Sunday Roast, February 2nd, 2014: Two “Super” Bowls

It’s Super Bowl Sunday (or, as Stephen Colbert has been referring to it, “Superb Owl”), and if you’re couch potatoes like Wayne and I, you have two major viewing choices. One can watch hours on end of pre-game football discussions, the actual Super Bowl game featuring the Denver Broncos vs the Seattle Seahawks, followed by endless post-game analysis,
denver_broncos_horse_logoseattle_seahawks-29136
~ or ~

One can watch hours of cute puppies (and kittens at ‘half-time’) playing faux-football on Animal Planet’s 10th Annual Puppy Bowl. You can meet the entire starting lineup of puppies here.

Puppy Bowl X pre-game warmup (photo credit: DCL)

Puppy Bowl X pre-game warmup (photo credit: DCL)

Or you may have something better to do today.

This is our Sunday open thread–what’re you up to today?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 25th, 2014: Animals, Birds and Kites – Oh My!

As always, The Weather Channel is great for more than just checking the forecast. Since I’m suddenly standing in for Wayne, today’s thread is going to explore a few recent articles from TWC:

First, from “A Race Against Time: Photos Capture Animals Before They Disappear”, by Michele Berger:

“Joel Sartore has ambitious plans: To photograph all 10,000 or so animals currently in captivity before they go extinct. Over the course of nine years, this National Geographic photographer has made great progress, capturing some 3,300 animals to date. Still, he thinks getting the remaining creatures will take the rest of his life — and he’s ok with that because he believes in this project.

It’s called Photo Ark, and Sartore sees it as both a snapshot of our time and as a call to action.” … “We really need to show people that this is a tragedy and it is the issue of our time,” he said. “It is folly to think that we can doom half of all species to extinction and think it won’t harm humanity.”

Among the animals included in the 15-photo slide show is the adorable Coquerel’s sifaka:

Coquerels sifaka (from the Bronx Zoo Gallery)

Coquerels sifaka (from the Bronx Zoo Gallery)

Next, we’re going to the birds with “Stunning Bird Portaits from Around the World”, also by Michele Berger. The 41 photos by Andrew Zuckerman include representations of such oddities as:

~ The Silkie Bantam Chicken, “…one of the few breeds with five toes instead of four.”

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy keepingchickens.com)

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy keepingchickens.com)


~ The Wattled Curassow:
Wattled Curassow (source psms29-com)

Wattled Curassow (source psms29-com)


~ The Lilac-Breasted Roller
Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller


~ And the Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise
Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise

Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise

Finally, apparently I was unaware of the recent week-long international kite festival in parts of India, but there’s a photo gallery of 40 pics to prove it. (Some Bollywood actor is the subject of too many of the photos, but the kites are unusual.)

This is our daily open thread–if you’re somewhere freezing like Wayne and I, stay warm today!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 18th, 2014: Warning: Cuteness Ahead

I’m substituting for Wayne, as he has to go to work today and went to bed early last night. So, be warned: today is going to be a “Way Too Much Cuteness” day. Consider it a palate cleanser to start off your Saturday (or end it, if you show up late.) I’d be interested to know which is your favorite, and why? Plus, since I only included very brief descriptions under each photo, please feel free to make up a caption (or captions) for any or all of the following photos (all of which were downloaded free through bing images):

Ducklings

Ducklings


Lemurs

Lemurs


More Lemurs (Is it me, or does the one on the bottom of the pile have an opposable thumb?)

More Lemurs (Notice the opposable thumb/big toe?)


Loon mom and downy chick

Loon mom and downy chick


Panda mom and baby

Panda mom and baby


Pudu deer and fawn (world's smallest deer)

Pudu deer and fawn (world’s smallest deer)


Wombat baby

Wombat baby


Cheetah mom and cub

Cheetah mom and cub


I just called this one "Party Mice"

I just call this one “Party Mice”

This is our daily open thread–enjoy yourselves today!

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 13th, 2014: Just for Fun

I thought I’d start the week off with some just-plain-silly stuff. It started when, on a couple of totally unrelated threads at Think Progress recently, mention was made of the New York Daily News newspaper. One commenter, in response to another who was using the NYDN as a source for some ‘evidence’, said “The NY Daily News is probably the closest thing to a rag sheet that is published on a daily basis in NYC.” So I says to myself, “hmmm, wonder where Weekly World News is published?”

Well, according to Wikipedia, WWN is no longer published:

“The Weekly World News was a largely fictional news tabloid published in the United States from 1979 to 2007, renowned for its outlandish cover stories often based on supernatural or paranormal themes and an approach to news that verged on the satirical. Its characteristic black-and-white covers have become pop-culture images widely used in the arts. It continues to exist as a website.”

I abandoned my search for lesser rags published in New York City (WWN had been published in Florida, anyway–why am I not surprised? Sorry, Florida!) and headed straight for the WWN website. A couple of “articles” from Friday included a few with sideways pokes at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (and had nothing to do with the GWB!):

First, did you know that the “God particle” was discovered in New Jersey?

“…Physicists have been trying to find the “God particle” (the Higgs boson) for over forty years, so it’s no real surprise that they finally did it. But what IS a surprise is it was found it in an abandoned bank depository in Camden, New Jersey. And it was found by singer-actress, Taylor Momsen…”

““Of course the universe began in New Jersey,” said Governor Chris Christie. “Everyone who lives here has known it all their lives. That’s why so many want to live here. They may not know it, but they are drawn to the universal source. It’s official now – New Jersey is the center of the universe.”

I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to read the rest for yourselves.

This one, titled “Hugging Banned in New Jersey” pokes fun at New Jersey, RWNJs, and Christie:

“We are a no hugging state,” Governor Chris Christie reportedly told reporters yesterday. “If we catch anyone hugging it will be a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 or the second offense and $1,000 for the third. After that, it’s jail.”

“…Christie got the idea from Matawan school district that decided that middle school children shouldn’t hug each other. “It’s not normal or natural,” said school superintendent John Jacobus. “If kids hug, then the next thing you know there having babies and we can’t have that happen in our school.”

“…Governor Chris Christie isn’t budging and it’s not because he “can’t” budge, he just doesn’t want to go back on his decision. “Hey, that’s the new law, get used to it.”

If you wish (proceed at your own risk), you can also check out the “World’s Biggest Butt”, read up on “The Moonshine Diet” (“You can flush out fat fast without pesky dieting or exercise, on the flabulous new Moonshine Diet!), or find out why the “End of the World [was] Postponed.”

Bat Boy, of course, is probably the most famous character(?) from WWN.

"Bat Boy" (photo courtesy of wikipedia/Weekly World News)

“Bat Boy” (photo courtesy of wikipedia/Weekly World News)

They even put together a Bat Boy “ancestral tree” – from wiki:

“According to the Weekly World News, the discovery of Bat Boy’s family tree on a genealogy chart recently stunned evolutionary scientists who used to think the famed imp was a pitiful, one-of-a-kind mutant – but now believe he belongs to a race of creatures who have interacted with humans for at least 400 years. In the tabloid’s account, the chart itself was written on vellum and found in the same Ozark Mountains cave where Dr. Ron Dillon, a biologist, rescued Bat Boy after he was trapped by a falling rock in 1992 (it should be noted, however, that the Ozark Mountains are nowhere near West Virginia). Carbon dating revealed the chart to be over a hundred years old.”

One Bat Boy “article” from April of 2013 teases with “BAT BOY UNCOVERED…Mitch McConnell discovered Bat Boy at a convenience store in Wisconsin.” However, most of the article references a “Mitch O’Connell, not the mutant-but-not-in-the-same-species-as-Bat-Boy Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Turtle/Human Hybrid.) It has not yet been determined whether Bat Boy and Governor Rick Scott (?-FL) share the same DNA; Governor Scott is known to have refused to provide a urine sample for testing.

Hard to tell 'em apart, huh? (photo courtesy of totallylookslike.com)

Hard to tell ‘em apart, huh?
(photo courtesy of totallylookslike.com)

For a few more laughs, check out this Bat Boy photoshop contest at freakingnews.com. And on the WWN website, the brief video montage of “Bat Boy: Going Mutant” “Breaking News” posted by Frank Lake in June of 2013 is fun, too.

This is our daily open thread–try to have a good laugh today!

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 6th, 2014: Odds and Ends

First, the weather: Here in southeastern New York, just a few days after two separate storms brought us 6+ inches of snow apiece, all that’s left of the snow are a few small scattered patches. Sub-frigid temps have given way to, well, right now it’s 55 degrees, according to my computer. Despite overnight temps in the mid-to-upper 40s, a band of freezing rain (which I could hear during one of my ‘up’ phases at around 3:00am) passed through during the night. Tonight, we’ll be dropping back to sub-freezing again. We’ve got some pretty strong wind gusts right now – the wind actually opened our front door a few minutes ago! And in the meantime, other parts of the country will be experiencing killer record-low temps and wind chills. Think warm thoughts, folks!

Second, our neighboring Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT): ICYMI from TP a few days ago, Senator Murphy spent a day with a local homeless man, and his account of the day and the Catch-22 in which so many homeless people are caught up in should be plastered across the country. (Senator Murphy is also one of the few senators who spent a week trying to live/eat on $4.50/day.) Every state should have at least one of their two senators be a hands-on, down in the trenches with the 99%, guy like this. I’m glad that he’s only 40, and should have a good long career as a true public servant ahead of him.

Lastly, to perhaps lift the spirits a bit, here’s The Weather Channel’s Top 100 photos of 2013. Enjoy!

This is our daily open thread–how is the weather affecting you? Speak up, about this or anything else on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 23rd, 2013: Less Than 48 Hours ’til Christmas…

At this point before Christmas during most years, I’ve got everything done with just a few exceptions. This year, however, I still haven’t done any of this:
christmas-ornament-01
~ or this ~
christmas-wrapping-paper-1024x919
~ or this ~

Wrapped Presents

Wrapped Presents


~ or this ~
Baked Cookies

Baked Cookies

Good thing I don’t have to cook Christmas dinner!

This is our daily open thread–how are your Christmas preparations going?

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 16th, 2013: This Day in History

Many famous people were born on December 16th, including:

Catherine of Aragon
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Jane Austen
King Leopold I of Belgium
George Santayana
Noel Coward
Margaret Mead
Arthur C. Clarke
Philip K. Dick
Match Game panelists Patti Deutsch and Joyce Bulifant
Bill Hicks (still miss ya, Bill!)

Some not-so-famous people were also born on December 16th:

Elizabeth “Bessie” Cook, nee Burlington (a.k.a. Grandma)
Jane Elizabeth Sechny
RUCerious

Looks like I’m in very good company!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

HAPPY BIRTHDAYS!

This is our daily open thread–go ahead, talk amongst yourselves while I go back to bed!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 9th, 2013: Minimum Wage Scrooge

Yes, I still occasionally read parts of Newsmax and Moneynews, just so that you won’t have to. You’re welcome.

The Moneynews email subject that caught my eye this time was “Fast-food Workers Rally for Higher Minimum Wage.” I wanted to see how they would spin this issue. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be skewed, with the one notable exception.

“Fast-food workers in hundreds of U.S. cities staged a day of rallies on Thursday to demand higher wages, saying the pay was too low to feed a family and forced most to accept public assistance.

The protests escalated a series of actions at several Walmart stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, seeking to draw attention to workers at the lowest end of the wage scale.

The description of fast-food workers, once viewed mainly as teenagers looking for pocket money or a first job, has changed. Today’s fast-food worker is typically over 20, often raising a child, and 68 percent are the primary wage earners in their families, according to a report by the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley.

About 100 workers in Chicago marched along Michigan Avenue with a large costumed Grinch, chanting: “We can’t survive on $7.25.” Protesters want the hourly U.S. minimum wage raised to $15 from $7.25.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Kizzy Sanders, 30, an employee at a local Popeye’s restaurant, joined about 100 protesters picketing fast-food restaurants in freezing temperatures.

“I love my job, I love the people I work with, but the $7.70 I make does not cut it,” said Sanders, a mother of three. “It doesn’t pay my bills, I can’t buy my kids anything for Christmas. I can’t even celebrate Christmas.”

Thursday’s protests were organized by groups such as “Fast Food Forward” and “Low Pay is Not OK” that have the support of labor union giant Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million members including healthcare, janitorial and security workers.”

“Despite the involvement of organized labor, the protests are focused on wages, not unions, for the moment, said John Logan, a labor studies professor at San Francisco State University’s College of Business.

“The immediate goal is to focus national attention on the impact of poverty-level wages on employees and the negative impact of poverty-level wages for the public and the economy,” Logan said.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and public benefit programs show 52 percent of fast-food workers relying on at least one form of public assistance, between 2007 and 2011, according to the report from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois.”

“Because the current minimum wage, on an inflation-adjusted basis, lags behind those of decades past, the purchasing power of minimum-wage earners has diminished.

Increasing the minimum wage, however, would not reduce poverty, said Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute, because employers will compensate by reducing staff and workers’ hours. Instead, they should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides a small-wage supplement for low-income families in the form of a tax refund, he said. A 2012 study published by the Employment Policies Institute found that states that increase the Earned Income Tax Credit by 1 percent saw a 1 percent drop in state poverty rates.
[Emphasis mine.]

“Others disagree. Christian Dorsey, director of external and governmental affairs for the Economic Policy Institute [the progressive organization with which Employment Policies Institute wants us to be confused], said tax credits should not let employers skimp on wages.

“Businesses have a responsibility to pay workers enough to keep them out of poverty,” Dorsey said. “The idea that we would simply not look at wages is passing off the problem to someone else.”

Yes, Employment Policies Institute, one of soulless lobbyist Rick Berman’s stable of “non-profits.”

Charity Navigator is a website which provides “information and ratings on charities”. Here’s an excerpt from their review of Employment Policies Institute:

Charity Navigator has become aware of the following information in connection with this charity:

During our analysis of this charity’s FYE 2011 Form 990, the document revealed that more than half of the Employment Policies Institute Foundation’s functional expenses were paid to its CEO Richard Berman’s for-profit management company, Berman and Company. The document revealed that, out of total expenses of $2.10 million, $1.17 million were paid to Berman and Company for staff[ing] and operat[ing] the day-to-day activities” of the charity.

Sourcewatch, too, provides lots of information regarding the tangled web of EPI and other Berman & Co. ‘non-profits.’ It’s a sweet, and profitable, arrangement for Berman & Co.

A quick glance at some of the ‘studies’, ‘press releases’ and ‘letters to the editor’ touted on Employment Policies Institute’s home page pretty much sums up whose side they’re on in the employer vs worker fight. And while Berman’s EPI should still be nursing their bruises after the recent thrashing given by Chris Hayes to one of Berman’s minions (who was unable to answer the simple question “how many economists do you have on your staff?”), instead, his “think-tanks” continue to crank out ludicrous reasoning for keeping workers from getting ahead.

It all comes back to what Bill Maher said several weeks ago: “Do you want smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? Because you cannot have both.”

This is our daily open thread–don’t be shy!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 2nd, 2013: Happy As A Pig ‘n’ Sh!t

First, here’s the Happy Pig:

Happy Pig

Happy Pig

Now, here’s the Shit: I received another pamphlet from our friendly neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses. Luckily for you, gentle readers, I have not had the chance (or inclination, yet) to read the whole thing, so I’m limiting this to a few excerpts based on the topic of the pamphlet’s blow-in:

“Can the dead really live again?”

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS[**] “There is going to be a resurrection.” – Acts 24:15, New World Translation[**]
WHAT THAT CAN MEAN FOR YOU
-Comfort when loved ones die – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4
-Freedom from a morbid fear of death – Hebrews 2:15
-A real hope of being reunited with your dead loved ones – John 5:28, 29

CAN WE REALLY BELIEVE WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS? Yes, for at least three reasons:
-God is the Creator of life. The Bible calls Jehovah God “the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9, Acts 17:24, 25) The One who gave life to all living creatures is certainly capable of restoring life to someone who has died.
-God has resurrected humans in the past. The Bible reports eight instances of humans – young, old, male, and female – who were brought back to life on earth. Some had been dead for a short while, but one had been in a tomb for four days! –John 11:39-44
-God is eager to do it again. Jehovah hates death, he views it as an enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) He has “a yearning” to conquer that enemy, to undo death by means of the resurrection. He longs to bring back those who are in his memory and to see them live on earth again.–Job 14:14, 15.

Who will go to heaven, and why? Millions long for life in heaven. Jesus said that his faithful apostles would live there. Before he died, he promised to prepare a place for them with his heavenly Father.–Read John 14:2. Why will people from earth be resurrected to life in heaven? What will they do there? Jesus told his apostles that they would be kings. They will rule over the earth.–Read Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 5:10.

~~~ and the last one, I promise ~~~

Do all good people go to heaven? In most lands, only a few people are rulers. Since Jesus resurrects people to heavenly life so that they can rule over the earth, we would expect those chosen to be few. (Luke 12:32) The Bible says exactly how many will rule with Jesus.–Read Revelation 14:1. Those going to heaven will not be the only ones rewarded. Faithful subjects of Jesus’ Kingdom will enjoy life without end in a restored paradise on earth. (John 3:16 [or, as Wayne and I call it "Johnny on the Spot" - one so often sees cardboard signs with just "JOHN 3:16" held up toward the camera at televised baseball, football, and other sports competitions.]) Some will enter Paradise by surviving the destruction of the present wicked system of things. Others will enter by resurrection.–Read Psalm 37:29; John 5:28, 29

[**] Since the JWs use their own Bible “translation”, I suggest that, if you’re interested, go to biblegateway.com, you can choose which bible flavor you want to see each one’s translation of a particular quotation. Since the choices do NOT include the “New World Translation” indicated above, the links that I used were the American Standard Version. Just keep in mind that the JWs believe that every word in their re-written/re-translated version of the ‘original’ bible (both of which were likely written solely by enterprising males) is factually true, simply because the bible that they wrote says it is.

BTW, I copied (re-typed) the inconsistent all-caps, boldfaces, references, etc., exactly as they were printed in the ‘literature.’

Now you can go back and look at the cute pig again.

This is our daily open thread–please feel free to air your thoughts on pigs, Jehovah’s Witnesses (or any other religious group), etc.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 25, 2013: Monday Mix, FB Edition

Every once in a while I give in and check my Facebook notifications/updates/whatever. Here’s some odds and ends that I felt worth sharing:

A friend who used to work with us posted the first photo, from a Facebook site called Earth Porn. The second photo is from the same site. Check out the site, they have some awesome photos.
alaskan sunset Winter Sunset – Alaska (USA) photo by Ron Perkins

Japanese Maple Tree, Oregon, USA Photo by Peter Lik

Japanese Maple Tree, Oregon, USA Photo by Peter Lik


On the humorous side, our old friend Jim Wolf (Jim Wolf359 from TP) posted this:
How to Cook A Turkey (from Pampered Chef)

How to Cook A Turkey (from Pampered Chef)


Last, I’m proposing a Caption Contest for this shot of Richard Nixon, which was posted by an FB friend who I met at TP. The links that were provided didn’t seem to have anything to do with the actual photograph, so I have been trying to source it, but I can’t find it anywhere.
???

???

This is our daily open thread–got any captions, thoughts, rants, etc.?

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 18th, 2013: Profit Contest to Photo Contest

Even though most of the people who need Obamacare have not yet taken advantage of it, other interests are poised to board the Obamacare money train. The Wall Street Journal’s Howard Gold is encouraging investment in the health care industry. A few snippets:

“This diverse sector, which includes red-hot biotechnology, Big Pharma, medical device makers, hospitals, health insurers, and other services, is profiting from structural shifts far beyond the changes brought in by the Affordable Care Act…In fact, health care stocks may have entered a new secular bull market, which is why you should take some profits on cyclicals and other market-sensitive stocks and reinvest the money into this group.”

“We’re clearly in a favorable environment,” said Andy Acker, manager of Janus Global Life Sciences fund since 2007. “I think this is a question of when this gets resolved, not if,” Acker said. “Millions of people will sign up for health care.”

In an earlier (March 2013) article from conservative moneynews.com, entitled “How Companies are Cashing in on Obamacare”, author Michael Kling wrote:

“Although its critics say Obamacare will increase business costs, some companies are cashing in on the healthcare reform law…CNNMoney reviewed six companies that might reap huge benefits from Obamacare.

Take, for instance, Health Recovery Solutions, a New York City-based start-up that helps hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for readmitting patients. To decrease preventable return visits by Medicare patients, Obamacare levies high cuts to Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that have a certain percentage of these return visits.

Health Recovery Solutions furnishes tablets full of educational videos and information patients can use to care for themselves. Using the tablet, patients send information, such as medications they are taking, to the hospital care team for review.

Eligible, another start-up, takes care of the complex wiring insurers need to quickly answer customer questions about coverage and eligibility, one of the many Obamacare requirements.

GoHealth offers an online tool that enables people to compare health care insurance plans. Consumers can use the platform to enroll in plans or just compare plans before contacting an insurance broker.

QuantiaMD offers a website where doctors can offer presentations, hold private discussions with each other and hold virtual consultations. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies and hospitals sponsor the content on the site.

Obamacare limits the proportion of premium revenue insurers can spend on salaries, overhead and marketing. That’s where Connecture comes in. The Brookfield, Wisc., company provides software that helps insurance companies cut costs through automation. It also helps states with technology needed to create insurance exchanges, another Obamacare requirement.

Another company getting involved with the state exchanges is hCentive, which has built a platform the exchanges can use.

Many of the companies saw their sales jump after the elections. Healthcare companies were not sure Obamacare would be enacted, and state officials were not sure they would still be required to create exchanges by this October…“Many states were waiting to decide to set up their own exchanges — they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen,” Sanjay Singh, an hCentive partner, told CNNMoney.

“they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen” No, they kept HOPING this wouldn’t happen. Because despite their hatred of all things Obama-related, despite all of the conservative hyperbole about “job-killing”, “bankrupting businesses”, “the end of freedom as we know it”, “it’s socialist Obama’s anti-capitalism agenda”, etc., ad nauseum; and despite the 40+ failed efforts by Congressional Republicans to kill Obamacare, every single one of those nay-sayers HAD to realize, deep down, that Obamacare is a boon to the private, capitalistic, for-profit healthcare “industry.” (spit!)

Okay, since you were all good enough to put up with the above drivel, here’s your justly-deserved palate-cleanser…

It’s that time of year again: the National Geographic Photo Contest is open, but only ’til the end of November. I know quite a few of our Critters and Zoosters who should submit a few entries! Here’s last year’s “Nature” category winner, photographed by Ashley Vincent:
busaba-indochinese-tiger_62797_600x450
Here’s two ways to view some or all of the current entries: The Atlantic picked 39 of the photos, and you can just scroll through them. Note that you can also switch from 1024 pixels to 1280 (I chose 1280.) Or you can go directly to the National Geographic 2013 Photo Contest webpage, where there are links to the photos entered to date, as well as links to 2012 winners and other photo galleries. Here’s one of the 2013 entries, by Sam Morris:

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

This is our daily open thread, what do you have to say today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 11th, 2013: Amazing Space

8 New Photos from Chandra Observatory

8 New Photos from Chandra Observatory (photo composite courtesy of NASA)

A few weeks ago, NASA released eight new photographs taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a telescope launched in 1999. According to information from the Chandra website:

“This collection of images represents the thousands of observations that are permanently stored and accessible to the world in the Chandra Data Archive (CDA). This sample showcases the wide range of objects that Chandra has observed during its over 14-year mission, including the remains of exploded stars, cosmic nurseries where stars are being born, and galaxies both similar to our Milky Way and those that are much different. In each of these images, the Chandra data are blue or purple and have been combined with those from other wavelengths.”

The Chandra “Photo Album” offers hundreds of other amazing views into space courtesy of the Chandra telescope. A website that I ran across has more technical information on Chandra’s X-Ray photography, as well as more photos from other space-traveling and land-based telescopes. Images such as these, along with the glorious wonders opened to our view by the Hubble telescope and other sources, give me a vestige of hope that there is, somewhere in all that vastness, at lease one race of intelligent beings who are living in harmony with each other and their planet. I’d hate to think that Terran humans are the pinnacle of Nature’s creations.

This is our daily open thread, say anything!

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 4th, 2013: Bellies Up!

After mulling over possible topics for today’s thread, I decided to dispense with the craziness out there (Rand Paul’s chickenshit non-challenge to a duel with Rachel Maddow was tempting, but…) and just start the week off with:

CUTENESS!

Baby Panda (not my photo)

Baby Panda (not my photo)

surrender to cuddles

Fluff's big belly (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Fluff’s big belly (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Spotted-bellied Fern (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Troi's belly before...

Troi’s big belly before…(photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Troi's belly now (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

…Troi’s big belly now (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

This is our daily open thread — I hope that so much cuteness will help to start Monday off in a cheerful way.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 28th, 2013: Bill Maher: “You Cannot Have Both”

This past Friday night’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”‘s panel consisted of Michael Moore, a surprisingly quiet Al Sharpton, Valerie Plame, and Richard Dawkins. And while the group had some interesting discussions, the best part of the show came in Bill’s soliloquy at the end of the show. Crooks and Liars has the video, but I have borrowed their transcript, here:

MAHER: “Now, when it comes to raising the minimum wage, conservatives always say it’s a non-starter because it cuts into profits. Well, yeah. Of course. Paying workers is one of those unfortunate expenses of running a business… you know, like taxes, or making a product.

If you want to get rich with a tax-free enterprise that sells nothing, start a church.

You might think that paying people enough to live is so self-evident that even crazy people could understand it, but you would be wrong.

Michele Bachmann is not only against raising the minimum wage, she’s against having one at all. She once said “if we took away the minimum wage… we could virtually wipe out unemployment because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”

Put that in your brain and smoke it. You could hire everyone if you didn’t have to pay them. And naturally, Ted Cruz agrees. Ted Cruz thinks it’s a good thing that when his Cuban father came to America he was paid $.50 an hour to work as a dishwasher, before becoming Charo.

When did the American dream become this pathway to indentured servitude? This economic death spiral where workers get paid next to nothing, so they can only afford to buy next to nothing, so businesses are forced to sell cheaper and cheaper shit?

Walmart employees can only afford to shop at Walmart. McDonalds workers can only afford to eat at McDonalds. And Hooters waitresses have to wear shirts they grew out of years ago.

Even if you’re not moved by the “don’t be such a heartless prick” argument, consider the fact that most fast food workers, whose average age by the way now is 29, we’re not talking about kids, are on some form of public assistance. Which is not surprising. When even working people can’t make enough to live, they take money from the government in the form of food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance, day care. This is the welfare that conservatives hate.

But they never stop to think, if we raised the minimum wage and forced McDonalds and Walmart to pay their employees enough to eat, we the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack.

This is the question the right has to answer. Do you want smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? Because you cannot have both.

If Col. Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to, and I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.”

Bravo, Bill – hear, hear!

O/T: Today my mum would have turned 93 – Happy Birthday, Mum, wish you were here.Scan10002

This is our daily open thread, got anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss?

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 21st, 2013: Mixed Nuts

First, Foreign Policy Magazine got a little ‘spacy’ towards the end of the shutdown, with author Michael Peck penning a pair of fantasy articles titled “The Empire Shuts Down” and “One Starship to Rule Them All”

Next, this piece from moneynews.com, features the always-wild-looking “economist” Jim Cramer prognosticating – and perhaps precipitating, if anyone pays attention to him – the shakiness of the dollar. An excerpt:

As the world laughs at Washington’s antics, CNBC’s Jim Cramer says smart money should look for any possible means to flee the dollar.

The United States is “a laughing stock around the world, maybe worse than Italy in some ways when I look at benchmarks,” he said on Squawk Box. “We have obviously lost the faith of a lot of countries.”

If there is a way to take your money out of this country, Cramer suggests putting it in Germany. If he were in the shoes of China, Kuwait, Brazil or Japan, “I would do it immediately,” he claimed.

Third, from Newsmax.com, Amy Woods has a piece on another peanut gallery member: “Sen. Coburn: ‘We’re Drunk’ on Government Spending.” Here’s a bit:

“Special-interest groups, and not the tea party, caused the 17-day government shutdown, Sen. Tom Coburn said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We didn’t do anything except create a big mess in Washington, and I’m not so inclined to think it was the tea party as much as it was outside interest groups and a few individuals within our party that took advantage of that situation,” Coburn said. All the bickering about the Affordable Care Act distracted Americans from the fact the government spends too much, he added.

Next, an October 19th article from Alternet brings us “Right-Wing Lunacy Never Sleeps: 10 Nutty, Vile and Absurd Utterances From the Fringe This Week.” In this round-up, Justice Antonin Scalia reaffirms his racism, Tony Perkins babbles some nonsense about Democrats wanting a theocracy, Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan continue to howl in the wilderness, and more.

Finally, also courtesy of Newsmax, the other gum-flapping self-important Limbaugh, David, proves that he is just as delusional as his louder brother in “GOP Poised for Post-Shutdown Comeback”:

“Obamacare represented not only one of many policy setbacks under Obama but also the ever-acquisitive government’s consumption of another one-sixth of the formerly capitalist and robust American economy.”

[That's a load of horseshit, David, enough with the fake "government takeover of healthcare" bogeyman. Last I looked, the U.S. is still a capitalist nation, and the last time we had a "robust American economy" was under a Democrat, President Bill Clinton.]

“Then Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee ratcheted it up a notch, going to the Senate to call Obama out on his destructive agenda and promising to do everything they can to defund and derail Obamacare. Cruz’s 20-plus-hour floor speech was a seminar in the eloquent communication of conservative principles.”

["...eloquent communication of conservative principles"? 'Green Eggs and Ham'? I don't think that David Limbaugh (or his louder brother, for that matter) watched the entirety of Cruz's rambling and sometimes incoherent "seminar."]

“Just as my brother, Rush, gave millions of conservatives hope through his radio show by validating the legitimacy of their beliefs, Cruz, Paul, and Lee let us know that we have people in office fighting for us, as well.

“I reject the conventional wisdom that Cruz and his warriors hurt our cause by increasing the likelihood of our defeat in 2014. To the contrary, they enhanced our cause by energizing the base and fighting. And they laid serious gloves on Obama; his approval rating has never been lower. They also gave him an opportunity, which he fully embraced, to demonstrate his mean-spiritedness, his pettiness, and his dishonesty for all to see.

“The shutdown was not the disaster he promised any more than sequestration has been; he was hyper-partisan and gratuitously punitive during the ordeal; and his egregious misrepresentations about Obamacare were manifesting themselves throughout.”

[Sorry, but to Rush Limbaugh, the word "hope" is part of a punchline, certainly not something that Rush ever gave to his Rushbots. You can "reject conventional wisdom" all you want, but that doesn't mean that conventional wisdom, in this case, is wrong. Obama's approval rating is currently around 50%, according to a recent Rasmussen poll; on the other hand, according to the Gainesville Times, a new poll puts Congress's approval rating at an all-time low at 5%. I'm not sure exactly what planet David Limbaugh, along with the other mixed nuts listed above, inhabits, but it must be a particularly miserable place to dwell.]

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, get cracking!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 14th, 2013: More KXL BS

Going through my emails, one from moneynews.com (the $$ division of Newsmax.com) caught my eye: “Pickens: Keystone Pipeline Would Make OPEC Obsolete” Huh?

But first, in an earlier, related article by John Morgan, titled “Steve Forbes: Build the Keystone Pipeline and Frack, Baby, Frack”, failed Presidential hopeful Steve Forbes lies about the proposed pipeline’s safety:

Forbes magazine editor Steve Forbes, a stalwart defender of the Keystone XL pipeline, says approving the pipeline would actually help prevent oil spills, not cause more environmental damage, and that fracking is a key element of America’s energy future.

“If you don’t approve pipelines, we’re going to be moving more and more oil on trains, which is just begging for accidents,” he told Yahoo.

Forbes maintained the Keystone pipeline would create 20,000 jobs, more than some other estimates. The fate of the proposed pipeline, which would push an estimated 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast, may be decided in a final ruling from the White House by year-end.

Forbes noted that fracking is boosting local economies in some areas. “Because of fracking, Pennsylvania is prospering, towns are moving up — areas that had been depressed before.” By contrast, upstate New York, where fracking is not permitted, “looks more and more like East Germany before the Wall fell,” Forbes said.

Forbes, CEO of Forbes Media and a staunch Republican, said a big problem with U.S. energy policy is that President Barack Obama “does not like oil, gas or coal.” “He seems to like windmills, a nice medieval technology,” Forbes said.

“The inconvenient truth is that we have not had an increase in temperatures in 15 or 16 years even though we are pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Mr. Forbes, you are delusional. An oil corporation with a history of leaks and spills is going to build a pipeline that is so amazingly safe that it will actually “prevent” oil spills? And, while rail transport may not be ideal, one can count on one hand the number of rail accidents involving oil (my apologies to the victims of the accident in Quebec.) How many spills have Keystone and other oil corporations already caused, and are still trying to clean up? And for the record, upstate NY looks pretty much the same as it always has, thankyouverymuch. Nice Gore-bashing at the end, Mr. Forbes, stay classy.

Okay, now fast-forward back to “Pickens: Keystone Pipeline Would Make OPEC Obsolete” ~

From Friday, October 11th, an excerpt from an article by Dan Weil:

The Keystone XL oil pipeline would eliminate the United States’ dependence on OPEC, says energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens.

“Canadians say they have 250 billion barrels [of oil]. That’s exactly what the Saudis claim they have,” he tells CNBC. “You’re sitting there with the same amount of oil available to the United States from Canada . . . as [from] Saudi Arabia.”

“You could make them [OPEC] obsolete two or three different ways, and that [Keystone] is one of them.”

The Keystone pipeline would run from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama must decide whether the pipeline can be built.

Pickens would like to see an oil transportation system combining the United States, Canada and Mexico.

As United States energy output, we are on pace to overtake Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas and may already have done so, according to The Wall Street Journal.”

Okay, so (maybe) Canada has the same amount of oil as Saudi Arabia. But both are sold on the world market, so it’s not like the U.S. is getting a discount from Canada (at least not that I’ve heard or read.) But let’s consider the real concrete difference: Saudi oil is NOT being transported straight through the “heartland” of the U.S. The inevitable spill(s) along an almost 1200-mile pipeline would cause an environmental disaster for the local wildlife, ecosystem, and humans. If the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies the drinking water for millions of American citizens, became contaminated, those millions of people would be at risk. In the article, Mr. Pickens “explains” (maybe ‘complains’ would have been a better word?) that the ‘U.S. Navy protects the Strait of Hormuz so that 17 million barrels of oil travels through it a day.’ Since I’m sure that the U.S. Navy presence in the Strait of Hormuz is for more than just keeping the oil flowing, if his point is that we’re wasting taxpayer money by being there, that dog won’t hunt. The U.S. will always have its fingers in the Middle East pie. What price tag would you put on the lives of millions of citizens? Oh, BTW, Mr. Pickens, what are those other “different ways to make OPEC obsolete”?

Note that neither Mr. Pickens nor Mr. Forbes mentioned renewable energy sources.

Now…for some of the riper turds from the shitstorm of comments after the article:

“The MESSIAH is far too concerned with MAKING ALL OF US HURT, to be bothered with being a LEADER. Like MICHELLE, he wants all of us to suffer and become third-world surfs like she sees us and he wants us to be. Neither will be happy until they see the muslim emblem replace our stars and stripes. Keystone is very possible, but we need to get congress to grow up and start doing what they were elected to do…. the OATH they all took..!!!!!!”

“I know former president Jiminy Carter is in the pocket an Arab emirate, and Slick Willie Clinton is in everyone’s pockets, but how or why does Obama not want to get ahead. The only explanation is that he wants the American middle class to fail first. We are being betrayed by a failing presidency.”

“If the Fed Govt. would open Keystone which is by far safer than Obama’s/Warrens Oil Train that hauls hundreds of thousands of gal. of oil through all the cities and town to the refineries and makes an extra $10.00 a barrel more than the pipeline transportation.Sure you could have a pipeline spill but the technology is much better now and they can turn the valve of.”

And my personal favorite:
“This muslim Islamic puke doesn’t want the pipeline because right now we are supporting the Arabs with our money to buy oil at a premium price, and then we go to the gas station and buy the gas from them again and they make more money off of us. This Hitler pig just wants us to support them and the hell with us here. We need millions of good jobs here and this pig gives everything back to them and our country goes down in flames just like the demoncrap pigs have done with Detroit, they will do with our entire country and then the Islamic murdering pigs come in and take us over and anyone that does not fall to islam, well they will be beheaded, that’s how that cult of pigs deal with what they call infedels. Well, I say….screw them, I am a Christian and been that way all my life and I’ll stay that way.
so go screw you Hitler moron!!!!!!!!!!!”

I’d put a pretty picture up to cleanse your visual palate, but this is already too long. Sorry!

Open Thread – so, what else is new?

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 7th, 2013: All the Crazy That Fits

It’s been a while since I put on my hip waders and stepped into Newsmax, so here’s a few gems:

From “Rev. Billy Graham Prepares ‘Perhaps … My Last Message’” by David A. Patton:

“In an exclusive interview, the Rev. Billy Graham tells Newsmax that President Obama’s “hope and change” mantra is nothing more than a cliché and warns that the nation faces increasing threats to civil and religious liberties from its government.

Graham, who is preparing for possibly his last crusade, this time via video, said America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

“Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles,” Graham wrote in response. “‘Hope and change’ has become a cliché in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change from what God has blessed,” he stated, an obvious reference to President Obama’s campaign motto.

“Our country is turning away from what has made it so great,” he continued, “but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; he knows our hearts need transformation.” ~~~

Many believing Christians believe in a coming Armageddon, a final battle between good and evil prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Graham tells Newsmax it is not wise to “speculate” about the dates of such a battle, but he adds that the Bible says that there “will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord.”

“I believe all of these signs are evident today,” Graham wrote, adding that “the return of Christ is near.

“Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming,” he says.”

Next, from “Rove: Obama Wants to ‘Break the Republicans’” by Amy Woods:

“Republican strategist Karl Rove on Sunday described President Barack Obama’s behavior throughout the budget showdown as “stubborn obstructionism” whose goal is to “get more money and break the Republicans.”

“The stubborn obstructionism of the president … has a purpose, which is to try and get the Congress to agree to the Senate Democrats’ spending number, which is $91 billion bigger than the House, and bust the sequester, and end the 2011 spending agreements,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is attempting to put the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling and, in fact, naming the amount of the debt ceiling on the Congress and not on himself.”

Third, from “Rand Paul: Democrats’ Stubbornness Keeping Government Closed” by Sandy Fitzgerald:

“Paul denied that House Republicans led to the shutdown by refusing to fund the government.

“The House Republicans said they would fund all of government, and they did,” Paul said. “They funded all of government short of one program. So they really were never wanting to shut down government over this, they were wanting to fund government, and then have a debate.”

He further blamed Obama for his refusal to negotiate for the shutdown.

“When you say the president wants 100 percent of Obamacare or he will shut down the government, that’s exactly what happened,” said Paul. “If he [Obama] doesn’t get 100 percent of his way – his way or the highway – then they won’t do any spending bills that don’t include everything that he wants. That’s him unwilling to negotiate, that’s him being unwilling to compromise.”

Had enough? How about one more? From “Rep. Graves: Obama To Blame if Country Defaults” by Amy Woods:

“Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Sunday the party is “united” in its belief the government should re-open and negotiations with Democrats should continue to avoid a possible economic default over the debt ceiling.

“We have had a tremendous fight over keeping the government open and protecting Americans from Obamacare,” Graves said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no reason to default. The president’s the only one demanding default right now.”

Sorry, but I have to throw this last link in, just for laughs: Another one by Bill Hoffman, “From Senate to Center Stage: Fred Thompson Makes Broadway Debut”. The author of the piece completely omits any mention of Thompson’s disastrous run for the Presidency, or the fact that Thompson’s most recent “acting” gig has been on ‘Reverse-Mortgage’ commercials.

This is our Open Thread. Have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 30th, 2013: “UBUNTU”

I know that Wayne posted this on yesterday’s Sunday Roast, but it bears another look – especially in light of the myriad inhumane arguments, diatribes, and lies rising to a cacophonic crescendo over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Just look at so many of the self-serving and ignorant comments on Think Progress’s various threads about the ACA. It’s getting to the point where I think I’d rather live in a more simple society where greed and selfishness are not idealized.
ubuntu

These children put the childish “adults” running/ruining our country to shame. It seems that those who supposedly revere our founding fathers have forgotten one of the earliest ideals of this once-great country, as depicted in the Great Seal of the United States:
Great Seal of the United States

“E Pluribus Unum”: “Out of many, one.”

“Ubuntu”: “I am because we are.” Even those children understand the basic concept of what a workable society should be, and are living it. Why the fuck can’t we?

This is our daily open thread. I’m totally disgusted – how about you?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 23rd, 2013: Ignorance is…Ignorant

I wasn’t planning to go to the pharmacy counter at our local A&P grocery store the other day, but I needed some Mucinex and, because somehow weird people might make meth out of it, I had to take a card from the shelf hook and bring it to the pharmacist. Despite standing more than the required 4 feet away – for privacy purposes (4 feet = ‘cone of silence’?) – I caught quite a bit of the conversation between a customer and the pharmacist. The beginning of their discussion was about a delay in getting the man’s medication, so the pharmacist offered to give him several pills to tide him over. The man was grumpy about the whole thing, but eventually accepted the pills, and I thought “finally, my turn.” No such luck.

Their conversation then turned to ‘Obamacare’ and, although they lowered their voices a tad, the bits that I overheard were the usual drivel: “it’s just another step toward socialized medicine”, “it’s insane”, “nobody knows what’s in the law”, “socialized medicine is the WORST!” (those last two were from the pharmacist herself), and so on. While I endured about five minutes of waiting for their fear-fest to end, I debated about interrupting to try to inform them; however, since I, along with Wayne and his mother, are regulars at this store, I didn’t really want to start a fight. By this time I had already been joined by another customer waiting outside the cone of silence–luckily it was one of the nice women from my vet’s office, so I turned to her and muttered “I’m going to slap them both soon.”

Just a few days before this, I took advantage of one of the ACA’s rules that had already taken effect: I had my annual physical. No co-pay for the visit; no co-pay for the bloodwork; no co-pay for the colonoscopy that my doctor told me to get; no co-pay for the mammogram that I need to schedule. In addition, several months ago Wayne and I both received checks from United Healthcare because they did not comply with the 20/80 rule about how the insurance companies spend our/our employers’ premiums.

It just pisses me off that neither the angry customer or the pharmacist, in the course of their conversation, ever thought to admit that one of them should actually look into what the law is about. I would have thought that the pharmacy, since it will likely be affected by some of the new rules that go into effect on October 1st, would have studied up on Obamacare, or what New York State is doing to implement the newest regulations. Unfortunately, these two are amongst the millions of people who would rather bitch and moan about what they don’t know instead of trying to find answers. Anyone with a computer can do a search for information, starting with the White House’s website itself.

Ignorance is not bliss…it is a decision to remain uninformed.

This is our Open Thread. What would you like to talk about?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 16th, 2013: Monday Medley

As you are all aware, I love going to The Weather Channel online — not just to find out the local forecast, but for their unusual variety of photo galleries and and links to other interesting and frequently educational stories and news.

Today’s crop includes:

- updates on the Voyager 1 probe (and be sure to scroll down for links to space photos from NASA’s Spitzer telescope, and photos of a newborn star from a Chilean telescope.)

- Photos of recent tornadoes, including (but not limited to) several photos taken last week from Kenosha, Wisconsin.

- Photos of lightning storms – check out two in particular that I liked, one called “Lightning Under the Stars” and one called “Fire In The Sky.”
Lightning_weather_Wallpaper_hflv9

- Photo gallery of the “10 Longest Bridges In the U.S.

- Photo gallery of “12 Spectacular Castles of the World

The Bojnice Castle in Bojnice, Slovakia

The Bojnice Castle in Bojnice, Slovakia

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy the views!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 7th, 2013: Today in History

History.com is an interesting place, full of fun facts to know and tell.

For instance, on September 7th, 1776, the first submarine was employed in warfare. It is amazing to me that “submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel in the early 17th century…” Naturally, it was an American who first thought of using a submarine in naval combat:

“David Bushnell, an American inventor, began building underwater mines while a student at Yale University. Deciding that a submarine would be the best means of delivering his mines in warfare, he built an eight-foot-long wooden submersible that was christened the Turtle for its shape. Large enough to accommodate one operator, the submarine was entirely hand-powered. Lead ballast kept the craft balanced.

Donated to the Patriot cause after the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, Ezra Lee piloted the craft unnoticed out to the 64-gun HMS Eagle in New York Harbor on September 7, 1776. As Lee worked to anchor a time bomb to the hull, he could see British seamen on the deck above, but they failed to notice the strange craft below the surface. Lee had almost secured the bomb when his boring tools failed to penetrate a layer of iron sheathing. He retreated, and the bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to either the Eagle or the Turtle.

During the next week, the Turtle made several more attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River, but each time it failed, owing to the operator’s lack of skill. Only Bushnell was really able to competently execute the submarine’s complicated functions, but because of his physical frailty he was unable to pilot the Turtle in any of its combat missions. During the Battle of Fort Lee, the Turtle was lost when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.

Despite the failures of the Turtle, General George Washington gave Bushnell a commission as an Army engineer, and the drifting mines he constructed destroyed the British frigate Cereberus and wreaked havoc against other British ships. After the war, he became commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at West Point.”

"Turtle" submarine (photo courtesy of navy.mil)

“Turtle” submarine (photo courtesy of navy.mil)

120 years later, another engineering first occurred: an electric car became the first automobile to win the first auto race in the United States:

“On September 7, 1896, an electric car built by the Riker Electric Motor Company wins the first auto race in the United States, at the Narragansett Trotting Park–a mile-long dirt oval at the state fairgrounds that was normally used for horse racing–in Cranston, Rhode Island. Automobile companies sponsored the race to show off their newfangled electric-, steam-, and gas-powered vehicles to an awestruck audience. The carmakers’ gimmick worked: About 60,000 fairgoers attended the event, and many more people read about it in newspapers and magazines.

Seven cars entered the race. Along with the Riker Electric, there were five internal-combustion cars and one other battery-powered machine, this one built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company. The race began slowly (“Get a horse!” the spectators shouted as the automobiles wheezed at the starting line), but the Riker soon pulled ahead and won the race easily, finishing its five laps in about 15 minutes. The other electric car came in second, and a gas-powered Duryea took third.”

Inventor Riker in his electric car (photo courtesy of wheels.blogs.nytimes.com)

Inventor Riker in his electric car (photo courtesy of wheels.blogs.nytimes.com)

Considering the fact that electric cars have been around since 1896, one has to wonder what our world would have been like now if electric cars became the standard of the automobile industry. Unfortunately for all of us, the internal-combustion engine eventually prevailed, and we – humans, the environment, the planet – are all suffering because of it.

This is our Open Thread. Wonder what will happen today that will eventually become “This Day In History”?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 2nd, 2013: Whose American Dream?

On a weekend which is supposed to celebrate the lowly worker and his/her hard-fought-for rights, and less than a week after Republicans refused to participate in the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, hard-core conservatives gathered in Florida to “Defend” a much different “Dream.”

Most Americans, like King, might describe the American Dream as one of fairness, an America where hard work, thriftiness, integrity, compassion, and sharing were among the most admirable characteristics. Most Americans dream of a life of somewhat limited goals, i.e., a nice house in a decent neighborhood, enough earnings to perhaps travel, to afford a few little luxuries, indulge in a hobby – generally, to be content and free from everyday financial worry.

Others trivialize both this type of American Dream and the dreamers who dream it, and hold in contempt those who cannot, through no fault of their own, achieve such a minor goal. To them, the American Dream is one of unfettered greed, and those who do not dream ‘big’ are not worthy of their consideration, let alone assistance. And these dreamers of greed went to Florida to “Defend The American Dream.”

Yes, the “Defending The American Dream Summit” was held in Orlando this past weekend, sponsored by your friendly neighborhood free-market-unregulated-capitalism group “Americans For Prosperity”, along with such proud bastions of integrity as The Blaze, Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine, and Altria. Who, you might ask (as I did) is Altria? From their website:

“For more than 180 years, Altria’s companies have built some of the best-known brands in the world – Marlboro, Copenhagen, Skoal and Black & Mild – that today lead their respective categories.”

Yeah, big tobacco.

The only sponsor that may be non-partisan/bipartisan, (based on its client list), is Tray, Inc., a marketing firm.

From “About The Summit”:

“In this banner event, free-market champions from Main Street to Capitol Hill come together for an unforgettable weekend with a shared desire to advance the time-honored ideals of economic freedom.

All around us a battle of ideas rages, and the very fabric of American prosperity is under attack. Now more than ever, we must be alert, involved, and engaged in the fight for freedom and liberty.”

The group of speakers touted include some of our favorite rabid righties: Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ron Johnson, Governor Rick Perry, Michelle Malkin, Governor Voldemort Rick Scott, and total whack-job David Horowitz – more on him later.

From the Summit Agenda, some of the “Defending The Dream” Summit Breakout Sessions”:
-Bully on the Playground: Beat Back the Bureaucrats (Policy Session)
-Get Past the Gotchas: Staying in Control (Social Media & Messaging Session)
-Medicaid Expansion: Breaking the Bank While Cheating the Poor (Policy Session)
-Freedom in Decline: How Big Government is Ruining Your Future (Youth Oriented Session)
-The Green Monster: Subsidizing Failure in Renewable Energy (Policy Session)

One of the “exhibitors” at the DTD Summit is Go For The Heart – yeah, I never heard of it either. The website says ‘About’ itself:

“Go For the Heart, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation
dedicated to defending the principles of a free society
and to training conservative activists, strategists,
legislators and candidates in the art of political war.”

Its ‘Mission Statement’:

“Conservatives do not have a response to the attacks leveled at them during the Election Cycle as the “party of the rich” and “the oppressors of women, minorities and the poor.” Go For The Heart will equip and empower elected officials, candidates, campaign professionals, grassroots activists, and the conservative youth with the messaging tools to blunt the baseless attacks by Liberals and to be successful in winning elections for conservatives, whether Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans or Independents.”

Guess who seems to be in charge at Go For the Heart? Well, the “Go For The Heart in A Nutshell” video features David Horowitz – as do the downloadable publications offered. Yes, David Horowitz, again. [NOTE: I did not have the stomach to watch the video - do you?]

While there has been little reporting on what each speaker said, that little is enough to show just how extreme and divided the speakers and other conservatives really are. Marco Rubio received mixed greetings due to his lack of Tea Party purity over immigration, as reported by The Washington Post as well as at Breitbart.com:

From Breitbart: “Heckling calls of “no amnesty” and “Secure the border” were heard around the room and throughout Rubio’s presentation. In fact, calls of “traitor” were even heard in some corners of the audience. The catcalls proved that few were pleased with Mr. Rubio.”

But, again, that pesky David Horowitz delivered the most ironically delusional fantasy that I’ve heard in a while, calling the president “…the most brazen and compulsive liar to ever occupy the White House…”

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black…It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”

This is no “American Dream” that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity is trying to “defend” – this is any sane American’s nightmare.

This is our daily open thread — go ahead, start your rants!

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 26th, 2013: “…Chad Everett?”

Way back when Comedy Central was just starting out as The Comedy Channel, The Higgins Boys and Gruber was one of the fledgling comedy shows (along with Short Attention Span Theater, hosted by a very young Jon Stewart, and Mystery Science Theater 3000* aka MST3K, with the inimitable Joel Hodgson.)   [*FYI, good news for MST3K fans at this link.]

One of the sketches on The Higgins Boys and Gruber that Wayne and I always remembered – well, besides the “Sex Survey” sketch – was their game-show spoof “$99,000 Pyramid.” They’re down to the last category in the Pyramid, and the clock is ticking down while one contestant is giving the other clues like “stars”, “suns”, “comets”, etc. The clock runs out while the contestant sputters without an answer. The host says to the disappointed contestant, “Now wait, before you turn around…what if I said…Chad Everett?” The contestant, who obviously had a light bulb go on inside his head, nods and responds with the correct answer, “Things in the Universe?

[...smooth segue...]

So here’s a fabulous photo of another one of those “Things in the Universe”, the “Cinderella’s Slipper Galaxy”, part of a ‘space photo of the day‘ series [scroll down past the picture on the link for hundreds more amazing photos, as well as commentary about the photo] from wired.com. Slate’s Phil Plait wrote about it back on April 2nd, and apparently one of Plait’s Twitter followers suggested the “Cinderella’ Slipper” name.

Cinderella's Slipper Galaxy--Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Hayes

Cinderella’s Slipper Galaxy–Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Hayes

I like what Phil Plait says at the end of his article:

“I find it fascinating that the Universe is so accommodating to our inquisitive nature. It leaves clues everywhere about itself, and all you need to learn about it is a bit of math and physics, technology, and above all curiosity. With those features in combination, the entire cosmos can be revealed.”

This is our daily open thread — talk away now, don’t be shy!

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 19th, 2013: From Baseball to “Cracker”

It’s a good thing I was paying attention during the Mets game today, otherwise I’d have had to think of something else to write about.

The Mets were playing the San Diego Padres, and Keith Hernandez, announcer for the Mets and California native, was talking about the California state flag with, as Keith said, the grizzly bear as the state’s official animal. I wasn’t quite sure if it was a grizzly, so I decided to look up the official state animals and, sure enough, Keith was right…
Flag-of-California

…and here we are.

On the “State Mammals” list from statesymbolsusa.org, poor Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Rhode Island don’t even have their own state animals (mammal or otherwise); a couple of states didn’t have photos/videos of their state mammals, so I have provided them.

New Hampshire's official State Dog, the Chinook

New Hampshire’s official State Dog, the Chinook

 

Washington's official "State Endemic Mammal", the Olympic Marmot

Washington’s official “State Endemic Mammal”, the Olympic Marmot

The list is fun to delve into for us animal lovers, and for history buffs, too – after all, a state wouldn’t pick an official animal that wasn’t integral to the history and development of that state.

I noticed that several states have horses as either the official state animal, or in a separate official ‘State Horse’ category. When I was little, horses were my first love, then dogs – it took a while for me to get to cats. I have yet to pore through some of more intriguing and unusual official state dogs. But I digress.

Zooey, whatever you say about Idaho, they’ve got the best State Horse, the Appaloosa. I always found them fascinating, not only because no two are alike, but because the foals are born dark brown/black and develop their spots later.

Appaloosa mare and foal

Appaloosa mare and foal

Appaloosa colt

Appaloosa colt

What suddenly caught my eye among the state horses was the “Florida State Heritage Horse” – the “Florida Cracker Horse.”
According to the website, “Florida designated the Florida cracker horse (or Marshtackie) as the official state heritage horse in 2008 (expires July 1, 2018 unless renewed).”

A handy video explains the history of the Florida Cracker Horse: as with many early American horses, their ancestors came over with Spanish explorers, including Ponce de Leon. After roaming wild for generations after the Spanish left, the horses were utilized as part of Florida’s overall agricultural development, and were essential to their cattle ranching industry. According to the video, the Florida Cracker Horse was named after:

“Florida cowboys, nicknamed ‘Crackers’ because of the sound of their whips cracking in the air.”

Hmmm…”Florida”…”Cracker“…where have we heard a kerfuffle over the word ‘cracker‘ recently? Oh, yeah, that travesty of justice in which the murder of an unarmed 17-year-old black teen was turned into a distracting and disgusting game of ‘Who’s the Real Racist?’ (Sigh)

This is our daily open thread — Sorry for the rant. Enjoy the animals!

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 12th, 2013: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Twenty-five years ago this month, I went to the Women’s Health Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, NY, to have my tubes tied.

Wayne and I were planning to get married in October that year, and had decided that, since neither of us felt that we had the temperament to raise children, having my tubes tied was the best route to go. I had been on the Pill off and on for about 10 years, and didn’t want to be exposed to its possibly harmful side effects anymore.

Even back then, as a fully-grown 32-year old adult, at a facility which catered to both happily pregnant women and unhappily pregnant women and teens seeking abortions, the doctors assumed, despite my protestations, that I might change my mind. They insisted that I have the type of tubal ligation which could be undone, even though they admitted that this procedure was more painful than the no-going-back type (they were definitely right about the pain!) That was the first time in my adult life that a decision about my body and reproductive choice was forced upon me by others.

That seems like ages ago now; but it also seems like ages ago (instead of a mere 17 months) that I began writing about the Republican War on Women (see here, here, and here), and in the meantime the suppression of women’s rights by Republicans just keeps getting worse.

This year, the main spotlight has been on Texas, where it took two “Special Sessions” of their legislature to pass a strict anti-abortion bill that couldn’t get passed in their regular legislative session. The only good thing that resulted from this extended knock-down drag-out fight was that it made a political star of State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose tenacious example and amazing filibuster brought thousands of Texans and millions of American women together in support of both Wendy and women’s rights.

Since then, however, more states have jumped on the he-man-woman-haters-club bandwagon. North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory, after promising during his campaign that he would not sign any new abortion regulations, went ahead and did so. Then, adding insult to injury, he offered women protesting outside of his mansion a plate of cookies.

After that, Iowa is now contemplating a bill banning what’s called “telemedicine abortion”, where the doctor can prescribe the abortion pill to a woman online rather than in the doctor’s office.

And most recently, despite the legislation’s failure to pass in Georgia’s legislative session, Governor Nathan Deal(R) “vowed to use his executive power to enact it anyway.”

Lastly, getting back to Texas:

On the final day of the second session, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) — the only Senate Democrat who supported the recently approved omnibus anti-abortion bill — filed a measure to require women to complete a mandatory adoption certification course before they may seek an abortion. Lucio has suggested he will attempt to keep pushing that measure during the third session.

It’s hard to find a current answer to ‘how many states now have strict anti-abortion laws?”, but according to answerbag.com (from 2010):

Thirty-eight states have laws that prohibit abortions after a specific point in the pregnancy, except in cases where the late-term abortion might save the woman’s life or protect her health. Sixteen states have laws in effect that do not allow for late-term abortions.

And, according to religioustolerance.org:

At least 16 states still have pre-1973 anti-abortion laws on the books even though they are clearly unconstitutional and nullified under Roe v. Wade.”

Will the attack on women’s reproductive rights ever end? When will Republican women wake up and realize just how much Republican men despise them, want to keep women second-class citizens, and will do anything to control their reproductive health and rights? And when will male Democrats grow a collective pair and denounce Republican men as the ignorant, greedy, hate-filled, misogynistic bullies that they are?

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind?