The Watering Hole, Monday, August 18th, 2014: Sick Day

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I am so sick of everything that I’m just going to throw up a few thoughts and see who’s coming down with the same thing.

I can’t even find the words to describe how sick I am of “Christians” (who, if Christ were real, would have been disowned by him) who are doing their damnedest to take over this country, whining about ‘religious persecution.’ The same zealous whackjobs go crazy fearmongering about ‘teh gay agenda’, when their own ‘Christian-nation/one-nation-under-their god’ agenda is infinitely more far-reaching. An excerpt from Right Wing Watch:

“Christian-nation activist David Lane is engaged in a multi-year, multi-state project to get conservative evangelical pastors more involved in electing right-wing candidates, and he is intent on making sure that the GOP nominates a 2016 presidential candidate to the Religious Right’s liking.”

When pastors of any religious stripe start getting “involved in electing right-wing candidates”, their church’s tax-exempt status should be revoked, period. They’ve been on thin ice for years, let them operate on just tithing and other donations from their parishioners.

I’ve been sick forever, it seems, of the sheer stupidity of the vast majority of Americans, but the last few years the ignorance has reached new heights? depths? From the now-common mundane ignorance of people who cannot speak or write proper English, to the simplistic denials of the worldwide disaster of global climate change, too many Americans are smugly proud of their lack of knowledge. When ‘leaders’ in government happily announce “I’m no scientist” when talking about human female biology/birth control, or climate change, or evolution, the premise of the movie “Idiocracy” doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched anymore. Just add some holy-rollers/snake oil salesmen to Idiocracy so it’s a tad more realistic.

I’m sick of the police and other law enforcement entities playing into the teabagger/libertarians’ narrative with the militarization of police forces across the country. There are groups out there who are insanely itching to get into a firefight with the “gummint” and consider ANY law enforcement to be the “gummint.” Cops, you are NOT helping when you treat civilians as an enemy – I’m looking at YOU, FERGUSON.

And I am sick to death of the blatant outright racism that has been revived by the election of President Barack Obama. But not just the racism itself, it’s the acceptance, even embracing, of racism that makes me so sick. I don’t know if President Obama anticipated just how much racist backlash would result from his election – I know I certainly didn’t. Just take one or two examples regarding the insanity that is happening in Ferguson, Missouri:

Ever-clueless Representative Steven King:

“”This idea of no racial profiling,” King said, “I’ve seen the video. It looks to me like you don’t need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that.”

“I just reject race-based politics, identity politics” King concluded. “I think we’re all God’s children. We all should be held to the same standards and the same level of behavior.”

and,

Tea-Partier radio-show host Jesse Lee Peterson:

““I’ve said from day one that Michael Brown is a thug,” Peterson explained before asserting that he must be a criminal by nothing[sic] “the fact that he was running from the cops, period, because good folks do not run from police officers, they follow their instructions.”

He added, “I just think that it’s a shame that, in America today, that criminals are given the benefit of the doubt – especially black criminals because white criminals are not – but black criminals are given the benefit of the doubt and the police officers are the suspects. I don’t know what has happened to my country.”

According to Wikipedia, “On September 21, 2005, Peterson penned a column for WorldNetDaily, in which he suggested the majority of the African-American people stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina were “welfare-pampered”, “lazy” and “immoral” and “Peterson has also thanked “God and white people” for slavery—adding that if it weren’t for the slave trade, blacks might have never made it to the United States—and described traveling on slave ships as akin to “being on a crowded airplane” That is one ‘brother’ who really hates his own race. How can he possibly think that way?

I can’t help but think that, had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary and the Presidency in 2008, we would not be seeing all of this out-in-the-open, ‘can-you-top-this’ undisguised racism. I blame President Obama for a lot of things, but I can’t honestly blame him for being elected and thereby opening the floodgates of racial prejudice.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 11th, 2014: Caption Contests!

When I saw the first photo on TP last week, I thought “That just begs for a caption contest.” The photo is of Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel, and is credited to McDaniel for Senate. McDaniel allegedly hired a pastor to hold a press conference and state that he (the pastor) had been paid by Thad Cochran’s campaign to get black Democrats to vote in their Republican Senate primary:

MS State Senator Chris McDaniel

MS State Senator Chris McDaniel

Next, from an article by Neil Cavuto on Fox Business, in which Cavuto surprisingly says:

“…cross them once, go off-script with them once, pose one different question or surprise confrontation just once – and they go nuts, and I mean really nuts. It’s actually disturbing.”

Chris Christie and Rand Paul have a lot going for themselves. They’re political originals in almost all respects, save their uncanny lack of self-awareness. It just seems odd for gentlemen who demand respect, they have a devil of a time “showing” respect. Their rage is as consuming as it risks being self-immolating. No slight is too small, no diss too dizzy, no criticism too silly, that each doesn’t get silly, and childish, and boorish in kind. Not kind. Not right. Not big. Not…presidential.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie


Rand Paul with wings and sword

Rand Paul with wings and sword

And another two-fer, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul:

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul

Here’s a fun shot of ‘Russian Strongman’ Vladimir Putin:

Vladimir Putin and unknown woman

Vladimir Putin and unknown woman

What is Tucker Carlson dreaming about when he fell asleep on Fox & Fiends Friends?:

Tucker Carlson goes nappy-byes.

Tucker Carlson goes nappy-byes.

Last, here’s a shot of Lindsey Graham (fundraising at a place called River Rat Brewery.) Lindsey, on Fox News yesterday, sounded the alarm about terrorists attacking the U.S. He then swooned, clutching his pearls, saying “Someone fetch me mah smelling salts!”

Lindsey Graham drinking and fundraising

Lindsey Graham drinking and fundraising

And just for fun (if you aren’t having any yet), here’s a gif that I ran across while choosing a photo for Lindsey Graham:

What's Lindsey Graham thinking about now?

What’s Lindsey Graham thinking about now?

Enjoy!

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 4th, 2014: Peculiar Podiatric Political “Humor”

At our office, the content of our ‘Sales’ emailbox is usually comprised of orders, queries, requests for catalogs, etc. Occasionally we still get offers for misspelled Cialis, Viagra, etc., as well as the internet version of the letter from a Nigerian prince. Once in a while, for reasons beyond my comprehension, we get anti-government rants from a group called (I believe) The American Land Rights Association. But last week we got a very unusual (and pretty weird) political email. Here it is in its entirety:

From: Martin Marks [mailto:drfootsie@cox.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:01 AM
To: drfootsie@drfootsie.org
Subject: PODIATRY to POLITICAL CARTOONING

Hi: PLEASE SHARE

Taxed Enough Already
Tired of CORRUPTION
ABOLISH IRS

We AIM to PLEASE ……….

GRID LOCK – gov’t waste

If you like your ……..

ILL Eagle - The  Barak Stops Here 01

While none of these made any sense or fell into the category of “humor” such as we understand it, the editor of the Virginia News Source (which touts itself as “Tidewater Virginia’s ONLY source of reality based news. We are professional muckrakers, politically incorrect, and equal opportunity offenders”) absolutely loves them. Here’s an excerpt (I recreated the misspellings, etc.) from the editor’s July 25th blurb about Dr. Footsie:

“I love ‘whack jobs and I connected with him and stuck up a a great relationship nstantly. My kind of person. Of sound mind. Off-beat humorous.

Dr. Footsie has enough of a whacky outlook, and the creative, artistic ability to articulate the wrongs of the world in a delightfully humorous way. That’s not to say that his cartoons aren’t biting. They are. They are effective. In one upcoming cartoon, he depicts Obama in a cartoon entitled “a black eye on America”, combining all that wrong about Obama’s failed presidency. Subtle meanings are hidden throughout his work.”

Well, they certainly fit in with the crap on the Virginia News Source website. They are NOT, however, either “delightful”, nor “subtle”, nor “humorous”, at least in MY opinion. Don’t quit your day job, “Dr. Footsie.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 28th, 2014: Childhood (and history) Lost?

The development where Wayne and I grew up sits atop a hill overlooking the Middlebranch Reservoir to the west, and used to be part of the Tilly Foster Farm to the north. When my family moved there in the late ’50s, we were visited by cows, sheep and goats from the farm, as our road was the closest to the farm’s property. Several acres were left undeveloped between us and the farm, which made for an enjoyable childhood spent roaming the woods, climbing trees and building ‘forts.’

While we were growing up, the farm mostly had horses; at one time, I remember, they had a Secretariat foal at the farm, and were a bit uptight about security: I pulled into the entrance once to take a picture, and within moments, a cop car arrived. For a while, it was closed as the county decided how best to utilize the property. Until a short while ago, the farm was run as a living museum, with old tractors and other farm equipment on display, as well as various breeds of cows, sheep, chickens, pigs,etc. The goal of the farm was to showcase rare American farm animals.
tilly foster sheepTilly Foster Farm 2012tilly foster goats 2tilly foster donkeytilly foster calves

Now, however, for some reason the county has decided to close the farm. Although the new caretaker just took delivery of newborn chicks for the farm, it is uncertain exactly what is ahead. According to one commenter at the farm’s website, a carnival was held there over 4th of July weekend. A terse notice on the museum’s ‘Welcome’ page states:

“The Society for the Preservation of Putnam County is no longer managing the farm. All of the rare American farm animals have been sold and we will not sponsor any more events at the farm.”

Hopefully the farm will be reopened as a living museum again. For us locals, the history of our area would be done a great disservice if this beautiful landmark were to be ruined for the sake of ‘progress.’

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 21st, 2014: Floriduh vs Kitties

I was going to write about yesterday’s ThinkProgress thread about a fundraiser for Florida Governor Rick Scott. The story combines just about everything we liberals abhor: wealthy private-prison CEO; $10,000/plate fundraiser; private-prison abuses and fraud; immigrant detention; privatization of prison system healthcare (under Rick Scott?!); and so on, with big money and greed being the leitmotif. But it just got me too angry, so here’s some photos of some of our past furry friends. If I’ve posted a lot of these before, please humor me.

Stubby Plant

Stubby Plant

Tippy with Velveteen Rabbit

Tippy with Velveteen Rabbit

Lissa Grooms Her Ears (Amelia in lower left, photo of 20-something Wayne in upper right)

Lissa Grooms Her Ears (Amelia in lower left, photo of 20-something Wayne in upper right)

Earnest squeezes behind Pip

Earnest squeezes behind Pip

Becca prepares to leap.

Becca prepares to leap.

Nog (N.O.G. = Not Orange Guy)

Nog (N.O.G. = Not Orange Guy)

Belz and Lissa play while Splatter watches.

Belz and Lissa play while Splatter watches.

Preston, Jack and Souphlee

Preston, Jack and Souphlee

There, at least I feel better…

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 14th, 2014: It’s SCHNEIDER-MAN!

Nope, not Wayne…it’s New York State’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.

A.G. Schneiderman is the root’n-est, toot’n-est, doggone shoot’n-est Attorney General around these parts. And while he has been focusing mainly on Wall Street transgressions, Schneiderman was forced to issue a press release last week after the McCullen decision, in which the Supremes struck down the 35-foot buffer zone around Massachusetts’ women’s health clinics.

Apparently protesters at a Planned Parenthood in Rochester, New York, were a mite confused about that ruling, believing that the Supreme Court decision struck down ALL buffer zones. According to an article by Michael Virtanen of The Republic:

“The letter followed a protest last week outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Rochester, where one demonstrator crossed a faded line on the sidewalk believing the Supreme Court decision applied everywhere, said Mary Jost. She is director of the Focus Pregnancy Help Center nearby and a longtime anti-abortion protester. Police were called, an officer talked with the woman and said she had to move back. That also prompted Rochester police to query the attorney general’s office and Jost to consult her own lawyer, who advised staying beyond the line that was subsequently painted bright orange, she said.

“We might take it to court in time,” Jost said.”

Yeah, sure, let us know how that works out for you.

A.G. Schneiderman’s press release (seen here in its entirety) said in part:

“I am committed to protecting the right of every patient in New York to full and safe access to reproductive health care services. We will not allow activists to use a narrowly targeted Supreme Court decision as an opportunity to create confusion about the critical protections here in New York. Not only do New York State’s clinic protection laws remain completely in place, I am committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure they are fully enforced.”

Schneiderman, who was endorsed by Planned Parenthood for the post of Attorney General, insisted that the 15-foot buffer zone is still in effect in all 22 counties where it had been established in 2005. The Republic article also states that “He [A.G. Schneiderman] has also sent out investigators to ensure clinic access…”

Way to go, Schneiderman!

Just for fun, here’s President Obama turning down an offer that, I confess, I would not have refused.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 7th, 2014: Crazy Talk

Thanks to commenter BruinKid at Daily Kos for these two libertarian wingnuts’ words:

First, a quote from Libertarian Kevin Gutzman, who is currently a “neighbor” of ours living in Danbury, Connecticut (In the olden days when Wayne and I were growing up in Brewster, New York, Danbury was considered a ‘local’ call, and we didn’t have to dial the 203- area code.) It’s kind of scary that he is a professor of history at Western Connecticut State College, or as we have always called it, “WestConn.” (My sister attended for 3-1/2 years.)

“As Americans celebrate the Fourth today, remember this: the statists are the intellectual descendants of those who did not celebrate the Fourth in the 1790s, celebrating Washington’s birthday instead:

“In the Founders’ day, the 4th of July was a partisan holiday. It was celebrated in the 1790s and 1800s by Jeffersonian Republicans desirous of showing their devotion to Jeffersonian, rather than Hamiltonian, political philosophy. If you were a Federalist in the 1790s, you likely would celebrate Washington’s Birthday instead of the 4th of July. If you believed in the inherent power of the Executive in formulating foreign policy, in the power of Congress to charter a bank despite the absence of express constitutional authorization to do so, and in the power of the federal government to punish people who criticized the president or Congress, you would not celebrate the 4th. The 4th was the holiday of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, those great states’-rights blasts at federal lawlessness. It was the anti-Hamilton, anti-Washington, anti-nationalist holiday.”

Next, from Jeffrey A. Tucker, who, according to Wikipedia, describes himself as “a dedicated anarchist” (he may also have been involved in the racist newsletters that got Ron Paul in some trouble):

“Now that 4th of July celebrations are over, let’s take the Declaration of Independence seriously and abolish the United States. It’s a cobbled together empire based on nothing but 19th century political ambitions. The results have been a menace to the world and certainly a menace to its own people. If the U.S. devolved to hundreds or thousands of small countries, or even became the great 21st century experiment in P2P legal institutions with no overarching geographically contiguous legal structure, that would even be better. The nation state is an anachronism, and the largest surviving case in point really should set the example, in the spirit of the principles that gave it birth, and be the first to go.”

Last, according to Salon’s July 1st article by Elias Isquitch, Governor Paul LePage of Maine has apparently been “pallin’ around with terrorists.” Author Mike Tipping, who covers local politics in Maine, has a book out about Governor LePage’s several meetings with a group called “Sovereign Citizens”, who are purportedly allied with the “Constitutional Coalition”, who are on the FBI terrorist watch list. LePage’s staff have verified that the meetings did occur. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“Among the things reportedly discussed at these meetings was whether or not to seek violent retribution against key political opponents. A Coalition member named Jack McCarthy described the meeting on a radio program hosted by a small group of sovereign citizens calling themselves the Aroostook Watchmen:

“We also discussed this there, that as far as I know, the penalty for high treason has not changed in 100 years. And, I did not say it, but the governor said it. I never – I never opened my mouth and said the word. The governor looked at us and looked at his buddy and said they are talking about hanging them.”

LePage has vehemently denied that he ever discussed executing anyone, let alone his Democratic opponents, with the group, and a spokesperson characterized the meetings as a benign effort by the governor to listen to people across the political spectrum…

The topics of these meetings evidently revolved around classic antigovernment “Patriot” movement conspiracy theories, including the belief that American dollars are phony “fiat” money and that the Federal Reserve is a hoax. One of the meetings was dominated by discussion, led by noted conspiracy theorist Michael Coffman, revolving around the notion that the United Nations is out to seize Americans’ private property rights and impose a New World Order environmentalist regime.”

From the “Constitutional Coalition” website:

“Our Constitution established specific powers of the federal government, powers that are limited and enumerated. The founders believed that the government exists to perform only those services that the people cannot provide for themselves, such as the national defense. Local and state government powers were also to be limited and enumerated with the people self governing in all other areas.

The founders held that only a moral people – a nation of godly people with common spiritual and social values – were capable of self government.”

Here, to take the bad taste out of your mouths, just watch any one of these “comedy vs anti-science videos” that “show how humor can make a difference.” (Which I found as part of “more related stories” after the Paul LePage story, right next to one described as “Comedy can’t change the world: why Russell Brand is dead wrong about politics and humor…” – heh) Or, you can celebrate the fact that Pink Floyd is coming out with a new ‘album’ in the fall. Yay!

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 30th, 2014: Jesus must be screaming

Thank you, frugalchariot, for the link that you posted on Saturday’s thread, leading me to a treasure trove of jaw-dropping info about Colorado’s latest entry in ‘Teh Crazy Game': Gordon J. Klingenschmitt

Teh Crazy is strong in Gordon J. Klingenschmitt

Teh Crazy is strong in Gordon J. Klingenschmitt

Klingenschmitt is the surprise Republican primary winner for state representative in Colorado’s 15th District. The story in frugal’s link to Crooks and Liars includes an excerpt from RightWingWatch on Klingenschmitt that is loaded with links and will curl your hair. As karoli at C&L says in the article:

“This is why there should be a Great Wall between church and state that is impenetrable. This guy is a nut. He makes Rafael Cruz look sane. And he’s now a Republican candidate for state office in Colorado.”

According to the Denver Post, Colorado Republicans don’t want to claim Klingenschmitt as one of their own:

“Klingenschmitt’s rhetoric and beliefs have raised alarm with members of the Republican Party, who worry that his views might cause problems for conservatives.”

“Gordon does not speak on behalf of the Republican Party. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and dishonest,” said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.”

Klingenschmitt, a former Navy Chaplain who was court-martialed in 2006 – not for “praying in Jesus’ name” as he tells it – for disobeying a lawful order. It is against military rules to wear one’s uniform at a political event, but Klingenschmitt wore his Navy Chaplain uniform to a protest in March of 2006 – next to former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore – outside the White House. He soon launched a new career with a radio show called “The Pray in Jesus Name Project.” Again from the Denver Post:

“[Klingenschmitt's] outspoken religious beliefs have crossed into the realm of popular politics, including homosexuality and Obama.

“Father in heaven, we pray against the domestic enemies of the Constitution — against this demon of tyranny who is using the White House,” Klingenschmitt said of the president in an episode of his show…”

According to The Public Record, Klingenschmitt has been playing the martyr ever since his court-martial, “boasting to his right-wing extremist followers that he demanded his own court martial because his superior officers prohibited him from praying in the name of Jesus.”

“Further undercutting Klingenschmitt’s claim that he sacrificed his naval career in the name of Jesus is an e-mail Vice Adm. Harvey sent to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen urging him to approve Klingenschmitt’s “involuntary release” from the Navy due to Klingenschmitt’s “lack of career potential.”

Klingenschmitt’s former supervisor in the Navy had lots to say about him as well. Still from The Public Record article (which you HAVE to read, it’s an eye-opener):

“As reported by AU, Norm Holcomb, a retired Navy chaplain who was Klingenschmitt’s boss, sent an e-mail in March 2007 to Kentucky state officials after he discovered the House of Representatives passed a resolution lauding the disgraced Navy chaplain for “service to God, country and the Commonwealth of Kentucky” and invited him to lead a prayer session.”

[excerpt from Holcomb's email]

“We have been relatively quiet regarding our ex-chaplain’s untruthfulness and lack of honor because we are embarrassed that one of our own could display such behavior in the name of our Lord. We wanted to spare all concerned the embarrassment associated with his dishonesty. However, it now seems that it would be wrong for those of us who know the truth to remain silent. I served with him and supervised him (as best as it was possible to supervise a person who refused to submit to lawful authority) and I know about his daily dishonesty and ‘spin’ of the truth.”

Okay, so the Navy felt that Klingenschmitt lacked “career potential”, his own former supervisor states that Klingenschmitt was “untruthful” and now he’s running for public office? Coloradans, beware!

Next…

Scalia sez 'Go fuck yourselves'

Scalia, as always, sez ‘Screw you, I’m here ’til I die.’

Last week, the Supremes voted unanimously to strike down Massachusetts’ “Buffer Zone” law, which restricts anti-abortion protesters from coming within 35 feet of a women’s health clinic. According to a ThinkProgress thread from June 27th:

“The buffer zone law was struck down in a narrow ruling that suggested there are different ways to curb anti-choice harassment without restricting speech on public sidewalks…it’s still illegal to obstruct women’s access to a health clinic, thanks to a federal law that was passed in response to clinic blockades in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

Naturally, Antonin Scalia took issue with some points in Chief Roberts’ opinion, and had to get his own two cents in, according to an article from aol.com:

“In a separate opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized Roberts’ opinion as carrying forward “this court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”

Scalia said state and local governments around the country would continue to be able to “restrict antiabortion speech without fear of rigorous constitutional review.”

The buffer-zone case began when Boston-area grandmother Eleanor McCullen and other abortion opponents sued over the limits on their activities at Planned Parenthood health centers in Boston, Springfield and Worcester. At the latter two sites, the protesters say they have little chance of reaching patients arriving by car because they must stay 35 feet not from the clinic entrances but from the driveway to those buildings’ parking lots. Patients enter the building through the parking lots, which are private property.”

[emphasis mine]

Eleanor McCullen, Nosy Parker

Eleanor McCullen, Nosy Parker

So, just because Ms. McCullen wanted to get close enough to her intended harassment victims so that they could hear her better, she sued? Yes, she and her ilk have the 1st Amendment right to free speech, but that shouldn’t mean that a total stranger should be forced to listen to her. And if she couldn’t shout loud enough from across the street, tough darts!

What makes the Supreme’s decision so much harder to swallow is the hypocrisy: the entire Supreme Court plaza is a legislated buffer zone. As Susan Milligan says in this piece from U.S. News and World Report:

“But at what point does the free speech become a barrier to a woman seeking to exercise another right, one upheld by the courts, to have an abortion? The idea that the individuals preaching against abortion on the street are merely “counseling” women is the utmost insult…[t]he idea that a complete stranger presumes to know better – and assumes that the woman in question is some kind of mindless fool who couldn’t possibly know what she is doing – is beyond arrogant.”

Every time a Christian lies in Jesus’ name, Jesus screams.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 23rd, 2014: NY State’s Medical Marihuana Bill

Yes, in the original legislation, S4406-D, marijuana is spelt “marihuana,” so I’ll go with that.

It appears that what Governor Cuomo will agree to sign is not the same as the original bill. S4406-D includes language regarding “smokable marihuana”, such as:

“1 (B) MEDICAL MARIHUANA MAY NOT BE SMOKED IN ANY PLACE WHERE TOBACCO MAY
2 NOT BE SMOKED UNDER ARTICLE THIRTEEN-E OF THIS CHAPTER, REGARDLESS OF
3 THE FORM OF MEDICAL MARIHUANA STATED IN THE PATIENT’S CERTIFICATION;”

The legislation listed a wide variety of illnesses** for which a patient could be treated with medical marihuana. The patient could receive an amount up to (and possibly more than, if prescribed by the patient’s medical practicioner) two (2) ounces every thirty days. The final bill (which I can’t find posted yet, but I’ll update this when I do) may limit the qualifying illnesses

From the Long Beach, NY, Patch:

The bill does not allow for smokable marijuana, “which is important,” according to Cuomo. Sponsors of the bill favored smokeable varieties but Cuomo thought it would contribute to development of a gateway drug, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Excerpt from the WSJ:

It would permit only doctors to prescribe marijuana, in forms including oil-based and vapor, to individuals with any of about a half-dozen conditions**, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

But it wouldn’t legalize smokable forms of the drug, making the effort much narrower in scope than many other medical-marijuana laws around the country. And it would allow the governor, upon recommendation by the state police superintendent or health commissioner, to suspend the program at any time.

The plan would make New York the 23rd state to legalize at least some forms of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and the second—in addition to Minnesota—to do so while also banning smokable forms.

Mr. Cuomo had said he wanted to curb marijuana’s potential to become a “gateway” drug, a worry shared by some Republicans—including the GOP leader in the Senate, Dean Skelos—whose votes were critical to the legislation’s success.

Stop right there, Governor Cuomo. Obviously you haven’t studied the issue enough if you believe it is a “gateway drug.” Particularly when you consider what the average age and condition of most of the “certified patients” will likely be, I doubt if any of them will be looking for a higher high. I would have to think that many of them have been treated with a variety of painkillers over the course of their illness, very strong and often addictive painkillers. So why would “smokable” marihuana be more “gateway”-ish than edible marihuana?

Let’s get back to the permitted illnesses, aka “serious conditions”, now down to “about a half-dozen.” **Here’s the list from the original legislation:

12 7. “SERIOUS CONDITION” MEANS A SEVERE DEBILITATING OR LIFE-THREATENING CONDITION, INCLUDING:
CANCER, POSITIVE STATUS FOR HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS OR ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME,
AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS, ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY, TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY,
DYSTONIA, PARKINSON’S DISEASE, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, DAMAGE TO THE NERVOUS TISSUE OF THE SPINAL
CORD WITH OBJECTIVE NEUROLOGICAL INDICATION OF INTRACTABLE SPASTICITY, EPILEPSY, WASTING SYNDROME,
CROHN’S DISEASE, POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, NEUROPATHY, RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, AND HUNTINGTON’S
DISEASE, OR A CONDITION ASSOCIATED WITH OR A COMPLICATION OF SUCH A CONDITION OR ITS TREATMENT,
OR ANY OTHER CONDITION THAT IS ADDED BY THE COMMISSIONER.

So now, most of those conditions cannot legally be treated with medical marijuana? That’s a shame for all of those patients who may have had their hopes up of being covered under this bill.

I’ll post the wording of the new bill as soon as I get it. In the meantime, here’s a couple of websites that I ran across that you may find interesting.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 16th, 2014: Local Fearmongering

A few days ago, I received the below email from our local State Senator Greg Ball:

Subject: Assault On Our 2nd Amendment Rights

Friend:

After recent anti Second Amendment efforts in the Assembly, the Senate Democrats are now pushing efforts to move legislation sponsored by Senator Peralta (S68A) that would mandate microstamping in New York State. Microstamping involves the expensive and invasive use of laser technology to engrave a microscopic marking onto the tip of the firing pin and onto the breech face of a firearm, so that spent cartridges give information about the firearm.

This is an extreme attempt to turn law abiding citizens into criminals, rather than tackling the real criminals. We must unite in both the Senate and throughout the state, to kill this extreme and costly effort, as we have done in the past.

There is not a shred of credible evidence that proves the technology actually works. This is a back door gun grab by liberal legislators engaged in social engineering, and we will stand our ground to defeat this recent effort.

I will keep fighting up in Albany to stop legislation that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights, but please stay vigilant and talk with your friends in other parts of the state to contact their elected officials.

Yours truly,

Senator Ball’s giant signature follows, but I won’t include it here, honestly, it’s huge.

Anyhoo, this is the gist of my reply to Senator Ball:

“This is an extreme attempt to turn law abiding citizens into criminals” In what way, Senator Ball? If a gun that is used in a crime shows the ID, wouldn’t it assist law enforcement in their efforts to apprehend a criminal? Most of the penalties outlined in the proposed legislation apply to gun manufacturers and gun dealers. If the ‘law-abiding-citizen’ gun owner does not deface his gun, microstamped or otherwise, then he will not be a criminal under this legislation. See Section 6. (A):

“6. (A) Any person who wilfully defaces any machine-gun, large capacity ammunition feeding device or firearm, INCLUDING DEFACING A MICROSTAMPING COMPONENT OR MECHANISM OF A SEMIAUTOMATIC PISTOL, is guilty of a class D felony.”

“…rather than tackling the real criminals.” Can you define who the real criminals are? Do you or your Republican colleagues have any proposals describing how you would “tackle” these “real criminals”?

“We must unite in both the Senate and throughout the state, to kill this extreme and costly effort, as we have done in the past.” The proposed legislation requires that the process cost no more than $12. (See S.7 below)

“There is not a shred of credible evidence that proves the technology actually works.” Um, not according to the text of the legislation’s Section S.6, so you might want to look into this further:

S.6 “…firearm microstamping is a revolutionary forensic technology that produces an identifiable alpha-numeric and geometric code onto the rear of the
cartridge casing each time a semiautomatic pistol is fired; that the alpha-numeric and geometric code on an expended cartridge casing will provide
an initial lead for law enforcement by enabling law enforcement to match the cartridge casing found at a crime to the original owner of the firearm;
that information from completed crime gun tracing is an important element utilized by COMPSTAT and other crime analysis systems to target illegal
firearms trafficking; that microstamping technology continues to produce identifiable markings onto expended cartridge casings even
after thousands of rounds of testing; that this additional tool will help law enforcement investigate illegal gun trafficking, close firearm-related
criminal cases and protect the public; and that legislative action is necessary to require all new semiautomatic pistols sold after January 1, 2016 to be
microstamp-ready.”

“This is a back door gun grab by liberal legislators engaged in social engineering” Now this is just pure fear-mongering strawman tactics, Senator, intended to rile up an already-riled-up base. Contrary to every NRA/Second Amendment worshippers’ rumor-mongering (which started BEFORE President Obama was even elected), that the big bad government was going to be “coming for your guns!”, the proposed S68A legislation mentions nothing about confiscation of guns whatsoever. In fact, the law itself, if passed, would not go into effect until AT LEAST January 1, 2016 OR whenever law-enforcement officials have received notification from microstamp job shops that certain production standards can be readily met; and, in fact, the law would only apply to GUNS MANUFACTURED AFTER JANUARY 1, 2016.

S.7 “This act shall take effect January 1, 2016, or at such time that the superintendent of the state police has received written notice from one or more microstamp job shops that such shop or shops are willing and prepared to produce microstamp structures on two internal surfaces of a semiautomatic pistol as defined in subdivision 26 of section 265.00 of the penal law for a price of twelve dollars or less at a production level of one thousand semiautomatic pistols per batch, whichever occurs later…”

So your guns-above-all-else-type of constituents can stock up to their heart’s content with non-microstamped weaponry.

“…and we will stand our ground to defeat this recent effort.”

This, Senator, offends me even more than your previous incendiary words.

While (S68A) would not have prevented, nor might not prevent, a tragedy such as the Sandy Hook shootings, any and every effort to do so warrants at least discussion. Yet you insist on using the volatile phrase “stand your ground”, which is now synonymous with “you can shoot anyone you want if they look at you the wrong way, or play their music too loud or, well, whatever, AND you can get away with murder! [Women need not apply.]” Your total lack of human tact or empathy is astounding. The people in Newtown/Sandy Hook are our neighbors. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that a teacher in the Pawling School District lost a child at Sandy Hook? You talk about this legislation’s (imagined) effect on law-abiding citizens, what about the effect of ignoring such a horrific slaughter of truly innocent children? Would you publicly label those particular parents of Newtown victims who are now advocating stricter gun laws “gun-grabbers”?

“I will keep fighting up in Albany to stop legislation that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights, but please stay vigilant and talk with your friends in other parts of the state to contact their elected officials. Not for much longer, Senator. [State Senator Ball has announced that he would not be running for public office once his term is up.]

Senator, IF this legislation ever passes, I hope that you will not be out there telling people these irresponsible, incendiary lies. In the meantime, why doesn’t the NY State Senate work toward gun-control legislation that could prevent another Sandy Hook, another Columbine, another Aurora, etc., etc. There have been over 70 shootings since Sandy Hook in public places such as schools, malls, plus killings like the recent one in Florida where a father killed three children and his wife before turning the gun on himself.

But the scariest shooting of all occurred last week when two of Cliven Bundy followers killed, in cold blood, two Las Vegas policemen on their lunch break at a local pizzeria; then the couple adorned each corpse with a Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) Flag. Shortly thereafter, after killing another innocent civilian, they killed themselves, too cowardly to face responsibility for their despicable act. A libertarian pundit, Adam Kokesh, “argued that because America’s political institutions — including the police — have become “homicidal … against freedom,” it was wrong to see the Millers unprovoked killing spree as acts of murder rather than self-defense. Kokesh argued next that the Millers had, if anything, saved lives by murdering two police. “Think of how many lives might have been saved by this incident,” he urged his audience. “How many people would these cops have killed had they not been killed?” “We can only hope that some of the officers in America are listening — if you care about your own safety”

Seriously, Senator Ball, please remember that words have consequences. The kind of rhetoric you use in your email could be the spark that lights some mentally unstable New Yorker’s fuse. Is that really what you want?”

Sincerely,
blahblahblah

 

Open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 9th, 2014: Thank you, Carl Sagan

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle


earth_moon

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
carl sagan_cosmos25_02

And thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to life.

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 2nd, 2014: “Travel Is So Broadening”

Let’s start off the week with a quick trip around the United States. Courtesy of The Weather Channel, here’s a state-by-state photo gallery of some of our country’s natural wonders. In alphabetical order, they range from:

Noccalula Falls in Alabama…
alabama noccalula falls
…to the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois…
cahokia-flood-illinois_72986_600x450
…to Acadia National Park in Maine…
Otter-Cliff-Acadia National-Park-Maine
…to Niagara Falls in New York…
AA019259
…to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota…
ND_THRO_2
…to Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.
Old Faithful Geyser at Sunset, Yellowstone Natio

Whew! I think I need a vacation after that “quick trip”!

Open thread–what’s on your mind today?

Memorial Day, May 26th, 2014

World War I Memorial, Washington, DC

na-WWI-Memorial

World War II Memorials, Washington, DC
ww2memorialDC
ww2 marines-memorialpacific atlantic ww2

Korean War Memorials, Washington, DC
washington-dc-korean-war-veterans-memorialKorean-WarKorean War Memorial in the Snow 04

Vietnam War Memorials, Washington, DC
vietnam-memorial-three-soldiersvietnam-war-nurses-memorialvietnam-veterans-memorial-washington-dc-ilker-goksen

Tomb of the Unknown
an american soldier

Iraq War Memorial, Washington, DC

?

Afghanistan War Memorial, Washington, DC

?

Open thread–have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 19th, 2014: Deniers vs Debunkers

In a recent thread on ThinkProgress, State Representative Mark McCollough of Oklahoma, one of eleven members of the Oklahoma House Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee, used the typical climate-change denialist’s talking points to support his vote against new standards for Oklahoma’s science education. From TP [bold emphasis mine]:

On Monday, the Oklahoma House Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee voted 10-1 to reject the Oklahoma Academic Skills for Science, a set of academic standards that had been developed by a committee of teachers, community members, as well as business and industry representatives over the last year and a half.

“One of the things brought up in the House Committee meeting was concern over teaching climate and weather subjects in early grades.

Oklahoma Rep. Mark McCullough expressed his concern over the sections in the standards that deal with climate science, sections he said make references to “human impacts on the climate” in third, fourth, and fifth grades. He also said he thought references to human activity related to the environment focused on negative aspects of human involvement, such as the over-spraying of pesticides, and said “positive” examples of humans intervening in the environment to produce a change, such as flood control, weren’t as common, a focus that could end up leading to an “agenda-driven curriculum” that teaches students that “people are the problem.”

“There’s been a lot of criticisms, in some sectors, as to maybe some of the hyperbole — what some consider hyperbole relative to climate change. I know it’s a very very difficult, very controversial subject,” he said, going on to ask, “do you believe that those sections specifically relating to weather and climate particularly at the earlier ages…could potentially be utilized to implicate into some pretty young impressionable minds, a fairly-one sided view as to that controversial subject, a subject that’s very much in dispute among even the academics?”

The Oklahoma Science Teachers Association (along with just about anyone with half a brain) disagree. The OSTA’s blog reports that, “[A]ccording to teachers who were present at the hearing”, one of the two “dominant concerns expressed by members” was:

“Weather and Climate being placed in early grade levels – It appeared to observers that committee members believe standards that reference climate at all might be utilized to direct students to being forced to subscribe to climate change theory. ([Blog Archivist]: Isn’t it ironic that a state so dependent on weather and climate might be lead by elected officials who are afraid that science teachers might broach the topic in 3rd or 4th grade?)”

Okay, climate-change deniers, enough is enough. Let’s start the debunking.

May 16th’s Bill Moyers show featured Canadian scientist and environmental activist David Suzuki discussing the topic of “The War on Climate Change Scientists.” It’s a fascinating – and frightening – interview, which can be seen (here. (The transcript of the interview is available via the link just below the video.) The Moyers & Company website then provided Eight Pseudoscientific Climate Claims Debunked by Real Scientists,” by Joshua Holland. Here’s just a couple of excerpts:

Under “No, the Earth Hasn’t Stopped Warming Since 1998 (or 1996 or 1997)”:

“But the idea that the climate stopped warming at some point goes back even further. In the 1990s, two climatologists, Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen, published a series of papers hypothesizing that global warming had stopped. Spencer and Lindzen are among the few climate contrarians with real scientific credentials, and have been widely cited by climate skeptics; Spencer has testified at a number of Republican congressional hearings on climate science.

Spencer also dismisses the theory of evolution, and has written: “I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”

“But according to John Abraham, a professor of thermal and fluid sciences at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, “It turns out that they made three serious errors in their data…It took years, and it took a lot of time from other scientists to find these errors in their calculations. In fact, they switched a positive sign for a negative sign in one of their equations.”

Under “Yes, There Is a Scientific Consensus”:

“There have been three studies, using different methodologies, that have shown that almost all working climate scientists — 97 percent — accept the consensus view.

“But what if those three percent who reportedly reject the consensus are like Galileo, who challenged the 16th century view that the sun revolved around the Earth? John Abraham and five of his colleagues published a study earlier this year which found that studies authored by climate contrarians “were often found to be unsubstantiated by the data,” resulting in “criticisms, corrections, and in some cases, resignation of editors.” They add: “the same fate has not befallen the prominent consensus studies.”

Under “Yes, It’s Been Warm Before”:

“Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech, says…“Just because something happened before for one reason, doesn’t mean that when it happens again it’s for the same reason.”

““Our planet is running a fever,” says Hayhoe, “and I can think of six or seven reasons why it could be running hot. As a scientist, you don’t just jump to conclusions. You do the tests. You say, ‘OK, could it be a natural cycle this time? Could it be the sun? Could it be volcanoes? Could it be orbital cycles and ice ages?’ We run those tests and we see if it could be any of those things that caused the climate to change naturally in the past. And in this case, we’ve run those tests and the answer to all those questions is, ‘no.’ In fact, if our temperature were controlled by natural causes right now, we’d be getting cooler, not warmer.”

Let me finish with one of the most influential people in environmentalism’s history, the ‘mother’ of environmentalism, Rachel Carson. The Moyers & Company site has an article honoring “The Bravery of Rachel Carson”, which reminded me of Carson’s influence on my mindset. In high school (early ’70s), we were treated – if that is the right word – to a viewing of the documentary “Silent Spring”, an account of Rachel Carson’s research and writing of the book.

“The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world — the very nature of its life. — Rachel Carson

I remember the tears in my eyes watching the documentary, tears of sympathy for the land, the animals, the environment being spoiled by pesticides. And here I am, 40+ years later, seeing a similar disaster-in-the-making, with Monsanto running/ruining crops, with GMOs with who-knows-what effects yet on humans, and with climate-change deniers trying to blind people to the fact that our planet is already suffering the consequences of man-made global climate change. And I still weep.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 12th, 2014: BREAKING into WIND power

Last week at the grocery store, I noticed a couple of men standing behind a table near the pharmacy section. They had some large tri-fold posters standing on the table, but, since my first view only encompassed the back of the posters, I didn’t know what they were pushing. I avoided them for a bit, but I had to pick up a prescription so I covertly checked them out from the safety (and better viewing angle) of the pharmacy counter. Once I realized that the posters showed wind turbines, my interest was piqued and, after I finished getting my prescription, I went directly over and said, “Hi, whatcha doing?”

The two men were from Green Mountain Energy, and the tall, bearded man named Gregory explained that they were offering NYSEG (New York State Electric & Gas) customers a choice to opt for electricity generated solely by wind power. New York State has a number of wind farms providing electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers, enough to offer an approximate $.02/killowatt-hour savings over traditional, multi-source electricity ($.089 versus $.11+.) However, even if it was the same price, just the idea that we would not get our electricity from oil, natural gas, coal, and other polluting sources made me feel that it would be worthwhile to switch. While New York State does produce hydroelectricity, the vast majority of our electricity comes from oil and natural gas. Ewww. Well, not anymore for us at least!

From Green Mountain Energy’s website:

In 2013, our customers had the largest annual impact ever, avoiding more than 6.1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2)! Over the past 15+ years, our customers collectively have avoided 30.6 billion pounds of CO2 by choosing cleaner electricity and carbon offset products. To put that into perspective, that’s like:

Taking 2.9 million cars off the road for a year
17.6 million households turning off their lights for a year
Planting 3.6 million trees

At first, of course, I hemmed and hawed about it, thinking that Wayne would be furious with me if I just blindly signed up and we got stuck in something we really didn’t want. Gregory assuaged that fear a bit by telling me that even if I signed up then and there, the contract would not be etched in stone. I was given a booklet about the company for us to review, along with Gregory’s phone number. We arranged to have him talk to Wayne, and, after a phone call the following day, a little research, and a visit back to the store to meet with Gregory, Wayne agreed to it. So we’re finally breaking into renewable energy sources.

Wayne and I have often said that, when we can eventually afford to have our roof fixed, we’ll go solar (our back yard is big enough and open enough to fit a small solar array, too.) But until then, I feel a little bit better about lessening our carbon footprint.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 5th, 2014: Hubble, 24 and Going Strong

Last Thursday marked the 24th year in space for the Hubble telescope. After its inauspicious start, when it became obvious from the blurry images sent back that something was wrong with the telescope’s huge mirror, who’d have thought that we’d eventually be treated to beautiful and breathtaking images of star nurseries, a huge variety of nebulae, and glorious galaxies. The Weather Channel has a photo gallery of the top 100 images from the Hubble Telescope; here’s just a few from this amazing gallery:

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3

Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3)


Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

The mind-boggling size of these formations and their unimaginable distances from our tiny corner of the universe makes me feel about the size of a dust mote, and totally inconsequential.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 28th, 2014: Bird-Brained

This past week has seen a lot of very odd behavior from some bird-brained bipeds.

First, the human bird-brains, starting with the ongoing and ever-weirder racist stylings of Cliven Bundy. Bundy’s ‘open-beak-insert-claw’ babblings caused even die-hard libertarian Rand Paul, as well as Fox’s knee-jerk-anti-government-reactionary (emphasis on jerk) Sean Hannity, to sidle away from Bundy. Paul’s statement, “His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” seemed a bit weak compared with his fellow Republican Senator Dean Heller’s. From Think Progress: “…[Heller's]spokesman told the New York Times the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.” Much more genuine-sounding, more human, right?

Again with the racism: L.A. Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling‘s blatantly racist – and audiotaped — admonishment to his girlfriend after she posted a photo on Instagram of herself with basketball legend Magic Johnson has been the talk of national news outlets and sports programs alike. Not surprising, since one of Sterling’s quotes from said audiotape is “don’t bring black people to my games

Next, bird-brained Bill O’Reilly still seems to be unaware of his own ignorant inner racist: On Friday, in reaction to Time Magazine’s decision to feature singer Beyoncé on the cover for their “most influential people” edition, O’Reilly aired his delusion that Beyoncé is in charge raising America’s young black girls. In Bill-O’s mind, she’s doing a piss-poor job of it, what with the sexual song lyrics and the “revealing clothing” that she wears in her music videos — into which I presume Bill-O did a LOT of research, checking for ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and the like.

O’REILLY:

“She knows — this woman knows — that young girls are getting pregnant in the African American community…Now it’s about 70 percent out of wedlock. She knows and doesn’t seem to care…She should be smart enough to know that what’s she doing now is harming some children…”

Sorry, Bill, but Beyoncé isn’t harming anyone; look in your mirror, you’re the one doing harm to the whole country.

Okay, enough of the human bird-brains, now let’s enjoy some feathered ones…

Several times last week, outside our office, I noticed various birds engaged in springtime mating behavior. The male birds were chasing females either in fast-paced displays of aerodynamics and maneuverability, or in a more slow-motion – and more amusing – “chase” within a tree, with the male hopping from branch to branch after the female. While the birds that I observed were entertaining, the mating behavior of blue jays, chickadees, English sparrows, and our other local birds pales in comparison to these guys:

Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes

Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes


Great Egret aka Great White Heron

Great Egret aka Great White Heron


Great Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird


Male Peacock

Male Peacock


Royal Terns

Royal Terns

Yes, that was much more enjoyable!

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia's Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 14th, 2014: For Reals?

“Believe it or Not: ‘Heaven is for Real’ a Community Conversation-Starter.” This intriguing headline in the local Southeast-Brewster Patch e-newspaper caught my eye yesterday. (I’ll get back to that later.) Until I read the article, I was unaware of both the book, and now a movie, based on a supposedly true story relating a young boy’s experience during emergency surgery. The boy just happens to be the son of a pastor.

[DISCLAIMER: My mind's personal jury is still out on the issue of near-death experiences and the like. There's so much uncharted territory in the human brain, there could be a section that might be labeled "Here there be visions."]

From an article in the Christian Post:

Heaven Is For Real opens in theaters on April 16 and tells the story of the Burpo family, whose son Colton experienced a vision where he traveled to heaven and met Jesus when he was just 4 years old. [Wait - he met Jesus when Jesus was 4 years old? Damn, I wish people knew how to write clearly!]

The details Colton shared with his father about heaven include the fact that people do not age there. Todd Burpo decided to break this down from a theological standpoint.

“Adam and Eve were created to never die and once they sinned the punishment for sin was death so they started aging,” he explained. “We know in heaven there is no sin [we DO?] so if you go to a place where there is no sin, why would the consequence of sin be there?”

If you scroll down past the crap-ads, there’s a video and other related links (if you’re interested.) Fun comments after the article, too. For instance:

ArmoftheLORD 3:45 PM on April 11, 2014
If you want to learn about heaven or Noah learn how to read the bible for your sake. The bible interprets itself and therefore not subject to anyones subjective flight of fantasy. Jesus does not ride a rainbow horse.”

Tammy Roesch 7:46 AM on April 12, 2014
ArmoftheLORD – Excellent post! This story is so contrary to the Bible….but sadly….many people fall for the unbiblical things it teaches, because that is what they want to believe…rather than studying the Bible for themselves and finding out the truth….

ArmoftheLORD 10:21 AM on April 10, 2014
garbage in garbage out. The bible is the final authority on the life after life afterlife not Tod Burpo

Bob Wierdsma (Moderator) 6:08 PM on April 10, 2014
ArmoftheLORD – Of course. But Jesus still is the way which Todd confirmed

["Of course." Really? Amazing how they're so SURE of their "facts."]

From Wikipedia regarding the original book, “Colton also claimed that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap, while the angels sang songs to him. He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.” Wiki mentions a bit more in their section about the upcoming film: “He talked about looking down to see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe. In Heaven, Colton says he met his miscarried sister whom no one had ever told him about and his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared supposedly impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and His chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help people.”

Now back to the Southeast-Brewster Patch:

“[The movie] tells the story of Burpo’s son, Colton, who said he left his body during an emergency appendectomy around age 4 and visited Heaven. His parents, Todd and Sonja, believed the story after Colton described details about his great-grandfather and miscarried sister about whom he didn’t know…

Besides meeting family members who had passed, talking with angels and seeing Jesus ride a multicolored horse, Colton shared this about the community in Heaven:

“It’s a lot like Earth in many ways, but everybody there would help you out just because they wanted to help you out and not because of their own interests,” he said. “So that’s a pretty good community.”

My favorite comment after this article, with all of its misspellings, etc.:

Joe Rubalcava April 13, 2014 at 04:59 PM

“J Michael you do not understand God word very well. I Not trying to be critical just want to enlighten you and some of the orthers. God created every one, but all are not his children. To be a child of God in the old Testament you had to except God by faith. Since Jesus Christ in the new Testament, you must except Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior, to be come a child of God, just not his creation. The only way to have the Holy Spirit with in you , is to except Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, read John 17 : 6 – 8 1 Corinthians 2: 9- 16 the Holy Spirit is your helper to gives you the knowledge of God word. With out the Holy Spirit in you, yo can read the Bible but you will not get much of any true understanding of what you read. Michael you were right when you said God has unconditional love of everyone all the way to you death bed, but if you do not except his free gift to except him as you Lord an savior and die in that state he will not except you at that point and you will suffer eternal separation from him. Those who did except his free gift and excepted him as Lord and savior will have everlasting life with him. God said he hopes no one would parish, and that why he gives you all the way until right before you death to except him, but he will not force anyone to except him, he give you the free will to do it or not, and if you don’t you will not at that point be excepted by him. You made a comment that God does’ t need a middleman, and your right, but he does use them. The Holy Spirit to teach you and give you understanding if you ask him, once you have excepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and earthly men as pastors and priest and just some ordinary every day people who believe in God, to keep reminding you why you need to turn to God and except Jesus Christ. I hope this might be able to give some clarity to what some may not understand about God’s ways and word.”

(In an aside: On the sidebar on The Christian Post website, I discovered that there is an annual “State of the Bible Survey” – who knew? I have no idea who The American Bible Society spoke to in their latest “State of the Bible Survey”, but one ‘statistic’, if accurate, could be scary: “56% of America remains Pro-Bible.* *People who believe the Bible is the actual or inspired Word of God with no errors.”)

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 7th, 2014: Torture

Over the past month or so, there’s been a lot of talk about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the previous administration’s CIA torture program (oh, excuse me, “enhanced interrogation techniques”.) Chair of the Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein has accused the CIA of accessing Congressional computers and deleting memos and other evidence. Last week brought the news that Senator Feinstein is pushing to have the results of the report made public, in order to “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted…”

Cue the attacks, specifically on FauxNews: First, former CIA Director Michael Hayden questions Senator Feinstein’s possible “motivation for the report” is “emotional.” An excerpt from the ThinkProgress article:

“Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

A surprised Chris Wallace asked,

“…You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?” Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.”

Despite whatever Hayden believes the “whole story” to be, the portions that have been leaked seem to be quite detailed and very damning, as discussed in this March 31st article from WaPo.

“Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.””

It does not seem possible that Hayden’s “whole story” could in any way mitigate the fact that torture was systematically used, both here and abroad at “black sites”, supposedly in the name of our “security.”

From the Washington Post article on Hayden’s “emotional” characterization:

“Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden suggested Sunday that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might have compromised the objectivity of a report on CIA interrogation techniques because she personally wants to change them…Hayden suggested Feinstein feels too strongly about the issue on an “emotional” level.”

Feinstein struck back at Hayden’s comments later Sunday by calling her committee’s forthcoming report “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”

In a statement, Feinstein noted that the committee’s investigation began in 2009 and the report’s conclusions “came from documents provided by the CIA and the result is a comprehensive history of the CIA program. The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”

“I believe last week’s 11-3 vote to declassify the report demonstrates that both sides agree that Americans should see the facts and reach their own conclusions about the program,” she added.

Raw Story tells it slightly differently:

“Yeah,” Hayden replied dismissively, noting that a Washington Post columnist had reported that “Sen. Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.” [Emphasis mine, in that I have been unable to find to which "Washington Post columnist" Hayden is referring, nor any such reporting that Senator Feinstein had directed how "scathing" the report should be.]

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator,” Hayden opined. “But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”… ““You’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its contents,” Hayden admitted.

[The notion that Hayden has "no idea of" the report's "contents" seems pretty ludicrous; regardless of his professed ignorance, it didn't stop him from attacking the Senator for one moment.]

Raw Story also provides us with cyborg former Vice-President Cheney’s reaction, which also sparked an invitation from Senator Angus King (I-ME) to have Cheney waterboarded:

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney told college television station ATV last week. “Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture.”

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” he insisted. “The results speak for themselves.”

Sorry, the report’s results do speak for themselves:

“A report that has been completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, has found that the CIA misled the government and misstated the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation program. The report concluded that the CIA lied when it said it had gotten “otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives.”

“I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney,” Senator King explained. “If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred and plus-odd times.”

And finally Cheney’s spawn, Liz, reliably shouts “Benghazi!” Again from Raw Story:

“Fox News contributor Liz Cheney on Sunday argued that a United States Senate report on Bush-era torture was “political” and that lawmakers should spend more time investigating President Barack Obama’s role in failing to prevent terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

“If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,” the former vice president’s daughter said on a Sunday morning Fox News panel. “You’ve got to be willing to say how many American lives would you have been willing to put at risk because you didn’t want to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

“Fox News political analyst Juan Williams quipped that Liz Cheney was the “good daughter,” but the American people had a right to know what the CIA was doing in their name, and if the techniques were effective.

“I want to start by agreeing with Juan,” Liz Cheney shot back. “That we need more congressional oversight… of Benghazi, for example.”

She added that the Senate did not produce a “fair report” because it was “written entirely by Democratic staffers.”

“The Republicans wouldn’t participate!” Williams replied. “People not only wouldn’t cooperate, [the CIA] tried to spy on the U.S. Senate.”

Liz Cheney concluded by saying that she had “missed Juan” during her absence from Fox News for a failed Senate run in Wyoming.

[Yeah, how'd that work out for ya, Lizzie? Finally found out that no one in your home state likes you?]

A couple of the commentors on that Daily Kos thread could have helped Juan Williams bitch-slap that she-devil:

JW: I got a better idea Liz, why don’t we focus on the 22 embassy attacks that happened under your daddy’s watch.

bplewis24:

[Quoting Liz Cheney] “If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,”…Yes. I am fully willing to accept the consequences of that. Reports tend to tell us there are no real consequences of it, but even if there were, that’s the “sacrifice” I’m willing to make in order to live in a civilized world.

I think that I would just go with what Sheppard Smith once blurted out “emotionally”: “THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DON’T FUCKING TORTURE!”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 24th, 2014: Mixed Emotions

This past weekend’s reading brought an odd range of emotions:

HUMILITY: Geography is not my strong suit. When I was growing up, the continent of Africa was nearly always referred to as “the dark continent”, or “darkest Africa.” However, the amazing maps in “8 Maps That Will Change The Way You Look at Africa” help to shed light on “the dark continent” and its place in the modern world. Some of the maps are truly mind-boggling.

INCREDULITY: Why is David Vitter still a Senator? How was he not so shamed in his constituents’ eyes that not only did they not demand his immediate resignation when his diapered-DC Madam sexual habits were made public, they reelected him? And why is Vitter showing his face in public claiming that “…the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth…God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”? Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog can at least answer the the last question.

BETRAYAL: This one’s personal. My love-hate relationship with my beloved/cursed New York Jets is finally tipping over toward the ‘hate’ side. This weekend, the Jets announced their acquisition of former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, and their release of hapless quarterback Matt Sanchez. My sense of betrayal has nothing to do with Sanchez–he sucked most of the time, but I wish him well. On the other hand, I wish that Michael Vick, of dog-fighting-ring/dog killer fame, would have his throwing arm mangled by a pit bull. Just enough to keep that scum out of football forever. In the meantime (well, when football season starts), I will boycott the Jets until that inhumane piece of shit is gone.

Damn, it's just a toy

Damn, it’s just a toy

Finally, to take that nasty taste out of your mouth:

CONTENTMENT: Although the story is five years old, it’s still heartwarming, and reinforces my opinion that animals are far better than humans. Mankind should really try to emulate Mother Nature.

In 2009, a fire in the Santa Barbara area had firefighters rescuing wildlife, including young animals separated from their mothers. The unlikely pair shown ended up together after their rescuers ran out of crates.
Rescued Fawn and Bobcat kittenfawn and bobcat kitten

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 15th, 2014: Strange Views

I had never heard of the Wellcome Image Awards before, but when I saw “Stunning Science Pictures”, I had to check them out. According to the accompanying article,

“The 13th Wellcome Image Awards took place on March 11, 2014, and recognized some truly remarkable feats in scientific image creation. The contest honors “the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images” that have been recently added to the Wellcome Images collection. Wellcome Images are part of UK-based charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust, who are dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.”

Some of the images really are “Stunning”; others range from (what I would call) ‘delightful,’ to ‘disturbing,’ to ‘gross,’ to ‘frightening.’ Here’s a sampling of the 19 images:

Astrantia Flowers (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Dr. Henry Oakley)

Astrantia Flowers (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Dr. Henry Oakley)

I like the description of the image above: “Photograph of flowers from the plant Astrantia major. This particular variety is called Hadspen Blood, and is also known as Masterwort, Gentleman’s Melancholy [my personal favorite], Hattie’s Pincushion, Mountain Sanicle or Black-root Sanicle.” [emphasis mine]

"Wiring of the human brain:  Bird's-eye view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain."  (Image credit:  Wellcome Collection/Zeynap M Saygin)

“Wiring of the human brain: Bird’s-eye view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain.” (Image credit: Wellcome Collection/Zeynap M Saygin)


"Miniature marine organism:  Light micrograph of a miniature organism found in the sea, part of a group called Foraminifera." (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Spike Walker)

“Miniature marine organism: Light micrograph of a miniature organism found in the sea, part of a group called Foraminifera.”
(image credit: Wellcome Collection/Spike Walker)


Zebrafish embryo: "A scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo" (image credit::  Wellcome Collection./Anne Cavanagh and David McCarthy

Zebrafish embryo: “A scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo”
(image credit:: Wellcome Collection./Anne Cavanagh and David McCarthy

That is one very surprised-looking zebrafish embryo!

Since you may view them with a different ‘eye,’ judge for yourselves: here’s the complete 19-image slideshow, definitely view them full-screen.

This is our daily open thread–go ahead and talk about, well, anything!

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 10th, 2014: Jehovah: IMHO, Not Much of a God

This is going to be a bit long, but once I read it I knew that I had to share it with you. What follows is a section entitled “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” of one of the tracts that the Jehovah’s Witnesses dropped off last weekend. The tract itself is titled “Does Death End It All?” For your examination, in its entirety:

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

“The following is a typical conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses might have with a neighbor. Let us imagine that a Witness named Michelle has come to the home of a woman named Sophia.”

HOW DOES GOD FEEL ABOUT OUR SUFFERING?

Michelle: Hi, Sophia. I’m happy I found you at home.
Sophia: Me, too.
Michelle: The last time I was here we discussed how God feels about our suffering. You mentioned that this is something you have wondered about for a long time, especially after your mother was injured in a car crash. By the way, how has your mother been doing?
Sophia: She has good days and bad days. Today, she’s doing OK.
Michelle: I’m glad to hear that. It must be a real challenge to keep your head up in a situation like this.
Sophia: It is. Sometimes I wonder how much longer she will have to suffer.
Michelle: That’s a natural response. You may recall that at the end of our last visit, I left you with a question about why God has allowed suffering to continue if he has the power to end it.
Sophia: Yes, I remember.
Michelle: Before we consider the Bible’s answer, let’s review a few of the points we covered last time.
Sophia: OK.
Michelle: For one thing, we learned that even a faithful man in Bible times wondered why God allows suffering. Yet, God never scolded him for asking about it, nor did God tell him that he simply needed more faith.
Sophia: That was a new thought to me.
Michelle: We also learned that Jehovah God hates to see us suffer. For example, the Bible says that when his people were going through distress, “it was distressing to him.” [here footnoted "See Isaiah 63:9"] Isn’t it comforting to know that God feels for us when we suffer?
Sophia: Yes, it is.
Michelle: Finally, we agreed that considering the vast amount of power our Creator possesses, surely he has the ability to step in and end suffering at any moment.
Sophia: That’s what I don’t understand. Why does God let all these bad things happen when he has the power to stop them?

WHO WAS TELLING THE TRUTH?

Michelle: We can start to find the answer to your question by turning to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Are you familiar with the account of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit?
Sophia: Yes, I learned that story in Sunday school. God said not to eat from a certain tree, but they went ahead and ate from it anyway.
Michelle: That is correct. Now, let’s focus on the events that led up to Adam and Eve’s sin. Those events have a direct bearing on the question of why we suffer. Would you please read Genesis chapter 3, verses 1 through 5?
Sophia: OK. “Now the serpent was the most cautious of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it said to the woman: ‘Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: ‘You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it, otherwise you would die.’ At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly would not die. For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.'”
Michelle: Thank you. Let’s examine these verses for a moment. First, notice that a serpent spoke to the woman, Eve. Another part of the Bible shows that it was really Satan the Devil who was speaking to her through the serpent. [here footnoted "See Revelation 12:9.] Satan asked Eve about God’s command regarding a certain tree. Did you notice what God had said the penalty would be if Adam and Eve ate from it?
Sophia: They would die.
Michelle: Correct. Then, with his very next words, Satan made a major accusation against God. Notice what he said: “You certainly will not die.” Satan was calling God a liar!
Sophia: I never heard that part of the story before.
Michelle: And when Satan called God a liar, he raised an issue that would require time to settle. Can you see why?
Sophia: Hmm. I’m not sure.
Michelle: Well, maybe I could illustrate the point this way. Let’s say that one day I approach you and claim that I’m physically stronger than you are. How could you prove me wrong?
Sophia: I suppose with some sort of a test.
Michelle: Yes, exactly. Maybe we would choose a heavy object and then see which one of us was able to lift it. Actually, proving who is stronger is pretty straightforward.
Sophia: I see your point.
Michelle: But what if instead of saying that I’m stronger, I claimed to be more honest than you? That’s a different matter, isn’t it?
Sophia: Yes, I suppose so.
Michelle: After all, honesty is not something like strength, which can be proved with a simple test.
Sophia: No.
Michelle: Really, the only way to settle the challenge would be to let enough time pass for others to observe the two of us and see who really is more honest.
Sophia: That makes sense.
Michelle: Now, look again at this account in Genesis. Did Satan claim to be stronger than God?
Sophia: No.
Michelle: God could have quickly proved him wrong. Instead, Satan claimed to be more honest than God. In effect, he said to Eve, ‘God is lying to you, but I’m telling you the truth.’
Sophia: Interesting.
Michelle: In his wisdom, then, God knew that the best way to settle the challenge would be to allow time to pass. Eventually, it would become clear who was telling the truth and who was lying.

AN IMPORTANT ISSUE

Sophie: But as soon as Eve died, didn’t that prove that God was telling the truth?
Michelle: In a sense, it did. But there was more to Satan’s challenge. Look again at verse 5. Do you notice what else Satan told Eve?
Sophia: He said that if she ate of the fruit, her eyes would be opened.
Michelle: Yes, and that she would become “like God, knowing good and bad.” So Satan claimed that God was withholding something good from humans.
Sophia: I see.
Michelle: And that too was a major challenge.
Sophia: What do you mean?
Michelle: By his words, Satan implied that Eve – and by extension, all humans – would be better off without God’s rulership. In this case too, Jehovah knows that the best way to address the challenge would be to let Satan try to prove his point. So God has allowed Satan to rule this world for a time. That explains why we see so much suffering around us–it’s because Satan, not God, is the real ruler of the world. [here footnoted, "see John 12:31, John 5:19.] But there is good news.
Sophia: What’s that?
Michelle: The Bible teaches these two beautiful truths about God. First, Jehovah is there for us when we suffer. For example, cosider the words of King David, as recorded at Psalm 31:7. David experienced a lot of suffering during his lifetime, but notice what he was able to say in prayer to God. Would you please read the verse?
Sophia: OK. It says, “I will rejoice greatly in your loyal love, for you have seen my affliction, you are aware of my deep distress.”
Michelle: So even though David experienced suffering, he found comfort in knowing that Jehovah saw everything he went through. Do you find that comforting–the thought that Jehovah is aware of everything, even our painful emotions that other humans may not fully understand?
Sophia: Yes, I do.
Michelle: The second beautiful truth is that God will not allow our suffering to go on indefinitely. The Bible teaches that he will soon bring an end to Satan’s wicked rulership. And he will completely undo all of the bad things that have happened, including the things that you and your mother have suffered. May I come back next week and show you why we can be sure that God will soon end all suffering?
Sophia: That sounds good.”

Okay, my immediate response to this whole thing is:

- Sophia is amazingly gullible;
– Michelle’s words and examples are hardly irrefutable proof of anything;
– Since Eve did NOT die when she ate the forbidden fruit, it would appear that Satan was right, God IS a liar; and
– It’s a poor excuse on God’s part that he can’t intervene in human suffering because, for some strange reason, God is letting Satan have a turn at ruling the world.

This is our daily open thread–your thoughts?

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 3rd, 2014: Who Are You Gonna Believe?

On Saturday morning, I was visited again by my (in my opinion as one who had barely woken up) way-too-perky Jehovah’s Witness ‘friend’ from previous visits. (I’m sincerely sorry that I cannot remember her name.) After a fairly brief chat, I was given some new leaflets. The Witness had picked these out particularly for me, based on our last discussion during which I had professed my belief in science vs religion. The leaflet that I decided to start with is entitled “Was Life Created?” An excerpt from the introductory page, prefaced by the question “What do you believe?”:

“Many religious fundamentalists believe that the earth and everything on it was created in six 24-hour days, just a few thousand years ago. Some atheists would have you believe that God does not exist, that the Bible is a book of myths, and that all life is the product of random undirected events.”

Now, right there, I have issues with the statement about atheists: first, note the difference in the wording between the two sentences, i.e., “Many religious fundamentalists believe…” as opposed to “Some atheists would have you believe…” The implications that a) the beliefs of religious fundamentalists/literal Creationists are somehow more valid and earn more respect than the beliefs/non-beliefs of atheists, and b) that atheists want to force people to abandon their religion (whatever flavor it is) seem pretty obvious to me. This inference is made again a little further down the intro page, under the heading, “What is the purpose of this brochure?”:

“It is not the purpose of this material to ridicule the views either of fundamentalists or of those who choose not to believe in God.”

Again, carefully worded, “those who choose not to believe in God”, as if we picked the wrong side, or refused to join their club. They won’t “ridicule the views…of fundamentalists” (even though elsewhere in the introduction it states that religious fundamentalism and atheism are considered to be “opposing ideas”) simply because the fundamentalists believe in a god and his bible. And obviously, by “God” they mean only the god of the Old or New Testament, not the Muslim’s Prophet or any of the other major non-Christian religions of the world.

The intro wraps up with:

“Will you trust the claims of those who say that there is no intelligent Creator and that the Bible is unreliable? [YES!] Or will you examine what the Bible actually says? Which teachings are worthy of your trust, your faith: those of the Bible or those of evolutionists? Why not review the facts?”

The “facts” that are subsequently presented to advance the “intelligent Creator” argument are, oddly enough, all discovered through scientific research: how the planet Earth is in the ideal location to sustain life [sure, life as WE carbon-based oxygen-breathing life forms know it]; how the Earth’s tilt is just right, along with the planet’s speeds of rotation and orbit, to create the ‘ideal’ for human habitation: four seasons and 24-hour days. Also presented as “evidence” of an intelligent Creator are the size of our moon and its distance from the Earth [and here the JWs make Bill O’Reilly look like the idiot that he is, by mentioning that the planet’s tides are affected by the moon); along with the laws of nature and science, i.e., the cycle of precipitation, photosynthesis, your basic Earth Science curriculum, and the multitude of species of animals. All of these scientific laws are indication to the JW’s that a divine hand was involved.

If, as believers such as the JWs think, humans were made in god’s image, I think that that god has a lot of explaining to do. Humans are the only species that is capable of completely ruining the beauty and wonder of our planet’s unique ecosystems, as well as our own sources of food and water. What god would make a species such as ours?

Instead of (and possibly in answer to) the question being “What do you believe?”, I believe that the question should be “What do you KNOW?”

This is our daily open thread–feel free to air your thoughts on, well, anything, including but not limited to Jehovah’s Witnesses (or any other religious group), etc.