Music Night, January 31, 2014

My comment upon discovering this video on YouTube: I saw them at a Pop Festival in Rotterdam, summer of 1970. I had their LPs but nothing captured that live performance. I still vividly remember Jerry Goodman standing at the front of the stage, his long hair flying in the wind, hypnotizing the crowd with his violin. Great to see a live video!

The Watering Hole; Friday January 31 2014; Wolves and Wildlife

On January 26, 2014 we visited a Colorado (privately owned and operated) facility called the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains — almost in the shadow of Pikes Peak — at an elevation just above 9000 ft, near the small town of Divide. The Center’s stated mission is to:

Educate the public through tours and programs about the importance of Wolves, Coyotes, and Foxes to our eco-system.

Educate the public about the importance of Preservation and Conservation of the forests, land, and water that supports wildlife, flora, and fauna for future generations to enjoy.

Provide natural habitats and exceptional lives for the animals entrusted to our care since they cannot live in the wild.

Inhabitants at the Center include foxes, coyotes, and wolves, each and all of which have been rescued from one or another type of captivity, some brutal. At the Center the animals are confined, but still are able to run free within large fenced areas, each an acre or more on the floor of a mixed conifer forest. They’re fed appropriately to suit their natural diet. Local road kill (in winter) is routinely delivered to the Center. If it’s not sufficient, flesh, bones, hides, and intestinal tract contents from any available source are either purchased or donated, and serve to maintain a healthy critter population.

The personnel at the Center work diligently to educate people about wolves and other wild canine predators. There are typically at least five (2 hour) guided tours per day, led mostly by volunteers who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the work they do; they speak with authority, are able to accurately answer questions, and clearly enjoy immensely their work, their contribution to both education (of people) AND to the well-being of the Center’s on-site critter population. School visits by youngsters are also quite common, and numerous handwritten responses by the children to questions concerning what they learned are on proud display, and are fascinating to read, to explore.

Following are a handful of snapshots that I was lucky enough to capture. Each of the critters is a wolf — Canis lupus (the foxes and coyotes weren’t at all patient with me when I asked them to pose). At least two are subspecies arctos, or Arctic (tundra, white) wolves; the others are the somewhat more common and wide-spread Gray (timber) wolves. Note their faces, how fierce, contorted, savage and hateful they clearly are (trying to sound stupid here; it ain’t always easy).





OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScary scary, right? “Cuz them wolves is KILLERS!” (Words spoken by an unidentified New Mexico Wingnut when the Mexican Gray was about to be reintroduced in the Southwest some 15-20 years ago). Actually, as our guide at the Center pointed out, there have been only two recorded wolf “attacks” on humans in North America in the last 100 YEARS, and both are suspect, may never have happened at all. But in this world, no matter, because FEAR rules. By demand.

Demand. It worked. By 1930 nearly every wolf in the lower 48 had been killed, all for no reason other than the irrational hatred, by humans, of a natural and valuable predator. Wherefrom the hatred? Why? Barry Holstun Lopez, in his 1978 masterwork Of Wolves and Men reflects on what he refers to as an “idea born in Europe” which “bears on the propriety of wolf killing, and that is to be found in the work of René Descartes. Descartes articulated the belief that not only were animals put on earth for man’s use but they were distinctly lowborn; they were without souls and therefore man incurred no mortal guilt in killing them.”  Descartes’ premise found immediate favor because, as Lopez notes, “the Church” had long ‘known’ that the very “idea” that animals — other than human — were at all important in any way was “abhorrent to the Roman Church at the time . . .”, and that the Church maintained the premise “that man could kill without moral restraint, without responsibility . . .”

Sadly, not much has changed over the course of the last few centuries. Today widespread assassination/murder/wanton killing of even recently reintroduced wolf populations continues, unabated, with more than 2000 wolves in the northern Rockies dead — shot, trapped, poisoned, killed by any possible means — in less than three years. Why? Because, as we all ‘know,’ wolves kill cows — bad for ranchers — and greatly reduce elk and deer populations — bad for hunters . . . a pair of premises which are demonstrably and patently untrue. The facts are that the estimated wolf depredation impact on cattle occurs at an annual rate of about two-tenths of one percent. Stated another way, if 10,000 cattle were to die each year out on the range from ‘natural’ causes, only 20 of those deaths would be attributable to wolves. And in most cases, ranchers are fully compensated when death is clearly/conclusively caused by wolves. Further, it’s a scientifically proven fact that natural herbivore (elk and deer, e.g..) populations are STRENGTHENED when wolf predation is part of the equation. Wolves do NOT kill the ‘trophy’ animals; rather they prey on the old, the sickly, the weak, and in the process both wolf and herbivore populations become stronger. Still, the oft-spoken epithet persists: “If all the wolves is dead there’ll be more elk for us hunters.”

What an amazingly non-salient (read: stupid) argument, one reiterated in late August of 2012, in Montana, when a reality TV show broadcast an episode on the killing of a wolf in Montana. “It’s the funnest thing I’ve done in years,” the gleeful host [crowed] after shooting the wolf with a high-powered rifle. “The funnest thing” pretty much describes the mentality implicit in those who . . . never mind.

Lopez also speaks, at some length, of the ‘other’ side of that cultural coin. He writes, “One of the problems that comes with trying to take a wider view of animals is that most of us have cut ourselves off from them conceptually. We do not think of ourselves as part of the animal kingdom. Indians did. They thought of themselves as The People (that is the translation from the native tongue of most tribal names) and of animals as The Wolves. The Bears. The Mice, and so forth.  . . . the line between Indians and wolves may fade, not because Indians did not perceive the differences but because they were preoccupied with the similarities.”

And so it is with each and all of The People at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. They, too, take that “wider view of animals,” and do all they can do to advance the cause. For that, and for everything else they do and have done, I applaud them.

Meanwhile, an encouraging PostScript, courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity, dated January 30 2014. It reads as follows:

Idaho Wolf Hunt Ends, Hired Gunman Halted

Faced with a looming court deadline to defend its actions against a suit by the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies, Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game on Monday halted its wolf-extermination program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Nine wolves had already fallen to a hired hunter-trapper who began killing wolves in December; it’s unknown how many animals remain alive in the two targeted packs.

We’ve sued the department — and the U.S. Forest Service, which was assisting it — arguing that the wolf-killing program prioritized elk numbers for human hunters over wilderness values. After a federal judge rejected our request to stop the program on Jan. 17, we took our fight to the court of appeals, filing an emergency request for an injunction Jan. 23.

“It’s a tragedy that nine wolves had to die before the state of Idaho finally pulled the plug on its needless effort to eradicate two whole wolf packs from one of America’s largest wilderness areas,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “The wolves were only playing the role they play in nature and should never have been killed. It shouldn’t take court action to stop such cruel, unnecessary and wasteful killing — but I’m glad it has stopped.”

I expect the ‘stop’ is temporary; there has never been a sustainable letup in the “human” urge to exterminate wolves. Still, every respite is at least useful, and maybe one day the principles implicit in those expressed and applied by the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center will prevail.

Dare WE hope?


The Watering Hole; Thursday January 30 2014; Oswiecim

Lest we forget:

In memory of the millions.

in oswiecim
there is a silence
it is a weeping silence
which whispers
only to those who dare listen

the silence is pervasive
to all who visit
save for those who yet can hear
the pounding
of long-stilled hearts
and understand it is not the wind
that speaks to them in muted voice

overhead above the rails
a steel banner shouts
arbeit macht frei
it welcomed all
but never heard the cries
and knows not the sadness of
its message nor the reason for
the silence now

the tracks are silent
rusted rails
there are no more trains
no shuffling burden
no bustle on the platform
no snap of heel
no snarling dog
no click of breech

the buildings are silent
and empty
one can hear within them
but a single sound
a haunting sound
for as the wind
seeps through clapboard cracks
it recalls with grievous moan
vile tales of darkest times

beyond the watchtowers
the fields are silent
save for the wind
in summer the grass grows
bent by the breeze
it thrives
and knows no boot print
nor drifting dust of ash

the bricks are silent
as they play the role of sheltering walls
have become markers
in a graveyard
a cemetery with no footstones
yet home to untold millions
where any spade of earth
exhumes the ash of bones
and remnants
of a god
who chose to look the other way
in silence

in oswiecim
the silence is deafening
but fleeting
for here the dead


and beg the living not forget
nor e’er forgive the human horror
now implicit in a place
and in a name


 – Auschwitz –

(From Emeralds and Ashes)


Sixty-nine years ago, in the last week of January 1945, Russian armies stormed across southern Poland. The occupying Nazis, aware of the approaching Russians, had already retreated with all due haste back to Germany. Thus, when the Russians arrived at the Polish town of Oswiecim (January 27 1945), the adjacent Nazi death camps Auschwitz-Birkenau were completely unguarded. The remaining prisoners — some 6900 — were freed, their lives spared.  No definitive records have ever been located, so a precise final tally of the total number of deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau is impossible, although the estimate of 1.5 million is considered to be a fairly accurate number.

And the smoke will drift over these green hills
Our culture makes us barbarians
It does not allow us to live humanely
We must create a new culture
Or cease to be human
(by Edward Bond in Holocaust Poetry)

Arbeit Macht FreiOPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If you all watched the State of the Union Address last night, that was the second half…Obama’s first half of his speech was sensored by the media (who received advanced notice of his intended remarks. What we didn’t see was the most stunning reversal of Presidential politics in the history of this nation. Here’s the rough transcript of the words that Corporate Media didn’t want you to hear:

“My Fellow Americans, members of Congress, and everybody else: I come to you tonight a changed man in a changed world. I am not the same man I was when you elected me in 2008, and the world is not the same either.

“As I reflected on my time in office, I had to recognize that, in many ways, some things are the same. We’re still at war. In fact, I’ve expanded powers of this office to order drone strikes anywhere I want. All I have to do is say the targeted people have something to do with terrorism and ‘Bam!’ they’re gone!

“On the home front, I’ve enacted the most draconian cuts to social programs ever, thanks to the ongoing sequester.

“Meanwhile the rich are getting richer, and corporations are getting away with everything.

“So, I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: I’m a Republican. So, tonight, I’m making it official. I’m changing Parties. This will give me a majority in the House, and, with the help of the American electorate, a majority in the Senate with the 2014 elections.”

The floor of the chamber was silent and 43 members of the House s—- themselves.


Watering Hole: Tuesday January 28, 2014 Open Thread – Longevity and the influences of culture, social networks and reclaiming personal fulfillment.

In my last job I was tasked with developing a wellness culture at a continuing care retirement community. The impetus actually came from my interview when I blindly asked if the organization was familiar with the work of Dan Buettner who orchestrated a vitality project in Albert Lea, Minnesota based up his work interpreting the longevity studies of the National Geographic Society. Geographers dubbed identified five longevity pockets around the world as ‘Blue Zones’, where places had centenarians at rates ten to thirty times the average US city. Interestingly, with the exception of one, these places had average monthly incomes of $500 to $800 USD. That lone exception was Loma Linda California. The other places identified were: Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica ; Okinawa, Japan ; and  Sardinia, Italy . These five distinct cultures had commonalities that could be applied to longevity throughout the world. The top four are: Eat Wisely, Move (exert) Naturally (daily), Possess a daily Sense of Purpose, and Connect with your Community. Buettner eventually published a book, Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. You can even guestimate your own longevity from his Vitality Compass on the Bluezones web site. And believe it or not, he is one of the few wellness gurus who is not trying to sell you something.

All of these were tied to culture in some way. The foods available to these folks were primarily beans, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits. Meat was a rarity in most of these societies often used as a condiment as opposed to a primary protein source. Loma Linda made the list because of the predominance of Seventh Day Adventists (most of whom are exclusively vegetarian). Natural movement involves primarily employment, where folks in Sardinia were often shepherds, walking five or more miles a day to tend the flock. All the societies engaged in gardening or small plot farming. Dancing, swimming, and other physical rituals accounted for the ‘move naturally daily’ regimen. Outside of Loma Linda, there was no word for ‘retirement’ in these cultures. That meant occupation was a life-long experience, and hence a purpose on hand regardless of age. Connecting with community involved friend networks, checking up on others, and participating in religious or community activities.

Applying these concepts to our own lives here in the US has interesting complications. We are a society inundated with food choices (mostly bad), occupation is often viewed a necessary and not a choice of fulfillment or purpose, are overworked at desk jobs with little time or inclination for exercise, and live in a sprawling set of suburbs outside of large cities where neighbors hardly speak to each other. You actually have to make very conscious decisions to apply these longevity principals to your own life. Most people scantly give any of this any thought, hence the famous quote about most people living lives of quiet desperation.

Open Thread

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 27, 2014: The Lies of Mike Huckabee

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, last Thursday former Governor Mike Huckabee made some pretty ignorant comments regarding Democrats, women, contraception, and reality. Among the many lies he told was this:

And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Okay, where to begin? There are so many things wrong with just this one sentence. First of all, and this is an important point to make because it will come up again later Continue reading

Breaking Gnus: Republican Party ordered off life-support

A Federal District Court judge for the district of North by Northwest passage, Hoboken, New Jersey, ordered the Republican Party be removed from life support no later than 5:00 p.m. January 28, 2014.

A finding that the Party has been brain-dead since at least January of 2001 prompted the court’s decision. The court found that although the Party has been on life-support for over a decade, “there is no hope of viability. Instead, the Party continues to consume billions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.”

An RNC spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous, stated the Party intends to appeal the District Court’s decision and hopes to have a stay in place in time for the Party to make an official response to Obama’s State of the Union Address. The response is reported to rely heavily on rumors that Obama was born in Kenya, and that Benghazi was an intentional plot to side with the terrorists against U.S. interests in protecting Israel and the Afghanistan pipeline.

Sunday Roast: Moving Day


Well, here I go again!

My son and I are loading up the truck today, and bright and early Monday morning, I’ll be hitting the road to Springfield, Oregon.  Obamacare, here I come!

Ummm, looks like a lovely place.  Right?  The best thing is that Cats and Nonewhere are going to be kinda sorta neighbors!!  Could this be the start of the Zoo Commune!?

Anyhoo, internet access will be spotty for a little while, but I’ll check in whenever I can.  Try not to miss me too much!  😀

This is our daily open thread — No talking about me while I’m gone!

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

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy

~ 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; Friday, January 24, 2014; The Poetry of Earth (part II)

“The poetry of earth is never dead.”
(John Keats, 1817)

A long time ago, the English poet William Wordsworth  wrote, in “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” a most able synopsis of the ideal relationship between mankind and the balance of earthly life:

 To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
 The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.  And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.  Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear, — both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my hearth, and soul
Of all my moral being.

One has to wonder, sometimes, what has happened in this, our ‘modern’ era, to Wordsworth’s “joy Of elevated thoughts”? A glance around at each day’s news headlinesat politics both at home and globally, at scientific data and the discussions based thereupon — offers little reassurance that “The anchor . . . of all . . . moral being” still has any root at all “In nature” much less in “the language of the sense.” Today about all that seems to count, at least for our species, is acquisition of money and power.

I’m not at all certain as to just how many different and distinct species inhabit this little backwater planet we call earth, but I’m guessing ‘tens of millions’ would at least reach ballpark status. And in a sensibly run situation, each and all species would most likely remain viable for a good long time, susceptible far more to global changes brought about by astronomical events than to any sort of localized ‘eat or be eaten’ thesis. In fact, one of the more significant mass extinctions happened some 65 million years ago when a sizable asteroid smashed into the earth, tossed all sorts of dust, smoke, and other debris into the atmosphere, modified the climate, and slammed the door on the dinosaurs, among numerous other life forms, in result. Extinction by natural phenomena is nothing new.

Then came humans. Homo sapiens, as we’ve named ourselves. Not sure just when it was that we popped up. Six thousand years ago, if you believe the believers; maybe a million years ago, give or take a hundred thousand or two, if you believe science. Not that it really matters all that much, given that it’s looking pretty certain that we as a species are well past the halfway mark of our existence, given how diligently we work with all our clever tools to modify the global climate sufficiently to force another mass extinction. Lucky for us there’s all that fossilized carbon left beneath the surface by all the life forms that disappeared in the last mass extinction; it appears, in fact, to be more than enough to ‘fuel’ (sotospeak) the next one.

Oh well, what the hey, I’m too old to worry about it all that much; my fate will likely already be a historical footnote by the time the mass die-off commences. Still, there are the young folks, and, well you know, the millions of other species, many of which will be at risk simply because of the idiocy implicit in our one species.

What went wrong?

I checked with poet Walt Whitman; he offered this little bit of wisdom back in 1855 as part of the preface to his masterwork, Leaves of Grass. He speaks my mind, and he somehow managed to do it some 87 years before I even showed up!


I think I could turn and live with animals,
they are so placid and self-contained

I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied,
 not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another,
nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth

Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men – go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers or families – re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

Sounds like some of the best advice anyone could ever offer to not only you and me, but also to the entire of our species (even including such sapiens marginals as, say, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, et al. et al. . . . the list is endless). And seriously, just how is it that life-on-earth’s most “intelligent” species is the species engaged in a process previously left solely to galactic processes? What went wrong?

I tried to answer that question a decade or so ago. I used a total of 140 syllables in my so called Paradox of Humakind: Superior Inferiority effort and while I’m not at all sure I overturned every stone in the process, what the heck, right?

Brash vanity ordains that Mankind be
Superior to all other life on Earth,
And curious source of this Mythology
Derives from Bible’s unintended mirth.
Thus bold is he who advocates the case
Of Genesis errant, where metaphor,
As whimsical devise, cannot replace
Realities which each confirm the Core
Of Life: that every living form appeals
To Duty greater than itself alone.
A single moment’s intellect reveals
One Truth, as if inscribed in tempered stone:
Each bird and beast, each flowered weed, each tree
Expounds on Man’s Inferiority!

So today, thanks to human consumption of fossil fuels and with climate change well underway courtesy of atmospheric CO2 levels approaching historic levels — with the Arctic ice cap rapidly melting and thereby allowing the release of the even more climate-altering (permafrost-embedded) methane, and with efforts on the part of science and thinking people to do whatever is necessary to halt and reverse the process dismissed as some sort of collaborative tom-foolery by industrial and political power centers — we have managed to contrive a potential mass extinction episode with the potential equivalence of the asteroid collision some 65 million years ago.  Bring on the Keystone XL Pipeline! More War! Invade Syria! Nuke Iran! Yeah! Benghazi Benghazi!!

So. Where is the sapiens these days, the intellect, the intelligence? What of “The anchor . . . of all . . . moral being”? Wordsworth drew that concept as he apparently pondered the messages he gained from his juxtaposition between the natural world and the world of Tintern Abbey in Wales, an ancient church founded in 1131 by Cistercian Monks who adhered to the Benedictine philosophy that insisted upon a moderate path between individual and institutionalized theses. Tintern Abbey stands in ruins today, as it has for several centuries. One cannot help but wonder if the words “in ruins” are not also applicable these days to most ‘Western’ religious practice, given that today’s major and most murderous conflicts are, after all, between the three major “God” -based belief systems of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And so the question persists: wherein and in whose hands lies the fate of the human species, indeed of the planet itself?

Brings to mind yet one more piece of compelling poetry, this one written by Philip Appleman sometime in the latter half of the twentieth century. It’s titled Last-Minute Message for a Time Capsule, and its message carries an all too familiar ring of truth.

I have to tell you this, whoever you are
that on one summer morning here, the ocean
pounded in on tumbledown breakers,
a south wind, bustling along the shore,
whipped the froth into little rainbows,
and a reckless gull swept down the beach
as if to fly were everything it needed.
I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
so it wouldn’t be lost forever –
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshipped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.

Are we genuinely the ‘masters’ of our own fate? Of the fate of the planet’s biosphere? Based on current information, we may well prove to NOT be that much better an option than another collision with a giant asteroid! Here’s a better idea: re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem . . .Thanks Walt. If we can get THAT done it will be further evidence that Keats might have been correct after all when he wrote, “The poetry of earth is never dead.”


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.



The Watering Hole: Wednesday, Jan. 22. 2014: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & it’s about Thyme

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.

In a forgotten language, flowers had meanings:

Parsley – Knowledge
Sage – Wisdom
Rosemary – Remembrance
Thyme – Courage

The song date back hundreds of years, and many variations of the lyrics have evolved, but they all center around love requiring the performance of impossible tasks.

She once was a true love of mine…

‘though she still lives, the minstrel has moved on from a true love that demanded the impossible, both he demanding it from her, and her demanding it from him. Now the true love is but a memory, and, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

(open thread)

Watering Hole: Tuesday January 21, 2014 Open Thread – Jesus is Back!

For today’s post I had a piece all ready on longevity when I came across this doozie. Nun Gives Birth to Baby Boy . It is hard being a Pope these days, but Francis is doing a pretty good job of it. More Jesus-like than anybody in the past 2000 years. But Church conspiracy theorists have got to be humming. Having a baby while wearing the cloth is grounds for dismissal (the celibacy clause in the contract). But then we’ve got this clever little Salvadoran nun who names the little brat after Francis, and gives birth to the kid in Italy. Convenient for a whisper campaign for the heavenly right wingers to discredit the Pope? Does Francis (the Elder) whip out Jesus on this one (He who hath not sinned should be looking on the ground for rocks.), or does he order her defrocked like the 400 pedophiles who recently got canned? Oh, and think about the other side of this. She said she didn’t know she was preggers. Did Mary know 2000 years ago? I mean, God can be a sneaky bastard, being everywhere and all knowing and all that. Nowhere in the bible does it describe how God snuck in bed with Mary one night to do the dirty deed. Immaculate Conception is the miracle here, right? Could it happen again, Jesus coming back, I mean? Weren’t we given warning of this in the The Second Coming (no pun intended)? Rapturists also believe that Jesus makes an appearance. Is that on the horizon? Remember about nine months ago a right wing clergy wacko was predicting end times? Maybe he was on to something, and got it right with the conception date. Don’t laugh.

This is our Open Thread.  Carry on.

The Watering Hole: Monday, January 20, 2014, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

Today is a day dedicated to the memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of this nation’s most important civil rights activists. Although the first federal holiday was observed in 1986, it hasn’t been a holiday in every state since then. It wasn’t until 2000 that South Carolina became the last state to sign a bill recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday. [And not everybody has a paid day off. Jane and I have to work, but since we’re lucky enough to have jobs, we won’t complain.]

But in addition to being a federal holiday to honor a great man, it is also a Day of Service.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.

The link can also lead you to projects in your local communities to help you find ways to serve.

mlk day

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr., your plans for serving in your local community, or anything else you wish to discuss. I wish I could say I was serving my community, but I’ll be working and checking in on my mother twice.

Sunday Roast: Remember How We Forgot

Shane Koyczan.  If you’ve never heard of him, you need to find him on the interwebs ASAP.

…Once upon a time, we were young.
Our dreams hung like apples
Waiting to be picked and peeled
And hope was something that needed to be reeled-in
So we can fill the always empty big fish bin with the one that got away
And proudly say that “this time, impossible is not an option”
Because success is so akin to effort and opportunity that it could be related
So we took chances
We figureskated on thin ice
Belief that each slice of live was served with something sweet on the side
And failure was never nearly as important as the fact that we tried
That in the war against frailty and limitation
We supplied the determination it takes to make ideas and goals the parents of possibility
And we believe ourselves to be members of this family
Not just one branch on one tree
But a forest whose roots make up a dynasty
So when I call you sis or bro
It’s not lightly
And when I ask you to remember
It’s because the future isn’t what it used to be…


This is our daily open thread — We were here.


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):





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

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

Loon mom and downy chick

Loon mom and downy chick

Panda mom and baby

Panda mom and baby

Pudu deer and fawn (world's smallest deer)

Pudu deer and fawn (world’s smallest deer)

Wombat baby

Wombat baby

Cheetah mom and cub

Cheetah mom and cub

I just called this one "Party Mice"

I just call this one “Party Mice”

This is our daily open thread–enjoy yourselves today!

The Watering Hole; Friday January 17 2014; “Take All Away From Me, But Leave Me Ecstasy”

A long time ago (‘and in a galaxy far far away’?), the American poet Emily Dickinson wrote:

His Cheek is his Biographer —
As long as he can blush
Perdition is Opprobrium —
Past that, he sins in peace —

Not sure just how she managed, but she did — in just three words — describe perfectly the essentially shriveled soul that has in recent years emerged as the defining feature of the Republican Party, an infirmity invariably pressed ever ‘forward’ by the GOP’s crackpot Tea Party fringe. The premise has at its heart a single goal: to mandate whatever is necessary to guarantee that the rich and the powerful have at their disposal the means to become ever more wealthy, ever more powerful, and that in order to make certain the devastation of everyone else is permanent and irreversible, they are prepared to let nothing stand in the way of their obscene goal. In poetic language, the words “Perdition is Opprobrium” (Spiritual Ruin is the consequence of Outrageously Shameful Conduct) perfectly define that which has become our national malaise.

Such a thesis is certainly not new nor fresh; more likely it’s about as old as is the human presence upon the earth. Still, one can only wonder at what price comes social progress? More than eighty years ago, newly-elected president Franklin Roosevelt inherited a devastated economy, one that had fallen into the dregs of a Great Depression that was brought forth mainly by greed, by the quest for wealth, by the craving for social prominence of a relatively minuscule segment of American society. Roosevelt grappled with massive unemployment, homelessness, poverty, starvation — all the things the American Founders dreamed of alleviating once and for all — and by his actions he brought the nation back from the brink of third world status. And in Roosevelt’s shadow the progress toward social equality and justice continued for another several decades, until . . . until from the ‘bowels’ of perdition and opprobrium the witless conservative ‘movement’ finally gained a foothold. Enter Ronald Reagan and the gradual evolution (read: descent) to the dismal poverty which today has come to define us as a nation . . . poverty implicitly extended and expanded by Republican efforts to defund and/or eliminate programs such as Head Start, Food Stamps, long term Unemployment insurance, disability, even Veteran’s benefits — along with each and every other program designed specifically to help people, to maintain social balance, even to educate the next generations.

Poverty is commonly defined as “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. Synonyms: privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury.” But in today’s America, that rather ‘penurious’ definition leaves out a sizeable increment of the poverty-stricken, i.e. those for whom wealth and power mean everything, where the suffering of others is not even worth noting. In fact, the intellectual poverty of the monied and powerful is every bit as disabling to the national well-being as are the mirror-imaged homeless, starving, moneyless, sickly and dying masses.

So, therein lies the reality. Poverty does NOT refer simply to those who have “little or no money, goods, or means of support.” There is, too, that potentially far more dangerous and destructive intellectual poverty that clearly infects the vast majority of the nation’s upper crust, its rich and powerful, together with . . . sadly . . . a major chunk of its governing politic.

Curiously, however, we are (quite obviously) a long way from being the first Americans to ever have seen or experienced such ungracious invective as one today regularly witnesses emanating from the mouths and pens of our elected officials. And as the following will magically demonstrate, I’m far from the first to prefer MY level of ‘defined’ poverty to THEIR level of ‘intellectual’ poverty, aka the poverty of slothful soul. Many thanks once again to Miss Emily Dickinson who penned this little masterpiece of insight and understanding more than 150 years ago. It took her only five lines and 39 words to sum up the entire of today’s intellectual poverty — the poverty of soul that quite literally has come to DEFINE a major national politic AND the poverty-stricken rich and powerful who are served by that very same politic. That. Poverty. Of. Soul.

Take all away from me, but leave me Ecstasy,
And I am richer then than all my Fellow Men —
Ill it becometh me to dwell so wealthily
When at my very Door are those possessing more,
In abject poverty –

One can only wonder just how a reclusive poet in the 1860’s managed to so eloquently describe the “abject poverty” implicit in and defining of such early 21st century luminaries as, say, the Koch Brothers, Dick Cheney, Chris Christie, John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Darrell Issa, . . . well, you know, the list is absolutely endless!

Pardon me as I pause to bow in the general direction of the obvious and perceptive genius, the coolest of the cool; the one known to us as Miss. Emily. Dickinson! 😎


The Watering Hole; Thursday January 16 2014; “The Things That Are More Excellent”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve long enjoyed a fondness for poetry, particularly poetry written by those of brilliant mind. There are numerous familiar names, of course, a few of which are Aeschylus, Omar Khayyam, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Emily Dickinson — the list is long and incredibly accomplished. There are, also and of course, many more accomplished poets of less familiar name, but whose work stands as tall as any.

In that latter vein, it was while rummaging through some old poetry files just the other day that I happened across this little ‘masterpiece’ by the British poet Sir William Watson (1858-1935). Watson probably wrote it somewhere around 100 years ago, give or take a decade, but curiously enough the ideas expressed in it seem to be so amazingly up to date as to suggest he wrote it just last week! I suppose the embedded message in that little factoid is that most likely throughout the vast bulk of human existence, if ideas and concepts are to change at all, said change invariably proceeds only with unimaginable lethargy.

Watson’s poem, quoted below, contains nine verses of eight lines each, and in which the final line of each verse is a repeat of the Poem’s title, “The things that are more excellent.” In the first seven verses he speaks of, resp., things that are NOT ‘more excellent,’ including (1) material possessions, (2) politics, (3) social issues subject to a prejudiced agenda of one or another sort, (4) the burdens of fetishes (“fetich”), (5) a demanding God and the religious practices therein implicit, (6) the conflict of the ‘social ramble’ with the natural world, and (7) the accumulation of wealth and power. Those aren’t quite the Seven Deadly Sins, but it’s probably safe to assume all of ‘SALIGIA’ is embedded in there somewhere!

In verses 8 and 9, Watson lays out with reasonable precision that which he sees as defining of “The Things That Are More Excellent” including friendships and understanding, science, art, knowledge, a liberal mindset, the sprawl of Nature, and life itself. I can find no argument with any of his conclusions.

So, without further ado, here it is, complete and unfettered. Enjoy!

by William Watson

As we wax older on this earth,
Till many a toy that charmed us seems
Emptied of beauty, stripped of worth,
And mean as dust and dead as dreams,–
For gauds that perished, shows that passed,
Some recompense the Fates have sent:
Thrice lovelier shine the things that last,
The things that are more excellent.

Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl,
An hour with silence we prefer,
Where statelier rise the woods than all
Yon towers of talk at Westminster.
Let this man prate and that man plot,
On fame or place or title bent:
The votes of veering crowds are not
The things that are more excellent.

Shall we perturb and vex our soul
For “wrongs” which no true freedom mar,
Which no man’s upright walk control,
And from no guiltless deed debar?
What odds though tonguesters heal, or leave
Unhealed, the grievance they invent?
To things, not phantoms, let us cleave–
The things that are more excellent.

Nought nobler is, than to be free:
The stars of heaven are free because
In amplitude of liberty
Their joy is to obey the laws.
From servitude to freedom’s name
Free thou thy mind in bondage pent;
Depose the fetich, and proclaim
The things that are more excellent.

And in appropriate dust be hurled
That dull, punctilious god, whom they
That call their tiny clan the world,
Serve and obsequiously obey:
Who con their ritual of Routine,
With minds to one dead likeness blent,
And never ev’n in dreams have seen
The things that are more excellent.

To dress, to call, to dine, to break
No canon of the social code,
The little laws that lacqueys make,
The futile decalogue of Mode,–
How many a soul for these things lives,
With pious passion, grave intent!
While Nature careless-handed gives
The things that are more excellent.

To hug the wealth ye cannot use,
And lack the riches all may gain,–
O blind and wanting wit to choose,
Who house the chaff and burn the grain!
And still doth life with starry towers
Lure to the bright, divine ascent!–
Be yours the things ye would: be ours
The things that are more excellent.

The grace of friendship–mind and heart
Linked with their fellow heart and mind;
The gains of science, gifts of art;
The sense of oneness with our kind;
The thirst to know and understand–
A large and liberal discontent:
These are the goods in life’s rich hand,
The things that are more excellent.

In faultless rhythm the ocean rolls,
A rapturous silence thrills the skies;
And on this earth are lovely souls,
That softly look with aidful eyes.
Though dark, O God, Thy course and track,
I think Thou must at least have meant
That nought which lives should wholly lack
The things that are more excellent.

Note that if, in the second verse, the word ‘Westminster’ is changed to ‘Washington’ the entire context pretty much automatically vaults ahead a century to the present moment, and at that point defines the hell-hole in which resides our “government” — a contrivance that most certainly does not even approach  much less begin to comprehend ANY of those “Things That Are More Excellent.” As Watson put it, Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl, / An hour with silence we prefer / . . . / Let this man prate and that man plot, / On fame or place or title bent: /

The votes of veering crowds are not
The things that are more excellent.


If I were to make a wild guess it would be that, were he around today, William Watson would NOT be one of the myriad who never ev’n in dreams have seen / The things that are more excellent.”  In other words, he would not be Republican, nor a wingnut, nor a teabagger, nor a politician of any description. Watson, in fact, ‘saw himself as a lifelong enemy of tyranny’ so there can be no doubt that he would still, today, continue to be precisely that which first and foremost he always was: a Poet capable of penning Universal Truth.


The Watering Hole: Wednesday, January 15, 2014: Hump Day: A Bridge Too Farce…


Well, folks, the long awaited Traffic Study commissioned by Governor Chris Christie that necessitated the closure of 3 out of 4 toll boths on the busiest bridge in the world has now been released. Among its findings are:

  1. If you shut down the world’s busiest bridge, you create the world’s greatest gridlock.
  2. If you create the world’s greatest greatest gridlock, it will have a negative impact on the economy.
  3. If you cause a negative impact on the economy, people are going to ask why.
  4. If people ask why, you will have to lie.
  5. If you have to lie, an angel loses its wings.
  6. If an angel loses its wings, it falls to earth and becomes Satan.
  7. If an angel becomes Satan, gays will get married.
  8. If you want to keep gays from getting married, don’t shut down the world’s busiest bridge.


The Watering Hole: Tuesday January 14, 2014 – Salmon Recovery in the Northwest

Essentially there have been four historic factors which have decimated the salmon runs from our earliest documented estimates (estimates for the Columbia River are annual runs of 7.5 to 16 million salmon alone). Western state runs (California, Oregon, and Washington) are estimated to be only 10% of historical numbers. Many of these runs are with hatchery spawned fish. The four main factors for this precipitous decline are dams, habitat destruction (forestry and agricultural practices), overharvest, and pollution. Global warming is being added to the list. Salmon are temperature sensitive salmonids that cannot extract oxygen from water when temperatures reach a specified upper limit (species specific). Hatcheries currently supplement wild stocks, but are unsustainable on many levels. Both wild and hatchery fish are trucked over dams that do not have fish passages. Fish passages are small and restrict the numbers of fish that make it to spawning grounds in headwaters, both dams and agricultural practices cause warming of water temperatures. These multiple factors are addressed in salmon recovery plans, but the major factor that will increase salmon numbers are dams. In the West dams serve three purposes: hydro-power, irrigation storage, and flood control.

Overcoming the reasons for their existence are the obstacles to salmon recovery. Replacing dams for hydro-power would be expensive, but theoretically it could be accomplished by diverting only ten percent of a river and running the water through a series of downstream generators, one behind the other, all re-using the same water. This would allow 90% of the river for fish passage. Irrigation storage could be accomplished by diverting high water conditions to off-line storage basins built for such usage. Flood control dams are a more difficult issue. Literally, all buildings within a flood plain would have to be destroyed or moved to higher ground. This could take centuries to accomplish as most settlements parked near rivers for numerous beneficial reasons, water supply and transportation being the main two.
The other salmon decline issues also have solutions. None are without costs (which mean resistance from entrenched interests). There are many great nonprofit organizations addressing these issues. American Rivers, The Native Fish Society, Trout Unlimited, Sierra Club, and the National Wildlife Federation are among the major players. Any one of them deserves your support. Government has a role as well and both the national government and affected states have restoration plans. But let’s not kid ourselves; there is a long row to hoe. Here’s some supplemental reading.

US Salmon Recovery Plan

25% of wild stocks extirpated.

Some Salmon Can Tolerate Higher Temperature

The Chronology of Salmon Decline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard to tell 'em apart, huh? (photo courtesy of

Hard to tell ’em apart, huh?
(photo courtesy of

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

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

Sunday Roast: Giving the unemployed the finger

In the face of empirical evidence that unemployment benefits help boost the economy, Congress went ahead and let the benefit expire for 1.3 million people — with another round of cuts coming right up.

Yes, I said “people.”  Not slackers, takers, losers, or lazy fucks, as Republicans and Tea Party morons like call the long term unemployed.

Officially, there are three people applying for every job in this country, but with so many people off the official unemployment roles (like me) — because their benefits ran out long ago, they’re so discouraged and depressed they don’t even look for work anymore, or they’re elderly or disabled — the actual number of people applying for each job is probably eight to ten.  Far too many of those jobs have absolutely no benefits, and don’t pay enough to keep a roof over your head AND keep the lights and heat on AND eat halfway decently.  Pick one!

But listen to the GOP/Tea Party, and you’ll hear patronizing statements that unemployment benefits make people lazy, shiftless slobs, who will feed off the government teat forever — this from career politicians who feed off the government teat.  Apparently, the best way to get people off unemployment is to just let the funds run dry, and accuse hard-working Americans of being lazy, blood-sucking shits, rather than actually passing a jobs bill (hey, the President has one!) or a sufficient stimulus bill.  Oh yes, they’ll extend unemployment benefits, but children, veterans, the elderly, and the hungry are damn well going to pay for it — unlike in the Bush years, where nothing was paid for EVER, and the GOP were happy as clams.

And gee whiz, where did all this unemployment come from anyway?  Let’s all ignore the FACT that George W. Bush crashed the economy in 2008, and had been hemorrhaging jobs out of this country long before the crash.  No no no, all this unemployment is because of President Obama’s socialist, fascist, Marxist, commie, pinko, nazi policies — again, flying in the face of actual evidence to the contrary — not because of constant Republican obstruction and blatant refusal to do the work they were sent to Washington DC to do.

Do you know how long they’ll keep doing this to the people of this country?  Yes, the people — do you actually think YOU are immune to GOP policies?  They’ll keep doing it as long as the people stay silent; as long as the people stay out of the voting booth; and as long as they can keep the people fighting among ourselves over things like the “War on Christmas,” so-called religious persecution, taxes (except the taxes of the top 1% aka the “job creators”), and other social issues that are only the business of those actually involved.

Pay no attention to the 97 days the millionaires in the House of Representatives will work this year — naming post offices, repealing Obamacare again, and railing against dirty, dirty women who want unfettered access to birth control, because they just don’t want to push out an unwanted baby every year — or their rapist’s baby EVER.  No, of course, lazy blood-sucking GOP/Tea Partiers aren’t the problem — it’s the unemployed.


This is our daily open thread — Discuss whatever.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 11, 2014: Things Really Did Go Well In Fort Lee Toll Plaza, Didn’t It?

Let me start by saying nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. (As, I write this, I’ve made two typos in the first two sentences.) You’re not perfect. Conservatives aren’t perfect. (They’re not reading this.) So I’m not going to examine New Jersey politics through the prism of perfection. But I do believe I’m a basically good person. And I’m sure you’re a good person. Conservatives aren’t reading this. But what is it about the Great State of New Jersey (my neighbor to the southwest-ish), birthplace of such brilliant talent as The Boss (Bruce Springsteen to you non-rock fans), and Jon Stewart, the host of the coincidentally-named The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher, the man Conservatives hate to the point of orgasm, that produces some of the most vicious, incompetent, and, yes, corrupt state government in the entire United States?

A poll taken thirteen months ago, after the mayor of Trenton, Tony Mack, was indicted on federal corruption charges, asked readers of, “Is New Jersey corrupt?” Their results:

No. A few lunatic leaders will never spoil our state. 7.11%
Yes. The evidence speaks for itself. 80.96%
Maybe. How much would you give me to say “no”? 11.93%

As that same news site observed, “Richard Nixon slept here; now it will be history.

So the whole Fort Lee Toll Plaza scandal (I refuse to call it that “b”-word ending in that “-ate”-word. For crying out loud, people, try to be original, for once! What happened to “Tammany Hall” or “Teapot Dome”? Why must every scandal end in that “g”-word?) is now known to be a conspiracy. And since it involved a federal bridge (it’s an interstate bridge, which makes it fall under Federal, New York, and New Jersey law), the FBI will be investigating. We know that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which oversees the operations of the bridge) started asking questions about why the bridge was closed, and that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ask that Mr. Foye back off his investigation. The initial public speculation about why this happened centered on the mayor of Fort Lee, who thought he was being punished for not endorsing the Governor in his re-election bid. But that didn’t sit well with some people, among them Rachel Maddow. According to her reporting, there was another, more plausible target: The Leader of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Fort Lee is in her district. And traffic problems are a well-known retaliation tactic in New Jersey politics. It’s a state with a very heavy car population, and elected officials’ careers hang on how well they resolve their constituents’ traffic problems. We also have reports that Gov Christie was highly pissed about her blocking one of his nominees to a judgeship. Shortly after that, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly e-mailed Christie-appointee David Wildstein to suggest “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to which Mr. Wildstein replied, “Got it.”

“Got it”? Got what? Exactly what was it that he “got”? That some kind of retribution was in order? The response clearly implies that two people made a plan to do something that quite likely violated several state and federal laws, and that this later involved others who communicated ways to carry out the plan. This is literally a conspiracy, so, naturally, everybody’s theory about what happened will accurately be called a “conspiracy theory.” But there are some questions I’d like to have answered.

How many other times did members of the Christie Administration deliberately manipulate things to retaliate against a political opponent, where the public safety was endangered? How much did Governor Andrew Cuomo know about why what happened in Fort Lee happened, and did he ask Patrick Foye to back off in his investigation? And will anybody go to jail for what happened?

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.