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Blogger Brian
Salem, Oregon
Recent Activity
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OK, the "headline" of this blog post isn't surprising news. Still, political junkies like me love to pour over the statistics Gallup shared in a State of the States report, which is based on 2017 data. Below are screenshots for Oregon, the nation as a whole, Washington, and California. Here's... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Salem Political Snark
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The title of this blog post admittedly sounds boring. What makes it wonderfully boring is that during all of my local liberal activism, I'd never had an hour-plus talk with someone from the Chamber of Commerce, much less two someones. My primary connection with the Chamber has been criticizing its... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Salem Political Snark
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Last night the City of Salem held a second open house on the Downtown Streetscape project. I came away enthused about emerging ideas for improving the downtown area, but in an advance post about the meeting the Breakfast on Bikes blogger encapsulated the Big Problem with this project: The second... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Salem Political Snark
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A citizen win! Last night the City Council voted unanimously to reconsider their decision to have the public pay for two extensions to Lone Oak Road in south Salem, rather than the developers who really should be footing the bill. The impetus for the reconsideration was a letter from the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Gopalkrishnan, it sounds to me like you might be realizing a fact known to neuroscience and psychology: there is no such thing as an enduring "self" or "soul." When you concentrate, leaving behind your ordinary ways of thinking and such, the feeling of bliss you have could result from leaving behind the burden of ego, selfhood, whatever we want to call it. This feeling happens in many other ways also, of course. Being immersed in nature often leaves people with a sense that everything is as it should be. Athletes speak of being in a state of "flow" where everything happens fluidly and naturally. Drugs, including marijuana and psychedelics, leave people with a diminished sense of self and what is not the self. And meditation can do this also. What you're experiencing is something wonderfully natural. Accept it as such. I doubt very much that it has any supernatural significance.
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Spencer, the human mind can know that something exists by demonstrable evidence of it existing. Conversely, absence of demonstrable evidence for something existing leads us to be reasonably confident that this thing doesn't exist. Neither existence nor non-existence is set in stone, of course. But in both science and everyday life, we have to proceed on the basis of what I outlined above. We don't step carefully around a certain portion of our living room because we're afraid of waking up a sleeping invisible unicorn. Sure, such MIGHT exist in our living room, but we can't live our lives on the basis of "might." We live our lives on the basis of "is," while being open to the possibility of new things that are. So you put forth a false equivalency. God is a "might," not an "is." Yet people falsely pretend otherwise. When people do this for imagined objects other than God, we call them delusional or even psychotic. But since God is a widely held delusion, society gives a special dispensation to this inability to recognize reality as it is. This is why atheism takes so much courage, and why religiosity is so easy. Religious people are going with the societal delusional current, while atheists are facing upstream toward reality.
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Good news! There's a chance Larry Tokarski, the Creekside developer, won't be able to walk away from his obligation to build an extension of Lone Oak Road after all. The South Gateway Neighborhood Association has sent a letter to Mayor Chuck Bennett, Councilor Steve McCoid, and the other members of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
D.r, so why do you say this experience was of God? Lots of people, including myself, feel a sense of peace, holiness, joy, light. This happens to me in nature quite frequently. Some (legal here in Oregon) marijuana also can induce such a feeling. I have a niece who is convinced she feels the presence of Jesus at times during the day. So is this proof that Jesus is with her? Of course not. Being a Christian, she's been told over and over that Jesus watches out for her and loves her, so she interprets her feeling as being caused by Jesus. Likewise, you interpret your feeling as being caused by God, because you've read books, heard talks, and had other cultural experiences that promote the myth of God. If somehow you'd been raised on an island where no one had any conception of God, I can pretty much guarantee that if you had the same feeling you describe, you wouldn't view it as anything supernatural or divine. It just would be a pleasant feeling. I'm not impressed with descriptions of pleasant feelings that people ascribe to God. Us atheists have the same feelings. We just don't call them "God." Understand, I'm not dismissing your feeling as being unreal. I just doubt your interpretation that it points to God.
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Spencer, here's a more basic question: what if God doesn't exist?
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Rain, I believe the cap-and-trade plan only applies to the 100 largest carbon polluters in Oregon, so it wouldn't affect farmers at all. And part of the money raised would to to help rural areas transition to a reduced carbon economy. Other states, like California, have a similar plan that has helped their economy, not hurt it. We need clean jobs for the 21st century, not dirty jobs best suited to the last century.
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Don't be fooled by the full page ad in today's Statesman Journal opposing HB 4005, a bill that would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose pricing information about drugs they sell. The group behind the ad, Caregiver Voices United, is a front for the pharmaceutical industry. Sure, you won't save at... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
It's a non-religious "church." I was talking with some friends way back in 2004, and blurted out "There should be a Church of the Churchless." Meaning, a place for people who don't subscribe to any form of religion, yet still want to pursue answers to deep questions about life, reality, existence, the meaning of it all. When I decided to start this blog, the name appealed to me.
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The Nordstrom store in downtown Salem is closing on April 6, according to a Statesman Journal story, "Nordstrom to shutter its store in Salem Center mall." A Rapid Response question in the newspaper about what should replace Nordstrom elicited a bunch of diverse answers. Like, another major retailer; a lot... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Anita, your comment was well-informed, well-written, and well-thought out. Very refreshing to see someone use their mind rather than spout religious nonsense, as many commenters do on this blog -- which is rather strange, since I called it Church of the Churchless to make clear that this wasn't a place to spout religious dogma. I'm OK with that, though, since I believe in free speech and open discussions.
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Spencer, naturally people get pleasure and satisfaction from delusions and illusions. The value question is whether it is better to see reality as it is, or as how we would like it to be, but isn't. Religions choose the latter path of delusion and illusion. So do scam artists, who often make people feel good that they're making money, unless reality intervenes. I've chosen to pursue a path of choosing truth over illusion. As you noted, many people feel happier by embracing religious myths, which seems to include you. Our choices are determined, of course, and not under our free will. Nonetheless, i'm grateful that Cause and Effect have led me to pursue truth rather than illusion. This is a tougher path than the religious path of embracing illusion, but in the end I believe truth is better than fiction.
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Spencer, belief in a higher power also is determined -- by one's upbringing, genetics, experiences, and such. So is a belief in personal choice. Again, everything is determined, including a belief in free will. This is a very simple concept, but one that most people don't recognize. I've given more thought to this subject than most people, so it's easier for me to see the flaws in thinking that tries to find an "out" from determinism. Can't be done.
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D.r,, I think you're missing the point about a determinist point of view. Conscience is part of determinism, because it is part of a chain of causes and effects. Knowing that you are committing a crime also is determined. A desire to punish also is determined. Laws of the land are determined. Mental illness is determined. Your writing a comment on this blog about free will is determined. My deciding to respond to your comment is determined. There's no getting outside of the bounds of determinism, because everything in everyday life is determined by causes and effects. (I'm excluding some aspects of quantum reality in the atomic and subatomic sphere, which may be acausal, though probabilities still operate there, which are signs of determinism.)
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It took me about two seconds to say "Yes" when the publisher of Salem Weekly, A.P. Walther, asked me via an email if I'd be interested in writing a story about the unbuilt section of Lone Oak Road that the City Council is asking the public to pay for, after... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
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Reading "How Democracies Die" right now is akin to watching a scary movie at home by yourself, then hearing what sounds like footsteps in the kitchen. I'm terrified at what could happen, yet ignoring the danger isn't an option. The authors of How Democracies Die, Stephen Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
D.r, yes, I certainly do agree with you. It's amazing how far believers in Spiritual Sound and Light will stretch reality to make it fit their preconceived ideas. Way back when in my true believing days I was guilty of doing that myself, so I know whereof I speak. Once a rigid conceptual framework gets imbedded in a religious person's mind, everything gets viewed through that framework, which naturally leads to massive distortions regarding what is actually there.
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This afternoon I took part in the Trees and Landscaping Focus Group for the Downtown Streetscape Project. About 20 of us, citizens and consultants, had a spirited 90-minute discussion in the Library's Anderson Room about downtown trees and other vegetation, though the discussion also included broader Streetscape topics. Here's 30... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Vicki, I moved to Salem in 1977. So I've been here for 41 years. I don't have a "hurtful, unproductive" attitude. I want to make Salem a better place to live, just as I did when I moved here from Portland many years ago. The Center Street bridge is slated to be seismically reinforced so it will stand up in a major earthquake. So that takes away one reason for a new bridge. And the Salem City Council has voted to work on various ways to reduce rush hour congestion without building a new bridge. That should take away the other main reason to build a Third Bridge. So what is the reason for spending half a billion dollars, or much more with financing costs and inflation, on a Third Bridge? I can't think of a reason.
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Spencer, what I'm suggesting is that an urge to raise children to be responsible and helpful adults is determined by various causes: one's own life experiences, genetics, one's upbringing, one's philosophy of life, and so on. And each of those causes have their own reasons, their own causes. Causes and effects are an endless complex chain going back to the first life on Earth. Or the Big Bang, if you like. Having a feeling of free will also is determined. Numerous authors I've read have discussed this from an evolutionary standpoint. Groups of humans, early or otherwise, function better when there is a sense of "I am doing this freely" and "You are doing that freely." As you said, we then hold other people responsible, which typically causes them to act better. Or at least differently. I don't believe that people freely will their actions. But society determines that people are still responsible for their actions, because obviously they did them, not somebody else. What I and many others object to is an archaic notion of retribution when someone does something wrong that flows from a mistaken belief that they could have done differently from their free will. Protecting society from wrongdoers and rehabilitating them is fine. Punishing them just to punish them is wrong.
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Last Monday the Salem City Council voted 7-2 to form a Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District that's supposedly needed to pay for a missing north and south section, plus a bridge over Jory Creek. I talked about this in "City Council poised to make public pay for improvements, not Larry... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2018 at Salem Political Snark
Spencer, of course there's plenty of factual basis for atheism. That basis is the lack of evidence for God. Again, do you understand that the "a" in atheism means "no", as in "no theism"? Likewise, people who don't believe in fairies could be called "afairyists." But since hardly anybody believes in fairies, this word doesn't exist. Usually people who don't subscribe to something don't identify with the absence of that thing. I rarely, if ever, call myself a non-golfer. I just don't golf (though I used to). Likewise, atheism is simply the absence of a belief in God. Sure, I am 99.99% sure that fairies don't exist, just as I am that sure that God doesn't exist. For most people, but not religious believers, absence of any demonstrable evidence that something exists is pretty damn convincing evidence that the thing doesn't exist. Which makes perfect sense.
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