The Watering Hole, Tuesday September 30, 2014: Environmental News and Food Politics

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Study calculates that water on Earth is actually older than our Sun!

The heathens who conduct science in this country strike another blow against the ‘earth is 8000 years old theory. It turns out that the water here on earth may be from interplanetary sources older than our sun (which itself is a bit older than 8000 years old).

Read on…

National monument expanding

Looks like Obama muffed another one. Large portions of Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument increased in size by a factor of six.

Obama’s fault.

 

Born free… again

 

I just knew that this study would come out of Oregon (OSU to be precise)

If Hops aid cognitive function in mice, maybe beer will do it in humans

Pass, pass pass that bottle of beer.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 29th, 2014: Intelligent Life…Please?

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Although I’ve only been back online since the beginning of the weekend (my home computer crashed early last week, and access from the office was hit-or-miss, too), my search for intelligent life in American politics found little. So for today’s post I’m turning to the infinite wonder and majesty of “space, the final frontier”, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, there could be a civilization out there that isn’t aiming to destroy itself through its own arrogant stupidity.

The following are just a few of the more recent Hubble Deep-Space images from a photo gallery that I found at space.com:

"All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream"

“All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream”

"A Selection of Hubble's planetary nebulae"

“A Selection of Hubble’s planetary nebulae”

"...two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg."

“…two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg.”

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss intelligence, life, whatever you want.

Sunday Roast: Until we could

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Poem by Richard Blanco

I knew it then, in that room where we found for the first time our eyes, and everything— even the din and smoke of the city around us— disappeared, leaving us alone as if we stood the last two in the world left capable of love, or as if two mirrors face-to-face with no end to the light our eyes could bend into infinity.

I knew since I knew you—but we couldn’t…

I caught the sunlight pining through the shears, traveling millions of dark miles simply to graze your skin as I did that first dawn I studied you sleeping beside me: Yes, I counted your eyelashes, read your dreams like butterflies flitting underneath your eyelids, ready to flutter into the room. Yes, I praised you like a majestic creature my god forgot to create, till that morning of you suddenly tamed in my arms, first for me to see, name you mine. Yes to the rise and fall of your body breathing, your every exhale a breath I took in as my own wanting to keep even the air between us as one.

Yes to all of you. Yes I knew, but still we couldn’t…

I taught you how to dance Salsa by looking into my Caribbean eyes, you learned to speak in my tongue, while teaching me how to catch a snowflake in my palms and love the grey clouds of your grey hometown. Our years began collecting in glossy photos time-lining our lives across shelves and walls glancing back at us: Us embracing in some sunset, more captivated by each other than the sky brushed plum and rose. Us claiming some mountain that didn’t matter as much our climbing it, together. Us leaning against columns of ruins as ancient as our love was new, or leaning into our dreams at a table flickering candlelight in our full-mooned eyes.

I knew me as much as us, and yet we couldn’t….

Though I forgave your blue eyes turning green each time you lied, but kept believing you, though we learned to say good morning after long nights of silence in the same bed, though every door slam taught me to hold on by letting us go, and saying you’re right became as true as saying I’m right, till there was nothing a long walk couldn’t resolve: holding hands and hope under the street lights lustering like a string of pearls guiding us home, or a stroll along the beach with our dog, the sea washed out by our smiles, our laughter roaring louder than the waves, though we understood our love was the same as our parents, though we dared to tell them so, and they understood.

Though we knew, we couldn’t—no one could.

When the fiery kick lines and fires were set for us by our founding mother-fathers at Stonewall, we first spoke defiance. When we paraded glitter, leather, and rainbows made human, our word became pride down every city street, saying: Just let us be. But that wasn’t enough. Parades became rallies—bold words on signs and mouths until a man claimed freedom as another word for marriage and he said: Let us in, we said: love is love, proclaimed it into all eyes that would listen at every door that would open, until noes and maybes turned into yeses, town by town, city by city, state by state, understanding us and the woman who dared say enough until the gravel struck into law what we always knew:

Love is the right to say: I do and I do and I do…

and I do want us to see every tulip we’ve planted come up spring after spring, a hundred more years of dinners cooked over a shared glass of wine, and a thousand more movies in bed. I do until our eyes become voices speaking without speaking, until like a cloud meshed into a cloud, there’s no more you, me—our names useless. I do want you to be the last face I see—your breath my last breath,

I do, I do and will and will for those who still can’t vow it yet, but know love’s exact reason as much as they know how a sail keeps the wind without breaking, or how roots dig a way into the earth, or how the stars open their eyes to the night, or how a vine becomes one with the wall it loves, or how, when I hold you, you are rain in my hands.

Stunning.

If I’d loved like this, I wouldn’t have done my part in the destruction of the “sanctity of marriage.”  Although, I guess it’s okay to inflict all manner of destruction on the institution of marriage, as long as you’re in a marriage with someone of the opposite sex — which is really idiotic, if you think about it.

This is our daily open threadMarriage equality now!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 27, 2014: F-R-C! See the Real Kooks!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for self-identified Conservative Christians (an oxymoron, since Jesus could never have been mistaken for a conservative) to gather together and show the world all the hate in their hearts. Yes, it’s the Family Research Council’s 2014 Values Voters Summit, where the elite will never meet, nor the smart start to take part (according to one of their featured speakers). [Courtesy of the good people at Right Wing Watch. A project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement.]

But it’s also the place, for reasons that defy conventional logic, where Republicans who one day hope to be the legal occupant of the White House (or a self-serving Member of Congress) feel they must go to solidify their conservative credentials, which is really ironic since there are precious few true conservative values expressed there. Oh, sure, there’s all the gay-bashing Islamophobia one could ever hope to see, but that isn’t true Conservatism. It might be considered Christian Conservatism, but as I said before, that’s an oxymoron. If there’s one thing about Christianity that this Atheist knows for certain, it’s the Golden Rule: Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. (It also happens to be my own personal guiding principle in life. I just don’t need a fear of going to Hell – which not everyone believes in, including Jews – to make me follow it.) And while I have personal doubts about whether or not the Biblical character known as Jesus actually existed, I’m pretty sure the person described in that book (or in most versions of it) would not say the kinds of things they say at the Values Voters Summit.

For example, there was Bishop E.W. Jackson (the “E.W.” stands for “Everybody’s Wingnut”), who falsely claimed that the Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Actually, if you read it carefully, that’s not what it says. There’s plenty of polygamy going on in the Bible, including with that of the first King of Israel, David (probably not his real name.) So it is factually incorrect, an important point if you wish to express a valid opinion, to say that marriage “has always been defined” as being between one man and one woman. You don’t even have to go to the Bible for proof. The people living here before the Europeans showed up and screwed everything up had a very different view of marriage. For one thing, it didn’t involve God. For another, it didn’t involve monogamy.

Then there was former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee dropping the huckaboom on the attendees by telling them that the reason Mitt Romney lost in 2012 was because Conservative Christians stayed home. The only problem is that opinion is not supported by the facts. Even Ralph Reed’s organization had polling data that showed exactly the opposite. And they were the only ones who noticed. But why let pesky things like facts get in the way of a good talking point. Or a talking point, anyway.

Then there was former half-Governor Sarah Palin, the woman who tried to be one grumpy old man’s heartbeat away from the presidency. (Do you know who she is?) Palin tried to make the point that…that, well…you know, it’s hard to figure out what point she was trying to make. She seemed more concerned with throwing out standard right-wing insults (Alinsky!) than she was with making a coherent statement. And, like so much of the right wing media, she had to get her digs in on what has become known in conservative circlejerks as the “latte salute.” And like so much of the right wing media’s trash-talking, this was a non-scandal (along with all the other non-scandals Palin rattled off.) There is no requirement that the President do anything in return when a military person salutes him. In fact, presidents didn’t even bother returning salutes until Ronald Reagan started doing it back in the early eighties, and that’s probably because he forgot he wasn’t in the 1st Motion Picture unit anymore. Seriously, it is not as big a deal as they are making it out to be, but that’s because they’ve got nothing, not even the values they claim to have.

Which brings me to one simple question about the “Values Voters Summit”: Whose values? You see, when it comes to defining morality (which, I’m sure the attendees at the summit didn’t know, Ronald Reagan said you can’t legislate), conservatives add more things to the definition than liberals, and give them equal weight! According to Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s studies,

…morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer.

Liberals tend to value fairness and equal justice much higher than conservatives, who value all those things listed as equally important. This would explain why Conservative Christians think only Christians should have First Amendment protections, or that only Christians have morals that matter. This is just self-referential opinion, confirmed by other Conservative Christian sources. It’s also a bunch of hypocrisy, since there is nothing “sanctified or noble” about gathering together and bashing the morality of more than half the country.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about the loonies at the VVS, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 25, 2014: 47% and Growing

The 47% comment made by Romney is true and it’s bigger now, according to Republican Cresent Hardy, a candidate for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District.

The 47% comment, if you recall, alleged that 47% paid no federal income taxes. In other words 47% made so little money their income wasn’t taxed. They are the working poor, the senior citizens. And, according to Hardy, their numbers are growing.

If true, it is not surprising. The benefits of the Obama Recovery have gone disproportionatly to the wealthy class. We can blame Obama, but he has been restricted by an obstructionist Republican minority in the Senate that has prevented measures from being passed that would benefit the working poor. Bankers got bonuses even while families faced foreclosure.

In this author’s opinion, the plight of the working poor will get worse, as more and more wealth is concentrated into the hands of the idle rich and deposited in overseas accounts. More and more of the middle class will slowly slide into the ranks of the working poor, and the 47% will continue to grow, not through any fault of their own, not through any desire to freeload on the system, but from the continued economic policies of the oligarchy that runs this country from behind the scenes.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, September 24, 2014: The Traveler and the True Believer

The Traveler and the True Believer

a modern parable

by

Briseadh na Faire

A little girl picked wildflowers in the meadow one bright fine spring-summer’s day. It was not too hot, and not too cold, just the perfect weather for picking flowers. Off in the distance, a stranger watched. He wore a green cloak, pulled down to reveal his white hair, and carried a white staff with odd symbols carved in it. He stood silently as the girl chased butterflies and laughed and plucked another colored prize amongst the wild grasses.

She quite unexpectedly came across the stranger.

“Oh! Who are you?” she asked, taking a step back.

“Just a man, traveling through this beautiful meadow of yours.”

“Oh.” she said, and then her brow furrowed, “Are you a True Believer?”

“I don’t know. What is a True Believer?”

“Well, if you don’t know if you’re a True Believer, you can’t possibly be a True Believer.”

“Why?”

“Because a True Believer would know if he was a True Believer.”

“Ok. You’ve got me there.” the stranger sat on a tuft of grass. “I do have certain beliefs, but I am a stranger to these parts. I do not know what you mean when you say ‘True Believer’.”

The little girl thought about this unexpected response for a short while. The stranger seemed kind, and his sitting cross-legged in the grass set her at ease.

“A True Believer” the girl began, then she hesitated, the words of her teachers all flowing into her head at once, and at once became an undecipherable jumble. Slowly they sorted themselves out. “A True Believer believes in the One True Interpretation of Everything.”

“Oh” the stranger replied, “in that case, I am a True Believer.”

The girl breathed what appeared to be a sigh of relief. “Then you believe that God is good and people are bad and the only way to get to heaven is to believe in God?”

“Who told you that?”

“My teachers.” the girl fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable with the question.

“And you trust your teachers, don’t you?” the stranger’s blue eyes seemed to hide the knowledge of the truth.

“Of course!” she stood up, indignant at the suggestion that her teachers might have deceived her.

“Of course.” the stranger stood, as if to turn away. “But….how do you know your teachers know the One True Interpretation of Everything?”

The little girl sat down as hard as if she had just been struck in the forehead.

The stranger smiled one of those reassuring smiles that seemed to tell the little girl that she didn’t have to answer his question. “Of course, you believe your teachers. All children trust and believe their teachers.” He paused, and watched the child as she relaxed, reassured.

“In my travels,” the stranger continued, “I have learned of many different beliefs. Beliefs about God, beliefs about people.” The stranger paused.

He is not a True Believer.” the little girl thought. The warnings of her teachers clamored in her head like the bell at the fire department ringing the alarm.

“Your teachers have taught you certain things.” the stranger continued, “Undoubtedly they have taught you that anyone who challenges their teachings is to be distrusted.”

The little girl was stunned. How did this stranger know what her teachers have taught her?

“Look here.” The stranger directed her gaze to a spider’s web. A butterfly was ensnared, and faced certain doom. “Is the spider evil?”

“Yes,” the girl replied without hesitation, “it’s going to kill that beautiful butterfly.”

“Ah, but the spider must kill to survive. Today it is this butterfly. Tomorrow it may well be a moth whose offspring would destroy crops, or a mosquito that spreads disease. So, is the spider evil?”

“Well, I guess it depends.” the girl was thoughtful. “If you were the butterfly, you would certainly think it was evil.”

“and the moth, the mosquito, or anything else that happens to get caught in its web.” the stranger added. “But the spider has a part to play, a job to do. It lives by destroying lives.”

The two sat silent for awhile. This was something her teachers had never taught her – that in Nature, things that destroy – can also be good. A shadow of an eagle flying overhead broke her thoughts.

“Some people,” the stranger finally spoke, “are like this spider. They are good, or bad, depending upon whether you are caught in the web, or grateful the spider got rid of a bug that would later harm you.”“In everything there is either growth or death.” the stranger continued. “We say that things that help growth are good, things that cause death are bad.”

The little girl looked down at her bouquet of wildflowers. Suddenly she realized that in picking the flowers, she killed them. She was bad. But she didn’t mean to be bad. She felt horrible.

“What if,” the stranger continued, “what if we got rid of the notion that people are good or bad?”

The little girl looked up.

“What if we accept that people are people, that they do the best they can at any moment of time?” The stranger plucked a nearby blue flower and handed it to the little girl. She looked at him, a puzzled look in her eyes.

“Yes,” the stranger said, as if reading her question, “some people do horrible things. They hurt and even kill other people. But are they not like the spider?”

The girl looked again at the spider’s web. The butterfly was struggling. The spider was approaching. She took up a twig from the ground and with a whip of her wrist she tore through the web. “BE FREE!” she exclaimed, as the butterfly flew away.

The stranger stood. She looked up at him. He smiled. She slowly got to her feet. He was peering intently into her eyes.

“What?” she asked.

“And now you know.”

“Know what?”

“That it is not a matter of good or bad. That it is a matter of living…of helping….of loving.”

Overhead, the eagle cried.

“Of loving?” the girl asked.

“Yes. For you so loved the beauty of the butterfly that you chose to set it free.”

And a flood of thoughts overwhelmed the little girl. Her teachers were wrong…her teachers were right… but…. here was a stranger who understood….understood good and bad…in a way her teachers didn’t. And a calmness settled over her.

“It’s not really about being a True Believer, is it?” her eyes had tears in them. “it is a matter of living…of helping….of loving?”

She blinked up at the stranger as her eyes watered up. She rubbed her eyes. When she removed her hands, the stranger had disappeared, but the butterfly circled around her head.

© 2014 Briseadh na Faire

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