Voice of Sanity – April 2017



Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Family $40/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:



Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

April 2017

The Voice of Sanity


                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:








                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/


The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

A review of business done in the board meeting is presented at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: April 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th.


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday April 23rd

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM April 6th and 20th. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on April 13th and 27th.


April 8th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.


April 22nd: Piedmont Humanists is supporting the March for Science Rally that will take place on Saturday between 12 noon and 2PM at 1 City Plaza in downtown Greenville. There will be speakers, and science demonstrations.







Although the economy in the US has recovered since 2008 and unemployment fell to about 4.6 percent in November inequality of income still remains an issue for many Americans. The question of how the former two can be positive while the last is an enduring problem puzzles a great many experts. The intent of the following paragraphs will be to focus on certain aspects of income and capital that appear to reinforce the situation rather than improve it.


The US ratio of income of the top ten percent to the bottom ten percent is about 5.5 to 1. This does not seem so unfair until one looks at the average yearly income of the top one percent averaging about $863,000 recently. Some of this top payroll is from wages and some is from capital. Those who receive income from wages have done work to earn them. Those who receive income from capital have not. Additionally the top ten percent holds about 75 percent of the country’s wealth, the top one percent holds 43 percent.


Historically the 5.5 to 1 ratio has not been seen since the Great Depression. This does not mean that there hasn’t been an overall improvement in the inequality of income since the 19th century because the ratio was higher then. It is just that equality was much greater in the mid-20th century and has since deteriorated.


Between 1970 and 1990 US low skilled jobs decreased by a large margin. Many industrial facilities either closed or relocated abroad. As a result there was an increase in unemployment in the industrial sector of the population. During the same time advances in technology were accelerating and for those companies that did remain here automation filled the gap of unskilled jobs. It was this writer’s experience to periodically visit one such facility in South Carolina between 1985 and 2000. Its workers shrank from many employees to only a few due to automation. It is ironic that robots and other forms of technology have replaced dangerous, unhealthy, and tedious jobs done by humans in the past, but alternative forms of work for those displaced have also decreased. 


It was predicted in “trickle-down theory” that high interest rates and lower taxes in the 1980s and 1990s would stimulate savings and this in turn would stimulate growth in the economy. Instead savings went down. Credit expanded during this time affording many consumers an option to defer payment on purchases for a fee. In this way credit gradually replaced savings. Additionally, profits of many companies during this time were used to invest globally rather than nationally and much capital that would have decreased the unemployment of unskilled workers evaporated.


The preference to invest in low skilled labor abroad rather than new technological advances in the US probably was a cost efficient move on the part of many companies. Such innovation would have required not only a new expenditure for sophisticated machinery in this country but a significant and expensive change in education for workers. At any rate companies that did stay invested in the technology but were unsupported by the educational system. Now, there is a strong need for but shortage of skilled workers. High skill jobs in the US are presently at a premium and companies must pay high wages or lose workers to competitors. These skilled workers wind up working much longer hours than their counterparts in other industrialized countries because of the skilled labor shortage.


Many believe that taxing higher incomes and capital can be an answer to the problem of economic inequality. It’s true that since the 1970s the top income tax rate fell from 70 percent to 28 percent in 1986 and then rebounded to the 39 percent we see today. For those who don’t work and live on capital gains alone the tax is still about 28 percent. A 39 percent tax on an upper one percent income of $863,000 mentioned earlier would leave a net yearly income for that individual of $526,430 an amount over ten times the average American income of $52,000 gross. A tax although applied to only ten percent of the population still should affect a more reasonable portion of the 75 percent share of national wealth it controls.


Taxation of inheritance is an attractive way to fairly redistribute income especially since it directly taxes capital and not labor. The tax on inheritance has been referred to as the “death tax” in recent years, but actually there is an estate limit below which no tax is levied. This is called the exclusion amount. In 2001 the exclusion amount was $675,000 with a maximum top tax rate of 55 percent. As of 2016 the exclusion amount was $5,450,000 with a maximum top tax of 40 percent.


Some would say that a progressive taxation would be unfair to those who have been successful and have worked hard for what they have. No doubt this is true and it is also unfair to support some who are perpetually disinclined to work even though they are quite capable. However, those unskilled laborers and their families who have lost jobs to foreign manufacturing and domestic new technologies in the past were not disinclined to work. Every society has a certain percentage of poor who are there either by their own volition or by tragic circumstances but it is bad for a society to let that percentage grow as it has recently done without looking into the past to see all of the factors leading up to the problem.


Education is another of those factors. Even though improvements in technology have demanded skilled labor since the 1970s, education has done little to close the gap between the skilled and unskilled fast enough. The emphasis in many institutions of higher learning has been on vocations limited to a small percentage of the population who already comprise the upper ten percent such as lawyers, managers, and doctors. The rich can afford to send their children to private schools. However, a lack of support for public education denies a large portion of unskilled workers and their families the tools to make an adequate living and provide education in adequate skills for their children. The recent introduction of STEM programs is welcome but only a small part of the solution.


The educational lag behind technology is also due to subtle forms of discrimination against minorities and pockets of poor communities in rural areas. Funding for public schools is done mainly on a local basis. Because of this poor communities cannot afford an equal educational infrastructure that will allow training for technological jobs. As a result the children in these communities have little opportunity to improve their standard of living. To make matters worse the communities themselves, because of isolation, tend to negatively feed-back into their own problems. That is why the Colman study in Chicago as early as 1966 showed that improvements in such schools did little to improve the economic levels in their communities. The study initially implied that the students themselves did not have the natural capacity to learn, but this was later disproved because adoptees in families with better education and/or better economic opportunity showed equal improvement to their adopted siblings.


The US might do well to look to other countries for solutions to education. In Germany firms invest in training and apprenticeship centers. Students are generally not required to pay for the training or even commit themselves to working for the sponsor. The training is of a general nature and the student is free to go elsewhere for employment.


All in all America has been successful in keeping unemployment low in the past 45 years. In the years between 1983 and 1996 the US increased the number of jobs by 25 percent. The percentage of growth for the GDP was a healthy 30 percent. If we look at these statistics closely, though, we find that the actual population of the US increased by about 38 percent and that the increase in jobs to keep up with it was in the unskilled category. The low employment figures we see do not expose the trend away from unskilled labor or the loss of unskilled jobs to other countries.


Many suggest a universal basic income to solve the job loss due to increased technology and foreign manufacturing. This could be done through redistribution of income so that those unskilled in the lowest economic rungs could be guaranteed minimum necessities. Implementing this idea would take a lot of practical social engineering. First, one would have to make decisions as to what parts and to what degree the financially successful economy would be able to contribute to such a venture. Second, even if taxation of or automatic transfer from both capital and labor could accumulate government funds to accomplish this there is no insurance that all of those receiving the basic income would automatically put it to the use for which it is intended.


Third, there is an optimistic idea that those receiving such income would then be free to pursue their own special interests. To be sure many would be able to contribute their unique talents to the economy and culture, but not all. For those without any special interest there is no reason why they should not work, even though they would not be paid directly by an employer.


Nor should anyone be excluded from the opportunity to get back into paid employment if they so wish. Presently, the US has programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to support unemployed people. Many times when those people find a job the wage is not enough to support the needs that were supplied previously by the assistance programs. As a result, those seeking employment have to forfeit the opportunity to work because of an economic “cliff” that puts the financial help of the programs well above the financial resources the of the prospective wage. Rather than take a plunge into a worse circumstance the individual chooses to remain without work.


There is little doubt that technology as long as it is cost effective will continue to replace unskilled jobs and that unskilled lower cost foreign labor will be attractive for global corporations. It follows that money accrued from choosing cheaper technology and foreign labor over more expensive domestic unskilled labor will continue to increase the gap between capital and labor and consequently the gap between rich and poor in this country. The difficulties listed in the previous paragraphs simply describe the depth of the problem in American society.




The Economics of Inequality, Thomas Piketty, 1997, 2014, Editions La Decouverte, Paris, France









                          A FEW OF MANY PROBLEMS WITH US PRISONS


The United States presently incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners but contains only five percent of the world’s population. Racism is featured in many news headlines as the reason for the high rate of arrests, but the reasons for going to prison are many and subtle at times.


Statistically there is no color barrier when it comes to the use of marijuana. Both white and black people use it at similar rates but blacks are ten times as likely to be arrested for it. Also, one in three black men can expect to be in prison at least once during their lives. For whites it is one in seventeen.


Latin Americans fair somewhat better with a ratio of one to six for prison but face other problems in metropolitan poor areas where gang activity occurs. Salt Lake City in 2016 was one such place where police marshaled a group of high school students to the local station during a “gang sweep”. Students were questioned, searched, and then made to pose with signs denoting they had gang connections. The outcome was a federal lawsuit brought against the city by the students of West High School. The settlement required police to destroy the records labeling plaintiffs of gang affiliation, destroy the photos, and make no further “gang sweeps”. In addition, school administrators were ordered only to involve police if a situation was a matter of physical safety. An oversight committee was appointed to monitor school intervention every six months.


Prison can also become a trap for poor people who get into trouble for minor offenses but cannot afford to pay fees or bail to alleviate their predicament. As a result they wind up in jail. Last year in Maine two thirds of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees for this reason. In 2005 the legislature there had made it illegal to waiver many fines for criminal offense, regardless whether a person could pay. In the following years thousands were locked up because of not having adequate funds. This caused extra burdens for taxpayers. Arkansas had better laws but a class action had to be taken against the city of Sherwood because four people were put in jail for inability to pay despite well-established laws already there forbidding such police action.


Louisiana jails more people per capita than any other place in the world. Many of the detentions are because of parole violation but a good number are simply because of antiquated laws imposing long sentences that no longer fit the crime.


In Rhode Island one such out of date law was found unconstitutional when a disabled individual was arrested for standing on a street corner holding a sign that said “disabled, need help, God bless”. The man was exonerated and the fine was waived for two reasons. First, the ordinance was found unconstitutional because it violated freedom of speech. Second the police were found to be selective in its enforcement because they routinely ignored those who displayed signs along the same roadway for fund raising activities.


In August of 2016 the Department of Justice announced plans to gradually phase out the use of private federal prisons. Reasons given were that they do not save on government costs and do not maintain the same degree of safety that the government run prisons do. This decision will only affect thirteen federal facilities that house 22,000 out of a total of 193,000 federal prisoners. Presently two-thirds of contracts with private prisons in this country both state and federal have occupancy guarantees and provisions for taxpayers to cover the cost of empty beds in these facilities. This implies a motivation to incarcerate rather rehabilitate because the goal of private penal institutions is to make a profit and filling beds is the only way to improve the profit margin. Additionally, black males between the ages of 17 and 19 are ten times more likely to go to private prisons than older black males. The selection occurs in order that government run prisons absorb and take the financial burden of a less healthy and older population.


The Correction Corporation of America has stated publicly that changes to US laws on drugs, controlled substances, or illegal immigration would reduce the demand for private correctional houses. As for state run prisons, Harry Lappin chief corrections officer of the CCA and former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons has offered arrangements in the past whereby CCA would buy state prisons in exchange for 20 year contracts guaranteeing 90 percent occupancy to increase business.


Perhaps it is time to change our laws on drugs, on illegal immigration, and on imprisonment of poor people simply because they cannot pay. It is well past time for us to focus both on the desperation of poverty and the condition of race when it comes to breaking the law.







                             DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE 115TH CONGRESS


Surprisingly the percentage of non-white representatives in the new 115th Congress has jumped from 15 to 19 percent.. Minority representation has been gradually increasing over the years. In 1980 approximately 90 percent of Congress was white. Now that number has dropped to 81 percent. There is a caveat, however. The percentage of racial minorities in the US population in 1980 was about 20 percent. In the last census that number grew to 39 percent. So while minority numbers have increased in Congress their ratio of representation remains less when compared to their numbers in the general population.


Women have not fared as well in the political makeup. Their numbers fell slightly from 109 in the last Congress to 104. Notables among then are House representative Mazie Hirono ( House D-Hawaii) who also has a Jamaican and Indian background and Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) who is also the first Latina to serve in the Senate. 


Black lawmakers have increased from 46 to 49 since the last election. Republicans are among those who won. They are Senator Tim Scott (S.C.) and Representatives Mia Love (Utah) and Will Hurd (Texas). Also of interest is former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings (D-Fla.) who will be the first woman and African American to represent her district in the House.


The number of gay and lesbian members of Congress remains the same at seven. Tammy Baldwin is the only openly LGBT in the Senate. The remaining six are serving in the House.


The number of non-Christian representatives in Congress has also improved. There are two Muslims and four Hindus all of whom are in the House. Jews have increased in number from 28 to 30 two of which are in the Senate. Buddhists have four representatives this time, one in the Senate and three in the House. Overall, non-Christians compose about seven percent of Congress. 


As with representation of racial minorities and women the religiously non-affiliated are ignored congressionally. No representative appears non-affiliated even though population statistics for the US show something very different. A recent Pew Forum religious survey has been made in the US from the years 2007 to 2014. It shows that the percentage of Christians fell from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent. Non-Christian believers rose from 4.7 percent to 5.9 percent. Lastly, recent Pew surveys of the religiously unaffiliated in the US population rose from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent but there is no one in Congress reflecting this demographic.









The lighter side of poverty:


“Three years ago I came to Florida without a nickel in my pocket. How I’ve got a nickel in my pocket.” Groucho Marx comedian, actor


“He who hesitates is poor.” Mel Brooks comedian, director


“When I was born I owed twelve dollars.” George S. Kaufman playwright and producer


“It was all the wolf could do to keep us away from his door.”

Charles Murray Scottish comedian, actor


“Our rabbi is so poor that if he didn’t fast every Monday and Thursday, he’d starve to death.”

Jewish saying


“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

James Baldwin novelist, civil rights activist


“I used to sell furniture for a living… the trouble was it was my own.”

Les Dawson English comedian

Voice of Sanity – March 2017





Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:



Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

March 2017


The Voice of Sanity


                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:








                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/


The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

There is a business meeting at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: March 5th, 12th, 19th. And 26th


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday March 19th Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM March 9th and 23rd. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on March 2nd, 16th, and 30th. 


March 11th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.



                                   LIFE AND THE TRANSFER OF ENERGY


In the early 1800s Nicholas Carnot the son of the Minister of War under Napoleon investigated ways to improve the efficiency of steam engines. During his work he noticed that “fire” invariably progressed to “ice” or more generally that heat always flowed from hot to cold, never in the opposite direction.  This observation was the beginning of exploration of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and how energy changes and degrades from one form to another in only one direction through time.


Household heating is an example of energy transfer and the Second Law. Locally, the primary and richest form of energy comes from radioactive sources at the Oconee Nuclear Plant. This form is transferred to turbines which generate electricity as the next form of energy. The electricity flows to the local residence where a heat pump transfers it into heat for distribution in the home. Finally the heat leaks out and is absorbed into cold air outside. Nothing travels in the opposite direction; the “transfers” each “degrade” the original energy until it becomes part of the cold air outside. The total transition down the scale is called an energy gradient.


Energy gradients are noticeable everywhere. The flow of water downhill is an example. Our weather patterns are due to energy from the sun combined with earth’s gravity and rotation. So is the circulation of ocean currents. The earth itself is a planet basking in the “goldilocks effect” a unique situation where it is at the right temperature and location in a giant gradient extending from the 58000K of the sun to the 2.70K of outer space. This enables the correct temperature or energy input to permit existence of liquid water and the chemical reactions necessary for life.


The most fantastic example of something taking advantage of the energy gradient is the living cell. Cells are incredibly efficient at this. They use a chemical reaction which turns sugar and oxygen into energy. The process performs a kind of molecular magic trick. While it produces the energy needed, it also reproduces the two molecules that initiated the action in the first place. These two molecules go on to use sugar in a future reaction again allowing energy release plus two molecules for another reaction and so on. This type of chemistry is performed by all the cells in our bodies or, for that matter, cells in any form of life that has to metabolize or burn sugar.


Many scientists now think that life, in order to have originated, would have had to take advantage of the Second Law as well as use the replication of DNA and RNA. The initial chemical reactions to obtain energy for building protein would have been vital and might have even preceded the means of replication. Indeed, the first living things were probably autotrophic. That is, they maintained life by directly feeding on non-living materials and did not “eat” in the way modern organisms do. This is the way some creatures that live near oceanic vents survive; only they run their metabolism by taking in sulfur instead of food. They manufacture energy and produce hydrogen as the waste product.


The first living things probably had access to the amino acids that are necessary for the formation of life. Many of these acids are relatively common even in space. The original organisms would not have been able to use oxygen to live, though. Oxygen did not exist in the atmosphere until about 2.3 billion years ago. Greenland rocks dating to 3.8 billion years show radioactive carbon traces suggesting that life was already well established. The tentative conclusion is that life must have metabolized something other than oxygen for energy but ironically issued it as a waste product. Eventually, too much of it in the atmosphere led to the demise of all but a few of these original organisms.


Forms of life have one thing in common and that is despite the variety of items they may burn for energy they all need to burn something. The commonality extends from single cells to complex organisms and beyond to ecological systems.


The health in a complex organism can be measured by the stability of its metabolism. In human beings and other mammals we measure the effectiveness of this stability by taking temperature. When someone’s temperature goes up it means that their thermodynamic condition is not normal; they are expending energy to fight infection in addition to the normal maintenance of cells. Even when a person has to run to catch a plane, the sudden effort accelerates an older metabolic process of fermentation instead of steady burning. This is reflected in sore and aching muscles from an accumulation of lactic acid.


An ecosystem is also a thermodynamic system. Green plants do their part by taking solar energy and converting it into sugars that can be burned slowly as they transfer from species to species throughout the system before the energy has finally dissipated. A cow eats grass and uses its sugar to maintain its body. The rumen of the cow supports bacteria that maintain themselves by metabolizing parts of the grass the cow cannot digest. At the same time they create sugars that the cow can digest. The cow gives milk during its life to support other animals and when it is finally slaughtered its body will be used as a source of rich protein. The dung that the cow produces during its life is a source of energy for soil bacteria and fungi that break it down to fertilize more grass that the cow can eat.


One cannot overestimate the importance of natural forests and grasslands in their ability to provide stable healthy ecosystems. A plant reflects 15 percent of radiation back into the atmosphere, 18 percent into sensible heat (like that reflected off asphalt parking lots), and 66 percent in the transpiration of water from the roots to leaves where it evaporates into the atmosphere. Only one percent is used in biomass production of sugars that support the living fibers, and flesh in the rest of the system.  


Mature ecosystems such as temperate and rain forests process energy from the sun more efficiently than those that are less developed. As a system matures its biomass increases and so does its assortment of species and their residency time. Natural disaster and/or human intervention can set them back to an earlier less productive period of development. We know this because disturbed environments lose that energy more easily in the form of heat just like environments that do not have adequate water.


Contrary to what one might think this also means that tropical and other climax forests recapture heat to recycle it in the form of rain again and this in turn keeps temperature in the high clouds much cooler than above grasslands and deserts. Also, the disturbed ecosystems mentioned in the previous paragraph radiate heat from the sun out into the atmosphere at a rate comparable to grasslands and deserts. A healthy well developed natural area simply recycles energy longer, supports a greater number of species, and radiates less heat than a poor one and this has been reinforced by satellite data.


This is a short and very general history of the roll energy plays in the maintenance of life. Hopefully, it will help us to understand our place in this process and give us the humility to realize how much we depend on all of it for our existence.                              JB



Into the Cool, Eric Schneider and Dorian Sagan, 2005, University of Chicago Press.







                                              EIGHT RICHEST MEN


At the end of 2015 OXFAM a non-governmental organization founded for the relief of global famine published a list of 62 of the wealthiest people. The select few owned wealth equal to that of half the population of the world. In fact, the aggregate of their worth (over $498 billion) was more than the GDP of any one of 168 countries. Last year the list was shortened to just eight people in order to balance the equation of the previous year. The paragraphs below feature financial statuses and short biographies of the eight richest men in the world. 


Larry Ellison: (born 1944, New York City; financial worth January 2017 $43 billion)

Ellison was adopted by a middle class family and spent his early life in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago where he first learned computer design. Ellison partnered with two others in 1977 to form Oracle, a company specializing in data base management. In 1990 the company almost became bankrupt because of a misleading marketing strategy which involved the overstatement of earnings. The company recovered from this and grew until 2010 when the European Union approved its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. By 2014 Oracle was worth $185 billion with 130,000 employees.

Philanthropy: In 2010 Ellison was one of the 40 billionaires signing the “The Giving Pledge” a campaign to encourage wealthy people to give to charity.


Mike Bloomberg: (born 1942, Boston Mass.; financial worth January 2017 $43.9 billion)

Bloomberg has degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard Business School. He initially worked for a Wall Street investment bank but was laid off when the business was sold. He set up a new company called Market Systems to provide high quality and quickly delivered business information to firms on Wall Street and in the general business community. In 1982 Merrill Lynch became the first customer. By 2015 Market Systems had 325,000 terminal subscribers worldwide. Other technical business products are Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Message and Bloomberg Tradebook. He left the business to serve three mayoral terms in New York City.

Philanthropy: Bloomberg was named the third largest donor in 2015. His donations are too extensive to detail here, but go to various health organizations, art projects, and science foundations.


Carlos Slim Helu: (born 1948, Mexico City; financial worth January 2017 $48.2 billion)

This son of a wealthy Lebanese businessman became a billionaire after the economic crash of 1982. He did this by purchasing investments at bargain prices which later became extremely valuable. Later he used the expanding equity to purchase big companies mostly in tobacco and communications.

Philanthropy: He is ranked by Forbes as one of the biggest donators with sponsorship to the Musee Sumaya in Mexico City which contains 60,000 works including those of Da Vinci, Dali, Picasso and Renoir. He has given $100 million to cataract surgery for those Latin Americans unable to afford it.


Mark Zuckerberg: (born 1974, New York City; financial worth January 2017 $56.6 billion)

While attending Harvard in 2002, he launched a technical directory where students could enter information and a photo of themselves onto a template that could be shared with others. This soon became available to students across the country. He left Harvard and established an office in Palo Alto, California in 2004 and managed to raise $12.7 million in capital in 2005 and officially named the directory Facebook. More money was made when Microsoft and Digital Sky Technologies bought a small percentage of shares in the company.

Philanthropy: in 2013 the Chronicle of Philanthropy listed him as giving one billion dollars to charity. He has donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock to the Silicon Valley Community.


Amancio Ortega: (born 1936, Leon, Spain; financial worth January 2017, $71.3 billion)

Ortega started his career in textiles when he went to work for a shirt maker at age thirteen and remained working for others for about 14 years before going out on his own. In 1963 he opened a company that made bathrobes. His first general clothing retail store opened in 1975 with an emphasis on high-quality design for lower prices. He lowered his costs by keeping factories in Spain, producing smaller quantities and shipping quickly and often. By 1989 his holding company “Inditex” had over 100 stores in Spain. He has been retired since 2011.

Philanthropy: Ortega has a low public profile, but is documented as giving approximately $60 million towards education, culture, and welfare in his country.


Jeff Bezos: (born 1964, Albuquerque, New Mexico; financial worth January 2017, $72.5 billion).

He graduated from Princeton with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. After graduation he worked in computer technology for a number of companies and enjoyed a lucrative career in finance. In 1994 he moved to from New York to Seattle and set up a new company in his garage finally launching it in 1995 as Amazon.com. The virtual book store sold products in the US and 45 foreign countries and in two months reached sales of $20,000 a week. The company went public in 1997. Many similar companies went bust in the 1990s but Amazon thrived with sales in 2011 of over $17 billion. Bezos purchased the Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million. He also sponsors “Blue Origin” a project to make space exploration commercially viable. Its launch pad is in West Texas. 

Philanthropy: He donated $2.5 million to support a same sex marriage referendum in Washington State which was successful; $10 million to the Seattle Museum of History and Industry; and $15 million to the Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics at Princeton.


Warren Buffett: (born 1930, Omaha, Neb.; financial worth January 2017, $73.2 billion)

Buffett graduated from the Columbia Business School in 1951. He started out by working at his father’s investment firm. He then used his savings to invest in various partnerships over time in his hometown. After a while he merged them all into one and invested in a textile firm called Berkshire Hathaway. Late in the 1960s he shifted attention from textiles to insurance but his company made acquisitions that were varied in nature. One example was the procurement of seven percent of Coca-Cola stock. His tax return for 2015 was $1.85 million on a gross income of $11.6 million, a tax rate of about 16 percent.

Philanthropy: He has pledged $30.7 billion worth of Berkshire stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Other donations include $50 million to the Nuclear Threat Initiative an organization that works to prevent catastrophe from weapons of mass destruction.


Bill Gates: (born 1955, Seattle, Wash., financial worth January 2017, $83.9 billion).

Gates started working with programming when a GE computer was made available at his school. Later he wrote his high school’s computer program for scheduling classes. He entered Harvard in 1973 but dropped out in 1975 to start Microsoft along with Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He adapted the DOS system for IBM’s personal computers in 1980. In 1985 he launched Windows and continued to write code until 1989. After that date his role was confined to management. In 2006 he transitioned out of the company to concentrate on humanitarian issues.

Philanthropy: In 2015 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $4.2 billion in global health and development, US programs, communication, and other charitable programs. Eventually Gates will donate 95 percent of his wealth to charity.


References other than Wikipedia:
















“The closest a person ever comes to perfection is when he fills out a job application form.”

Businessman Stanley Randall


“When I lost my rifle the Army charged me $85. That’s why in the Navy, the captain goes down with the ship.” Dick Gregory


“Whoever named it necking is a poor judge of anatomy.” Groucho Marx


“I don’t want to brag, but I do speak pig Latin; I mean, I’m not fluent, but I’m sure if I ever went there, I could get by.” Bonnie McFarlane


“The next time I send a damn fool, I go myself” Sgt. Louis Cukela reportedly said at the Battle of Belleau Wood WWI.


“A Canadian psychologist is selling a video that teaches you how to test your dog’s IQ. Here’s how it works: If you spend $12.99 for the video, your dog is smarter than you.” Jay Leno


“If con is the opposite of pro, then isn’t Congress the opposite of progress?” Jon Stuart


Voice of Sanity – February 2017


Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:



Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

February 2017


The Voice of Sanity


                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:








                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/


The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

There is a business meeting at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: Febuary 5th, 12th, 19th. And 26th


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday February 19th Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM February 9th and 23rd. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on February 2nd and 16th. 


February 11th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.


February 11th: DARWIN DAY CELEBRATION will be at 4:00PM at the Canebrake Clubhouse, Kings Mountain Drive at Saratoga Drive, Greer, SC


February 25th,   Saturday: Adopt-a-Highway cleanup will start at 9:00AM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville





                                      A BRIEF HISTORY OF SYRIA


Since our election in November Syria’s civil war has been relegated to the back pages of most news outlets. The Syrian government and representatives of rebel forces have met in Astana, Kazakhstan to strengthen the cease fire but after opening ceremonies both sides left and did not meet face to face again. Meanwhile, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have announced a plan for continuance of the cease fire and urged Syria to participate in UN talks toward a political solution.


A short 100 year history of the region appears below. This background can serve to help us understand the present state of events for Syria. The history describes not just a single country’s struggle for a relatively peaceful and productive existence, but the changing conditions for an entire region of the Middle East over the past century.  


ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Sha’am.  Sha’am is the 19th century word for Greater Syria an area that stretched along the Eastern Mediterranean from the Sinai Peninsula to the Turkish border. In 1914 it included the states of Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The common language spoken was Arabic. The religion was predominantly Muslim mostly Sunni with a minority of Shi’a. A Shi’a sect of Alawi existed in the mountains on the Turkish border and in the extreme south. Desert areas were occupied by Bedouins. Otherwise, the territory was about 20 percent Christian located mostly in the Maronite community of Mount Lebanon. There were many Jewish communities as well.


In 1918 and at the end of World War I the entire area came under the control of British and French troops and three different factions came into being. The British and French factions were reluctant to allow the territories to obtain their own independence. The two entered into what became known as the Sykes-Picot agreement. This was a secret plan to divide the area into French and British colonial territories.


The second faction comprised the Zionists. Zionism came into being in the 1880s and grew as a movement with the goal of establishing a state in Biblical Palestine. At the end of the World War the Jewish population in the area stood at about ten percent. The British were supportive of Zionism and the British foreign secretary to Damascus, Lord Arthur Balfour officially pledged support for the Jewish endeavor.


The third group in the trilogy was led by Emir Faisal who was son of Sharif Hussein, the independent ruler of the Hejaz and direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammad. The Hejaz was a domain covering the western Arabian Peninsula, containing the cities of Mecca and Medina, and considered the political and religious center of the Arab world. Faisal’s goal was to establish an Arab state stretching from Turkey to the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs set up a National Congress aiming toward a decentralized constitutional monarchy with Faisal as king.


But at the end of the war the Allies set up two mandates in the occupied area. The French Mandate included Syria, Lebanon, part of southern Turkey, and an area bordering the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee known as the Golan Heights. The British were awarded control of Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. Faisal, after his failure to establish Syrian independence turned his attention to Iraq and sought the help of the British to successfully acquire the throne there.


France further divided the Syrian Mandate into districts that reflected their different ethnicities. All these borders impeded trade and split up extended families and their property holdings. Workers were forced to cross them daily to get to their places of employment. There was much migration from rural to urban areas and much Westernization because of the French influence. This was offensive to traditional Sunni Muslims.


Meanwhile the Syrian middle classes and landowners pressed again for independence from the French. This was not for a truly democratic government but to have better control of political and trade issues. By 1936 they finally achieved their goal but with concessions. They had to recognize Lebanon as a separate state. They also had to accept a three year probation during which the French would have authority on all decision making and be allowed to maintain garrisons in the Alawi and Southern districts for five years. By the time the three years were up Europe was embroiled in another world war and the constitution was suspended.


Ba’athism was born in the aftermath of World War II. It became established as an altruistic movement bringing medicine and education to Syria’s rural areas. It soon turned into a political movement headed by two idealistic Syrians, Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian and Sarah al-Din a Sunni Muslim. Educated abroad they had hoped to gain enough votes to break the power of rich landowners, but failed. Politics would again remain in the hands of monopolies and favored government employees instituted by the French. Syria finally gained independence in 1947 but retained this old elite political structure. Lebanon also became an independent nation at the same time. But both countries had border and ethnic ties with Palestine which would now become a permanent nucleus of unrest.


Although the United Nations tried to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states it only managed to terminate its British Mandate. The Palestinian Jewish community, the Yishuv was overwhelmingly composed of immigrants from Europe, many of them refugees from Hitler’s Germany and the lands of the Holocaust. Genocide had wiped out European Jewish communities that had dated back centuries, killing a total of six million people. Among the survivors, many Jews who previously had no Zionist sympathies fled to Palestine after other countries- including Britain and the US shut their doors.


On the 14th of May in 1948, the same day the last British forces left Palestine and after a great deal of fighting between factions the Jewish People’s Council of the Yishuv met to proclaim the existence of the State of Israel. The fighting escalated into the Israeli/Arab war. In the end Palestine was sectioned into territories following an uneasy armistice in1949. Egypt got control of the Gaza strip bordering the Mediterranean just north of the Sinai Peninsula; Jordan got the West Bank on its border with Palestine; and Syria remained in control of the Golan Heights, the strip of land along the Sea of Galilee that it had originally held. The remainder of Palestine was recognized as Israel.


The Cold War became a presence in the Middle East beginning with the 1950s. Syria vacillated between sides seeking to find security where it could. Britain signed pacts with Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan in an alignment against the USSR, but Syria was left out. When Abdul Nasser gained control of Egypt and nationalized the Suez Canal to pay the debt for the Aswan Dam, Egypt and Syria united to create the United Arab Republic. Both accepted support from the USSR. Syria experienced its first coup in 1949 and came under military rule. It wasn’t long, however, before the Syrian elite became disillusioned when its communist style five year land reform plan failed, producing more unrest and a second military coup. The UAR was dissolved and the country again realigned itself with the West.


Although the Golan Heights was technically part of Syria at this time much of its water flowed into Israel and that country could not tolerate interference or reduction of the supply. Unfortunately, the conduit system became a constant target for guerilla sabotage. At the same time Egypt and Jordan were building their military systems as a show of Arab unity with Syria against Israel. This buildup of force incited rather than suppressed action and in 1967 the Israelis launched the Six Day War immobilizing both Jordan’s and Egypt’s forces and taking control of the Golan Heights. Egypt helped Syria in a second attempt to gain the area in 1973 but this also failed. The US by this time was more interested in hammering out agreements with the oil rich Arab countries but Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran were left out of the these negotiations.


It was in 1970 in the midst of the Israeli/Arab conflicts that the Syrian Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad saw his opportunity to gain power. He directed the military to occupy all Syrian political party offices and organizations. The next day he assumed control of the government and retained it for the next thirty years. Assad’s new government drifted toward dictatorship. Although he brought running water, electricity, and affordable credit to farmers, his regime declared the Ba’th party the only legal party of Syria and the best government contracts went to those whom he favored. The secret police (mukhabarat) inspired fear everywhere because of its protection from judicial oversight.


Hafez interfered frequently with Lebanese affairs of state and both openly and secretly supported the Arab side of the Palestinian/Israeli turmoil. After Israel was established many Palestinians became permanent refugees in Lebanon. The situation worsened when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was driven out of Jordan and settled in the Lebanese immigrant areas making Beirut their center of operations. Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamist militant group supported by Iran became active at this time also. Fighting erupted again in 1987 over Palestinian protests of Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and Gaza.


This time Israel drove the armed conflict deeply back into South Lebanon. Hafez helped broker the peace, tentatively established in 1993 but allowed sanctuary and support of the terrorists in his own country. He also maintained a military presence in Lebanon but he never established an agreement with Israel over the Golan Heights. He died in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar.


When the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003 Syria’s trade with Saddam Hussein ended. This trade included several billion dollars obtained from the sale of illegal arms and a steady supply of Iraqi oil. The stoppage severely impeded the Syrian economy. In the same year the Bush administration passed the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese restoration Act. This required Syria to close its terrorist facilities, to stop supplying troops and arms to Iraq, and to withdraw its entire military force from Lebanon.


In 2009 sixty-five percent of Syria’s population was under twenty-five. Most had an education but could find no work, and unemployment was growing. The country remained for the most part a cash-based economy. For the first time in fifty years a private bank finally opened its doors. A stock exchange had been nonexistent until 2009.


The civil war began in 2011 when some school children were arrested in a southern Syrian town and taken to Damascus where they were interrogated and possibly tortured. Their crime was writing graffiti on the walls of a school that suggested the fall of the regime. They ranged in age from nine to fifteen. Demonstrations were put down with force and the foreign press was banned. Finally all out fighting began when gunfire was directed at the security forces.


As the violence spread people fled to other areas of the country and finally abroad. Since 2011 about eleven million have left their homes. Over six and a half million have been displaced internally. Over four and a half million have gone to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Lebanon has been host to one million in addition to its permanent population of Palestinian refugees. One million have requested asylum in Europe.


The free Syrian Army was established by deserting officers of the National Armed Forces. Their aim was to bring down the Assad government but they were poorly disciplined and riddled with infighting. Other armed militant groups joined in on the fight but the lack of coordination and leadership caused it to lose members to either ISIS or ISIL.



Syria, John McHugo, 2014, The New Press

Among the Ruins, Christian C. Sahner, 2014, Oxford University Press






                          A SURVEY OF SURVEYS IN THE US FOR 2016


On January 1st The Washington Spectator a small monthly publication done by the Public Concern Foundation printed a survey of polls of American opinion. The survey was completed about the time of the election in 2016. The resulting statistics from questions asked by the Pew Foundation, the Gallup Poll and other surveys are described below.


One was an overall view done by WSJ/NBC taken right after the election. It addressed issues that Americans considered important at that time. Those who expressed no opinion do not appear in the table below:

Lower the cost of student loans: 

For: 82 percent            against: 18 percent

Increase spending on infrastructure

            For: 75 percent            against: 25 percent

Raise the hourly minimum wage to $12

            For: 66 percent            against: 34 percent

Address climate change by eliminating carbon emissions

            For: 59 percent            against: 41 percent

Raise the social security age to 69.

            For: 33 percent            against: 66 percent



Further surveys have consistently shown that when it comes to government spending Americans regardless of age, political philosophy, party identification, sex or income level were united in their opinion of campaign spending. Eighty percent of those surveyed by Gallup earlier in 2016 wanted strict limits on this kind of spending. This corresponded with 75 percent found in a New York Times/CBS poll run about the same time.


There obviously has been a gigantic turn around in the thinking of Americans about Gay marriage. In 1996 sixty-eight percent of the country was in opposition to gay marriage. As late as 2004, Gay marriage was being used as a “wedge” issue to drive up voting by evangelicals. By 2013 not a decade later 54 percent crossed over to favoring marriage and in 2016 those in favor had risen to 61 percent, a complete swing in attitude from negative to positive.


Health care was an issue that produced some peculiar statistics. It is true that the bulk of the Affordable Care Act was opposed by 58 percent of Americans during its debut but the reasons behind the opposition were not explained. In 2013 forty three percent of Americans were against the bill because it was too liberal, but fifteen percent opposed it because it wasn’t complete enough. Then, in 2016 Gallup created a new poll asking about support for the single payer system. In this context 58 percent were in favor of the government supported program.


Defense spending has been explored by Pew Research for many years. The 2011 poll occurred in the midst of public pressure for the withdrawal of troops from many of its consignments overseas. Although the chart below shows an increase in percentages in favor of increased spending last year, 64 percent still wanted either to keep spending the same or decrease it.





Keep spending the same

53 percent

40 percent

Cut back spending

30 percent

24 percent*

Increase spending

13 percent

35 percent

No opinion

4 percent

1 percent


100 percent

100 percent


There were other polls during the year, too. They are listed below.



 On April 15th, 2016, Gallup released results of a survey finding that 51 percent of those polled thought their taxes were too high, down from 65 percent in 2001.


Tax supported childcare:

The latest survey in 2016 by Gallup shows that 59 percent support taxes for universal childcare and pre-K programs with 26 percent opposed.


Climate change:

In 2014 fifty-nine percent of those polled by WSJ/NBC supported limiting carbon emissions.

In 2016 Gallup found the 64 percent of their respondents were greatly worried about global warming, while 36 percent worried only a little or not at all.



There has been little change in the polls here. In 1996 Pew Research found that 57 percent of Americans thought abortion should be legal either “always” or “in most cases”. In 2016 the figure was 56 percent. There is doubt whether this is a pertinent issue. In 2011 the US abortion rate fell to 16.9 per 1000 women the lowest rate since 1973 when Roe vs Wade was passed.


Gun control:

Pew research ran a poll in 2015 in which participants were forced to choose whether it was more important to control gun ownership or protect the right to own a gun. Put in this context 50 percent of participants thought controlling ownership more important and 47 percent thought protecting gun rights was more important.


Capital punishment:

In September 2016 Pew released a poll in which 49 percent of respondents favored capital punishment with 42 opposed. In 1995 the numbers were 80 percent favoring and 16 percent opposed.



The Washington Spectator, January 1st, 2017, page 1.

* Corrected percentage found at: http://www.people-press.org/files/2016/05/05-05-2016-Foreign-policy-APW-release.pdf  page 28.



More paraprosdokians:


1. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
2. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
3. In filling out an application, where it says, “In case of emergency,
notify… ” I answered ” a doctor.”
4. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street
with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
5. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to
skydive twice.
6. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.
7. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you
hit the target.
8. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing
in a garage makes you a car.
9. You are never too old to learn something stupid.
10. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and
harder for me to find one now.
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Voice of Sanity – January 2017



Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:



Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

January 2017


The Voice of Sanity


                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:









The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: January 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th.


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday January 15th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM January 12th and 26th. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on January 5th, 19th.  


January 8th: Election of Board Members will be held.


January 14th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.



Membership comes due on January 1st. The price is $24 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Dues can be paid directly to board members at the Sunday meetings or at the Thursday evening Freethought groups. They can also be paid on the website through Paypal. To pay by mail please send checks to: Piedmont Humanists; 3620 Pelham Road; Suite 5, # 135;

Greenville, SC 29615.





Richard G. Dumont, Ph.D.


The development of my novel measure of high religiosity is described in my 2010 Evolutionary Psychology article, “High Religiosity and Societal Dysfunction in the United States during the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century.” In that article, where I attributed authorship to my French pseudonym, R. Georges Delamontagne, I wrote:

“The composite measure of high religiosity developed for this study is based upon responses to six questions asked in the 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Religious Landscape Survey’s national probability sample of more than 35,000 respondents (2009). Among the several dimensions of religiosity examined in the Pew research were denominational identification and five beliefs and practices. The composite measure of high religiosity includes the percentage of U.S. states’ respondents selecting the first response alternative within each of the following categories:

Denominational affiliation: Evangelical Protestant Tradition (26% of Pew sample);            Mainline Protestant Tradition (18%); Historically Black Protestant Tradition (7%); Catholic Tradition (24%); Unaffiliated (16%); and All Other (9%, with none of the othe4 10 traditions or faiths having more than 2%, Including Muslims and Jews).

Belief regarding the existence of God or universal spirit: Absolutely certain that God exists (71%); Fairly certain (17%); Not too certain/not at all certain/unsure how certain 4%); Does not believe in God (5%); Don’t know/refused to answer/other (3%).

Belief regarding interpretation of Scripture [Bible or Holy Book]: Word of God, literally true, word for word (33%); Word of God, but not literally true word for word/unsure if literally true (30%); Book written by man, not the word of God (28%); Don’t know/refused to answer (9%).

Belief [or value] regarding importance of religion in one’s life: Very important (56%); Somewhat important (26%); Not too important/not at all important (16%); Don’t know/refused to answer (1%).

Frequency of attendance at religious services: At least once a week (39%); Once or twice a  month/few times a year (33%); Seldom or never (27%); and Don’t know/refused to answer (1%).

Frequency of prayer: At least once a day (58%); Once a week/a few times a week (17%); A few times a month (6%); Seldom or never (18%); Don’t know/refused to answer (2%).”

A principal components factor analysis, the results of which are displayed in my Evolutionary Psychology article, revealed that the z scores for the above variables were arranged in a single dimension. The variable HIGHREL was operationally defined as the combination (sum) of the z scores for EVANPROT, ABSCERT, WORDGOD, VERYIMPO, SERVWEEK, and PRAYDAY. The HIGHREL z scores for the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., .are displayed in Table 2 of the EP article. Thee scores range from a high of 13.57 for Mississippi to a low of -9.89 for Vermont.

Definition of Income Inequality

The Gini Coefficient is the measure of income inequality used in this study. The Gini Coefficient utilizes household income as units of analysis. Its values range from 0, which is indicative of a situation where all income is shared equally among all households, to 1, where all of the income is held by one or a very few households. Obviously, these are theoretical extremes that could never exist in reality. In 2010 the Gini Coefficient for the U.S. was .469, and ranged from a high of .532 for Washington, D.C., to a low of .419 for Utah. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Gini_coefficient.

Finding of Previous Research

In general, previous research has revealed an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide; namely, the higher the religiosity, the lower the suicide rate. For example, in their article, “Religiosity and Attitudes toward Suicide,” published in OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying (December, 1992), George Domino and Karen Miller write in the article’s abstract that:

            “The relationship between religiosity and attitudes toward suicide was assessed

              in a sample of 186 Christian adults, most affiliated with churches or church-related

             organizations. A significant correlational pattern was obtained, such that persons

             higher on religiosity tended  to perceive suicide as reflective of mental illness,

             as less of a cry for help, as not being an individual’s prerogative, as highly related to\

             a lack of religious influence, as ‘abnormal” behavior, as evidence of the aggressiveness

             of human nature, and as a moral evil not to be condoned.”

Other studies point to the importance of the economy in having effects on suicide rates. Indeed, a number of studies have reported on the effects of income inequality, as measured by the Gini Coefficient, and suicide rates. For example, J.W. Lynch, G.A. Kaplan, et.al., in the abstract of their article, “Income Inequality and mortality in metropolitan areas of the United States,” write that “… income inequality was associated with increased mortality due to cancer, diabetes, [and several other leading causes of death, including suicide].”

Comparable findings have been reported for other countries. For example, in “Income inequality and the suicide rate in Japan: Evidence from co-integration and LA-VAR,” Kazuyuki Inagaki writes “… the fluctuations in Japan’s suicide rate are partially explained by income inequality.”

Findings of this Study

An Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) multiple regression analysis, involving high religiosity (HIGHREL) and income inequality (GINI) as independent variables, with the suicide rate (SIOURCE) as the dependent variable was performed, the results of which are displayed in Table 1.

The correlation coefficients between the two independent variables with the dependent variable are ─..368 and ,045. The explained variation, R2, is .122. Therefore, contrary to several previous studies, we have found that there is no relationship between high religiosity and the suicide rate. The highly religious are as likely to commit suicide as their non-religious counterparts. Also, in contradistinction to previous studies, higher levels of income inequality are related to lower suicide rates. This finding is actually consistent with Durkheim’s theory in that income inequality, like the Catholic Church, is hierarchically organized, has a recognizable set of “rites and rituals” and constitutes a form of social integration.

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Table 1: Ordinary Least Squares (0LS) regression of suicide rates (SUICIDE) on high religiosity (HIGHREL) and income inequality (GINI)
















































R2 = .1571,  F = 4.47,    D..F. = 2  48,   Prob.> F = 0ꓸ0165

Adjusted\ R2 = .1220

Standard Error of Estimate = 3.21




The correlation coefficient of ─.368 represents a moderately strong inverse relationship of the Gini Coefficient with the suicide rate, the r of .045 demonstrates no relationship of high religiosity with the suicide rate, and the Adjusted R2 (amount of explained variation) of only .1220  (12.2%) suggests the need for substantially more research on this subject.





Historically the intent of antitrust was to disperse economic monopolies so that their power did not harm the needs of the general public. The basic difference in legal attitude toward the monopolies of yesterday and the business consolidations of today seems contradictory at best. Government action was needed to prevent old-style monopolies from harming the general welfare of the public but modern consolidations are pictured as needing more relaxed laws for efficiency in delivering their goods and services to the consumer.


The first statute to be passed regarding monopolies was the Sherman Act in 1890 under the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. Congress claimed power to pass such a law because of its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. The act was a preventative to keep companies from raising prices by choking off of the supply of a specific commodity or service. But later it was used to control monopolies that discouraged competition in the market place.


Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in using the Department of Justice to seek out these activities. He was successful in breaking up the Rockefeller family’s Standard Oil Company, a monopoly that controlled nearly every aspect of the oil market causing countless smaller businesses in the production, refining, transportation, and sale of oil to either go bankrupt or come under its control. The Clayton Antitrust Act in1914 put more muscle into the Sherman Act by banning mergers, acquisitions and exclusive business agreements. Lastly, the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 banned the use of price discrimination against competitors.


During the early 1930s the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed. The intention of this law was to encourage both manufacturing and fair labor practices, but it generated an unwieldy number of regulations. There were at least 4000 prohibitions against certain business practices in the two years of the law’s existence. No one knows exactly why the regulation did not work but historians put the blame equally on business, unions, and the administration. It was finally declared unconstitutional in 1935 due to the obvious overregulation by the administrative branch of the federal government. 


President Franklin Roosevelt then appointed Thurman Arnold as head of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice. The DOJ became instrumental in targeting those businesses with the worst predatory conduct and anti-competitive schemes. It is interesting to note that no specific general law was needed to create a more equally competitive market place, only direct attention to those areas where a handful of corporations controlled an excessive amount of power. No one knows whether this plan of action was truly successful because the advent of World War II drastically changed the economic picture for both business and labor.


In the 1970s attitudes changed toward antitrust such that the use of the term “monopoly” was mostly used to describe large businesses that existed before WWII. Part of the reason for this may have been the realization that America was becoming dependent on other countries for certain products, especially oil; and that markets were entering a global phase. Attention turned away from protecting the welfare of citizens to emphasizing the welfare of consumers instead. The old concept, where, in the words of William Douglas, “the concentration in private hands of power (would be) so great that only a government of the people should have it” was abandoned.


Political policy changes began in the 1980s. These loosened previous laws lowering the bar against antitrust violation and allowing the mergers and acquisitions we see today. Consolidation and integration became the modern terms for the kinds of business activities originally called monopolies. The two terms are identical but the modern version can occur in two different ways. Horizontal consolidation/integration happens when a company merges with another company that is a provider of a closely related product. An example of this was when Volkswagon acquired Porsche in 2012. Vertical consolidation/integration happens when a company buys a business that is involved in a facet of its production. An example of this would be when a car manufacturer buys a tire manufacturer to exclusively supply tires for its manufacturing; or when the same manufacturer buys dealerships to sell its cars.


To be sure, there is much to say for the efficient running of a business and consolidation can be an asset in getting quality goods and services at a reasonable price to the consumer. But economists are beginning to see a “bad side” to these business techniques.


First, continuous merging can tempt companies to adopt a permanent policy of predatory pricing. The ability of being able to produce larger quantities of goods can allow a merged company to consistently underprice any competitor. This destroys smaller businesses and discourages people from forming new companies of the same genre. Secret arrangements between the merged company and other businesses can subtly squeeze out competitors, as well. An example of this is the fact that large manufacturers of foods can arrange deals with supermarkets for premium shelf space leaving less eye catching space for small competitors. No matter how good a product may be, if people don’t see it they don’t buy it.


Everyone is familiar with the layoffs that follow many mergers. Those who are let go may have trouble getting employment yielding a comparative salary to that in their old job. Those who stay usually want to hang on to the job they already have rather than move to another section of the country with better opportunities. In both cases there is a loss in remuneration. Many people who have been fired find new jobs at lower pay and people who haven’t been fired hesitate to ask for more money. These circumstances describe the term “wage stagnation” quite well.


Also, patents can be used by large companies to shut out new growth by rivals for many years and conversely, these same companies can refuse investment in new ideas slowing down the progress of a new technology. Monsanto achieved the former by buying up competitor’s patents as well as its competitors. Horizontal consolidation should be revisited here, too, because a large corporation can incorporate smaller companies selling the same products and then compete with “itself” by underpricing or running specials that are detrimental to these same smaller businesses. Amazon umbrellas various booksellers but underprices them with specials. 


Whether it is monopoly, consolidation, or integration the activity contributes to a lack of healthy competition between businesses and a lack of employment or lower wages for consumers. Congress is not without power to tighten control over the anti-competitive behavior of some large corporations. A law already exists for this provision for under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. This use of the law was successful in bringing Standard Oil, AT&T, and Alcoa under control in the past. Even if the prosecutions are not entirely successful as in a recent case against Microsoft, they call attention to the abuse of consumers and laborers because of the lack of honestly competitive capitalism. Changing laws to make it easier for plaintiffs to seek reparation from those who abuse the anti-trust laws would also help the situation. The burden of proof of a complaint is laid too heavily on the defendant and the price and time consumed by the lawsuit discourages action before it has even begun.


Last year Elizabeth Warren gave a speech at a senate judiciary committee meeting on this very subject. In her speech she stated that excessive consolidation and the resulting focus of power threaten both a balanced competitive economy and an efficient democratic political structure. We should remember this is a country of people, not commodities and that a modern democracy should be implemented responsibly by the legislative and administrative divisions of government to provide opportunity for both sides of the economic equation.                      JB







A copy of a letter sent in December to those members of Piedmont Humanists who are also members of the national American Humanist Association appears below.



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Dear member,

I wanted to be the first to share with you the big news: Just an hour ago, President Obama signed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act into law. It is the first law in history to recognize “non-theists” and protect our community from discrimination.

This is a tremendous recognition of the humanist movement—we’re here, we’re standing strong, and we will fight to protect our values.

This new law strengthens the government’s work to promote international religious freedom and states, “The freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess or practice any religion.”

The law also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs” and all attempts to forcibly compel “non-believers or non-theists to recant their beliefs or to convert.”

Celebrate with us, and share this historic achievement proudly with your friends and family. Post it on Facebook. Tweet about it. Take a selfie and show that you are proud to be a humanist. And please—donate generously to help make more of these legislative victories possible.

Together, we made history. Thank you




Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase
is surprising or unexpected and is frequently humorous.
(Winston Churchill loved them).

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you … but it’s still on my
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright
until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up — we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in
a fruit salad.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
9. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
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Voice of Sanity – December 2016



Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:



Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

December 2016


The Voice of Sanity


                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:









The Sunday meeting has a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: December 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th.


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Saturday December 18th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM December 1st, 15th and 29th (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The new location for the Freethought trivia and pool group will be Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on December 8th and 22nd.


December 3rd: Adopt a Highway cleanup begins a 9:00AM at the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.


December 10th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609




                                      CELEBRATING ALL OUR BIRTHDAYS


Humanists are not generally interested in the story of the birth of Jesus and the celebration of his alleged appearance on December 25th. The story of what happens in the nine months leading up to anyone’s birth is pretty interesting, though. So here is the sequence of events leading up to your appearance and everyone else’s in the world.  


On day 1 the fertilized human egg that will eventually be you divides creating two identical cells. Each of these cells contains 46 chromosomes. There are 22 from your father and 22 from your mother. The remaining two cells were selected from the XX chromosome of your mother or the XY of your father. If your combination is XX, you will be a girl, if XY you will be a boy.


By day 4 there are sixteen cells, then 32 creating a solid ball. By day 5 the solid ball grows larger but has now become hollow and the cells growing in it organize themselves into an outer layer and an inner layer surrounding a fluid core. You will ultimately develop from the inner layer. This new structure is called a blastocyst from the Greek terms “blasto” meaning embryo and “cyst” meaning pouch. 


In the next couple of days the blastocyst attaches itself to the lining of the womb. At contact, retroviruses in the little hollow ball kick into action and help fuse it with the placenta. Retroviruses seemed to have come along for this ride regardless of the reputation of their kin as instigators of horrendous human diseases. They’ve done well in the cells of the blastocyst up to now by using their incomplete RNA to manufacture their personal DNA from the contents of host cells in the little ball. Another notable and concurrent activity is the secretion of the human hormone HCG that allows the pregnancy test to register positive and induce possible morning sickness in your mother.


Up to now the cells are all identical (clones) and there is nothing other than the uniqueness of your DNA within to indicate you will become a human being. The journey so far is that of a member of the kingdom Animalia. Physically you might just as well develop into a clam, bumblebee, kangaroo, or rat. But then things change.


At seven to ten days a dent appears in the little blastocyst and pushes its way into its center. At the same time a middle layer forms and grows between the inner and outer layers. As the dent enlarges into the center of the ball each layer begins to differentiate itself into a distinct group. The cells that grow on the surface of the internal cavity (ectoderm) change character to form what will be the lining of your gut and eventually will grow all of your internal organs from “outpouchings” of even more unique cells. The cells on the outside surface (endoderm) will grow your skin and nervous system, including your brain. The layer between the inner lining and outside surface (mesoderm) will grow your muscles, bones, and heart.


The dent continues enlarging into the fluid center until it breaks through the surface on the opposite side and forms your mouth. The original opening becomes your anus. This new formation is called a deuterostome and signals the point at which the clam and bumblebee mentioned above break off to other branches of the evolutionary tree. These animals are arranged 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Sometimes the dent never breaks through to the other side and the original opening modifies itself to both admit food and eliminate waste in much simpler animals.


Between day 15 and 21 an odd thing happens. Your developmental genes duplicate themselves twice over and then take control of future growth. These genes are responsible for the program by which the process of growth will take place for your complete life cycle. Up to now your body was pretty much a hollow three-layered globe with a hole at each end but the duplication gives rise to cells that will grow only according to their individual characteristics. What happens next depends entirely on the cells themselves, their location to adjacent cells in the globe, and the chemical messaging that goes on within their distinctive groups to stimulate the growth of unique body parts.


Location will be paramount from now on. The interaction among the members of each group of cells determines what goes on inside each new cell that forms. Neighboring cells chemically influence which of the new cell’s genes are activated and establish its future behavior. Experiments have shown that if these new cells are moved from one group to another, especially during early stages of embryonic development, their fates change. Cells destined for spine-hood can become mouth parts if transferred to a mouth location.


It is also about this time that thyroid hormone from your mother crosses the placenta and enters the process. Thyroid hormone has a unique history of its own. It influences the development of living things across the entire animal kingdom. It is the necessary growth hormone for the metamorphosis of not only a child into an adult, but a caterpillar into a butterfly, or the transition of a tadpole into a frog. All animals need it to develop into full sexual maturity. 


This substance will be especially concentrated in the area where your brain develops. As young neurons are affected by the hormone in the budding cerebral hemispheres they undergo rapid division eventually creating the full six layers of the human cortex.


But back to days 15 to 21 for these are also the days the globe becomes bilateral and begins to form the shape of the head at the front end and develop a tail at the back. Additionally two parallel channels form from front to back that will eventually fold into a cylinder becoming the spinal cord and the head. Around day 21 what appears to be vestigial “gills” appear but these are transitional and eventually mature into parts of the ear and circulatory system. From weeks four to eight major organs of the body start developing and most of them will be complete by the third month except for the lungs and brain.


The brain will increase its thyroid levels between 13 and 20 weeks until they are higher than future adult brain levels. The amazing part of this is that when you are finally born your brain is still only a quarter of its adult size. During your first few days in the world you will add 250,000 cells a minute to its mass and will continue a high rate of cell growth for two years. As for the establishment of connections between these cells, the rate will be 30,000 synapses per second per square centimeter of cortex during this time.


Being born does not stop the developmental part of the equation. Each individual has to continue growth. The difference is that now environmental factors will play a more major part in the process than they did before birth. There will be a second phase in the activity of your developmental genes, as well, when you reach puberty but this time it will be triggered by your brain. Tissues of the thyroid and pituitary will be stimulated to manufacture and secrete the proper hormones. Recent studies have shown similar genetic and hormonal activity at this stage across the entire animal kingdom. Sexual maturation of the common sea urchin and metamorphosis of insects all seem to exhibit the same genetic timing in sexual development except with wildly different visual characteristics from that in humans. 


There are two features that stand out when one looks at the development of an animal from the fertilized egg to adult maturity, whether in humans or across the animal world. First, the cells themselves display a tendency to “know” a specific growth pattern depending on their location in the growing organism. Not much is known about why location suddenly becomes so important. Second, the activity of developmental genes, those that determine the initiation of new physical characteristics is now known to continue from the moment of conception right on up to adulthood and into old age.


Happy Birthday!



Metamorphosis, Frank Ryan, 2011, Green Press Initiative

Epigenetics, Richard C. Francis, 2011, W.W. Norton & Company




                                     A SHORT HISTORY OF HUMANISM


The term “humanitas” is the original Latin root of the word “humanism”. Aulius Gelius, a Latin grammarian living from 125-180AD described the term as characterizing dual virtues: 1) loving one’s fellow man and 2) acquiring knowledge. Even at that time, Gelius complained that most people left the “acquiring knowledge” part out of the definition.


It wasn’t until the Renaissance era that the term “humanitas” reappeared. This was because many of the original Greek classics became available in the Western world. Printing had been invented in 1440 with the publishing of the Gutenberg bible and other works. At about the same time Venice signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman the Turkish sultan Mahmed II who had conquered Constantinople. This political relationship allowed many previously unattainable Greek classic works to enter Italy and later the rest of Europe. Translations into Latin and the advent of mass printing in 1471 made less expensive published works available to the upcoming merchant class as well as the aristocracy. 


Renaissance humanist philosophy was quite different from the modern concept. It came into existence as a reaction against the tradition of educating men to become doctors, lawyers, or professional theologians, a learning that was confined mostly to Aristotelian philosophy and logic. The new curriculum was expanded to include grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy. 


The Enlightenment had its humanists, too. But philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau were systematically and effectively attacked by religious and political conservatives who insisted that the idea of human morality could not be created exclusively by human effort without the help of God. Humanism had to wait until the 19th century to take root and then it took two forms.


The first was initiated by Auguste Comte a French philosopher better known as the originator of the science of sociology. His humanism consisted of a “religion of humanity”. This was a social structure designed to hold together those groups formerly united by traditional religious worship. The system included ritual and priesthood all tightly organized around worshipping humanity rather than god. Although altruism was part of the idea, its tenets were so austere that most people abandoned it. Still, the notion had its influence on the formation of future secular humanist groups.


The other 19th century movement was initiated by Friedrich Niethammer in Germany. It was termed “humanismus” and, in a direct reaction to religious worship restricted its philosophy to the classical curriculum of the Renaissance. Both Marx and Hegel found this philosophy attractive because they distrusted the cozy arrangements between the church and the repressive German government existing at that time.


The dichotomy of a completely secular belief and a belief that incorporates a deity is reflected today in various groups ranging from the Unitarian Church to Ethical Culture. However, the first organization with the word “humanist” came about in London in 1853, as the British Humanistic Religious Association. This was democratically organized with both male and female members. Although the word “religious” appeared in its name, the group concentrated on the original renaissance concept featuring exploration and promotion of art and philosophy and adding science to the mix.


The first humanist society in America was organized in 1929 by Unitarian Minister Francis Potter. Potter was extremely liberal and supported women’s rights, and the end of the death penalty. His organization eventually attracted prestigious members such as Julian Huxley, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann and probably led to the founding of our modern organization The American Humanist Association in 1941. Famous members here include Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gore Vidal.


The most recent development in American humanism is AHA’s support for the Secular Coalition for America. This is the first lobby in Washington to promote greater acceptance for those of us who are completely secular in our thinking. The organization also fights with others for separation of church and state.





                                      (from an email from Dick Dumont)


Lesson 1
A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.
The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.
When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.
Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.’
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.
The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.
When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ‘Who was that?’
‘It was Bob the next door neighbor,’ she replies.
‘Great,’ the husband says, ‘did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?’

Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2
A priest offered a nun a lift.
She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.
The priest nearly had an accident.
After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.
The nun said, ‘Father, remember Psalm 129?’
The priest removed his hand, but changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, ‘Father, remember Psalm 129?’
The priest apologized ‘Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.’
Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.
On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129.
It said, ‘Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.’

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3
A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.
They rub it and a Genie comes out.
The Genie says, ‘I’ll give each of you just one wish.’ ‘Me first! Me first!’
says the admin clerk. ‘I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.’
Puff! She’s gone.
‘Me next! Me next!’ says the sales rep. ‘I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal
masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.’
Puff! He’s gone.
‘OK, you’re up,’ the Genie says to the manager.
The manager says, ‘I want those two back in the office after lunch.’

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.
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