The Watering Hole: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Featured

Traditional utilities may go broke sooner rather than later…

…as is happening now in Germany

“A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.”

 

Economics will drive the change. What, the wind is free? The sun is free? OK so I build with wind turbines and solar panels rather than coal or gas fired turbines with the same amount of investment? You mean my fuel is really, really free? Where do I sign?

The Watering Hole: Sept 15, 2014 — Devil’s Churn

Featured

??????????

Photo by Zooey

Okay folks, this is your late, late, super late, open thread.  :)

I took this photo on a trip to the Oregon coast in 2008, and I’m standing above the top of Devil’s Churn.  It’s pretty damn awesome!

This is our daily open thread — let the abuse flow.

 

Sunday Roast: Northern Lights

Stepping away from the horrors of the news and the state of our society…

The Northern Lights put on a good show for parts of the U.S. (and presumably other countries), after a powerful solar flare last Wednesday.

I have seen the lights once in my life, and was so startled at what I was seeing, I didn’t actually comprehend the sight, and didn’t appreciate it properly.  Afterall, I lived in the panhandle of Idaho at the time, but no one in the area could remember seeing the lights that far south.  Derp.

Seeing the lights again is definitely on my Bucket List!

This is our daily open thread — Have any of you seen this weekend’s light show?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 13, 2014: This Week in Conservative Christian Crazy Talk

In a recent blog post filled with straw men and false equivalencies, Francis Cardinal George (not his name at birth) made the common Conservative Christian mistake of equating laws that require to you to let people who don’t practice your faith to do things of which your faith disapproves with you not being allowed to freely practice your religion. The two have nothing to do with each other. After starting out with a story that seemed to treat religious belief as historical fact, George went on to claim that the government had tried to take on the role of religion.

There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class. Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA. It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires. But it had never explicitly taken upon itself the mantle of a religion and officially told its citizens what they must personally think or what “values” they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country. Until recent years.

Actually that’s not correct. The laws we pass are supposed to reflect the mores of our Society. (Note, I did say “supposed to.” Clearly we never agreed to let corporations who make billions of dollars in profits pay no federal taxes to the government who made their success possible.) When a government passes laws that say things like “You can’t kill anyone except in self-defense,” or “You can’t take things that don’t belong to you,” we are saying what values you should have. And that’s the way it’s always been. Just because a law is passed that permits people to do things your religion wouldn’t permit you to do does not mean we are making your religion illegal. Nor does it mean we are forcing you to do anything other than live and let live. I often hear religious conservatives complain when the government decides you have permission to do something, that the government is requiring you to do that something. And that’s completely and totally wrong. And it shows in their misguided belief that because the government is letting you worship whichever god you choose to worship, that you must choose a god to worship. They seem to forget that ti also means we are free to NOT worship any god, if we so choose. This is because they have the erroneous belief that in order to have a moral center, you must have a belief in God. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I lack a moral code by which to live. My personal motto (and i didn’t invent it) is to treat other people the way I would want them to treat me. (Sound familiar?) I don’t need some trumped up fear of hell fire and damnation to know that this is the right thing to do.

But George’s real problem seems to be about sex, and why should that surprise anyone? After all, a man who took a vow of celibacy for his own personal religious reasons (one of which includes belonging to an organization with a history of covering up sexual child abuse by a small percentage of its members) is the perfect person to be standing in judgment of the sex lives of others.

In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered “sinful.” Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The “ruling class,” those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone. We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family. Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.

I call straw man! It is not true that legislative approval has been brought “to all types of sexual relationships.” Only one, and that’s same-sex marriage. Just because ignorant buffoons have equated homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia does not mean he has a valid point. Those people have no idea what they’re talking about, and their viewpoints should not be treated as perfectly valid. Of course they have the right to hold those views, and the rest of us have the right to hold people with those views in contempt. And, FTR, we tried the “live and let live” approach to the rights of the LGBT community and it didn’t work out so great for them. It was mainly in the “let live” part where Society failed, and as a result we decided to tell people what values to personalize, in this case, the value being to “Love one another.” Being gay is not a choice, so it’s not true that gay people are willfully being immoral by being gay. The whole “Hate the sin, love the sinner” attitude doesn’t work if you believe gay people are just doing it on purpose because they lack morals and, therefore, shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. Because you’re still hating the sinner.

He goes on to lament that when a recent SCOTUS ruling went “against the State religion” (again, a false premise, which makes the rest of his argument meaningless), it brought on a crisis of belief for many Catholics, apparently because the Huffington Post raised “concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen.” (I tried to find the specific article that said this, but he only gave a date and not a title.) Actually I can answer that one. In the United States of America, an officially secular nation, your responsibility is to be a good citizen before being a good Catholic. If you want to live some place where being a good Catholic is your first duty, then move to The Vatican. I hear they’re big on Catholicism there. But the First Amendment not only allows you the freedom to practice the religion of your choice, it also disallows the government from interfering with that right so long as your religious exercise does not interfere with the religious freedom of others. That’s the part Conservative Christians don’t seem to get, especially the ones who call for our laws being based on the Bible. You see, there are many, many different versions of the Bible, and they are not all translated the same way. Nor are they interpreted the same way. So my first question to anyone who thinks our laws should be based on “the Bible,” is “Which Bible?” The second question would be, “Why that one and no other?” And, of course, my third and fourth questions would be, “Why would a secular nation want to do something that?” and “How is that any different than deciding to base our laws on the Q’uran?”

[NOTE: This post, like many of the ones I post at The Zoo, will be cross-posted at my blog, but I'll have more to say over there. Feel free to drop on by It should be finished by later this afternoon.]

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Conservative Christians, Catholicism in a secular society, mental illness in an overly religious society, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole; Friday September 12 2014; Carson v. Dawkins

Yesterday I posted here a link to statements by Dr. Ben Carson in which he pointed out that evolution is a myth because “God Can Create Anything At Any Point In Time.” Carson is a former neurosurgeon who has emerged today as a Wingnuttistanian Republican, a potential presidential candidate. Carson’s religious philosophy represents the dream of the religious right because of his pronouncements that it is human arrogance which allows some to believe that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything. Carson also states unequivocally that when it comes to the earth’s age, “no one has the knowledge. He further maintains that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.” It’s also Carson’s thesis that the “complexity of the human brain” essentially disproves evolutionary theory because when “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”

“Promiscuous biochemicals”? Really?

Such grossly unscientific views are, these days, not at all uncommon, particularly amongst those who belong to — who essentially have come to define – the religious right in the United States. As a political movement, they are also all too often left unchallenged when on full display in public forum, a reality many of their opponents have long felt to be an unfortunate trend given that virtually all religion-based theses of origin are so easily dismissed by scientific fact. In that vein, I present herein a series of quotes on the matter by one Richard Dawkins, the well known English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer. These are quotes that I somehow managed to collect/accumulate over the last decade or two, and though I didn’t record specific dates or source attributions, they are, each and all, Dawkins’ verbal refutations of such nonsensical mythology as spoken by Ben Carson (and many many others), as cited above.

Richard Dawkins:

“People brought up to believe in faith and private revelation cannot be persuaded by evidence to change their minds. No wonder religious zealots throughout history have resorted to torture and execution, to crusades and jihads, to holy wars and purges and pogroms, to the Inquisition and the burning of witches.”

“For a long time it seemed clear to just about everybody that the beauty and elegance of the world seemed to be prima facie evidence for a divine creator. But the philosopher David Hume already realized three centuries ago that this was a bad argument. It leads to an infinite regression. You can’t statistically explain improbable things like living creatures by saying that they must have been designed because you’re still left to explain the designer, who must be, if anything, an even more statistically improbable and elegant thing. Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that’s because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.”

“There is just no evidence for the existence of God. Evolution by natural selection is a process that works up from simple beginnings, and simple beginnings are easy to explain. The engineer or any other living thing is difficult to explain but it is explicable by evolution by natural selection. So the relevance of evolutionary biology to atheism is that evolutionary biology gives us the only known mechanism whereby the illusion of design, or apparent design, could ever come into the universe anywhere.”

“A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence. Religion is scarcely distinguishable from childhood delusions like the “imaginary friend” and the bogeyman under the bed. Unfortunately, the God delusion possesses adults, and not just a minority of unfortunates in an asylum. The word ‘delusion’ also carries negative connotations, and religion has plenty of those.”

“The beauty of Darwinian evolution is that it explains the very improbable, by gradual degrees. It starts from primeval simplicity (relatively easy to understand), and works up, by plausibly small steps, to complex entities whose genesis, by any non-gradual process, would be too improbable for serious contemplation. Design is a real alternative, but only if the designer is himself the product of an escalatory process such as evolution by natural selection, either on this planet or elsewhere. There may be alien life forms so advanced that we would worship them as gods. But they too must ultimately be explained by gradual escalation. Gods that exist ‘ab initio’ are ruled out by the Argument from Improbability, even more surely than are spontaneously erupting eyes or elbow joints.”

“Most scientists use the term God in the way that Einstein did, as an expression of reverence for the deep mysteries of the universe, a sentiment I share.” 

“Within 50 million years, it’s highly unlikely humans will still be around and it is sad to think of the loss of all that knowledge and music.”

“‘Religious’ physicists usually turn out to be so only in the Einsteinian sense: they are atheists of a poetic disposition. So am I. But, given the widespread yearning for that great misunderstanding, deliberately to confuse Einsteinian pantheism with supernatural religion is an act of intellectual high treason.

“The first cause cannot have been an intelligence – let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.”

“Even before Darwin’s time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born.”

“Natural selection is so stunningly powerful and elegant, it not only explains the whole of life, it raises our consciousness and boosts our confidence in science’s future ability to explain everything else. Natural selection is not just an alternative to chance. It is the only ultimate alternative ever suggested. … Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step.”

“[E]volution is a predictive science. If you pick any hitherto unstudied species and subject it to minute scrutiny, any evolutionist will confidently predict that each individual will be observed to do everything in its power, in the particular way of the species – plant, herbivore, carnivore, nectivore or whatever it is – to survive and propagate the DNA that rides inside it.”

“We explain our existence by a combination of the anthropic principle and Darwin’s principle of natural selection. That combination provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for everything that we see and know. Not only is the god hypothesis unnecessary. It is spectacularly unparsimonious. Not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.”

Not much else I can add save for perhaps a single word:

Amen.

OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday September 11 2014; TEH STUPID – Today’s Entries

It’s not hard to tell that this year’s election “event” is getting closer and closer; seems like every two years when elections are scheduled in November, right after Labor Day the rise in the level of stupidity increases dramatically. It’s almost scary, in fact. Here are four quickies in which the highlighted link pretty much says it all.

1.  Ben Carson: Evolution A Myth Because ‘God Can Create Anything At Any Point In Time’

He [Carson] claimed that “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.”

Carson pointed to the “complexity of the human brain” as proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”

2.  David Limbaugh, brother of Rush the Blowhard, assumes the Religious-Right is always right because he’s studied the Bible for a long time. He’s got another Jesus is the Gospel book to prove it.

Rush Limbaugh isn’t the only hateful, wingnut liar in his family. His brother, author David Limbaugh, makes his money by ginning up hysteria about that damned Barack Obama. The younger brother of the Big Fat Idiot is promoting a book which seeks to legitimize Christianity called, Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel. The good Christians on the couch, especially Hasselbeck in her pure white dress, were gobbling up his hypothesis that Jesus could stand trial and “win” based on the “evidence” in the incredibly human drama known as the Bible.

Limbaugh obviously has an agenda, just like his brother. He seeks to label the Black President and his godless liberal followers as the reason for all our problems. He claims the Ryan tax cuts for the rich plan is really god’s idea, and the (Atheist Muslim) President is demonizing rich people. . . .

3.  Last Thursday’s Watering Hole Post was titled The AFM vs. WTP, and it discussed Mitch McConnell’s appearance and speech last June at a Koch Bros. more-or-less ‘secret’ get-together in California. It seems that this week, Harry Reid has been pressuring McConnell to recant some of the idiocy he spewed to the Koch bro clan. Mitch, of course, didn’t . . . wouldn’t . . . well, you know. See the link for details, if you dare!

Harry Reid called on Mitch McConnell to repudiate offensive statements made at a recent Koch retreat. A reporter asked McConnell if he would do so directly, and he refused to answer.

4.  And finally, here in Colorado the GOoPer, running for governor, Bob Beauprez, has revealed that not only is he every bit as stupid as Cliven Bundy, he also “thinks” (is that a word?) like him. What’s worrisome is that Beauprez currently trails Democratic incumbent governor John Hickenlooper by only a small amount in recent polls. That’s not surprising, I suppose, given that Hickenlooper signed both a gun background-check and magazine size-limiting bill along with the Marijuana legalization bill, both of which are anathema to the unenlightened Wingnuttistanian faction of the Colorado electorate. We can only hope that their numbers remain insufficient to elect each and all the Bagger idiots on the ballot. 

Colorado Gubernatorial Candidate Promises To Seize And Sell America’s National Parks, Forests And Public Lands

In the first debate of the Colorado gubernatorial race last Friday, Republican nominee Bob Beauprez went on the record supporting the seizure of Colorado’s national parks, forests and public lands by the state government, saying “this is fight we have to wage.” 

. . . Beauprez, who is challenging incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper (D), claimed that all public land in the state was “supposed to be Colorado’s” and that “if this were private land and the federal government was a tenant, we would cancel their lease.” [ . . . ]

. . . Beauprez is one of several candidates supporting such proposals this election season. . . . [T]here are a number of right-wing politicians across the country who have been advancing proposals to transfer of control of public lands to states, or to sell them off to the highest bidder for drilling, mining and logging.

So there you have it, four partial sums of about five minutes worth of “research.” I was originally going to set this up as a voting contest to choose the most stupid of the four listed. But, sigh, having gone over each of them another time or two I’ve decided to take the Spiro Agnew approach and simply declare the process Nolo Contendre — for probably obvious reasons.

OPEN THREAD

 

 

 

 

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, September 10, 2014: To be, or not to be…

To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die- to sleep.
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
(Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1)

I believe that if we live long enough, sooner or later we will come face to face with Hamlet’s question, “To be, or not to be” a choice, a precipice, which, once stepped off, cannot be undone. Some do choose to cross that line, to go to that “undiscover’d country”. We’re left behind, unwilling or unable to follow; we are suicide survivors. We have survived the death of someone close to us – a death we cannot totally understand, because is seems so senseless. Yet it was a choice, perhaps the ultimate leap of faith in the acceptance of a loving God.

We cry out in silent anguish. If only….if only….if only. A thousand ‘if onlys’ for every star in the heavens.

Today is the World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day where we, the survivors of suicide, have been invited to light a candle at 8:00 p.m. local time, to remember a lost loved one, and for the survivors of suicide.

I will be lighting a candle for my late brother:

DAVE

“Your brother died today.”
The sky is blue.
The sun is shining.

“Your brother died today.”
The lie is through.
The runner’s hiding.

“Your brother died today.”
I’m crying too.
The gunner’s riding.

“Your brother died today.”
My brother too.
My brother too.

(this poem was written the day I got the call.)

And, from a different perspective:

Through doors now closed to mortal thought
Th’ eternal flame flicker’d low.
What hellish deeds thy hands hath wrought
And shadows in thy soul doth grow.

What anguish rent thy tortured breast,
Through the darkened halls of the kingdom,
Past chambers where the dying rest,
And portals of forgotten home?

From whence came the desperation
That drove thee on towards madness,
To end at last in consecration;
One final hope of gladness?

The course that cannot be undone:
Rest in peace, my little one.

As for me:

I have traveled the other side of the looking-glass,
Down the rabbit’s hole,
Past the March-hare’s madness,
And drank from the Devil’s bowl.

Below the depths of Wonderland,
The lonely darkness calls,
And beckons my soul to dwell therein,
In labyrinthical halls.

I long to return to the darkness,
The Never-Never Land of night;
To leave behind the looking-glass,
Forever banished from its sight.

But the chess game moves ever onward,
And I, a lowly pawn,
Have slain the Black Knight with a double-edged sword,
And condemned myself to the dawn.

OPEN THREAD