The Watering Hole, Monday, December 22nd, 2014: Make Me Smile

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Since I’m sick of the current population of humans, in my next life I’d rather come back as a dolphin or porpoise. Even though humans may still top the food chain, I’d like to have a bigger brain and be able to swim the oceans with few natural enemies. It’s no wonder they seem to be smiling all of the time (yes, I realize they can’t help it), I would, too. At least dolphins and porpoises make us useless humans smile, we can’t help it, either. And it seems that they have the same affect on other animals as well.
dolphin-and-baby
dogs and dolphin
dolphin and seal
dolphin face

Hope these pics made you smile, too. Everyone needs it on a Monday.

This is our daily Open Thread–what makes you smile these days?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 20, 2014: Conservative Governance

I’ve often said it’s the ideology of the political people doing things, not the party, that matters. On a national level, the Republican Party is entirely Conservative, with no Liberals in the House or Senate. The Democratic Party, OTOH, has many fiercely staunch Liberals, but it also has Conservatives, especially from predominantly red states, who we call “ConservaDems”, from the Latin word for “assholes.” People almost exclusively attribute to Republicans what should rightly be attributed to Conservatism. When people talk about what a Republican-controlled House passed, they often ignore how much Democratic support that same bill got. And that support usually didn’t come from the Liberal Wing of the party, it came from the Assholes, I mean, ConservaDems. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a/k/a, “LBJ”) passed his New Deal legislation, some prominent millionaires set about to destroy everything FDR (a/k/a “Neil Patrick Harris”) did. They did it because they were Conservatives, and Conservatism is a philosophy rooted in Selfishness, of putting the needs and desires of oneself above all others. It is the antithesis of Liberalism, which seeks to do what’s best for everyone as a whole. The mistake is in believing that the best way to govern a country is to treat both philosophies as equally valid. They are not. When you want to govern a population of lots of different people, you need to think about the group as a whole, not just about the individuals, whose concerns ,must also be considered. Conservatives do not believe in thinking about people as a whole group, but prefer to think of them as a bunch of individuals. I’m not saying there’s no place for a little bit of Conservative thought brought to a search for a public solution to a problem. It actually helps to have people who can say, “But the way you wrote this, convicted sex offenders can still vote in school board elections. Do you want that?” Or something like that. They can help define what the reasonable limits of our public assistance should be. But if you left it entirely up to them to decide, there would be no public assistance at all! And that is where America is headed by giving control of the country to Conservatives. Here’s some examples of the kinds of things Conservatives do when they get hold of public office.

By now you’ve heard stories about Ferguson, Missouri, Grand Jury Witness 40, the one whose testimony staunchly (and a little suspiciously) supported Officer Darren Wilson’s version of events. I say “suspiciously” because she raised money for Darren Wilson’s defense before giving testimony. And because she was a documented liar. [WARNING: Site has photo at the top of Officer Wilson standing over Michael Brown’s deceased, uncovered body. Just thought you should know.] This has not stopped Conservative radio and television entity Sean Hannity from using her perjury testimony words to defend Wilson. Now, one might wonder why a prosecutor would put someone up to testify to a grand jury, whose sole purpose is to decide if enough evidence exists to indict someone, if he knew the person would not give truthful testimony. He must not have known how unreliable a witness she was. Funny thing about that. It turns out he did know. He knew she could not possibly have been a witness to the events of that day, yet he put her forth, without revealing to the grand jury why he knew she was lying, to relay what turned out to be, for all intents and purposes, Darren Wilson’s version of events, as if it would corroborate what he told investigators. Conservatives do not respect the Truth, especially when it proves them wrong. If you know nothing else about how the grand jury process works, you must have heard that you can indict a ham sandwich. All that means is if a prosecutor wants to bring charges against someone so they stand trial, it can easily be done, even if evidence exists of the person’s innocence. So when a prosecutor with a history of being pro-police fails to convince a grand jury that a cop shooting an unarmed man might have committed a crime, you have to conclude he didn’t try very hard. Maybe there’s another ham sandwich out there against whom he will bring charges. In the meantime, that’s what Conservative law enforcement will get you. Expect to hear more stories like this.

Speaking of Missouri, even though women in this country (regardless of which state they’re in) have a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, a woman there must give her consent and convince the person performing the abortion that she is not being forced to have it. But it’s not enough for her to say on her own that she wants to have an abortion. But State Representative Rick Brattin has introduced a bill to be taken up in next year’s session that would require a woman to obtain and present the consent of the biological father before receiving abortion services. The language of the bill says there’s an exception if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, but in an interview with Mother Jones Brattin said that the rape would have to be proven.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin tells Mother Jones. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.” Brattin adds that he is not using the term “legitimate rape” in the same way as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who famously claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” “I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed,” Brattin says. “That’s just common sense.” Under his bill, he adds, “you have to take steps to show that you were raped…And I’d think you’d be able to prove that.” The bill contains no provision establishing standards for claiming the rape or incest exceptions. It also doesn’t state any specific penalties for violating the law nor say whether a penalty would be imposed on the woman seeking the abortion or the abortion provider.

Some Conservatives may argue that if there is no penalty for not doing these things, then why worry about it? That’s not the point. Why write the law that way at all if it really doesn’t matter to you whether or not he woman is telling the truth? Unless, of course, your entire point is to humiliate and dominate a woman already going through a very difficult decision. A decision she has every legal right to make. Because we already know the truth doesn’t matter when you’re a Conservative. Brattin defended his bill by claiming it was an attempt to protect men’s rights. That’s nice, except Roe v. Wade protected a woman’s rights, not a man’s. If any such right existed in this situation, it surely would have been part of the debate from the beginning. It hasn’t because it doesn’t. You won’t hear many Liberals introducing bills like this..

And if you think Conservative governance is bad from the beginning of life, it doesn’t get any better at the end, either, especially when it’s a “legitimate death” at the hands of the state. If you don’t know this already about me, I am adamantly, 100% opposed to the use of capital punishment anywhere in the world, but I am especially opposed to its use in a country supposedly built on the idea of personal freedom (if you listen to the Conservatives.) There is 0% justification to execute someone for a crime he did not commit, but Conservatives on the Supreme Court don’t think that’s a problem. Nor are Conservatives particularly concerned about how cruel an execution is, as evidenced by Oklahoma’s refusal to stop using a drug in its lethal injections that doctors have warned is inadequate to do the job it’s supposed to do. After botching the execution of Clayton Lockett, 21 inmates have asked the courts to suspend further execution using lethal injections. One of the drugs used, which is supposed to make the condemned unconscious, doesn’t perform well enough to be used in operations (where you don’t want the patient waking up to find out his insides are opened up) and would be “problematic” to use in executions. The drugs that would be best for this purpose, if you still want to go through with killing someone that badly, are sold in Europe, and most European nations refuse to sell them if they know they’ll be used in carrying out executions. Good for them. What Oklahoma Government Murderers are failing to remember is that lethal injection was supposed to be a more humane way of killing someone because they would be unconscious for the part where they are killed. That point is entirely missed when the condemned is wide awake and totally aware of the effects on his body. Liberals care about this kind of thing. if you’re going to have executions at all (and there is no evidence that it does any good at deterring others from committing the same crimes), then don’t be like the people you say are the worst in Society. Conservatives, who respond better to negative stimuli, don’t get that a killer who knows someone else is getting executed for his crimes, is not in the least bit deterred from killing again. So you can expect more people to be put to death and, because it is inevitable if you’re going to execute people, more of them will be innocent of the crimes for which they are being executed, which doesn’t serve Society at all.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the disease that is Conservatism, or anything else you wish to discuss.

Music Night, December 19, 2014

I was a huge fan of The Blues Project in the late 60s although I didn’t get to see them live until their reunion tour in the early 80s. For the most part they hadn’t lost their chops or their voices by then so it was pretty satisfying. This is an excellent video from their performance at Monterey Pop in 1967 displaying their improvisational skills.

 

The Watering Hole; Friday December 19 2014; Religious Dialogue

Once again it’s the Holiday Season. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Christmas.

All are celebrations of beliefs; each differs from the other, each is the product of religious sincerity, each a celebration of history, of culture, of community. In our particular corner of the world, the Christian Christmas is by far the most visible because Christianity is, after all, this nation’s dominant belief system, the one that preaches Charity and Joy, Tolerance, Understanding, and Love of Others. Right?

A quick look around at recent “Christian” viewpoints suggests something a bit different.

Rick Santorum: Separation Of Church And State A Communist Idea, Not An American One

The Perfect Right Wing Christmas Card

Bryan Fischer Explains Why Muslim Terrorists Are Responsible For The CIA’s Use Of Torture

Jesus Would Support The Use Of Torture

What puzzles me most about those four posts — selected randomly, without effort and in just minutes — is not their specific detail, but more the overall undercurrent that clearly drives them. Why, I have to wonder, so much irrational fear and hatred? I was always taught that the virtue of religious belief was the opposite. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Be your “brother’s keeper.” Et cetera. Where’s the Christian admonition to hate Muslims? To find solace and comfort in torture? Why does Santa need a gun? Why is the freedom to believe differently, to not be forced to accept a Christian thesis, a product of Communism? Wherefrom derives — and why — the obvious fear, the implicit hatred?

A decade ago I was a frequent visitor to an online discussion group that had participants from around the world, people of every race, of every religion. Just recently I happened across a folder filled with old discussion files. The one that first caught my eye was dated January 5, 2005, and was my response to a religious “question” posed by a gentleman from Pakistan. He was a banker, also a devout Muslim; the fact that he was a regular participant in a US-based discussion group during the Bush aftermath of 9/11, and was willing to speak his mind on any issues that might arise there was, I thought at the time, both courageous and interesting.

What I found even more fascinating was that in said discussion group there was none of the vitriol, none of the fear and hatred that was so constantly featured on TV news reports and parroted back by people everywhere — those irrational fears and hatreds that were (and still remain) common to both sides of the world. Over here we’ve been instructed constantly on the best reasons to hate Muslims, to fear their next attack, and to accept torture as a legitimate consequence of (and potential solution to) our irrational fears and hatreds. The world’s other side was and still is, of course, similarly taught to hate America and to fear everything it’s presumed to stand for — the potential consequences of our irrational fears and hatreds (read: anti-Islamic passions) in particular.

Still, all participants in those discussions understood that rational chit-chat amongst divergent cultures and religions was a definite virtue. This is the only hard copy on this particular topic I’ve so far found, but to me, at least, it still speaks a lot louder than the hate and fear crap which remains so common even today.

(Note: Mr. Ashraf’s first language was obviously not English, yet he managed to use it to communicate far more lucidly than I could have ever managed in whichever lingua is common to Karachi Pakistan):

Adeel Ashraf wrote:
I agree that being human is most important thing. However, if i may submit that one can be a best human while being a bit of relgious. as per my information on Islam. Human Rights , and being human has been given first priority than duties towards Allah. For example, its mutually agreed by all muslims, that Allah might forgive his rights on judgment day i.e. saying prayers but will not forgive a penny to a misdeed on account of our fellow human beings. so i might get forgiveness from God if i dont say my prayers..But i will not be spared it i screw any of my friends, family, other human beings …animals, etc.

Reply -
Adeel — I have the utmost respect for each and all who adhere to the religion of their choice, so long as each and all live a life which respects the sum of this magnificently beautiful planet and every life form upon it, all of which is offered free of charge to those who care to take a moment to ‘see’. I do understand full well that there is beauty in each the Quran, the Jewish bible, the Christian New Testament, and in other holy books everywhere — and I respect each and every shred of that aspect of all of them, always. I am, however, troubled by what certain men do with holy text, how they interpret it to satisfy their own selfish agenda, how convenient it can be for a scoundrel to find millions of his subjects loyal to words only — to backward interpretations of words — rather than to the basic ideal which should (and would, if practiced properly) allow each to find his way to live and prosper — man, beast, bird, and tree alike.

Human, however, invariably imposes his own baggage, and all too often it is self-serving baggage. My choice was, a long time ago, to walk away from Human agenda and to instead immerse myself into the vibrancy of the creation itself, that immensity of beauty of which I am but a tiny speck. In my view, I’m entitled to no more, and no less, than any other collection of atoms — and therefore I try to walk carefully. I’ve found room to have no more argument with the stars and constellation than with the bacteria which digest sewage — or anything between, above, or beneath (save for politicians and crooked clerics, of course). I have no argument with the whims of the Earth’s crust as it shakes and moves, nor with the storms that blow across sea and shore. I have no argument with beasts, with trees, no argument with thorns or with sharp teeth; I only have argument with Human agenda, and then only when it is dark, seeking power rather than the light of truth or beauty.

So I hope always to draw upon that which is good and beautiful in life, and to disassociate myself from that which is not. I’ve abandoned the label, but pray I’ve saved the essence of my Christian upbringing — because it does, in its purest sense, represent too the essence of Judaism, of Islam, of Love itself, of all that is worthy of the ideas which underlie the words “Creation” and “Life”, and even “God.”

I can’t imagine that God, in any concept or context, would sanction wanton destruction — whether of Earth, or beast, or Human himself, or of property, of cities or farms. To destroy serves no useful purpose, but yet ‘destroy’ is what Human does best — and so often, he proclaims, it is destruction that is mandated *in hoc signo*, under the banner of God. I think not.

Today in the US, a topic which is near the forefront is whether America should, or will, preemptively attack and/or invade Iran. To do so is necessary, some say, to rid the world of the Mullahs in charge there, to make the world safe for …. for … for what? For me? For the children? No. More likely for agenda; some suggest it’s a good thing to make war in the Middle East because it will speed the return of the Christ. Apocalypse? Bring it on!

Do you see that I can’t associate myself with those voices anymore? That I must, instead, find the means to live as far from that chatter as is possible? I’ve found a way, I think — a way which allows me to pursue the never-ending search for Truth even as I disassociate myself from each and all of the major religions and their respective dogmatic “bandwagons” (for lack of a better word). And in so doing I can still hear the music but I no longer feel the obligation to march in lockstep. “God” is in the music, not in the rhythmic pounding of muffled feet. And while some surely believe they’ll burn in hell for the occasional misstep or sour note, I’ll be seeing “god” in the center of a flower, or in the approaching storm clouds, in a sunrise; or I’ll be hearing His voice in the howl of a wolf, a baby’s cry, or in the rumble of thunder — because I know that “God” IS the creation — a knowledge that puts me in instant communication with that one power which seems to forever elude popes, mullahs, preachers, priests, and even presidents.

In the movie Gandhi, actor Ben Kingsley, in the title role, spoke a line that (paraphrased) went something like this: “I am a Christian, and a Muslim, and a Jew, a Hindu and a Sikh …”

Would that we might all — truthfully — one day find ourselves able to say the same.

That was ten years ago, and still no progress toward understanding, toward tolerance and compassion. Why is that, I wonder? Maybe Michele Bachmann has it all figured out? I suppose it could happen because, as someone once observed, “There’s a first time for everything.”

Yeah, well, OK. Maybe tomorrow.

OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday December 18 2014; HELP!!

OK. Here’s the thing. The electoral system in the US has been hijacked by the Supreme Court, by big money, by Congress, and by emergent power structures in the several states. How’d that happen? A quick look in the rear view mirror reminds us that:

1) In December of 2000 the Supreme Court jumped ahead of the pack and appointed George W. Bush POTUS simply because the popular vote in Florida was having some problem with ballot counting, and the distribution of Florida’s electoral votes would determine whether Al Gore or George Bush would become president. No matter that the national popular vote chose Al Gore, no matter the final Florida tally; only the electoral vote determines the presidency; everything else is academic.

2) In 2009, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case essentially turned the nation’s electoral process into a ‘who can raise the most money’ contest, thereby green-lighting the purchase of the government by corporations, by Wall Street, and by billionaires. In short, money was now defined, in the political world, as the equivalent of speech. The fatter the wallet, the louder the “free” speech.

3) In 2012 the Supreme Court crippled a significant portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and essentially allowed the several states the privilege of enacting voter registration laws which could serve to reduce voter access amongst various ethnic and racial groups, thereby altering the final vote tally in ways that would ultimately act to favor one political party to the manipulated disadvantage of the other.

Whereto from here? Is it possible for the average Jane and John Doe to recapture their country, or is it too late? Have the oligarch and the right wing Fascist movement won? Has everything shifted in the worst possible way? Is there any possible solution?

Why not a Constitutional amendment, one that clarifies the right of the people to vote, and one that specifically corrects today’s major flaws in the voting/electoral system? Good idea, no? One could easily figure that at least 34 states might stand tall and ratify it by tomorrow, if only Congress would introduce it!

I haven’t heard that anyone in Congress is willing to take the bull by the blanks and get it done, though, so I figured why not help ‘em out a little. How about this for starters?

ARTICLE XXVII ?

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for Senator, for Representative, or for initiatives or amendments be they national or in any of the various States, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State for any reason or by any technique. Therefore:

Clause 1.

The Electoral College is hereby discarded; the Popular Vote only shall determine the election of President and Vice President.

Clause 2.

Individual and corporate financial contributions to all political processes at all National and State levels are hereinafter permitted in any quantity, although no financial contribution can be made to any given candidate, to any given political party, or in support of any particular initiative or amendment. All financial contributions will be addressed solely to a Central Electoral Fund which will then be distributed evenly to each and all candidates and for each and all ballot issues regardless of underlying politic.

Clause 3.

Each and every citizen of age eighteen and above is eligible to vote, in each and every election, for any candidate and on any ballot issue; such right shall not be denied or abridged in any way or by any means, by the United States or by any of the Several States.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Now I admit that I ain’t a lawyer, am not possessed by the burden of a “legal” mind. Stated another way, I admit to zero talent in re finding all the “right” words that are invariably implicit in and a requirement of legal baloney. OTOH, I figure that since Rome wasn’t built in a day and since James Madison is no longer with us .  . . well, you know, gotta start someplace. Right? Right.

HELP!!

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole: 12/17/14: Hump Day

New study finds gun violence linked to broccoli.

In an article comming up in next month’s edition of Lancit, a highly respected, peer reviewed publication of medical research, two scientists claim they have found an irrefutable link between mass murderers and people who were forced to eat broccoli as children. Drs. O. Gobi and Juan K. N’Obi interviewed dozens of individuals currently incarcerated for killing more than 5 people and found the statistical correlation so strong as to suggest causation.

The study investigated all the food groups, and included so-called junk foods. “We really expected the results to implicate junk foods, sodas in particular, but found that green vegetables, and most notably broccoli, had the strongest correlation to gun violance.” Dr. Gobi sommented in a press release. Dr. N’Obi added, “What this means, of course, is that parents should think twice before forcing their children to eat broccolli. This may well save us from creating mass murders in the future.”

The NRA and BGA (Broccoli Growers of America) have joined forces to denounce the article, with an upcoming ad campaign featuring gun-toting children happily chowing down on broccoli. Rumors indicate the junk food industry is seizing on the study and plans to hit the airwaves with an ad campaign of its own: Parents, let your kids eat junk foods – at least they won’t become mass murders!

OPEN THREAD

I’m going back to bed.

Do not disturb until after Christmas.