Sunday Roast: What if…

What if hate hadn’t killed the best of us?

What if fear hadn’t made us hateful?

What if ignorance hadn’t made us fearful?

What if poverty, hunger, and a lack of education hadn’t left so many of us ignorant?

What if greed hadn’t left so many of us hungry, uneducated, and in poverty?

What if wanting too much hadn’t made us greedy?

What if forgetting what was “enough” hadn’t made us want more than our share?

What if we all had enough?

This is our daily open thread — What is enough?

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

Hurricane Sandy: A few glimpses of the human toll

Estimates of the death toll from Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern U.S. Coast are hard to pin down right now, but CNN has the number at 110. While The Huffington Post movingly describes the tragic affect Sandy had on many of the elderly nearer to the NYC shore, my own focus is a little closer to home.

As Wayne said in a comment on today’s Sunday Roast, “our area…lost a handful of people” – yes, only four people died in or around Putnam County (we’re in Dutchess Cty, but only 4 miles north of the Putnam county line.) But two of the four were children, killed when a tree fell on the house they were in. The house had power despite the hurricane, and two children from a neighbor’s house were visiting with their two friends, watching TV, when the tree came down. Now two more families are beginning their struggle to cope with every parent’s nightmare.

Here’s what our hometown’s community turnout looked like at Beecher’s Funeral Home for one of the youths. Beecher’s is a sort of local landmark: it seems to have been there forever (certainly for our entire lifetimes), standing atop a large wedge of hillside that slopes down toward the Village proper. It’s where the vast majority of Brewster and nearby area residents are waked. Wayne and I have said goodbye there to so, so many family members, friends, loved ones, neighbors; we both grew up in Brewster Heights, a development on the next hill behind Beecher’s; Bobby and Judy (my brother/Wayne’s sister) raised Emily and Adam in a house right behind Beecher’s. So yes, this is kinda personal.

Our area is coping with the loss of electricity, the downed trees, the blocked roads. As of this past Thursday, Putnam County had cancelled their “State of Emergency.” NYSEG crews have been out in force for several days, reconnecting power; grocery stores are gradually refilling their shelves; lines for gas stations that have been hindering traffic are beginning to slowly disappear as more deliveries are getting to the gas stations; residents are clearing trees and debris, and are starting to repair damage.

But for two local families, there is no ‘fixing’ or ‘repairing’ their losses; hopefully, there may someday be ‘coping.’ My heart aches for them.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Post-Debate Detox

Happy Hump Day!

Ok, The Presidential Debates, Round Two, is now history.

Who won?

Obamny?

Rombama?

The President certainly brought his A game this time, and closed on a slam-dunk with bringing up Romney’s 47% remark behind closed doors.

The moderator did a credible job of moving things along, but could have been better in cutting Romney off after the TV monitor showed his time was up, then not allowing Obama a chance to rebut.

Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch was in full play…again…in this author’s perspective.

What do you think? Think the President regained his Mo-Jo? Think Romney will continue to add to his momentum? Think Fox News will go apoplectic over Mitt telling the President, basically, to not interrupt Romney’s interruption, that he’ll get his turn?

OPEN THREAD.

GO FOR IT.

MAKE MY DEI.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 6th, 2012: You Said It, Sister!

As some of you know, I have been invited to start my own blog on the local ‘Patch’ online newspaper. Before getting set up in my ‘new digs’, I thought I’d take a look around at the other blogs on the Patch site, to see what they looked like, what personal info showed, etc. While doing so, I ran across a blogpost from the Fourth of July, written by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC, of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion, and thought it well worth sharing.

While I do not agree with 100% of the good Sister’s sentiments, she makes excellent points, based on her interpretation of her faith, the Constitution, and in science. A few excerpts:

Our founders were declaring independence from rule by birth, by a class of people whose only claim to that rule was their parentage. No test of ability or morality or vision for the country and its people was necessary, only birth into the “right family.”

Hmm, sounds like a recent Republican President and a current Presidential hopeful we all know.

In our current economic crisis, we have much to reflect on:
– How faithful are we to this basic tenet of our country that all people are created equal and have equal rights to life, justice, ability to make a decent living – even happiness, as our founders claimed?
– How can we reform our laws and policies to create a nation in which all could prosper?
– What are we doing to close the rifts between races that are still deep in our culture, in spite of all the scientific evidence that race is a superficial characteristic?
– What are we doing to close the newer abysses that have been created between people of different religions, particularly since September 11, 2001?

Sister Mary Doretta certainly sounds like quite the liberal – just as so many of us believe Jesus would have been. Personally, I believe that today’s “Christians” would, at least figuratively, crucify him if he showed up now.

“Another aspect of independence that comes to my mind is that, for many people, independence today seems to be synonymous with egocentric individualism: the feeling that no one has contributed to this person’s achievements, and therefore that person has no responsibility for anyone but him—or herself.”

(Psst…Republicans, faux-Christians, and Libertarians, listen up, I think she’s talking to you. C’mon, even the god of the Old Testament got pretty pissed when Cain asked “Am I my brother’s keeper?”)

“…along with Independence, we must also celebrate today our Interdependence! Interdependence—not subservience. Subservience is what our founders were rebelling against in founding this new nation: the belief that some are inferior and others superior by nature, and therefore people have different rights.

Interdependence says that we all have the same “inalienable rights” and that these rights are intertwined, as are all elements of our very existence.

And here’s what I found most impressive and inspiring about Sister Doretta’s piece:

Over the last few decades, we have been learning just how deep our interdependence is, at microscopic levels of ourselves and of the world around us. Astronomy and cosmology teach us that each molecule of our bodies is inherited from one pool of matter, each breath we take is dependent on the exhalations of trees and other plants. Even the tiniest shift in temperature, or chemical makeup of the air, position of the sun, or radiation in the atmosphere would render Earth unable to support human life. We are all interdependent—people, animals, grasses, stars, Earth.

Independence, then, demands that we reflect on and adjust our understanding to the interdependence of all things and all people on each other. It also demands that we learn to act in ways that support that interdependence—ways all our moral and religious educations have taught us. And, as Jesus taught, “the greatest of these is love,” and understanding of the essentialness of each creature to the enterprise we call life.

If more Christians were this enlightened about the role of their faith’s principles and their implicit responsibility to each other and the planet that we call home, this world, or at least this country, would be an infinitely better place.

This is our daily open thread — Got anything you feel like discussing?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 11th, 2012: Which Christ is more “Christian”?

I’d like to expand a little on a comment posted yesterday by Briseadh na Faire:

Many of the basic tenents of liberalism are summed up thusly:

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35-36. But we refuse to give credit to the man who said those things, hence lose the “Christians”.

Give credit where credit is due – own up to following Christ’s teachings, whether or not one proclaims one’s self to be a Christian…

In other words, Liberals, who follow the teachings of Christ, need to take the evangelicals on, on their own ground. It is, after all, who we really are.

After reading this, I could not help but think of the contrast between what the pastor of a local church espouses, and what a particular Catholic organization espouses.

The pastor of the local Patterson, NY, Baptist Church, a Dr. Larry A. Maxwell, is the founder of an organization called Brighter_Future.us. In the “About Us” section on his website, Dr. Maxwell states that, under his ministry, the local Habitat for Humanity for Putnam County was established. Okay, that’s nice. On the other hand,

“Dr. Maxwell is one of the few men ordained to the ministry by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, Pastor of Thomas Rd. Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA. Dr. Falwell, was the founder of Liberty University and Moral Majority. Dr. Maxwell graduated from Liberty University in 1975 and was active in Moral Majority, one of the organizations that helped Ronald Reagan become President.”….”The Governor of Kentucky bestowed the title of Colonel upon Dr. Maxwell for his outstanding service.”

Check out what Dr. Maxwell lists as “5 Areas of Influence That Shape Our Society” – why, as a pastor, does Dr. Maxwell list “Government” first and “Religion” fourth? Note that, under #3, “Media“, Dr. Maxwell says: “Media has perhaps the greatest influence on all of us. We Need To: Encourage & Endorse media which presents fair & balanced news and avoid those which do not. Hmmm, I wonder whom he’s talking about? What’s also scary is that, while Dr. Maxwell is the head of the “Living History Guild” and is the official Town Historian for Patterson, NY, under #4, “Religion“, he claims that “Religion once provided a moral compass for our society. The overwhelming majority of our Founding Fathers were men of faith committed to Biblical moral principles.” Also note in #5, “Family“, “We Need To: Recognize marriage consists only as a union between a man & woman who make a lifelong commitment to each other before God & man.”

Dr. Maxwell’s list of “Necessary Qualities for Leaders” contains some pretty scary crap, too:

2. Belief & Dependence on the Divine God

Leaders must recognize the fallen state of man and his imperfections and the necessity of help from the Divine God for man to reach his full potential.

3. Love for Our Country

Leaders need a Commitment to the original intent of Our Founding Fathers & the documents they drafted such as; The Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. They must believe the best government is Limited Government, answerable to the people at all levels. Leaders must honor our history as it happened, not rewrite or redefine it.

4. Commitment to Family Values

Good leaders must recognize, embrace and encourage traditional family values.

6. Belief in Free Enterprise & Property Rights

Leaders must understand Free Enterprise & Property Rights are two important foundations. Government must encourage, not interfere with, nor over regulate, free enterprise & property rights.

And if any doubt was left that Dr. Maxwell and his group are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, the list in the “Contacts and Links” section reads as a veritable who’s who of conservative/right-wing organizations, including The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, etc.

By contrast, take a look at the issues with which Catholics United concerns itself:

trying to restore funding, denied by the US Catholics Bishops, to an immigrants’ rights group called Campaneros, which doesn’t discriminate against gays.

speaking out against the U.S. Catholic Bishops and Catholic institutions who continue to fight the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act, despite the exemptions therein.

Organizing against Paul Ryan’s budget because it does nothing to help the poor.

– Organizing alternative charitable organizations to counter the stripping of funding by U.S. Catholic Bishops.

It certainly seems to me that it is the people at Catholics United who are following the teachings of Christ (which all of us liberals follow in one way or another), rather than the pastor of the Patterson Baptist church. It makes one wonder if there is a different Christ within each human-authored version of the bible.

This is our daily open thread — comment on anything you want!

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 7th, 2012: Monday Mix

Today’s mix is comprised of some recent articles which caught my eye on Foreign Policy Magazine and on Yahoo!News.

When I first clicked on Foreign Policy’s link entitled “A brilliant long rant about Iraq” by Thomas E. Ricks, I thought it was going to be Tom Ricks ranting about Iraq. However, it turned out to be Ricks’ brief introduction to an upcoming book called “The Long Walk” by Brian Castner. Ricks’ article includes a dozen or so evocative quotes from the book which, although worlds away from my own personal “Year from Hell”, touched a nerve of recognition in my brain. “The Long Walk” sounds like it will be well worth the read; I also found the comments after the article fascinating, and I strongly suggest reading those as well.

For all of the dog lovers amongst us, one of FP’s “Photo Essays” is “War Dogs of the World.” Not exactly cute puppy pics, but fascinating shots of soldiers and their canine teammates.

Two connecting articles at Yahoo!News drew my attention: in chronological order, a generic-drug manufacturer in India will be copying, and undercutting the price of, a cancer drug for which Bayer hold a patent, obviously pissing off Bayer. I’m rooting for the Indian drug company, Cipla, since their motivation is humanitarian: they’ll be selling the drug for about 1/30th of the cost of Bayer’s version.

Lastly, three Putin stories: Today Vladimir Putin will be sworn in as President of Russia, and apparently not all Russians are happy about this. And on a lighter(?) note, another “Photo Essay” from FP, titled “Putin Forever.”

Enjoy!

This is our daily open thread — discuss one of the above topics, or whatever’s on your mind!

The Watering Hole: April 17, 2012 – Tax Day

I don’t think you’ll need reminding do you? If anybody should have an “Oops”-moment here’s the extension form.

Mitt Romney has filed an extension. This comes hardly as a surprise, given how complicated it is to track down all those investments all over the planet and to get a nice tax rate about some 15%. Honestly, is it worth the trouble? Look what you have to do to get it.

You have to shovel 100 million into a trust for your sons and, boy, is it complicated to get rid of that pesky gift-tax. But then, which parent doesn’t want their kids to have it better in life?

Look what you have to go through to get it. People actually try and ask you questions about your very personal decision how to optimize your own tax-load. Disgusting really. No respect whatsoever. But then, can you really just talk to your friends and donors nowadays without getting slapped around by the press. No way. Interfereing lot those hacks. And again they mention taxes. And Swiss bank accounts.

No friends, it is not that easy to avoid paying taxes, really not. But then, if Mitt were President…..

The Watering Hole: March 10 – Jean Calas

Jean Calas was a French merchant living in Toulouse, France, famous for having been the victim of a biased trial due to his being a Protestant. In France, he is a symbol of Christian religious intolerance. His sole sin was trying to mask the suicide of his son, Marc-Antoine, as a murder. He was charged with the murder and died on March 10, 1762 on the wheel. Voltaire was successful in exonerating Jean Calas (posthumously ) of all charges. His family was paid 36,000 Francs by the king in compensation.

Jean Calas tortured for nothing more than his religious beliefs

Religion was specifically excluded from government in the Constitution. What disturbs me is that the Republican Party is trying to foist religious values into American law. This can not be condoned for any reason.

Could religious dogma endanger the rights of Americans? The “War on Women” offers one step towards this slippery slope! I often wonder if any Republican actually has a mother.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to offer a counter argument. You can also spill your guts.

Watering Hole: Monday, December 26, 2011 – Is the Pigeon Smarter Than the Shooter?

One of the major issues that I fight for is the ending of the live pigeon shoots that are currently allowed in Pennsylvania.  I have written extensively about this animal cruelty at Pennsylvania for Change. Most of the time, these pigeons are brought into the state illegally from New York.  The captured birds are denied food and water for a few days and crated off to some rod and gun club for the big gambling event known as live pigeon shoots.  The dehydrated and weakened birds are tossed into the air and then the “Elmer Fudds” take a shot at them.  It is cruel and brutal and I won’t go into more details.  I’ve seen these “Elmer Fudds” in action and they truly look like Neanderthals (my apologies to the Neanderthals).

It turns out that pigeons may actually be smarter than these “Elmer Fudds”.  A recent study shows that pigeons are capable of higher math.

Pigeons, it turns out, are no slouches either. It was known that they could count. But all sorts of animals, including bees, can count. Pigeons have now shown that they can learn abstract rules about numbers, an ability that until now had been demonstrated only in primates. In the 1990s scientists trained rhesus monkeys to look at groups of items on a screen and to rank them from the lowest number of items to the highest.

They learned to rank groups of one, two and three items in various sizes and shapes. When tested, they were able to do the task even when unfamiliar numbers of things were introduced. In other words, having learned that two was more than one and three more than two, they could also figure out that five was more than two, or eight more than six.

So who is the higher species?  “Elmer Fudds” or the pigeons.  My money is on the pigeons.

This is our Open Thread.  Where are you placing your bet?  Speak Up!

The well-deserved fall of Joe Paterno

This lady is upset that Joe Paterno is a “target” and is “taking the rap” for the child sex abuse scandal that has ended his lengthy career.

Today, he’s been the only one decent enough to walk away from the University, and it just proves what a good man he is.

Really?  Are you friggin’ serious?

Let me just say this: How dare you come out with a statement like that?  How dare you? What if that had been your son or grandson?  As far as we know so far, eight children have been grievously harmed and their lives ruined, possibly forever, by a sexual predator that Joe Paterno knew about.

A graduate student witnessed the anal rape of a young boy by Jerry Sandusky in the Penn State locker room, and reported it to his father (what?) and Joe Paterno.  Why he didn’t stop the assault immediately is the subject of a whole other rant, but this grad student has said he informed Paterno of this incident.  For some reason, Jerry Sandusky was never prosecuted for raping this child.  That too will come out eventually.

I am left wondering what the hell was going through Joe Paterno’s mind when, after the shower rape incident, he continued to see Jerry Sandusky in the company of young boys from Sandusky’s “Second Mile” program (established by Sandusky in 1977, so the list of victims could be much much longer) on the sidelines of games or in the locker room meeting the players?  This literally went on for years, and Paterno let it continue.  He knew about the child sex abuse being committed by his assistant coach — he’d been told explicitly, and he’d reported the incident to the appropriate authorities at the University.

Some people might say that Paterno had done his duty.  He reported what he’d been told to the higher-ups.  Well, that’s all very well and good isn’t it?  Surely Sandusky’s subsequent victims suffered less because of it.  Right?  Hell no!  Doing one’s duty is a minimum, and then there’s doing what’s right.  Paterno failed those children in the worst way imaginable — he allowed them to become victims of a predator.  For a run-down of how the victims were groomed and abused, go here.

I’m sure that in her normal life the lady in the above video is a very nice and well-meaning woman, but she has lost her focus on what’s important.  The important issue here is NOT that Joe Paterno is ending his amazing career in utter disgrace; the important issue is that at least eight boys — hell, even one boy! — were terribly harmed and their lives will likely never be the same again or what they might have been, because Joe Paterno (and others in the University) put their multi-million dollar football program ahead of them.

I will shed no tears over the end of Joe Paterno’s career.  I’ll reserve my tears for the young boys who were so terribly betrayed and abused.

Watering Hole: Monday, September 12, 2011 – It’s Not For Getting High

For 18 years, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry.  One major thing that I learned during that time is that the pharmaceutical industry is not focused on curing an illness. It is focused on making a drug that must be taken every day to mask the symptoms of an illness.  It is all about profits and not about cures.  When I left the industry, it was beginning to appear that drug discovery was getting close to reaching its apex.  The pharmaceutical industry is always looking for new drugs to patent.  During testing, many of these new drugs present serious safety issues and as a result, never make it to market.

The United States has the highest prices for drugs.  That is because the pharmaceutical industry claims to take a hit in profits when selling drugs cheaper in other countries, particularly in countries that have socialized medicine.  The industry needs to make up for this loss in profits by charging Americans more.

Here is a story about a compound that grows like a weed and has medicinal properties.   Like all medicinal compounds that can be grown in a back yard garden, this plant is difficult to patent.  What that means is the pharmaceutical industry can’t make exclusive profit from this plant.  So the US government has stepped in and made this plant illegal.

And by the way, is it possible that the oil from this plant can cure cancer?

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: August 4 – Geese

Roast Goose

I tried to express the situation where Americans find themselves after the debt agreement on Sunday. At first I thought that I could say: “Our goose is cooked.” This statement does not really fit our situation because it implies that we have been caught in a lie or cheated on a partner and will have to pay in some matter such as being fired, ostracized or divorced depending on the nature of the ‘crime’.

I came to the realization that a better statement would be: “We are all goners” as that implies the visage of death or loss through something that was not really our fault. That expression derives itself from the old British term ‘gone Goose’.

We can also say that the debt agreement has “Killed the goose (the middle class) that lays the golden eggs.”

Geese play a central part in all these sayings because geese supplied eggs and meat to guilds-men and the middle class in pre-Victorian Britain. They were easy to care for and mowed the grass around town to boot. In some towns, they were allowed free range and harvested by their designated owner(s). Often the lord (small ‘l’) was the owner who extracted a fee (tax) on said harvest.

Right now the “silly geese” of Congress are giving me “goose bumps” from fear because I will gain nothing but a “goose egg” due to their policies. The basic reason for this situation is that Obama “can’t say boo to a goose.”

Flip the page for a table defining these and other terms. One American term is included. Continue reading

The Watering Hole: July 28 – Compassion

Gadsden flag

What makes Republicans compassionate? Is it a war on an innocent country as an act of family revenge and one-up-man-ship. Or perhaps a tax on the poor while enriching the rich. Is it overriding the will of the majority through a threat of filibuster?

It is now that and less – less for all of us, rich and poor now that those who failed Driver’s Ed have a hand on the steering wheel of government!

Republicans have embraced what they thought was a rattlesnake and found a python. The result is not fortuitous.

At present, the nation is headed for a calamity that will affect every American.

The less fortunate among us face potential disasters.

I cite the case of the woman who cleans our floors every three weeks. We only hire her because both my wife and I have a problem on getting up from our hands and knees. Her mother has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. The fees there are paid from Social Security and Medicare.

Both of those funds have been absorbed into the general funds of the United States Treasury. They are not counted as part of the national debt, but any expenditure from these obligations will increase the debt because the money has, in fact, been spent on other things. This is the ‘money pit’ of all money pits.

This means that should we reach a stage of default and those obligations of the United States to these people will not be met unless those in charge decide to meet them.

Now, it may not be obvious to you, but nursing homes are not charitable organizations. This woman’s mother could well be thrust out into the heat (This is Florida.) Is this compassionate? I think not.

What do you think?