Spirituality of Spinoza

The following is either compiled or copied. I do not know the source.

When Einstein gave lectures at U.S. universities, the question students asked him most was: Do you believe in God? And he always answered: I believe in the God of Spinoza.

Baruch de Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher considered one of the great rationalists of 17th century philosophy, along with Descartes.

According to Spinoza, God would say: “Stop praying. I want you to go out into the world and enjoy your life. I want you to sing, have fun and enjoy everything I’ve made for you.

“Stop going into those dark, cold temples that you built yourself and saying they are my house. My house is in the mountains, in the woods, rivers, lakes, beaches. That’s where I live and there I express my love for you.

“Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you there was anything wrong with you or that you were a sinner, or that your sexuality was a bad thing. Sex is a gift I have given you and with which you can express your love, your ecstasy, your joy. So don’t blame me for everything that others made you believe.

“Stop reading alleged sacred scriptures that have nothing to do with me. If you can’t read me in a sunrise, in a landscape, in the look of your friends, in your son’s eyes—you will find me in no book!

“Stop asking me, ‘Will you tell me how to do my job?’ Stop being so scared of me. I do not judge you or criticize you, nor get angry or bothered. I am pure love.

“Stop asking for forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive. If I made you, I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies, and best of all, free will. Why would I blame you if you respond to something I put in you? How could I punish you for being the way you are, if I’m the one who made you? Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who behave badly for the rest of eternity? What kind of god would do that?

“Respect your peers, and don’t give what you don’t want for yourself. All I ask is that you pay attention in your life—alertness is your guide.

“My beloved, this life is not a test, not a step on the way, not a rehearsal, not a prelude to paradise. This life is the only thing here and now—and it is all you need.

“I have set you absolutely free, no prizes or punishments, no sins or virtues, no one carries a marker, no one keeps a record.
You are absolutely free to create in your life. It’s you who creates heaven or hell.

“Live as if there is nothing beyond this life, as if this is your only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist. Then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is an afterlife, rest assured that I won’t ask if you behaved right or wrong, I’ll ask, ‘Did you like it? Did you have fun? What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?’

“Stop believing in me; believing is assuming, guessing, imagining. I don’t want you to believe in me, I want you to believe in you. I want you to feel me in you when you kiss your beloved, when you tuck in your little girl, when you caress your dog, when you bathe in the sea.

“Stop praising me. What kind of egomaniac God do you think I am? I’m bored with being praised. I’m tired of being thanked. Feeling grateful? Prove it by taking care of yourself, your health, your relationships, the world. Express your joy! That’s the way to praise me.

“Stop complicating things and repeating as a parrot what you’ve been taught about me. Why do you need more miracles? So many explanations?

“The only thing for sure is that you are here, that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders.”

The New Finances of Politics

Turning lies into profits has proved hugely successful. New federal financial reports show that the pressures of losing have actually helped Trump raise $13 million per day over the past two months. What are the long term financial implication on other elections?

The MAGA movement fundamentally changed the finances of American politics. Since the time two months ago when it appeared highly likely to independent observers that he would lose the election, Trump and his fundraisers have raised $13 million per day primarily through text message appeals to the MAGA crowd. Yesterday the Trump campaign, the RNC, Trump Victory, and Trump Make America Great Again Committee, filed reports with the Federal Election Commission for the reporting period of Oct. 15 to Nov. 23 disclosing that they collectively raised a total of $495 million in tis short time.

Since there are no laws that the text message appeals to donors need to be factual or honest, the people solicited have been misled with false statements and sophisticated appeals to their emotions. It is easy to argue that election finance laws are specifically designed to allow legalized fraud. The fundraisers target the cognitive weaknesses in potential donors through brilliantly designed fundraising messages. This explains why most MAGA individuals believed that he would certainly win the election despite other more credible data, will still win the election through post-election maneuvers despite all other sources, will be president despite losing the election based on speculator fantasies, and will be president again in the future. There are no signs that this unprecedented financial campaign will slow down.

In fact, the financial appeals for Trump’s 2024 campaign are expected to begin soon and will likely be the strongest early financial campaign in our country’s history. Trump is clearly able to leverage his folk hero status and polished TV image as a successful businessman among the MAGA crowd into an extremely profitable cash generating machine. The money is funneled through a Political Action Committee, better known as a “PAC”, a type of organization authorized by federal law that bypasses the limits of campaign contributions and allows Trump to use the money without the usual restrictions imposed on campaign funds.

What effect will this have on other federal, state and local political fundraising? The Republican National Committee has indicated that it is willing to consider backing other candidates outside of Trump and the MAGA circle. Will this fragment the parties’ fundraising?

My own role is focused and limited to the required accounting and legal compliance of political campaigns, including a PAC. I have set up the mechanics of text message based donation campaigns. I know that this relatively new technology is a mechanically efficient process. Most of my campaign clients have been independents or Democrats. Only two were Republicans. I understand that it would be expensive but still highly profitable to run a text message based fundraising campaign like Trump is doing. It is not clear to me, in my limited capacity as an accountant, whether others will be able to be as successful following this newly proven strategy. My observation and personal opinion is that other candidates of both parties are light years behind in their ability to manipulate voters into this type of cash-generating machine. Yet I do not doubt that Trump’s fundraising success will cause future fundraising campaigns to copy this proven strategy of appealing to the ‘dark side’ of voters. I regret to conclude that fundraising based on fantasy – storied completely separated from facts and reality – will increase in the future. I’ll be watching for other Republicans who follow this same financial strategy. Some observers write that it is unlikely that Democrats or independent candidates would be as successful in this type of strategy. I tend to agree but that’s well outside my area of expertise.

In summary, I see huge financial potential ahead for this completely legal method of turning lies into a profitable long term business model. While it isn’t clear who will do this, I have no doubt that others will follow.

National To Do List

  • Recommit to the Paris Accord
  • Rejoin WHO
  • Reinstate DACA
  • Reuinite refugee families
  • Support and strengthen ACA
  • Raise highest bracket corporate tax rates
  • Add higher individual tax bracket over $400,000
  • Supported and coordinated coronavirus task force based on science not politics
  • Expand Supreme Court so that one president’s appointments does not have undue influence
  • End drilling on national lands
  • Strengthen Clean Water Act

That’s good enough for day one.

How to end minority rule government in the United States

I’m writing this hours after the minority government packed the Supreme Court with a Justice who is not supported by the majority of Americans. We had one simple and effective tool to use to prevent minority rule government that does these despicable things. We failed to use our right to vote effectively in 2016 and 2018. Our failure as U.S. voters directly led to this poor result. Legal scholars predict this will hurt the average American, especially women and non-white people, for generations to come.

Will we fail to use our power to vote in preventing minority rule government again in 2020? This is how U.S. voting looks by the numbers:

257 million are eligible to vote

240 million are registered to vote

150 million are likely to vote (a high side estimate)

60 million have already voted (a week before the deadline)*

It’s easy to conclude that the 90 million who do not vote (registered but not voting) who are primarily responsible for enabling the minority party to continue to control the majority of us and govern in ways that harm the majority of us. The encouraging thing, statisticians tell us, is that we don’t need to change the behavior of all 90 million. Just getting 1 in 100 of these non-voters to cast a ballot would end minority rule government in the United States federal government. Even in the most lopsided local voting districts, getting 1 in 10 non-voters to cast a ballot would displace most minority governments.

The big unanswered question is whether this year’s final vote count will still result in the over-representation of older white voters relative to their share of the population or whether we see more equal rates of voter turnout across all voter groups. I’m guessing that nothing has really changed and that minority rule will continue in many parts of the country.

My own work and financial support in recent years has focused on supporting increasing the number of votes, rather than support parties or candidates. We’ve made some progress but we must do better.

Only by increasing voter participation can we get rid of this destructive and cruel system of minority rule in government. Few things in our lives are this simple and this clear. We are sick of government by rich old white men. I will continue to do my best to end this broken system by encouraging more people to vote. That’s our only hope.


* early voting number per Axios estimate yesterday. Other voter data was reported by USA Today this week.

The power of protest against evil

A reporter once asked A.J. Muste — a social activist who, during the Vietnam War, stood outside the White House night after night — ‘Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?’

“‘Oh,’ Muste replied, ‘I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.’


This passage is widely quoted but this blog post on The Liberal Pulpit caught my attention. I am grateful that I’ve been able to stand for a lifetime of powerful protest to resist the evils of man from the Vietnam war in the early 1970s to the environmental evils of climate change deniers in the 1980s to the evil of trumpsters from 2016 to 2020. Only through this process of perseverance to upholding our core moral values will we, as individuals and as a human society, prevail on this earth.

Why I conclude that the 2016 Election Result is Invalid Based on the Republican Senate Intelligence Report on Russian Interference

The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted an investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election. At the conclusion of the investigation the Republican Senators issued a five volume report in pieces and at various dates over the past few years. The report received relatively little attention due to the busy news cycle headlines.

Because Republicans control the Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee is led by Republicans who controlled the release of the report. We presume that Republicans have no motivation to publicize the report findings or act on their findings in a way that might hurt Trump’s chances of re-election.

The full text of the first volume of the Senate report is available online here. Volume 2 is here. Volume 3 is here. Volume 4 is here. Volume 5 is available here.

This blog post summarizes the findings of the report. I wrote this summary so that I would have a clear basis of recall the findings of the Senate report. In this age where facts are deliberately blurred for political purposes and memory is less than perfect, this is important. My notes and quotations are based almost entirely on writings of Heather Cox Richardson. The notes support my overall conclusion.

VOLUME 1 – RUSSIA DID ACCESS THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM

Russians successfully breached U.S. election system security in 2016. “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” but the Department of Homeland Security “assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.” The section on Russian attacks on voting machines is almost entirely redacted so we still do not know those details.

VOLUME 2 – RUSSIAN GOALS TO HELP TRUMP AND THE OTHER METHODS OF INTERFERENCE USED

Russians “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin” and “in 2016, Russian operatives… used social media to conduct an information warfare campaign designed to spread disinformation and societal division in the United States. Masquerading as Americans, these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated content, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States. This campaign sought to polarize Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences, provoked real world events, and was part of a foreign government’s covert support of Russia’s favored candidate in the U.S. presidential election.”

VOLUME 3 – U.S. GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO ELECTION INTERFERENCE

How the elected U.S. government responded to the intelligence reports of Russian attacks on our election.

VOLUME 4 – U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCY RESPONSE

The methods and findings of the Intelligence Community are investigated, supported and justified.

VOLUME 5 – RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS WITHIN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort was actively working with a Russian intelligence officer who was a longtime business associate in Ukraine.

CONCLUSION

The Republican Senate report does not conclude that the results of the 2016 presidential election are invalid. As a user of the Senate report, I do reach that conclusion that the result was invalid.

Buffy Sainte-Marie at Philadlphia Folk Festival 8/14/2020

In 1963 a young native Canadian American folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie living in Greenwich Village was moved by seeing young wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam while the U.S. government was denying that our men were involved in the war. It inspired her war protest song “Universal Soldier” that has endured as perhaps the most recognized anti-war song in contemporary culture. Eventually many returning U.S. servicemen faced condemnation by the American people in their own communities for participating in the war even though it was certainly not their choice. Even though I was just a kid, I remember it as a wrenching time and a very difficult issue for adults. The resulting societal moral conflict led to the end of the draft in 1972/1973. The song has new meaning today as we witness militants fighting for the federal government attacking U.S. citizens on the streets in our home country. Those militants are rightfully being condemned within their communities.

It was great to see her as the headliner tonight at Philadelphia Folk Festival. Her version of “America the Beautiful” was moving. Her new war protest song “The War Racket” is equally strong that preceded “Universal Soldier”.

Same as it ever was

Tonight I saw the rerun of the March 1, 2020 barefoot performance of “Once in a Lifetime” by David Byrne on SNL. Amazing!

The ultimate water dominance lyrics from 1980 have stayed with us for a lifetime:

“And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing undergroundAnd you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing undergroundSame as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever wasWater dissolving and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Under the water, carry the water
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!
Water dissolving and water removingLetting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again into silent water
Under the rocks and stones, there is water undergroundLetting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing undergroundYou may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself
“My God! What have I done?”Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again into the silent water
Under the rocks and stones, there is water undergroundLetting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing undergroundSame as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Look where my hand was
Time isn’t holding up
Time isn’t after us
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Letting the days go by
Same as it ever was
And here the twister comes
Here comes the twisterLetting the days go by (same as it ever was)
Same as it ever was (same as it ever was)
Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
Same as it ever was
Once in a lifetime
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by”

8 anti-racism actions to take now

These eight action steps are written by Catrice M. Jackson and published in Bazaar on June, 8, 2020.

“1. Resist the urge to withdraw, lash out, and become defensive or emotionally brittle when black people speak the unfiltered truth about racism.
2. Refuse to be a co-conspirator with white terrorism by breaking the intergenerational legacy of white silence and complacency.
3. Recommit in every moment to be extremely uncomfortable and uncertain while on your anti-racism journey.
4. Stop being afraid to talk openly and directly about racism in general and your own racism in particular. White people always think it is “those other white people” who are the problem.
5. Grab a seat, sit down, and be quiet. White people are not the experts on racism. Listen much more than you speak.
6. Listen to black women, and if they’re willing to teach you, pay them for their labour.
7. Accept that there are no exceptional white people, but there are white people who do good things.
8. Understand that there is no perfect formula for becoming anti-racist, and that the work ends only when you take your last breath. Learn what the Weapons of Whiteness are, discover which ones are your go-to weapons, and be ready and willing to disarm yourself.”