Archive for September, 2015


black / white / red

eastern coral snake.

It is said that the pyramids at Giza were originally clad in stone of three colors: black, white, and red. (I tried to find you a picture to illustrate this, but was unsuccessful—so you get an eastern coral snake instead, which I think is pretty cool as a consolation). However, the pyramids can be found on Youtube at 41:26 in episode 1 of The Pyramid Code: The Complete Series.)PyramidDatePalms

These three colors were somehow integral to the ancients’ technology. But the knowledge of the colors’ significance is lost to us today. It has been theorized by some that, far from being tombs, the pyramids were actually built as energy-generating machines; even in their dilapidated state, they still create measurable electric energy today.

Because of the ancient significance of these three colors, I have adopted them to facilitate my study of the runes. The 24 runes of the Elder Futhark can be arrayed in 3 wheels of 8 runic symbols each which emphasize the oppositional relationship that each rune has with its mate.

Fionn's Shield.

For example, Jera and Dagaz (the runes of the winter and summer solstices) and Ken and Beorc (the runes of the fall and spring equinoxes) are opposite one another and represent similar yet opposite phenomena in the wheel of the year. The same is true for Hagal and Laguz (both of which are harbingers of death), and for Thorn and Elhaz (which are both warning signs). The relationships as I have described them are superficial at best and will require a good deal of contemplation and meditation before I understand them to my satisfaction.

By depicting the three wheels in three colors and placing each wheel on one of three appropriate background field colors, I am hoping this will lead to deeper insights. So hopefully there will be more to come.

But what is the significance of these three colors? Frankly I don’t know yet.

In more recent history, the black-white-red flag were the Imperial colors of Germany’s Kaiser Reich. The flags of Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen also all share red, white, and black horizontal stripes today (albeit in the reverse order as Germany’s old flag).Plakat_Lasst_die_alten_Fahnen_wehn_1932

After World War I, the colors of Imperial Germany became symbols of monarchist and nationalist protest, and were often used by right-wing organizations such as the Stahlhelm and Bund der Frontsoldaten. Many nationalist political parties during the Weimar period—such as the German National People’s Party and the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) used the imperial colors, a practice that has continued today with the National Democratic Party of Germany.

The tricolor flag and the swastika flag both briefly served as the national flags of Germany until 1935 (one year after the death of president Paul von Hindenburg and Hitler’s elevation to Führer), when the dual flag arrangement was ended and the the swastika flag became the exclusive national flag of Germany. Yet the colors were retained.

So the associations below with these three colors are a mix of positives and negatives, just as the coral snake above is incredibly beautiful yet deadly poisonous. I suspect this must contribute to the color combination’s potency.



Black derives its significance from the notion that new things get darker while they mature; and physical aging comes with spiritual maturity.

The Akans ( the largest meta-ethnicity and ethno-linguistic group in Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa) blacken most of their ritual objects to increase their spiritual potency.

Black symbolizes an intensified spiritual energy, communion with the ancestral spirits, antiquity, spiritual maturity, and spiritual potency.

Black is a color to be used for promoting stability and protection, healing misunderstandings.

Black is required for all other colors to have depth and variation of hue—it’s a forceful feature and represents formality, dignity, force, convention, stability, and zero-tolerance.

Black is affiliated with the planets Saturn and Pluto.

Black’s zodiac signs are Capricorn and Scorpio.

Black’s mantra is: “I am endless”

The ancient Egyptians and Romans used black for mourning, as do most Europeans and Americans today.

The “Blackshirts” were the security troops in Hitler’s German army, also known as the SS.

Black often stands for secrecy.

Black humor is morbid or unhealthy and gloomy humor.

A “blackhearted” person is evil.

If a business is “in the black,” it is making money.

A “blacklist” is a list of persons or organizations to be boycotted or punished.

Black is associated with sophistication and elegance. A “black tie” event is formal.

A black belt in karate identifies an expert.

A black flag in a car race is the signal for a driver to go to the pits.

A blackguard is a scoundrel.

The ancient Egyptians believed that black cats had divine powers.

Black lung is a coal miner’s disease caused by the frequent inhaling of coal dust.

Blackmail is getting things by threat.

Black market is illegal trade in goods or money.

A black sheep is an outcast.

“Blackwash” (as opposed to “whitewash”) is to uncover or bring out in the light.

A blackout is a period of darkness from the loss of electricity, for protection against nighttime air raids, or, in the theater, to separate scenes in a play.

When you “black out,” you temporarily lose consciousness.



White derives its symbolism from the white part of egg and also from white clay used in spiritual purification, healing, sanctification rites and festive occasions.

In some situations it symbolizes contact with ancestral spirits, deities, and other unknown spiritual entities such as ghosts.

It is used in combination with black, green, gold, or yellow to express spiritual vitality and balance.

Contemplate the brilliance of a new white snow and how it pulls a blanket of peace over everything it touches—white stands for peace, cleansing, illumination, purity, innocence and the highest understanding.

White is affiliated with the planet Mercury and the Moon.

Its zodiac sign is Virgo.

White can be used for cleansing, establishing order, illumination and clarity

White’s mantra is: “I am illumined.”

A white flag is the universal symbol for truce.

White means mourning in China and Japan.

Angels are usually depicted wearing white robes.

The ancient Greeks wore white to bed to ensure pleasant dreams.

The Egyptian pharaohs wore white crowns.

The ancient Persians believed all gods wore white.

A “white elephant” is a rare, pale elephant considered sacred to the people of India, Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka; in this country, it is either a possession that costs more than it is worth to keep or an item that the owner doesn’t want but can’t get rid of.

It’s considered good luck to be married in a white garment.

White heat is a state of intense enthusiasm, anger, devotion, or passion.

To whitewash is to gloss over defects or make something seem presentable that isn’t.

A “white knight” is a rescuer.

A white list contains favored items (as opposed to a blacklist).

A “whiteout” occurs when there is zero visibility during a blizzard.

A “white sale” is a sale of sheets, towels, and other bed and bath items.

A “whited sepulcher” is a person who is evil inside but appears good on the outside, a hypocrite.

“White lightning” is slang for moonshine, a home-brewed alcohol.

A white room is a clean room, as well as a temperature-controlled, dust-free room for precision instruments.

White water is the foamy, frothy water in rapids and waterfalls.



Is associated with sense of seriousness, readiness for a serious spiritual or political encounter.

It is also associated with blood, sacrificial rites and the shedding of blood.

Red is therefore used as a symbol of heightened spiritual and political mood, sacrifice and struggle.

Think fire and blood—red rushes to us with messages of passion, primal urges and power, action, pleasure, vibrance, radiance, and love.

Red is affiliated with the planet Mars.

Red’s zodiac sign is Aries.

Red can be used to boost energy booster, protection, to enhance libido.

Red’s mantra is: “I am ignited.”

For the ancient Romans, a red a flag was a signal for battle.

Because of its visibility, stop signs, stoplights, brake lights, and fire equipment are all painted red.

The ancient Egyptians considered themselves a red race and painted their bodies with red dye for emphasis.

In Russia, red means beautiful. The Bolsheviks used a red flag as their symbol when they overthrew the tsar in 1917. That is how red became the color of communism.

In India, red is the symbol for a soldier.

In South Africa, red is the color of mourning.

It’s considered good luck to tie a red bow on a new car.

In China, red is the color of good luck and is used as a holiday and wedding color. Chinese babies are given their names at a red-egg ceremony.

Superstitious people think red frightens the devil.

A “red-letter day” is one of special importance and good fortune.

In Greece, eggs are dyed red for good luck at Easter time.

To “paint the town red” is to celebrate.

Red is the color most commonly found in national flags.

In the English War of the Roses, red was the color of the House of Lancaster, which defeated the House of York, symbolized by the color white.

The “Redshirts” were the soldiers of the Italian leader Garibaldi, who unified modern Italy in the nineteenth century.

To “see red” is to be angry.

A “red herring” is a distraction, something that takes attention away from the real issue.

A “red eye” is an overnight airplane flight.

If a business is “in the red,” it is losing money.




Weather Report

91° and Clear


whew! still here


I woke up yesterday morning to a spectacular sunrise and to a new season of backpedaling by Christian prophets-of-doom trying to hold onto their followers.

Two nights ago was the fourth and final “Blood Moon” eclipse of the lunar eclipse tetrad—a series of four consecutive total eclipses occurring at approximately six-month intervals. The total eclipse of April 15, 2014 was followed by another on October 8, 2014, and another on April 4, 2015, and another September 27, 2015.

For three hours and eighteen minutes (from 8:07 pm Central time to 11:27 pm) the moon passed through the Earth’s shadow and reflected back a strange red glow—hence, the “blood moon.”

John-Hagee-353331According to Christian Bible-thumper John Hagee, the stage is now set for the end of the world. “Four blood moons points to a world-shaking event,” he said. What kind of event? Oh probably an earthquake or other devastating apocalypse signalling the second coming of Christ. Or maybe the Rapture. An event having to do with Israel. Or Iran and the pending nuclear deal.

The net keeps being cast wider, so Hagee cannot be accused of being wrong and discredited in the eyes of his followers. If that net were only to bring in an old shoe, Hagee would probably claim to have been right.

Professor Gary Shogren, a former pastor who studied the New Testament at Aberdeen University, said: “You’ll never go broke predicting the apocalypse.”




Groove of the Day

Listen to Leon Redbone performing “Shine on Harvest Moon”


Weather Report

84° and Clear




This is the first day of the fortnight (September 28-October 12) governed by the rune Gyfu or Gebo. Shaped like the Roman letter “X,” Gyfu’s form is the “sacred mark” used to denote things dedicated to the gods. It is usually interpreted as symbolizing “gift,” and its form esoterically represents the intersection of heaven and earth. It describes a part of the mystery of sacrifice as the gift, ultimately of power, that is given to mankind by the gods in order to maintain the ecology of cosmic power. The rune’s phonetic value is a hard “G.”

Gyfu refers to a gift and the act of giving or receiving. Gifts played an important part in German culture. A chief would give his young warriors gifts of horses, weapons, and lavish feasts. Relations between tribes were always conducted with the exchange of costly gifts. Tacitus wrote in Germania: It is usual to give the departing guest whatever he may ask for, and a present in return is asked for with little hesitation. They are greatly charmed by gifts, but they expect no return for what they give, nor feel any obligation for what they receive. The giving to, and receiving gifts from, the gods would have been looked upon as a natural extension of these customs.

Symbolically, Gyfu describes the gift of one’s own ability or talent in the service of another. Talent and ability are gifts from the gods to the individual. When anything is given, a relationship is established between the giver and receiver. Gyfu signifies the unifying effect that the exchange of a gift makes between the donor and the recipient. It expresses the qualities of linking seemingly separate parts of society or individual people in a common bond that produces a creative power greater than their sum total.

It can also signify cooperation between people. This may take the form of a common cause, a business partnership, or a magical working involving a voluntary sacrifice of one’s resources.

Even before the advent of Christianity, Gyfu was linked with charity and sacrifice—but sacrifice within reason. Generosity was the virtue of great chiefs. The covetous were despised and believed to suffer an ill fate. Gyfu means giving away something of personal value freely and willingly. It might mean forsaking present comfort or advantage for future joy, or giving your life for a higher good. Consistent with ideas of wise stewardship, however, it was considered good to sacrifice the lower for the higher, and evil to sacrifice the higher for the lower. Or translated into a principle of modern risk management: “Always risk a little for a lot; never risk a lot for a little.”

In modern usage, Gyfu is the sign used to represent a kiss on lovers’ letters. Gyfu is also the rune of brotherly or sisterly love, and it is the unity and psychosexual force exchanged between two poles of power—human to human, divine to divine, human to divine. In the latter case Gyfu describes the sexual life force used in fertility magic in shamanistic practices. It is the rune of ecstasy.

Gyfu is one of the runes I most cherish. It has been my experience that this fortnight in the annual cycle is one of the easiest and most prosperous times of the year. It is a time when the most appropriate wisdom is to feel gratitude.

However, setbacks and misfortune can and do happen in this cycle phase. Even in the face of difficulties, Gyfu reminds us that we must be grateful. By being thankful for whatever is, we are in a better position to make the most of our situations and recognize the solutions, opportunities, and lessons hidden within problems. Problems, too, are gifts from the gods.

Esoterically, Gyfu is the quality of abundance personified in the Norse goddess Gefn the bountiful giver, who is the equivalent of the goddess Abundantia, formerly worshipped in central Europe.

Magically, Gyfu is a sign of initiation, of what must be given up in order to gain wisdom and spiritual power. No advance is possible without occasional pain and loss.





Weather Report

91° and Clear


Note: This is the final post of twenty-four describing the runes. You can access all 24 posts from one place by going here.


goodnight, mrs. calabash


How anyone could be nostalgic for such an unlikely entertainment personality is beyond me, but here we are.

James Francis “Jimmy” Durante (February 10, 1893 – January 29, 1980) was an American singer, pianist, comedian, and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, New York accent, comic language butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and prominent nose helped make him one of America’s most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s. He often referred to his nose as the Schnozzola, and the word became his nickname.

Durante Sign-offOne of my earliest childhood memories is Jimmy Durante’s sign-off from his TV variety program The Jimmy Durante Show (which aired from October 2, 1954 to June 23, 1956): “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are”—whereupon Durante walks offstage through a series of four spotlights. Durante’s bulbous nose, piano, and broken vocabulary were the mainstays of the half-hour program.

There are a number of theories regarding the origin of his familiar sign-off, but this is my favorite. Some say that it referred to the owner of a restaurant in Calabash NC, where Durante and his troupe had stopped to eat. He was so taken by the food, the service, and the chitchat, he told the owner that he would make her famous. Since he did not know her name, he referred to her as “Mrs. Calabash.”

Well, I have been looking for some time for an excuse to feature this song as “The Groove of the Day,” lacking more pressing subject-matter, and with the arrival in a few minutes of one of my friends for a visit, today’s the day.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Jimmy Durante performing “Make Someone Happy”


Weather Report

82° and Clear



Under Thumb.

by Dave Thomas

Children and Youth Services (CYS) has initiated new harassment tactics against C and his dad. One might even characterize the tactics as “retribution.”

For the last 2 of 4 weeks, CYS has denied the weekly visit between C and his father which were ordered by Judge Dominick Motto. It would seem denying these visits is a direct violation of Motto’s order requiring CYS to provide a one-hour weekly visit between C and each parent. One would surmise this action should call for sanction of William Betz, Director of CYS and CYS participants. We’ll have to wait to see if Motto lets them skate. Any bets? I have no doubt C’s mom has had the opportunity for her visits. Whether she used it—who knows?

Another recent tactic is supervising C’s visits with his dad using non-CYS agencies such as Community Alternatives, Inc. No correspondence, books, cards, postcards or small gifts can be transferred between C and his dad (or forwarded to C by anyone) unless censored and often copied by official CYS personnel for their files. CYS has forbidden C from having any sort of direct contact—visitation, written or verbal.

Some of the Motto-mandated visits are now being scheduled for Sunday morning. You will recall that Judge Motto, CYS, and the Krause Youth Center forbade C from joining his church-of-choice, which had been scheduled for the week after he was jailed. C had completed all study requirements previous to being jailed. Lawrence County officialdom is once again interfering with C’s opportunity to worship, as well as preventing his dad from Sunday worship time. One wonders if the same conditions would apply if C had chosen a church of the same religion as many of the Lawrence County officials.

CYS is again denying C education. CYS has insisted official visits (where they can censor materials given to him) be held in New Castle—1½ hours away from everyone. Of course the visits must coincide with CYS business hours—we wouldn’t want any CYS bureaucrat working off-schedule. Thursday’s visit required C being picked up from school around 11:00 am so there was time for lunch and travel before the scheduled meeting—7 hours out of C’s and the foster family’s day, which includes 3 hours’ exposure to unnecessary interstate traffic.

Thursday’s visit was scheduled by CYS Tuesday afternoon. This meant the foster family, dad and mom were required to rearrange work and social schedules on short notice, and travel 1½ hours each way. The foster family sits while the visits with dad and mom take place. The visit with mom typically lasts just a short portion out of the one-hour opportunity—her time is normally scheduled first. The rest of the hour and buffer time between dad and mom’s visit is dead time for all, except mom.

So C lives in Allegheny County, dad lives in Westmoreland County, mom lives in Butler County, and all the while Motto and CYS are orchestrating this circus from Lawrence County—hours away from all the primary participants. Surely there are CYS organizations near his foster family in Allegheny County or near his home in Westmorland County who could host the visits. Why won’t they do that you ask? Simply put, Lawrence County CYS, Judge Motto, other Lawrence County judiciary, County Commissioners and of course the maternal family want “No Outsiders” to have first-hand information of the abuse they continue to rain on this child and his father!

The platitude of politicians and bureaucrats: “Best interest of the child,” I leave it to you.

C has a court-appointed guardian ad litem, Larry Puntureri, and his own attorney, Steve Colafella (also appointed by Motto) to supposedly advocate for and protect C’s rights. Where are these two guys while the abuse continues? Wonder if they are still billing Lawrence County for representing C?

Interestingly, the CYS-denied visits and shifting of visits to Sunday coincide with my pressing requests to communicate with C. Betz’ email reply to my request to visit and communicate with C is below:

Mr. Thomas,

Speak with your son about your wishes to have visitation with your grandson. Possibly he can have his attorney speak with the other involved attorneys concerning your request.

Bill Betz

The rest of the story.

Several weeks ago, my wife and I had planned a trip to go north to see family and friends.

While there, we learned CYS had changed foster homes for C. We were happy as it appeared CYS and Judge Motto was finally going to do something positive for C. They had placed him with our nephew and niece as a foster family who live in Allegheny County. He would be safe there and closer to dad, family and friends. He was going to be able to return to school; albeit, not his school from last year.

En route, I called William Betz, Director Lawrence County CYS. Betz readily recognized my name and relationship to C. I explained we would be in the Pittsburgh area for several days and wanted to visit with C at our nephew and niece’s home.

Betz stammered and said he would have to check with someone and call me back. I asked who he had to check with, as he is the head of CYS and CYS was appointed custody of C by Motto. Betz repeated he would have to call me back.

About 40 minutes later Betz returned the call. He stated there wasn’t enough time to arrange a visit since we would only be available in the area for 4 days. He needed a few days notice to do so. I asked if he would be more specific. He stated a week or so notice. I again asked him to be more specific, this time he said a week or two.

I asked “Why so long?” Betz said he would have to get approval from the judge and legal people. He said that was all he could do. and ended the conversation.

A couple weeks ago, I phoned Betz again requesting visitation and the ability to communicate with C. The receptionist contacted him. According to the receptionist, Betz asked to have me leave a voice mail; and he would return my call when he was free. He did not call. Several days passed; I emailed Betz re-asking the question.

A few more days passed and I received the above email from Betz.

Email and phone calls to Betz requesting the names of “the other involved attorneys” and their roles and their authority for determining CYS policy regarding our visitation and communication were futile. Steve Craig, Lawrence County Commissioner’s liaison for CYS, and Amber Kalp, Western PA Director of Human Services, were copied on the request. After hearing nothing from Betz or the others, I redirected my question to Ms. Kalp via email with a copy to her boss, Cathy Utz, PA Director, Human Services.

Kalp responded via email September 16: “I am in receipt of your email, and am in the process of obtaining additional information.  Once I received the requested information, I will be in contact with you.”  (Bureaucratic speak, meaning maybe he will go away if I put him on hold long enough.) As of September 25, there is still no reply from Kalp naming the phantom attorneys.

Could CYS’ denying visitation for dad and us, again denying C education, shifting visits to Sunday with non-CYS personnel, and denying an opportunity for sending correspondence to C, be retribution for questioning CYS?


Dan’s Comment: Forgive me for asking a dumb-but-obvious question. If C lives in Allegheny County, his dad lives in Westmoreland County, and his mom lives in Butler County, why are Motto, the Lawrence County Court, and Lawrence County CYS even involved in this case anymore? It seems to me that the proceedings could be moved to a county where the court is unbiased by its relationship with the maternal grandfather and therefore capable of making a decision that is truly in the “best interests” of the minor. Surely one honest judge ought to be able to be found in Pennsylvania. It may feel like you’re starting the whole process over, but most of your lost time over the years is attributable to being stuck with a corrupt court system. Maybe getting out of Lawrence County would speed things up.


Dave Thomas is a retired electric utility operations manager, has been married for over 50 years to a woman who has served as a church secretary for over two decades. They presently live in Florida after living in same Pennsylvania community for 33 years. He is a former member of the Rotary International, Chamber of Commerce, and various state and national professional organizations.


Previous installments of this unfolding story can be read here (1), here (2), here (3), here (4), here (5), here (6), here (7), here (8), and here (9).

Although it is not a part of the story of C, this is another story about the corrupt courts of Lawrence County. And then, of course, there is the thoroughly outrageous story of Jordan Brown, consisting of many posts, but summarized here.



Groove of the Day

Listen to John Lennon performing “(Just Like) Starting Over”


Weather Report

83° and Clear


big oil’s duplicity


Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago

Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.

by Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News

September 21, 2015

At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk.

His presentations reflected uncertainty running through scientific circles about the details of climate change, such as the role the oceans played in absorbing emissions. Still, Black estimated quick action was needed. “Present thinking,” he wrote in the 1978 summary, “holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

Exxon Experiment_FrontpageExxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research.

In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

This untold chapter in Exxon’s history, when one of the world’s largest energy companies worked to understand the damage caused by fossil fuels, stems from an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News. ICN’s reporters interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists, and federal officials, and consulted hundreds of pages of internal Exxon documents, many of them written between 1977 and 1986, during the heyday of Exxon’s innovative climate research program. ICN combed through thousands of documents from archives including those held at the University of Texas-Austin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The documents record budget requests, research priorities, and debates over findings, and reveal the arc of Exxon’s internal attitudes and work on climate and how much attention the results received.


Of particular significance was a project launched in August 1979, when the company outfitted a supertanker with custom-made instruments. The project’s mission was to sample carbon dioxide in the air and ocean along a route from the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf.

In 1980, Exxon assembled a team of climate modelers who investigated fundamental questions about the climate’s sensitivity to the buildup  of carbon dioxide in the air. Working with university scientists and the U.S. Department of Energy, Exxon strove to be on the cutting edge of inquiry into what was then called the greenhouse effect.

Exxon’s early determination to understand rising carbon dioxide levels grew out of a corporate culture of farsightedness, former employees said. They described a company that continuously examined risks to its bottom line, including environmental factors. In the 1970s, Exxon modeled its research division after Bell Labs, staffing it with highly accomplished scientists and engineers.

In written responses to questions about the history of its research, ExxonMobil spokesman Richard D. Keil said that “from the time that climate change first emerged as a topic for scientific study and analysis in the late 1970s, ExxonMobil has committed itself to scientific, fact-based analysis of this important issue.”

“At all times,” he said, “the opinions and conclusions of our scientists and researchers on this topic have been solidly within the mainstream of the consensus scientific opinion of the day and our work has been guided by an overarching principle to follow where the science leads. The risk of climate change is real and warrants action.”

At the outset of its climate investigations almost four decades ago, many Exxon executives, middle managers and scientists armed themselves with a sense of urgency and mission.

One manager at Exxon Research, Harold N. Weinberg, shared his “grandiose thoughts” about Exxon’s potential role in climate research in a March 1978 internal company memorandum that read: “This may be the kind of opportunity that we are looking for to have Exxon technology, management and leadership resources put into the context of a project aimed at benefitting mankind.”

His sentiment was echoed by Henry Shaw, the scientist leading the company’s nascent carbon dioxide research effort.

“Exxon must develop a credible scientific team that can critically evaluate the information generated on the subject and be able to carry bad news, if any, to the corporation,” Shaw wrote to his boss Edward E. David, the president of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1978. “This team must be recognized for its excellence in the scientific community, the government, and internally by Exxon management.”


Irreversible and Catastrophic

Exxon budgeted more than $1 million over three years for the tanker project to measure how quickly the oceans were taking in CO2. It was a small fraction of Exxon Research’s annual $300 million budget, but the question the scientists tackled was one of the biggest uncertainties in climate science: how quickly could the deep oceans absorb atmospheric CO2? If Exxon could pinpoint the answer, it would know how long it had before CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere could force a transition away from fossil fuels.

Exxon also hired scientists and mathematicians to develop better climate models and publish research results in peer-reviewed journals. By 1982, the company’s own scientists, collaborating with outside researchers, created rigorous climate models—computer programs that simulate the workings of the climate to assess the impact of emissions on global temperatures. They confirmed an emerging scientific consensus that warming could be even worse than Black had warned five years earlier.

EssoAtlanticBetween 1979 and 1982, Exxon researchers sampled carbon dioxide levels aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker (shown here).

Exxon’s research laid the groundwork for a 1982 corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change prepared by its environmental affairs office. Marked “not to be distributed externally,” it contained information that “has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.” In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming “would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.”

Unless that happened, “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered,” the primer said, citing independent experts. “Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.”

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Like others in the scientific community, Exxon researchers acknowledged the uncertainties surrounding many aspects of climate science, especially in the area of forecasting models. But they saw those uncertainties as questions they wanted to address, not an excuse to dismiss what was increasingly understood.

“Models are controversial,” Roger Cohen, head of theoretical sciences at Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories, and his colleague, Richard Werthamer, senior technology advisor at Exxon Corporation, wrote in a May 1980 status report on Exxon’s climate modeling program. “Therefore, there are research opportunities for us.”

When Exxon’s researchers confirmed information the company might find troubling, they did not sweep it under the rug.

“Over the past several years a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” Cohen wrote in September 1982, reporting on Exxon’s own analysis of climate models. It was that a doubling of the carbon dioxide blanket in the atmosphere would produce average global warming of 3 degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees C (equal to 5 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus 1.7 degrees F).

“There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate,” he wrote, “including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

He warned that publication of the company’s conclusions might attract media attention because of the “connection between Exxon’s major business and the role of fossil fuel combustion in contributing to the increase of atmospheric CO2.”

Nevertheless, he recommended publication.

Our “ethical responsibility is to permit the publication of our research in the scientific literature,” Cohen wrote. “Indeed, to do otherwise would be a breach of Exxon’s public position and ethical credo on honesty and integrity.”

Exxon followed his advice. Between 1983 and 1984, its researchers published their results in at least three peer-reviewed papers in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences and an American Geophysical Union monograph.


David, the head of Exxon Research, told a global warming conference financed by Exxon in October 1982 that “few people doubt that the world has entered an energy transition away from dependence upon fossil fuels and toward some mix of renewable resources that will not pose problems of COaccumulation.” The only question, he said, was how fast this would happen.

But the challenge did not daunt him. “I’m generally upbeat about the chances of coming through this most adventurous of all human experiments with the ecosystem,” David said.

Exxon considered itself unique among corporations for its carbon dioxide and climate research.  The company boasted in a January 1981 report, “Scoping Study on CO2,” that no other company appeared to be conducting similar in-house research into carbon dioxide, and it swiftly gained a reputation among outsiders for genuine expertise.

“We are very pleased with Exxon’s research intentions related to the CO2 question. This represents very responsible action, which we hope will serve as a model for research contributions from the corporate sector,” said David Slade, manager of the federal government’s carbon dioxide research program at the Energy Department, in a May 1979 letter to Shaw. “This is truly a national and international service.”

Business Imperatives

In the early 1980s Exxon researchers often repeated that unbiased science would give it legitimacy in helping shape climate-related laws that would affect its profitability.

Still, corporate executives remained cautious about what they told Exxon’s shareholders about global warming and the role petroleum played in causing it, a review of federal filings shows. The company did not elaborate on the carbon problem in annual reports filed with securities regulators during the height of its CO2 research.

Nor did it mention in those filings that concern over CO2 was beginning to influence business decisions it was facing.

Throughout the 1980s, the company was worried about developing an enormous gas field off the coast of Indonesia because of the vast amount of CO2 the unusual reservoir would release.

Exxon was also concerned about reports that synthetic oil made from coal, tar sands and oil shales could significantly boost CO2 emissions. The company was banking on synfuels to meet growing demand for energy in the future, in a world it believed was running out of conventional oil.

In the mid-1980s, after an unexpected oil glut caused prices to collapse, Exxon cut its staff deeply to save money, including many working on climate. But the climate change problem remained, and it was becoming a more prominent part of the political landscape.

“Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” declared the headline of a June 1988 New York Times article describing the Congressional testimony of NASA’s James Hansen, a leading climate expert. Hansen’s statements compelled Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) to declare during the hearing that “Congress must begin to consider how we are going to slow or halt that warming trend.”

With alarm bells suddenly ringing, Exxon started financing efforts to amplify doubt about the state of climate science.

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

As the international community moved in 1997 to take a first step in curbing emissions with the Kyoto Protocol, Exxon’s chairman and CEO Lee Raymond argued to stop it.

“Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond,” Raymond said in his speech before the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing in October 1997.

“We need to understand the issue better, and fortunately, we have time,” he said. “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

Over the years, several Exxon scientists who had confirmed the climate consensus during its early research, including Cohen and David, took Raymond’s side, publishing views that ran contrary to the scientific mainstream.

Paying the Price

Exxon’s about-face on climate change earned the scorn of the scientific establishment it had once courted.

In 2006, the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s science academy, sent a harsh letter to Exxon accusing it of being “inaccurate and misleading” on the question of climate uncertainty. Bob Ward, the Academy’s senior manager for policy communication, demanded that Exxon stop giving money to dozens of organizations he said were actively distorting the science.

In 2008, under mounting pressure from activist shareholders, the company announced it would end support for some prominent groups such as those Ward had identified.

Still, the millions of dollars Exxon had spent since the 1990s on climate change deniers had long surpassed what it had once invested in its path-breaking climate science aboard the Esso Atlantic.

“They spent so much money and they were the only company that did this kind of research as far as I know,” Edward Garvey, who was a key researcher on Exxon’s oil tanker project, said in a recent interview with InsideClimate News and Frontline. “That was an opportunity not just to get a place at the table, but to lead, in many respects, some of the discussion. And the fact that they chose not to do that into the future is a sad point.”

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, who has been a frequent target of climate deniers, said that inaction, just like actions, have consequences. When he recently spoke to InsideClimate News, he was unaware of this chapter in Exxon’s history.

“All it would’ve taken is for one prominent fossil fuel CEO to know this was about more than just shareholder profits, and a question about our legacy,” he said. “But now because of the cost of inaction—what I call the ‘procrastination penalty’—we face a far more uphill battle.”


Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer are staff writers for InsideClimate News. ICN staff members Zahra Hirji, Paul Horn, Naveena Sadasivam, Sabrina Shankman and Alexander Wood also contributed to this report.


grammer error’s


One of the difficulties of hosting a blog is dealing with some of the comments I get. I’m sorry to admit how thin-skinned I am, but I cannot help but be dismayed at the deteriorating state of grammar in our country. It seems it’s endemic to the whole society. I’m certain I even screw up at times.

If I am particularly fond of certain responders, sometimes I correct grammatical errors that would embarrass me were I to make them; but in most cases, I just let comments run as submitted. They represent authentic voices, I say. Yet comments on the blog are just the tip of the iceberg.

The other day, the weather outside was particularly noisy, so I turned on the closed-caption function on my television. Boy, was I ever surprised at the literacy level (or should I say illiteracy level) of the people the studios hire to write the captions! You would think that the studios would submit their employees’ work to proofreading, but I’d guess this would be expensive and that audiences for closed-captioning are deemed not worth the effort.

I was watching a Bill Maher stand-up concert, and these are but a few of the errors I saw: “pee tree” instead of “petri;” “dilution” instead of “delusion;” “prekian” instead of “Puerto Rican;” “man kin” instead of “mannequin;” “affliction” instead of “asphyxiation;” “I’d logical” instead of “ideological;” “hon rarey” instead of “honorary.” Bill Maher is an intelligent comic, and presumably his audience considers itself a cut above the “goober nation” Maher relishes in ridiculing; such ignorant captioning which is clueless of the syntax and context of Maher’s jokes seriously undercuts the (wink-wink) understanding that Maher shares with his audience. I am surprised he would stand for it if he knew how poorly he is being served.

This is an issue that should concern us all. In business, knowing how to fashion an interesting and intelligent sentence is essential to communicating effectively, winning business, and setting one’s self apart. More than two-thirds of salaried jobs require a significant amount of writing, yet top organizations are spending $3 billion per year on remedial training for employees to bring their writing ability up to even a baseline standard. Clear writing means clear thinking.

Good grammar may make the difference between making it or not in the business world. Says John Challenger, the CEO of an outplacement consulting firm: “One of the easiest, quickest and most widely used indicators of a candidate’s worth is his or her grammar. Misspellings, poor syntax and grammatical mistakes typically result in a swift relegation to the ‘no’ pile; the decision makers reason that the errors disclose either poor communication skills or an indifference toward details.”

Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, argues: “[Students in public schools] are largely taught that grammar is unimportant compared with ‘expressing yourself.’ This makes me crazy. Imagine it’s the piano we are talking about. Which would be better: a) to express yourself freely on it; or b) first learn to play the thing? Of course, the difference is that people are not judged every day on their ability to play the piano. Kyle Wiens is right to point out that when young people are taught to undervalue literacy as a life skill, they are being cruelly misled.”

According to (a really entertaining website) the five most common grammar mistakes are: it’s and its; there, their, and they’re; subject-verb agreement; comma slices; and apostrophes. Yet grammar errors do lead to some particularly amusing results.

I hope you are entertained by these examples.











drop your pants.











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79° Cloudy and Rain, Clearing in Afternoon



This guy is flirting with death, and my guess is that no one would be surprised if he gets an umbrella-tip prick in the leg when he least expects it.

When I checked yesterday, the editing of the Wikipedia article on “Martin Shkreli,” the founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was disabled due to vandalism, and Turing Pharmaceuticals’ website was down. Not exactly a positive initial response to Shkreli’s strategy of Turing raising its price for a 60-year-old drug used in the treatment of HIV from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight. Anyone who has been following gay-related politics since the Stonewall Riots will not accuse Shkreli’s instant adversaries of having short memories. Even if Shkreli should make it to old age, I predict they will get him eventually.

As the story below illustrates, Shkreli does a fairly competent job of applying lipstick to a pig, but his actions demonstrate everything that is wrong with our current greed-driven health care delivery system. I’m not proud of my animosity, but let’s just hope that Shkreli‘s future illness is particularly lethal, painful, ugly, and expensive to treat.



Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight

by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

September 20, 2015

Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection.

The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“What is it that they are doing differently that has led to this dramatic increase?” said Dr. Judith Aberg, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She said the price increase could force hospitals to use “alternative therapies that may not have the same efficacy.”

Turing’s price increase is not an isolated example. While most of the attention on pharmaceutical prices has been on new drugs for diseases like cancer, hepatitis C and high cholesterol, there is also growing concern about huge price increases on older drugs, some of them generic, that have long been mainstays of treatment.

Although some price increases have been caused by shortages, others have resulted from a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-priced “specialty drugs.”

Cycloserine, a drug used to treat dangerous multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, was just increased in price to $10,800 for 30 pills from $500 after its acquisition by Rodelis Therapeutics. Scott Spencer, general manager of Rodelis, said the company needed to invest to make sure the supply of the drug remained reliable. He said the company provided the drug free to certain needy patients.

In August, two members of Congress investigating generic drug price increases wrote to Valeant Pharmaceuticals after that company acquired two heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, from Marathon Pharmaceuticals and promptly raised their prices by 525 percent and 212 percent respectively. Marathon had acquired the drugs from another company in 2013 and had quintupled their prices, according to the lawmakers, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland.

Doxycycline, an antibiotic, went from $20 a bottle in October 2013 to $1,849 by April 2014, according to the two lawmakers.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint letter to Turing earlier this month calling the price increase for Daraprim “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and “unsustainable for the health care system.” An organization representing the directors of state AIDS programs has also been looking into the price increase, according to doctors and patient advocates.

Daraprim, known generically as pyrimethamine, is used mainly to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasite infection that can cause serious or even life-threatening problems for babies born to women who become infected during pregnancy, and also for people with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients.

Martin Shkreli, the founder and chief executive of Turing, said that the drug is so rarely used that the impact on the health system would be minuscule and that Turing would use the money it earns to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis, with fewer side effects.

“This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Mr. Shkreli said. He said that many patients use the drug for far less than a year and that the price was now more in line with those of other drugs for rare diseases.

“This is still one of the smallest pharmaceutical products in the world,” he said. “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”

This is not the first time the 32-year-old Mr. Shkreli, who has a reputation for both brilliance and brashness, has been the center of controversy. He started MSMB Capital, a hedge fund company, in his 20s and drew attention for urging the Food and Drug Administration not to approve certain drugs made by companies whose stock he was shorting.

In 2011, Mr. Shkreli started Retrophin, which also acquired old neglected drugs and sharply raised their prices. Retrophin’s board fired Mr. Shkreli a year ago. Last month, it filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accusing him of using Retrophin as a personal piggy bank to pay back angry investors in his hedge fund.

Mr. Shkreli has denied the accusations. He has filed for arbitration against his old company, which he says owes him at least $25 million in severance. “They are sort of concocting this wild and crazy and unlikely story to swindle me out of the money,” he said.

Daraprim, which is also used to treat malaria, was approved by the FDA in 1953 and has long been made by GlaxoSmithKline. Glaxo sold United States marketing rights to CorePharma in 2010. Last year, Impax Laboratories agreed to buy Core and affiliated companies for $700 million. In August, Impax sold Daraprim to Turing for $55 million, a deal announced the same day Turing said it had raised $90 million from Mr. Shkreli and other investors in its first round of financing.

Daraprim cost only about $1 a tablet several years ago, but the drug’s price rose sharply after CorePharma acquired it. According to IMS Health, which tracks prescriptions, sales of the drug jumped to $6.3 million in 2011 from $667,000 in 2010, even as prescriptions held steady at about 12,700. In 2014, after further price increases, sales were $9.9 million, as the number of prescriptions shrank to 8,821. The figures do not include inpatient use in hospitals.

Turing’s price increase could bring sales to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year if use remains constant. Medicaid and certain hospitals will be able to get the drug inexpensively under federal rules for discounts and rebates. But private insurers, Medicare and hospitalized patients would have to pay an amount closer to the list price.

Some doctors questioned Turing’s claim that there was a need for better drugs, saying the side effects, while potentially serious, could be managed.

“I certainly don’t think this is one of those diseases where we have been clamoring for better therapies,” said Dr. Wendy Armstrong, professor of infectious diseases at Emory University in Atlanta.

With the price now high, other companies could conceivably make generic copies, since patents have long expired. One factor that could discourage that option is that Daraprim’s distribution is now tightly controlled, making it harder for generic companies to get the samples they need for the required testing.

The switch from drugstores to controlled distribution was made in June by Impax, not by Turing. Still, controlled distribution was a strategy Mr. Shkreli talked about at his previous company as a way to thwart generics.

Some hospitals say they now have trouble getting the drug. “We’ve not had access to the drug for a few months,” said Dr. Armstrong, who also works at Grady Memorial Hospital, a huge public treatment center in Atlanta that serves many low-income patients.

But Dr. Rima McLeod, medical director of the toxoplasmosis center at the University of Chicago, said that Turing had been good about delivering drugs quickly to patients, sometimes without charge.

“They have jumped every time I’ve called,” she said. The situation, she added, “seems workable” despite the price increase.

Daraprim is the standard first treatment for toxoplasmosis, in combination with an antibiotic called sulfadiazine. There are alternative treatments, but there is less data supporting their efficacy.

Dr. Aberg of Mount Sinai said some hospitals will now find Daraprim too expensive to keep in stock, possibly resulting in treatment delays. She said that Mount Sinai was continuing to use the drug, but each use now required a special review.

“This seems to be all profit-driven for somebody,” Dr. Aberg said, “and I just think it’s a very dangerous process.”



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94° and Clear


PS: While not the first huge overnight price increase for a drug, this story touched a public nerve and intensified calls from lawmakers for measures to control the rising cost of medicines. After fiercely defending the price increase in various interviews and on Twitter for two days, Shkreli backed down a bit late Tuesday. He told television news networks that the price of the drug, Daraprim, would be lowered, though he did not specify what the new price would be.

PPS: When Shkreli didn’t make good on his promise, a pharmaceutical company called Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced on October 22 that they will offer an alternative to Daraprim—the drug whose 5,550% price gouge caused nationwide outrage—and intend to sell it for $1 a pill. Shkreli is reportedly pissed that his scheme has gone up in smoke.

PPPS: (December 17, 2015) It was announced today that Martin Shkreli was arrested by federal agents at his Manhattan home early Thursday morning (yesterday) on securities fraud related to Turing Pharmaceuticals, a firm he founded and headed until he was fired. I can’t say I’m surprised or upset.


autumnal equinox 2015


Tonight at 3:22 am (or should I say, in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning, September 23) the Autumnal Equinox will occur once again.

This quarter—from the Fall Equinox to the Winter Solstice—is the most challenging time of year for me as the days grow shorter and colder and nature appears to go barren and die. It seems the older I get, the more weary I become of this ebbing of the tides of life. It takes a special effort for me to remain positive and thankful for what life provides. I must remind myself that without this season of diminishment, the growth of light and life would not seem so sweet and beautiful when it eventually happens.

This task is made easier because September-December brings a a constellation of holidays and holy days that are invested with significant meanings and social traditions. From the earliest days of our history, the Fall Equinox was a sign that the final harvest of crops was occurring. People would gather around to share and celebrate the abundance they had garnered. It is the time of year when we prepare for winter hibernation and stockpile extra supplies to withstand the adversity which will surely accompany the severe weather ahead.

This is a time of year where it is very important to remain in the light as much as possible, and therefore literally and figuratively invite light into our lives. We stoke the hearth, light candles, and turn up the heat. We bring illumination into our lives by inviting our friends and family over to share in our company and celebrate with food and drink.

It is the season when some cultures and spiritual traditions take time to remember those who have died and wish them well on their journey into the next world. There is a great stirring in our souls and we contemplate our own adulthood and mortality. As we gather to pay tribute to those who have gone, we give thanks for our memories and enduring ties.

We gather with those whom we love, we pause to reflect on who we are, where we are, and how we got here. After celebrating and showing our appreciation for others, we assess what we want to do differently from now on. We grow, even as the year seems to die.

Without this “death,” growth would be impossible.




Weather Report

88° and Partly Sunny


choosing symbol systems

I’m starting this post early Sunday morning, and a part of me wants to be at church.

Hat Bailey 1Before you think that I’m finally coming around or experiencing doubts, let me explain. Today is Hat Bailey’s birthday, and part of me wants to be present and experience the outpouring of support he will certainly be shown. Hat has so many friends, and his congregation will probably be planning something special to observe their good fortune that Hat is in their lives. I’d like to see that, and I just called my neighbor asking her if I could tag along.

“But it doesn’t mean anything,” I was anxious to explain. “I just admire Hat that much.”

She said she understood, but I suspect there is probably a part of her that hopes I am vulnerable to conversion. Most women think it is their duty to reform the “wayward man,” despite anything they may say.

Since I was a kid and read Holden Caulfield’s story, I have always been hyper-vigilant about being in a position where I could be accused of being a phony, especially in matters touching on religion and spirituality. I have consistently stood apart and alone. I have always resisted being proselytized or advocating any particular system of beliefs, even to my own son. I have steadfastly believed—and it has been my personal experience—that God would reveal himself to me through a symbol system particular to me… and so it happened when the runes revealed themselves as at least 24 aspects (or faces) of the one “higher power” that we call God.

runesThe Elder Futhark is an “alphabet” of 24 runes, each of which (either explicitly or through correspondences) describe a wavelength of energy which exists independently and eternally in the Universe. There are many more wavelengths than 24 (an infinite number in fact), and many more runes, too—but these 24 characters have been identified through human experience and tradition as a complete taxonomy which reveals a unified whole. I find them to be indescribably beautiful.

I resolved to attend this service after hearing an interview on the radio this week with Nadia Bolz-Weber, the founding pastor of the Lutheran “House for All Sinners and Saints” in Denver CO.  She is an unlikely cleric: she has sleeve tattoos, lifts weights, and swears like a sailor. Her congregation attracts junkies, drag queens, atheists, and other outsiders—even, I suppose, a pagan or two—as well as a growing number of straights. The thing which attracted my attention (aside from the fact that you could attend a church service without being a poseur) was when Bolz-Weber mentioned that one of the most revolutionary things happening today is that a growing number of people are choosing their own symbol systems of belief. Her words seemed to validate my own experience.


Well, I attended the service, and the congregation didn’t make as big a deal out of Hat’s birthday as I had hoped. But I was nevertheless pleased that I put in a showing. The sermon was good, and the handful of people there seemed genuinely appreciative of my presence. I can honestly say that this reception (plus whatever residual energy had attached itself to that building) imparted a special feeling of peace which I would probably not been aware of had I remained at home.

Hat’s sermon was about “higher order” laws that seem to encapsulate less numerous and prescriptive features which require more thinking by people seeking to live in accordance with them. I have seen an example of this phenomenon in the experience of kids who grew up in prison where their every move is governed by a zillion rules that eliminate the need for inmates to invest or participate in them. As a result, these kids emerge from prison unaccustomed to thinking for themselves. Hat said that one way to judge the evil in a society is by the number of laws on the books—the more laws and regulations, the more corrupt the society. If there were fewer laws, people would have to evaluate their actions at a meaning-level, and we would live in a better world.

My experience has been validated yet again.



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84° and Partly Cloudy, Rain at Night