The Watering Hole, Monday, October 31,2016: The Bonfires of Samhein

Two thousand years ago at this time of year, Druids would gather on the Hill of Tlachtga in medieval Ireland to light a bonfire that began a ritual throughout the country. The light would call on other people to light their own bonfires. It was the start of the season of darkness, and people celebrated with dances and feasts around the fires. The fires were to honor Samhein (pronounced sow-in), the god of Darkness and Winter. Many of the rituals associated with the celebration in America of Halloween can be traced back to these Celtic ones. You can learn more about all of these at Smithsonian Magazine.

Personally, I don’t play dress up games. I spend the entire year trying to make people believe I’m somebody I’m not (just like everyone else) that I don’t feel any desire to add a costume to it on one particular day of the year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not for me. Then again, I’m kind of anti-social in a lot of ways like that. I don’t go along with what everybody else is doing, often because I see it as silly and pointless, or possibly even dangerous. (Pokemon Go has already gotten some people killed.) I realize it’s just a diversion and people can find them fun, but sometimes they can become too pervasive and counterproductive to a functioning society. Is it really a good idea that young people gather together in public to stare at their phones? But I suppose the rituals of American Halloween aren’t too terrible. It’s just a good idea that people understand them, and how they compare to one’s own beliefs, especially where Religion is concerned.

For example, if you acknowledge the observation of Halloween, then you acknowledge the existence of other gods since this was a celebration of one of them. For many Conservative Christians, this is against their belief in God as the only God. I hesitate to point out to them that this is not correct at all, and even the God they worship said so. His First Commandment was to have no other Gods before Him. That doesn’t mean to deny the existence of other gods, but just not to put any of them ahead of this particular god (on account of his constant problem with the deadly sin of Jealousy.) But since they celebrate the holiday anyway and perform the pagan rituals, it’s just another example of their religious hypocrisy. I just hope there aren’t too many kids dressing up as Donald Trump. It would indicate a generation of kids totally lost to the idea of sense, reason, and logical thinking.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be me without a little nerd joke once in a a while, so…

Why do programmers confuse Halloween and Christmas? Because OCT 31 = DEC 25.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss ancient gods you’ve worshiped, or any other topic you wish.

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The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 29th, 2016: Lighten Up!

Let’s start the weekend with a few lighter political stories that shouldn’t raise anyone’s blood pressure.

President Obama is enjoying himself at the expense of several Republicans in “Barack Obama’s Sweet Revenge Tour” by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones. Here’s an example, regarding the Darrell Issa campaign mailer shown below:

issa_obama-mailerAccording to the Mother Jones article:

“At a fundraiser in La Jolla on Sunday, Obama trashed the California Republican for his mailer. “Issa’s primary contribution to the United States Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped-up investigations that have led nowhere,” he said. “This is now a guy who, because poll numbers are bad, has sent out brochures with my picture on them touting his cooperation on issues with me. Now that is the definition of chutzpah.”

Next, The Yale Record has the best non-endorsement-endorsement ever. An excerpt:

“…Because of unambiguous tax law, we do not encourage you to support the most qualified presidential candidate in modern American history…”

The brief piece ends with:

The Yale Record has no opinion whatsoever on Dr. Jill Stein.
—The Editorial Board of The Yale Record

Last, today’s Washington Post has some encouraging news about Trump’s chances in Pennsylvania. Even better, though, the article is accompanied by a photo of Trump talking with Rudy “n.v.9/11” Ghouliani Guiliani – I know, you’re thinking, “why is a photo of two of the most despicable men that NYC ever spawned BETTER than Trump slipping in PA?” – well, you’ll have to see it (it could be worse, at least Rudy’s facing away from the camera, more-or-less.) I commented to Wayne that, knowing Trump, he’d probably try to sue the photographer for taking an unflattering picture when Trump’s combover wasn’t ready for its close-up. Then, of course, Trump would likely accuse Secretary Clinton of hiring the photographer as part of a worldwide conspiracy to expose what lies underneath Trump’s “hair” – and what lies beneath is a large expanse of bare-naked Trump-scalp. “Sad.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is our daily Open Thread – relax, enjoy the weekend!

The Watering Hole; Thursday October 27 2016; Climate Disruption and Denial

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
(William Wordsworth, from “Lines Written in Early Spring”)

I recently ran across this, a journalistic outline and review of Donald Trump’s energy “policy” proposals. The article points out that

In his plan, Trump promised to lift restrictions on the production of shale, oil, natural gas, and “clean” coal. He also promised to lift “roadblocks” to “vital” energy infrastructure projects, “like the Keystone pipeline.” And he pledged to cancel payments to the U.N. climate change programs, saying he would instead funnel that money back to clean water and infrastructure projects.

This is far from the first time Trump has promised to enact policies that would effectively halt — if not completely dismantle — much of the environmental progress championed by President Obama. And his promises here dovetail nicely with earlier policy ideas: open up federal lands for unfettered coal extraction, support offshore oil drilling, and generally move away from any kind of international climate cooperation.

As far as I’m concerned, that set of Trumpian proposals — were they to be carried out –would be the equivalent of a policy whose ultimate purpose might as well be to dismantle the whole country, break it into a thousand pieces, then sell them to whomever and brag about how much money we’re bringing in from those international markets. The Trump solution to everything seems to be to disallow logic, disallow science, and allow only greed and destruction (there’s money in it) — in order to, of course, ‘Make Amurkkka Great Again’ in the process.

Problem is, the guy’s a fool and has no concept of anything other than how to lie, cheat, steal, and cover it all up.

The fact of the matter is simple: extraction of fossil fuels is destructive to the environment from virtually any perspective. Mining leaves obvious scars on the land and its debris messes up rivers and the streams that feed them. Fracking can cause both subsurface water pollution and earthquakes. Oil, once removed from underground, can be a deadly surface pollutant via virtually any means of transport and/or storage. And burning fossil fuels causes air pollution in the short term, and courtesy of the conversion of virtually all “harvested” fossil carbon into atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, causes global warming and climate change which can and WILL ultimately, if not stopped, put the entire of the planet’s biosphere and every life form implicit therein at severe risk.

For far too many, the easy way around that problem is simple: denial. Humans aren’t causing the climate to change. The climate is always changing. Only god is powerful enough to change the earth’s climate. It still snows in the winter, right? There’ve always been droughts, floods, hurricanes, hot spells, cold snaps. Nothing new there.  And, of course, the warming oceans, the acidification of the oceans via atmospheric CO2 absorption and the consequential decline of coral reefs, the ice-free Arctic, the melting glaciers everywhere, the melting of Antarctic ice shelves — all meaningless because “we got snow last February” and “it was hot last summer” and that proves there’s no such thing as climate change. Oh, and as Carly Fiorina has noted, the main reason for California’s water shortage has nothing to do with decreased precipitation, it’s because the dams aren’t high enough and the reservoirs aren’t nearly as big as they could be. Damn environmentalists.

As Mark Twain put it, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

There’s a new book concerning Climate Denial on the market, most ably described on this Think Progress link: Climate scientist’s new book says climate denial is ‘driving us crazy’. It’s written by climate scientist Michael Mann, and illustrated by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, Tom Toles. Toles explains the idea behind using cartoons as a means to depict the reality of Climate Change when he points out that  . . .

[one of the things] a cartoon does is simplify and visualize and make the information a little more accessible. Climate is not as complicated a subject as everyone makes it out to be, and that’s one of the things a cartoonist can do is find the simple elements of it. There are many ways you can look at the problem, but they all can be simplified into imagery, or a few ideas that are helpful in explaining to a casual reader how the subject is constructed and why they should care about it.

Following is one of the many cartoons displayed in the Think Progress link, one that certainly summarizes the consequences of Climate Change, many of which we’re already witnessing today; events that will undoubtedly become far more obvious to far more people if Climate Change is allowed to continue unabated:

climate-forecast-cartoon

The bottom line is that, as Toles notes, “Climate is not as complicated a subject as everyone makes it out to be.” He’s spot-on correct, of course, and the thesis that even people of limited science knowledge and below average IQ should be able to grip both the causes and the consequences of Climate Change makes complete and total sense. The topic can be, as Toles’ cartoons most ably demonstrate, simplified to the point where even a political imbecile such as James Inhofe or Donald J. Trump might one day find the means to comprehend the tragic consequences of their own innate idiocy (I know, sometimes I tend to overreach, to exaggerate possibilities).

Michael Mann summarizes:

[T]here’s a chapter in the book: “Hypocrisy, thy name is climate change denial.” In my view, there is no greater example of hypocrisy today than the hypocrisy of fossil-fuel funded politicians who are doing the bidding of fossil fuel interests. With Hurricane Matthew, we’ve actually had some figures from the right-wing extreme of the news media — Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh — accusing the National Hurricane Center of inflating their estimates of the intensity of this storm for some purported political agenda to somehow convey the effects of climate change.

[. . .]

I’m reminded of a common trope that we see in Hollywood and on TV: There’s the hero and then there’s the shape-shifting villain, and the villain shape-shifts to look just like the hero, and there’s a third party that has to figure out which of them is really the hero. That’s sort of what we’re asking the public to do.

I couldn’t agree more, but find myself loathe to believe that knowledge-based common sense has even a remote chance of finding a home amongst ANY of this country’s right wing political extremists, Donald Trump and his myriad ‘Deplorables’ obviously included. “Man can’t change the climate,” they say. “Only God can do that.”

Right.

I think I’ll listen more to William Wordsworth:

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Indeed.

******

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday 10/26/2016

THE PRINCE

CHAPTER XVII

CONCERNING CRUELTY AND CLEMENCY, AND WHETHER IT IS BETTER TO BE LOVED THAN FEARED

Coming now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to misuse this clemency. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed.[*] Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only.

[*] During the rioting between the Cancellieri and Panciatichi factions in 1502 and 1503.

And of all princes, it is impossible for the new prince to avoid the imputation of cruelty, owing to new states being full of dangers. Hence Virgil, through the mouth of Dido, excuses the inhumanity of her reign owing to its being new, saying:

“Res dura, et regni novitas me talia cogunt Moliri, et late fines custode tueri.”[*]

Nevertheless he ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.

[*] . . . against my will, my fate A throne unsettled, and an infant state, Bid me defend my realms with all my pow’rs, And guard with these severities my shores.

Christopher Pitt.

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, pretexts for taking away the property are never wanting; for he who has once begun to live by robbery will always find pretexts for seizing what belongs to others; but reasons for taking life, on the contrary, are more difficult to find and sooner lapse. But when a prince is with his army, and has under control a multitude of soldiers, then it is quite necessary for him to disregard the reputation of cruelty, for without it he would never hold his army united or disposed to its duties.

Among the wonderful deeds of Hannibal this one is enumerated: that having led an enormous army, composed of many various races of men, to fight in foreign lands, no dissensions arose either among them or against the prince, whether in his bad or in his good fortune. This arose from nothing else than his inhuman cruelty, which, with his boundless valour, made him revered and terrible in the sight of his soldiers, but without that cruelty, his other virtues were not sufficient to produce this effect. And short-sighted writers admire his deeds from one point of view and from another condemn the principal cause of them. That it is true his other virtues would not have been sufficient for him may be proved by the case of Scipio, that most excellent man, not only of his own times but within the memory of man, against whom, nevertheless, his army rebelled in Spain; this arose from nothing but his too great forbearance, which gave his soldiers more license than is consistent with military discipline. For this he was upbraided in the Senate by Fabius Maximus, and called the corrupter of the Roman soldiery. The Locrians were laid waste by a legate of Scipio, yet they were not avenged by him, nor was the insolence of the legate punished, owing entirely to his easy nature. Insomuch that someone in the Senate, wishing to excuse him, said there were many men who knew much better how not to err than to correct the errors of others. This disposition, if he had been continued in the command, would have destroyed in time the fame and glory of Scipio; but, he being under the control of the Senate, this injurious characteristic not only concealed itself, but contributed to his glory.

Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred, as is noted.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 24, 2016: Trump Supporters Need To Learn History

After the last presidential debate, a Trump supporter told Face The Nation host John Dickerson that “morality and values” were important to her.

“Based on what the country was based on,” she said. “I think that the laws that Obama has passed, the way the country has — I call it down turning. Some of the other people are proud of it and happy for it. I personally am against it, the homosexuals, the abortions. All the stuff, I am against.”

Asked if “Make America Great Again” meant to her a return to the time before legal abortion and gay rights, she replied “That’s part of it.”

Perhaps if some if these Guardians of Morality knew more of their American history, they’d be thankful for gay people, and would be more than happy to extend to them the recognition that they are equally deserving of the rights the rest of us take for granted. How many heterosexuals out there have gotten fired for being straight? It so happens that Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben, the man General George Washington hired to train our Revolutionary War soldiers, the man more popularly known as Baron von Steuben, was gay.

So the next time some Christian Conservative (an oxymoron, as Jesus did not teach a philosophy of Conservatism) rants against gay people, point out that the freedom to rant and rave such a hateful position in public was guaranteed because a gay man brought discipline and structure to our nation’s early armies and enabled them to help the French Army defeat the British.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss whatever you wish. It’s a free country, thanks to a gay man.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 22, 2016: Anniversary Edition Open Thread

Jane and I can’t believe it, but it was 28 years ago today, a rainy day much as we’re experiencing right now, that we got married in a restaurant near where we both grew up. The restaurant has since changed name and ownership, and I don’t think we’ve even eaten there since we got married. Maybe once.

So we’re gonna relax and take it easy today. I got a call from someone who wants to come by and give me the rest of the money to buy my old, broken down van. It’s a Honda Odyssey, and since we’re both huge fans of Stargate SG-1, we often referred to it as the X-301. (SG-1 fans will get that. The rest of you will turn your head sideways like a confused German Shepherd. That’s okay. I get that reaction a lot from people.) So if he does come through, I get to sit around doing nothing and get paid a couple of hundred dollars for it. Nice work avoidance if you can get it.

This will be our open thread for the day (or possibly the weekend.) Relax and enjoy yourselves, and don’t vote for any narcissistic orangutans promising to roll the clock back fifty or more years to when white men ruled everything in our society. It was not a good time, no matter what the old white men tell you. Unless you were one of them.

Tell us how you’re celebrating our anniversary. 🙂

The Watering Hole; Friday October 21 2016; “It is not now as it hath been of yore”

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
the earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

Those are the opening five lines of the first stanza of William Wordsworth’s classic work of poetic art entitled “ODE ON INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY From Recollections of Early Childhood”  (comp. 1802-1804). What’s long fascinated me is the fact that even though ‘Intimations’ was written more than 200 years ago, its words still describe — with amazing precision — moments of emotional recognition that most any cognitive mind can find itself pondering even today.

In the summer of 2007, for example, we spent pretty much the entire month of July camped in Arizona’s Apache National Forest, on the edge of a forest meadow (Cienega) which was located some 30 miles from the nearest town, some 5-6 miles north of the edge of Arizona’s grand escarpment, the Mogollon Rim (elevation approx. 9000 ft.) and roughly 10-15 miles west of the New Mexico state line. The forest meadow was named Butterfly Cienega, and it lay in a lush and peaceful corner of a forest teaming with life.

The following series of photographs effectively portrays a tiny portion of the experience, and essentially acts as a bridge to another event that was to occur some four years down the road — May, June and July, 2011. The photos are presented in no particular order, but are interspersed with three additional excerpts from Wordsworth’s ‘Intimations’ Ode which together re-tell the story implied in the Ode’s nine-line first stanza, as quoted up top and in the four lines immediately below.  Continue reading