The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 29, 2014: Ah, No

A new movie has Christian Conservatives up in arms because of its alleged inaccuracies. It’s called “Noah” and it’s the story of a young boy whose obsession with words leads him to write a novel that redefines the meanings of words commonly in use at the time and — and I am being told that this is not what the movie is about after all. Then it must be the one about the man who works for a shadowy company that tracks people with special abilities — and I’m being told this isn’t the story, either. Ah, I know. It’s got all these right-wingers upset, so it must be the story of a shadowy government agency that tracks weather patterns and tries to warn people that the average overall planet’s surface temperature is rising — and I’m being told that’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then what’s this one about? The what? Are you sure? Okay, if you say so. Apparently it’s the story of a man who signed up for AARP and — what? Not AARP? Ark? He signed up for an Ark? That makes no sense. Oh, he built an Ark after getting a DM from God. Why would he do that? Read my what? Oh, alright, if you insist.

According to Le Bib (or, as the Gangsters call it, the Bible), Noah was a 600-year-old righteous man chosen by God to build an Ark of a specific size, for the purpose of rescuing a sample of all living land and air animals from a flood He was about to bring upon the Earth, wiping out all living things (except, I presume, the fish.) A version of the original story (certainly not the original version itself) can be found in the Authorized King James Version (AKJV) of the Bible, in Genesis. Chapter 5 gives Noah’s genealogy from Adam (God’s alleged Creation), which tells us that this story takes place about 4,400 years ago, if you believe the earth is about 6,000 years old. It also means it takes place about 2,400 years before the birth of Jesus. Why this movie should bother Christians so much baffles me. It’s not their story. And if you want other non-believers to think the God you worship is an all-loving God, you don’t want to draw attention to this story. God is so fed up with Humanity that he’s going to kill them all and start over with Noah’s family. Why would you believe He wouldn’t kill everyone again? You say it’s because God promised he wouldn’t do that again? That’s not the way I read it, but more on that later.

This two-and-a-half hour movie (which I have not seen, but whose contents I base on the reviews I cite) is based on Genesis Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9. The main complaint of the Right Wing Christian Reviewers (they’re so much alike they might as well belong to a formal organization with that name) is that the Darren Aronofsky film Noah is not true to the story in the Bible. Well, at least the Bible we presume they mean. They never seem to say which one. And as much as I hate to admit it, they’re right. Debbie Schlussel says a better title would be Not Noah. Erick Erickson is not kidding when he says it was “one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a very long time,” and that he’s “Not sure it is worth it for anyone who takes the Bible seriously.” And Ben Shapiro calls it a “perversely Pagan mess.” And they are correct that the short story of Noah that I read in the Bible (Yes, we Atheists do have access to Bibles, as evidenced above) said nothing about warriors battling Noah for a place on his Ark, or of giant stone creatures, or of Methuselah having magical powers. It doesn’t really say much of anything, really. The gist of the story is summarized in Chapter 6. Flood coming, start building. Animals gathering, start loading. Rains pouring, start praying. Storms passing, start looking. Waters receding, start living. Throw in some really awesome special effects (which, when you get right down to it, is the entire point of the movie) and you’ve got a Hollywood movie. Of about twenty minutes. Of course they had to pad it with things not strictly found in the Bible. They could have been a little more in line with the original story. I’m pretty sure Noah’s sons were not named Ham, Eggs, and Bacon. (BTW, why would a vegetarian – Noah is depicted in the film as a vegetarian – name his son ‘Ham’? For that matter, why would anyone who practiced a religion that proscribed pork name one of their children ‘Ham’? But I digress.) And the Biblical Noah did not have a Ford F-150 to help him haul lumber around. And Home Depot did not donate an apron for Noah to wear with pockets for nails. But these are minor things. Okay, I made those last few things up.

What also bothers the RWCR is that the word “God” is not mentioned once in the movie. Oh, does that irk them. Noah makes reference to the Creator, but never calls him God or any other particular name. And this seems to bother them a lot. But if you;re going to make a claim that a movie is not faithful enough to the original book, you should be absolutely certain you have your facts right. Assuming we’re talking about facts. Perhaps “details” would be a better choice of word. Schlussel says that Noah was 500 years old when he began the Ark. Not correct. Noah was 500 when he started having children. He was 600 when he started building the Ark. And Shapiro says that God promised never to destroy Humanity again. That’s not how I read it. There are the thoughts God had to himself, and there’s the words of the Covenant he spoke to Noah. And what he told Noah was that He would never flood the Earth again. That doesn’t mean he won’t do something else, like let the temperature rise so much that the planet became uninhabitable for humans.

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

Music Night, March 28, 2014

Alex Chilton (December 28, 1950 – March 17, 2010) first swam into my consciousness in 1967 as the lead singer of the Box Tops, part of the blue-eyed soul singer wave. In the early 70s he was a founding member and lead singer of Big Star, a hugely influential powerpop band that withered without any decent support from their record company but reached cult status over time.

From Wikipedia: Before it broke up, Big Star created a “seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations” in the words of Rolling Stone, as the “quintessential American power pop band” and “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll”.

Alex Chilton died at age 59 of a heart attack. He’d experienced symptoms for weeks beforehand but, hey, no health insurance so not doctor visits. Four years later, with the ACA, he might well have survived.

The Watering Hole; Friday March 28 2014; Outrage

Courtesy of online dictionary, a partial definition:

out-rage:
noun
1. an act of wanton cruelty or violence; any gross violation of law or decency.
2. anything that strongly offends, insults, or affronts the feelings.
3. a powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult, or injustice: Outrage seized the entire nation at the news of the attempted assassination.

That pretty much summarizes my opinion of each and every one of the policies which have come to define today’s Republican Party, aka the GOP aka the Tea Party aka the AFP (American Fascist Party). In brief summary, this is the American political party that does not give a tinker’s dam about ANYTHING that has ANYTHING to do with ANYTHING other than money and power. They care nothing for culture, for civilization, for we the people, for education, for science, for the environment, for wildlife, for _______ (fill in the blank with ANY word other than money, or power, and save me however many thousands of pages it would take to list everything in the universe that’s hated or dismissed as insignificant by Republicans).

While y’all are doing that, I’ll post here an account of the latest atrocity that’s causing my blood to boil. It’s brief, summarized in a few short paragraphs describing outrageous actions by Republicans in the state of Idaho, courtesy of the Center for Biodiversity. It reads (highlights their own):

Idaho’s official policy is that “wolf recovery efforts be discontinued immediately, and wolves be removed by whatever means necessary.” The state has already killed more than 300 wolves and now plans to ramp up the massacre, slaughtering another 500.

Idaho’s legislature created a new “Wolf Control Board” just days ago — made up of hunters and ranchers and funded with $400,000 of taxpayer money — to shoot, trap and gas the state’s last remaining wolves.

Though Idaho’s wolf population has plummeted by 42 percent since federal protection was stripped away, the state — left in charge of wolf “management” — wants to kill another 500 of these ecologically precious predators. That will drive their population down to an unsustainable level of just 150.

There is, of course, zero logical reason for such stupid and ridiculous wildlife policy other than the all-too-typical (and common) Republican hatred of virtually everything other than themselves, and the money and power they spend their respective lifetimes cultivating.

The next step, the only chance remaining for Idaho wolves, will be if the US Fish and Wildife “Service” should ultimately decide to follow the science (rather than the hatred) and restore the endangered species tag to wolves in the lower 48. Sounds like the obviously logical choice to be made, but then when Republicans have any input at all on most anything at all, the concept of ‘obviously logical’ goes flying out the window. Every freakin’ time.

OK, rant over. Hopefully the embedded message — that the Republican “philosophy” of death to everything and everyone but the rich and powerful is the absolutely WORST government option that this country could ever choose. Sadly, pretty close to fifty percent of the apparent electorate supports and even votes for such dirt. Wish I had available the means to make the needed repairs, but it’s probably far more simple to train a colony of sewer roaches to dress for dinner than it is to convince half the population that they’re voting only for their own destruction.

OPEN THREAD; ANY and ALL ANTI-GOP RANTS WELCOME!

The Watering Hole; Thursday March 27 2014; What’s in a Name?

With the news stories of the day being pretty much limited to the still unknown fate of MH370, to Hobby Lobby’s hoped-for love affair with SCOTUS, and of course to the remnants of the Chris Christie/GWBridgegate horse puckey, I thought maybe it was time for a break.

And up it popped: the Washington Redskins, and all the emergent fuss over the team’s insulting nickname. Now, as everyone who knows me is well aware, I have zero interest in professional sports no matter the genre. Be it football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey — name it — I don’t waste even a moment per decade on any of it. But, then once in awhile an aside of sorts pops up and . . . well, what the hell.

Here’s a brief summation courtesy of the Washington Post, where it’s noted that

In the past year [team owner Daniel] Snyder has faced stiff criticism over the team’s name, which some Native American tribes have called offensive. Several state and local officials have also spoken out against the name. Last season, the Redskins drew protests at many of their road games, with crowds of several hundred turning out to their matchups in Denver and Minnesota. Groups also have lobbied NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to take action.

Word on the street has it that Snyder’s ego won’t allow him to engage the potential humiliation implicit in knuckling under to popular opinion, to acknowledge the name “Redskins” is, more than anything else, a racial epithet that insults Native American Tribal entities all across the country. The owner of a professional football franchise valued at some $1.7 billion is, at least in Snyder’s own mind, far too important to pay attention to anything that non-billionaires might think. As the Washington Post puts it,

Snyder, who has owned the Redskins since 1999, maintains the team’s nickname represents the heritage of the 81-year-old franchise and is meant to honor Native Americans.

Right. I mean really, how better to honor Native Americans everywhere than via the well-worn epithet “Redskins”?

Well, anyway, I decided I would offer my services — at no charge, of course — by suggesting an appropriate alternative moniker for that 81-year-old Washington heritage, a nickname far more worthy of a $1.7 billion franchise than “Redskins.” Still, in keeping with the apparent thesis that a racist epithet is, to many, a somehow cool and honorable means of demeaning those of inferior blood, I’ve concluded that maybe both expanding that concept AND at the same time toning it down a bit might be something Snyder could live with, maybe even like?

OK. So. Rather than sticking with REDskins and insulting ONLY Native Americans, why not dig in and nail each and every skin color (other that white, of course) to that old familiar KKKross? Go for the Gold! as someone said once. Somewhere. I forget where. Anyway, there are, scattered across this land and around the globe, folks with RED skins, with BLACK skins, with YELLOW skins, and with BROWN skins. And true enough, it would only raise further ire amongst the masses if Snyder changed the name to accommodate any one of the others beyond RED. I mean think of it for a second: the Washington Blackskins? Yellowskins? Brownskins? Nah, no way. Gotta do better than any of THAT nonsense. So, it struck me all of a sudden. Why not combine those four possibilities into one, into one word that pays heed to each and all of our minority (so far at least) skin colors even as it celebrates the passions of bigots and billionaires everywhere? How about the WASHINGTON FOURSKINS!!

YEAH! And Yee Haw!

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Breaking Gnus: Supreme Court Allows For-Profit Corporations the Right to Impose Their Religious Beliefs on Workers.

Dateline 9/26/14: The Zoo’s “Way-Foreward Machine” brings us the news from 6 months hence. It all began with a simple question:

“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli.

And with that, the door for Corporations to dictate health care was swung wide open. Ironically, the Affordable Health Care Act, or ObamaCare as it was more popularly known, did not force Corporations to pay for abortions – just offer health insurance that would cover such procedures.

But, with the Supreme Court paving the way, every employer soon jumped on the bandwagon. Within months, the health insurance landscape was in ruins as corporation after corporation, small business after small business, began demanding that they dictate their employees health insurance based on the religious beliefs of the board of directors or individual business owner, as the case may be.

Faced with literally millions of demands for differning coverages based on the ideosyncracies of the religions of millions of business owners, the Insurance Industry simply gave up. No company could write policies that covered enough people to be economically viable. Company after company simply stopped writing health insurance.

Now, 6 months later, the only health insurance in the United States is Medicare. Yes, even the companies that underwrote Congress’ health insurance stopped.

So, on the eve of the 2014 mid-term elections, Congress must face the polital piper. Religious Freedom protected individual, for-profit corporations from providing health care. But the Government must act in a manner that neither promotes one religion over another, nor any religion over no religion. Will Congress step up to the task of seeing that every American has a right to health care? Or will we have to elect new representatives that will?

OPEN THREAD
OPEN DISCUSSION

(P.S. The “Way Foreward Machine” is only capable of showing one of may possible futures. The actual future may be different than the one depicted here. Indeed, by publishing the Way Foreward Machine’s prediction, the future may have already been altered.

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 22, 2014: Will Creationists Never Get It?

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an Atheist, and happy and proud to be one. I believe that our portion of the Space-Time Continuum came into being as the result of a Big bang, an explosion of matter and energy that rapidly expanded, and eventually formed the many, many galaxies of which our own is just one. I said “Space-Time Continuum” instead of “Universe” because I believe there are many, many Universes, spread far apart from one another. The Space-Time Continuum is just the framework within which everything happened, happens, and will happen. It is infinite in size, and infinite in time. It has always existed and it will always exist, but the matter and energy within it will constantly change. It was not brought into existence by anything, it was already there. Matter and energy may be turned into each other, but the infinite framework will still be there. Many religions that believe in a God have a Creation Myth. The one in the Christian Bible is not the only one, but that’s the one that religious conservatives want to see imposed on everyone. Their Creation Myth begins with three simple words, “In the beginning…” And that’s where the Bible and I part company. Because as far as I’m concerned, there was no beginning. People erroneously believe there MUST have been a First Cause, some kind of Force that brought everything into existence. I disagree. You want to tell me that the Space-Time Continuum Framework was entirely empty before some kind of Deity decided to start making stuff in it? For how long must that Deity, that all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing Deity, have sat around in a whole bunch of Nothingness? That makes absolutely no sense at all. None. What makes much more sense is that there was no beginning, that it was always there in some form or another. And it will still be there long after we all turn to star dust. Wouldn’t that imply that Life has no purpose? Yeah, but so what? In the wise words of Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, “Who said Life is fair?”

Which brings us to the Creationists of Answers In Genesis. They still don’t understand the concept of Science. They’re upset because Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the revival of “Cosmos,” won’t allow “balance” and present the view of the anti-Evolutionists. They seem to think that any effort to educate the public about things like the Truth, using such controversial tactics as citing Facts, must be balanced by teaching things what could only be described as “Falsehoods” and “Lies.” They seem to think that young people should be taught all points of view, no matter how absurd or demonstrably false, and then let them “decide” what they want to believe. This is how you raise a generation of stupid people. And stupid people tend to be conservative in their thinking (a well-documented fact), and stupid, I mean, conservative, in their voting. This has always been part of the long term strategy of the Right. People who don’t understand how Science works, who think that every point of view is valid, tend to be easily manipulated emotionally into being afraid. And people who are afraid make bad decisions, like voting for Conservatives to govern them. Which is why the Conservatives let the Religious Right have their way, no matter how wrong, no matter how intellectually void of merit their ideas, no matter how unconstitutional their proposed legislation.

Creationists continue to insist that their views be given equal weight with Scientific viewpoints and Theories. But there is absolutely nothing scientific about Creationism or Intelligent Design. They start with the premise that God exists, and assume that anything that isn’t understood is the Will of God and Not For Mere Mortals to Understand. That is not Science. How can you test any hypothesis when you hope the result is that you can’t discern the answer, so it must be God’s work? Even more, Creationism isn’t even a true Theory in the scientific sense. It’s nothing more than a belief that things happened a certain way, on the whim and time scale of a Power we can’t hope to understand, with no allowance for any belief otherwise. Why should that be given equal weight with the culmination of hundreds of years of scientific discipline and pursuit of the Truth? Especially when it’s been long proven that the Religious views on the nature of the Universe have been proven wrong time and again? The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Earth is not the center of the galaxy, let alone the Universe. We are no more important in the Grand Scheme of Things than the people living on a planet circling Alpha Centauri. And they probably think the same thing about us. And you know what? We’re both right.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Creationism, real Science, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else about Neil deGrasse Tyson that you like.

Friday March 21, 2014 Music Night

I got this invite from Cats that has been passing around Facebook. It asks you to name 12 influential albums (for you) and pass it on to ten friends. Here is the list I composed.

RULES: in your status update, list 12 albums that have stayed with you over the years in some way. Don’t take too long on this list. – Just a few minutes. These don’t have to be great records, or critical darlings, just ones that mean something to you personally. Then tag 10 or more of your friends, including me so I can see your list! Anyone not tagged but otherwise interested is still invited to play.
Not necessarily in this order:
1. Otis Spann (Archive of Folk Music) -Blues piano
2. Antiques and Inventions – Dry Branch Fire Squad – Bluegrass
3. Django Reinhardt et Le Quintet du Hot Club de France – Gypsy Jazz
4. Beggars Banquet – Rolling Stones
5. Panic- Caravan Palace – Electro Swing
6. The Very Best of the Shirelles – The Shirelles
7. Hat Trick – The Wiyos
8. The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
9. Moondawn – Klaus Schulze – electronica
10. Dance album of Carl Perkins – Carl Perkins – Rockabilly
11. Made in the Shade – Red Stick Ramblers – Cajun
12. Right – Bill Cosby – Comedy

Honorable Mention – The Last Poets – The Last Poets –

Do you have a list to share?

I’m going to start tonight with my ‘honorable mention.’ I have never been a fan of ‘rap’ or ‘hip hop’ but the Last Poets arguably are the foundational roots of that genre. Their debut self titled album (1970) contributed to that politically charged era.

The Watering Hole; Friday March 21 2014; Monarch Roundup

Sometimes it only takes a simple one page email letter to tell it like it is. This one, from the Natural Resources Defense Council popped up in my inbox just yesterday, and it took me maybe thirty seconds to act, to add my name to the petition of protest.

Monarch butterflies are in crisis, and we must take immediate action to protect them!

Less than 20 years ago, an astounding 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico for the winter. This year, a mere fraction of that — just 33.5 million — made the journey.

Why? In large part it’s because industrial agriculture is killing off the native milkweed on which monarchs depend with a new generation of potent herbicides.

Tell the EPA to adopt tough new restrictions on the weed killers that are wiping out monarchs!

By placing commonsense limits on Big Ag’s rampant use of herbicides like glyphosate — marketed as Roundup by Monsanto — the EPA could dramatically increase the monarch’s chance for survival.

But the EPA is unlikely to do that unless it hears from hundreds of thousands of us!

Monarchs can’t live without milkweed — it is the only plant on which they lay their eggs.

What’s at stake here? One of the most astounding and extraordinary migrations on the planet — a true natural wonder.

Each year, as they have for countless generations, North American monarchs undertake an epic journey, flittering upwards of 3,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada to just a relative few wintering grounds, including Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains.

But as industrial agriculture has ramped up its use of genetically engineered crops resistant to weed killers like glyphosate, it has also dramatically escalated its use of herbicides — and monarch populations have plunged.

This is the ninth year in a row that the population of monarchs wintering in Mexico has fallen below its long-term average, and this year it hit an all-time low.

Please tell EPA the time to act is now!

Thank you for joining NRDC at this critical moment in our fight to save the monarchs.

Sincerely,

Frances Beinecke
President
Natural Resources Defense Council 

So: a common agricultural herbicide (Monsanto’s Roundup) is very likely a major player in the apparently impending destruction/extinction of the Monarch Butterfly. Good old Monsanto. From herbicides to pesticides to genetically modified seeds, the destruction of the biosphere continues unabated . . . because there’s a lot of money in it. And nothing else matters, dontcha know.

I do hope that everyone who reads this will (a) sign the petition, and (b) spread the word far and wide. It’s time that we find the means to destroy something other than butterflies. As for Monsanto? — great place to begin the undoubtedly interminable process of destroying the destroyers. Gotta start somewhere, though.

0718-Butterfly and shadow on sunflowers

OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday March 20 2014; Reflections

It’s been a busy week here in the foothills of the Front Range. More on that later. Meanwhile, some ‘reflections’ courtesy of Denny Green, Tempe AZ, taken at the Gilbert Water Ranch last Sunday. I dunno. Sometimes the message(s) implicit in the beauty of the natural world can be a bit humbling to “superior” beings everywhere (not one of which I’ve ever met, but then I’ve never been in Washington, never been on Fox News, etc., so that’s surely why, right?).

Humbling. Reflections. Enjoy.

3-16-14-1

3-16-14-2

3-16-14-3Emily Dickinson said it best: Beauty — be not caused — It Is. She was right. It’s surely fair to point out that depiction of beauty most certainly does NOT require the personage (or portrait) of any known politician, or billionaire oligarch, or even of most any common criminal (assuming there’s ever a difference between, etc.). Funny how that works, how those who are totally unimportant and useless (e..g. Koch Bros., Putin, Boehner, McConnell, McCain, Graham, Palin, Bachmann, Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Jindal, and most anyone named ‘Scott’ et al. et al.) are demonstrably paled by even just-last-Sunday’s soliloquies of/by waterfowl enjoying winter’s warmth courtesy of an anonymous desert watering hole. Beauty implicit invariably manages to overwhelm even human ugliness, and with luck the message therein embedded will someday become a driving thesis . . . here . . . in this so-far hallowed hollowed world, the world of . . . ummm . . . “men” I think some have called us . . . them?  . . . errmm . . . ? Yeah. That world. Our world. The world of, as T.S. Eliot described us, The Hollow Men . . .

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

‘Nuff said. At least for now.

OPEN THREAD

Tuesday March 18, 2014 Watering Hole – Environmental News and Food Politics – Open Thread

Paris implements a partial ban on driving carsBus riding is free during pollution event. Seems there are too many cars on the road. Can you imagine a ban on cars here in the good old freedom fighting US of A?

Winners and losers. Seems that are too many buckets at the Texas well and farmers are getting turned away. Rain, rain, don’t go away, pretty please.

Cryogenics worksIf you start as moss, you’ll come back as moss.

Divers find 65 foot long crack in Columbia River dam. There’s only one thing to say about this – oh shit!

Baseball season is approaching. Dining during the national pastime: The top ten vegetarian friendly ballparks. Philadelphia may not win the pennant this year, but we’re number 1 in something!

DISCUSS…

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 17, 2014: Why All The Hate?

If you’re like me, not only are you incredibly smart and good-looking, you wonder why so many people on the Right hate, just viscerally hate, the President of the United States. The knee-jerk reaction is to say it’s because the Haters are (Insert Randomly Insignificant Criterion Here) and the President is Not, and that for most of the haters, the randomly inserted insignificant criterion would be race. Not necessarily. There’s a lot of people who hate the president, and there’s certainly a chunk of them with an IQ well below the three-digit range who think the color of his skin is reason enough to hate him. Thankfully, despite this group’s inability to grasp the concept of birth control, Natural Selection will prevent them from becoming a majority in this country. But they don’t account for all the Haters. Some of the Haters claim to be Christians who think the President is Not One of Them. They think he’s a Muslim. What’s really funny about that one is that these are the same people who said Obama shouldn’t be President because he sat in the pews of a Christian church for 20 years listening to the hate speech of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Well, Uptighty Righties, which is it? Is Obama a Muslim, or a Christian who listened to a kind of hate speech that differs from your own? None of your other reasons to hate him make sense, either. At least, none of the reasons coming from the Right. Some of us on the Left certainly have our problems with a number of areas of his Governance, but we don’t hate him for it. We’re disappointed as all get-out, but we don’t hate him. But you do. Why?

I hear many of you claim he’s a “Communist,” a “Marxist,” and even a “Fascist,” all at once. And I laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll start shaking my head in sadness until I’m overcome by sobbing fits, despondent over the intense stupidity of my fellow human beings. You can’t be a Marxist and a Fascist at the same time, and if you don’t know enough about them to understand why, you should really stay out of the political arena. I would also not only recommend, I would beg you to stay home on Election Day, or least don’t go near the polls to cast a vote. Your political awareness is on par with that of sea urchins, who are at least smart enough not to advertise their ignorance. I just can’t see how America’s best interests are served by letting you have a say in who governs it. But you’ll notice (or, more likely, I’ll have to point out to you) that I’m not calling for you to not be allowed to vote. That’s how many on your side of the political aisle solve an issue like that. If they don’t like the way they think someone is likely to vote, they make up some bullshit reason to deny him the right to vote at all. Our side doesn’t do that, nor do we put out fliers telling you the election is being held on another day. We just ask you to do what’s best for your country, and don’t vote until you learn what you’re talking about.

You can’t govern a country based on denying rights to the people who aren’t like you, especially when about 75% of the country is not like you! This is a Republic, and you are a small percentage of its citizens. We don’t need to put anybody in Congress who thinks like you because there’s something wrong with the way you think. You need mental health treatment. And we hope you’ll be happy to learn it’s covered thanks to Obamacare.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss what you think we should do about all the Haters, or anything else you want.

Sunday Roast: Cats & Zooey take a day trip

Yesterday, it was such a beautiful day that Cats and I decided to take a spur of the moment day trip.  We made a loop from Eugene, down past Cottage Grove, over to Reedsport, then up to Florence, and back to Eugene.

The scenery was AMAZING, and here are just a few of the things we saw:

Canada Geese having a rest on their journey home.

Canada Geese having a rest on their journey home.

Roosevelt Elk, looking a bit raggedy and having lunch of fresh green grass.

Roosevelt Elk, looking a bit raggedy and having lunch of fresh green grass.

More Roosevelt Elk having a lie down.

More Roosevelt Elk having a lie down.

Stunning pink rhododendrons.

Stunning pink rhododendrons.

Dunes in Florence.

Dunes in Florence.

It was a perfectly lovely day, and, as you might imagine, we discussed all the issues of the day, and solved every single one of them — if only people would listen to us.  😉

This is our daily open thread — Get on with it!

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!

Music Night, March 14, 2014 More about backup singers

Ok, I’ll admit, I love Nashville (the tv show), not because it’s a dopey soap and not just because Connie Britton. Well, maybe it is Connie. At any rate, this week’s episode had one of the minor characters auditioning as a backup singer–pretty girl with a pretty voice. Sweet. And, thanks to 20 Feet From Stardom I was shaking my head the whole time.

No power. That’s something made clear time after time in the film; all these women have tremendous vocal power. Hell, they probably don’t need microphones half the time. Case in point is Judith Hill, the youngest of the performers. YouTube has a number of videos from her time on The Voice, but this one is my favorite, from the film. Gorgeous, exotic woman who can bring down the house with her singing.

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: Wednesday, March 12, 2014: Blue Sky over Beijing

China has finally gotten serious in its efforts to combat the effects of air pollution so thick it blocks out the sky.

An internal memo distributed through wickieleaks reveals that coal burning plants and even oil refineries will soon be adding blue dye to their fuel. The effect of the dye will be to turn smog a healthy sky-blue color. The air will be just as bad, but no one will notice. A test burn was conducted in a small villiage in Mongolia last December, with no lasting ill effects. The villiager’s skin color returned to normal just three weeks after the end of the test.

OPEN THREAD

SPRING, AND BLUE SKIES, AHEAD

Watering Hole: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 – I Remember

I remember when all vegetables were organic and purchased from the local farmer.  As a matter of fact, when I was a very young child, I remember a farmer driving his truck around the city where I lived and selling his produce right off the back of his truck.  Before supermarkets, our food came from the corner grocery store and with the exception of the Birdseye frozen vegetables and canned vegetables (yuk), it was fresh from the local farmer.  If it was out of season, it wasn’t on the shelf. The corner grocery store was often owned by a butcher.  Our little neighborhood supported three corner butcher/groceries.  The meat was not factory farmed and tasted good.  Once a week, the milkman would stop by very early in the morning and drop off farm fresh milk and eggs.  My mother would put money in an envelope along with a note for her next order and leave it in the insulated milk box.

Then the supermarket chains appeared and gradually put an end to the corner butcher/grocery stores.  This was when factory farming became all the rage and the farmers turned to using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  The ranchers discovered that feeding steers grain made them get fatter faster which meant a quicker and higher return on their investment.  Along with the grain came an increase in intestinal salmonella growth in the cattle and the contamination of the meat supply.  Cattle are NOT grain eaters.  They are grass eaters and salmonella does not grow freely in a grass fed bovine.  Besides, grass fed beef is high in Omega 3’s whereas grain fed beef is high in Omega 6’s.  That’s a story for another time.

Now, we pay premium prices for organic food which was once the only food that could by purchased at the local grocery.  Has Monsanto won or are we waiting for summer’s bounty from the local farmers?  I am anxiously awaiting the return of the local farmers’ markets.  Now if only I can find room in my small house for my freezer.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

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?