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

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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 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; Friday April 4 2014; Headlines

Sometimes the headlines say it all. Following are a handful of news ‘headlines,’ links included, that just sort of showed up within the last few hours. E. Pluribus Fiveum (or something close to that. Curiously, there’s not much need to read beyond the headlines, as each pretty much spouts the obvious. No surprises, I guess, but still one’s gotta ask: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE IN AMURKKKA? How far into the mire can we sink — before we die?

Wish I knew. Anyway, take a peek:

Fox Guest Thinks Ft. Hood Shooting Is The Perfect Time To Smear Welfare Recipients

Alabama House passes resolution requesting constitutional convention to ban marriage equality

Allen West Links Obama Comments About Putin To Ft. Hood Murders

Sen. Moran performs ultimate in constituent services by reading Charles Koch’s op-ed on Senate floor

NC GOPer Tells 6th-grade Student: Gay Marriage Is Like ‘A Man Marrying A Dog’

Then there’s the OTHER side of life, best exemplified thus:

Skylar; 4-2-2014That little feller is my grandson. He’s already a week or two past four months of age, and even though he’s cool as a cucumber, little does he know that already he’s doomed to have to deal with, as he grows older day by week by month by year, each and every shred of the STUPIDITY!! embedded in each and all of those headlines above. One can only dare wonder why that is? What the [add favorite expletive here] is wrong with US, with We the People?

On the other hand and in backward glance, yep, I was born just shy of eleven months after Pearl Harbor, and the day I took my first breath there were thousands dying on Guadalcanal, thousands more in North Africa, and who knows where else. And when I was the same age as the little fella above — in early March, 1943 — I suppose the headlines weren’t a whole lot more encouraging than any of them are today.

The beat goes on.

Brings up one more question. The Biggie. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US?? Seventy-plus years down the road and WE are still as STUPID as WE were the day I took my first breath? I mean, really . . . etc.

Yeah, well, OK, so it snowed here today. Crappy weather. No bike ride. Tomorrow? More of the same, or so they say. Cabin fever. Grrr.

But all that aside, it’s time to change things. It’s time to put each and all of the human IDIOTS out to pasture, and then rebuild civilization. I suggest we aim for a world where there are no more wars, no guns, no bombs; a world where stupid politics are ‘fracked’ once and for all, where each and every life form on the planet is allowed enough space, enough ‘nature’, to live, to prosper – a world where all billionaires wake up broke and then jump off the tallest building available.

And in the process, I suggest that we who proclaim ourselves to be of more use than a fossilized rat stand tall, grab the bull by the tail, and then grimace and gripe sufficient to finance the education of those little folks (see above) who are already here, also those yet to come. Maybe then if WE succeed in elevating education a few orders of magnitude above our current course . . . maybe, just maybe, THEN . . . there will be NO MORE REPUBLICANS! EVER!

Yeah, OK, so I get carried away. But you get my drift, right? RIGHT???

WIDE OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole, Tuesday March 25, 2014 Environmental News and Food Politics – Open Thread


Chernobyl Nuclear Plant

Has it been thirty years since Chernobyl? Although no people live in the extensive exclusion zones around the epicenter, animals, trees and other plants still show signs of radiation poisoning. The saga of nuclear accident: a poisoned earth refuses to heal.

It ain’t the fat. It appears that the presence of saturated fat in foods has very little influence on cholesterol levels, and other aspects of heart disease. Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats. 

Climate change – it’s not all bad news:   The long tailed tit likes warm dry springs.     

 

Open Thread – Discuss

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; Friday March 14 2014; Contrast is Cool!

Just a couple of things today, the first from the Great State of Georgia where, thanks to pending legislation, Guns May Soon be Everywhere (what could possibly go wrong?):

Soon gun owners in the state of Georgia may be allowed to pack heat almost anywhere—including K-12 schools, bars, churches, government buildings, and airports. The “Safe Carry Protection Act” (HB 875) . . .

In addition to overturning current state laws and dramatically rolling back concealed-carry restrictions, HB 875 would loosen other gun regulations in the state. The law would:

  • Remove the fingerprinting requirement for gun license renewals
  • Prohibit the state from keeping a gun license database
  • Tighten the state’s preemption statute, which restricts local governments from passing gun laws that conflict with state laws
  • Repeal the state licensing requirement for firearms dealers (requiring only a federal firearms license)
  • Expand gun owner rights in a declared state of emergency by prohibiting government authorities from seizing, registering, or otherwise limiting the carrying of guns in any way permitted by law before the emergency was declared
  • Limit the governor’s emergency powers by repealing the ability to regulate the sale of firearms during a declared state of emergency
  • Lower the age to obtain a concealed-carry license from 21 to 18 for active-duty military and honorably discharged veterans who’ve completed basic training
  • Prohibit detaining someone for the sole purpose of checking whether they have a gun license

The sweeping bill would also expand the state’s Stand your Ground law into an “absolute” defense for the use of deadly force in self-protection. “Defense of self or others,” the bills reads “shall be an absolute defense to any violation under this part.” In its current wording, the bill would even allow individuals who possess a gun illegally—convicted felons, for example—to still claim a Stand Your Ground defense.

I know I’m reading between the lines in the above pile of nonsense, but what I think I may have spotted is a determination on the part of the Georgia legislature to likely NOT be all that interested in supporting my own suggestion that the Second Amendment be repealed once and for all, that all guns be collected and melted down. Like I say, it’s not specifically written in any of that, but still . . .

So OK, that’s enough stupidity for most any Friday Open Thread. Time for a trip to the lighter side, this time with proof positive that dogs are really cool!!

Funny how two really cool dogs have no difficulty at all making the bulk of the Great State of Georgia’s legislature look even more stupid than most any pile of rocks!

OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday March 13 2014; Dumb and Smarter

Fox News contributor and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson on Monday compared American society to Nazi Germany.

“I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany,” Carson told Breitbart News, after declaring that we were living in a “Gestapo age.” “And I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don’t care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”

Yeah, well, OK, a confession: I am NOT“afraid to say” that Herr Doctor Carson along with the entire panoply of his wingnut comradistanians are filled from toenail to treetop with something extremely putrid and smelly. In fact, he and alladem who smell really bad serve absolutely NO useful purpose on this galactic dirt speck other than to remind me of certain critters that, given the opportunity, could well manage something I cannot, i.e. to enjoy a lunch with . . . ermm . . . OF . . . well, y’know. Like fer example, here’s two pinnacles of putridity, named Carson and Dubya, resp.:

Herr Doctor Carson and DubyaSo. Diversion anyone? Another world maybe? One where there is NO stupid? Where cool reigns? Courtesy of the best wildlife photographer I know, Denny Green, on his recent visit to the Desert Sonora Museum in Tucson, Arizona, a few shots of, in his words, “the best looking mountain lion I have ever seen.” Compare the qualities of soul implicit in this Puma with the lack thereof in either or both of the dudes shown above and understand the dramatic contrast between those pinnacles of putridity . . . and the GRANDNESS of other life on this earth!

Puma 2

Puma 3

Puma 4

[All Puma photos © Denny Green, Tempe AZ, 2014]

Reminds me of an old yarn about a pair of Puma brothers, one from New Mexico the other from Texas, who got together once each year in the hills near Carlsbad. One year, the Texas brother came limping back, ribs showing, and hungry. His brother said, “Hey, man, you look awful! What’s up?”

“It’s the damn drought,” his Texas brother replied. “Ain’t been no rain, so there ain’t no grass, no weeds, no deer, no cows, no rabbits, no nothin’.”

“Well, yah,” his New Mexico brother replied, “It’s been like that here too, and there ain’t none of any of them here neither.”

“Well, what the hell do you eat then? I mean, you look like you been eatin’ real good.”

“Yah, I do OK. I eat people. They’re all over the place, y’know, and easy as hell to catch cause they’re dumber than rocks even. Just sneak up behind ‘em, jump, and there you go. Dinner. What, ain’t there no people in Texas?”

“Yah, them’re the things that walk on two legs but ain’t birds, right? We got lots of them. I’ll give ‘em a try.”

So, the next day the Texas Puma headed home.

A year passed, and on schedule the Texas Puma came crawling back into the hills near Carlsbad. His brother spotted him and was shocked — nothing there but skin and bones; he was crawling on his belly, barely able to make it.

“What the heck’s up with you?” The New Mexico Puma cried. “You look almost dead! What, no food in Texas? No people even?”

“Well yeah, there’s people all over the place, but they ain’t worth nothin’,” the Texas Puma replied.

“What, you can’t catch ‘em?”

“Nah, they’re easy to catch. They’re easy to sneak up on and all. But right when I jump to git ‘em, when they see me it scares the shit out of ‘em. And then there ain’t nothin’ left to eat!”

****

I suppose I could waste time elaborating on allathat, but really don’t see the need. The intellectual contrast between the Puma and most any wingnut AND most any Texan politician is almost unanimously clear and obvious (Wendy Davis excluded, of course).

OPEN THREAD — ALL PUMAS WELCOME!

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; Thursday March 6 2014; Travesty

Travesty: farcical or grotesque imitation; mockery; parody.

I know, the World English Dictionary doesn’t specifically include the word “Congress” in its definition, but what the heck, farcical or grotesque imitation; mockery; parody” is close enough for government work . . . or for a government that does NOT work. Such as ours. Evidence two events from just yesterday:

1. Senate rejects nominee to head Civil Rights Division

Mitch McConnell was gloating over the fact that seven Democrats sided with the Republicans to reject cloture and block the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Why the gloat? Because Adegbile was, first of all, an Obama nominee; second, because Adegbile is, in McConnell’s words, grossly incompetent. Why? Because several years ago Adegbile, at the time an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, managed to get the death sentence of a Black Nationalist commuted. The Black Nationalist was convicted in 1982 of slaying a white police officer. The commutation was, at the time, clearly a legal accomplishment . . . but one which today brands Adegbile as incompetent to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. President Obama described the nominee’s appointment blockage by the Senate as a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks.” I couldn’t agree more; in fact, the words farcical or grotesque imitation; mockery; parody” perfectly describe and define both Mitch McConnell and the 51 additional Senators who blocked Adegbile’s nomination. 

2. House Republicans reach pathetic milestone

The milestone reached was pathetic, yes indeed; it was indeed also farcical or grotesque imitation; mockery; parody” — it was the fiftieth attempt by House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The estimated cost of those fifty repeal efforts made in the last three years is some $72,000.000 — another way to spell Travesty, seems to me.

And of course those two examples of political stupidity are only one pair — shreds — of the myriad of never-ending nonsense emanating these day from Washington. One has to begin to wonder just how long a nation governed by farcical or grotesque imitation; mockery; parody” can endure.

Sometimes I think Emily Dickinson, 150 years ago, summed up the consequences of this day’s congressional bastion of political stupidity and irreverent chicanery when she wrote:

Whoever disenchants
A single Human soul
By failure of irreverence
Is guilty of the whole.

As guileless as a Bird
As graphic as a star
Till the suggestion sinister
Things are not what they are –

Sadly for all of us, the chance that things in Washington will ever rise above that failure of irreverence, that suggestion sinister, seems so remote as to be virtually impossible. And:

THAT. IS. TRAVESTY.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Friday February 28 2013; Fear: A Look Back

I don’t imagine that I’m alone in my puzzlement in re the antics of the political world these days. I don’t pretend to understand (or even want to, I’m thinking) the subterranean motivations that clearly are designed to induce as much irrational FEAR of anything and/or everything in the minds of certain segments of the population (read: Republicans, Right Wingers, Tea Partiers). Still, I doubt few can deny the unfortunate reality that FEAR is one of the most effective political motivators out there. Brings to mind a remarkably prescient article written by Paul Krugman in 2006, halfway through the G.W. Bush administration’s second term. Krugman wrote (highlights mine):

“In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy. Instead of treating the attack as what it was — an atrocity committed by a fundamentally weak, though ruthless adversary — the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction.

“Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up – perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.  And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear.

    “Just to be clear, Al Qaeda is a real threat, and so is the Iranian nuclear program. But neither of these threats frightens me as much as fear itself — the unreasoning fear that has taken over one of America’s two great political parties.

Nothing has changed, except maybe the focus of the fear-induced wrath. Below are three publicly published citizen comments, also from 2006. The writers are clearly of right wing persuasion, but I have a sneaking hunch that were they commenting today on current events their collective attitude might be a wee bit different?

“Recent poll numbers show President Bush’s popularity at an all-time low of 32 percent.  I would like to be counted as a staunch Bush supporter and a member of 32 Percent Club.  In my eyes, no matter how educators, the press, TV commentators and so-called ‘experts’ twist the facts, distort the news and bash my president with accusations and blame, you can not obscure reality and that is:  the economy is solid; Osama bin Laden is holed up in a rathole somewhere, and Iraq is doing its best to shake off the shackles of terrorism while reaching out for a piece of freedom and democracy.  ~Kenneth Server, Prescott Valley, AZ, in a letter to the Ed., Arizona Republic, April 28, 2006

“Our president has sworn to uphold the Constitution and to protect its citizens.  The National Security Agency’s program to wiretap international communications of some Americans, without a court warrant, is one of those protective measures.”   ~Ben Swank, Glendale AZ, in a letter to the editor published by the Arizona Republic, August 21, 2006

“I have had it with Sen. John McCain and his new political gambit.  He is directly undermining the president of the United States, intelligence agencies and our national security for his own political gain.  The next attack on the United States is on him and Sens. John Warner, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham.  If we can’t get information from our prisoners by means that have been successful in the past, we will be attacked in the future.  Sen. McCain and the others want to protect the rights of the terrorists and make America less safe.  Benedict Arnold was an American hero and ended up being a traitor for the British during the American Revolution.  Sen. McCain was an American hero during the Vietnam War and now is a traitor for the terrorists.”  ~Robert R. Jacobs, Glendale AZ; September 20, 2006 ‘letter to the editor’ published in the Arizona Republic

So. Times have changed. No more bin Laden, no more distorting of the news, no more bashing of the President, and with McCain now largely relegated to multiple appearances on the Sunday talk circuit, all is well. Right? I mean, the NSA’s warrantless spying on citizens is STILL protecting us . . . something like that. All of which means that today, there is no reason for the Republican base to fear anything!! Right? Right.

No matter how much some things change, the more they remain the same. I read that somewhere. In this crazy world, it all makes perfect sense.

HAVE NO FEAR, the OPEN THREAD IS HERE!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 22nd, 2014: We Have Our Own Local Scandal

Okay, it’s not on a par with Governor Chris Christie’s ever-spiraling George Washington Bridge scandal, nor is it anywhere close to Governor Pat McCrory’s Duke Energy woes, but it’s our scandal, so…

This one involves State Senator Greg Ball (R-NY40), who is no stranger to embarrassing controversies, whether it’s his stance on torture, or his “girlfriend” issues. This time, though, Senator Ball (who is, BTW, a “friend” of Sean Hannity and Fox News) may have committed Joe Biden’s nemesis: PLAGIARISM.

It seems that Senator Ball’s recently proposed legislation, which would prohibit any of New York’s “aquariums or sea parks” from exhibiting killer whales, contained language that appears to be lifted from at least one other source (and possibly a second.) What’s funny/silly/crazy about this is that one source was a teenaged student whose post on this subject originally appeared on The Huffington Post. Naturally, HuffPost has the goods on Ball’s latest pecadillo. Here’s an excerpt regarding the pertinent wording in the proposed bill:

From Senator Ball’s bill:

“In the United States, dolphin and marine animal parks, like SeaWorld, have become a part of an $8.4 billion industry. Accustomed to living in the ocean, and having an infinite amount of space to swim in, dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are place [sic] in captivity.”

From 17-year-old Donald Rapier’s original guest post on HuffPost:

“In the United States, dolphin and marine animal parks, like SeaWorld, have become a part of an $8.4 billion industry. Accustomed to living in the ocean, and having an infinite amount of space to swim in, dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are placed in captivity.”

Senator Ball is blaming a staffer, who has since been fired. This did not prevent City & State, a website devoted to NY politics, from naming Senator Ball to the “Losers” half of their “Winners and Losers” list/poll for this past week. And while this is certainly not the most serious scandal in the world, I trust that the “plagiarist” label will stick to Senator Ball for decades to come, just like it did to Vice-President Joe Biden.

Yeah, right, who am I kidding? This scandal will never plague State Senator Ball in the future, because IOKIYAR.

As an aside: Along Route 22 near the Pawling/Patterson town line, there’s been a billboard up for (what seems like) a couple of years, picturing head-shots of Senator Ball with his beloved Weimaraner. At some point in time, someone ripped off Ball’s entire face, leaving a big blank with some hair. The dog’s picture remains intact. I wish I knew who did it – it had to be deliberate – so that I could thank them for the laugh I get every time I notice it.

This is our daily open thread–discuss whatever you want!

The Watering Hole; Thursday February 20 2014; Atrocity

I’ll be brief.

There’s an environmental atrocity pending (yes, I know, one of what, thousands? tens of thousands? more? . . . More, probably, but . . . ), etc.

The Pebble Mine. Alaska. Upstream from Bristol Bay. Gold. Copper. Detritus. Tons of detritus. Detritus in amounts projected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of ten BILLION TONS; stated another way, an amount of some 1.5 TONS of crud per EVERY PERSON ALIVE TODAY ON THE PLANET. All for a smidge of gold, of copper along with the MONEY implicit in the complete and total destruction of a corner of paradise . . . all of that . . . to satisfy the whims of only those few . . .monied . . . leaches.

Anti-Pebble Mine advocate Robert Redford ably sums it all up:

“No matter how you look at it, the Pebble Mine is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. This colossal mine would be built at the very headwaters of our planet’s greatest wild salmon river systems. If it pollutes them, it will take down not only this world-renowned sockeye salmon fishery but also the awe inspiring ecosystem that depends on it.”

Please . . . all who care about this earth, the natural environment implicit therein along with the future of all who live here . . . and their descendents . . . Click Here . . . and sign your name in support of forever preserving what little beauty and wildness still persists . . .  even as you PROTEST the already programmed destruction of yet one more small corner of that which remains . . . a destruction which serves absolutely nothing but greed, lust for power, and stupidity. Note that the “worldwide campaign has already generated more than one million petitions against the Pebble Mine” and as of this day, only ONE company — Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals — remains in the hunt to destroy Bristol Bay and environs.

The clock ticks . . .

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 17th, 2014: Pick an Issue?

I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”

Which issue matters most to you in 2014?

__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare

__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy

__Raising the Minimum Wage

__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom

__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work

__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs

__Supporting Small Business Startups

__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology

Other:

I went with “Other”, more or less:

While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.

Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.

How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?

This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole; Friday February 7 2014; The Definition of STUPID!

Dictionary.com defines ‘stupid’ as “lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind . . . mental dullness; foolish; senseless . . . tediously dull . . . lack of meaning or sense; inane; pointless . . . annoying or irritating; troublesome . . . in a state of stupor; stupefied . . .”

Note that they missed using that ONE WORD that would have easily either completed what they had to say or, better yet, could/would stand alone and in the process save a lot of ink, paper, and/or bandwidth, etc.

REPUBLICAN

Stupid = Republican. Sounds brash, right? Unfair. Demeaning. Mean spirited. Etc. Yep, OK, so it is. But it’s also TRUE!! Following is the PROOF! Well, part of it at least, in the form of an article published in the Denver Post just the other day. Thanks to the Center for Biodiversity for the heads up.

The Denver Post, February 5, 2014

House Republican call for changes to Endangered Species Act
By Matthew Brown, the Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — The U.S. government has spent billions of dollars trying to save more than 1,500 animal and plant species listed as endangered or threatened. And now a group of House Republicans have seized on how that expense has translated into just 2 percent of protected species’ being taken off the list.

They called Tuesday for an overhaul to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, giving states more authority over imperiled species and limiting litigation from wildlife advocates.

Although experts say broad changes to one of the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely, given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington, D.C., 13 GOP lawmakers representing states across the U.S. released a report proposing “targeted reforms” for the 40-year-old federal law, which protects imperiled plants and animals.

Proponents credit the law, last amended in the 1980s, with staving off extinction for hundreds of species — from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale. But critics contend the law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection.

Led by Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, chairman the House Natural Resources Committee, Republicans want to amend the law to limit litigation from wildlife advocates that has resulted in protections for some species. And they want to give states more authority over imperiled species that fall within their borders.

Also among the recommendations are increased scientific transparency, more accurate economic impact studies and safeguards for private landowners.

“The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species Act is not recovering species,” Hastings said. “The way the act was written, there is more of an effort to list (species as endangered or threatened) than to delist.”

Noah Greenwald, a wildlife advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, disputes the 2 percent figure as a “gross manipulation of facts” that ignores the hundreds of protected species now on the path to recovery.

The political hurdles for an overhaul of the law are considerable. The Endangered Species Act enjoys fervent support among many environmentalists, whose Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have thwarted past proposals for change.

Oregon Rep. Pete DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, predicted that the changes being sought would go nowhere in the Senate.

“There is no appetite to overturn the (Endangered Species Act),” DeFazio said.

Throughout its history, the law has faced criticism from business interests, Republicans and others. They argue actions taken to shield at-risk species such as the northern spotted owl have severely hampered logging and other economic development.

Those complaints grew louder in recent months after federal wildlife officials agreed to consider protections for more than 250 additional species under settlement terms in lawsuits brought by environmental groups.

“Both sides have enough power to prevent something happening that they don’t like. But nobody has enough power to pass anything,” said Dale Goble, an expert on the act and a law professor at the University of Idaho.


Environmentalists credit the Endangered Species Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973, with saving species from extinction and say that hundreds more are on the path to recovery. Five species and how they’ve fared since being added to the list:

GRAY WOLF

More than 6,000 roam the Lower 48 states after they were wiped out in the Northern Rockies, and only a small population was left in the Great Lakes by the mid-1990s. The U.S. spent more than $100 million on wolf recovery, and the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing the predator from the endangered list across the United States, except for a small population of wolves in the Southwest. Yet despite the rebound, environmentalists point out a 7 percent drop in wolf numbers in the Northern Rockies after Congress lifted federal protections there in 2011.

GRIZZLY BEAR

Listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states in 1975 after being nearly wiped out over their historical range. But the bruins have been coming back, particularly in and around Yellowstone National Park, where they number more than 700. The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing federal protections for the Yellowstone grizzlies in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Another 1,000 grizzlies live outside of the Yellowstone area.

NORTHERN SPOTTED OWL

Listed as threatened in 1990 because of loss of old growth forest habitat to logging. Lawsuits led to establishment of millions of acres of reserves on national forests to protect the owl’s habitat. Despite the logging cutbacks, the owl has continued to decline by about 3 percent a year. Scientists have now identified the top threat to its survival as the invasion of the barred owl, a more aggressive and adaptable cousin.

BALD EAGLE

The official symbol of the United States nearly became extinct through hunting and widespread use of the pesticide DDT. In 1963, there were just 417 of the birds documented in the nation. More than $574 million was spent on the eagle’s recovery through 2007, the year its numbers reached about 10,000 mating pairs in the Lower 48 states and it was taken off the list, although it is still illegal to kill a bald eagle.

CARIBBEAN MONK SEAL

Some species protected through the act go extinct anyway. The seal once swam the waters off Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but disappeared in 2008. The only subtropical seal native to the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico once numbered more than 250,000. The last confirmed sighting was in 1952.

Stupidity is tricky to define, to explain. It’s especially tricky for those who are NOT definably nuts, who are NOT registered Republicans (or unregistered Republicans, whatever).

Here’s the thing. IF the Endangered Species Act should ever be up for formal repeal, I would forever and for all time vote NO — unless, of course, those species defined as endangered were “lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind . . . mental dullness; foolish; senseless . . . tediously dull . . . lack of meaning or sense; inane; pointless . . . annoying or irritating; troublesome . . . in a state of stupor; stupefied . . .”  then what the hell, let ‘em go. Like fer example this one:

Der Finger

Or this one?

MoransBetter yet??

MegynBut NEVER this one . . .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree ayes and one nay. I’d say the ayes eyes have it.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Thursday February 6 2014; Tet

Forty-six years ago last Thursday — on January 30 1968 — the war in Vietnam suddenly took a turn in an unexpected direction, and suffice to say that in result the word “America” suddenly became a whole lot less majestic  than what it had long perceived itself to be/mean . . . something like that.

Bottom line: Tet. The New Year in Vietnam; Jan. 30 1968 — the day America lost the war. And it didn’t stop there. In fact, the year 1968 rapidly became a tumultuous turning point in American history. Consider that year’s ‘high’ points, reviewed below in approximate order of occurrence:

•    The Tet Offensive in Vietnam instantly changed the entire dynamic of the war, from one of near certain American victory to a substantially less optimistic viewpoint.
•    The siege at Khe Sanh revealed the horror of war gone wrong in close-up view for all to see.
•    Robert F. Kennedy entered the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination as an anti-war candidate.
•    Lyndon Johnson, perhaps having sensed reality for what may have been the first time in his entire presidency, withdrew his name from consideration in his party’s presidential nomination process.
•    Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April fourth; in the aftermath there were riots and cities aflame.
•    Robert F. Kennedy won the California Primary and was instantly perceived as the likely next president of the United States.
•    Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated within minutes of his announced victory.
•    Richard M. Nixon was nominated as the Republican candidate for the presidency.
•    Hubert H. Humphrey withstood a challenge from anti-war candidates Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern to become the Democratic nominee for the presidency. Outside the hall, massive anti-war rioting served mainly to diminish Humphrey’s chances at victory in November.
•    Johnson, in a last ditch effort to salvage Humphrey’s candidacy and to preserve his own legacy, ordered a bombing halt in SE Asia and urged negotiations for peace to pick up the pace, to find a way to end the war.
•    Candidate Richard Nixon worked to sabotage Johnson’s peace initiatives by sending a personal emissary to Vietnam on a mission to convince the Thieu regime to wait, to stall the peace negotiations on the promise that they would ‘get a better deal’ from a Nixon presidency.
•    Nixon was elected president in a squeaker over Humphrey; racist/segregationist and third party candidate George Wallace garnered a significant percentage of the overall vote, most of it from the deep south.
•    1968 was, for US forces, the war’s bloodiest. By year’s end, 16,592 Americans–more than twenty-eight percent of the war’s final tally of 58,288–were killed in that one year.

Stated another way, the coup d’etat which was effectively finalized on June sixth, 1968, the date of Robert Kennedy’s death by assassination, had succeeded. The so-called ‘Socialist’ era in US politics – originated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and concluded with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Medicare-Medicaid legislation during the Lyndon Johnson administration – had finally come to an end. There was a new sheriff in town, and the goal was no longer prosperity and comfort for the average citizen, it was now political power and the financial wealth implicit therein – prosperity and comfort for the favored few, disdain for all others, both at home and around the globe. The ascension of Richard Nixon promised that long term goals of government-funded profit through war were now decisively on track, that the goal of a global economy dominated by US imperial interests was now virtually guaranteed.

Forty-six years hence . . . What has changed other than the numbers in the year — 1968 now become 2014 — alongside the names implicit in the day’s national politics . . . and the angle of that downward slope, the one which ultimately defines and describes . . .

A nation’s death.

In 1968 I was a young guy, one who had already managed to find the way to avoid the draft, to avoid being shipped off to Vietnam. I had, in more simplistic terms, found the means to avoid the day’s sole deployment purpose which was to kill, to destroy . . .

But now, today, it’s 2014, and I’m no longer a young guy. Today, I’m way too old to fight, to kill, to maim. But no matter. My dying country continuously seeks the means to search out, to kill, to destroy . . . its enemies. Muslims, Communists, people of dark skin, people of epicanthic eye, people who seek only the freedom implied in America’s preferred definition of itself . . . people like . . . me.

Tet. Underway. Again.

OPEN THREAD

The Waterless Watering Hole, Monday, February 3rd, 2014

A few recent articles got me started connecting several dots, which then began forming an unsettling picture. Read along, and let me know what you think.

First, according to this ClimateProgress article from January 31st, what was once the largest lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, has reportedly lost 95% of its water. While Lake Urmia is a saltwater lake, and not essential for agriculture or drinking water, such a huge reduction in size is more than alarming. From the article:

“Dam construction recently increased throughout the country, to provide both badly needed electricity and water supplies for irrigation. But that’s also diverted massive amounts of the freshwater that formerly flowed into Lake Urmia. Other major rivers throughout the country have gone dry, and the dust from the riverbeds and the salt from Lake Urmia’s dried basin are now a form of pollution unto themselves. Major cities around the country — including the capital of Tehran, home to 22 million — are making contingency plans for rationing. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently named water as a national security issue, and demonstrations and riots over water supplies have already erupted.”[emphasis mine]

“According to a 2012 study by the United Nations, 65 percent of the decline can be chalked up to climate change and the diversion of surface water cutting inflow to the lake. Another 25 percent was due to dams, and 10 percent was due to decreased rainfall over the lake itself.

A long drought in Iran ended two years ago, but the recent boost to rainfall has not been able to offset the other effects on the lake. Average temperatures around Lake Urmia rose three degrees in just the past ten years. In Pakistan, which sits along Iran’s southeast border, climate change has reduced snowmelt and river flow. That’s led to domestic political strife, and to a strained relationship with India over dams along the Indus River — Pakistan’s main source of freshwater.”[emphasis mine]

A commenter on the thread then led me to this Guardian article from November, concerning Hongjiannao Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake:

“Data released by local meteorological agencies on Thursday and reported by Chinese state media, shows the lake has now shrunk by almost one-third since 2009…”

Then there was this article by Graham Land entitled “Asia’s Disappearing Lakes”, with its alarming opening paragraphs:

“One of the worst environmental disasters in living memory is the near vanishing of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. What was once one of the world’s four largest lakes, containing some 1.5 thousand islands and covering 68,000 square kilometres (26,000 miles), by 2007 the Aral Sea was only 10% of its previous size and divided into four lakes.

What happened to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’s inland sea was not the result of normal changing weather patterns. The fate of the Aral Sea is a story of human intervention, contamination and local climate change.”

Next, Brad Plumer interviews Francesca Femia of the think-tank Center for Climate and Security in this Washington Post article. Ms. Femia states that, during the period between 2006 and 2011, “…up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst long-term droughts in modern history.”

“This drought — combined with the mismanagement of natural resources by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, who subsidized water-intensive crops like wheat and cotton farming and promoted bad irrigation techniques — led to significant devastation. According to updated numbers, the drought displaced 1.5 million people within Syria…They all moved into urban areas — urban areas that were already experiencing economic insecurity due to an influx of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.”

Ms. Femia added, “…we’re not making any claim to causality here. We can’t say climate change caused the civil war. But we can say that there were some very harsh climatic conditions that led to instability.” Later in the interview, Ms. Femia says that it was a 2011 NOAA report “showing that a prolonged period of drying in the Mediterranean and the Middle East was linked to climate change” that brought the conditions in Syria to her attention. [I mention this simply because I find it ironic that a NOAA report is taken so seriously outside of the U.S., while so many of our "exceptional Americans" are dumbfuck climate change deniers who wouldn't trust a NOAA report if god it/him/herself read the report to them.]

We’ve all read the recent stories about the toxic spill in West Virginia that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people. (And they’re still peeling more eye-watering layers off this onion of a story.) We’ve seen the photos and news reports showing West Virginians driving to designated water-supply centers for their ration of clean water–which didn’t appear to be enough for families to bathe, drink, cook, and somehow wash clothes with. At one point, Wal-Mart had to call in the local police to help protect a delivery of bottled water.

Now imagine if the Keystone XL pipeline is given the go-ahead, and eventually there’s a spill that contaminates the Ogallala Aquifer. Instead of 300,000 people being without clean water, it would be 3,000,000 – all vying for relief deliveries of fresh water.

I could go on, but I think you catch my drift: if mankind, and the United States in particular, continues to ignore global climate change, refuses to enforce current environmental regulations, continues to rely heavily on finite and filthy fossil fuels, and refuses to consider stricter pollution regulations, then clean drinking water will become more scarce, and more valuable. If scarcity of water is fueling riots and protests in other parts of the world, imagine what could happen in the United States: with so much of our citizenry being over-armed and paranoid, how soon would the shooting start? And, if even Iran is already considering water to be “a national security issue”, eventually the inept fools who occupy Congress might finally get it through their thick skulls that clean water is essential to life as we know it, and is therefore more important than oil. So, when do you think the first War for Water would start? Or maybe it would be referred to as WWW: World Water War?

Not that I think that all of this may happen within my lifetime, but as Rachel Maddow used to say, “Somebody talk me down!”

This is our daily open thread–talk about whatever you want!

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; Thursday January 23 2014; “I have a drem”

The Martin Luther King holiday has once more come and gone, along with reflections on the event itself as well as on the profound actions by its namesake during his all too short lifespan. I am, of course, old enough to have watched the vast bulk of Dr. King’s actions and accomplishments; I also remember well the day he was assassinated by ?? . . . James Earl Ray, some have said. There are huge numbers of people — generations, in fact — who were not yet around to witness Dr. King’s work, much less his untimely death. To them, it’s the stuff of history texts, etc. My older daughter is one of them; she’ll turn 30 this year. But 24 years ago right about now, she was in kindergarten and learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. She had a great teacher, one who had the will, the means, and cared enough to genuinely educate the little ones. And the results? The teacher used Dr. King’s forever compelling “I have a Dream” speech; she showed a tape of him speaking, then had the little ones use pencil and paper to show what it meant to them. Below is a photo of that which little Sarah Elizabeth wrote that day, in her own hand.

Sarah's Dream“I have a dream that we all could love one another. I have a dream that we can be sisters and brothers, that when the sun shines down on the world that there be peace on earth in every place for every one of every race.”

I suppose one could wonder a little bit just how it can be that a five year old named Sarah once made infinitely more sense on racial matters than another and much older Sarah (Palin) makes today, but OTOH, no, there’s probably no need to wonder. Not really. Perhaps quality of soul has nothing to do with age, or with race, gender, religion, guns, or national origin; maybe there really is something to the thesis (oft criticized) that a vibrant public education by inspired and inspirational teachers is a far more worthwhile goal for society to undertake than the ‘other’ one in which public education is too often described as a propaganda tool in the hands of unionized and overpaid hoodlums.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., represented one of humankind’s most thought-provoking pinnacles . . . one whose words and ideas could and can inspire even a five year-old child. Times appear to have changed rather severely, and we can only wonder what can be done to bring us back to the times when quality of soul meant far far more than the size of some billionaire’s offshore investment accounts.

OPEN THREAD

 

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!