by Ronald Bruce Meyer

(aka Uptight, Late-Night, Stage Fright Ronald, the Duke of Doggerel)

9 December 2001*


ron-2004Between the hours of daylight and the fully settled sun

Comes a time that’s not yet nightfall, when the day is not yet done.

Yet the darkness isn’t ready yet to hang the noose on night,

For the sleek Cimmerian shadows slip so slowly into sight.

It’s a time that’s not true daylight, semi-darkness dims your view,

And though you turn the lights on, all the colors lose their hue.

When red turns gray and yellow white, and moon begins to climb,

The day is fading, dusk advances; twilight is the time.

Yes, twilight is the time when day distills to its decline,

But night will pause a beat or two before it drinks day’s wine.


You can wish for longer lighting, longer shadows are your prize;

For twilight comes, regardless of your wishes, to the skies.

It comes to lives unbidden like the turning of the leaf,

The twilight years, unhidden, mark decline and end in grief.

So if you rage like Thomas ‘gainst the dying of the light,

You stand a chance of standing up to face down that good night.

The twilight is a gloaming and a gloomy time at best,

And though it always ends in darkness, darkness gives a rest,

For hours at least, so twilight can eventually begone,

And daytime can in time for matins bring the Dusky Dawn.


For those who find it difficult to make a reasoned choice,

Just look at twilight’s indecisive bid to find a voice

For speaking of the daytime that is sure about to leave–

Or else the night — which? — is it afternoon or eve?

Can it be another dimension, not of sight or sound but mind–

A land of imagination where to see is to be blind?

A Twilight Zone ‘tween science fact and superstitious fear?

A timeless fifth dimension and a middle ground, I hear–

A mythical creation that was quintessentially Rod’s.

(It “Rings” of Götterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Gods.)


Now twilight comes when the setting sun is less than 18 degrees

Below the far horizon, as it’s hiding ‘hind the trees,

And the sun’s illuminating rays reflect from Earth and sky.

It isn’t rational to fear, but I know reasons why.

The twilight is a doubtful or half light — a dim eclipse,

And anything obscuring light can cause us trips and slips.

So I suggest the fear of falling furnishes those hours

Of twilit time a greater share than warranted of powers.

And you can wish millennia of fearing eventide

Can with a wisp of logic and sure steps be swept aside,

But twilight has a magic that is tragic for your pride,

So wish away! The semi-darkness will not be denied!


* Written and performed for the Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lamprey, Chicago, IL—a Sunday evening soirée, so-named because artistic types are blood-suckers. Or so I’m told.

NB: I revive this poem because it reminds me that I was young once (47). And witty. And I recall the creation with following words, written about that time:

“After a month of resting the doggerel deltoids, the Duke was ready to flex the fingers and poke the muse in the shins once again! Now, to dispel any rumors to the contrary, the Duke was not lazy: the words of late just didn't come down to the Duke's standards. …

“And what a challenge it was! A full three hours after he set his laptop to it, the printer churned out the next contribution to the decline of American poetry. With a little help from Dylan Thomas, the Moody Blues, Rod Serling, and Richard Wagner, the Duke was set to deliver a mortal blow to Art.

“But Art ducked in time.

“And the Duke, by popular demand, and in view of his numbered days in Chicago, was this evening appointed Adjudicator! Yes, the very Most High Office in the Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lamprey, bestowing absolute power on its holder, was conferred on the Duke. He performed admirably as a benevolent despot, handing out to "twilight" pieces awards such as the Trouser Trout, the Suck-Face Worm, the Silent Alarm, the Seeds of the King of Spain, the Scanner of Simulation, Oh Spare Me!, the Music of the (Hemi)Spheres, the Matted Hair of Revulsion, the Love Glove, the Keys of Desire, the Hat of Good Intentions, the False Gem of Hope, the Faceless Muppet of Anonymity, the Crown of Chaos, and Are You Just Happy to See Me?

“But that meant that the Duke's own contribution would have to go unrewarded (isn't being Adjudicator reward enough?) So, with full stomach and loaded gums, the Duke declaimed...”

And there followed the poem above. Ain’t I something?
Posted in Poet

Clinton Will Lose – and Lose YOOGE

Why Hillary Clinton will Lose to Donald Trump

By Ronald Bruce Meyer


Now the balloons have fallen and the delegates have voted. The DNC got what it wanted: Hillary Clinton, the first female candidate to head a major party ticket in a general election.

Hillary has everything going for her: experience, connections, money. She is the most-qualified presidential candidate in modern history; she brought a lot of famous and high-powered testimonials to the convention stage. Videos showed Hillary’s softer side; her acceptance speech showed her toughness. The convention crowd sounded ready for Hillary and her response showed she is ready to fight for her program and against her Republican opponent.

And, incredibly and ironically, just about 100 days from today, she will lose. Why? I will give you five reasons.

  1. Hillary Clinton has misread the electorate. Hillary Clinton had an overwhelming superdelegate lead and major endorsements, hours of neutral or approving media coverage, plus strong super PAC money (mostly from corporations)—almost from the day she announced her candidacy in 2015. And yet, a 74-year-old Independent senator from Vermont, a self-described democratic socialist (which should have been a dirty word in pro-capitalist USA), won 22 states outright and tied the Clinton juggernaut in a few more. Bernie Sanders drew huge crowds to his rallies and raised millions in donations (mostly from individuals) without super PAC assistance.

Was there something in the American electorate that Bernie saw and tapped into that, perhaps, Hillary did not see? I think, more than anything else, Bernie read the anger and frustration of an economic system that is not working for the bottom 90% of the electorate: a jobless “recovery” from the Bush recession, bailouts for bankers but not homeowners, no prosecutions for the biggest failure of capitalism since the Great Depression and income inequality on a scale not seen since the Gilded Age.

I also think that the type of donor to each campaign was telling: voters saw who was donating to Hillary’s campaign—Wall Street and bankers (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley), the private prison industry, big media (Time Warner, etc), unions accustomed to being out of touch with their own workers, other large corporations (including Harvard and UC)—and assumed that, if elected, she would be working for them; then voters looked at who was donating to Bernie (voters with maybe $27 in their pockets and tiny donations from unions and a few other non-corporations) and hoped he would be working for them.

But Hillary was not completely tone deaf. Once she saw how popular Bernie’s ideas were with young people, a demographic she desired but was not reaching, she advocated some pale imitations of Bernie’s platform. But the electorate was not misled: Hillary’s corporate backers could see her wink when she repudiated the TPP and advocated health care for all and Wall Street regulation; young voters, engaged if not enraged, better informed than their parents were and personally suffering from centrist policies, could see where she borrowed her new ideas and reasoned that they should stick to the source rather than siding with the stream.

If we are judged by the company we keep, Hillary also had some tellingly bad friends: if it wasn’t feminist icon Gloria Steinem (“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie’”) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”), it was embracing former Nixon Secretary of State and putative war criminal Henry Kissinger as her foreign policy advisor.

And then there was Hillary’s VP choice. As front runner and all-but-nominee, she could have chosen anybody. With an eye toward her opponent, she could have taken a bold step and asked a true progressive to join her to energize disappointed if not disaffected Bernie supporters. Instead, she chose a white male of questionable loyalty to progressive principles. Sen. Tim Kaine approves of the disastrous corporate takeover known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and voted to fast track the agreement—meaning that, even if Hillary was sincere about working with Congress to change the TPP into something more palatable, she could not. Kaine, among other senators, urged the Consumer Financial Protection Board regulators to lighten up on their regulation of regional banks, which may have something to do with his securities and investment sector donors.

Tim Kaine, as filmmaker Michael Moore pointed out in a tweet, was a choice from a “center” that doesn’t exist. He is a feint to a constituency that will stay home, rather than vote for a policy blend that is more a throwback to 1992 than a vision for 2016; an appeal to a voting bloc that was disappearing over the past generation, but has evaporated since the crash of 2008. Voters who stay home cannot help her. If she fails this dismally in reading the electorate, Hillary Clinton cannot hope to win.

  1. Hillary Clinton is a weak candidate. Hillary is distrusted by two-thirds of voters. Unfair as that may be, whether misperception or a “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” perception is reality in politics. On the other hand, you saw (when the mainstream media didn’t ignore them) the crowds of tens of thousands cheering Bernie Sanders. Hillary can’t even dream of getting young, excited, informed, politically involved voters to support her on her merits. The best she can do is frighten them with Donald Trump.

Her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was like celery: filling (full of clichés), but with no nutritional value (lacking a theme). Where she was best was in parroting policies, if not lines, from Bernie Sanders. But she didn’t pledge to ban fracking or promise to fight against the TPP. She gave her supporters and her skeptics nothing to dispel the notion that she is still pro-war, pro-Wall Street, pro-spying (domestic and warrantless), pro-censorship (of the Internet), pro-death penalty, pro-Patriot Act (and thinks Edward Snowden is a criminal, rather than an exposer of criminals). Furthermore, she is anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel to get equal treatment for Palestinians), anti-legalization of marijuana and anti-free speech (she thinks flag-burning should be a felony).

When the electorate clearly longs for a progressive candidate, Hillary Clinton gives them Republican-lite. Is it any wonder people leaning progressive would rather have somebody else (and feel stuck with her) and people leaning Republican would rather go with a real Republican?

Her platform and her policy positions show voters that Hillary has no vision—beyond that of getting elected. And calling herself “a progressive who gets things done” is a bit disconcerting coming from Hillary: in her efforts to compromise with Republicans who already agree with her corporatist and militarist views, she may give away the store—just as Obama did with the public option during the fight for the Affordable Care Act.

  1. Hillary Clinton’s opponent is playing a different game. By contrast, Donald Trump got the electorate right, just with the wrong solutions. The popular meme is that Trump supporters are lower class and uneducated. In fact, Trump is currently the front-runner among every income and education group in the GOP. The chief explanation for Trump’s appeal, clearly based on fear, is articulated by David Berg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine: “Trump appeals to the anger, discontent and sense of entrapment that plague contemporary voters.” Indeed, “Many in this country are tired of having their speech and behavior constrained by the changing ‘sensibilities’ of the modern world. Many would like to ‘stand up’ to Putin and the Chinese (to say nothing of ISIS) in the belief that confrontation and belligerence will make the world safer.” Trump has tapped into this feeling, amplified it and redirected it.

The lack of meaningful recovery after the crash of 2008 hurt liberal and conservative citizens alike; the elites, not so much. But where liberals look for causes and cures, and work as a community to change their world, conservatives are encouraged to feel powerless to change their world, look for domestic and foreign “others” on which to fix blame, and yearn for direction from above. That is reflected in these telling words from Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination: “I am your voice. … I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”

Moreover, Trump stole some progressive thunder from the other side: “Remember, it was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA, one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country. Never again.” And “[Hillary] has supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership—which will not only destroy our manufacturing, but it will make America subject to the rulings of foreign governments.” And “We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. This, in turn, will create millions more jobs.” And “Millions of Democrats will join our movement, because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly, and justly, for each and every American.”

By contrast, Hillary’s speech was long on cliché and short on progressivity. Maybe she thinks she can do without her progressive, working-class base, the Bernie Sanders supporters, or the 39% of the electorate who identify as “independent”—that is, those so turned off by hyper-partisanship that they can’t stand either party—which constitute a larger voting percentage that either Democrat (32%) or Republican (23%). Furthermore, Hillary was late to the table with holding big business accountable for economic devastation: “It’s wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.” And “I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.” And for a candidate who refuses to ban fracking, it’s ironic to hear her say, “I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.”

There are other troubling signs. As the popular meme goes, Trump only brags about doing bad things; Hillary has actually done them. What sounds like Hillary-bashing is supported by her record and that of Hillary and Bill during the Clinton administration.

  • Trump complains about millions of people on food stamps and in public housing; the Clinton administration passed so-called welfare reform, cutting off a lifeline for many poor people—as if the national debt is caused by people with no power and no money.
  • She says Trump wants to ban Muslin immigration, but Hillary wants to continue bombing Muslim countries, threatening to hit Iran (the enemy she is “most proud of”) if they so much as blink at Israel and supporting a no-fly zone over Syria, where ISIL and Al-Qaida have no airplanes, but where the U.S. would have to commit 70,000 troops.
  • She calls Trump a racist, but Hillary supports racist policies. She volunteered for segregationist presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in the 1960s; as First Lady, she infamously called African-American youth “superpredators,” while actively campaigning for her husband’s crime bill; while criticizing Trump for his association with KKK leader David Duke, Hillary admitted to being mentored by high-ranking KKK member Senator Robert Byrd, even eulogizing him at his funeral.
  • She claims Trump will destroy the economy, but Hillary and her husband have promoted the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and she has refused to categorically oppose the TPP. Her husband took the lead, with her support, in repealing the Glass–Steagall Legislation, which lead to the housing and economic crash—and bank bailouts—of 2008.
  • She says Trump is too irresponsible to hold the nuclear codes, but Hillary is a seasoned militarist (see #4 below).
  1. Hillary Clinton has other serious flaws. There is no reason to believe that if she becomes the first woman President, Hillary will be treated any differently by the “vast, right-wing conspiracy” to whom truth is a leisure service of politics. In the run-up to the election, for the next three months, you will see what an entire Clinton II administration will look like from the right wing that hates Hillary more than they ever hated her husband.

Bernie Sanders is a gentleman, a statesman and a patriot, so he declined to make a big deal of the very clear evidence of primary election-rigging and millions of dollars’ worth of media bias toward Hillary Clinton. But the Republican right wing will not be so gentle or so gentlemanly. Hillary can take it, you say? OK.

How about her Iraq vote? Yes, she said a few times (but only after 2007) that it was “a mistake,” and in her 2014 book <em>Hard Choices</em>, that she “got it wrong.” But <em>she has never apologized</em> for the mistake that ended up costing 4,500 American lives, perhaps a half million Iraqi lives, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, occasioning in major cutbacks to important social programs—and resulted in the creation of ISIL. She wasn’t alone in this vote, but the only presidential candidate who voted <em>for</em> the AUMF is asking us to trust her policy judgment after this “mistake.”

But let’s take Hillary at her word. Did she learn from her “mistake”? Perhaps not: As Secretary of State under President Obama, whose legacy she vows to continue, Hillary backed a major U.S. “surge” in Afghanistan (70% of the U.S. soldiers who have died in Afghanistan have died since Mr. Obama took office). She supports torture by the U.S., including the war crime of waterboarding, just not when performed by other countries. She supports the illegal expansion of the state of Israel into Palestine. Indeed, her promise to continue meddling in the Middle East hurts people and helps only weapons contractors—her donors. According to <em>Time Magazine</em>, Hillary Clinton’s State Department “helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes [which increased 300% since George W. Bush left office]. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action.” She supported the illegal U.S. bombing of Libya, now a failed state. She supports boots-on-the-ground regime change in Syria: according to <em>Time</em>, “She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime.” And, after a coup to overthrow the Honduran democracy in 2009, she backed a fascist military dictatorship in its place.

Her legacy stems from support of her husband’s policies (1993-2001). She supported U.S invasions of or attacks against Haiti (1994 and formerly a democracy), Bosnia (1995), and Kosovo (1999). She “urged” her husband to bomb Yugoslavia (illegally, 1999)—indeed, this was a pretext to expand NATO, violating an agreement with Russia that NATO would not move “one inch” east of West Germany (and we wonder why Vladimir Putin gets upset at NATO encirclement!). As late as 2007, she supported the illegal U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Indeed, according to one website, “At the end of the year in which Clinton left her position as Secretary of State (2013), the Obama regime’s USA was voted, in a Win/Gallup poll of 65 countries around the world, as the single greatest threat to world peace, with the runner-up (Pakistan, an Islamic fundamentalist US ally) receiving three times fewer votes, and Russia receiving twelve times fewer votes.”

But it doesn’t end there. Hillary Clinton has been, and will be, the subject of multiple investigations—especially should she be elected without clear Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans will (I think treasonously) tie up the people’s business in favor of hamstringing and stymieing any progress Hillary tries to make on her agenda. Just as they did to her husband with the Monica Lewinsky “scandal”; just as they have tried to do with Mr. Obama. Republicans will block her at every turn, dog her with scandals real or invented (it’s a distinction without a difference to the Fox News crowd) and, if anything, be harder on her than on the scandal-free Obama. It would not be surprising to find Articles of Impeachment land on her desk the day after she takes office.

  1. Hillary Clinton is an enigma. In his notorious 2008 campaign ad, then-Senator Barack Obama said: “Hillary Clinton. She’ll say anything, and change nothing.” Whether or not this is true, voters are asking: Just who is Hillary Clinton? Whose side is she on? Can Hillary be trusted?

In 2008, Hillary was the front-runner, but then voters abandoned her in favor of a freshman Senator from Illinois. Was it because they would rather have voted for the first African-American president than the first female president? Or was it because voters felt they could trust Mr. Obama more than Mrs. Clinton? Polls seem to indicate that voters favored Obama largely because he was not Hillary.

A June Rasmussen poll, quoted by Fast Company, found 46% of likely voters saying Hillary was less honest than most other politicians (45% said the same of Trump). This may be confirmation bias, as the article claims, in which case tough for Hillary. People already “know” she is a liar—there are many instances in which she has verifiably stretched the truth, but no more than many male politicians (including her husband)—but this explains why Republicans don’t trust her. What about the 33% of <em>Democrats</em> who think she is less than candid? She plays the gender card, but denies she plays it; she denies being part of establishment politics, even while reveling in it; she offered multiple excuses for why she used a private e-mail server instead of abiding by State Department and Public Records law (FBI director James Comey, a George W. Bush appointee, said there is evidence that she was extremely careless in her handling of very sensitive, highly classified information, including eight chains with highly classified information, 36 with secret information and another eight with confidential information); she even distorted the record of a true progressive (Bernie Sanders); to prove that she is really a progressive.

Then there is the election rigging. As usual, Hillary’s fingerprints are not found on this, but the evidence is clear and convincing—as the leaked e-mails and other sources demonstrate: targeted voter suppression, registration tampering, illegal voter purges, exit polling discrepancies, evidence for voting machine tampering, the security (or lack thereof) of various voting machine types. In any other country, this election cycle would trigger a U.N. investigation.

There is not much I can say to recommend Trump, but as one pundit put it, “[W]ith every force in the Republican party against him, [Trump] won fair and square. He abided by the rules.” The same cannot be said of Hillary: “Hillary Clinton had all the money, name recognition, and advantages any candidate could. And yet, the DNC had to rig the election in her favor.”

For all these reasons, Hillary Clinton will have a difficult time winning the presidency in November. Many of her problems stem from her personality and her background as a corporate Democrat. Many of her problems, like the right-wing haters who will never accept her, are out of her control. But whether it is her bad policy decisions or the perception of her duplicity, whether it is her misreading the electorate or misreading her opponent, whether she plays the First-Woman-President card or the Be-Afraid-of-Donald-Trump card, there is a sliver of hope in her electoral prospects. If Hillary were to become and behave as progressive as Bernie Sanders actually is, addressing with real solutions the real problems that galvanized Bernie’s followers, and even some Trump supporters, she might get independent voters to emerge from their dejection and eke out a win in November, in spite of her frighteningly negative numbers.

I don’t see that happening. It’s not in her nature. And that is why I believe Hillary will lose. And she will lose YOOGE.

Posted in Uncategorized

Redlining Pizza

Was I too quick to call out racism?

It was about 9:00 and I called the nearby Pizza Hut. The proprietor answered with something unintelligible before saying “Pizza Hut,” then asked if I wanted carryout or delivery.

I said delivery—if I have reached the Pizza Hut across from the 7-Eleven (my local one).

He replied, “That was the first thing I said.”

I thought that was somewhat smart-ass of him, but I said, “Your first words to me were unintelligible, so that is why I asked for clarification.” I gave him the delivery address, a well-kept neighborhood of rowhouses and single-family houses, mostly African-American.

He said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t deliver to that address after 5pm.”

Of course, it was dark at that hour, but I said it’s an assisted living home on a private driveway, up a hill, off the street. Then, after pausing a second, I added, “That policy sounds a bit racist. Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider it?”

He said, “Well, when my drivers are in danger….”

I cut him off and reminded him that this is an assisted living home, on a private driveway, so there is no danger.

He insisted on his policy. I hung up on him.

Instead, I ordered from Today’s Pizza, who were happy to take my delivery order at any hour. They had delivered to that address before.

As a Realtor, I’m familiar with the concept of redlining. Was I too quick to call out racism?

Posted in Uncategorized

Top 10 Reasons Why Donald Trump is a “Real” Christian

And Why Americans Love Him

10. Like conservative Christians, Trump seems to be afraid of nearly everything: brown people, other religions, the government, liberals, homosexuals, women breast feeding—pretty much anything or anyone that’s not a heterosexual, white conservative Christian.

9. Like conservative Christians, Trump is demeaning to women. “You know,” says Trump, “it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

8. After previously making favorable statements about the right to abortion, like conservative Christians, Trump now claims to be pro-life—and, also like conservative Christians, Trump says, “Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded.”

7. Like conservative Christians, Trump denies human-caused climate change: “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.” He has also tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

6. Like conservative Christians, Trump thinks socialism is evil: he criticizes Vermont Senator Bernie (“Crazy Bernie”) Sanders’s democratic socialist beliefs as “a short road to failure for this country.” And, also like conservative Christians, he doesn’t know—or care—about the differences between socialism and communism.

5. Like conservative Christians, Trump would like to see schools compete: charters, vouchers, and magnets—in effect inviting unaccountable corporate control of education—and to cut the Department of Education and Common Core standards. Also like conservative Christians, Trump personifies the ignorance of facts and issues that results from a lack of education.

4. Like conservative Christians, Trump seems to have no problem chastising a poor family on food stamps or welfare—which he counterfactually calls an “outrageously mismanaged government program”—but considers anyone “un-American” who dares to call a wealthy person a greedy bastard.

3. Although he admits he knows little about guns, Trump seems to support them just as much as gun-obsessed conservative Christians. “We’re going to cherish the Second Amendment,” Trump said during a campaign stop in Washington state. And Trump argued that the November 2015 massacre in Paris would have “would have played out differently with the bullets flying in the other direction.”

2. Like conservative Christians, Trump seems to be OK with torture… of foreigners, preferably swarthy ones, because “we have to beat the savages.” Plus, he believes in family values at home, but that it’s OK to kill the families of terrorists abroad.

1. Like conservative Christians, Trump is racist: he suggests that Hispanic and Latino immigrants constitute a criminal class who want to rape and murder white women, and who, on the one hand, are stealing the jobs of “real” Americans, but who are also lazy moochers!

Posted in Entertainer, Politics, Rant, Uncategorized

October 26: Seth Macfarlane (1973)

Seth_MacfarlaneIt was on this date, October 26, 1973, that American comedian and creator of the prime-time Emmy-winning satire The Family Guy, Seth Woodbury MacFarlane was born in Kent, Connecticut. He is best known for writing, directing, producing and voicing the title character in the 2012 comedy Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, as well as its sequel Ted 2 (2015), and A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).


MacFarlane’s background is in animation, which he studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. In addition to Family Guy, winner of two Emmy Awards, Macfarlane also created the 2005 adult animated series American Dad! He served in 2014 as executive producer of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which is an update of the 1980 Cosmos series hosted by the late Carl Sagan. And he has performed live as a singer at Carnegie Hall and release three studio albums, admitting to influence from singer Frank Sinatra. In 2015, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


MacFarlane was named the Harvard Humanist of the Year in 2011 in recognition for “his active, passionate commitment to Humanist values, and his fearless support of equal marriage rights and other social justice issues.” He also serves on the board of the progressive advocacy organization People for the American Way. On the February 19, 2010, episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO), MacFarlane said he is an atheist, but that he has no problem with religious people in general. And in the entertainment magazine Steppin’ Out, Macfarlane said, “I do not believe in God. I’m an atheist. I consider myself a critical thinker, and it fascinates me that in the 21st century most people still believe in, as George Carlin puts it, ‘the invisible man living in the sky.’”

Posted in Uncategorized

October 24: Eugenie Scott (1945)

Eugenie_ScottIt was on this date, October 24, 1945, that “one of the strongest voices challenging the teaching of young earth creationism and intelligent design in schools” American physical anthropologist Eugenie Scott was born. Scott grew up in Wisconsin, earned her BS and MS from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and her PhD from the University of Missouri. She also holds nine honorary degrees. She joined the University of Kentucky as a physical anthropologist in 1974 and was Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) from 1987-2014.


It was at Kentucky U. that she first became interested in the creation-evolution “controversy” when she heard her mentor, James A. Gavan, debate the young earth creationist Duane T. Gish (d. 2013). By 1980, she had become a leading critic of young earth creationism and intelligent design and stood at the forefront of the drive to keep the pseudoscience of creationism/intelligent design out of public school science classrooms. In 2004, she published Evolution Vs. Creationism: An Introduction and in 2006 was co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott became the first-ever recipient of the Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution in 2009, being cited for devoting “her life to advancing public understanding of evolution.”


Scott joined the National Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and served on the National Advisory Council of Americans for Religious Liberty. In 1999 Scott was awarded the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award “for tirelessly defending the separation of church and state by ensuring that religious neutrality is maintained in the science curriculum of America’s public schools.”


Brought up in Christian Science by her mother and grandmother, Scott now designates herself a nontheist and is a signatory to the third Humanist Manifesto. Both Scott and the NCSE are criticized by creationist groups as being “atheistic” for simply being religiously neutral and promoting science over design. Scott jokes that she is so often referred to as “Atheist Eugenie Scott” by creationists, she sometimes thinks her first name is “Atheist.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Making the Rounds

I manage this house; I don’t own it. But my real estate property management experience has taught me to be protective of property belonging to my clients. And as an assisted living manager, I am protective of the residents within. So when I saw two smartly dressed strangers approach the door of the house as I was leaving it, I stopped to hear what they had to say to the house manager I was leaving in charge.

The lead man in the trench coat carried a Bible and another book in his left hand. The gentleman behind him came similarly armed. The first stated his business to my house manager: “We stopped by last week and dropped off some Bible-based material for the people in the house. We just wondered if they had any questions.”

I manage six assisted-living houses and this was one of them. We are not affiliated with any religious organization and consequently keep ourselves open to all faiths—and none. Indeed, we have had not only Christian but Jewish and Muslim residents. We try to accommodate their special diets, as much as we can.

When I got into the field of caring for elderly people, I was rather surprised at the number who expressed no religious preference at all: I had always assumed that people gravitated toward God in their declining years, as if studying for their finals. But no, I guess life teaches some people that you don’t need God to be good or a mystical “elf-on-a-shelf” to guilt you out of doing bad things.

On the other hand, many of my residents do take their religion seriously and I do not stand in their way. I won’t drive them to church, but I welcome all clerics to make house calls, with one proviso: I do not allow proselytizing. It is one thing to enable religious practice. It is quite another to allow somebody to take advantage of a captive audience, my residents, to spread their religion. I do not allow then to talk to residents they do not know and I do not allow then to leave behind any religious literature for other residents to read. If they want to convert my residents, they will have to do it away from my house.

But today they were on my doorstep. My house manager looked nonplused, as if he had been caught doing something bad in front of his boss. He looked at me for help, knowing that it was he who had allowed them access to my residents on their first visit. I stood there, watching, not uttering a word. He stammered something to them like, “No. There are no questions.”

Now, if this had actually been my house, rather than a house for which I have responsibility to somebody else, I would have seen my role differently. Indeed, as I have written before, I would have relished a debate, a chance to shock them or to give them something to think about. But on this day, at this place, that was not my job.

Instead, I asked of the lead man, “Is this your last visit to my house?”

He turned to me, looking almost as stumped as my house manager, and hesitated. I could imagine him thinking, I am doing God’s work. Can he not see that I am only here to do good for these people and to get them to heaven? How can he forbid me to save their souls? Perhaps he needs saving. Perhaps he doesn’t know the horrors that await the unsaved! But he said, “I guess… that’s up to you.”

I said, “This is your last visit to my house.”

As they turned and left, a describable feeling came over me.


Why on earth should I feel guilty? I’ve been an atheist for over 40 years, yet I felt inside me the same emotion my house manager had shown on his face. Intellectually, I had justified my actions as protecting my residents and ensuring both freedom of religion and freedom from religion—in the best American tradition. So why did it nag at me that I had done something wrong?

Maybe it’s normal in this country, this culture, that Christians have free reign but atheists do not. After all my reading and debating, have I even now internalized Christian privilege? I hope not. And the cure may have come from the reverse perspective that I heard from the late Christopher Hitchens in a panel discussion of a few years ago. Hitchens noted that it seems quite acceptable for Christian proselytizers to approach dying people and tell them, in effect, “You’ve got one chance left; won’t you start believing now?” But, he said, what if the tables were turned? What if atheists started visiting dying people and saying, “Well, look, you may only have a few days left, but you don’t have to live them as a serf, you know. Just recognize that that was all bullshit, that the priests have been cheating you, and I guarantee you you’ll feel better.”

Somehow that would be in bad taste and unethical, but when Christians engage in the same kind of emotional extortion it’s seen as quite acceptable, even polite.

Maybe I should start making the rounds!

Here is an audio version of this commentary:

Posted in Rant, Religion
John Mill