The Watering Hole, Monday, May 27th, 2013: Untitled*

*I could not possibly honor the day anywhere near as well as frugalchariot’s Memorial Day post does, so I will not even try. To anyone who missed it, take the time, it’s a must-read.

Instead, I thought that I would check the local on-line newspapers in the hopes of finding some fodder. I went to the Opinion page of the Poughkeepsie Journal. One title looks promising: “Energy Policy is National Security Issue: Column” “by Merrill Matthews, USA Today.” As I read it I noted the author’s right-wing point of view, and wondered where he was going with it. After some discussion of Russia, Iran and Venezuela, with their “totalitarian regimes” and great big gobs of oil and natural gas, Mr. Matthews came closer to his point. An excerpt:

“Many energy-dependent countries would like to be free of that oil and gas stranglehold to pursue their on[sic] foreign policy interests and alignments. The good news is that the old paradigm is shifting; the better news is that we can accelerate those changes. [emphasis mine]

For one thing, the oil and gas production boom, especially in the U.S., has dramatically increased energy supplies and pushed down prices. That means that some of the “energy captives” now have options available to them, including coal, they may not have had in the past, helping to break the stranglehold.

But this shift is not necessarily permanent; much of it depends on expanded U.S. production, made possible by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and the ability to export some of that energy.

Which takes us to the better news: how to accelerate the current trend. The U.S. must move forward with plans that will turn cheap and abundant natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export. We are only now building the liquefaction facilities to undertake this venture on a large scale, and the private sector is investing the money to make it happen — as long as the Obama administration will allow it. [emphasis mine]

The ability for the U.S. to extract and export energy is a national security issue. Energy self-sufficiency, which could be attainable in a decade or so, would mean that U.S. foreign policy wasn’t held hostage to energy policy.”

Not one word about wind, solar, hydroelectric, nothing about renewables at all. Still oil and gas, with a side of coal. At this point I’m wondering who this dinosaur is and, more to the point, who’s paying him. At the end of the “Column”, there it is:”Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation.” Hmmm, that name rings a bell, IPI, yup, ding-ding-ding! The conservative think-tank and member of ALEC which was, as per sourcewatch, “founded in 1987 by Congressman Dick Armey to “research, develop and promote innovative and non-partisan solutions to today’s public policy problems.”” Yeah, right. Dick Armey is as slimy and partisan as they come, and cannot help but leave his oily fingerprints on everything he touches.

Moving on…I guess I should have known better than to try the “Online Extra: Obama Scandals Overlap and Drain his Authority” – it turned out to be a rancid piece of pink slime meat by George Will. I couldn’t read the whole thing, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t subject you to some of it:

“Liberalism’s agenda has been constant since long before liberals, having given their name a bad name, stopped calling themselves liberals and resumed calling themselves progressives, which they will call themselves until they finish giving that name a bad name.”

[Fuck you, George, I'm still proud to call myself a liberal.]

“The agenda always is: Concentrate more power in Washington, more Washington power in the executive branch and more executive power in agencies run by experts. Then trust the experts to be disinterested and prudent with their myriad intrusions into, and minute regulations of, Americans’ lives. Obama’s presidency may yet be, on balance, a net plus for the public good if it shatters American’s trust in the regulatory state’s motives.”

It gets worse after that, and should only be read by someone with an iron stomach.

After noting that John Stossel was another featured columnist, and that other links were to pieces such as “Michelle Malkin: Top Obama donor a fox in health records hen house”, “Slippery slope to accepting atheist Boy Scouts”, and “Punchlines: Prom Season for Obama”, I gave up entirely on the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Palate cleanser: here’s a Blue-Footed Booby (one of my all-time favorite bird names) from National Geographic:

Blue-Footed Booby, photo by Tim Laman, courtesy of National Geographic

Blue-Footed Booby, photo by Tim Laman, courtesy of National Geographic

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves!

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 13th, 2013: ‘Hu-mons’ and Animals – I’ll stick with the Animals

Well, the argument over gun legislation isn’t going to go away anytime soon, especially as long as Americans are being shot, deliberately or in tragic “accidents”, every day.

First, a frightening story from a commenter at TP:

“My son tried to make plans with a few friends to see the new Batman movie in Aurora. His plans fell through. The next day we talked. Grateful that he wasn’t there, I just felt sad. Then he told me about how hard to tried to be there. It jolted me awake. I kept thinking of how different my day, his day and our lives would have been had he been in that movie theater. I am more grateful for my son’s life than I have been since he was quite young. Gun regulation is personal to me. It is time. I will stick with this movement. It is time.”

Next: From a (somewhat outdated, as it was from November 2012, therefore does not include the Newtown shooting nor the 3000 or so gun deaths since December 14th) Mother Jones article listing mass shootings in the U.S. from 1982 to 2012, excerpts from the comment section:

Someone trotted out the “hammers kill more people than guns do” bullshit story (the report actually said that hammers were used to kill people more often than rifles, not guns); when another claimed disbelief, a pro-gun person who had been the main commenter on the thread responded:

#1.. proof of hammers.. GOOGLE IT.. in under 10 seconds you will find links showing proof..

As for where are the stats from? The FBI… national crime stats. The same thing can be had via StatsCan as well as other sources.

It sounds absurd to ban or regulate hammers as well. Why? not only are they used for non-malicious purposes an uncountable # of times every day (the same as firearms are) it again would NOT actually accomplish anything good at all.

It would not stop the rapist that uses the hammer to subdue his victim.. it would not stop the “armed robber” from robbing the local 7-11.. it also won’t stop the moron whom wallops his thumb with it either. Instead it would make “work” and waste of $ within gov regulation.. so you have to prove you are “competent” etc etc to put a nail in the wall with a “deadly and dangerous hammer”. Meanwhile criminals would just get an illegal hammer and use that… while the law abiding home owner has to wait to hang up a picture for gov approval.

As for the Nuclear bomb.. no.. that is not a fair comparison at all.. it is a very stupid comparison.

Explosives (Nuclear or otherwise) are already highly regulated to try to prevent lunatics such as Timothy McVeigh from causing mass destruction.

Why? Simple.. what practical use would a nuke be for people to have? You You can’t take it to a range to and practice with it.. you can’t carry it for personal protection and the protection of others. Not to mention it is a BOMB

You also neglect the fact that the lunatics such as McVeigh and Lanza are not stupid. If they did not have access (legal or illegal) to firearms they would find another way to inflect the damage they are intent on. It’s not hard to learn how to build a bomb online.. (though I won’t help educate anyone here how.)

As for pools and accidents.. yes they matter. But the anti’s love to pull the “if it saves one kid” crap. It’s crap since those saying such don’t care that a kid dies.. they care HOW they die. otherwise they would actually look at the real problems and try to find a solution. Such as education. We teach our kids safety with a pool.. why should they not be taught safety with a firearm? That alone is the single most effective way to reduce accidents (same for some adults). We also do not rely on the gov to regulate education about swimming pools. it is COMMON SENSE. The absurd stigma the uneducated use with firearms is unbelievably ignorant. Something sadly only made worse by the sensationalized BS spewed by the media.

Contrary to the media’s typical BS such as showing “Hollywood” scenes and constantly mislabeling firearms.. as well as the lie of “assault weapons” (There is no such thing btw as I’ve explained before… or do I need to explain it again?).. they have been caught flat out bold face LYING to the public. (Wolf Blitzer for one prime example and he was called on the carpet and publicly embarrassed for it)

So once again.. the aim of your post is to in effect place blame upon the inanimate objects and to punish those whom have done no harm. You aim to make those same people less able to defend themselves and others from the very people whom do cause harm. That is insanity to say the least since we already know the lunatics and criminals don’t obey the law. So it is completely destined to failure as gun control always has been. (Unless you are the dictator wanting control such as Hitler etc etc)

Once again the proof of the inanimate object doing no harm: http://montego.roughwheelers.c…

You were tempted to “refute every major contention” I’ve made. Sorry but the only way to try to do so would be to LIE. I am only telling the truth. Not trying to twist and cherry pick like the Anti’s do constantly. It is a cold hard and realistic view of the issues and the world. I for one refuse to fall for “feel good” legislation that does only harm to the general public. It is the absence of emotional rhetoric so commonly found with incidents such as Sandy Hook

It is not a lack of compassion for the victims of such either. It is the opposite. I would much rather those teachers had been armed and shot Lanza in the head on the spot. I would much rather the rapist is killed by the would be victim. I would rather the armed home invader that raped and robbed an 80 yr old woman last yr instead be shot by her.

As for incidents such as Lanza.. if I had been there I’d have attacked him even unarmed.. because it is the right thing to do. If I had been armed I’d have not even blinked at the need to shoot him on the spot.

Remember it is about personal responsibility. Unlike those blaming the firearm(s).. or blaming hollywood movies.. or video games etc etc.. none of those matter. I have played those games, watched those movies and I’ve been around firearms for most of my life. Funny.. I’m not a rampaging murderer… nor are you (I assume). They are all merely objects that are easy and conveniently to blame when trying to blame anyone or anything but ourselves.

Society failed for Sandy Hook not due to lack of moronic gun control… or lack of game control etc etc.. but they failed due to mental heath system in the US. His mother was trying to get a conservatorship of her Adult son (very hard to do).. and to have him committed. Also her firearms were locked up and he apparently got the code(s) w/o permission. If the system had not failed her, him and everyone else that incident could very well have been avoided entirely. And not a single “gun control” law would have been needed to accomplish such.

If you want to actually accomplish something good.. stop focusing on the object.. focus on the actual problems.

There is evil in the world.. and all the well wishing, idiot laws and tantrums by the anti’s won’t make that go away.

Oh and something I posted elsewhere you also should read:

You cannot child proof the world… but you can try to world proof your child.

“It is the Soldier: Not the minister Who gave us freedom of religion. Not the reporter Who gave us freedom of the press. Not the poet Who gave us freedom of speech Not the campus organizer Who gave us freedom to protest Not the lawyer Who gave us the right to a fair trial Not the politician Who gave us the right to vote It is the soldier who salutes the flag,Who serves beneath the flag, Whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows protesters to burn the flag” – Adapted from Charles M. Province

and

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

That which was fought for and died for you have the privilege of enjoying. Do not waste such a gift by spitting in the faces of those whom fought and died so you have it in the first place.

You enjoy the 1st and 2nd in the US… it comes from the Magna Carta. Learn history and defend it since the rights you do not defend you loose.

And the same commenter later:

“Of course they are not telling the whole truth. They are cherry picking stats in order to try to twist the truth. Sadly very typical of the anti’s to try to promote their own agenda.

As for Oz [I believe this refers to Australia].. Deaths / injuries via violent crime and suicides have climbed and remained relatively stable respectively after GC. South Africa skyrocketed after GC. etc etc… it has all been thoroughly listed.. though they refuse to accept the reality still.

GUN CONTROL is a failure and always will be.”

A commenter for gun control:

One more thing, speaking of gun defense…I find it interesting, that we have the most guns of any “developed” nation..we have the least restrictive laws…and we don’t have this “gun paradise” of less crime because armed vigilantes saving the day.

We have the opposite. More gun deaths than any other developed nation.

Yet gun ownership seems to be declining. So if we don’t have a “safer” country with the amount of guns we have now, and less people want/have guns…then that hypothesis will never come to pass.

Unless this is the safe society we get with an armed citizenry?

And that same commenter also said later:

“Ugh, the “guns don’t kill people”, is such a trite argument.

I keep having to reference the stuff you throw out there. First off, we regulate cars in all sorts of ways. We regulate at the federal level of what a car maker can make. We regulate what safety features must be had. If you want to drive the car, even once, you are required to register with the state regularly. You have safety inspections regularly. You have to have insurance. You are required several months of intensive training. The state can revoke your license at will, including your Alzheimer’s patient. There are school zones where you have different rules to follow. All done to protect people. So let’s do all that in a mandatory way on every gun.

As you said, it’s just an object. Let’s treat it like every other dangerous object, which is to minimize the damage and casualties.

And once again, your premise is wrong. Guns do kill people, because they were designed to. Near the Newtown shooting, there was a school stabbing in China where 20 kids were attacked. How many died by the gun here? 20. How many died in China with the stabbing? 0. So…the gun does kill people. It kills people that otherwise may have lived.

Let’s get away from self-destructive ‘hu-mons’ (“ugly bags of mostly water”) and hang out with Nature:

While depressing, this photo gallery of rare and endangered animals is worth the look; on a brighter note, check out “Earth as Art”, shown just below the linked article, for a different look at our world.

Next, unusual albino animals; and, in somewhat the same vein, a few rare dog breeds.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to comment on any claims made above, or on any topic on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 22nd, 2013: Last Chance

I have written off and on about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and the many reasons why building it should not even be considered. Thousands of people have protested (and been arrested) against the proposed pipeline, and, thus far, the State Department has yet to decide on it.

Today is the last day for public comments on this proposal. If you have not yet submitted a comment, please, please, send an email to keystonecomments@state.gov. This is too important to our nation, our planet and our future.

Here’s the email that I sent:

I am writing this letter in objection to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Advocates of the pipeline say that it will create thousands of American jobs. This is a lie. While it may create a certain number of temporary jobs in the construction stage, fewer than 50 permanent jobs will be created.

Advocates of the pipeline say that, once the pipeline is finished and the tar sands oil is refined, it will provide the U.S. with a plentiful supply of oil, lowering oil prices and lessening our dependency on “foreign”, i.e., “Middle Eastern” oil. They say that because of this, our “national security’” will be enhanced. This is a lie. The tar sands oil, once refined, will be sold on the world market, not directly to the U.S.

Advocates of the pipeline say that the pipeline will safely bring tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through several U.S. States, to refineries in Texas. This is a lie. Keystone’s own track record as regards previous spills, i.e., in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River (which to date, several years later, still has not been ‘cleaned up’) belies this notion. Tar sands oil is the filthiest form of oil, and the pipeline’s route would take it through hundreds of ecologically sensitive areas; most importantly, it will run through, or perilously close to, the largest aquifer in the country, which provides drinking water to several states.

Any claim that Keystone may make to guarantee that the pipeline will be safe would be a lie. Regardless of anything that the final Environmental Impact Statement may say, there is no technology on this earth that can clean up the kind of disaster that a tar sands oils spill would cause. Consider the ineffective efforts to contain the BP Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf, and the ridiculouis use of paper towels to attempt to clean up the recent Mayflower oil spill.

Are even 50 permanent U.S. jobs worth even the slightest possibility of a pipeline leak and the subsequent ecological and human disaster? Are 50 jobs worth ruining the drinking water of millions of Americans? I say NO, and I would hope that anyone with any critical thinking skills would have to agree.

Please, I implore you, just say NO to Keystone.

Respectfully,

Jane E. Schneider
Pawling, NY

This is our open thread — what will you say to the State Department?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 1st, 2013: From Human Idiocy to Nature’s Logic

As a glutton for punishment, I wallowed through hundreds of responses regarding the group of alleged ‘men’, who showed their opposition to an Indianapolis “Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns National Day to Demand Action” gun safety rally, attended by “Moms Demand Action”, by openly facing the “Moms” while carrying loaded weapons.

nra
Most of the real whack-job pro-gun comments got “wished into the cornfield”, and probably a hundred or so were along the lines of “So you’re “intimidated” by a law abiding citizen exercising their rights?” – the word “intimidation” apparently not having the same meaning in different areas of the country – which got old and tired pretty quickly. But I thought you might enjoy the sheer idiocy of the following ones:

“You don’t have the right to be “protected”. You do have a natural right to protect yourself.”

[I and another commenter both reminded that guy about the existence of 'police forces.']

“They did nothing wrong and showed gun safety… What wrong? Are you mad that they didn’t shoot everyone? Are you mad that they didn’t break any laws.”

[Aside from the obvious grammar issues here, I love the assumption that liberals want people to get shot just to further our gun-grabbing agenda.]

Oops, I almost left out one of the best:

“WHEN YOU ANTI GUN PEOPLE ARE APPROACHED BY THE BAD GUYS OR WHEN OBAMA TAKES AWAY ALL YOUR FREEDOMS AND MAKES YOU HIS SLAVES, YOU WILL BE GLAD WHEN US GUN OWNERS ARE THERE TO PROTECT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY’S.”

Another genius posted:

“Carrying a lit candle at a vigil could be seen as intimidation because you could set someone on fire. It’s the same argument.”

The final gem is from the same genius:

“The rifle is the emblem of our freedom. It is more American than the flag.”

To which I HAD to respond with:

“Oh, so THAT’s why schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the RIFLE of the United States of America!”
“May I also point out to everyone who is asking why the group who brought loaded weapons to this gun-safety rally would be considered to be ‘intimidating’, since they were only exercising their rights: just take a look at Matt Rhodes’ gravatar (which is also repeated all over the NRA’s website), with the motto: NRA – STAND AND FIGHT.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On to Nature and her logic: While Spring officially arrived on March 20th, for me, the first sign of spring came on March 25th, when I spotted the first robin of the season. As soon as I remarked to myself ‘ooh, first robin’, I realized that that robin was accompanied by close to a hundred others, all ‘worming’ across the large field in front of one of the local firehouses. If I had my camera at the time, I would have taken a shot, since I’d never seen so many in one place at one time.

Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast


Then on Thursday, I spotted the first bee of the season, hovering hopefully over a clump of crocuses. Now, normally I’m not overly fond of bees, but I’m well aware of their intricate place in Nature’s logical order. Coincidentally, one of the local papers highlighted a seminar occurring tomorrow as part of Scenic Hudson’s Naturalist Lecture Series. Here’s an excerpt from a Poughkeepsie Journal article by Stefanie Schappert:

“Every time we take a bite of an apple, drink a cup of coffee or have a slice of blueberry pie, we must remember that every fruit and vegetable was pollinated first,” said Tim Stanley, program coordinator for the Fresh Air Fund at the Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill and a beekeeping enthusiast.”

“Ultimately the food that we eat depends on it,” Stanley said.

Stanley keeps two honeybee hives at his home and one at the reservation.

The lecture will focus on the 4,000 native species of bees in North America and how people can encourage native pollinators into their gardens and yards.

“Although the honeybee is the only perennial bee that produces a food source — honey — through the winter, it was brought over from Europe and is not native to the United States. Stanley said native bees, also known as “keystone species,” tend to be more efficient and better at what they do. Native bees include bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees and orchard bees.”

Honeybee

Honeybee

I don’t know about everyone else, but I think I prefer bees to gun-nuts!

This is our open thread. What’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 4th, 2013: Monday Medley

First, let’s start with: HAPPY NATIONAL GRAMMAR DAY! Look out, the grammar police will be out in force, so mind your adverbs, adjectives, and parenthetical phrases!

Next, from Foreign Policy Magazine: I suppose it’s nice to know that the CIA has nothing on Noam Chomsky:

“This month, a two-year-long investigation into CIA records on Noam Chomsky concluded with a surprising result: Despite a half-century of brazen anti-war activism and countless overseas speaking engagements, the Central Intelligence Agency has no file on the legendary MIT professor.”

However, Mr. Chomsky himself seems somewhat ambivalent about this fact:

“Interestingly, Chomsky, a man forever mistrustful of U.S. government statements, actually believes the CIA’s denial. But it’s not because he’s warming to the agency as he grows older: It’s because he’s convinced of its incompetence.”

A couple of commenters on that FP thread provided a bit more information: According to Propublica.org,

“A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist – even when they do. Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records. The new proposal – part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice – would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.””

- and -

Per the CIA website:

“Does the CIA spy on Americans? Does it keep a file on you?
By law, the CIA is specifically prohibited from collecting foreign intelligence concerning the domestic activities of US citizens. Its mission is to collect information related to foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence. By direction of the president in Executive Order 12333 of 1981 and in accordance with procedures approved by the Attorney General, the CIA is restricted in the collection of intelligence information directed against US citizens. Collection is allowed only for an authorized intelligence purpose; for example, if there is a reason to believe that an individual is involved in espionage or international terrorist activities. The CIA’s procedures require senior approval for any such collection that is allowed, and, depending on the collection technique employed, the sanction of the Director of National Intelligence and Attorney General may be required. These restrictions on the CIA have been in effect since the 1970s.”

Last, let’s look at pictures. I ran across an environmental website called Take Part, where I found a slideshow of some beautiful, some amazing, and some just plain horrifying photos from around the world. From the same website, here’s another slideshow of some of Mother Nature’s wonderful creations in the animal world. And finally, from The Weather Channel, we have eight cute baby animals.

This is our Open thread, what’s on your minds?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, February 21, 2013: Genetically Modified Salmon Will Soon Be At A Store Near You

Image

Genetically Engineered Salmon Nears FDA Approval

 The Food and Drug Administration has determined genetically engineered salmon won’t threaten the environment, clearing it of all but one final hurdle before it shows up on shelves throughout the nation — and igniting a final 60-day debate on whether it poses health risks before it’s officially approved.

Although it’s been nicknamed “Frankenfish” by critics, health professionals say they aren’t worried the lab-engineered salmon will cause more allergies or other harmful effects than any other breed of fish.

While labeling of genetically modified food of any type is not guaranteed and so we won’t know if we’re buying it.  And we certainly won’t know if it is harmful to ingest.  There is always a chance that it will interfere with indigenous species.  Should we have learned a lesson from the destruction the common carp has created since it’s introduction?

History of Common Carp in North America

A Fish once Prized, Now Despised
By the turn of the century, the introduction of the carp was such a “success” that both public agencies and sportsmen had come to regard the fish as a nuisance. While tons of free-swimming carp were being harvested from area waters, they were comparable in taste to neither the selectively bred pool-cultivated carp of Europe nor, it was believed, to many of the native “game” species, and were thus useless as a food source. Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp.

Salmon Nation: Genetically Engineered Salmon

While not on anyone’s dinner table just yet, genetically engineered salmon are just a pen stroke away. GE salmon are being developed by a U.S. company called Aqua Bounty Farms and are preferred for their ability to grow two to four times faster than other farmed salmon…

Research at both Purdue University and The National Academy of Sciences points to the “considerable risks” that genetically engineered (also called “transgenic”) fish pose to nearby populations of native fish:

“Purdue University researchers have found that releasing a transgenic fish to the wild could damage native populations even to the point of extinction.”
Sigurdson, C. (2000). Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations, Purdue News.

There is little doubt that transgenetic fish will, if raised, escape to the surrounding waters. Estimates of farmed salmon escapees in British Columbia total at least 400,000 fish from 1991 to 2001:

“According to the Canadian government, in the past decade nearly 400,000 farm-raised Atlantics escaped into British Columbia waters and began competing with wild species for food and habitat. (That number relies primarily on escapes reported by fish farmers; environmentalists put the actual figure closer to 1 million.)”
Barcott, B. (2001). Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest, Mother Jones, November/December.

There is much more on the dangers to our waterways at Salmon Nation.  Although you’d think common sense would be enough to know that this is a very bad idea.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about salmon, genetically-modified foods, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, February 20, 2013: We’re Fracked!

A new lawsuit says state regulators have allowed hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to expand in California without legally required oversight.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity, seeks to compel regulators to enforce existing state law that protects people and the environment from underground injections carried out by the oil and gas industry.

In a news release, the Center for Biological Diversity says the state has yet to regulate or even monitor the controversial practice of fracking.

Underneath much of Central and southern California sits one of the largest deposits of shale oil in the United States, boasting a motherlode of some 15 billion barrels of oil.”

And the Central Valley is one of the country’s biggest agricultural regions. Or, maybe, was. According to the Huffington Post, “Presently, energy producers aren’t required to tell anyone where or when they’re using hydraulic fracturing.”

But sometimes, such a secret can’t be kept a secret for long. Apparently a well near Fresno was fracked recently, with disasterous results this night.

Fracking near Fresno feed fireball.

Fracking near Fresno feeds fireball.

Fracking at a well owned by the Wesayso Corporation went disasterously wrong this evening as natural gas erupted into the atmosphere and ignited. To make matters worse, the natural gas quickly invaded the aquifer and was sucked into wells operated by FID, Fresno Irrigation District. Before anyone knew what was going on, tap water in Fresno became highly flammable and houses, businesses and apartment complexes erupted into flames as the slightest spark caused coffee pots and water heaters to explode.

Although this is a developing story, one geological engineer at the scene of the fireball who suffered only second degree burns explained. “We didn’t know that the natural gas deposits were under this much pressure. Judging by the on-going low level earthquakes, it’s likely the shale is continuing to fracture over a widespread area. It’s like when you get a crack in your windshield, and the crack keeps spreading and spreading and spreading. Only now, when it spreads, more natural gas vents into the aquifer.”

While officials at the State level are not talking, one lower-level analyst spoke on condition of anonymity. “We may be looking at the loss of the entire Central Valley acquifer.” He said. “When that goes, everyone in the Central Valley will have to evacuate….and you can forget about farming for the next few decades. God knows how long it will take to get the toxins out of the water supply.”

PART OF WHAT YOU JUST READ IS TRUE. PART IS FICTION.

DO WE KNOW WHAT THE FRACK WE’RE DOING?

OPEN THREAD TIME.

Sunday Roast: February 10, 2013 – Reading List

Good Morning, All. And shhhhhh… them wolfies are asleep, so read in silence and tell us what you think in comments, but shhhhhh…

Economy:

WITH the financial crisis over and the recovery gaining momentum, one big piece of unfinished economic business hangs over Barack Obama’s second term: arresting the relentless rise in America’s already sky-high debt. He is turning to the task with what seems an improbable claim: that the job is closer to completion than people appreciate. (read on)

More Economy:

Do we have a solid economic recovery underway? (read more)

Austerity sucks:

The debt crisis is finally catching up with wind energy, once a fast-growing sector in Europe. After more than a decade of double-digit growth, austerity, rapidly changing energy policies and skittish investors are putting a damper on the industry. (read more)

Science:

We’ve only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it. (read more)

Wisdom:

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.Benjamin Franklin 

This is our Open Thread, Add your wisdom!

The Watering Hole, Friday Feb. 8 2013; “Of Man, Of Wolf”

Of Man, Of Wolf

of man of wolf

As mountain throws its livid purple haze 
As waning sunlight strays across the skies
And skims a craggy ridge, Man’s towers rise
From valley’s darkened floor as if ablaze
In ego – soaring – bluster unconstrained
By reason – or by feigned humilities.

Beyond the morrow’s sunrise where the trees
Stand tall, the lone wolf’s paw print, water-stained,
Impales his visage on a sandy trail.
Instinctive stealth, the weapon of his choice,
And fearsome howl – man’s bête noir in voice –
Expound on reasons men, themselves, must fail:

“My birthright is to live!  Run wild!  Run free                
Of shackled chains! . . . No wonder YOU fear hate ME!”

Man’s completely irrational fear and hatred of wolves is obviously boundless, as evidenced in a most disheartening letter I received a few days ago from Defenders of Wildlife. It read, in part:

We’ve reached a heartbreaking milestone:

The 1,000th wolf has died from hunting and trapping in the Northern Rockies since Congress stripped gray wolves of their Endangered Species Act protection in 2011. 

Mothers, pups and packs have fallen to hunters’ bullets and traps – 1,001 at last count in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. It’s a tragic, unsustainable toll, and it cannot be allowed to go on.

Among the most recent victims of this reckless killing was OR16, an Oregon-born male wearing a radio collar. He was shot on January 19th in Idaho.

OR16 was a remarkable wolf. His wanderings took him through three states and he even swam the Snake River. Yet, after his astonishing journey, he made the tragic mistake of crossing into Idaho. He lasted only 33 days there, and was the second Oregon wolf to be killed in Idaho.

Now we’re looking at the loss of over 1,000 wolves in just two years. This accelerated killing is an example of how states like Wyoming are managing wolves as vermin to be eliminated, not as wildlife to be managed responsibly. There is no basis for allowing this many wolves to be killed this quickly. It’s 100% politics that is driving state management.

The restoration of wolves in the Lower 48 is one of the greatest success stories of the Endangered Species Act. It’s tragic that in this day and age we are still fighting myths, misconceptions and old hatreds toward these magnificent animals.

Let me be frank: I am an environmentalist. A RADICAL environmentalist, at least in the perception of a great many of the intellectually unwashed who see no virtue in any concept that might somehow define the realm which lies just beyond the narrowness of their own existence. I’ve been called a tree hugger, an eagle freak, a wolfer, a greenie, a screwball, nutcase, communist, socialist . . . you get the drift. Oddly enough, in said context all those epithets might well be reasonably accurate. Sort of, more-or-less, generally speaking, etc.

In any case, because my sympathies generally lie within the wild and natural world and NOT within that realm imposed upon this planet by my own species, I pay attention to and am a member of various ‘environmentalist’ organizations.  included are Defenders of Wildlife, the Wilderness Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, plus a variety of other organizations which dedicate their efforts to preserving (and restoring) that which is natural, that which we humans have diminished or destroyed for no good reason other than our all-too-common notion that we are . . . ummm . . . created in the image of some sort of ‘god’ who granted us “dominion” over . . . well, over everything. The old “It is written” ploy.

But other things, too, have been “written,” and in words which make far more sense to me, the Radical Environmentalist, than virtually any that pretend to bless the presence of humans here on this speck of galactic dust we like to call “Earth.” So I shall, for the moment, defer to some of those others who have proven far more able than I to pen the words that most accurately describe and enhance recognition of environmental realities and concerns. Following are a few quotes selected from the sizable handful I’ve accumulated over the years, specific source(s) attributed when available.

First, the Idiot shouts:

“It’s the funnest thing I’ve done in years!”
So spoke a gleeful Montana TV ‘Reality Show’ host after shooting and killing a wolf with a high-powered rifle (his idiotic comment was forwarded to the world by the Center for Biological Diversity on August 21, 2012)

Next, Intelligence adds its soft-spoken but ever-varied voice:

“One of the problems that comes with trying to take a wider view of animals is that most of us have cut ourselves off from them conceptually. We do not think of ourselves as part of the animal kingdom. Indians did . . . not because [they] did not perceive the differences but because they were preoccupied with the similarities.” ~Barry Holstun Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, 1978

[To the Lakota]  “The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing.  This concept of life and its relations was humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love . . . The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one blood.”  ~Lakota Tribal Chief Luther Standing Bear

“What monstrous folly, think you, ever led Nature to create her one great enemy — man . . . And how instinctively she taught the fear of him to the rest of her children!”  ~John C. Van Dyke, in The Desert, 1903

[When European colonists first arrived in America]  “The whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men.  Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”  ~John Adams, 1756 (as quoted by Barry Holstun Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, 1978)

“[Man] was born and equipped as an excellent animal, but he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage called culture and took on fear and a whimper as a part of the bargain.” ~John C. Van Dyke, in The Desert, 1903

“Wilderness . . . the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see.  Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us.”  ~Edward Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, A Season in the Wilderness, 1968

“The precise origins of man’s unusual fear of the wolf are obscure. The wolf is human’s most feared animal, even though there has never been a verified account of a healthy wild wolf attacking and killing a human in North America. There have been many maulings caused by bears, and many a diver has experienced a shark attack, but never a wild wolf attack. So why are wolves so feared and hated?”  ~Jill Missal, in Wolves, Humans, and the Myth

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and the mountain.  I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, then no wolves would mean a hunter’s paradise.  But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”  ~Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac, 1949

“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”  ~Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac, 1949

And finally, one of Universal Truth’s most abject pinnacles:

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.”
~Farley Mowat, in Never Cry Wolf, 1963

Indeed. The essence of “We the people” was most ably summed — some fifty years ago — by Canadian environmentalist and wildlife biologist Farley Mowat. Consider, if you dare, only today’s murderous iceberg tips, the ones in view right now as we speak: in the United States, within just the last two years, more than 1000 wolves have been slaughtered in the northern Rockies, most by gunfire, and not a single one of them for any good reason; less than two months ago twenty children, ages 5 and 6, plus six educators were murdered — by gunfire — in Newtown, Connecticut; and nationwide, assuming gruesome averages continue to hold true, at least 1000 people will die every month in the United States. From gunfire . . . gunfire which can no longer even be heard over the screams(!) of anguish emanating from those for whom gun possession is the only ‘sacred’ adherence.

We are a nation with a shriveled soul. We are a nation OF shriveled souls. I realize it’s far too late to overturn the Second Amendment, to confiscate and destroy all guns in the land and thereby save tens upon hundreds of thousands of human lives and millions more in the wild kingdom, but perhaps we could at least rewrite the Second Amendment to make it a bit more accurate, more palatable? How about this:

A non regulated Militia, being unnecessary to the security of a free State, the right of Shriveled Souls to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Wolf Cubs, photo credit ©ODFW (from Defenders of Wildlife)

Wolf Pups, photo credit ©ODFW (from Defenders of Wildlife)

This is today’s open thread; go for it!

The Watering Hole, Friday Jan. 18 2013; Drought and Heat vs. Civilization(s)

Sinagua Petroglyph Collage, a few of the more than 1000 ancient glyphs carved on a sandstone cliff face at theV-Bar-B site near Wet Beaver Creek in the upper Verde Valley of Arizona

Sinagua Petroglyph Collage: a few of the more than 1000 ancient glyphs carved on a sandstone cliff face at theV-Bar-V site near Wet Beaver Creek in the upper Verde Valley of Arizona

Drought-reduced precipitation typically goes hand in hand with elevated temperatures, and the consequences to impacted civilizations can be, and usually are, devastating. Case in point: a thousand years ago, what we today call the American Southwest was home to essentially five different (and advanced) cultures. In the area commonly referred to as the Four Corners, the Anasazi culture embraced today’s SW Colorado, NW New Mexico, NE Arizona, and SE Utah. In eastern Arizona, western New Mexico, and probably extending into northern Mexico as well, the Mogollon people dominated. In the southern Arizona deserts lived the Salado and the Hohokam, and between Hohokam and Anasazi lands, the Sinagua. The Sinagua (name based on historical Spanish records which described the aboriginal inhabitants’ desert surround as sin agua, i.e. ‘without water’) are considered by most archaeologists and anthropologists to be the precursors of the Hopi people of northern Arizona, a premise with which the Hopi are in general agreement. It’s also believed, at least in some quarters, that the Sinagua persisted longer than the other four major cultures, although dates of ‘departure’ or disappearance are extremely difficult to ascertain with any precision. Suffice to say that all five cultures had disappeared at least a century, possibly two centuries, prior to the arrival of the Spanish (in Arizona) circa 1539.

What caused their collective (and more-or-less ‘sudden’) disappearance? Until recently, the presumed most significant factor was the enduring and severe drought that blanketed the Southwest in the late thirteenth century. Speculative dates of disappearance range from the early 1300′s to, in some cases, as late as 1450. One could surmise that, since the people were dependent upon both crops and wild game for their food, a crippling drought would likely have played a significant role both in crop production and in the quantity (and quality) of food and materials available to hunters and gatherers; modern tree ring data generally confirm those suspicions.

There are, too, other considerations that have arisen in archaeological and anthropological studies over the last couple of decades, particularly in re the disappearance of the Anasazi. These new theses involve emergent evidences of an apparently severe and divisive religious ‘crisis’ of some sort alongside an obvious infestation of internecine conflicts between different subgroups, with ensuing cultural demise brought to logical conclusion by the encroachment of severe drought. The archaeological and anthropological evidence is, of course, scant and largely speculative; the evidence of a severe drought and its likely impact remains a far more unchallengeable reality.

What tweaks the imagination is the reality that today, we here in the US (along with peoples of other countries throughout humankind’s emergent global society) are on the apparent leading edge of extreme anthropogenic global warming and its consequent climate changes that predict not only severe droughts and untenable temperature elevations, but also profoundly destructive storms as well. In addition, the US finds itself confronted by divisive local and global religious conflicts, intermingled with malignant cultural subgroups including such bizarre “cults” as the National Rifle Association in league with gun manufacturers and sellers as well as with innumerable and heavily armed individuals and deviant “militias” (none of which are EVER ‘well regulated’).  Add to that our myriad numbers of absurdly severe political AND religious extremist and/or racist entities and suddenly the problem becomes clear — obvious, in fact, to the point where, after one reflects on historical precedents, the question: what could possibly go wrong? answers itself in a single word: everything!

The Hopi, descendants of at least the Sinagua and perhaps also the Hisat’sinom (Anasazi), have a word that essentially describes the human predicament, both ancient and modern: Koyaanisqatsi. According to the Hopi Dictionary: Hopìikwa Lavàytutuveni, Koyaanisqatsi means “life of moral corruption and turmoil” or “life out of balance”.

[NOTE: Koyaanisqatsi is also the title of a 1983 film (a Francis Ford Coppola Production) which is presented in 'mystical'  fashion as . . .

time-lapse photography, often shown in hyperspeed, and shot primarily in the desert of the Southwest and New York City, (and) shows the contrast between the pace of the natural world and the one that man has made.

It does, indeed, point toward the 'life out of balance' and 'life of moral corruption and turmoil' memes which are so frighteningly commonplace in today's USA. It's available on DVD, and well worth a watch.]

The modern Hopi people are, meanwhile, derivative of ancient culture(s). They are a people who trace their roots back, via their thesis of origins, to the emergence, at Sipapu in the Grand Canyon, of Human from the Third World of the creation into this, the Fourth World. The Hopi also believe that, by way of antecedent wanderings and explorations of North, Central, and South America, from Atlantic to Pacific and from Arctic tundra to the very tip of South America itself, the paths of the ancient nomads finally converged and crossed at the point where their three great mesas tower above the surrounding desert plains. The Hopi understand themselves to be descendants of these first inhabitants of the Americas. They remain a peaceful people, deeply religious Keepers of the Earth who believe that their progress on life’s road derives from the unspoken observation of life’s laws. Their village of Oraibi, on Third Mesa, is the oldest continuously-occupied settlement in what is, today, the United States. The Hopi people and their culture have withstood the onslaught of at least three tiers of invaders — Navajo, Spaniard, and American — and yet their culture remains intact and faithful to its beliefs, and to practices which are rooted in an antiquity few others can or will ever even attempt to comprehend.

Sinagua Ruins (Hopi ancestors) at Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Montezuma Castle, Arizona

Sinagua  (ancestral Hopi) Ruins at Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Montezuma Castle; Arizona National Monuments on the Colorado Plateau and in the Verde Valley, resp.

Perhaps it would be wise for modern societies to, for once, listen to and heed the precepts of ancient wisdom, to consider the potential consequences of Koyaanisqatsi in this modern era, perhaps even to attempt correction of those cultural practices (and foibles) which can — and have — provoked the demise of otherwise advanced civilizations. But I’ll not hold my breath in anticipation.

This is today’s open thread . . . speak up, and enjoy!

Elegy Written in a Dying Forest

There is a tree that stands in the forest
That one tree is all forests –
All trees are that one . . .
(John Denver, from Amazon)

elegy-a amazon john denver

The morning air was soft; there was a breeze, light at first but soon one which became gusty. There was also a left-behind dying ember, one that the breeze gathered in its arms, then carried away and deposited a few yards distant. Minutes later, there was, on that spot on the floor of the forest, a tiny fire, one which, within hours, grew to become one of the most massive wildfires in the recorded history of the American Southwest.

It was ignited in those early morning hours of May 29, 2011 and soon spread to ultimately burn across and largely destroy nearly 850 square miles of lush mixed conifer forest which once straddled the rugged hills, valleys, and ridges that topographically define the Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains. The Wallow Fire — so named because it began a mile or two north of the Mogollon Rim in the Bear Wallow Wilderness Area, just a few scant miles to the east of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation boundary — raged for more than forty days and forty nights before it was declared officially “contained” on July 8, 2011.

It was started by a pair of campers who, for unfathomable reason, failed to completely and totally extinguish their campfire near Bear Wallow Creek before leaving on their morning’s exploratory walkabout. Sadly, they left their two dogs behind in the camp, their leashes tied to a tree; the dogs were undoubtedly among the very first casualties of the wildfire that quickly (and literally) exploded into the surrounding forest, thanks to a wicked southwesterly wind which blew dying campfire embers into the drought-parched surround and then blew those flames steadily northward. For more than a month.

The fire burned for one day less than six weeks, and destroyed almost everything in its path in the process. There still remain, today, here and there, occasional and isolated patches of green and unburned forest which the fire, for reason only it knows, avoided or ‘went around’, but the bottom line remains unchanged: 841 square miles of once-beautiful National Forest are almost completely gone, all thanks to human presence. Humans. Us. We the people. Nothing more, nothing less.

Over the course of most summers during the decade prior to the Wallow fire, we had enjoyed as much time as our situation cared to permit us to enjoy, in that forest. We’d spent days, occasionally even weeks, camped there, alongside its large grassy meadows — ‘cienegas’ in the local parlance — amongst neighbors of elk and deer, of black bears and mountain goats, of wild turkeys and of cougars, and of (recently reintroduced) endangered Mexican Gray Wolves. And wildflowers, of course. It was as close to paradise as anyone might ever dare imagine.

But there were signs of problems. Drought had left its mark. Huge stands of trees, in random areas here and there, were, thanks to massive (drought-induced) bark beetle infestations, each and all dead. And drying. Bark beetles thrive in drought-stricken forests, after all, and the Apache National Forest had become, over the previous decade or two, their perfect habitat. And too, there was the tree density, itself a consequence of extensive logging in the previous century where virtually all of the giant old growth trees had been cut down; in their stead grew their offspring — small, and dense, their vitality no longer curtailed by the deep shade of the old giants. In short and given the right conditions, flammables were everywhere even as the probability of wildfire slowly elevated, year by year, thanks to human-induced climate change and the inevitable consequences implicit therein.

And then it burned. And now, it’s gone. The devastation which remains echoes the words of the poet, Shelley, who described the essence of the (enduring) human dilemma more than two centuries ago, when he wrote:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Below are my own impressions of that which once was, assembled in a few photographs alongside a few words of lament, words which I wrote one afternoon in the summer of 2007 whilst sitting next to a campfire on the edge of Butterfly Cienega, itself (then, no longer) a grassy meadow deep in the Apache National Forest. There were elk and deer grazing nearby, and in the distance one could see — everywhere — skeletons of dead trees; and with every passing year there were more of them. Now they, too, are gone.

************

Elegy Written in a Dying Forest

elegyThe trees are dying, one by one,
Through fire, disease, and drought-drenched sun;
Where once lived lush green firmament
Now stand dried bones – in dark lament.

elegy-1 the trees are dyingI gazed upon what once had thrived
In climate harsh, where life survived
To offer self in Nature’s Way,
In service — balanced — night and day.

elegy-2 I gazed upon what once had thrivedNo other lives were lesser made
By gathered sun, by filtered shade,
By Spirits who, no germ of greed
Could ever sow, yet still succeed.

elegy-3 no other lives were lesser madeIn other lands, where men are Kings,
Where gluttony in quest of things
Defines deep shallowness of Soul,
Where Nature’s Way is ne’er the goal –

elegy-4 in other lands where men are kings‘Tis there that men are born to die
Not ever having sensed the sigh
Of generous and selfless Grace
Which ere defined this wooded place.

elegy-5 tis there that men are born to dieAs men pretend, and mimic God,
Scant few amongst them find it odd
Or even pause to sense, to see –
God’s image -more- “becomes” a Tree.

elegy-6 gods image more becomes a tree

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 6th, 2012: Close Encounter of the Bald Eagle Kind

Bald_eagle_warwick2
According to the DEC’s website regarding the bald eagle population in New York State, back in 1976,

“One pair of bald eagles still nests in New York, but there are no young birds. In fact, year after year eggs are laid in the nest, but they collapse during incubation, their shells thinned by DDT in the parent birds’ bodies.”

But here’s some good news:

“Through the work of New York’s program and those in other states and Canada, the magnificent bird that symbolizes our nation is coming back from the brink of extinction. Higher population levels and successful reproduction mean the bald eagle is on a firmer footing today than it has been for half a century. In fact efforts have been so successful that the bald eagle has been removed from the federal endangered species list.” [However] “Its status in New York has been changed from Endangered to Threatened.”

The DEC project took pre-fledgling bald eagles from other states and transplanted them to suitable habitats in New York; through a process called “hacking”, the fledglings were raised on specially-built nesting platforms and carefully fed from behind a blind to avoid human contact. The project, started in 1976, achieved its goal of ten nesting pairs in 1989. The DEC’s website reports that “Conservation efforts have increased that number to 173 pairs in 2009.”

Although the nearest habitats where bald eagles populations have been increasing due to the DEC’s program are along the Hudson River (about 30-35 miles to the west of our area), on very rare occasions over the last dozen years or so, I have spotted one or two bald eagles here in southeastern New York, close to the Connecticut state line. On the first occasion, two eagles were flying high above Interstate 684; luckily, I was driving on a fairly straight part of the highway, with little traffic, so I was able to observe the birds long enough to ascertain that they were, indeed, bald eagles. The second occasion occurred when I was getting out of my car at the grocery store, and I stood and watched as the eagle flew south over a nearby hillside.

Yesterday morning was quite different from my previous sightings. I had slept late, and was heading to work a little after 10:00am. Fortuitously, I had decided to cut over to the highway (I-84) via one of the local county roads, rather than go straight down NYS Route 22 – one of those “six-of-one, half-a-dozen of another” decisions, as both routes normally take about the same time. So, heading west toward the highway, I suddenly became aware of a huge bird with an amazing wingspan flying almost directly toward me over the eastbound side of Route 311. As the bird began to angle toward the fields and trees on the southern verge of the road, I spotted the white head and tail (along with whatever prey it was carrying–I tried not to study that) and realized that it truly was a bald eagle. It was flying low enough that, had the usual earlier-morning traffic of school buses and 18-wheelers been heading eastbound at that moment, the eagle might have been hit from behind. Luckily, there was no other traffic on the road; unluckily, I didn’t have a camera with me, and, even if I had, there would not have been time for me to pull over and try to locate where the eagle had headed so that I could try to photograph it. All in all, though, the experience helped to lift my spirits by a brief, up-close glimpse of such a glorious sight.

This is our daily open thread — seen anything inspirational lately?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 29th, 2012: By the Numbers

For today’s post, here’s a mix of articles with one very minor common theme: they’re all numbered lists.

First, from Foreign Policy magazine, a list of “The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers”, which includes Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (recently visited by President Obama), Bill and Hilary Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malala Yousafzai, and (coming in at Number 7) President Barack Obama. As David Rothkopf says in a companion article on FP (titled “The Opposite of Thinking”):

“Once again, Foreign Policy has with characteristic humility compiled its list of leading Global Thinkers. How we could possibly identify the top 100 thinkers on a planet of 7 billion people when we’ve never met a fairly considerable number of those people is not something we dwell on when discussing our methodology. Suffice it to say, the list is impressionistic. (OK, it’s more than a little ridiculous. But this is a tradition, so let’s just keep that between us, shall we?)”

On a more aesthetic theme, from The Weather Channel, here’s “The World’s 20 Most Amazing Bridges”, several of which are located in the United States.

And, just for fun, visit cracked.com for “14 Photographs That Shatter Your Image of Famous People.” Try not to get lost at cracked.com, it’s an addictive site.

Enjoy!

This is our Open Thread. What’s up?

The Poetry of Earth

In 1817, poet John Keats noted that The poetry of earth is never dead.

In his famous environmental treatise A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold proposed that “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”  Jack London, in The Call of the Wild referred to that same howl as “A song of the younger world.”   Today, amidst the din and clang of modern life in the modern city, many seem to have lost – or perhaps have never found at all – that sense of melody, that voice which is the song of the untrammeled world.

And, too, how to describe the bugling elk, or the creak of the crow’s wings as they pound through the silent forest air?  And the rustle of the wildflower in a soft breeze — is that in itself the flower’s song, or is there more?  John Muir spoke of the Ponderosa when he wrote, “Of all the pines, this one gives forth the finest music to the winds.”  Few who have listened closely enough to genuinely hear that melody will dare to argue.

William Blake began his Auguries of Innocence with a scant  twenty-nine words which reveal both his vision and insight:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

One might surmise that Blake understood, that he had heard the song even as he watched the orchestra perform.  In that regard he was, indeed, a most uniquely fortunate man.

In his Ode on Intimations of Immortality William Wordsworth noted his abiding concern for the natural world and man’s impact thereupon when he wrote:

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.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

And:

Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Or perhaps, for those who care to look, those things are still there to see?  Emily Dickinson once described death as that moment when “I could not see to see”; perchance this ‘glory’ which has ‘past away’ is not of the earth itself but is, rather, more a failure of the observer ? a manifest of a myopic inability or unwillingness to look, to listen, to See ? Or, as John Ruskin put it, “Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.”

Wordsworth once asked,

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

And almost as if in answer, William Cullen Bryant proclaimed:

To him who, in the love of Nature, holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language …

It was nearly forty years ago when my discovery of that land which defined my surround — the Sonoran Desert — slowly evolved from mere concept to become an enduring and lifelong reality. In the process, I met a poet. He was, in the real world, an accountant, a company Comptroller, but he was also one of those rare birds with the ability to soar far beyond the moment, to See in the genuine Ruskin sense of the word. We both lived in that same huge and ‘modern’ city which sprawled upon — and did everything within its (thankfully LIMITED!) power to ignore — the harsh reality of the Sonoran Desert. But together, we both finally ‘saw’ that which the desert stubbornly reveals to only those who care to wander upon it, to explore, to listen to its voices, to its songs. Following are his words in combo with some old images of my own, photographs of moments in desert’s time, captured courtesy of determination in combination with the utility available via a very primitive digital camera.

Enjoy.

THE DESERT
A Poem, by T. R. Nissle
circa 1975

The desert is a barren place
For myopic guests,
But for the waiting eye, quietly,
Astonishing much endures to see:
Rooted things rapier barbed; things wingéd,
furry whiskered, fork-tongued, and scaly,
The desert is a many creatured place.The desert is a peopled place,
Outpost isles of life,
Each from solitude its strength must take,
Some with spines themselves a fortress make,
All self-contained and lone, unlike jostling
throngs of human procreation,
The desert’s a selective dwelling place.The desert is an austere place
For its denizens,
Which small things, to live, must frugal be,
And grasp each spartan possibility,
Unbounteous land, unforgiving careless
ecstasy, sanctum-like,
The desert is a mirthless, muffled place.
The desert is a beauteous place
Of resplendencies,
Though drab sun-baked hues voice year-long mood
With rapture from pent-up solitude,
Water hoarding plants, in muted cry of
flower, unfold exquisitries,
The desert is a fragile garden place.The desert is a private place,
Like a human heart,
Unspeaking, it has a subtle beat
In night’s chamber, safe from glare and heat,
Guests, intrusion is no access – enter not
unless you understand,
The desert is a shy, unpublic place.

So there you have it: The Desert — one of those ‘Songs’ of that ‘Younger World’ modestly displayed as renderings in combination with comments upon renderings of captured moments of time,  moments of that eternal passage — a poem of the mind, of the heart.  And while it’s true that nothing we know to do can capture the entire of even the briefest spot of time, perhaps that which we might ‘see’ can offer an encouragement for others to leave behind, for the moment, the commonality of the human foible which pretends to fuel life’s engine and substitute, instead, a reason to look and listen for the Song of that world far younger than ours, to hear those erstwhile Voices in the Wind. They are, after all and to the attentive mind and heart, part and parcel to the Sum of Life.

Listen. Hear. See. Enjoy. And remember, always, the words of John Keats circa 1817:

The Poetry of Earth is ceasing never.

Climate Change and Global Bankruptcy

I am reading a book right now by a nuclear engineer from Australia (Ron Nielsen) titled The Little Green Handbook published in 2005 before Katrina. I had of course a jaundiced eye but in one of the chapters he eschews nuclear as having considerable little value in future energy solutions and dislikes the massive nuclear waste by-product (people can reform, you know). In any event, he posits that if the world continues on the most likely track of ‘business as usual’ we are poised to experience by 2039 global bankruptcy. The assumption is that business and governments cannot continue to absorb the costly superstorms that will be spawned by the climate change phenomenon. Sandy damage predictions (on the heels of Irene in the Mid Atlantic and New England last year) seem to bear out these predictions. If you recall, there were devastating floods in Europe 2 years ago and 10 foot snows in Romania last winter and you have the case by case evidence that keeps building towards irreversible global collapse of the infrastructure of civilization. Not a pretty picture if we don’t do something soon. Not finished the book yet, but he appears high on wind power as the most reliable alternative to reduce carbon emissions.

Link to Sandy damage estimates:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/hurricane-sandy-economic-damages-new-york-northeast-billions_n_2039004.html?1351527173

The Very Watery Whole, Monday, October 29th, 2012: Heeeeere’s SANDY!

-Hurricane Sandy, photo courtesy of NASA

As of this writing, Hurricane Sandy is hitting parts of New Jersey. Up here in Dutchess County, New York, we’re already starting to get some wind gusts, bringing down what’s left of our leaves, but the brunt of Sandy will not hit us for several hours. On the other hand, New York City is already all but closed down, and, according to a blurb on TWC, the inimitable Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey says “Don’t be stupid, get out!” Reservoir levels in New Jersey and southern New York have been lowered several feet in advance of the storm to help avoid overflows, but a Weather Channel shot of a local lake beach a bit southwest of us in Putnam County showed the water up several feet past the lifeguard’s chair.

For more information on the size and possible effects of Hurricane Sandy, here’s an article from The Weather Channel online. Forecasts include very heavy rains in the coastal and slightly inland areas, but huge swaths of Pennsylvania could get anywhere from several inches to two feet of snow.

You know that this hurricane is a huge one when it even eclipses talk of the upcoming election. To all of our friends in the path of this storm, please STAY SAFE!

This is our daily open thread–let’s talk!

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 5: ENVIRONMENTAL)

Environmental destruction certainly isn’t anything new; it’s been going on, thanks to the human presence, for centuries millennia at least. Nonetheless, it really picked up speed during the first years following the W. Bush presidential (s)election of December, 2000, during which time he carried forth and invariably served “the dream” of Republicans everywhere, i.e. their unending pursuit of biosphere destruction and collapse — courtesy mainly of inborn stupidity, but always in consort with that eternal greed-based quest for evermore profit and power.

There seems little doubt that the policies of W. Bush greatly accelerated the rush toward the environmental ‘tipping point’, i.e. that moment when human-caused (global) environmental changes become permanent, when the biosphere modifies sufficiently to insist the extinction of species after species after species simply because the planet’s physiography has gradually deteriorated in ways unfriendly to the vast majority of existing life forms.

Following is a (March, 2005) review of various elements implicit in the Bush environmental travesty. Embedded may well be found an occasional ‘editorial’ comment, one which may be (properly) interpreted as being somewhat biased toward the views of the writer, an obviously passionate environmentalist-tree-hugger. Me.

Sadly, the issues which drive environmental destruction are not dead; they are, in fact, as alive today as ever, and will become exceedingly moreso should the Romney-Ryan ticket prevail on November 6, 2012.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

**********

   Environmental:

“. . . with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers.  Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert — the desert made by the tramp of human feet — begins to show itself. Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization . . .” (John C. Van Dyke, ca. 1900)

It’s a non-arguable fact of life, so to speak, that the earth’s environment, especially the biosphere, the earth-atmosphere interface in which life exists, is critical to … well, it’s critical to the existence of life.  That is, of course, unless one happens to be a Bush Republican, at which point the biosphere becomes little more than just another big word, one that sounds like something a tree-hugger might speak in the same breath as ‘ecology’ or ‘endangered species’;  tree-huggers: you know, those weirdos that think trees and owls and undeveloped land are worth more than the money they can bring in.

I would only wish that last statement be hyperbole and not an understated fact.

There’s but one way to say it charitably:  George W. Bush is the most environmentally destructive president this nation has ever had, bar none.  To read of his actions, or even to watch him attempt to circuitously lie his way out of the environmental atrocities which he’s heaped up around himself and across the nation is to realize that here must surely stand a man devoid of character, devoid of soul.  How else, after all, to explain such solicitous contempt for one’s only home?  It’s sometimes difficult to imagine the origins of those who are so callous; it’s difficult to ponder how it is that anyone can devolve sufficiently to exist as if a completely vacant lot, a slab of such emptiness, a shallowness so deep that nothing – not even the barest weed of life can manage to wend its way to the surface. Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 13th, 2012: From Pipeline News to Politics in the Pews

Back in August of 2011, I wrote a piece here about the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and its possible deleterious effect on various ecosystems and landowners in its path.

Yesterday’s Washington Post contains several updates and stories of what has been going on more recently regarding the pipeline, both good and bad, under the overall title “Keystone: Down The Line.” The WaPo article includes several separate pieces (all of the individual stories can be accessed from the main WaPo link), including: the most recent re-routing of the Nebraska section of the pipeline–which will STILL cross the Ogallala aquifer; an ‘eminent domain’ ruling in Texas; protesters in Livingston, Texas; various stories about local residents who would be affected by the Pipeline; and Mitt Romney’s support of the Pipeline. The Romney article clearly demonstrates Mitt’s ignorance about how the oil market works, and the blatant misinformation with which he would try to ‘sell’ it to American voters.

In other news, Catholics United (a ‘liberal’ group of Catholics who seem to be much closer to ‘true Christians’ than the Teavangelists and other faux-Christians), in conjunction with another group called “Faithful Americans”, is circulating a petition which you may be interested in signing. Apparently, “A parish priest in the Archdiocese of New York publicly endorsed Mitt Romney for President by including pro-Romney partisan literature in his Sunday bulletin.” Part of this literature included the line, “”We urge our fellow Catholics, and indeed all people of good will, to join with us in this full-hearted effort to elect Governor Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States.” The petition is to be delivered to New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While Cardinal Dolan “delivered the benediction at the Democratic and Republican conventions, he told reporters that he was there only to pray, not to endorse a candidate.” Cardinal Dolan needs to remind his parish priests that they are not allowed to endorse a candidate, and they are certainly not allowed to coerce their parishioners into voting for a particular candidate. The Separation of Church and State goes both ways: keep politics out of religion, and keep religion out of politics.

This is our open thread — what do you have to say for yourselves?

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 27th, 2012: Monday Mitt Medley

Mitt Headspin

Today’s offerings are almost completely about Mitt Rmoney, via recent pieces on ForeignPolicy.com and ThinkProgress.org.

Here’s a few excerpts from the first FP article, titled “PIPE DREAMS – Why Mitt Romney can’t free America from Middle East oil.”, authored by Michael Levi:

“Republicans have frequently criticized Obama for his admittedly hodgepodge energy strategy, a charge repeated in the new plan. The Romney plan solves that problem by substituting a narrow fossil-fuel production strategy for a genuinely comprehensive plan. Much in that fossil-fuel strategy is reasonable. Romney would shift more power to the states by allowing them to approve drilling on their lands and near their coasts without federal intervention. He would streamline environmental reviews, in part through clear deadlines, and in part by handing more control to the states.

“If that were accompanied by more federal capacity to process permit applications — something that Romney has decidedly not promised to do — the result could be a win-win for business and the environment.”

That’s a HUGEIf…”, especially if it’s something that Rmoney “has decidedly NOT promised to do.”

“The plan is also mum on the other grave energy challenge the country faces: climate change. Reasonable people can differ on how much emphasis to place on climate change in U.S. energy policy, but it isn’t reasonable to ignore it entirely. The Romney plan does not mention climate at all. To be certain, surging production of natural gas can help curb U.S. emissions, but it will come nowhere close to delivering the reductions the country needs alone. Romney likes to quip that people “do not call [climate change] America warming, they call it global warming,” his way of saying that climate change can’t be confronted unilaterally.”

Yet Dubya Bush, supported by the Republicans, refused to sign the Kyoto Protocols, which would ‘confront’ climate change ‘globally.’ Rmoney’s “quip” is yet another example of how warped his sense of humor, his character and his logic are.

The article continues…

“There are many good reasons to embrace rising U.S. oil and gas production and to reform the way government regulates their development.”

If ‘reforming regulation’ involves eliminating regulations, then NO, there are no good reasons.

…and finishes with,

“The Romney strategy for fossil-fuel development has some reasonable proposals on both fronts. But when it comes to comprehensively exploiting energy opportunities and confronting energy-related risks, the strategy falls woefully short.”

Michael Levi’s article links to “The Romney Plan For a Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence“, which sounds like a non-sequitur to me. But the “Executive Summary” seems even more ludicrous, i.e.:

“An affordable, reliable supply of energy is crucial to America’s economic future.
I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies Canada and Mexico to achieve energy independence on this continent. If I am elected president, that vision will become a reality by the end of my second term.” -Mitt Romney

Of course, Rmoney’s basic premise on which he builds some of his so-called “Energy Policy” is a lie:

“In the midst of the energy revolution taking place on state and privately-held lands across America, oil and gas production on federal lands somehow plummeted last year. This was no accident. President Obama has intentionally sought to shut down oil, gas, and coal production in pursuit of his own alternative energy agenda.”

In addition, Rmoney’s “Energy Policy” is extremely vague, with many of the ‘power points’ in some sections appearing to contradict other points within the same section. And quite a bit of the policy appears to be based on studies by Citigroup (“Citi GPS: Global Perspectives & Solutions, “Energy 2020: North America, The New Middle East?” Citigroup, 3/20/12″), investment company Raymond James (Raymond James U.S. Research, “Yes, Mr. President, We Believe We Can Drill Our Way Out of This Problem,” Raymond James, 4/2/12), and the Manhattan Institute (Mark P. Mills, “Unleashing The North American Energy Colossus: Hydrocarbons Can Fuel Growth And Prosperity,” Manhattan Institute, 7/9/12.)

On ThinkProgress, several recent articles demonstrated Mitt’s cluelessness and lack of ability to hear or comprehend what comes out of his own mouth. In this one, Mitt insanely states that “I am very proud of what we did [Romneycare in Massachusetts - which included an 'individual mandate] and the fact that we helped women and men and children in our state… And then with regard to contraceptives, of course Republicans, myself in particular, recognize that women have a right to use contraceptives.” Huh? Since when, and for how much longer?

Then Rmoney gives a shout-out to the Birthers, telling an audience in Michigan, “Nobody has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that I was born and raised.” Apparently Mitt can’t understand how much this one comment legitimatizes the Birther ignorati, especially in conjunction with the fact that seven (count ‘em, SEVEN) Birther conspiracy advocates will be speaking at the RNC in Tampa.

While these are just a few examples of what’s been going on with Rmoney’s campaign, there’s sure to be a whole lot more interesting goings-on during the Republican National Convention, which may or may not start today. Should be fun!

This is our daily open thread — got anything to say about anything?

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 13th, 2012: Monday Medley

First up: From Foreign Policy magazine:

An article written by George Lakoff, titled “Dumb and Dumber” discusses the term “Low-Information Voter” and the insult implied in the phrase. Here’s a few snippets:

“The liberal use of the term “low-information voters” reveals where liberals need to get real. First, liberals need to recognize that conservatives have a moral system that is different from theirs and that they vote on the basis of it. They need to understand the conservative moral system and how it works, if they are to defeat it. And they need to understand the power of their own moral system and make use of it.”

“…they [liberals] need to understand how brains work: If the facts don’t fit morally based frame-circuits, it’s the frame-circuits that stay and the facts that go out the window.”

“…Never use the other side’s language. And always say out loud the moral framing needed for comprehending the facts. For example, health care is a matter of both freedom and life. If you have cancer and no health care, you are not free and you could die! With the right narrative, it is a powerful message, and one that tells a deep truth.”

Next: At The Weather Channel, an interesting piece about the possible effects of a predicted increase in solar flare activity on our electrical infrastructure.

Third and final: also from The Weather Channel, a look at how the higher temperatures in New York and the Northeast are affecting the breeding rates of certain butterflies. One species is the endangered Karner Blue butterfly – which, oddly enough, “…was first identified and named by novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov,” according to Wikipedia.

Karner Blue Butterfly (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This is our daily open thread — go ahead, get your coffee (or tea, or whatever) and get your Monday started!

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