Recent Articles

New Study: United States no longer a Democracy

Is the U.S. government following the will of the People? The answer is no, according to a new study:

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

[Cartoon by Jonik reprinted here with his permission]

Jonik cartoon

November 5, 2014 | By | 4 Replies More

Apathist: New option for declaring one’s religious outlook

“Apathist”: someone not particularly interested in the God issue. I do think this is the direction in which I’m headed. Much more of a conversation piece than atheist and agnostic. I learned of the word “apathist” while reading Frans de Waal’s FB wall.

November 4, 2014 | By | Reply More

Primaries for the one percent make elections irrelevant

Excellent 6 min video by Lawrence Lessig illustrates that a tiny slice of Americans control our Congressional primaries, making general elections unimportant. Our Owners run our elections much like the Chinese elites are running Hong Kong’s elections. What’s different is that residents of Hong Kong are demonstrating in huge numbers to force change and we are generally complacent. That is in large part because our “news” ignores our huge problem. We have allowed democracy to die in America. Lessig challenges us – are we willing to fight for it?

Quote by Boss Tweed near the beginning: “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.” Private money primaries make elections almost irrelevant. Lawrence Lessig nails it here.

November 1, 2014 | By | Reply More

Why there are not any civilizations without temples – Video featuring Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt explains why there are not any civilizations without temples, starting at minute 14 of this video. This is the 2013 Boyarsky Lecture at Duke University. About 10,000 years we went from an almost instantaneous transition from hunter-gathers to Babylon. A huge part of our evolutionary development is this newly learned ability of humans to circling around sacred objects (religious and political objects are two dominant examples) in order to form teams. As we circle around, we generate a social energy that knits the social fabric, but also encourages Manichean thinking–us versus them, blinding us to our own faults and faulty thinking. No shades of gray are allowed when we are intensely groupish. This kind of groupish thinking is radically incompatible with scientific thinking. Science is squeezed out, replaced by sacred objects, groupishness and authoritarian obeisance.

At min 24, Haidt gets to the crux of his talk. Those of us who focus on the “care” (empathy) foundation of morality, often circle about it bonding with others like us, rejecting and denigrating the impulses and ideas that tend to drive those who are politically conservative.

October 31, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

Quotes by Pema Chodron

A friend recently suggested Pema Chödrön as an insightful writer on issues of mindfulness and self-awareness. I was not disappointed. Here are some of my favorites:

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”

“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ”

“The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. . . Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. . . Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.”

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

October 30, 2014 | By | Reply More

Lee Camp’s Latest

Lee Camp’s latest. I really admire and enjoy his videos. Too bad so many of us have to reach for comedy to get real news, however.

October 23, 2014 | By | Reply More

Tony Robbins discusses tuning in and being productive

A friend recently told me about Tony Robbins. I had heard the name but didn’t appreciate who he actually was. This extended interview of Robbins by another productivity guru, Tim Ferriss, is well worth your time. I’m only half-way through and much of what Robbins says is resonating with me.

October 22, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

How to be productive rather than busy

Eric Barker offers some excellent advice on how to stop being busy. I’m really appreciating and implementing many of the ideas he so succinctly presents. This article urges that you stop being busy and start being productive. Here’s the nutshell:

Just because the other people at the office are overscheduled and the other parents are doing 1000 things doesn’t mean you need to.

We all only have 1440 minutes a day. Accept you can’t do it all, focus on what’s important and do that well.

We’re all jealous of the people who are calm and cool under pressure. Be that person.

Next time someone asks how you’re doing, don’t talk about how busy you are. Don’t get sucked into thinking busy means important.

Busy doesn’t make you important. Doing the important things you need to do makes you important.

I could spend hours reading Barker’s summaries of his science-based self-improvement advice, which seems counter-productive.  But I’m going to work hard to implement many of these suggestions–many of them ring true.

Related excellent article by Eric Barker: 6 Things The Most Productive People Do Every Day Here’s the intro:

People work an average of 45 hours a week; they consider about 17 of those hours to be unproductive (U.S.: 45 hours a week; 16 hours are considered unproductive).

Lots of good advice on how not to fritter away one’s time.

October 22, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

Piano lesson by Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson was one of my favorite musicians. He could do it all, from soft ballads to fiery solos. In this clip, he demonstrates some of the styles of other piano greats as well as some of his own techniques.

Here’s more on Oscar’s life and music.

October 21, 2014 | By | Reply More