castle will begin an epic seventh world circumnavigation.  Join the ship as a trainee for the full 18-month voyage or for a leg of the voyage!

Beginning in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, Picton Castle will sail south for the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, to the Galapagos Islands, island in French Polynesia including Mangareva, the Marquesas, the Tuamotus and Tahiti, many of the Cook Islands including Penrhyn Atoll, Aitutaki, Rarotonga and Palmerston Atoll, Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga, a number of islands in Vanuatu, Bali, Rodrigues, Reunion, South Africa, Namibia, St. Helena, a number of Caribbean islands and Bermuda before returning to Lunenburg in May 2019.


This voyage is open to men and women ages 18+ of all nationalities.  No sailing experience is required, just good health and the desire to be a working part of the crew.


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Intellectual Diversity: What Is It and Do We Need It?

Stanley Fish
Professor, College of Law
Florida International University

Let’s start right in. Intellectual Diversity is the rallying cry of a group of right-leaning academics and non-academics troubled by the fact that in most liberal arts faculties Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of eight or nine to one. This is a matter of fact, and I stipulate to it. These same people believe that a faculty skewed to the left will teach to the left, and that therefore the students in our colleges and universities are receiving indoctrination rather than instruction. They fear too that this unhappy situation will not self-correct because in the course of things the liberal faculty will replenish itself by refusing to hire job candidates who support the policies of the Bush administration or defend the traditional canon of classic works or have a high regard (as I do) for the political philosopher Leo Strauss.

The phrase “intellectual diversity” has been promoted largely through the writings of David Horowitz and his followers. Horowitz, whom I count as a friend, was in his earlier years a left-wing activist, editor of the magazine Ramparts, and a defender of the Black Panthers. But in later years, prompted in part by the murder of someone close to him, he moved further and further to the right, and is now widely thought of as the most prominent conservative critic of the academy.

Horowitz is quite forthright about his reason for hitting upon the mantra of intellectual diversity. Here is a recommendation he made to conservative students in April of 2003:

I encourage [you] to use the language that the left has deployed so effectively on behalf of its own agendas. [Say] radical professors have created a “hostile learning environment” for conservative students. [Say] there is a lack of “intellectual diversity” on college faculties and in academic classrooms. [Say] the conservative viewpoint is “under-represented” in the curriculum and on its reading lists. [Say] the university should be an “inclusive” and intellectually “diverse” community. (“The Campus Blacklist”)

“Hostile learning environment,” “intellectual diversity,” “under-represented,” “inclusive,” and “diverse” are all in quotation marks. The message is clear: steal those liberal buzzwords; hoist them by their own petard. Behind the strategy is a genuine philosophical point many have made–I have made it myself–which is that it is not the abstraction “diversity” people fight for, but a condition of diversity that is more expansive than the present one, and expansive in a particular, favored direction. Raising the banner of diversity usually means let me and my friends in, not let everyone in.

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