The Watering Hole, Monday, October 20th, 2014: Goodbye, Indian Summer

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river through The Great Swamp

river through The Great Swamp


On Friday, I wore shorts to work and went in with my hair still wet. The day was sunny and hit the low 70s. Today, I’m going into work wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a lightweight fleece jacket, as the weather is finally remembering that it’s fall.

(sigh)

Goodbye, Indian Summer – you’re welcome to visit any time…

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

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 13th, 2014: More Money than God

At billmoyers.com, I spotted an article by Sam Pizzigati, regarding the recent publication of the Forbes 2014 Billionaires list. An excerpt:

“…the richest of these 400 hold far more than that average. Take Larry Ellison, the third-ranking deep pocket on this year’s Forbes list. Ellison just stepped down as the CEO of the Oracle business software colossus. His net worth: $50 billion.

What does Ellison do with all those billions? He collects homes and estates, for starters, with 15 or so scattered all around the world. Ellison likes yachts, too. He currently has two extremely big ones, each over half as long as a football field.

Ellison also likes to play basketball, even on his yachts. If a ball bounces over the railing, no problem. Ellison has a powerboat following his yacht, the Wall Street Journal noted this past spring, “to retrieve balls that go overboard.”

Hiring that ball-retriever qualifies Ellison as a “job creator,” right? Maybe not. Ellison has regularly destroyed jobs on his way to grand fortune. He has become, over the years, a master of the merge-and-purge two-step: First you snatch your rival’s customers, then you fire its workers. In 2005, for instance, Ellison shelled out $10.6 billion to buy out PeopleSoft, an 11,000-employee competitor. He then proceeded to put the ax to 5,000 jobs.

Here’s the Forbes 2014 list. Note that the Koch Brothers are tied for 6th place – aww, they didn’t make #1? They must be spending too much money on Republican/Teabagger political candidates. And, of course, several members of the Walton family took 8th through 11th place. I have not perused much of the list, but I see that one of the other sugar daddies of the right, Sheldon Adelson is at #15, while evil left-winger George Soros is at #24. (In between is Wayne’s former ‘boss’ at Xerox, Carl Icahn, at #22.)

One of the “highlights” listed towards the bottom of one of the Forbes articles is this factoid that gave me pause:

“The oldest billionaire is David Rockefeller Sr. (# 190), age 99, with a net worth of $3 billion.”

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate - Hudson River in the background.  (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate – Hudson River in the background. (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Now, we grew up in an area where the Rockefeller estate is about half-an-hour away, near the legendary “Sleepy Hollow” area. I have cousins on my father’s side who lived near the estate, and when we used to visit them when I was young, the drive took us along, and through, parts of the estate (one could tell by the tall fencing that seemed to hold the estate’s huge old trees back from the road, often on both sides.) So we always considered the Rockefeller family as sort of ‘neighbors.’ Despite his obvious personal flaws, i.e., not making Happy Rockefeller happy, at least Nelson D. Rockefeller was a fairly moderate Republican in the days when there really were moderate Republicans, several of whom could be respected regardless of one’s political affiliation. Of course, these days, Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller would be considered RINOs.

Another excerpt from Pizzigati’s article:

“This year, for the first time ever, Forbes has assigned a “self-made score” to every one of America’s richest 400. More than two-thirds of this year’s 400, Forbes claims, rate as “self-made,” Ellison among them.
[emphasis mine]Forbes doesn’t bother asking how those rich went about self-making their fortunes. We should. Our top 400, after all, haven’t just made monstrously large fortunes. They’ve made a monstrously large mess. To unmake it, we need to unmake them.”.

Amen to THAT, folks.

Oh, yeah, one more thing about the Forbes list: if you’re worth a mere billion dollars, you’re still not rich enough to make the list, as the minimum to qualify this year was $1.55 billion.

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

The Watering Hole; October 10 2014; Open Thread

Since I’m still not able to put up much of a post, thought maybe I’d let a few others do the talking. Interesting to note that no matter how much the human society presumes/pretends to advance, the more things remain the same — or even regress.

“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” ~George Washington

“The country is headed toward a single and splendid government of an aristocracy founded on banking institutions and monied corporations, and if this tendency continues it will be the end of freedom and democracy, the few will be ruling and riding over the plundered plowman and the beggar.” ~Thomas Jefferson

“Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” ~Thomas Jefferson

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” ~James Madison, Federalist 47

“What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not.” ~James Madison, 1785

What happened? When did we lose it? Did we ever have it? Where did we go wrong?Out of which hole crawled today’s Republican Party? What can we do to stuff it back into the abyss from which it escaped?

OPEN THREAD

 

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 6, 2014: No Nukes for You!

As usual, I found the topic for today’s thread while researching something else: in this case, looking for info on the time frame when Bush wouldn’t let the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) finish its inspection for WMDs in Iraq, just prior to our heedless and headstrong invasion. I never finished that research, as I was distracted by more timely news.

The first IAEA link that came up was, surprisingly, from a Chinese news site, from which I learned that the IAEA is sending a team to Iran shortly for talks on Iran’s progress in meeting certain deadlines regarding its nuclear program. In addition, the National Journal says “The IAEA has sought information on the “potential military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program, in particular information about Iran’s extensive research and development of a nuclear explosive device.”

From the Chinese site, xinhuanet.com:

“Iran and the IAEA agreed to implement five practical measures including the cooperation of resolving two points of Iran’s nuclear program related to the alleged nuclear weapon plan, so- called possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear plan by deadline Aug. 25 in order to provide greater transparency of Tehran’s nuclear program.However, the IAEA said Iran missed the deadline in implementing three measures, and two measures related to PMD issues have yet to be implemented so far.”

Then in an article from Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, the headline shouts “353 US Reps to Kerry: Iran ‘Stonewalling’ on Nuke Detonator”, followed by the opening line, “Stunning bipartisan congressional letter focuses on Iran’s ‘refusal to fully cooperate’ with IAEA over Parchin.”   Hmmm, well, here’s the letter, which I didn’t find particularly “stunning.” The article continues:

“The Congressional Letter’s signatories included almost all of both parties’ leaderships, and was greatly aided by Republican Congressman Peter J. Roskam (R-IL-06) of Illinois, a stalwart, and tireless, advocate of Israel as a vital strategic asset of the United States.”

“This Congressional warning follows a similar warning from Israel Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who issued a statement last week that emphasized that “credible sources” alleged that “internal neutron sources such as uranium were used in nuclear implosion tests at [Iran’s] Parchin.”

I also found this ^^ article interesting as it includes a diagram of a “neutron initiator” by the infamous AQ Khan – KHAAAAAAANN!  (Sorry, I had to.)

Okay, Congress and Israel, don’t get all freaked out and start shouting “mushroom cloud.” Remember the last time that we had “credible sources” about possible nukes, purportedly in Iraq, and went off half-cocked and half-assed? As Donald Rumsfeld (spit) so insultingly told under-provisioned U.S. troops to their faces, “…you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have…” How many thousands of American and coalition troops died, how many maimed, how many innocent Iraqis were killed? How much of their “sovereign nation” did we destroy? Seriously, do you macho politicians ever remember history, because you seem quite willing to repeat it.

Moving along…again from israelnationalnews.com, blogger Batya Medad writes about the following news:

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio late Thursday that he had agreed to an American framework proposal whereby Israel would negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the ’67 cease-fire lines with territorial swaps. (Jerusalem Post)”

Ms. Medad then writes:

“American policy is American policy. They promote what they think is good for the United States of America, and they want the support of what they perceive as “moderate Arab states.” The fact that such a phrase is an oxymoron has nothing to do with anything. Let the USA do whatever it wants. My complaints are against the Israeli Government, Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu’s government coalition.

Israel is supposedly an independent country and has been since the 1949 Armistice, which ended the active fighting between the newly established State of Israeli[sic] and the surrounding Arab countries, which had attacked it.

Although the State of Israel has been victorious in all of the wars against us by our Arab enemies, we have had successive governments that beg the United States for support and friendship. Bibi’s acquiescence to American demands is just the latest in a long series of bad policy steps over the decades.”

Oh, my, where do I start with this bit?

How about, if it weren’t for the U.S. and its allies, the State of Israel would not exist?

Or, AIPAC is the biggest and probably most powerful lobby in the United States?

Or, how much money and military equipment and assistance has the U.S. given to Israel throughout its existence?

Or, didn’t you guys actually start some of those “wars against us by our Arab enemies”?

Or, Israel doesn’t “beg the United States for support and friendship”, it demands it unconditionally and unswervingly, then spits in our faces. And when we politely ask that Israel restrain itself a tad when they’re violating the conditions of the 1967 agreement by bombing their neighbors and taking their neighbors’ land, Israel considers it an affront to their sovereignty. Bite me, Israel, you can stop taking our money and assistance, we can certainly use a few extra billion dollars right here.

As to Israel’s worry over the possibility of Iran hiding the development of a nuclear weapon, all I can say is, how big is Israel’s nuclear stockpile that Israel denies exists?

Okay, rant over…for now.

This is our daily open thread – don’t mind me, feel free to discuss whatever you want.

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

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

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

"All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream"

“All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream”

"A Selection of Hubble's planetary nebulae"

“A Selection of Hubble’s planetary nebulae”

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

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

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

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 22nd, 2014: ‘Fair and Unbalanced’

On the Friday before last (September 12th), we watched the Bill Maher two-venue HBO special live from Washington, DC.

Former Governor Haley Barbour (whom Jerry Seinfeld later referred to as “Boss Hogg”) thrice repeated a line to which no one responded with what I thought was the obvious answer. Although it’s not in any transcript that I’ve found, you can find it here.

Barbour’s line: “The President’s got to LEAD.”

My response: The President cannot lead people who have sworn not to follow.

It’s as simple as that, no one can be a leader without people following him/her. While some Democrats may hesitate to follow President Obama’s lead on some matters, the entire Republican membership has made it their sole mission to thwart the President’s leadership and to hinder any possible accomplishments that would reflect well on the President. Former Governor Barbour also trotted out this canard about Saint Ronnie:

“Reagan, when he was president, every time he passed something, he had to go meet with the House Democrats to get their votes. He compromised on everything. President Obama doesn’t even talk to the Republicans.”

Well, when the Republicans started off the first Obama Administration with a meeting to discuss how to obstruct everything and make the new President a “one-term President”, and when Republicans invited to the White House decline the invitation en masse, who can blame Obama for not wanting to talk to the Republicans?

What the internets picked up on was Bill’s statement about Fox News, and that Jerry Seinfeld “pushes back”.

Here’s the only part of the transcript that I found, on Real Clear Politics (which may have a video clip):

BILL MAHER: “I find that it’s not the state you’re in it’s whether you’re from a city or in the rural part of America. I’ve been to two cities in Alabama this year. I’ve been to Birmingham and Mobile. They look like everywhere else. They have a Pottery Barn and Thai food. And we’re talking about the polarization in Washington. I wonder, people always talk about Washington, the politicians can’t get along, I think maybe it’s that the people are polarized and the politicians just reflect that and I feel –———————–like the reason the people are polarized is Fox News. I think of all the things that changed in America, Fox News changed the most. It used to be the John Birch Society came to your door once a year. Now they’re in your TV in your living room everyday and we don’t even know how to talk to each other. It’s like we have a language barrier. because what they’re hearing on Fox News — it’s the same people. It’s like what? Saul Alinsky? We don’t know who that is…”

FMR. GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: In fairness, Fox News doesn’t have a monopoly on television taking sides.

JERRY SEINFELD: Yeah, that’s true.

BARBOUR: Take tonight, for instance. Bill Maher is a big personality in American politics.

MAHER: Well, thank you.

BARBOUR: We have those two moderates on the TV show — Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann**. Let’s see, you have these four Republican congressmen you’re trying to decide which one to assassinate.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

SEINFELD: I think that you’d have a better argument that each side just talks to its side, listens to its side.

MAHER: Right.

SEINFELD: That’s polarizing. To blame it all on Fox News doesn’t seem completely fair.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Couldn’t you argue there are people out there who are fed up with everything that happens in this city and aren’t voting, aren’t involved. That’s the silent majority of middle, moderate, thoughtful people, who just want thoughtful people –

BILL MAHER: With all due respect, the opposite of fox news is not really me. It’s MSNBC, which doesn’t get near the ratings of Fox News because I think there is something in the conservative brain that wants to be hearing the same thing over and over and doing the same thing — thing over and over. Liberals like different. Always a new restaurant. Conservatives are like no, I go to the diner and I get the number five every day.

HALEY BARBOUR: Those of us, including y’all who grew up in the time where we had three networks and two big newspapers and they all had the same message, same way. Fox News was the first thing to come along that gave a conservative point of view and as you say, there are big networks that are very, very left and I think there’s a huge market in the middle of the United States. I think people want a common sense, straight talk problem solving. They want to get things done. Your point is the media has become as polarized is –

JERRY SEINFELD: That’s not as entertaining as hysteria.

**Keith Olbermann is back to sports and has been for some time now, and, while Michael Moore is a Liberal who makes documentary films about current events, he does not have a 24/7/365 pulpit reaching millions of viewers, whether they like it or not. And, as Americans Against the Tea Party puts it:

“But what these “false balance” denialists fail to take into account is that Fox News wields disproportionate influence, and that the station is far from “fair and balanced.”

Breitbart TV, of course, has their own take on the Maher/Seinfeld issue: the title of their article is “Seinfeld Defends Fox News Against Maher Attack”. Unfortunately – very unfortunately, as I’ll discuss further along – the Breitbart link was one of the few that came up when I binged ‘video of Haley Barbour on Bill Maher.’ Until last evening, sources that promised the video had had to take it down. Here’s how Breitbart’s Pam Key interpreted the discussion:

“Friday night’s live broadcast from Washington D.C. of the season premier[sic] of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” featured a take down of the hosts’ attack on Fox News from comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) that had even rival MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell recoiling at Maher’s insistence that Fox News was responsible for the polarization of America.” [I'd say that Jerry was more, well, gently chiding, and could in no way be described as a "take down." And, though I'd have to watch the video again, I don't think that "recoiling" is an accurate description of Mitchell's reaction.]

Maher began by discussing the real polarization being between rural and urban America but then not realizing the contraction[?] of blaming regional differences of a country on a cable news network created in 1996, he began to insist Fox News has created a “language barrier.”

Barbour countered by saying Fox News didn’t create the polarization — it was a response to it. Because Barbour explained there used to be a monopoly of three networks with liberal views that had “the same message, the same way. Fox News was the first thing to come along that gave a conservative point of view.”

Jerry Seinfeld jumped in saying “each side just talks to its side,” so it’s silly [to]single out Fox News, adding “to blame it all on Fox news doesn’t seem completely fair.”

I think that the Breitbart writers exaggerated a tad by calling Seinfeld’s statements “defend[ing] Fox News, and that Barbour’s and Andrea Mitchell’s protestations were a “take down” of Bill Maher.

However, the worst on the Breitbart site were the comments. I must call out one in particular, which featured a quote from Bill Maher stating that he’s more afraid of (climate-change-caused) ice melting than he is of ISIS. When I first looked at the quote, I didn’t realize what the commenter had superimposed it over a photo. To spare you all from having to actually view it, let me describe it: someone had taken one of the still photos of one of the journalists beheaded by ISIS, and had photoshopped Bill Maher’s head in place of what had apparently been the victim’s head, held in the dead man’s hands.

I have it saved, even though I never want to see it again. But if I EVER hear again the bullshit that liberal commenters are just as bad as conservative commenters, I’m dragging that piece of excrement out as the ultimate evidence.

This is our daily open thread.  Please feel free to discuss anything you wish.