Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Same Rainbow as Always

Almost sixty years ago the NBC television network adopted the original version of its now well-known logo consisting of a stylized peacock with rainbow tail feathers. The colors were chosen to highlight a new-fangled piece of technology called the color television, and some variant of the logo has been used by NBC affiliates ever since.

The logo has change over the years, but one constant has been the rainbow tail feathers. The above image shows the logo as it first appeared in 1957. Apparently, though, one viewer had never noticed, and took the network to task for "changing" it's logo to rainbow colors in the wake of last week's Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

One Facebook user admonished his local NBC affiliate for changing its station’s peacock logo to rainbow colors.

“Your changing your station logo with the colors of gays is a disgrace,” complained Facebook user Don Stair. “Just stay out of it… Your integrity is ruined… ABC KATV is my choice in the future for all Little Rock station viewing… Shame on you!”

The station told Stair that the logo had never changed. “We didn’t change our logo Don,” the station replied. “Same logo as always.”

Now you can laugh about how dumb this one viewer happened to be, but this story actually highlights an important psychological bias that can easily distort our perceptions. The viewer didn't notice the rainbow feathers until he started paying attention to all things rainbow after the ruling, when many businesses started changing the colors of their logos to support an issue that he strongly opposed.

Our senses are constantly pulling in far more information than our brains can fully process, so what we tend to notice most is whatever we direct our attention towards. Robert Anton Wilson once proposed an experiment in which you make a deliberate resolution to focus on finding quarters on the sidewalk as you go about your day. Often, when you do the experiment, you surprisingly will.

Ignoring the possible macrocosmic operancy of magick, psychologists explain that in fact you probably do walk past quarters on the sidewalk more often than you think, but usually you're paying attention to something else and miss them. However, when you focus your attention on the task, you start noticing them. Learning to direct your attention in this way is one of the first lessons of the magical path.

Energy really does follow attention, at the very least in a metaphoric sense. Being able to work around your regular sensory filters helps you perceive phenomena outside the normal range. It also prevents you from looking like an idiot when you complain to your television network about an aspect of their logo that hasn't changed in sixty years.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Rules for Marriage Equality

In a 5-4 decision that presumably has sent the heads of fundamentalists everywhere spinning, the Supreme Court has just ruled that marriage equality is now the law of the land in the United States. The majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy struck down state bans on same-sex marriage as violations of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Kennedy grounds his opinion in two separate but related provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment: the due process and equal protection clauses. The "liberty" protected by the due process clause, Kennedy explains, protects gay couple's fundamental right to marriage. And the equal protection clause bars the government from singling out a specific group—here, gays—and depriving them of certain rights. Kennedy nicely describes the "synergy between the two protections":

"The right of same-sex couples to marry that is part of the liberty promised by the Fourteenth Amendment is derived, too, from that Amendment’s guarantee of the equal protection of the laws. The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way, though they set forth independent principles. Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always coextensive, yet in some instances each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. In any particular case one Clause may be thought to capture the essence of the right in a more accurate and comprehensive way, even as the two Clauses may converge in the identification and definition of the right."

I guess this means the "spiritual war" declared by the Southern Baptist Convention is on. Except that basically, they just lost, at least in terms of civil law. At the same time, all the nonsense about churches being forced to perform same-sex weddings and such is just that. Churches can define marriage however they want, and the constitution fundamentally protects their rights to do so. They just can't force their religious definitions of marriage onto everyone who doesn't share their beliefs.

And just as a point, I'm also guessing that this guy isn't really going to set himself on fire now that the Supreme Court has ruled against him. Or, for that matter, any of these other goofy predictions from prominent evangelicals coming to pass.

UPDATE: And I totally nailed that one. "Oh, I wasn't really going to set myself on fire, it was just a quotation!" Rick Scarborough, you are officially full of shit. The rest of them likely are as well.

Just as a point, some people have been passing this sad article around without reading it closely as proof that he did it. But the Texas minister who set himself on fire was Charles Moore, not Rick Scarborough, and it happened last year. In his suicide note, Moore explained that he did it to protest racism. It had nothing to do with marriage equality.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Censor the Naked Bike Ride!

Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis, Minnesota have something of a rivalry going over which is the best large city in the country for cycling. Portland held the title for years and years, but in 2010 Minneapolis finally captured the top spot after investing in over a hundred miles of bike trails that now connect most of the metro area. Since then, the top ranking has bounced back and forth between the two cities.

One bicycling event, though, that I doubt I will ever see in Minneapolis is the annual Naked Bike Ride, which is scheduled for this coming Saturday. It's a little known fact in the rest of the country that in Portland, riding a bicycle is an exception to public laws against nudity. So you can legally ride a bike naked, you just can't hop off and walk it without putting some clothes on. It surprises me a bit that it has taken so long, but this year a local evangelist is launching a campaign against naked cycling, called "Censor the Naked Bike Ride."

It's a crime against Jesus that one brave citizen is trying to, if not stop, at least ameliorate. Jake Zimmermann of SavePortlandFromHell.com, whose previous efforts include "See You at the Strip Pole," is taking the fight for souls to the streets with an action called "Censor the Naked Bike Ride."

As the event listing says: "Join us and hundreds of Christian volunteers, as we take Exodus 28:42 to the streets. Armed with bed sheets and teamed up in two’s, we’ll minister to the community by covering the bike-streakers as they peddle through our neighborhoods." If you can't come yourself, Zimmermann suggests donating sheets to Lake Bible Church in Lake Oswego.

So apparently, what's going to happen is that as naked riders go by, these true believers will follow them as long as they can holding up sheets. Really? It makes me think this has to be some sort of joke action, because it sounds like something out of The Onion. The sheer impracticality of it boggles, but I expect that watching these protesters try will make for some big laughs. I can't be in Portland for the ride, but hopefully somebody can take some videos and post them online. I'd really like a chance to see it, and get in some serious pointing and laughing.

Because even if this campaign is all a big joke, I expect that watching the festivities will prove especially hilarious.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5th Circuit Shoots Down Form-Signing Objections

Conservative Judge Jerry Smith wrote the unanimous decision

The conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a collection of cases in which the plaintiffs argued that filling out a form declaring their religious objections to contraception coverage somehow violated their religious freedom. From the characterization there you can get a pretty good idea what I think of that argument - it's fundamentally ridiculous. But if upheld, it could have led to serious legal problems.

Some background: in order to address objections to contraceptive coverage by religious employers, an accommodation was written into the new health care law that required such employers to submit a form declaring their religious objections. Once the government received the form, it would direct a third party to provide coverage. The Hobby Lobby decision expanded the eligibility for this accommodation to closely-held for-profit corporations whose owners share the same religious beliefs.

For the folks pushing these cases, though, that wasn't good enough. They argued that since the eventual result of filling out the form or informing the federal government of their objections was that coverage would be provided, their religious freedom was still being impinged upon. So apparently under their argument the only way that the government could figure out that an employer should get an accommodation in the first place would be to use telepathy or something.

East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell is a consolidated batch of cases, handed down on Monday, involving religious employers who object to some or all forms of birth control. These employers are entitled to an accommodation exempting them from federal rules requiring them to offer birth control coverage to their employees. Most of them may invoke this accommodation simply by filling out a form or otherwise informing the federal government of their objection and naming the company that administers their employer health plan. At this point, the government works separately with that company to ensure that the religious employer’s workers receive contraception coverage through a separate health plan.

Several lawsuits are working their way through the federal courts which raise the same legal argument at issue here. In essence, the employers claim that filling out the form that exempts them from having to provide birth control makes them complicit in their employee’s eventual decision to use contraception, and so the government cannot require them to fill out this form. So far, every single federal appeals court to consider this question has sided with the Obama administration and against religious employers who object to this accommodation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Off-World Pyramids?

Some conspiracy theorists think that space aliens built the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico. Generally speaking, I think this is usually a case of modern people imagining that the ancients were much less intelligent, which given how evolution works is clearly not true. Their knowledge base and corresponding technologies were different, but in biological terms they lived so recently that only minor genetic variations distinguish them from people alive today.

Recently pyramid-like shapes have been observed on both Mars and Ceres, prompting more speculation about the possibility of alien design. Obviously if the pyramids are constructed rather than natural, the only possibility is that some space-faring race could have built them. Humans have yet to travel that far, and have to rely on unmanned probes.

The Mars pyramid was recently spotted by the Curiosity rover and is shown in the above image.

The pyramid is thought to be about the size of a car, and most people believe it's nothing more than a coincidental rock formation.

However, the YouTube channel ParanormalCrucible goes further, insisting the "near perfect design and shape" means the pyramid is: "the result of intelligent design and certainly not a trick of light and shadow".

Well, I agree with the last part of that quote. I don't think the image is a "trick of light and shadow," I think the object really is pyramid-shaped. But there are a lot of reasons why a natural rock formation might be shaped like that. We have formations right here on Earth that show sharp edges and look like they might be human-made, even though we know that they were formed by geologic activity.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

She's a Witch!

Normally this is the sort of story you hear out of parts of Africa or India, not Glastonbury in the United Kingdom. But apparently developed nations are still not completely immune to this sort of superstitious nonsense. A Glastonbury woman was recently convicted of waging a campaign of harassment against a neighbor that she claimed was a witch who had put a curse on her. The neighbor did engage in some alternative religious practices, but it's not clear why the woman believed herself to be a target of magical attacks.

Hilary Joy Osborne took an obsessive dislike to Lynda Brown who was a spiritualist and taught pagan drumming and also practised Druidism, mantra chanting and Buddhist traditions. Over the course of ten months the defendant was continually abusive to her neighbour, screaming, banging on her walls at all times of night, threatened to burn her house down and threw a golf club at her.

Osborne ignored police warnings to curb her behaviour and one night the victim and her lodgers were woken by a piercing scream with the defendant shouting “you have people in the walls talking to me, take these curses off me you ****ing witch”. She also claimed her neighbour had cast spells and put voodoo curses on her and repeatedly accused her of practising black witchcraft.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Miss Brown said the defendant’s actions had left her life “a living hell” and had made her house more secure after Osborne threatened to burn it down.

Osborne here sounds seriously deranged. Perhaps things in her life were not going well, but to leap to accusing a neighbor of witchcraft and then attacking them is pretty bizarre. The court did determine that she suffers from some form of mental illness that was not disclosed, so perhaps this is simply paranoia on her part. It's just rather unusual to see it manifest in this way in a country where belief in magick is not widespread.

In other parts of the world, a story like this often ends with an angry mob storming the home of the accused witch and injuring or killing them. Fortunately for Brown, that's not the way things work in England.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Etsy Bans Non-Christian Magical Items

At least, those that include the words "magic" or "spell" in the description. The online marketplace has implemented a new policy that bans the selling of any item that is described as having paranormal powers, or even the "vague suggestion" of them. eBay implemented a similar policy awhile back, which resulted in may sellers to move their shops over to Etsy.

So now it looks like they may have to move again if they want to keep their stores online. I do understand that at least some of the spells and so forth being sold online are probably scams, which is what Etsy is trying to avoid, and of course they have the right to prohibit the selling of any class of goods they want. However, I am very concerned that they may be applying the policy in a discriminatory manner against minority religions.

While these theories are all sound, many metaphysical sellers believe that Etsy has a cultural bias against their goods. One forum user compared the sale of crystals that could be used in meditative rituals to the sale of a rosary or a cross. Both items represent spirituality, but neither make the claim that they will heal your ills or help you speak to God.

“Etsy seems to be only targeting those items of a pagan/occult nature while allowing items of certain faiths traditionally used for protection like St. Christopher medals, to still be marketed,” said another vendor in an email. “Personally I think it's probably unintended ignorance and failure to consider and think through what banning all spiritual, energetic and magickal claims will really mean.”

“Etsy seems to be only targeting those items of a pagan/occult nature while allowing items of certain faiths traditionally used for protection, like St. Christopher medals, to still be marketed.” Admins in the forums insist that the sales of things like oils, incense, crystals and candles for use in spells are still okay, as long as they don’t claim any magical properties. For many witches, however, that’s not good enough.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Against Lesbian Yogurt

Two weeks ago One Million Moms, a conservative advocacy group that numbers nowhere near the millions and admits that its members are not necessarily moms, made a splash in the media with their opposition to the upcoming television series Lucifer because they thought it made the devil look too nice. Now the group, which should probably more accurately be named A Couple Thousand Crazy People, is at it again, expressing its outrage at an ad for Chobani yogurt that depicts a lesbian couple.

Scolds like the members of this group have a lot in common with the Poor Oppressed Christians, and likely sympathize with their cause. As I've mentioned previously, the idea that the mere existence of anything you disagree with somehow represents a mortal offense is pretty much the pinnacle of false victimhood. If you are really so offended by how someone else lives their life when they have nothing whatsoever to do with you, you really need to rethink your priorities.

One Million Moms fumes that these dang lesbians and their horrifying yogurt are creating a new age Sodom and Gomorrah, right here on earth:

"Chobani should be ashamed of their latest commercial for attempting to normalize sin by featuring two women naked in bed together. The newest commercial for Chobani yogurt has two nude women in bed while one lovingly strokes the other’s foot. This commercial not only promotes same sex relationships by including two lesbians, but also same sex marriage because the two women wear matching wedding bands. The ad states, 'To Love this Life is to Live it Naturally.' There is nothing natural about homosexuality.

What does selling yogurt have to do with gay sex? Nothing at all, but Chobani wants to make the association. One Million Moms continues to stand up for Biblical truth, which is very clear in Romans 1:26-27 about this particular type of sexual perversion."

One Million Moms is asking its army of Mom Warriors to contact Chobani, “urging them to pull this inappropriate commercial immediately and remain neutral in the culture war. Also, let Chobani know that continuing to air this ad and offensive advertisements in the future will force your family to make the decision to no longer purchase Chobani products.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Slapping Down David Icke

Yes it will, David. Yes it will.

David Icke is something of a laughing-stock among serious occultists, but a lot of other people do buy his books. Icke has basically made a name for himself by claiming that the wealthy individuals and families who by and large control the global economy are in fact shape-shifting reptilian aliens. As I've commented before, what's so bizarre about this is not that a global elite exists, but rather the idea that they can't possibly be human.

Icke also fills his books with allegations of "Satanic" activity by said elites, which as I have also pointed out here is basically ridiculous. The global elite is not made up of occultists, Satanic or otherwise. Occultism is a fringe discipline practiced by those who don't have the financial resources to shape the world at the geopolitical level. Why go through the process of developing magical powers when money can get most jobs done more efficiently?

Icke recently was forced to settle a lawsuit brought by a Canadian human rights lawyer, who was accused of seeking to suppress the author's exposure of (non-existent) "Satanic child abuse and murder" in one of his books. Needless to say, the allegations were found to be entirely false.

“He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” were the words Richard Warman, a Canadian human rights lawyer, quoted after being paid £117,000 in compensation for lies published by conspiracy author David Icke in his 2001 book Children of the Matrix.

In an embarrassing defeat David Icke quietly settled out of court for indefensible statements he had written about Warman, which included false allegations that Warman was seeking to suppress Icke’s purported exposure of Satanic child abuse and murder.

David Icke is not shy of making allegations, often vicious and vitriolic in nature, about people on his website DavidIcke.com. However, it is noted that Icke hasn’t mentioned this recent defeat anywhere, despite having previously widely publicise it to his readers and appeal to them for monetary donations for a legal defence fund.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Exorcising Mexico

I've posted here before about Pope Francis' support for the practice of exorcism, which has been on the rise during his tenure. But what do you do if you have to perform an exorcism on an entire country? It's not like you can just tie it to a bed and dump holy water on it. As it turns out, such a rite does exist, but it's rarely performed. It's called “Exorcismo Magno” and it involves exorcists from all over the country coming together and working in concert. About a month ago, this special rite of exorcism was performed in Mexico.

The event was not made known to the general public beforehand. According to Archbishop Cabrero, the reserved character of the May 20 ceremony was intended to avoid any misguided interpretations of the ritual. But how can an entire country become infested by demons to the point that it’s necessary to resort to an Exorcismo Magno?

“To the extent sin increases more and more in a country, to that extent it becomes easier for the demons to tempt (people),” Fr. Fortea told CNA.The Spanish exorcist warned that “to the extent there is more witchcraft and Satanism going on in a country, to that extent there will be more extraordinary manifestations of those powers of darkness.”

Fr. Fortea said that “the exorcism performed in San Luís Potosí is the first ever carried out in Mexico in which the exorcists came from different parts of the country and gathered together to exorcise the powers of darkness, not from a person, but from the whole country.”

“This rite of exorcism, beautiful and liturgical, had never before taken place in any part of the world. Although it had taken place in a private manner as when Saint Francis (exorcised) the Italian city of Arezzo,” he stated.

The exorcism was prompted by recent rising levels of violence associated with Mexico's drug cartels, which seems as good a reason as any to perform a magical ritual. However, I think it's very unlikely that said violence is the result of "witchcraft" or "Satanism." I suppose from the church's perspective, the veneration of Santa Muerte, long associated with the Mexican drug trade, is the same thing - even though from an informed occult perspective it of course is not. The drug trade has always been violent, but it has gotten significantly worse since the Mexican government launched its own "war on drugs" in 2006.

Just as in the United States, all this escalation does is make the drug trade becomes more dangerous and therefore more profitable, and widespread Mexican poverty means that fewer legal economic opportunities are available. I've read in a couple of places now that one of the most damaging blows struck against the cartels in recent years has been the legalization of marijuana in several US states, because legalization makes the criminal trade less profitable.

Perhaps the Mexican government should take a hint.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Seriously, Jeb Bush Pals Around With Vampires!

And that's still not a joke.

Usually I try to keep things here on Augoeides apolitical, but every so often something arises of significance that touches on the sort of subject matter that I normally cover here. When an aspiring presidential candidate has a personal connection to a vampire - like, a real vampire, who drinks blood and everything - it's pretty hard to resist.

So I didn't.

I posted the whole sordid story awhile back, but it seems appropriate to bring it up again as Jeb Bush just officially announced he will be seeking the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election. My previous article did not generate nearly the traction I had hoped, even though I'm not that prominent a blogger. Maybe the story just seemed too weird for opposition researchers to dig into.

I'm not personally a Republican so I won't be voting for Jeb regardless, but I still believe that the guy is a complete nightmare waiting to happen and even if you are a Republican, there are better candidates you could be supporting. The Iraq War was an unmitigated disaster, whether you believe that it was an "intelligence failure" or something more sinister.

And as I mentioned in the previous article, Jeb has gone out and recruited all the same people who were involved in pushing the Iraq invasion. They're either stupid or evil, and either way, does anybody really want them running the country again? I'm convinced that even the loopiest of the other Republican candidates would be an improvement over that, at least as far as foreign policy goes.

I also am convinced that if this vampire story gets enough coverage, it will be embarrassing enough that even the Bush family's deep pockets won't be able to cover it up. Maybe that's unrealistic, and maybe the other candidates have enough questionable associations themselves that they don't want to go there.

But I can dream, can't I? Go ahead and share this one too, and maybe together we can make a difference.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Satanic Literature Strikes Oklahoma

It worked in Florida, so now it's happening in Oklahoma. A third grade teacher there distributed Bibles to students, an action that was defended on religious freedom grounds by the state's Attorney General. Therefore, Satanist Adam Daniels is asserting his right to distribute his own holy book to children at the school, a text entitled "Ahrimani Enlightenment" that teaches the tenets of Satanism.

Teaching children the tenets of Satanism, Daniels argues, is a right protected under Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt’s own legal language regarding the distribution of religious texts in schools. In an April 14 letter to the Duncan County superintendent, Scott warned of “a challenging time in our country for those who believe in religious liberty.”

“Our religious freedoms are under constant attack from a variety of groups who seek to undermine our constitutional rights and threaten our founding principles,” Scott says. “I am therefore writing to make clear that it is in fact legal for schools to allow the dissemination of religious literature and that I will take a stand to defend the religious freedom of Oklahomans.”

“Oklahomans do not need to live in fear that their government has become hostile to religion,” Scott asserts. “Schools have a right to enact neutral policies that allow all viewpoints on religion to thrive. As the Attorney General of Oklahoma, I will not stand idly by while out-of-state organizations bully you or any other official in this State into restricting the religious freedom the Founders of this country held dear.”

All viewpoints has to mean all viewpoints, or it means nothing at all. So if Scott is being honest here, Daniels has every right to distribute his book and should be allowed to do so. In Florida, Christians were so scandalized by Satanists wanting to distribute literature in schools that they eventually enacted a policy banning the distribution of all religious materials. That's probably what Daniels is aiming for as well.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Threat to Christian Marriage

This one Christian marriage, anyway. A Christian couple in Australia has vowed to divorce if same-sex couples gain marriage rights in their country. I suppose that's really the only way to construct an argument where the "threat to straight marriage" makes any sense, but it sure sounds stupid to me. Apparently these two are so entitled that if their religion can't define marriage, they want no part of it. Either that, or they're just grandstanding for the media and will in fact do no such thing.

A Canberra couple have vowed to get a divorce, ending their "sacred" 10-year union, if Australia allows same-sex couples to legally marry. Nick Jensen and his wife Sarah believe widening the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples threatens the sacred nature of the union and leaves the door open to polygamy.

The Christian couple have been happily married for over a decade, have no intention of separating and hope to have more children. For all intents and purposes they have a healthy marriage. But in a novel protest against any successful move to legalise same sex-marriage in Australia, Mr Jensen wrote in an article published in Canberra CityNews on Wednesday that they are prepared to divorce.

Personally I favor a model of marriage in which the civil and religious components are entirely separate. You have a "civil union" that establishes legal rights, and then you can have any religious ceremony you want that a church is willing to perform, or you can skip the whole thing altogether if you're not religious. When I officiated a wedding for a good friend last year, I had to get myself registered as a "minister" with an online church so that it would be legal. That's silly. Everything would work better if the ceremonial and legal aspects had nothing to do with each other.

Let me also point out, though, that the "slippery slope to polygamy" argument really doesn't hold up well, even under my preferred model. In principle I have no problem with more than two people getting married, but the additional legal framework that it would require is massive. Marrying someone establishes them as your uncontested next of kin for all sorts of legal purposes - but let's say you're married to two people and wind up near death in a coma. One spouse wants to take you off life support and the other doesn't. Who decides?

A living will can address that one issue, but there are many others that work the same way. Marriage has a value to society in terms of streamlining legal issues precisely because you can only be married to one person at a time. The minute more than one has to be considered, that advantage disappears, which is why I think legal marriage involving more than two people is a long way off. Same-sex marriage, on the other hand, does nothing that requires a new framework because it works just like opposite-sex marriage as far as the law is concerned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

World Not Ending in September

Absolutely nothing like this will be happening in September

Apparently we now live in a world where this proclamation or something similar has to be made on a regular basis. A meme has recently been going around the Internet stating that a large asteroid is due to strike the Earth in September of this year.

Now NASA has identified a number of near-Earth objects, some of which could do serious damage if they struck our planet, but as it turns out this prediction has nothing to do with science. As usual, it's being circulated by "biblical theorists" who think that this time, for sure, they've come up with the date that the world will end.

Among the latest crop is this one reported by the Huffington Post. A so-called "online community of biblical theorists" believes a huge asteroid will strike the planet sometime in the Sept. 22-28 window, wiping us out.

For reasons unexplained, some of these crackpot predictions gain more traction than others. This one reportedly caught the attention of NASA, which responded with a statement, according to Yahoo News.

According to Yahoo News, a NASA spokesperson said: "NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small. In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years."

I'll say it one more time. Biblical theorists are wrong about this. They always are wrong about this. And, when the alleged date passes without anything happening, the most inexplicable thing about it is that some people will still take them seriously. How many times does it take, folks?

The fact is that NASA does track all known near-Earth objects, and none of them will pass close enough in September to pose even the slightest threat. And if it were going to happen in just a few months, we would know about it. Not only that, we'd be getting the warning through channels more reliable than Facebook.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How Do They Do It?

I know, the answer to that question is "by being total huckster con artists," but it still never ceases to amaze me how much money some fake psychics are able to bilk from their clients. Huffington Post has a story up today about a New York man who was apparently scammed out of more than $700,000. That's not a typo - I didn't accidentally hit a couple of extra zeros in there. It's almost three quarters of a million dollars. Meanwhile, real practicing occultists like myself make due with a couple thousand a year in book sales.

While I have neither the inclination nor the people-reading skills to go into the fake psychic trade, and I make a lot more money at my day job than I ever could as a legitimate occultist-for-hire, the difference in earnings between the real and the fake seriously does amaze me. Now it is true that this particular faker is in the news because she went overboard and is being charged with fraud, but still. Had she been a little less greedy she might have gotten away with it.

The 32-year-old Brooklyn man told police he consulted Delmaro in August 2013 who told him that evil spirits were keeping him from a woman he claimed to love and wanted to be with who did not share his same affections, The New York Times reported.

In a statement he and a private investigator presented to detectives last month, the man said that the 26-year-old psychic told him that he and the woman, Michelle, were "twin flames" being kept apart by negativity. Delmaro told him spirits talked to her, so he made multiple payments to her over 20 months, he told investigators.

According to the man, those payments included $80,000 for an 80-mile bridge she said would trap evil spirits into another realm, a $30,000 Rolex she claimed would cleanse the sins of his past and $40,064 for a Tiffany diamond ring to "protect his energy," along with other payments totaling as much as $40,000.

The man— who has not been identified in court documents —told police he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars before finding out in February 2014 that Michelle had died. But, the man wrote, Delmaro said she could be reincarnated.

More payments and a trip to seek out the "new" Michelle followed before the man said he decided to go to police. By then, he said he was out $713,975.

This is a case where I think the whole Skeptic movement may just be making things worse. They out a lot of phony psychics, but the problem is that since they think the paranormal is bullshit they also don't want anybody knowing about genuine occultism. If this guy had any idea how magick works, he never would have fallen for a lot of this nonsense.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Flying Spaghetti Monster Spotted in New Zealand

For a religion that started off as a joke lampooning creationists, Pastafarianism has sure come a long way. But maybe the reason that the religion has done so well is that the deity of the Pastafarians, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, really exists. At least, that's what this video from New Zealand seems to indicate. It's clear unlike a lot of paranormal footage, and you can see the noodly appendages and everything right there.

Pastafarians have always been vague about where their deity lives. Generally speaking, they maintain that this is because he doesn't exist. But if you think about it, New Zealand is a pretty logical place. It's humid, so his noodly appendages won't dry out, and not so hot that they might run the risk of becoming too mushy. And especially from the air, New Zealand has some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.

So will the theology of Pastafarianism change now that his secret place of residence has been discovered? Will New Zealand become a new place of pilgrimage for all who follow his noodly ways, or at least have a thing for full pirate regalia? I suppose only time will tell. Perhaps he will now be seen all over the world to reveal his teachings, including the sacred recipe for his secret marinara sauce.

It seems that whatever happens next, all those who wear colanders should now rejoice. He is among us!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Alchemical Gold

The manufacture of gold from other elements, long the dream of practical alchemists, became real with the advent of the atomic age. According to the stories the material transformed was lead, but in reality the process works better with mercury, particularly the mercury-196 isotope which makes up about ten percent of naturally occurring mercury. And it's easy, too - if you have a nuclear reactor on hand. Just stick some mercury in the reactor for about a day, and it transforms. Just like magic!

The Philosopher’s Stone is the idea that you could have a magical material that could turn lead, or some very inexpensive metal, into gold. For thousands of years, kings sought out this mythical device, one that could create gold out of common metals. Scientists and alchemists for centuries have been trying to invent one. Even Sir Isaac Newton obsessed over the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone in the 17th century. However, the English feared the potential devaluation of gold and made the practice of alchemy punishable by death.

Fast forward now a few centuries to present day Irvine. According to Michael Dennin, a professor at UCI, gold is formed due to nuclear reactions, similar to those occurring in the sun. And now, since scientists can produce controlled nuclear reactions, scientists have the ability to manufacture gold from other elements. Michael’s colleague, Dr. A.J. Shaka, conducts experiments in alchemy on a daily basis.

Mercury 196, an isotope that can pick up a neutron, is placed in a nuclear reactor, and after 23 hours, it turns to gold. A real life Philosopher’s Stone at our university! However, a days’ worth of nuclear reactions will create 3/10 of a cent worth of gold but costs $200 per hour to operate the reactor. You’ll be far in the hole.

I know what you're thinking - just put enough mercury in the reactor, and you can make the process more efficient. But the problem is that as the amount goes up, so does the necessary energy and every reactor has hard limits there. So the alchemists were right that it could be done, but apparently quite wrong that it could be done inexpensively. I suppose if we lived in a technologically modern age that maintained the feudal structure of the Renaissance, a noble could just build their own reactor and get to work. But that still would require so many resources that it would be impractical to make enough gold to ever justify the expense.

Years ago I posted a speculative article about this process of transforming mercury into gold. What I was wondering back then was whether or not it might have been possible to create even tinier amounts of gold through this process using Renaissance technology. It sounds a little silly at first, but I'm convinced that a makeshift nuclear vessel could be constructed simply by someone with access to highly radioactive material such as radium. It wouldn't be at all safe, but it might be able to concentrate enough radiation to extract some gold - and anyone seeing such a transformation might erroneously assume that the process could be scaled up to commercial quantities.

The key word there is might. Since I'm not a nuclear scientist, I don't know whether or not it's even remotely possible. There's certainly no evidence that it was ever done, such as irradiated lab equipment dating to the period. I also wonder about the magical properties of such manufactured gold. Would they be the same as for the naturally appearing substance, or would they somehow be altered by having gone through the manufacturing process? I imagine it would be pretty cool to have temple implements made from such "alchemical gold," but until I become independently wealthy there's no way that's going to happen given the cost.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Your Home in Middle-Earth

If you happen to be a magician looking for a home here in the Twin Cities suitable for use as a sorcerous lair, here's your chance. This one-of-kind house in Northeast Minneapolis looks just like something out of a fantasy novel. Better still, it's not a massively expensive suburban monstrosity like the last unique property I profiled, Poseidon's Fortress.

From the outside the house is relatively unassuming, with rich brown wood siding. The lot is lovingly landscaped, with stone paths and steps leading through a maze of carefully selected plants and shrubs. Only the wolf spirit guardian depicted on the garage door, shown below, marks this as the home of a mighty wizard.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Charlie Went Viral Because Marketing



Posted by HowToBasic on Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Last week the "Charlie Challenge" seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Up until then it had been a relatively obscure teen party game that originated in Mexico, sort of like Ouija without the board. But according to Uproxx, some filmmaker decided to incorporate it into a horror movie and organized the "Challenge" as a viral marketing campaign.

We’ve already written about stupid social media trend #CharlieCharlieChallenge, in which stupid teenagers use stupid pencils like a stupid Ouija board based on a stupid casually-racist rumor about a “Mexican demon” named “Charlie,” because that’s a reasonable name for a Mexican demon who likes pencils.

Anyway, it was a stupid marketing campaign.

Everything is terrible.

As the video above shows, this Charlie Charlie thing comes from a scene in The Gallows, a horror movie I will say no more about, other than it filmed before this challenge started, they’re obviously behind the social media trend, and we still aren’t going to look up when this movie is in theaters or what it’s about. I feel dumber just for noticing this all existed in the first place.

So apparently this was all about a movie, but aside from the video I posted above nobody seems to be asking the question they should be asking:

Is Charlie Sheen in this movie, and if he isn't, why not?

Because if he were in the movie, I expect that it would be completely batshit insane, and that would totally move those tickets. Watching that pencil move from No to Yes, and then from Yes to WINNER WINNER SHEEN DINNER would be totally worth the price of admission.

The Vatican Warlock Assassin could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lymphatic Vessels Link Brain and Body

Back when I was in college around 1990 one of the hot areas of interdisciplinary study was psychoneuroimmunology, a field built around the experimental observation that cognitive states could affect the function of the immune system. Researchers hoped that such a connection could provide an explanation for the placebo effect, the effectiveness of alternative healing modalities such as acupuncture, and impaired immune system function in depressed patients. It was also thought that it might be relevant as an explanation for the "relaxation response" provoked by meditation, which appears to have anti-inflammatory properties.

The base hypothesis was a logical one, but the mechanism behind it proved incredibly stubborn. Especially in the case of the placebo effect, it's not that anyone doubts something real is going on. It has to be controlled for in every medical drug trial, even though it's poorly understood. Also, last year researchers studying acupuncture may have discovered a chemical pathway involving interleukin-10, an anti-inflammatory compound produced by the immune system, that seems to be activated by acupuncture treatment.

In my article, I offered up the hypothesis that this interleukin-10 pathway could work in conjunction with the lymphatic system to produce the results reported for acupuncture treatment. A chart of the acupuncture meridians follows the lymphatic system fairly precisely, and a needle pentrating a lymphatic vessel will promote an immune response. So the needle would promote the production of interleukin-10 at the point of contact, and the lymphatic system would move the substance some distance from it. This is a straightforward chemical model that involves no mysterious energies, while at the same time explaining the effectiveness of exercises such as Qigong sets that promote the movement of lymphatic fluid.

Neuroscientists have now identified that the network of lymphatic vessels connected with the brain is more extensive than previously thought, which not only supports some of my contentions about acupuncture but which may also finally provide the mechanism that psychoneuroimmunologists have been seeking for nearly thirty years. It could explain the placabo effect and many other findings that relate subjective state of mind to immune system function. The newly discovered vessels are shown in green in the image on the right.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sympathy for the Devil

Let's face it. If the Devil is real, and that whole "war in Heaven" story actually happened, he must be getting pretty bored by now doing nothing but hanging out in the pits of Hell and basically being evil all the time. The good old days, when God allowed him to gleefully kick the crap out of Job, are long gone. So if you were the Devil, what would you do?

A new television series, Lucifer, claims to have the answer. In the series, based on a comic book character created by Neil Gaiman, the Devil abandons Hell, moves to Los Angeles, and opens a nightclub. Hey, it sounds a lot more fun than brooding around an infernal pit until the end of time. But predictably, a conservative advocacy group is circulating a petition to stop the show, because, you know, the Devil is evil.

As of press time, more than 12,000 people had signed on to One Million Moms’ petition, launched Thursday, to cancel Fox’s planned 2016 fantasy series. According to One Million Moms, the show “will glorify Satan as a caring, likable person in human flesh.” The Lucifer character will be “portrayed as a good guy,” according to the petition’s authors — a contrast to Lucifer’s biblical portrayal as the devil incarnate.

Lucifer’s official website describes the program as the story of a fallen angel who has “abandoned his throne and retired to L.A., where he owns Lux, an upscale nightclub.” One Million Moms laments on its website that previews of Fox’s upcoming TV program, “depict graphic acts of violence, a nightclub featuring scantily-clad women, and a demon.”

One Million Moms, which clarifies on its website that it welcomes people who are not moms — even if they’re “single” — is a prolific petition producer. The right-wing organization’s ongoing campaigns, which anyone can add their signature to, include a call to make Schick’s commercials for razors targeted at women less sexually suggestive and a request that Taco Bell tone down the implication in one commercial that a woman may have shown her bare chest to a man — possibly one she was not married to.

So One Million Moms is not made up of moms, and it doesn't have anywhere near a million members. But I suppose "a couple thousand uptight crazy folks" doesn't have the same ring to it. Media scolds are some of the most boring people out there, determined to reduce all of popular culture to a G-rated melange that hardly anybody wants.

As for me, I'll be happy to watch the show if it turns out to be any good. Watching the Devil run a hip nightclub has to be a lot more interesting than a lot of the stuff that airs currently.