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To The People of Y3K - editorial by Steve Branch   12/15/99 also as seen in Boston Globe
One thousand years from now, will human beings have grown beyond the frivolous and misleading
entrapments of dogma and paraphenonmenon? Will people still propagate myth and fantasy to avoid
the unpleasant realities of life? Today, despite technological advancement, it seems rational thought
and reason are options some choose not to take.

The Quantum Hum - by Steve Branch         3/11/08
Are we alone in the universe? This fanciful yet hopeful proposition suggests that before we can communicate with our interstellar neighbors, we must learn to communicate with ourselves.

Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement? - by Steve Branch.....4/22/11
The incubating chrysalis of rhetorical slime has finally blossomed into the full blown glorification and justifiable utilization of deceit.

The State Of The Union - by Steve Branch      12/02/09
Those properly educated to the overwhelming evidence-based view of the world recognize religious
supernaturalism and superstition for what it is: a delusional pink sock of wishful thinking which
renders its adherents insensitive to our common humanity, scientific methodology and rational thought.

Homemade Turkey Soup - by Steve Branch      2/10/06

A lighter look at life in general

The Beekeeper - by Steve Branch          9/15/07 - revised - 7/3/15
Observations from a frustrated god

Ping Pong The Cat - by Steve Branch ........circa 2000
The world seen through my cat's eyes

The Cookout King Page - Branch Brothers ........circa 2000
A look at the lighter side of cooking out.

The Making of "Latter- Day Atheist" - by Steve Branch...........12/10/10
Although only a handful of these songs directly address secularist ideas, all the songs of
love, hope and humanitarianism are still congruent with my position as an atheist.

One vs. the Other - by Steve Branch        10/8/09
This spam email was originally received only as the text seen in red. In the spirit of playful discourse, I submit the following, contrarian reflections in italicized blue

Playing The Hate Card - by Steve Branch       9/20/09
Glenn Beck calls president Obama a racist

A Global Pledge  - by Steve Branch         9/2/07
A global pledge playing upon the nationalistic pledge of one of
our more misguided and warlike nations

Godless, Immoral and Unpatriotic  - by Steve Branch     6/20/06
The desperate neo-cons use patriotism and religion to give credence to their hatred
and lies.

What Can We Do? - editorial by Steve Branch       01/01/07
What can we do about this disastrous administration?

Bush Gives The Finger To The Press - editorial by Steve Branch  8/2/05
George Bush recently stuck his middle finger up to the press, clearly showing his contempt for the media and the American people.

The International Institute for the Research of Assholism- Branch Brothers
WARNING: Contains words which may be considered offensive

Ideological SPAM – The Twaddle of Partisan and Religious Nationalism   6/22/08
-editorial by Steve Branch
Deflecting the cyber-echos of irrationality

Neither Sinner Nor Saint - editorial by Steve Branch    6/1/07
The measure of this paradox would be laughable if it weren't so sad. The absurdity of it all would seem beyond comprehension but for the actual corroborating depravity within the Bible itself.

The Integrity of Partisan Consensus - editorial by Steve Branch  11/8/04
Which sides’ opinions come closer to the truth? Is there a way to measure the
integrity of partisan consensus?

The Truth May Not Be Pretty, But It's Still the Truth - editorial by Steve Branch    2/3/04
Under appropriate circumstances, we can believe our President. But now, it is clear our
administration has lied and has manipulated the media.

Paying with our Money, our Dignity and our Lives - editorial by Steve Branch    6/19/03
What support the Bush cabal could drum up for the invasion of Iraq,
was done through self-serving deceit.

The Cat that Ate the Canary  - editorial by Rick Branch   1/26/2000
Deep down, the Republicans know that they went too far when they impeached Bill Clinton.

Lancing The Boil Of Deceit - editorial by Steve Branch     5/15/04
Besides the transparent fabrications and distortions permeating our airwaves, we need to
be aware of the subtle, more insidious facades being used by the mischievous and unprincipled representatives of the right wing.

An Open Letter to George Bush - editorial by Steve Branch   4/17/02
Your temporal tap-dance on the world stage gyrates to the rhythm of
arrogance, ignorance, personal religious belief and machismo

Coming Out Of The Closet - editorial by Steve Branch   11/01/01
As a child grows older, he’s often compelled to question the religious beliefs and ideology
of his family and even worldly consensus. It’s imperative to take a close look at these issues

and decide for yourself. You may find how important intellectual freedom is, and that it’s
well worth facing the contentious repercussions of non-conformity.

For The Love Of War And The Cowboy Kill - editorial by Steve Branch   12/02/02
For the sake of our dignity and our future, our present administration needs to grow up.

Love it or Leave it? - by Steve Branch        10/20/07
This editorial was inspired by an email-blast which attempted to dramatize an already slippery Australian immigration policy to accommodate the typical Christian arrogance and intolerance.

Globalism and George Bush - editorial by Steve Branch   11/08/01
I wonder if the Republican’s blinding patriotism would subdue their hatred for Bill Clinton if he were
President right now. I doubt it. Well, now that your own George Bush is running things, don’t
get bent out of shape if I don’t kiss his ass.

Cry Wolf - editorial by Steve Branch     2/13/03
The "Terror Alert System" is being misused. So much for credibilty.

Thoughts from an American Atheist - an editorial by Steve Branch   12/06/02
Many people of faith believe there would be no hope for humanity without religion.
I contend the opposite: that our greatest hope is a world without religion.
At least keep it a private matter, as it’s supposed to be in America.

Sometimes Less is More - book review by Rick Branch   4/23/85
One may miss wishful-thinking, preaching, and philosophizing while reading
Modern Japanese Literature, but it might do us well to consider that,
sometimes, less is more.

Bush and the Media - editorial by Steve Branch
Viewers and listeners na´ve to the spin, are in danger of becoming more like
George Bush: either sincerely stupid or foolishly infatuated with their ideology.

Discourse Between the Left & Right       3/15/02
Click Here to read critique of my editorial Globalism and George Bush My (Steve Branch) response (in red) is included within the rebuttal. Although there appears to be some question as to where "logic" resides, I believe the content speaks for itself.

About The Artist - bioeditorial in BranchArt section by Steve Branch

For an artist, the discovery and process of creating a vision provide passion and excitement.
It is during this period, the journey, that I am embraced by life. Although the destination can
be rewarding, it is but a mere trophy encouraging me once again to move among those who
would inspire the world…to become the hammer on the anvil that molds beauty itself…to flow
in the river of artistic creation.

Musician's Trade Journal Review by B. Dare
A review of Branch Brother's CD, Celebrate Your Life.


Comments or Questions? CLICK HERE

To The People of Y3K
Author: Stephen Branch 12/15/99    
(published in Boston Globe 12/27/99)

Full Version:
I lived one thousand years ago in a country called the United States of America. America was rich in

natural resources and was home to some of the best educational facilities on the planet. However, in
the last few decades of the 1900s, testing revealed a marked decline in scholastic scores across the
country. This trend became known as "the dumbing down of America." Surveys of the time
suggested up to 95% of Americans were scientifically illiterate (The Demon-Haunted World, 1996).
Its no wonder the claims and practices of the supernatural, paranormal and occult still captivated
so many.

In 1000 AD many Christians believed this date would mark the Second Coming of Christ. Fear and

panic ensued with the supposed coming Armageddon. Whether they believed their own prophesies
or not, religious zealots, psychics, astrologers, fortunetellers, spiritualists, palm readers and the like
were in their heyday preying on the fears of the gullible. Well, the day came and went uneventfully.

Incredibly, as the second millennium approaches, this phenomenon is happening all over again.

Actually, it’s been happening all along, but with the approach of Y2K, a crescendo of growing
intensity prevails. In my day, the promoters of doom and gloom also used computers to platform
Armageddon. Some predicted a worldwide technological shutdown, complete with endless
scenarios of disaster, primarily based on the supposed inability of computers to handle the
numerical turnover between 12/31/99 and 01/01/00. Most people didn't realize the new
millennium actually started on 2001.

I’m writing this letter two weeks before the new year and am certain of this: There will be no

Armageddon; there will be no supernatural occurrences. Computer crashes will not lead to chaos,
famine and catastrophe. Computers will continue to frustrate people for the same reasons they
did before midnight on the 31st. Once again, the purveyors of doom will have to recalibrate
their stopwatches.

Man created calendars and numbers to mark the passage of time. Apparently, when big round

numbers come up (or unique arrangements e.g. 9/9/99), many enjoy the excitement of believing
something magical, mystical, or calamitous will happen. This folly, in itself, could be the only thing
that causes any problems. The ultimate irony is that the attention and credence the media gives this
irresponsible, alarmist behavior may actually attract real terrorists, ensuring high visibility for
whatever cause they wish to promote.

Soothsayers can be amusing at times and they certainly have their right to freedom of expression.

What’s disheartening is how so many people not only believe these promoters of parascience, but
also spend billions of dollars supporting them (Skeptical Inquirer, 1998). Meanwhile, medical and
scientific research is starving for financial backing. Even more disturbing is paraphenomenon and
religious myth masquerading as science. Science is knowledge ascertained by observation and
experiment, critically tested, systemized, and brought under general principles. Science is different
because it is the nature of science to scrutinize information and objectively modify, as new
information becomes available. Education and rational, levelheaded thinking are our best hope
to live in a world with the highest possible standards.

I'm sure some of the first Millenarians, as they came to be called (The Alphabet Versus The
Goddess, 1998), wondered what it would be like by the second millennium. I'd wager some of the
more enlightened hoped by the year 2000 our species would grow beyond paranormal excess, along

with slavery, prejudice and misogyny. In turn, I wonder about you in the third millennium. I'm sure
your technology surpasses my imagination. But are there still those waiting for the Second Coming
of Christ? Perhaps by now you have those waiting for the Second Coming of Elvis (charismatic,
spiritual artist of the 19th century who died an early, tragic death…many of his followers claim
he has already come back).

One of our astronaut's reflective observations from space was the absence of borderlines surrounding

the different countries and nations of Earth (Pale Blue Dot, 1994). This reminded many of us that we
truly are one people. Replacing our political, ethnic, and religious bigotry with mutual respect could
be the first step towards the deprovincialization of our planet. One theoretical, long-term goal of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was to terraform Mars by 2500. If this idea
became reality, we may be a multiplanet civilization by now. I’m sure this remarkable
accomplishment would be one of many if my descendents overcome the challenges that
threaten the longevity of both a technological civilization and a fragile ecosystem.

This message comes from a period when we were still quite primitive, but at the same time,

intelligent enough to be taking our first steps to the stars. The excitement the future holds makes
me wish I could live forever. I'm sure our race experienced desperate trials and great glories on the
journey through the third thousand years. We wish you the best as you travel into the 4th millennium.
Know that the wonder, hope, and love of your ancestors go with you.

Back To Top

The Quantum Hum
Author: Stephen Branch 3/11/08

The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between the high estimates of the probability of the
existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such
civilizations. There are many theories and principles addressing this puzzle. The most well known
being Drake's Equation, which conceived a means to mathematically estimate the number of worlds
that might harbor beings with technology sufficient to communicate across the vast gulfs of
interstellar space. Some skeptics maintain the equation is unrealistic due to anthropic bias: the
natural expression for universal scale favoritism toward humans. Ecclesiastics speak of blasphemy
and the violation of divine law. If we are not alone in the universe, it has been suggested that alien
civilizations well in advance of humanity may have means of investigation and communication that
are not yet conceivable to human beings. Other theories propose that certain ethical, political and
technological standards may have to be recognized before advanced civilizations choose, or are
able to communicate.

The modern world of physics is founded on general relativity and quantum mechanics. However, these
two tested and demonstrably sound theories are resistant to being incorporated into one cohesive
model. Superstring theory not only postulates that all matter consists of tiny vibrating strings, but that
general relativity and quantum mechanics can be united through higher spatial dimensions. The likes
of Einstein’s curved space-time, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Schrodinger’s wave-particle
fluctuations are bizarre in their own right, but higher dimensional space? Theoretically, a
one-dimensional line can only be traversed forward and backward; a two-dimensional plane - forward,
backward, left and right; our three-dimensional cube - forward, backward, left, right, up and down. If
this pattern of incremental expansion and versatility continues into higher dimensions, and we learn
to engage them, we will need a new set of directions to navigate both space and time.
(Take a map
of the United States and measure the distance between New York City and Los Angeles. It's
approximately 2800 miles. Fold the map so these two cities are touching each other. Now, the
distance between the NYC and LA is zero. Einstein's plasticity of space does not preclude the
actual "folding of space". Similar to the folding of a map in our three dimensions, the folding of space
in higher dimensions may render distance irrelevant.)

Quantum theory advances the notion of a universal connectedness between all things, including the
electromagnetic constellation of our own consciousness. It seems the theory maintains that even our
thoughts are physically discernible at subatomic levels, offering epistemic significance for
conventional cognitive neuroscience. Here’s the leap: If the mental activity of consciousness is
measurable, might it be possible to measure global sentience? And suppose we discover an
employable modality that naturally moves faster than the speed of light. What could this mean for
interstellar investigation? 

Let's imagine that once a civilization has acquired the energies required to thoroughly probe the micro
world of quantum reality, they become receptive to frequencies beyond our spectrum of
electromagnetism and three-dimensional enclosure. The quantum cartography of curved space-time
and higher dimensional geometry may ultimately reveal a vibration or temporal anomaly which
actually allows instantaneous association with the most distant regions of our universe, demoting the
theory that intelligent civilizations are too far apart in space and time to make contact.
Imagine discovering a quantum flux representing the net harmony of the living biology of a planet;
an omni-dimensional pulse that qualifies the pacific unity of extra-terrestrial civilizations; an
oscillating cadence characterizing the holistic sentience of a living world. If the human species
survives beyond its adolescent divisiveness, perhaps we’ll be recognized and welcomed into an
intergalactic solidarity of advanced, peaceful worlds. Will we ever come to hear the Quantum Hum?

Just like a bell, all our love rings from within and beyond our world.
Just beyond impossible, something strange and wonderful,
universal love and peace, waiting for humanity.

And if we reach a certain frequency, we will be welcome.
Gentle hearts and open minds, treasure beyond space and time,
one small effort to be kind, vibrates every human life.

"Just Beyond Impossible" video can be viewed HERE

I feel it’s important to clarify that the Quantum Hum is nothing more than a product of my imagination,
inspired through the wondrous implications of modern physics. I am not smart enough to fully grasp
these theories, let alone develop them. While it is significant that free inquiry and creative imagination
frequently mark real advances in science, it is the hard work of skilled and dedicated scientists that
has brought us to our present cosmological paradigm. Human beings have always speculated about
our place in the universe and what the future could bring. The problem arises when na´ve and/or
fraudulent opportunists masquerade their unproven ideas as scientific fact. This explains much of
religion, superstition, astrology and a myriad of pseudoscientific claims. Particular to this essay,
many proponents of unproven concepts such as therapeutic touch, quantum healing and energy
medicine shamefully hijack the accommodating holistic and indeterminate agencies of quantum
science to legitimize their claims. There is an ethical difference between proposing hypotheses as
possible and promoting hypotheses as fact.

Physicists speak of a unified wholeness that will become apparent upon the final discovery of a grand
unified theory; a unification of all fundamental forces of nature perhaps represented by an eloquently
simple equation of terminological calculus. Interestingly, a unified wholeness is also the final goal of
the spiritual aspirations of millions of human beings around the world. Unattended by religious dogma
and void of any supernatural architecture, maybe there is a foundational mutuality here: the
connection being that higher consciousness and its consequence of empathy, awareness and
intelligence, may be prerequisite for both truly peaceful civilizations and advanced technological
progress. This, I admit, conveniently suggests a form of universal justice: an evolutionary and cosmic
reasonableness that would preclude hostile and uncultured civilizations from developing, or even
recognizing, higher physics.

As with relativistic time and motion, the dynamics of quantum reality occur at velocities and
measurements undetectable and seemingly irrelevant in our every day lives. But the verifiable
scientific utility of relativity theory and quantum mechanics is real and continues to elevate the
promise of our future by enhancing the human intellectual landscape. And although the inherent
randomness of the subatomic realm, the plasticity of time and space, and the unimaginable
roominess of higher spatial dimensions surely undermine our intuitive perception of nature, string
theory paradoxically appears to be clarifying and unifying all the systematic dichotomies we find
through modern physics.
Accordingly, our Descartian, dualistic sense of autonomy is an illusion. We are not separate from
what we observe. Our conscious observations play a vital role in the nature of physical reality. There
is an elemental reciprocity occurring right now between you, your surroundings, and the universe.
You, me, everything we know and do not know may be interconnected through an infinity of tiny
vibrating strings, which collectively and ultimately could reveal itself in the form of one beautiful
symphony – a symphony that may come to be recognized just beyond impossible, through a
quantum hum.

written by Stephen Branch (4/22/11)

During the budget debate, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said that abortion is 90% of what Planned Parenthood does. In reality, just 3% of the organization's work is related to terminating pregnancies, while well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does relates to preventative health care services. Seeking an explanation, CNN called his office and was told "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement". So what exactly was it meant to be?

This is how it works: If the facts don’t support your opinions and you’re incapable or feel it unnecessary to participate in any intelligent discourse, you distort the truth with anything from insidious, subtle implications to deliberate, vicious, hateful lies.  Simply repeat these lies over and over and over again and people will come to believe it.  Honesty doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is who wins elections and what legislation succeeds or fails. They sling the mud against the wall to see if it will stick. Too often, it does.

Those who fact-check and would dispute these lies are not given equal time by a sensationalistic media that benefit materialistically by maintaining emotional hyperbole. Journalistic integrity is too boring and burdensome for the millions of people who have become the excitable mutants of cultural ignorance.

There’s another utilitarian ploy I call the “Just Kiddin Ruse”. Rush Limbaugh is one of the best at using it. If someone actually corners him and proves he has been dishonest or hateful or racist etc., he’ll laugh and say something like: “What’s the matter! Can’t you take a joke?!?....or C’mon, I was just kiddin….lighten up!!!!  And at the same time he insinuates that the questioner is silly for being too serious. It’s all part of the circular, slick and shifty, cognitive mediocrity that delusional and ethically compromised human beings seem so proficient at.

I think the latter tack of right-wing radio “entertainers”, pseudo-journalists and neo-Republicans is more characteristically disgraceful than the Jon Kyl situation.  But philosophically, "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement", openly and brazenly says it is acceptable to lie. The incubating chrysalis of rhetorical slime has finally blossomed into the full blown glorification and justifiable utilization of deceit.  It would seem many conservatives have embraced the moral relativism they accuse liberals of. But it’s far worse than that.

There’s a self-righteous arrogance here born of a sense of exceptionalism and moral superiority:  a pathetic and sadly effective modality emboldened by misinformation, religious sanctimony and foolish pride: a sense of entitlement that employs a brute Machiavellianism whereby the ends justify the means. A means that insists that poverty is a crime, climate change is a myth, Obama is the Anti-Christ, liberals hate freedom, Health Care is pointless, gays are evil, America is a Christian nation, and, of course, Fox News is fair and balanced. The ends are an Ayn Randian caste system where the poor and minorities are considered inferior and useless except for the tax money they disproportionately provide. The ends are an opposite-world where empathy, education, humanitarianism and environmentalism are considered more harmful than helpful. The ends are a nationalistic, team-jacket mentality that has made greed shameless, corruption justifiable, ignorance fashionable, inquiry dangerous, mythology divine, bigotry patriotic, war glorious and peace cowardly.

Shame on them and shame on anyone who disfigures the honorable pliability of truth with an amorphous, opportunistic and deviant standard that systematically and, to them, justifiably delivers the goods: no matter what the cost to our civility, our dignity, our humanity.

Back To Top

The State of the Union
written by Stephen Branch  12/02/09

I remember a movie I saw many years ago which presented two pre-human hominids trying to
survive in the world and how they dealt with each other's presence.  They both appeared equally
intelligent and physically adept.  But one was more tolerant, thoughtful and peaceful. The other was
more suspicious, contentious and warlike.  The latter, more belligerent pre-humans eventually killed
off the more pacific humanoids. These survivors came to evolve into homo-sapiens.

Whatever the specificity of our genesis, this movie always intrigued me. Today, we are obviously
capable of great compassion and civility. But our nearly seamless history of war and brutality
against one another appears to validate our stronger inclinations toward intolerance and hostility.
Today we spend billions of dollars developing the most effective ways of killing each other. The
weapons of choice? The best bullets, bombs and bluster money can buy. The ideological modi
operandi?  Religion and nationalism.

I imagine those two pre-human hominids as 21st century counterparts of American, political
partisanship. Republican, fundamentalist Christians promote, in no uncertain terms, the elimination
of liberal Democrats and the establishment of an American theocracy.
We're experiencing a
dysfunctional, chauvinistic fascination with "God, Guns and Country": a divisive, team-jacket
mentality supported by the blinding patriotism of nationalism, the xenophobic fear of outsiders, and
the arrogant sense of partisan, racial and religious exceptionalism.

As with Islamic fundamentalism, we're dealing with the intellectually lethargic, complacent stupor of
those who glorify ignorance by demanding unquestioning obedience to the ancient mythologies of "divine revelation". The convenient hypocrisy of an "all loving God of peace" who sanctifies murder in
his name is surely a twisted logic capable of man alone.  Any real God of such conviction is certainly
not one I would honor. Those properly educated to the overwhelming evidence-based view of the
world recognize religious supernaturalism and superstition for what it is: a delusional pink sock of
wishful thinking which renders its adherents insensitive to our common humanity, scientific
methodology and rational thought.

The group cohesion provided by our early folk religions was understandably systemic with primitive,
evolutionary prerequisites for survival. But, eventually, early humans developed reciprocal altruism
and many started becoming conscious of the philosophical dichotomy between dogma and reason.
With the advent of the Age of Reason and scientific methodology, we finally began to understand the
absurdity of the theopolitical authoritarianism that supported it. Our new clarity of thought anticipated
that all the dogmatic muscle in the world is no match for empirical knowledge. Unless, of course,
you muscle out the knowledge:

Our ecclesiastic history abounds with "divinely" sanctioned prohibitions on reading, writing and
intellectualism. Less detectable forms of obscurantism occur today through systematic censorship,
misinformation and debasement of scholarship and inquiry. Why? Knowledge undermines religion.
Consequently, the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all promote a moral and
intellectual absolutism that relegates non-compliance as sinful and heretical.  The rigidity of this
bronze-age consciousness still persists today and undermines our more universal principles of
human civility and reason. Any national doctrine or religious scripture which demands unquestioning
obedience should be recognized as outdated and divisive to our modern transnational culture.
Accordingly, when people are asked if they are religious, they should not be afraid to say no. They
should be proud to say no.

In context with the movie I saw so long ago, I wonder if the more compassionate and scientifically
literate among us will ultimately be pummeled into irrelevance by the arrogant, intolerant, strong-arm
of ideological bullies.  Unlike the more moderate and provincial consequence of our prehistoric
hostilities, the nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry now available to divinely sanctioned
fanatics poses a threat to the entire planet.

Somewhere between the monopoly of absolutism and the indeterminacy of postmodernism (where
everything is possible and almost nothing is certain) lies a more applicable reality better suited to
ensure our peaceful coexistence and longevity: A reality that values religious humanitarianism but
devalues its divisive dogma:  A reality that recognizes the logic of scientific methodology and secular
ethics:  A reality where the divisive tangle of modern tribalism finally yields to the utilitarian economy
of pluralism and democracy.

Today, we have the intellectual muscle of modernity: education, mass communication and a higher
sense of our place in the universe. Though the glory of battle, group superiority and religious
privilege are tough acts to follow, they are little more than the circumstantial and parochial
indulgences of antiquity. It’s understandable why so many desperately hold on when considering
the naked randomness of our existential reality. While we must empathize, we must understand
that the impulsive and furious sword of
our lower selves can cut a deep and fatal blow. We can and
must fight back. Not with bullets, bombs and bluster, but with reason, diplomacy and the justice
born of the consequence of our actions.

Homemade Turkey Soup
Author: Steve Branch 2/10/06

I’m just waking up. My first realization is that I’ve had one of those beautiful, deep, restful sleeps.
I’m still delightfully paralyzed with this restfulness; even to the point where it is pleasingly difficult
to open my eyes.
The course of the night has left my seemingly amorphous body sunken into this old bed like a thick bluish fog settles into the crevice of a mountain valley. This dreamy peacefulness and somnolent
state of being beckons me back to the mysterious world of unconscious repose. I recognize sounds and images seeping through from my subconscious. These are the entrails of dreams. Ten thousand years ago our ancestors believed these to be communication from the cultural god or leaders of their time. Even today, there are far too many whose wakeful state differs little from their sleeping state. Thus, we have the prevalence of ideology over sensibility.

But wait! There is an enchanting aroma squirreling its way up from the kitchen far below. It is the homemade turkey soup, which has been simmering for hours already. It’s remarkable how our sense
of smell can evoke scenes and emotions from our past; like the cherry-blend pipe tobacco my grandfather used to smoke. The slightest scent of a freshly cut hayfield, salty ocean air, blooming purple lilacs or this yummy soup du jour, all bring back specific and endearing childhood memories.

So far, I really like the way this day is starting out. I’m cozily cocooned inside my home. I hear the muffled sounds of a New England winter storm outside. The brittle arctic wind has sealed our abode with tattoos of frost upon all the windows. Confident in this domicile’s structural integrity, I’m still humbled as the stronger gusts of wind remind me of its true infirmity. Our brutal reality is that our
next breath could be our last. Although this immediacy is highly unlikely, it is our very biological fragility that makes life so precious.

I squirm deliciously beneath the toasty sheets of my bed. I cannot help but savor these moments
with a deliberate and higher consciousness: the way you will become conscious the moment you notice yourself reading these words. For these are the moments that can rival the most passionate embrace, the softest cerulean sky, the grace of the great gray owl or the whitest Christmas. Yes, these temporal oases are the inconspicuous, existential jewels that give reverence to the exquisite delicacies of everyday experience: moments too often overlooked through the disengagement of
those who tend to rush through life.

The indigenous isolation this storm has afforded me takes no offense at the distant scraping and rumbling of the snowplow. These sounds assure me there are still people out there taking care of
the world. These are the modern, comforting sounds distantly synonymous with the more primal, evolutionary and conciliatory crackles of a burning fire, warding off the wilds of nature.

Here at the homestead, the roof has been patched. The cold-cellar is replete with summer’s garden harvest. The woodbin is full-up with split, seasoned oak. The birdfeeders are generously quartered
with sunflower seeds, fruit, bread and suet. It’s funny how the burdensome chores of youth can become so satisfying; even pleasurable.  Eventually, we seem to figure out that our precariousness here on Earth stands most securely upon our peaceful and productive endeavors.

As if things were not already pleasant enough, my
cat just jumped up and has irresistibly snuggled
the cradle of my armpit area. I can actually feel the sing-song vibration of his purring inside my chest; and even more sweetly, inside my heart.

I think I’ll just stay here in bed a bit longer. I know the anticipation of having that homemade turkey soup is, at least, half the delight of having the soup itself.

The Beekeeper - observations from a frustrated god -
Author: Stephen Branch  9/15/07 - revised 7/3/15

Dear Human Beings,

This is God. Well, sort of. I'm one of the beings who cast the bio-genetic blueprint for your universe 13.7 billion years ago. I'm not the God you perceive as divine or supernatural; no magic or miracles here. I suppose if I came in contact with someone as advanced as I am to you, I might also call him God, at least to humor him. My species used to be as you; biological, mortal, and for the most part, mentally deranged. So, let this be a lesson as to the implications of your future propriety. I'm supposed to stay out of your business. And I usually do. I had already written you all off as doomed to extinction. But my partner was so impressed with your recent pro-gay activities, he convinced me to step in.

So, what the heck has been going on here?! Your last few thousand years have been filled with war, scorn, bigotry, corruption, misogyny, slavery, genocide, environmental abuse and other endless accounts of unspeakable cruelty. There can be some accounting for adolescent recalcitrance, but you have deviated far beyond what would be considered normal development. Were it not for the efforts of the secular among you, there would be no future worth contemplating.

In this universe, only intelligent life forms with a proclivity for mutual cooperation warrant the probability for further evolution. For most of you, your actions are not reflective of all the sanctimonious lip service you give to morality and ethics. Yeah, you clean up nice but you're still behaving like your apelike ancestors. Wake up! Raise your consciousness. Recognize how your lower impulses dominate your behavior and diminish the quality of your lives. For crying out loud, you've made sex dirty, greed shameless, corruption justifiable, ignorance fashionable, inquiry dangerous, war glorious and peace cowardly! You're a bunch of reckless hypocrites and you're really pissing me off!!!

And why are you still listening to all these clergymen who dress up like kings and act like they know what they're talking about? Heaven and Hell are fairy tales for young children - and inappropriate ones at that. You adults still believe this stuff! If your incentive for being good is heavenly reward or eternal torture, you're missing the whole point. Being good is an end unto itself. It's more often the much-maligned atheist who actually practices true charity. And, by the way, I cannot hear or answer your prayers. Get off your knees and do something constructive.

Individually, the human sees himself as one organism among the billions of humans on Earth. I see your world as one organism among the billions of world organisms throughout the universe. This matrix continues to a macrocosm where entire universes are seen as one organism. Here, in my corner, I am not concerned with individuals or separate groups among you. I attend to the merit of united, world communities. I am the beekeeper interested in the honey, not the bees. If the bees are divided, they will swarm hopelessly out of control. Accordingly, human divisiveness has rendered your global colony confused, unproductive and hostile to itself. You cannot produce good honey; and that would be the honey of cooperation, knowledge and peace, not the ignorant, burping codswallop you've been spewing forth for the last few millennia.

Well, here's some parting advice: First of all, stop thinking you are better than anyone else. I've seen this false sense of exceptionalism destroy many civilizations. The genetic, historic and cultural differences between human subdivisions should be sources of curiosity and respect, not suspicion and prejudice. Whether half way around the world or right next-door, when you belittle your neighbor, you belittle yourself - when you belittle yourself, you belittle the human race. If your species ever get the chance to compare yourself with your "extraterrestrial" neighbors, a pivotal awareness regarding both humility and solidarity will dawn.

Secondly, your religious resources such as the "Bible" and the "Koran" were written by your remarkably ignorant, prescientific ancestors whose ideas are so far removed from your present reality as to border on insanity. Attributing ridiculous ideas to the divine is one of the oldest tricks around. Regardless of your consolatory beliefs, the darkness that surrounds you will never truly be illuminated by mythological conjectures, vain hopes and false illusions. The ultimate folly is that the religious ideologies most of you think will save the world, could be the very ones that will destroy you. The subsequent epitaph on the tombstone of Humankind, were there anyone around to read it, would surely be a source of inconsolable regret and shame. The rational ones among you best stop worrying about hurting peoples' feelings and set the record straight! .

Thirdly, your genocidal tendencies coupled with nuclear technology, and your environmental abuses are the greatest, immediate dangers you face. Most of you are either in denial, indifferent or unaware of their calamitous potential. Come to understand the psychology of your urge for war over diplomacy. Come to understand why you are so easily blinded to the suffering and misery of the faceless victims your modern weaponry brings. Come to understand that overpopulation ensures the continuation of both war and environmental destruction. Why is there so little insight and consensus on these issues? Your politicians are beholden to the church, the military and big business; your own cultural "Trinity" of which each cannot exist without the other.

Remember your self-inflicted abuses are within your control - other hazards are not. It may seem rather inconvenient, but the long-term survival of your species actually means leaving the Earth. Naturally occurring volcanic, climatic, biologic, geomagnetic and solar anomalies may be more than you can handle. Astronomical impact with an enormous asteroid, planetoid or comet can and will happen. You need to start thinking about these perils now. Prepare to colonize your solar system. With the ultimate death of your sun, even your solar system won't be safe. True species longevity requires spreading into your galaxy and beyond.

Finally, scientific education is your most valuable tool. You can't solve real problems with unreal solutions. Understand what is and is not science. Superstition, astrology, magic, miracles and other alleged supernatural phenomena cannot adhere to the basic requirements of scientific methodology.
To remedy their credibility problem, your advocates of pseudoscience invalidate the very means of validation! Now there's a magic trick if I ever saw one.

Your ecclesiastic history abounds with "divinely" sanctioned prohibitions on reading, writing and intellectualism. Less detectable forms of obscurantism occur today through systematic censorship, misinformation and debasement of scholarship and inquiry. Within the fog of illogic and ignorance, you may find your preferential truth. But within the clear light of reason, you'll find your existential reality. It may not always be pretty, but a proper education and rational, levelheaded thinking are your best hope at living in a world with the highest possible standards.

Despite your past indiscretions, there is still hope. Evolution has provided your species with the potential to go far. Make it through your troubled adolescence, and you'll have your chance at the glorious longevity only the most enlightened civilizations experience.

Be kind. Be humble. Be smart.

And consider yourselves lucky to receive my advice. I don't usually do this. So stop fucking everything up!


The Making of “Latter-Day Atheist” by Stephen Branch

For anyone confused, repulsed or frightened by the title of this CD, or by what may be revealed within, I challenge you to give it a listen and decide for yourself if the content does not reveal our culture’s stereotypical and parochial view of atheism.  Although only a handful of these songs directly address secularist ideas, all the songs of love, hope and humanitarianism are still congruent with my position as an atheist.
Considering the world-wide bigotry against non-believers, I do not enjoy the inevitable alienation of friends, family and, of course, potential listeners.  But if my endeavor enlightens just one person to the possibility of a human solidarity that is rejuvenated and glorified by its diversity, not divided by it; to the realization that, with or without religion, all people are capable of love, empathy, and decency; and to the arrogance of exceptionalism and mediocrity of supernaturalism, superstition and magic:  then I will gladly forgo the artist’s lofty dream of cosmopolitan respectability and material gain; which a less controversial artistic endeavor would be more likely to facilitate.

Still, apart from the controversial implications of this endeavor, and as a musician, I would hope one would simply enjoy the music: the cohesion of melody, vocal and instrumental characterizations.  But ultimately, it is this artist’s hope to reveal the absurdity of religious dogma typically expressed in the following Bible verse:  

PSALMS 14:1   the fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”  The transparent pettiness of this notion would shame any “God” I could imagine.  Clearly, these are the oppressive, vindictive thoughts of misguided, bronze-age men.

Responsible, objective studies consistently show that belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society, but may actually contribute to social problems. They show higher rates of STDs, crime, teen pregnancy, divorce and abortion among religious democracies, as opposed to secular democracies. They contradict a commonly held belief that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society. They show the states with the lowest levels of religiosity (blue states) have the lowest measures of societal dysfunction. And most definitively show that more intelligent people tend not to believe in religion.

Galileo, responsible for the birth of modern science, was convicted of heresy, publicly humiliated, and forced to spend the rest of his days censored and under house arrest.  In 1600, the brilliant mathematician and astronomer Giordano Bruno challenged the Catholic Church dogma of geo-centrism. For this, he was hung upside-down and naked, and then burned alive. The Inquisition, the Dark Ages, the witch burnings are all examples of what happened when the Church determined what is moral and righteous.  Arthur C. Clarke said it best: “The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”

Our ecclesiastic history abounds with “divinely” sanctioned prohibitions on reading, writing and intellectualism. Less detectable forms of obscurantism occur today through systematic censorship, misinformation and debasement of scholarship and inquiry. Within the fog of illogic and ignorance, you may find your preferential truth. But within the clear light of reason, you’ll find your existential reality. It may not always be pretty, but education and rational, levelheaded thinking are our best hope at living in a world with the highest possible standards. (paragraph excerpted from "The Beekeeper")

This CD is dedicated to all the courageous, liberated thinkers of past and present who have suffered the violence, censorship, hatred and misunderstanding born of an ignorance and intolerance sanctified by God. A God, for all we really know, does not even exist.

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One vs. the other - This spam email was originally received, only, as the text seen in red. In the
spirit of playful discourse, I submit the following, contrarian reflections in italicized blue.

One vs. the other
If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative doesn't like guns, it's because he prefers lynching.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, he's considered cowardly and un-American.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, it's because he hates plants.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, it's because he loves animals.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy.
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he rallies for war and scoffs at diplomacy.
A liberal encourages diplomacy and will go to war only as a last resort.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a conservative is homosexual, he stays in the closet and quietly masturbates to
homosexual pornography.
If a liberal is homosexual, he partakes in the natural, genetically innate, sexual diversity
common in all mammals.

If a black man or Hispanic is conservative, they see themselves as independently
Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of government protection.

If a black man or Hispanic is conservative, they are apparently unaware of the historical, conservative agency of bigotry and intolerance.
If a black man or Hispanic is liberal, it's because they are aware of the historical, conservative
agency of bigotry and intolerance

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to blame liberals.
A liberal wonders how he can help out the conservatives that are down and out.

If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If conservatives don't like a talk show host, they demonize, beat or kill him.
If a liberal doesn't like a talk show host, he listens, in hope of understanding their

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's
a foreign religion, of course!)

If a conservative is a believer, he still doesn't go to church. Anyone who doesn't believe in God is immoral and evil.
A liberal non-believer wants to maintain our constitutional premise of
separation between church and state

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or
may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he may be one of the fortunate few who can afford to buy it independently, or may be fortunate enough to find a job which provides it.

A liberal demands that a family should not have to lose their home and
life savings if
a loved one becomes
seriously ill or injured.

If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.
If a liberal slips and falls, he grabs his neck, moans like he's in labor and then sues.

If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed. Some
feign injury and sue.
If a liberal slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.  Some feign
injury and sue.

If a conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will delete it because he's "offended".

If a conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can be further indoctrinated
into the
culture of
ignorance, exaggeration and divisiveness. (And have a good laugh)
A liberal will delete it along with all the other senseless spam he receives


I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the
happier for it.
Thomas Jefferson

I cannot live without books.
Thomas Jefferson

Playing The Hate Card
by Steve Branch  9/20/09

Neo-conservative talk-show host and pseudo-pundit Glenn Beck recently called President Obama
a racist, further elaborating: “Barack Obama has a deep-seated hatred of white people”. Here, we
have the ol switcheroo game, whereby people accuse their enemies of the very unsavory traits they
themselves possess. In psychology,
this is called projection*, an ego defense mechanism by which
something that is true of the person and would cause anxiety if it were recognized, is repressed
and is seen in someone else instead.

The sad reality is that too many white people still have a deep-seated hatred for black people. Why?
Ignorance and foolish pride. An ignorance emboldened by our own historical intolerance and
religious sanctimony: a foolish pride born of the pathological need to feel superior to somebody else.
Here in the 21st century, the folly of this divisiveness is transparent to the enlightened, questioned
by the thoughtful, tolerated by the fearful, and championed by the dysfunctional

Our younger people understand generational dogma, provincialism, and racial exceptionalism for
what they are. The scoundrels of self-righteous intolerance will always slither about. But as every
day passes, the visibility they now enjoy drifts deeper into the lunacy of our past.

* see Lancing The Boil Of Deceit

A Global Pledge
Author: Steve Branch    9/2/07

I pledge allegiance
to the way
of Peace Love and Understanding

With the realization
fate is in our own hands

One world
in harmony with nature
with education and fairness for all

Godless, Immoral and Unpatriotic
Author: Steve Branch 6/20/06

Ann Coulter seems to believe all liberals are Godless, immoral and unpatriotic. In her new book, she
also says the 9-11 widows (harpies and broads, as she likes to call them) enjoyed their husband’s
death. This is the vacuous and hateful way she has chosen to deal with anyone who dare criticize
Bush. Meanwhile,
Coulter sanctimoniously insists that everything she does is grounded in
Too often, when the desperate cannot reasonably justify reality, they create their own.
And too often, they fraudulently brandish patriotism and Godliness as credentials. This farcical
behavior is a pattern demonstrated throughout history against those who promote truth, peace and arbitration.

Conservative and liberals become most antagonistic when viewed in their extreme forms. Coulter’s
et al basic ploy is to describe the worst possible examples of liberalism, then attribute those stereotypes to ALL liberals. Most liberals and most conservatives have more in common than not. Emphasis should be on unity rather than disunity. Recognize the headline-grabbing, frivolities of the partisan worm for what they are: the primal grunt of intellectual neophytes and greedy sycophants.

These ultra-conservative, self-righteous, phony pundits lack the depth and worldliness needed for objective observation and productive debate. Republican sponsored media continues to enable petty, partisan diatribe to seduce the naive among us. It’s no wonder dignity and compassion have
morphed into impropriety and acrimony.

This administration’s disastrous record leaves little room for justification. It seems these right-wingers
may figure; why let the facts stand in the way of a perfectly good opinion. The problem is that the
hatred they feel and generate is too often the result of either gullible or selective belief in the
fabricated injustices directed toward their adversaries. What an unproductive and malevolent waste of
energy. Why can’t they simply aspire to the wisdom of facts, fairness and reason? Is it too boring?
Or does the truth present problems for their ideology?

The conservative talk radio venue is flush with damning vitriol and insidious manipulation of the facts.
Rush Limbaugh sees war hero John Kerry as both a coward and unpatriotic. Limbaugh, a
draft-dodger (and drug addict), is actually describing himself, but doesn’t know it. As with Coulter
and all the others participating in the politics of hatred, people often despise and project onto others
what they cannot accept within themselves. This is a most vulgar hypocrisy and sad paradox
displayed more often by dysfunctional people. The ultimate irony is that these flag-waving
Bible-thumpers are actually the ones who are behaving Godless, immoral and unpatriotic.

What can we do?
Author: Steve Branch 1/1/07

Hang George Bush?  No. I’m not convinced the death penalty is appropriate even for someone
responsible for hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. Send him to Guantanimo? No. Torture would make us no better than he. Probe into his personal life without a court order? No. Despite the policies he has enabled, this is unconstitutional.

As he has done with his critics, shall we accuse him of promoting terrorism? No. He’s too ignorant
to understand that this is exactly what he has been doing. Appeal to his sense of reason? No. Not
unlike Islamic fundamentalism, Bush’s brand of Christian sanctimony and subsequent militarism
inhibit open-mindedness and an ability to think rationally. Remove Bush from office? No. Cheney is
even more dangerous than GW.

Short of replacing this administration immediately, we must do the best we can until the 2008
election. Then we must elect those willing to replace political and religious dogma with reason and
empirical reality. We need politicians who value the future on a timescale larger than their own.

Until then, Congress must impeach or censure Bush to show the world that Americans do not stand
behind this arrogant cadre of semi-conscious religious ideologues.

Bush Gives The Finger To The Press
Author: Steve Branch 8/2/05

George Bush recently stuck his middle finger up to the press, clearly showing his contempt for the media and the American people. This cocky, irreverent behavior is too often seen as amusing, macho and even patriotic. But I would wager most Americans feel ashamed. Most of us want a President who will always show dignity and patience, whatever the degree of adversity.

To me, profane words and gestures are no big deal. There is an expressive and functional place for every word and gesture our species develop. But coming from within the sanctimonious, moral periphery of a "Christian, Family Values President", Bush's hypocrisy should be recognized
as both inexcusable and philosophically tragic.

Dick Cheney had some advice during the U.S. Senate’s annual photo session for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who had been relentless in his criticism of the no-bid contracts awarded to the vice president’s alma mater, Halliburton. He told him to "go fuck yourself". Bush was also caught on tape saying "There's Adam Clymer, major league asshole from the New York Times."

As role models for our children, as well as all Americans, how can our national leaders be so flippant?
In light of our seemingly new, behavioral standards, I now suppose it is culturally acceptable for me to say that George Bush and Dick Cheney are two of the biggest fucking assholes in the world today.

My sarcastic indulgence aside: The sad, naive and arrogant, legislative repercussions of those such as these in power, too often result in ideological and parochial guidelines which foster disunion, ignorance and, ultimately, the end of our American presence as a respectable world power.

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Ideological SPAM – The Twaddle of Partisan and Religious Nationalism
Stephen Branch - 6/22/08

Last time it was Andy Rooney. This time Jay Leno has been falsely credited with more rightwing, ideological blather. I wonder how it is that people come to believe this stuff. Is this level of gullibility
an accident of birth or a deliberate unwillingness to question both source and content of propaganda? Maybe it’s the intellectual disfigurement that comes from the dismal combination of both.  Whatever the case, the genesis of this ploy is a sign of desperation to justify the failed conservative policies of the Bush administration.

When anonymous, ideological rhetoric is fraudulently attributed to well known personalities, it must
be recognized for what it is: a deceitful and cowardly attempt to elevate dogma by crediting it to a popular and/or trusted source. Please check your sources. For review of this email-blast's content, history and authenticity, see -

The rather amusing irony here is that even the author obviously doesn't believe the message has sufficient merit to stand on its own. What the author does seem to know is that millions of Americans are capable of nothing more than skimming the surface of reality and holding fast to the opinions that most suit their self-serving, ideological needs. But it’s not as simple as left or right, love or fight, and black or white. It’s more about the illusive, existential shades of gray: the same challenging and
subtle dichotomies the forbearers of our nation so diligently deliberated over and so admirably concluded upon with their secular doctrines of fairness and open-mindedness. Throw out the team jackets of tribal indulgence. Tackle the opponents of reason and knowledge. Recognize the triviality
of our divisiveness and the splendor of our mutuality.

Every single human being is a victim of circumstance. Through no fault of our own, we all come into this world without a choice of the body we are born into or the uncompromising genetic imprint that molds our being. Whatever the variables between nature and nurture, we all want happiness and
health for our loved ones and ourselves. We all bleed, cry, and die. We all laugh, hope and dream.
And yet we all seem to think we are somehow separate and special. While this delusion seemingly rescues us from our anonymity, it is this very anonymity where you will find the greatest peace. A peace that comes from recognizing our commonality. A peace that transcends all the senseless animosity. A peace that allows you to empathize with those you once felt disdain for. A peace that brings you to a place of calm humanitarianism and proper perspective.

The more reasonable among us realize that moderation and compromise strengthen democracy. Conservatives and liberals alike, have much more in common than not. We need to understand how
the extreme conservatives and extreme liberals are too often understood to represent all of their kind. Most conservatives do not want a theocracy. Most liberals do not want a socialistic state. All republicans are not hawks. All democrats are not doves. The rich are not evil and the poor are not criminals. McCain is not crazy, Hillary is not a whore, and Obama is not a Muslim. (By the way,
what's wrong with being Muslim?)

Resource reliable and trustworthy journalists. Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, Hannity, Savage, O’Reilly et al, are not objective, media representatives. These people are nothing more than right wing ideologues that, either naively or deliberately, distort and misrepresent the facts. They undermine our more
decent convictions by exciting the lower impulses of prejudice and passion. They revel in their divisiveness and arrogance, failing to understand the gravity of their insensibility. They cannot see the picture from outside the frame.
Nonetheless, they sure are smart enough to know this very same vociferation improves their ratings.

You may scorn NPR, but listen with an open mind and tell me they are not the more objective radio news source available within the continental US. Read more than one newspaper. Listen to the BBC. FOX News? I would question any news agency that has to remind its listeners dozens of times a day that it is “fair and balanced”. They also quip: “We report – You decide”. Well, I’ve decided. Fox News
is neither fair nor balanced. Also specific to this spam’s critique is Newsweek magazine. Newsweek features some of the most respected and objective journalists accessible. The most reliable
information available to us is what this spam encourages us not to acknowledge. Here again we have the silly and ubiquitous implication that it is un-American to question God and country. I would wager most Americans consider the willful ignorance of censorship and book burning to be far more contrary to American ideals.
There certainly are many things right with America. There are also many things wrong with America.  Blind patriotism and sanctimony will not make our problems go away. Contrary to what this spam suggests, do not ignore the media and do
not burn news magazines. Take your blinders off and take
a good look at the world around you. Agree or disagree as you will, but make your decisions, properly informed decisions. Our future depends on reasonable, empathetic and well-informed people willing to plan beyond the scope of their own lifetime.

This is the American Experiment and it’s not over yet. If there is a just God, he favors no one race, creed or nation. God is not going to save America. Americans are going to save America.

also read Lancing The Boil Of Deceit

Neither Sinner Nor Saint
by Stephen Branch - 6/1/07

A Christian acquaintance of mine believes in white supremacy. He hates homosexuals and believes
women aren’t smart enough to be U.S. President.
After attempting to discuss our differences, he
huffed out the door spewing hatred and insulting me personally.

A witness to this revealing exchange later observed that I, as an atheist, consistently spoke of peace,
compassion and understanding while my Christian friend’s relentless theme was one of hate, bigotry
and intolerance.

The measure of this paradox would be laughable if it weren't so sad. The absurdity of it all would
seem beyond comprehension but for the actual corroborating depravity within the Bible itself.

Although considerable, theological merit is dwarfed by its divisiveness, obscurantism and
supernatural foolishness.
Free from
religious dogma, the secular community does not need rewards in
heaven or fear of hell to be moral, loving human beings.
Our altruism is based on the empathy and
logic innate to our humanity. No gods or perks required.

Remember, by modern standards, the Bible (and Koran) was written by primitive, ridiculous men.
Delusions of virgin birth, resurrection, immortality and divinity all predate the Jesus story.
Christianity evolved as an "amalgam of salvation myths" in circulation during the early centuries of
the Roman Empire. The major themes behind Christianity were not new
ideas, just borrowed ones.

With education, intellectual honesty and courage, one is more able to see the world through the
clear light of reason. To quote Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg; “It's high time we wake up from this
long nightmare of religious belief.”

The Integrity of Partisan Consensus
Author: Stephen Branch 11/8/04  

In a way, it’s amazing that many Democrats and Republicans think the other is misguided and
delusional. Which sides’ opinions come closer to the truth? Is there a way to measure the integrity
of partisan consensus?

Ultimately, you have to look at the sources of information and the objectivity of those digesting it.
Nearly everyone thinks they’re smart and knows what’s best for themselves and others. But how
can everyone be right? Let's take a look at some of the social and topical demographics:

For example: it is clear that more Democrats listen to NPR and the BBC. These are news organizations recognized worldwide as objective and reliable sources of information. It is also clear
that more Republicans listen to right wing sponsored Clear Channel affiliates, Fox News and
charlatan news-posers such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity: all of whom
are partisan and clearly advocate their own right-wing ideology.

In both the 2000 and 2004 elections, the majority of Republican votes came from areas where more
of our farmers, country folk and blue-collar workers live. The majority of Democratic voters came
from metropolitan areas with the largest percentage of academia.

In light of the fact that at least 4 million of the Christian right wing rallied for Bush in this election,
caterwauling the amorphous and self-righteous  “moral values theme”, it would be wise to remember
that statistics repeatedly show that 
the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is
likely to be religious”. (Paul G. Bell)   Regarding the declining division between church and state, it
would also be wise to consider what Freud said: "The more the fruits of knowledge become
accessible to men, the more widespread is the decline of religious belief”. 

These observations, while based in fact, are certainly not black and white. But it is still logical to
conclude that Bush supporters, on average, are less educated and/or more subject to religious
dogma and partisan news sources.

Perhaps mediocrity is part of American destiny. It seems the inevitable repercussions of “The
Dumbing Down of America” are bearing its foul fruit in the likes of George Bush and his sincere,
but misguided supporters. The subsequent entrails of patriotic jingoism, religious dogma and anti-intellectualism have a stranglehold on our fundamental, constitutional premise of decency,
integrity and fair play.

Perhaps America’s destiny is now truly in the hands of the "bewildered herd"; "those great masses
whose uncertainty of intellect begs for direction and manipulation from the "wise" big brothers of
government." It’s been said that Rome fell because only the intelligent people practiced birth control.
Take a close look at the Republican/Christian Right views and cutbacks regarding, civil rights, birth
control, education and science based issues: all and the like being flushed right back into the dark sludge of the more primitive, parochial times of human development.

History continually recycles justice with injustice. History demonstrates how lust for power
trumps compassion time and time again, and that flag-waving nationalism inevitably results in
international conflict. History has shown, as we see today in America, that a vacuous populace
prefers consoling lies to difficult realities. History shows that too often people must travel to the
deepest parts of the valley before they can clearly see the mountaintop.

But history also shows that insight, courage and perseverance, even within small numbers, can
make dramatic changes for the betterment of our world. Beware the hypocrites who continually
play the “moral values” card, in lieu of reasonably debate.
Beware the blind patriots who figure their perfectly good opinions needn’t be altered by the facts. Too often, these are the people who
will be intimidating those who fight for civility and fairness. It is our duty as American citizens
and as a human beings, to expose injustice anywhere, even when that injustice originates
in OUR oval office.

Worldwide, the results of elections too often reflect a consensus manipulated by self-serving, dangerous, ignorant people. A progressive, conscientious education and a dauntless, objective
media are our best hope to ensure the highest quality of life
for our progeny and ourselves.

Walter Lippmann
More by Charles B. Carr

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The Truth May Not Be Pretty, But It's Still the Truth
Author: Stephen Branch
written February, 3, 2004

Millions of people here and around the world have recognized the folly of this war from day one.
Now that the truth is finally becoming mainstream, we will not indulge in reprimand or condescension.
While we have been amazed and disheartened at how gullible and parochial many Americans can be,
we understand how some are easily misled. After all, under appropriate circumstances, we can
believe our President. But now, it is clear our administration has lied and has manipulated the media.

No hard feelings about calling us traitors or dangerous to America. No hard feelings regarding our
censure of civil rights. Let us move forward together to remove this bureaucratic abomination. Let us
unite to make sure this never happens again. Let us get on with electing politicians who will not only
respect the rights and welfare of all Americans, but also cooperate with world leaders to ensure a
safe and healthy planet for all of humanity. Let us get on with Democracy.

Mark my words. Time will eventually yield the extent of this administration’s reckless and criminal
behavior. Despite the continuing denial and distortion, we hope Americans will recognize
the truth and vote accordingly come November.

Author: Stephen Branch
written June 19, 2003

The Bush administration wants the world to be patient while they search for WMD.
Where was their patience when the UN Weapons Inspectors were searching?

I think the Bushies are biding time in hopes that this problem will either simply go away or be
buried beneath the distraction of another “war”, if they can just get one going soon enough. What’s
going on here is very serious and “If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention”.

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has annulled an open investigation into the
Bush administrations’ lies regarding WMD and Al Qaeda connections in Iraq. Hundreds of
Americans soldiers are dead and still dying. Thousands of mostly innocent Iraqis are dead or
wounded. Billions upon billions of US taxpayers’ dollars have and are being spent for a self-serving
and deceitfully drummed-up war that has left America with far more enemies than it had beforehand.

The Bush cabal should be thrown out and tried for war crimes. The scariest part is that they may actually get away with it. Either way, the American people will pay with their money, their dignity
and their lives.

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The Cat that Ate the Canary

written January 26, 2000 by Rick Branch

Has anyone noticed that the Republicans aren't talking about the recent impeachment of the
President? Being election time, you'd think they'd be shouting it from rooftops.

There's a reason for this silence. Deep down, the Republicans know that they went too far when they
impeached Bill Clinton. They know that they did something very wrong. Peculiarly quiet, they are not
unlike the cat that ate the canary.

Think about the train of events leading up to the impeachment. Clinton's first term went well. The
economy thrived. His poll numbers soared. By the time Newt's speakership crumbled, Republicans
were getting desperate. They were in fact flailing for a lifeline. With nothing good to say about
themselves, they looked, with increased intensity, for something bad to say about Clinton. They
even recruited Ken Starr, federal prosecutor with unlimited time and funds. Still, after years of
looking for dirt, they found absolutely nothing. ....(Update: The results of Ken Starr's witch-hunt; that Bill and Hillary were acquitted of any wrongdoing, was not made public untill after the 2000 election.)

So what did these right-wingers stoop further down into the sewer to do? They took into 'evidence' an
illegally obtained tape recording that suggested Clinton might be having an extramarital affair. At first,
trying to protect himself and his family, Clinton denied it. He later confessed.

Hungry for the kill, the Republicans pounced. They impeached the President of the United States
without even allowing a vote for the less harsh measure of censure. Had they gone insane? I think it
would be more accurate to say that they were temporarily crazed with hatred and insecurity. They
huffed and puffed and twirled together hypocritical rationales about job performance and moral fortitude.They complained about the embarrassment of it all when they were the ones who made sure that this private matter became public. What they did to President Clinton, his family, and this country was an atrocity.

I'm still stunned. I mean, impeach a president for lying about selling arms to Iran for hostages. Even
impeach a president for lying about a 'no new taxes' pledge. But don't impeach a president for having an extramarital affair!

Nope, you won't hear Republicans talking about the impeachment of President Clinton. You may
notice them sneak around the issue, saying things like, "Let's return dignity to the White House,"
or, "Let's give our children leaders they can look up to," or, "I'll be someone you can trust." 
Watch for the feathers in their teeth.

Lancing The Boil Of Deceit
Author: Stephen Branch
written May 15,  2004

Besides the transparent fabrications and distortions permeating our airwaves, we need to
be aware of the subtle, more insidious facades being used by the mischievous and unprincipled representatives of the right wing.

With the maneuverability of one-way conversation, right wing talk show hosts frequently unload outrageous distortions and vicious insinuations. (e.g., liberals hate America, the left back the
terrorists, Kerry is unpatriotic) They know they’re safe from any immediate rebuttal, if any at all.
In the interim, their loyal listeners lap this stuff right up. But somewhere down the road, if someone calls in to argue, the host often responds with something like: “Oh that? I was just kidding” or
“Can’t you take a joke!” or “Lighten up!!”  Slithering away from accountability, he conveniently
redirects the focus back to the contester, who may now appear too serious or lacking any sense
of humor. If further pressured to justify the smear, the host may answer in the form of a personal attack, such as being called un-American for questioning the President. If all else fails, the caller is
cut off. It appears any rational discussion would expose the contriver’s deceit and ignorance
regarding the pertinent matters at hand.

Similarly dysfunctional, we have the “ol switcheroo game”, whereby people accuse their enemies
of the very unsavory traits they themselves possess. In psychology, this is called projection; an
ego defense mechanism by which something that is true of the person and would cause anxiety
if it were recognized, is repressed and is seen in someone else instead. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear an emotional, angry and mean-spirited right-winger screaming about how
emotional, angry and mean-spirited democrats and liberals are. (It’s also not uncommon to hear
Bush accuse other nations of threatening peace, ignoring international protocol and abusing civil rights.) Whether unconsciously calculated or deliberately impudent, the ploy to seesaw one’s
own faults upon another is the ultimate hypocrisy.

On a recent Rush Limbaugh radio show he said, “God is on the side of Bush and the Republicans”…pause…”okok…hahaha….that may be a bit on the edge but that’s the way
the Democrats play “.

This slick and slimy duplicity comes from a man who, with playful arrogance, divulges his
“wisdom” with, as he says, “half my brain tied behind my back, just to make things fair
and ”with talent on loan from God”.   Rush can seem amusing within the pathetic confines of
his diatribe, but beyond the smoke and mirrors, it becomes clear his vitriolic vendetta against
liberals and democrats is being waged without honesty and fairplay. Perhaps it is time
Mr. Limbaugh untie that half brain he obviously is not using.

Projection and other forms of behavioral disorders are, of course, common in all human beings.
But, I believe more objective people will notice a higher degree of illogic
among those allegiant to
right wing ideology. The explanation for this is really quite simple: History has shown change as
an integral part of a healthy society. And by its very definition, conservatism opposes change and advocates adherence to tradition. Granted, certain ethical standards are universal, but the people
of our ever-changing world rightfully deserve modification to old and tired ideas. Ideas that have
been consistently proven unproductive, narrow-minded and even dangerous are still considered sacrosanct. (e.g., nationalism, tribalism, theism, misogyny)

Although we now have our very own inflexible, sanctimonious, bellicose and ultra-right wing administration, the enlightened among our species continue to invalidate the traditions of war,
bigotry and religion. As conservative proponents stubbornly hold on to their customary and
comforting beliefs, it’s also likely they’re feeling an understandable sense of hopelessness that
might explain their desperate flurry of adamant nonsense.

Here’s Mike Savage: “Homosexuals should get AIDS and die”.
I wonder if Savage is one of the many “compassionate conservatives” who believe AIDS is God’s punishment for gay sex.   

Matt Drudge on his justification of hypocrisy
: There's no law against being a hypocrite a few
times in your life and this industry is built on hypocrisy.”
Apparently Drudge believes it’s
okay to lie if someone else does.

The problem is when the seed of a lie has been planted, the willing blindly accept the lie and run
with it. And most of us know that if a lie is repeated often enough, people start believing it to be
the truth. This sequence can build a phantom grid of falsity that, eventually, will crumble: but not
before it has destroyed innocent people and great ideas. The masters of guile know their distortions needn’t stand the test of time. Their ruthless coercion needn’t be based in truth, only in what wins elections. These people are liars, plain and simple. And it seems they’ve been coached and encouraged by the biggest liars of all: George W. Bush and his syndicate of obliging and sorry

Ann Coulter:
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber) is he did
not go to the New York Times building." 
And, amazingly, she has said: "Principle is nothing
to liberals. Winning is everything."
Coulter has also made numerous derogatory references to
the “atheist left”.

Posturing as political pundits and often under a pompous pretense of piety, these “commentators” morph their opinions to seem noble, righteous and even beyond argument. They paradoxically try to dignify their own indignity by playing the God card. This arrogant brand of journalistic foul play transcends the already biased reporting seen in major newspapers and major television networks,
now largely owned and manipulated by powerful conservative corporations. With the corporate wink
of an eye and an ideological group hug, the once fair and ethical art of objective journalism has
been opportunistically upstaged. One of the most un-American repercussions has been censorship. (e.g., Bill Mayer, Phil Donahue, Howard Stern) To quote author Ted Rall: “A few liberals try to
censor conservatives, but most opponents of the First Amendment reside on the right”.

So beware those who insult you for questioning their opinions. Be wary of people who frequently
invoke God and Country. Watch for those who see the political polarization in our country as a war between good and evil. Be prepared for those who disguise their slander as jokes and project their weaknesses onto others. Watch for both the slippery lies and the defamatory insinuations that are so vague as to defy accountability. Be alert for their trick of birthing a lie and conveniently disclaiming it afterwards, knowing the falsity has already taken its first seductive steps into social consciousness. Recognize the ideological entrails of those who allow the lure of power and money to trump truth and ethics. These antics, along with their many variations, bear the mark of cowardice, ignorance and a contrived flatulence completely void of principle and decency.

Historically speaking, this behavior is nothing new. What’s new is an illicit American administration
and a collusive media that has dramatically blurred the lines between bamboozlement and respectability. So it seems we now have an operative model of chicanery, which is enthusiastically embraced by those incapable of conversing rationally and intellectually.

Similar to how most feel about the Dark Ages, our descendents will be both amused and saddened
by the people of our era who undermined intellectualism, fairplay, reason and logic.

An Open Letter to George Bush

Author: Stephen Branch
written April 17, 2002

I’ve recently heard your childish admonishment again: “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” What are
you trying to say? It seems you are implying that we are the enemy if we don’t blindly rally behind you. Are
we such bad people to question political policy? Isn’t this the right and privilege of the American people?
Those who question political policy are merely demonstrating the “patriotism of deliberation and dissent”
(Kuttner). This freedom is precisely what gives Democracy its edge. Those who suppress dissent,
intimidate contrarians, and sanitize public opinion are the true enemies of American ideals.

Your statement reeks of the same reckless, redneck rhetoric that has accompanied past military
“campaigns” (e.g., America: Love it or Leave it, THE PRESIDENT: Right or Wrong). I resent the
implications and will remind you that you and your generals’ opinions and policies are not beyond
reproach. Your carelessness dealing with social security, the environment, civil rights, family planning,
stem-cell research and separation between church and state clearly show this. If true democracy
prevails, it will be a well-informed American people that decide what we’re for and what we’re against.

Don’t be deluded in thinking your high approval ratings are about George Bush. These ratings are more
about people who oppose terrorism. Remember you did not receive a mandate in 2000. In my opinion,
you were not even democratically elected. You were appointed by a partial supreme court, when they
unconstitutionally discontinued the vote-count in Florida.

Even before the smoke had cleared from Afghanistan, you were looking for a new dog to kick. Your
waffling on policy concerning Israel and Palestine is transparent in that you’ve made it clear your main
interest is in waging war on terrorism, not winning Mideast peace. Well, we’ve bombed the hell out
Afghanistan. We’ve killed many terrorists and even more innocent civilians. But we have not defeated
terrorism. So let’s go bomb the hell out of Iraq. We’ll kill many terrorists and even more innocent civilians.
But we will not have defeated terrorism. What the heck….let’s bomb the hell out of Iran and North Korea
too. We’ll kill many terrorists and even more innocent civilians. But we will not have defeated terrorism.
Recognize the pattern? Where do you stop? All we’re really doing is making more people hate America
by “enraging the local and affiliate population, strengthening terrorist resolve and radicalizing new
generations” (Zakaria). Chaos and destruction do more to promote terrorism than defeat it. There is no
military solution to this problem. You will never find them all. Wanna know a little secret?  We may destroy
some terrorist factions for the moment, but in the long run to fight terrorism you don’t try to decrease the
number of bad people, you try to increase the number of good people. We must educate the people of the
world. We must share our wealth through humanitarian, ecological and economic endeavors. Prosperous
and educated people are less apt to fall victim to fundamentalist dogma. And if we are perceived as
benevolent benefactors as opposed to warmongers, I assure you we’ll have fewer enemies.

Your recent advocation of nuclear weapons has left a certain saber-waving element of Americans
salivating for more blood. But then, these are the same people ordering gun-turrets for their SUV’s in 2003.
In light of all the bravado and jingoistic affectation, I sadly conclude it would just be too emasculating for
you and your ilk to sincerely pursue more peaceful means. (It’s no wonder Colin Powell has been
ostracized from your immediate circle.) Just remember we have the technology to be more selective in
killing people. True collateral damage is one thing, but to indiscriminately kill innocent men, women and
children make you and America no better than any terrorist. (Although the U.S Government projected the
image of a squeaky-clean bombing campaign, there were over 4000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan and
over 100,000 civilian deaths in Desert Storm.)  If we must use military force (after exhausting all arbitration),
take out the despotic government or isolated terrorist infestation through limited conventional means or
justifiable covert action. There is no need for nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction.
The innocent masses always seem to pay for the crimes or war-lust of the few.

As if nukes weren’t bad enough, development through quantum physics may eventually produce
weapons capable of atomizing the entire Earth in seconds (e.g., photon technology).  I believe Drake’s
Equation is correct in predicting that the majority of species in our universe do not survive the stage we
are going through right now, but it also states that it depends on the NATURE of the race of intelligent
beings. Although I feel the wide majority of human beings merely want to live a comfortable, peaceful life,
we are still basically a hostile species and the masses are pathetically vulnerable to dogma and spin.

Will the human race make it through this era? I believe its possible, but we need leaders who truly care
about our planet, all of its people, and both our immediate and distant future. We need leaders who
recognize how religion and nationalism promote and maintain the contentious provincialization so
prevalent throughout our history. We need leaders who realize that pluralism is not a choice. It’s a necessity.

Your temporal tap-dance on the world stage gyrates to the rhythm of arrogance, ignorance, personal
religious belief and machismo. The decent people of the world deserve better. So get out of your bubble
and get a clue. You want America to be truly great? Your present course may give you one small step for
the American unilateralist faction, but an insightful and compassionate world leader could give us one
giant leap for mankind.

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Coming Out Of The Closet
Author: Stephen Branch
written November 1, 2001

I was ten years old when I told my mother I didn’t believe in God. A week or two later, in the
audience of my Grandfather, I was forced to deal with the consequences of such a bold statement.
During these grand-paternal visits, my brother and I were informally obligated to sit in a certain
“double”, antique-type chair and expected to be still and quiet.
While I didn’t always listen to the
adult conversation, I remember my grandfather’s speech quite clearly.  Slow and deliberate, he
spoke like the judge he had once been. His voice, as well as his dignified and stern demeanor,
demanded respect and even fear. Quite suddenly, with dramatic vocal timbre and sounding like
Charlton Heston playing Moses in a movie depicting one of the bible myths, he proclaimed:

I found myself sitting on Einstein’s* proverbial “red-hot cinder”. The seconds before my response
seemed timeless, my mind chaotically and desperately squirming to find an appropriate answer.
One clear thought was the horrifying realization my mother had told him what I’d said more flippantly
earlier. Finally, I sheepishly squeaked, “Well, I’m not really sure”. I don’t remember anymore being
said about the issue. I suspect my parents and grandfather either respected my questioning mind
and/or figured a few more years of Sunday school and standard religious indoctrination would cure
me of my evil ways.

For many years after, I took more of an agnostic stance but, for the most part, kept quiet about it.
Discussions on religion and politics often became stressful and confrontational. Eventually, I realized
I was compromising my convictions in the following way: I held that for those who chose to believe in
God, it was fine, right or wrong, as long as it made them happy. I theorized nothing really mattered
either way.

Now, I’ve changed. Now I believe it does matter. The future of our species matters. Considering
our accomplishments and potential, we are capable of great and wonderful scientific advancement.
We’ve come so far. We deserve to go further. History clearly shows the handicap religion has
placed on our cultural development, our scientific progress and our civility. A subsequent infantile,
trigger-happy and over-populated civilization inhabiting a fragile biosphere poses dangerous
alternatives for our longevity. Here in America, our forefathers intended to create a democracy
based on secularism and pluralism. Sometimes it seems we’re more a theocracy based on
intolerance, xenophobia and isolationism. The solid black line that should be separating church and
state is actually many shades of gray. If we can only clear the hurdles encouraging our provincial
ways, perhaps someday we’ll make the transition from a divisive world to a global community…
from global community to interplanetary species….from interplanetary species to citizens of an
intergalactic, multi-species solidarity. Lofty goals yes, but goals I believe possible.

I am no longer complacent with my former philosophical altruism. The tendency of the religious
is to credit their deity for the mysteries of life, often even after being scientifically solved. The
consequent intellectual lethargy is not only a cop-out, it’s unproductive and dangerous to our world.
Submission to dogma is like letting your body host an incompatible symbiont
. Clear vision is blurred,
rational thought is compromised, the host organism becomes disoriented, misguided and combative.
While waving the flag of righteousness and freedom, there have been too many theocracies whose
actions demonstrate quite the opposite. With nearly 6 billion people, the human chain is only as
strong as it’s weakest link and some of those links are still adrift in an ocean of dogma, bigotry,
misogyny and greed.

I realize there are great thinkers and many profound contributions from our religious brothers and
sisters. There are insightful philosophers, philanthropists and educated persons belonging to the
many ecclesiastic persuasions around our planet. But many miss a major premise: Our future is in
our own hands, not God’s. Human beings need to accept 100% responsibility for their lives, their
world, and their progeny. No more, “It’s in God’s hands” or “God works in mysterious ways”. We
must come to understand and accept the reality of our biological circumstance. With courage and
perseverance, human intelligence will continue solving the mysteries before us. It’s about rational
thought and science. It’s about compassion not for just your own tribe, but for every human being on
Earth*.  Let’s use all our humanity wisely. Whenever possible, let’s liberate our God-fearing friends
from their limitations. A theist’s mind is a terrible thing to waste.

It all really comes down to our mortality. The measures some take to avoid this issue have
resulted in some of the greatest perversions of logic in our history. Life is so precious, it can be
unbearable to face the finality of our demise. Knowing we must die and forever lose our loved ones is
clearly the most horrific aspect of our existence. It’s no wonder so many desperately cling to their
religious beliefs╣. I wish it was true, but there’s simply no evidence to support the theistic fabrication
of immortality▓.

The aversion to publicly doubting God was ingrained early in life. Many attempts at individualism
were discouraged or even punished│. As a child, conformity and acceptance can be irresistible, but
can be debilitating when they become prerequisite, cultural guidelines for your entire life. Even today,
as it was many years ago with my grandfather, sometimes it’s hard to proclaim my convictions,
especially to ones I love who believe differently.

 A couple years ago, I received a complimentary issue of Skeptical Inquirer. I had no idea the
movement was so grand. I didn’t know that for 30 plus years now, your bold and pioneering efforts
have been helping change the world to a better place, hardly to mention the enlightened and
courageous thinkers who enriched our more distant past. But better late then never. What this
shows is that your efforts continue to educate and inform the people. The knowledge, insight and
writing skills of the founders and the many scientists and philosophers who contribute to this most
important cause have inspired me to unabashedly come out of the closet.
Now, however humble, I proudly and enthusiastically state my case.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
* When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems
like an hour. That’s relativity. – Albert Einstein

*Our recalcitrant element must be dealt with firmly and judiciously.

For those who pray and donate to get into heaven, why not use these mental and monetary resources to support

science, which I believe will someday enable biological immortality. It may be too late for us, but I’m sure our first
ascendant benefactors will greatly appreciate the sooner we get started.

No matter what some may tell you, no one really knows what happens when you die. I believe complete finality is more

than likely, though I must admit, a part of me will always wonder. I’ve entertained scenarios from metamorphic rebirth to
multi-dimensional development. If there actually is some kind of posthumous continuation, it’s probably of a nature totally
inconceivable to our earthly perception. Either way, I’m quite sure I won’t be bowing to some anthropomorphized gray
beard up in the clouds.

This comment is not directed at my parents but more the societal pressures of the times. My parents have ultimately

done more to enhance my self-growth and individualism. Not so much from their theological posture, but more due to the
intelligent, colorful and thoughtful people that they are. (or was; my father died in1993)

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Written 12/02/02 by Stephen Branch

Even if Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration will insist they do.
They need an excuse to bomb Iraq, factual or not. Their desire for war and impatience with the UN
weapon search transcend reasonability.
If the world’s superpower cannot show temperance in such
matters, what kind of example are we presenting to the rest of the world? When arbitration takes a
back seat to preemptive military invasion, can we really call ourselves a peace-loving nation? Just
because our military is presently unchallengeable, our government seems to think it can ignore, manipulate or discredit international protocol. Would the United States tolerate another democracy
that followed its own example?

Terrorists must be punished There simply can be no quarter given. But our reprimand must not be directed at an entire race, religion or nation. It must be specifically directed at the sole proprietors of the crime. The concept of acceptable collateral damage is vastly over-rated. We bombed the hell out
of Afghanistan but failed to meet the objectives; to destroy Al-Quida and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Thousands of civilians met a horrific death. And yet the ridiculous and shameful spin from the US administration is that the “war” in Afghanistan was a brilliant success!!

Many militants encourage action even when the target or purpose is not clear. After all, they’ve been trained to kill and supplied with weapons worth billions of tax dollars and can hardly wait to try out
their new toys. The bravado, blind hatred and machismo those at war encourage, has always led to needless slaughter. One example in Afghanistan: Seven 2000lb bombs were dropped on a wedding celebration in July of 2001. One hundred forty civilians were killed or injured consisting of mostly women and children. An entire family of twenty-five were all killed. (There was no US apology) The death toll from Desert Storm and ongoing sanctions: 500,000 (mostly innocent civilians)

When asked why we should go to war with Iraq, Bush supporter and talk-show personality Don Imus said, “Saddam Hussein is a creep and besides, it would be fun”. War may be entertaining for some who watch the sanitized returns on TV, all the while knowing their side cannot possibly lose. But
any properly evolved human being knows that war is not “fun”. There is a certain mindless and
flippant war lust in many Americans that reveals an innate cruelty and an insensitivity to the
horrors of war.

Three “civil servants” who have never experienced military combat are George Bush, Dick Cheney
and Donald Rumsfeld, the principle advocates of the preemptive military invasion of Iraq. Much to
their hayseed and hawkish chagrin, Saddam Hussein has agreed to the joint terms of weapon inspections. Domestic and international pressure has forced our administration to at least
superficially cooperate with the UN. But their guns remain drawn with a
continuing lust for
the cowboy kill.

To promote their wars and imperialistic agenda, Bush and company continue to deceive the
populous with the inevitable, unsubstantiated propaganda and demonization of their quarry. This administration’s unilateralistic arrogance is now supported by manipulated and misguided patriots.
This ploy has worked time and time again throughout history, while the peace advocates are
castigated and dismissed as unpatriotic and dangerous. Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes”. Well, I’ve heard this rhyme before and, I’m ashamed and embarrassed for
myself and all Americans.

We build sophisticated and incredibly powerful weapons and just can’t seem to resist taking them around the block a few times. Our technology has become greater than our sensibilities.
Billions of dollars that could be used to help each other are spent to protect us from each other. Humanity is at,
what George Will called, the intersection of advanced physics and moral primitivism. Theoretically,
it’s possible that countless, promising civilizations throughout our universe have either failed or succeeded in clearing this hurtle. The United States has the most advanced and powerful arsenal
on Earth, along with an administration that is too morally and intellectually primitive to use them responsibly. Perhaps, in the future, a space-faring species will encounter the lifeless remains of
our planet. They will know exactly what happened.

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Love it or Leave it?
Author: Steve Branch

Australian Treasurer Peter Costello acknowledges Australia as a secular state. But considering their sectarian implications, Costello, along with Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson obviously need to review what it means to be a secular state:

”A secular state is a state or country that is officially neutral in matters of religion, neither supporting nor opposing any particular religious beliefs or practices, and has no state religion or equivalent. A secular state also treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and does not give preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion over other religions. Theoretically, a secular state is defined as protecting freedom of religion as pursued in state secularism. It is also described to be a state that prevents religion from interfering with state affairs, and prevents religion from controlling government or exercising political power. Laws protect each individual including religious minorities from discrimination on the basis of religion.”

Anyone becoming a citizen of a secular state is understandably required to live by the LAWS of  their new government. But they are NOT required to live by any particular religion and its dogmatic value system. Secular law is based on
freedom OF and FROM religion. Secular law is based on democratic tenets of equality and fairness. Separation of church and state was judiciously conceived to ensure religion be kept a private matter. So immigrants cannot impose their religious ideology on their host nation. Nor can the host nation force their religious ideology on their immigrants. If (any) god offends a citizen, he cannot be told to leave the country. Unless, of course, you're living in a theocracy.

Barring total isolationism, multiculturalism is inevitable. And, it has historically proven to be culturally, politically and economically beneficial. While there are very real problems with immigration, the issue here is one with fundamental human rights. Immigrant extremists and radical clerics who pose a threat must indeed be dealt with firmly. But lets not stereotypically impose the undesirability of a few on all members of a religion or race. This irrational fear and contempt for outsiders is synonymous with the xenophobia of the Religious Right in America.

Among others, there are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, Humanists, Scientologists, agnostics and atheists in America. The religious diversity is even greater in Australia. Just because a majority of citizens believe in a particular dogma, doesn’t make it right, special or required.
The false sense of religious and nationalistic superiority is common throughout the world. But it is more of an anomaly in developed, properly educated democracies. America and Australia are two unfortunate examples of secular nations exhibiting theocratic tendencies.

Regarding the folly of American Christian origins: "The Christian right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of its campaign to force its religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity. This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New testaments.”   (It was only recently (1950s) that “under God” was added to our pledge and money. Our Founding Fathers would be rolling in their graves.)
You can’t have it both ways. An ideological parallel would be (recent) politicians who say they believe in both evolution and Christianity. They obviously understand neither. It’s not surprising that most Christians have not read the Bible, the Constitution or Darwin et al. Religious arrogance and patriotic hysteria are symptomatic of the misinformed. Theoretically, if Australia is truly a secular state, Australian proponents of this email are the ones whom should be leaving Australia.

It’s significant to understand that human altruism is innate to our species and not a blessing from imaginary beings.
The intellectually engaged among us understand the moral views originating in religious traditions are fraudulently sanctified. Arthur C. Clark says it best: The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”

…and finally, quoting Christopher Hitchens:
"We still inhabit the prehistory of our race, and have not caught up with the immense discoveries about our own nature and the nature of the universe. The unspooling of the skein of the genome has effectively abolished racism and creationism, and the amazing findings of Hubble and Hawking have allowed us to guess at the origins of the cosmos. But how much more addictive is the familiar old garbage about tribe and nation and faith."

Globalism and George Bush
written November 8, 2001 by Stephen Branch

During wartime the President's popularity ratings usually soar as has recently been seen with George
Bush. I understand the need for a show of unity in times such as these but it doesn't mean I have to
like or respect GW. Let's not forget, by discontinuing the vote count in Florida, he was "appointed"
President by the politically partial members of the Supreme Court. All the while knowing Al Gore had
clearly won the popular vote.

Our current President is an alcoholic, convicted drunk driver and draft dodger. He "won't talk" about
his former drug use and was at best a mediocre student in college. (Will someone PLEASE tell him
how to pronounce "nuclear"!  Jeez! What an embarrassment.) As our country's leader he frequently
references his personal god and worse, tempers many of his policies and decision-making with
his religious beliefs. (e.g. embryonic cell research, religion-based government funding, the termination
of family-planning funds abroad) This is inappropriate and unconstitutional. Separation of church and
state is a centerpiece of our secular society. Many are either unaware or reluctant to accept that
secularism is a prerequisite for democracy.

As a world leader, his refusal to support the Kyoto treaty, clearly demonstrates his shallow,
short-sighted, isolationist stance and ill-regard for our planet and it's inhabitants. To many around the
world, we are seen as we often are: greedy, militaristic, arrogant and self-righteous. No wonder so
many people hate us.

As his father did to encourage support for war, Junior demonizes the enemy. How pathetically
transparent this is. I don't need to believe Osama Bin Laden and his ilk are evil demons. These
terrorists are extremely dangerous people who use their religion to justify their hatred, cruelty and
horror. Their invisibility and insidious strategies confront us with an unprecedented enemy. Barring
civilian casualties, I support almost any action required to take them down.

Unfortunately, terrorism will always be with us. There are ways, however, to insure the infrequency
of such acts. The United States can do this by promoting and practicing globalism as opposed to
nationalism. George Bush Sr. had the right idea with "a kinder, gentler nation", but they were just
words. He never did anything constructive in that direction. I suspect George Jr. won't either. He
seems incapable of any long-term vision or insight. I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed
and wait for 2004.

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Written by Steve Branch 2/13/03

I don’t believe anyone can predict the future but I’ll make a prediction anyway. There will be
no terrorist attacks in America connected to the current “orange” rated terror alert. It doesn’t
seem to matter there is no proven alliance between Osama and Saddam. The Bush administration knows that a frightened populace is more apt to support their hostile agenda. And right now, more
than ever, Bush needs more support for war in Iraq. These “alerts” are desperate and manipulative measures fabricated or exaggerated to keep us scared and submissive and to compensate for their own obvious lack of reasonable justification for war. Despite the hawkish claim that bombing Iraq
will make us safe from Saddam Hussein, the true terror alerts and attacks on America will begin
the moment Bush starts this war.

Thoughts from an American Atheist
Written 12/06/02 by Stephen Branch

I am a secular humanist. “Secular humanists do not rely upon gods or other supernatural forces
to solve their problems or provide guidance for their conduct. They rely instead upon the application
of reason, the lessons of history, and personal experience to form an ethical/moral foundation and to
create meaning in life.” ╣ Secular humanists are also atheist. However, atheism is only a position on
the existence of God, not a mandate for nihilism or posture of depravity. I, for example, feel great
compassion and love for all life and sincere concern for our planet and our future. From what I’ve
seen, many atheists have a love and reverence for nature and humanity that would surpass the
most pious. The confines of one religion’s particular edicts too often limit comprehensive
knowledge, objectivity and respect for all forms of life.

All the great religious traditions have similar themes and similar tribal deities. (e.g. Allah,

Muhammed, Buddha, Ganesh, Jesus, etc.) They all stress love, peace and charity. But in most
cases their merits are dwarfed by their
oppression and obscurantism. Christianity, for example,
supports homophobia, misogyny and pedophilia. And let’s not forget the Dark Ages, the Crusades,
the Inquisition, witch burning and the concept of original sin.
Religion is responsible for the suffering
and murder of hundreds of millions of human beings throughout our history.
They are responsible for
savage wars and great cruelty. Even when a war’s main purpose is fuel, land or food, religion is
often used to provide a source of inspiration and motivation.

The masses have always been easily seduced and controlled by religion. That’s why leaders
find its utility so irresistible. Patriotism
and religion are often the last refuge of the scoundrel▓.
Theocratic leaders often encourage people to cradle bigotry and hatred in the name of their God.
Generally speaking, religion does not bring people together; it divides us and inhibits the ideological
deprovincialization of our world. Our collective religio-political guardianship has rendered the human
family dysfunctional. Our different cultures arouse suspicion and hatred instead of curiosity and respect.
Our political and religious leaders are too often arrogant, sectarian and parochial.
Nationalism and its
xenophobic backwash undermine international cohesion and camaraderie.
Billions of dollars that
could be used to help each other are spent to protect us from each other.
Our commonality has
become unrecognizable. 
Everyone thinks they are right about their religion when the naked and paradoxical reality is that
they are all wrong. Religion wrongly lays claim to the natural goodness and decency of humanity.
You are led to believe one cannot be a good person without subservience to their god. You are
promised some form of eternal life or eternal damnation depending on how faithfully you follow the
respective doctrines: a system of punishment and reward remarkably
similar with the more cyclical
concept of Santa Claus. It takes courage to accept our mortality and common sense to recognize
that our altruism is inherent, not some holy blessing or mythological gift. It’s difficult to see the
picture when you’re inside the frame. The clearest view is more often seen from a distance.

Realistically speaking, no one truly knows what happens when you die.
If there actually is some
kind of posthumous continuation, it’s probably of a nature totally inconceivable to our earthly
perception. Either way, I’m quite sure I won’t be bowing to some anthropomorphized gray beard
up in the clouds.
In the future we may well achieve biological immortality. But for now, all we
have is an average of 60 to 80 years and that, for all we truly know, is it. All the more reason to
live this life to the fullest and do all we can to ensure a wholesome world for those in our future.
Muslim martyrs believe
they will earn a special place in paradise, which includes unlimited sex
with 72 virgins│. In India, the Hindu school of Brahmanism justifies maiming, amputation and
murder of disobedient or flirtatious wives. All around the world, theism upholds primitive dogma
and discredits science.
Many Christians claim that empirically based Darwinian Evolution is
groundless while
“Intelligent Design” masquerades as science. Christian leaders Jerry Falwell
and Pat Robertson, et al., believe they and their followers are superior to others.
They believe
that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and that unless people come to God through Jesus,

they are
destined for hell. There is an academic stranglehold upon those who believe their god
has all the
answers and an insolent vulgarity in those who believe they are better than others.

Humanity is finally starting to outgrow religion, thanks to the advances in science and education.

Unfortunately, the majority of humans are still players and we are all victims of its hypocrisy,
bigotry, bellicosity and dogmatic folly. In America, many are angry that their freedoms and
opinions are being hosed down by an administration whose ideology is more often reflective
of religious fundamentalism. The “greatest democracy in history” still hasn’t figured out how
to separate church and state. Our descendants will be both amused and saddened by the
behavior of the people of our era who still believed in fairy-tales and myth.

Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion.
Yet atheists
are the most alienated minority in America.
Why are we still living with this intolerance? It is
primarily due to the lack of, or resistance to, education. In 1987 George H.W. Bush said:
"No, I
don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as
patriots." It’s astounding when a president of the United States does not even understand the
premises of our Democracy. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. From undermining
stem-cell research to cutting family-planning funding here and around the world, his inept son
continues the same narrow-minded manipulation of policy based on his own religious beliefs.
This is dangerous and unconstitutional and just one of the many reasons George Jr. should be
immediately impeached.

We also have the right to practice the patriotism of deliberation and dissent. Freedom of
speech in the United States, however, is not always all it’s drummed up to be. For example, I
would hesitate to voice my opinions down at the local VFW or any other hawkish circles for fear
of physical bodily harm or make my address accessible for fear of hostilities toward my family
and personal property. It’s curious that many of the people who say they’ll give their life
for American freedom are the ones most unable to tolerate an American citizen
practicing those very freedoms.

We have freedom of assembly and the right to protest but there is a virtual ‘media blackout” on
the hundreds of anti-war demonstrations of late. Absurdly named “First Amendment Zones”, the
fenced-off areas designated for protesters at political events, are kept so far away from their
intended target that their presence becomes almost invisible. While trumpeting the virtues of
American freedom, the rich and the powerful shamelessly control and create media to best
serve their own agenda.
In this country, diversity and pluralism must at least be tolerated. They should be celebrated.
The collective resource of our multi-dimensional society gives us our strength. Cooperative and
responsible representation affords a precious fairness to the majority of the people. Our
constitutional freedoms are precisely what give Democracy its edge, as long as the tenets
are truly understood and conscientiously practiced. Those who suppress dissent,
contrarians, and manipulate the prerequisites of freedom, are the true
enemies of American ideals.


Based on the original quote by Samuel Johnson:
   “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

The ancient edicts were misinterpreted, however. One will NOT have unlimited sex
    with 72 virgins, but all will have unlimited sex with one 72 year old virgin”.


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A book review of Modern Japanese Literature, a compilation by Donald Keene

Sometimes Less is More  
By Rick Branch   4/23/85

After reading and studying the stories in Modern Japanese Literature, I realized there was
something missing!

In "Botchan",╣ there is no idealizing. Botchan is no model human being, certainly not one we can
look up to. A troublemaker as a child, he alienated his parents as well as his only brother. He
stumbles through life without any particular purpose and it seems only by chance that he furthers
his education and becomes a teacher. The one person who cared for Botchan, Kigo, had the wish
to live with and take care of him someday, but the hopes of such a happy ending are dashed as
Botchan moves far away.

Not the storybook scenario we're used to, is it? Don't we prefer to read about how great life can be
instead of how it usually is? Don't we want to forget that the world is full of "Botchans", full of average
people leading unexciting and relatively insignificant lives? Don't we especially want to deny that
each of us belongs to this group of people?

In "Time" (Yokomitsu Riichi, p.339), there is no moralizing. This story depicts a troupe of performers
fleeing from a landlord to whom they are in debt. Promiscuous and distrustful of one another, these
men and women are not particularly endearing. I found myself feeling little sympathy as they
encountered great hardship in their search for a haven. I kept waiting for some sort of catastrophe;
some moral statement proving that bad behavior does not go unpunished. It didn't happen.

The author of this piece was obviously more concerned with describing the experience of life rather
than giving his opinion of it. He writes like an objective reporter, never trying to sway or influence.
Indeed, aren't we the ones, with our Western/Christian mindset, who often complicate matters with
our insistence that there is always a right and wrong way of doing things.

"Earth and Soldiers" (Hino Ashihei, p. 357) is a tale of a man named Uhei and his love for his horse,
Kichizo. That's all there is to it. There's no deep meaning, no symbolism, no philosophy. Because of
war, Uhei and his horse are separated, but we never find out if they are reunited. Instead, the story
takes off in a different direction, telling of one Corporal Tashibana and his brush with death.

What kind of story is this? Where's the cohesion? Where's the "rhyme and reason"? "Earth and
Soldiers" not only lacks meaning, it actually gives a sense of meaninglessness! But wait a minute.
When you think about it, isn't this story a truer, more honest depiction of what goes on in this world?
Isn't life really quite unpredictable and confusing? Someone once said it all rather concisely, "Expect
the unexpected."

Oh how we in the West would like to believe that the world is a safe and rational place. Indeed, we've
been trying to convince ourselves of this for millennia! We've formulated all kinds of explanations, but
they have been based on mere speculation, not fact. More often than not, these creations of ours
have been only smokescreens that cover up the realities of life and put us out of harmony with the
natural order of things.

It strikes me that the Japanese are more realistic that we are. Their literature reveals the existence
of an outlook on life that accepts human limitation and inadequacy; an outlook that acknowledges
the meaningless and capricious aspects of existence; an outlook that stares life and death more
squarely in the face. It seems to me that those who can accept life the way it is are those who are
more able to understand and appreciate it. We may miss wishful-thinking, preaching, and
philosophizing as we read through Modern Japanese Literature, but it might do us well to consider
that, sometimes, less is more.

╣Natsume Soseki, "Botchan", in Modern Japanese Literature, Donald Keene.
(New York, Grove Press, Inc., 1956), p. 124.
All subsequent references are parenthetically cited.

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Bush and the Media
Author: Stephen Branch
written June 16, 2003

Why do people question the intellect and patriotism of those who criticize the Bush administration?  Why are dissenters demonized and decent, patriotic Americans pilloried for wanting peace,
diplomacy and social justice?

The reason is George W. Bush et al. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us”. This infantile and
divisive statement by GW is connotative of his administration’s adversarial attitude and has fostered
a hostile intolerance towards people here and around the world who may dare disagree or criticize.
The growing, right-wing corporate media has taken the ball and redefined journalism. This is a brand
of biased and partial journalism that is dangerous for our democracy and has destroyed the
credibility of US media here and around the world.

American media patrons are not receiving balanced and objective information. Fox’s Iraqi coverage
was more a pro-war pep-rally. Radio’s “ayatollahs of the airwaves” Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage’s news-poser programs are hostile and insidiously deceitful. Viewers and listeners na´ve to the spin,
are in danger of becoming more like George Bush: either sincerely stupid or foolishly infatuated with their ideology.

Those who intimidate dissenters and sanitize the news are actually the ones who are unpatriotic and dangerous to our country. Those who question a critic’s intellect are too often the ones who need to
be accurately informed.  When media is manipulated and our civil rights are abused all in the name
of patriotism and self-righteousness, we become more like the corrupt, totalitarian regimes
Americans model as “evil”.
  A healthy democracy represents the balanced agenda of a
well-informed people, ensuring a wholesome mandate after elections.

For more responsible radio journalism I would recommend the BBC or the least manipulated of our domestic options, NPR. Some of our newspapers and news-magazines offer objective reporting and
an acceptable balance of editorials. The Internet clearly provides a bounty of free thought and censor-free information. Why? Because the government can’t control it…….yet.

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Musician's Trade Journal Review

Branch Brothers
Celebrate Your Life/Self-release-CD

On this side project by brothers Rick and Steve Branch of Goffstown, NH, what we have are 14 songs
recorded on a Tascam Portastudio for the purpose of sending to music publishers. Still, on Celebrate
You Life
the Branch Brothers deliver a certain savvy that can only come from veteran musicians who
have been working steadily for the past 25 years, both nationally and internationally.

Adult oriented, the songs are well structured, tight, and delivered with enthusiasm. While most of the
songs feature strong rhythms that can no doubt pack a suburban dance club, the slower, I Wish You
Loved Me Too
, is a standout due to the vocal arrangements and top-notch guitar work reminiscent
of Brian May. Meanwhile, I Can't Fit, is up-tempo and poppy and The Ride Along The Way is a
blast that could no doubt be developed into a great dance tune in the vein of I'm So Excited as
recorded by the Pointer Sisters or Footloose (Hell, I'd like to record this one myself!). Another
song that deserves mention is, The Time Has Come, for its easy feel and sway.

Preference-wise there may be hits and misses on this 14 songer, but not once is there an instance
where these guys are anything less than professional, crafty songwriters. -By B. Dare

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