The Phil Ferguson Show – 106

Guests – Jason Torpy, Mario Mouton & Joey Kirkman (more below)

The price of oil. Is it just supply vs. demand?

Story on oil from Forbes.

Initial Jobless Claims….

A measure of the number of jobless claims filed by individuals seeking to receive state jobless benefits. This number is watched closely by financial analysts because it provides insight into the direction of the economy. Higher initial claims correlate with a weakening economy.

Unemployment rate is now 5.6%

Stock Market Returns (link for all of the numbers discussed in the show)

The Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund was up 12.43% (2014)

Investing for just 5 years, the worst case is a loss of 2.35% and you have a 90% chance of doing better than -0.47% in total returns. When you look at the 10 year results the worst is -1.38% and there is a 90% chance that you will do better than +5.86%.

Continue reading

Firebrand Atheism

firebrand_atheismAtheism has to deal with a lot of growing up pains. Big names like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Michael Shermer have faced an onslaught of criticism for being too conservative, didactically judgmental, or just plain obliviously sexist, racist, or disablest, with even accusation of misdeeds. It’s no longer an old white tent without contestation.

There have also been accusations that there is a “Big Atheism” and it’s too confrontational. We could see the start of it a few years ago when Religious News Network hired crossover atheists like Chris Steadman, who calls himself an interfaith activist or a Faithiest, where atheists should treat the religious respectfully.

Then there is the periodic concern that Atheist bulletin boards are too aggressive. As Massimo Pigliucci put forth.

“Few will listen to you if you start out the conversation by telling them that they are idiots.“. The counter argument to that is “The billboards are instead aimed at closeted atheists, trying to encourage them to come out and be counted“.

Again it’s really not new as Alternet and others said back in 2009.

The New Atheist movement is being led by several egomaniac intolerant fundamentalists. It’s relevant to ask about who they are, not just what they say or write, because the New Atheism isn’t just about non-belief in God. The leaders of this movement make loud, repeated, and bold claims about atheism being better and more moral, more ethical, and a vastly improved alternative to religion. They also name names when blasting religious leaders.

Now it’s being called Firebrand Atheism.

The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, defines firebrand atheism as simply telling the truth about religion, with the emphasis on the telling. He says we should make clear that it’s religious beliefs we’re attacking, not the person. He says, “I’m not attacking humans; I’m attacking those humans’ silly beliefs.”

Aaah for the old days when rebels would just create new organizations and do admin changes. Anyone remember Ellen Johnson, in 2008, who was run out because she said there should be a movement to not vote, to show strength?

“I didn’t vote because I’m tired of being ignored by the politicians… because I’m an atheist. All of the candidates court the religious voters and ignore me.”

She then urges the 11% of non-religious voters to “stay home” during the 2008 general elections.

Of course telling people to promote not voting is like rubbing salt in the wound of activism, and she had also said to vote shortly before. My, my. What she was looking for was attention of a big block not voting and they would ask why. Because there were and are no choices. No minority is represented less than atheists that I know of.

Silverman has brought in some statistics noting that until New Atheism there wasn’t much comment or recognition, with contrary comment back from his friend Massimo.

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci concluded in a recent essay that Silverman’s kind of analysis “ought to be done by professional statisticians and social scientists in order to be convincing,” and that “the evidence adduced by [Silverman] to justify his firebrand atheism is shaky and inconclusive to say the least.” Pigliucci points out that one of Silverman’s own sources, sociologist Ryan Cragun, questions the validity of Silverman’s conclusions. Pigliucci quotes Cragun as saying, “causality cannot be statistically determined between whether searches for ‘American Atheists’ cause searches for ‘atheists’ or vice versa.”

Of course it’s impossible to really know since there haven’t been double-blind tests. Nor do we   know how atheism would had progressed without the New Atheist movement. It seems hard to believe that atheism would have gone as far as it has without raising controversy with such pejoratives as poisoning, no god, and delusion.

There is a current push to have a lovable fool, which feeds into popular anti-intellectualism..

As the authors wrote in the study: “Because they are liked by a disproportionate number of people, lovable fools can bridge gaps between diverse groups that might not otherwise interact.” That likeability factor is exactly what is needed in order to improve atheism’s image—and shift the Overton Window. The authors also say that since people are more likely to listen to likeable colleagues, we should “have widely liked individuals serve as evangelists for important change initiatives.”

Yet, the fear of hell has promoted more people to Christianity and Islam than the promise of heaven. These most successful religions won by conquest and domination. If softness were the most powerful influence, pagan and pacifist religions would have dominated. That’s why the all powerful equalizing single god made such a big tent effective.

In US history religious influence was formed by fervent preachers insisting that there be religious statements such as in god we trust and under god as well as national prayers and so forth. If you read their appeals there is no softness. Lincoln may  to have liked them but their appeals was the strongest voice around. The moderates swayed to the heavy voices. The trope is the squeaky wheel gets greased.

Indeed history is written by those who aggressively set forth in the world. It’s not a pleasant observation as most of us prefer peace but over and over again people have chosen authority and strength to form successful cultural and social change.

Clearly the Firebrand atheists don’t intend terrorism and physical harm but it is clear that Islamist terrorism has a disturbing effect of quelling opposition rather than raising it. Instead of objection to Islamist ideology, liberals and moderates point to imperialism and colonialism as the cause of problems rather then the direct ideology. Even when the extremists insist it is their ideology and not history or material issues moderates apologize for behavior they would find intolerable in their own. Liberals sided with free speech in Charlie Hebdo but refused to publish their cartoons under the guise of security, and apologetic tolerance of the terrorism.

The reaction to Charlie Hebdo was at first sympathetic and then rapidly twisted to justification for the terrorism, slipping into classic victim blaming. I fear that unless at least some atheists are firebrands the movement will stagnate. People like Dennett predicted the world would have gone secular by now and atheists aren;t even represented in government. Change against such requires strength. Even Gandhi knew nonviolence can only come after there is power.

I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race. I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.

But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Forgiveness adorns a soldier…But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature….But I do not believe India to be helpless….I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature….Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Jim Newman,

The Phil Ferguson Show – 104

Guest – James Croft

Rotary International

“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.” —Paul P. Harris

Our 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man—Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.

Our ongoing commitment


Rotarians have not only been present for major events in history—we’ve been a part of them. From the beginning, three key traits have remained strong throughout Rotary:

We’re truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today we’re working together from around the globe both digitally and in-person to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.

We persevere in tough times. During WWII, Rotary clubs in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Japan were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally and following the war’s end, Rotary members joined together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.

Our commitment to service is ongoing. We began our fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. By 2012, only three countries remain polio-endemic—down from 125 in 1988.

Find a Rotary club almost anywhere in the world on this page….

Learn about Rotary Youth Exchange.

Are you interested in learning a new language or meeting new people? Rotary Youth Exchange is the opportunity of a lifetime for the more than 8,000 students who participate each year. By sharing your own culture and embracing a new one, you help foster global understanding—and learn a great deal about yourself and your home country in the process.

Help Rotary End Polio NOW!

Rotary, along with , has reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. We are close to eradicating polio, but we need your help. Whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, here are some ways to make a global impact and protect children against polio forever.

Is Rotary a Christian Organization?

Paul Harris saw the importance of this and discussed it in two places in his book, The Rotarian Age. He said:

To create a harmonious environment for the fellowship that held clubs together, Rotary discouraged religious and political positions. (p. 91)


“The 1905 members of the Rotary Club of Chicago, so valued the friendship of their fellow-members that they put a ban upon religious and political discussions, fearing that they might become disturbing factors, and they were richly rewarded for their foresight.” (p. 59). [emphasis added]

James CroftJames Croft

James Croft is a Humanist activist and public speaker who has swiftly become one of the best-known new faces in Humanism today. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently studying for his Doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As a leader in training in the Ethical Culture movement – a national movement of Humanist congregations – he is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book “The Godless Congregation”, co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

Blog: Temple of the Future

Ethical Society of St. Louis

The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a welcoming home for a group of people from various religious backgrounds in the major faiths, as well as agnostics and atheists, who come together to celebrate our journey through life and affirm our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Some of our members and visitors concurrently attend their more mainstream houses of worship (such as a churches or synagogues) sometime during the week and then join us on Sundays and, perhaps, during the week for our other programs.


Please like the Facebook page…

iTunes link….

RSS feed to add to your favorite podcast player

NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing education series. This information is for educational purposes only. This information does not constitute investment advice. Please consult with your financial advisor before taking any action.

For planning advice contact Polaris Financial Planning.



The Trope of Dawkins Mouth


I bid on some repair work on a house recently purchased by a psychotherapist. The work wasn’t much but some of it wasn’t right for me or needed to be done in warmer weather, though conceivably it could be done in the cold. But to me it could wait. For him he seemed anxious to have it done. I’ll have to figure out how to parse this in the bid for him.

We were talking about his bad knee, the dangers of ladders, and so forth when he noted he doesn’t like to call it a bad knee but a surgically corrected knee. This helps him keep a positive attitude about it and helps heal it. This led to more discussion where he praised homeopathy. I responded that I certainly believed in the placebo effect but homeopathy not so much as more than that. This clearly concerned him and he went on about how he had had this horrible disease that was only cured by homeopathy. Further that James Randi had backed out of a homeopathy test, presumably because he thought it would pass and he’d have to pay the million.

I noted that the placebo effect works on depression and pain more than say cancer and then even with cancer some types are more amenable to it. That it was a complicated subject. Further that many homeopaths spend considerable time with their patients rather than the typical 11-minute doctor visit; that medicine had shot itself in the foot with its inability to inform and develop relationships.

Driving home I felt I could have handled it a bit better. Rather than arguing even as lightly as I had I could have just flown over it by saying that I was glad he was better but I had questions about homeopathy and how it really worked. When is arguing appropriate or necessary?  How do we do it to be effective? What words nudge people in the right direction without alienating? It’s a difficult process that even the best do poorly. Tim Minchin has talked about this and certainly comedy or self effacing indulgence has a way of sliding in change,

Richard Dawkins doubled down on his controversial remarks in a recent article.

“I don’t take back anything that I’ve said,” Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. “I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being misunderstood and so I will … ”

He trailed off momentarily, gazing at his hands resting on a patio table.

“I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well,” he said. “There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me.”

Ok, let’s back up a bit. Especially since I am one of the so-called thought police (an idiotic phrase since there is no authoritarian power or mandate) that has made many comments trying to get this famous thought leader (an odious phrase at best) to broaden his perspective or at least to learn how to phrase his opinions more accurately and kindly. I have also previously contextualized Dawkins to his background to show he is at least consistent and we should not be surprised, but nevertheless annoyed if not angry. Most of the issues Dawkins abrades people with is based on priorities and the comparative ills of different sorts of issues from abuse to women to choices in birthing.

Many atheists are aware that Dawkins dismissed another atheist’s remarks (Rebecca Watson) who stated that there is still sexism, too much, in our culture and particularly in atheism. Certainly not surprising considering the history of American atheism in spite of women like EC Stanton, MM O’hare, and many more, often unspoken. It doesn’t take a math pro to see that for decades atheist groups and boards were dominated by men, usually older white men, and still are.

What Dawkins was trying to do was dismiss Watson’s voice of concern by saying there are far worse crimes against women in other parts of the world to which we should all be focusing our attention as completely as possible. It’s a classic big tent concentration tactic where the hope is if everyone fights fewer issues there will be more success. Pick the biggest and worst problem(s) and focus on it.

This tactic rarely works unless there is an obvious biggest priority such as aliens have attacked the Earth and we all must fight them or die. Even then there will be disagreement on how best to do that. It also leads to the kind of intransigent bipolar politics everyone claims to hate.

In our diversity people choose a way based on their history, interests, and and what they think is important to them. This is also based on the style of social interaction and politics. If a platform is a single-issue platform then leaders will tend to focus on that platform only. Much like people will vote on a candidate on a single issue like abortion, or gun rights, or even color of skin or gender. Makes decisions more easy. Others though see nuances or many divisions in a platform and interconnectedness within issues. A person committed to women’s rights may see immigration, gun control, equal representation, and abortion rights as all being part of the same pathology of a culture where you can’t comment on one without commenting on the rest.

I believe it was Voltaire who said we must tend our on gardens first. It is not an idiotic, unusual, or unpopular position that feminists take when they say we need to pay attention to what’s happening here and that it is intricately connected to what’s happening there.

As another example, Dawkins also made a leaked personal comment recommending that a woman whose child tested for Down’s Syndrome simply abort and try again as many do and as is often recommended, medical status quo. Of course those who have chosen not to abort told him roughly to go to hell. Dawkins unfamiliar with being criticized by his own kind, fellow atheists, reacted as you would expect with facts and data showing how much more difficult one is and why doctors might recommend the one over the other. All clear as glass to him. As if the others hadn’t worked through the reasoning already and chosen another way.

We have seen similar in another example where EO Wilson has called Dawkins a journalist now and Dawkins has responded with a recent book (published 20 some years ago) as contrary argument. Ants do look a lot like group selection and many have said that the Selfish Gene is out dated–just how many degrees of separation are required. Now we have two scientists bashing each other as well as is too often the case. That a scientist is called a journalist as ultimate hate speech has any reasonable person laughing in the aisle and leaving for a whiskey or whisky.

Oh, fuck all this meta shit. The fact is Dawkins is a conservative that doesn’t get how to be an activist. Nor does he get that people can have differences in choices that are equally worthy of respect. It is quite possible for one woman to say I don’t want to have a child that has tested for Down’s Syndrome as it is for another to say I do.  To dismiss either position as a farce is to deny the very real freedom to choose for good reason. To make facile utilitarian comparisons that it is so much more effort to do one than the other is quite irrelevant. It’s what the individual chooses to do that counts. What’s important is the right to make that choice. If a society were to make it illegal to have a child with Down’s Syndrome then we actually have a real political issue, such as a similar but converse issue where women aren’t allowed to abort. Otherwise it gets rather personal. It’s why we almost all react negatively to Singer’s and Harris’s utilitarianism, a philosophy Fred Hagen used to castigate as belonging to that blockhead Mill. It’s too much like the mathematics of war where death is just a number and strategists lose all humanity in calculating tactics. Nor the ability to look broadly enough to see how comprehensiveness has more value than myopia.

That scientists go this way is often due to making logic god, bad logic that is. That human consciousness should come together in a supercomputer that could make such a choice perfect for all is a nightmare of oppression. I am sure the people will destroy such a computer once it exists. The bludgeon of logical perfection is too often used to perpetuate what is at best a guess. Even the famous at Risk Analysis throttle narrow logical assessments as Nassim Taleb does when he makes clear that the dangers of GMO use  have nothing to do with data and evidence but must incorporate pure math, not evidence, and then shows how the logic of feeding all with one product is a recipe for disaster. It points both ways, evidence doesn’t count nor more compartmentalized logic.

Dawkins is like the classic Anglo, Roman, or Hoplite soldier convinced that battle occurs in one style best, only. And as the British, Romans, and Greeks were defeated by guerrilla tactics, thinking that one way is best for all is doomed logically to failure because risk analysis doesn’t work that way. Nor does science if you follow the math.

Sadly, the lack of desire for the virtue of care negates the ability to consider a contrary view as viable. It’s why logicians are taught to argue both sides and scientists to consider what it means if the available data is all wrong.

Finally, if Dawkins is seeking allies it would be productive to find more common ground and more inclusive ground than to continue bickering over who’s the most right. If he’s not seeking allies then stop complaining.

For those who dismiss Dawkins and burn his books I would say that perhaps they would benefit from paying attention to what he says is true to them and ignoring what is not. It is a sad world where every person is on one side of a dividing line or not. But that’s just my take. For me if I had to choose a philosopher who is most correct I would be at a complete loss.

Jim Newman,

The Mistake of Hating Kim Kardashian

188110552AC126_Celebrity_SiKim Kardashian posed naked for cover and article in Paper and more pertinently posed in a back-arching posture that emphasized her ass and enabled her to balance a glass on it. Many reacted to her nudity as the issue while many remarked on the racist origins of big asses and considered her to be enabling modern racism. Basically the issue is black people were considered hypersexual and the big ass was proof of their unredeemable sexuality. Indeed my own ancestor Sally Watkins was arrested for fraternizing with blacks way back in the 1600’s. The antithesis of enjoying black companionship-culture has deep roots. The movie “Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner” was a statement on how even race-accepting liberals couldn’t avoid their racist sentiments.

kim kardashian2 kim kardashian3 jungle feverWhatever you think of Kardashian she brought the voluptuous, curvy body, and female sexuality to popularity at a time when anorexic thinness and sexual repression were popular. Nor did the anorexic look have anything to do with celebrating health or acceptance of all body types. She also helped make nonwhite looking women popular. She also made a women’s personal  acceptable and popular. Shit, we force women to wear these insane painful and bulky bras to make sure their breasts don’t jiggle and you can’t see their nipples. We blame women showing skin for causing harassment. We reward women for wearing makeup that could paint a small car. We insist women shave off hair to look like girls. We use women as decorative objects on a pedestal. We  hate and cover the smell of bodies.  We insist that women are verbal and not visual. We fear sexuality as advantage for social gain. We praise beauty over content. We fear the love of beauty as superficial because they aren’t allowed more. The list is tiresome and long.

Men have suffer from this as well. Men shave beards to look like boys. Men can’t show their sexuality beyond their breasts. We don’t allow men with big breasts to reveal them. Men are supposed to have six-pack abs. The list is shorter than women’s but it is still antibody, antisexual, and pro predatory stereotype.

The real issue isn’t that blacks were hypersexual but that white anglo Protestants (WASP) were puritanical in their hatred of the body and their hatred of sex. The Catholic church only condoned the missionary position, and only condoned sex for procreation, and certainly not for pleasure except as imitating the creation of Jesus and his world of salvation.

What we should be doing is celebrating black culture for freeing us from the tyranny of idiotic Abrahamic hatred of the body, the separation of mind and body, and human sexuality. Even menstruation has remained hated as being an impure, unclean, and an unholy aspect of women. The current distaste for blood certainly comes from this and is just as horrible, or worse, as the Mayan and Aztec love of blood as a life force and the willingness to slaughter many to release it to public view and use–but at least they recognized blood as a positive life force. Hating blood is to hate yourself. Germaine Greer famously said women can’t be free until they have tasted their own menstrual blood. The social fears of exposing menstrual blood or even the time of menstruation is pure misogyny. A more sane response would be to celebrate menses and praise women for their capacity. Let them have rewards and support during these times! Let us be thankful for this ability.

The same for dancing, music, and enthusiasm. The WASP, Catholic, and Jewish celebration of seriousness and suffering as definitive of acceptable culture was not defeated until exposure to other peoples and cultures that celebrated this life rather than hating it. Even those who insist they are only spiritual and not religious, or even secular, often maintain these Calvinist tendencies. The near universal separation of the body and mind has an unhealthy hegemony in our society. This conflict in feminism is best seen as the constant debate on whether women who display their sexuality are sluts or forerunners of the revolution. Is it slut shaming or pandering to the purience of misogyny? Women who use sex are praised because they become successful and hated because they used sexuality to get there. We see the same in racism. Is the adaptation of other features an enabling of imperialism or an acceptance of the value of what they do?

The reaction to every derived culturalism as appropriation takes us the wrong direction. Hegel’s dialectic showed progress was accomplished by thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. What is new is discovered, rejected, and then made normative. There would be no progress unless we were exposed to what is different, found to be useful, and then used to go forward.

Rather than castigation that new culture is stolen we should be celebrating the exposure and adaption as creating  a better society. We do it in technology and science. If a scientist finds new knowledge or develops new technology  we do not curse the adaptation as appropriation but are thankful for its discovery and utility. How odd it would be if we (hypothetical we) hated algebra just because it was stolen from the Islamic concepts of variables, the infinite, and the amount called zero. No, we can’t do algebra because that’s Islamic. No, we can’t celebrate sexual expression because that’s African. No, we can’t celebrate the body because that’s nonAbrahamic. No, we can’t celebrate women’s sexuality because that’s not Western. No, we can’t celebrate ebullient music, expressive dance, and call and response musical structure because that came from slaves. No, we can’t adapt the governance of the Iroquois Confederation because that’s Native American.

The balkanization and ghettoizing of what is valuable because it came from slaves or other people we oppressed or simply the other creates cultural stagnation and maintenance of the evil of the originators of the change. That the originators continue the hatred the others created by dissing all of to as appropriation allows them to fetishize their otherness, rather than acknowledging they contributed greatly to the progress of society, often on a global scale. It continues the separation of cultures such that the other is always the other to be kept separate.

It may be helpful to state that reparations have not been made or that evil still exists against the other but it would be better to celebrate their contributions and reward them for their rather than say let’s get rid of the contribution because it came from an other. We can easily say slavery is wrong, wrong, wrong without eliminating the contributions of slaves from society at large. I would rather reward African culture for changing our society than say we should never have had that contribution and will not use what is useful because it wasn’t discovered or created by the hegemonic culture.

image source and here

Jim Newman,