The Watering Hole, Tuesday, November 29th, 2016: God vs Country

ICYMI, yesterday the Huffington Post had a story about a Republican member of the Electoral College from Texas, Art Sisneros, and his agonizing over how to cast his vote on December 19th. Apparently, Mr. Sisneros refuses to cast his vote for Trump, but also refuses to do what’s best for the country because, well, GOD.

Torn between voting his conscience and dutifully casting his ballot for President-elect Donald Trump, a Republican member of the Electoral College said over the weekend that he would resign his post.

“I believe to resign is to honor the intent of the pledge as it relates to the people of my district,” Texas elector Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post. “Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector.”

Sisneros’ decision to step aside comes as some members of the Electoral College face mounting pressure from voters and advocacy groups to flip their votes against Trump, even if he won the popular vote in their states.

In his post, Sisneros argued that casting his vote for Trump would “bring dishonor to God,” and said that political parties and “winner-take-all” states destroyed the original intention of the Electoral College. Sisneros said in August that he was considering voting against Trump if the real estate mogul were to win the popular vote in Texas. But he told Politico Monday that he would instead resign.

The rest of the country’s 538 electors will choose Sisneros’ replacement when they convene on Dec. 19 to officially elect Trump as the next president. All of Texas’ 38 electoral votes are expected to go to Trump, who beat Hillary Clinton in the state by more than 800,000 votes.

“The people will get their vote,” Sisneros wrote. “I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions. I will also mourn the loss of our republic.”

[emphasis mine]

I have no idea how ANYONE could “sleep well at night” and at the same time “mourn the loss of our republic.” The idea that someone could view this horrendously important Electoral vote as a choice of “conscience” between serving his god or serving his country is totally beyond me. But obviously Mr. Sisneros strongly believes that, because he took what he now calls a “sinful” pledge to the GOP that he now regrets, he can only make himself right with his god by abdicating all civic responsibility.

From Sisneros’ blog post:

“The heart of this issue now is, does honoring the pledge cause me to sin?…
“…Aren’t Electors elected to represent the people? Yes, they absolutely are. That only begs the question, what does it mean to represent the people? This is where our understanding or lack thereof of a representative form of government comes into play. As an elected representative head, I am to speak on behalf of and in the interest of the CD36. It is my conviction that the greatest danger to my district is not a Hillary or Trump Presidency, but it is the judgement of God. If we continue to disobey His clear commands, we can expect to receive His judgement. If being a “Faithless Elector” means standing alone on principle in the hopes that God would continue to grant patience on our district, then it is worth any political future, threats to my safety, and whatever else may come my way.”

This isn’t just about YOU, Mr. Sisneros–what comes your way is nothing compared to what will happen to our nation. Get it through your head: God doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your district, Mr. Sisneros, any more than he gives a rat’s ass about our country – which should be obvious based on the fact that Donald J. Trump is now the President-Elect. And your resignation, Mr. Sisneros, is just one more step in greasing the wheels on that handbasket we’re all going to hell in. I hope that you never “sleep well” again, you chickenshit.

This is our Open Thread–have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, November, 21st, 2016: Pseudo-Religious Jackassery

A few odds and ends from the Christian Post to start the week.

Here we go again: Since Republicans cannot accept all of the other investigations that proved Planned Parenthood innocent of whatever wrongdoing du jour they’ve been charged with, now they’re trying again.

As noted Wednesday by USA Today**, the U.S. House Committee on House Administration voted to approve $800,000 in additional funds for the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives[sic*] for their investigation of Planned Parenthood. The 14-member panel, headed by Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, was formed last summer after the Center for Medical Progress released a series of gut-wrenching videos*** showing senior Planned Parenthood officials negotiating over the prices of fetal body parts from aborted babies.

*”Infant Lives” is, obviously, a complete and deliberately misleading misnomer.

**Excerpt from the USA Today article:

“Over the objection of Democrats, the House Committee on Administration voted Wednesday to approve an additional $800,000 for the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. The money is in addition to the panel’s previously approved $790,000 budget and puts it on track to spend more than $1.5 million by the end of the year.”

***Investigations which arose out of the videos, which purportedly showed PP to be illegally selling fetal tissue, consistently ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood. The investigation in Texas not only cleared PP, but charged the filmmakers with criminal activity, including a felony, although one misdemeanor charge was later dropped. Annoyingly, the felony charge was also later dismissed, more-or-less due to a court technicality. Despite that:

“Officials in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Georgia and nine other states investigated the claims made in the videos that Planned Parenthood had profited illegally from sales of fetal tissue, and cleared the group of any wrongdoing. Officials in eight other states, including California and Colorado, declined to investigate, according to Planned Parenthood.”

So, just another example of Republicans wasting money and time on yet another investigation of something that has been investigated, in this instance by at least thirteen States, including several conservative southern ones.

In a lighter, nay, more ridiculous vein, enjoy – or be nauseated by – “What Was the Role of Prophecy in 2016 Election?”:

“…Franklin Graham said the media in particular missed the “God-factor” regarding the outcome of the election.

“Hundreds of thousands of Christians from across the United States have been praying. This year they came out to every state capitol to pray for this election and for the future of America. Prayer groups were started. Families prayed. Churches prayed. Then Christians went to the polls, and God showed up,” Graham said.”

Pastor Paula White also reveled that she fasted and prayed, and had concluded that Trump would win, CP reported last week.

Last year, a man named Jeremiah Johnson of Behold the Man Ministries in Lakeland, Florida, said that God had shown him during prayer that Trump was raised up like a Cyrus and would be “[God’s] trumpet to the American people.”

Last, in the “laughable if it weren’t real” category, we’ve got…wait for it…alt-right racist Steve Bannon’s first interview with that bastion of political reporting, the Hollywood Reporter. How’s that for a serious, dignified start for one who is (gulp) going to be whispering evil nothings like Wormtongue into Trump’s ear? Just one brief excerpt:

“Bannon praised Trump. “You have probably the greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, coupled with an economic populist message…”

BWAHAHAHAHA!

This is our Open Thread – feel free to discuss what you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 7th, 2016: “Trouble sleeping?”

With the most consequential election of my lifetime now just one day away, a scene from Star Trek: Next Generation’s “Best of Both Worlds” Part 1″ keeps returning to my mind. It takes place before the battle with the Borg, as Captain Picard paces through the Enterprise, and finds Guinan alone in Ten-Forward:

Guinan: “Trouble sleeping?”

Capt. Picard: “It’s something of a tradition, Guinan – Captain touring the ship before a battle.”

Guinan: “Hmm. Before a *hopeless* battle, if I remember the tradition correctly.”

Capt. Picard: “Not necessarily. Nelson toured the HMS Victory before Trafalgar.”

Guinan: “Yes, but Nelson never returned from Trafalgar, did he?”

Capt. Picard: “No, but the battle was won.”

Guinan: “Do you expect this battle to be won?”

Capt. Picard: “We may yet prevail. That’s a… a conceit. But… it’s a healthy one. I wonder if the Emperor Honorius watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman Empire was about to fall. This is just another page in history, isn’t it? Will this be the end of *our* civilization? Turn the page.”

I wish that I had the calmness, almost equanimity, with which Captain Picard views the possibility of approaching doom and the likely takeover of the United Federation of Planets by a heartless, merciless “race.” I cannot view a similar fate for our country without a feeling of utter dread.

“We may yet prevail” as Picard says, if by “prevail” one means that Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the Presidency. If that happens, in my humble opinion, we the sane will have only one night, possibly, to feel the relief of dodging a bullet. As long-time students of politics and human nature, particularly ‘American’ human nature, we Critters and Zoosters and other reality-based folks are all too well aware that a final election result which denies Donald Trump the Presidency is just the beginning. There inevitably will be a barrage of ‘bullets’, figuratively at best, to continue to dodge. And it may well “be the end of *our* ‘civilization’.”

Guinan offers hope of a sort:

Guinan: “This isn’t the end.”

Capt. Picard: You say that with remarkable assuredness.”

Guinan: “With experience. When the Borg destroyed my world, my people were scattered throughout the universe. We survived – as will humanity survive. As long as there’s a handful of you to keep the spirit alive, you will prevail – even if it takes a millennium.”

And while Guinan could be right, that “[t]his isn’t the end”, I wish that *our* people were able to scatter throughout the universe. “Humanity” may survive, but will it still be recognizable as “human”?

This is our daily Open Thread–talk me down?

The Watering Hole; Thursday July 7 2016; Public Lands: “Footprints On The Sands Of Time”

“One does not sell the land people walk on.”
(Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875)

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It’s “political sleight-of-hand”: For their next trick, Republican magicians will make your federal land disappear

Pulling back the curtain, one finds that the movement to transfer federal lands to state ownership is being funded and driven by conservative business groups that want that land to be turned over to corporate interests to be exploited for profit, even if doing so destroys the environment. . . . It’s “political sleight-of-hand.” First, get the lands out of federal hands into state hands. Then, wait for the inevitable state budget crisis. Then, buy the resource-rich land, turning it from a beautiful, publicly accessible slice of nature into a resource extraction site.

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First, a confession: I am an Environmentalist. With a capital ‘E’.

It’s no secret that from the viewpoint of today’s American Oligarchic monsters, Public Lands — National Parks, Forests, Monuments, Wildlife Preserves and Refuges, Wilderness and Primitive areas, BLM lands — are each and all considered useless for any purpose except privatization and subsequent commercial development, or logging, mining, oil/gas drilling, etc., so as to extract whichever “wealth” is implicit, and convert it to cash, to money. to private wealth. The forces behind this despicable movement range from political (mostly Republican) tools, to corporate oligarchs, to even the fools who think of themselves as parcel to a “militia” movement of some sort. The concept is, by any reasonable definition, both stupid and intolerable, but nevertheless the fact still stands: the rape of Public Lands is a big part of the corporate (and Republican) agenda.

The trammeling of wild and undisturbed land is not a new concept, of course. Here in North America, it’s been going on each and every day since the white man first set foot on the continent. Dig it, log it, drill it, kill it, pave it, — the current goal of fools everywhere represents a completely unsustainable future for not only the country, but the world as well. I’ve been watching the passion for Public Land destruction grow  for many years; I’ve seen the result, heard the racket, smelled it, even watched it burn.  Makes one wonder just what it is about money and power that causes so many people to be so willing to sacrifice the entire of the planet simply to satisfy their urge for MORE.

Anyway, around a decade ago and after having spent, over the preceding years, somewhere close to a thousand days and nights on deserts, in forests, on mountains, in meadows, always as far from “civilization” as the situation would allow, I came to be a partner of each and all who advocate absolute environmental protection, an advocate of preserving each and every square inch of Public Land everywhere (as well as adding to Public Land acreage if and whenever the opportunity presents itself). Nothing’s changed; that attitude remains constant.

Below are some excerpts from an essay on the matter that I wrote more than a decade ago, along with a handful of Colorado Public Land scenic photos taken beginning in 2008.

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Footprints

“Footprints” is a personal statement of concern – greatly simplified – about all of that which is being done to this tiny planet by her major and dominant species, Homo sapiens sapiens, aka the human race. There are times when, to those of us who dwell in what seems to be the tiniest of tiny minorities, outrage over what has become common practice, and worse, common thought and opinion, overwhelms. Recognition of powerlessness is never an easy task and acceptance of that reality is even more difficult, but there are moments when it does, indeed, overtake. At that point, little is left to do other than to attempt a thoughtful explanation of ‘why the outrage,’ and then to intermingle outrage with recollections which have the potential to stem, at least for the moment, that which is perhaps best described as a severe case of indigestion in one’s soul.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet summed up reality when he said: There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your Philosophy. Problem is, no one takes the time to notice anymore, not in what has become a horribly anthropocentric world where the rush to find yet one more way to consume something, anything, invariably overcomes the search for those tiny nuances which make life not only interesting but also, in large degree, worthwhile.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote,

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time

In Longfellow’s context, the phrase Footprints on the sands of time does not, of course, refer to actual boot imprints or to any other sort of human-caused physical scarring of the natural landscape; rather it refers to the beneficent contributions of a select few: from art, music, and philosophy to intellectual examinations of esoteric concepts such as Truth, Beauty, and Love, and to the intermingling and practical applications thereof – collectively, precepts of recognition and understanding which can and do apply to other than the narrow road of human existence itself. There are, indeed, numerous examples of both great men and great women who’ve lived lives of contribution and not of simple consumptive excess; their numbers, however, have been unfortunately minuscule compared with what are, in effect, their functional opposites.

“Take only pictures, leave only footprints” is the well-spoken and well-intended motto which sensitive visitors to wild lands take to heart and practice. Such attitude is, however and unfortunately, a distinctly minority view as is clearly evidenced in these days of rampant resource development. From oil and natural gas exploration/development in virtually any location, no matter how remote, that offers even the most meager possibility of discovery, to logging, to mining, to the ubiquitous practice of cattle grazing on public lands, and to urban development as well, men seldom take only pictures or leave only fleeting footprints. Even a fair and enduring segment of outdoor (so-called) recreationists – especially those who recreate on motorized off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles and the like – leave far more than footprints in their wake including racket, fumes, and a scarred and trammeled landscape, the sum of which scarcely falls into the “only footprints” category.

Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Teton Sioux once noted that For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man. From that otherwise vivid statement, however, derives the sad reality that in this modern day times have changed, that finished beauty does, indeed, defy the comprehension of man. At least of most men. To grasp that concept, one must first look around. Look at a mountain, or a prairie, a desert, a valley, a canyon, a lake, river, forest which remains undisturbed by man (if you can find one, that is); study a wildflower; watch the antics of a hummingbird; listen to the near noiseless motion of a deer as it meanders gracefully through forest or desert. Then turn around and look at a city, any city. Notice the smoke-filled air, hear the din, see the scars upon the land; see the polluted streams and rivers, the dying forests; call it all “civilization.” Then recall once more Chief Luther Standing Bear who also said, Civilization has been thrust upon me . . . and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity. . . .

A hundred years ago, author John C. Van Dyke wrote of what he had come to sense would be man’s eventual imprint on what were, then, still mostly wild lands, lands which he explored and then described in his many writings. Van Dyke succinctly noted that . . .

 . . . 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 . . .

The successive marches of civilization: footprints by any other description.

Understand that Van Dyke wrote those words before even the automobile had entered the picture. He wrote of a world in which the major transportational conveyances were horses and/or horse-drawn wagons, plus the Iron Horse and, on the rivers, steamboats and barges. Yet he “saw” and predicted the eventual outcome, and the more wild country that was converted to humanized landscape, the more vividly accurate became Van Dyke’s predictions. One can only wonder what he might think today, if only he could travel once more the mountains and the deserts about which he wrote just one century ago.

Those who still live to recall that which Van Dyke saw a century ago are few-and-far-between these days . . . Why, one is always tempted to ask, do otherwise (seemingly) rational people tolerate urban sprawl and all the problems which it brings into play when there are other far less intrusive options available? In the late nineteenth century, Suqwamish Chief Seattle noted, We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy — and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.

Seattle’s point then, as now, recognizes that so-called ‘civilized’ man’s Footprints on the sands of time have become, in a mere 200 years, far greater than those left by ten thousand years of indigenous cultures which once inhabited the same ground. Today when we speak of footprints – “Footprints” – we must speak not of civilization in the classic sense, but rather of our culture of wanton destruction, a culture whose sole purpose is the pursuit of one more dollar, always and invariably at the planet’s expense, forever parcel to the enduring dream that yet another potential fortune is in the making. Meanwhile, we ignore that which, indeed, makes it possible for us to proceed at all: the life-giving biosphere in which we live – in more “primitive” terms, our Earth Mother.

[. . .]

There are, of course, no ways to reliably guess or even to speculate on that which the Earth Mother might hold as the future for man or for any other of her myriad life forms. Only one thing remains forever certain, and it was perhaps best spoken some three centuries ago by Sir Isaac Newton: (Nature) does nothing in vain, and more is in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of the superfluous.

The pomp of the superfluous defines the vast bulk of what man brings to life’s table, and may in fact quite ably define the intrinsic nature of the species itself. I’ve long found it interesting that if one can find a patch of forest, desert, or prairie, or a lake, river, or stream which has somehow remained untouched by man – untrammeled – then wherever one looks, one sees the vibrancy of life always in perfect balance (and, of course, never a discarded bottle or can, or scrunched cigarette butt). John C. Van Dyke revealed his first impressions of himself alone in the wilderness and away from the world of men when he wrote, At last you are free. You are at home in the infinite, and your possessions, your government, your people dwindle away into needle-points of insignificance. Danger? Sleep on serenely! Danger lies within the pale of civilization, not in the wilderness. One quickly wonders: might not Van Dyke’s needle-points of insignificance be one-in-the-same with Newton’s pomp of the superfluous?

In any case, unanswered questions invariably remain: Why? Why is the human species as it is? Why is it so ill-content to live simply and in balance? Why the presumption of dominance? Why must an abundant life style preclude overflowing landfills loaded with yesterday’s must-haves? And finally, why must the pomp of the superfluous, i.e. those needle-points of insignificance such as mere possessions, governments, and people who see themselves as apart from the natural world define the human race when there is, virtually anywhere and everywhere, the potential for so much more?

The poet William Wordsworth once wrote, in his poem entitled Written in Early Spring,

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

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trail’d its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopp’d and play’d,
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made
It seem’d a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

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

Wordsworth penned those words the better part of a century-and-a-half ago, and yet his finis rings every bit as true today as it did then:

Have I not reason to lament / What man has made of man?

Human leaves a strange legacy. In one sense, he’s no different than the birds, beasts, trees, or flowers: survival and the hope of prosperity forever remain the eternal goals for each and all. Yet only man presumes the inborn right to same, and by extension, the inborn right to trample all else to sevice his own domain.

A few days spent amongst the birds, beasts, trees, and flowers does much to expose the error in that premise, and invariably brings back to mind those Footprints on the sands of time, now forever linked to the lament . . . What man has made of man. We, of this age, could change that. If only we’d care to try.

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Summer wildflowers, San Isabel National Forest, Colorado

Wild geese on the wing near the Sierra Mojada, San Isabel N.F., Colorado

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That was then. THIS is now:

Mormon Bundy Loyalist Against Land Gift To American Citizens

The Quimby family, the makers of Burt’s Bees products, have offered to donate nearly 90,000 acres of pristine woodland area in Maine. Not only that, they have also included a generous donation of $40 million for the upkeep of the land. . . .

Utah Mormon, Rob Bishop is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and was joined by vicious Maine Governor Paul LePage to reject transfer of the 87,500 acre land gift and obstruct its designation as a national monument. Republicans under Koch supervision insist that all public land be handed over to corporate privatization to be mined, logged or drilled for profits, not for the American people’s benefit. If the Quimby family wants to hand over the land to the Koch brothers to mine, log and drill for oil, Mormon Bishop, LePage, and House Republicans would probably name a post office after them. Instead, Maine Governor LePage lashed out at the gift-giving Quimby family like the ingrate Republican he has proven over and over to be. . . .

Bishop complains that a local Republican, some Maine malcontent, is right that if the land is a designated as national monument, then mining, logging and oil drilling corporations cannot ruin it and environmental laws will protect it from being despoiled and denuded. The land is protected now because it is privately held by the Quimby family non-profit, so there will be no change after the transfer and that is what Republicans cannot comport; they want change that entails corporate control and abolition of environmental protections.

Rep. Bishop’s hatred that the American people enjoy public lands is, or should be, legendary. Bishop is closely aligned with those other Mormons, the Cliven Bundy Republicans, sitting in jail who contend the public by way of the government is forbidden from owning or using public land.

There are no words to amply describe the disgust and loathing I feel toward any and all Bishop and LePage-style IDIOTS who are perfectly willing to leave no stone unturned in their effort to destroy both the concept of public land and all public land itself — via privatization — in their disgusting quest for money, no matter that the consequence is guaranteed to be either an unlivable world or a dead world. Subhuman IDIOTS who have zero concern for the planet’s myriad creatures and plants, who have no concept of Truth, of Beauty, of Love of anything other than themselves and their wallets, are truly the most despicable life forms that evolution has devised to date; they also serve as absolute proof that none of their imagined “gods” exist, unless folks are willing to believe god or gods make a living by creating IDIOTS!

**Fortunately, there are continuing efforts to alter or blockade the course of these IDIOTS. The Wilderness Society, in their own words, protects the places you care about. We are 143 people spread across the US who passionately believe that public lands are the best expression of what it is to be an American. Since 1935, we’ve led the effort to protect 109 million acres of wilderness, garnering more than 700,000 supporters along the way. If you care about Public Lands, follow the link and spend some time exploring the goals of The Wilderness Society’s #OurWild movement; then sign some petitions and help spread the word; help stop the anti-Public Land IDIOCY in its tracks!**

Help Save Places Such as THESE for Posterity!!

14,433 Ft. Mt. Elbert, the Highest Summit in the Colorado Rockies, White River N.F.

The Continental Divide’s Sawatch Range, White River N.F., Colorado

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It goes without saying that IF Public Lands are privatized, the energy, mining, and logging industries will be among the first to tap their “new” resource. The consequence of such travesty is predictable, even by IDIOTS.

On July 4th, 2016, Jonathan Hoenig at Fox News had this to say:

We need more carbon emissions, Charles, we need more smoke
stacks, we need more burning of fossil fuels and energy because the
more we burn, the better man’s life has become. The more energy
we use, the greater amount of wealth that’s created.

Burning ever more fossil fuels means a better life for all because wealth. It goes without saying that Public Lands are reservoirs of wealth and therefore they should be privatized because that’ll make life better for . . . ??  For IDIOTS!!

“We didn’t inherit this world from our ancestors;
we borrowed it from our children.”
(Lakota Proverb)

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OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 9th, 2016: Are We There Yet?

Here’s two (well, sort of – you’ll see what I mean) predictions about frightening futures, which we seem to be fulfilling here in the largest superpower on the planet.

First, an interesting article entitled “Neil Postman Predicted Trumpocalypse 30 Years Ago”, by Dr. Richard D. Land at the Christian Post. Dr. Land discusses a 1985 book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. An excerpt:

Postman started off his book by contrasting the two most dystopian visions of modern civilization’s future, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).
Postman’s contrast of the two dystopian visions of the future is chilling:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies . . .”

The Internet has changed the basic DNA of our culture, including our social and personal relationships and our information access. It has radically democratized communication, while at the same time condemning any effective editorial or verifying filter as the unwelcome control of a hated elite. Consequently, we are being engulfed not only in a sea of moral relativism, but information relativism as well. The immersion of our culture in Internet speak has brought us perilously close to a denial, if not a revocation of the late, great, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s statement that “you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Now, opinions too often masquerade as facts, and fewer and fewer know the difference and increasingly fewer care.

As Postman pointed out, Huxley was trying to warn the future “that what afflicted people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”

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Now a more pithy prediction in a similar vein, from Carl Sagan’s 1996 “The Demon-Haunted World”:
sagan hauntedHave we arrived at any – or all of – these future visions?

This is our daily Open Thread – you know what to do.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 6, 2016: Stumbling Bloc

When catching up on recent political issues yesterday (after having been focused a bit too much on that goddamned Bundy clan and their terrorist cohorts), I ran across this piece on ThinkProgress about the House “Freedom” Caucus. One of my first thoughts while reading it was “the term  ‘Freedom’ has absolutely no connection with the group’s raison d’etre“; after reading it, I grokked that ‘raison’ – reason – didn’t enter into the equation either. An excerpt:

[House Speaker Paul] Ryan spoke about the divisions in the Republican Party at a policy forum hosted by Heritage Action in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, pointing to groups within the party which demand things that are unachievable and refuse to work across the aisle in any way.
“When voices in the conservative movement demand things that they know we can’t achieve with a Democrat in the White House, all that does is depress our base and in turn help Democrats stay in the White House,” Ryan said. “We can’t do that anymore.”

Just a few hours later, four members of the roughly 40-person House Freedom Caucus, a faction of hardline Republicans, said that they will not work with the president and that realism and compromise will cause Republicans to lose elections.

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) directly addressed Ryan’s comments, saying that the measures the Speaker thinks are “unachievable” are actually just practical, “small things.”

“On the omnibus, the big spending legislation that happened at the end of last calendar year, our group went to leadership and we asked for a couple small things,” he said. “We said do something on this pro-life issue — after all we have this organization that gets your tax dollars and does all kinds of disgusting things. We said it doesn’t have to be defunded completely, but let’s just do something that’s going to protect the sanctity of life.”

According to a Roll Call piece from September 10th, 2015:

“The House Freedom Caucus has spoken.
On Thursday, the conservative HFC took their seventh official position: They will oppose any spending bill that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood.

“Given the appalling revelations surrounding Planned Parenthood, we cannot in good moral conscience vote to send taxpayer money to this organization while still fulfilling our duty to represent our constituents. We must therefore oppose any spending measure that contains funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Apparently Rep. Jordan and his group are unaware – or willfully ignorant – of the fact that every investigation into the alleged “disgusting things” Planned Parenthood has been wrongfully accused of have found absolutely no evidence to back up those allegations. FFS, even Texas, after exonerating PP, is now prosecuting the criminals who produced the doctored video “proof” that Planned Parenthood was ‘selling baby parts for fun and profit.’ We all know that Texas HATES Planned Parenthood, so one would think that the turn of events there would give the Caucus pause. But, again, ‘reason’ doesn’t seem to enter into the collective mind of the Freedumb Caucus. But I digress…

The ThinkProgress excerpt continues:

“Another “small thing” Jordan pointed to was a request that legislation to reject Syrian refugees be tucked inside the must-pass omnibus spending measure. The bill would have temporarily halted Obama’s plan to bring roughly 10,000 refugees to the United States because of the persistent threats they face in Syria…
…Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) also implied Wednesday that he is not willing to compromise with others in his party, let alone with Democrats. He said that while he knows he has to be realistic with his expectations, “when you have the will of the people and their voice behind you, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.”

I love the way these (in reality) extreme policy shifts are described as “small things.” And it’s particularly ironic that what the House Freedom Caucus considers to be “small things”, which Speaker Ryan called “unrealistic”, are the same things that the current Republican Presidential candidates are running their campaigns on: overturning Roe v Wade, immigration – along with their favorite hopeless cause, repealing Obamacare. Yes, they’re still wasting time trying to overturn Obamacare, now for the 63rd time. I guess that the Repubican’s motto is “if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying and the hell with real governing.”

Pew Research has an interesting piece from October of 2015 on Congress’s “Freedom Caucus.” Here’s a snippet that I found insightful:

“…the Freedom Caucus does not officially disclose who belongs to it (aside from its nine founding members)[**], though various unofficial lists have circulated. Membership is by invitation only, and meetings are not public.”
What most distinguishes the Freedom Caucus from other House Republicans has been their willingness to defy the wishes of leadership…and to band together with like-minded Republicans who threaten to block any temporary measure to fund the government that didn’t also defund Planned Parenthood.”

**Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) issued a “press release” on January 26th, 2015, announcing the formation of the House Freedom Caucus and its mission statement:

“The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.
The HFC’s founding members are Rep. Scott Garrett, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. John Fleming, Rep. Matt Salmon, Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Raúl Labrador, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Mark Meadows.”

Along with another 30-odd (very odd!) hard-right Republicans who joined the HFC, after John Boehner decided to give up the position (I suspect mainly so that he could just go home and get drunk,) this small bloc of ultra-conservatives nearly derailed their own party’s contest for the House Speakership by issuing a list of demands questions for Speaker hopefuls. A couple of their “questions” include:

“Would you ensure that the House-passed appropriations bill do not contain funding for Planned Parenthood, unconstitutional amnesty, the Iran deal, and Obamacare?”

~ and ~

“Would you commit to impeach IRS commissioner John Koskisen and pressure the Senate to take it up?”

So they also still believe that the IRS was unfairly targeting conservative groups, despite investigations showing that both religious-right AND non-religious left tax-exempt organizations were audited by the IRS? Paul Ryan is right, they DO need to be “realistic.”

This “freedumb” caucus apparently has zero interest in actual freedom, or governing, or anything beyond their own pseudo-christian-induced tunnel vision. And they’re more than happy to not only fuck with their own party, they’re delighted to fuck with the entire country. As many parents have said to erring children, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

This is our daily Open Thread–have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 25th, 2016: All-“Christian” Edition

Today’s offerings are from two sites whose only thing in common seems to be that they both have the word “Christian” in their names.

First, let’s look at a few things from the Christian Post website (the more ‘persecuted-RW-Christian’ site.)

The Christian Post has sent the 2016 Presidential candidates a list of 12 questions which they feel are most important for the candidates to answer. So far, only two Republican candidates, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, have responded.

Here’s Ben Carson’s responses, a few of which I’d like to comment upon:

2. What is marriage, and what should be the government’s interest and role in marriage?
Like many Christians, I believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman in the witness of God. The government’s interest and role in marriage should be to protect and sanctify this institution[emphasis mine] because it is the cornerstone of our society. Raising families with two parents is key to a child’s development, and marriage is a strong institution that solidifies this crucial social structure. Marriage combines the efforts of two people to provide for and raise children, and gives children two parental figures to love and care for them.

Okay – First, define “sanctify”. According to Wikipedia:

“Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.[1] “Sanctity” is an ancient concept widespread among religions. It is a gift given through the power of God to a person or thing which is then considered sacred or set apart in an official capacity within the religion, in general anything from a temple, to vessels, to days of the week, to a human believer who willingly accepts this gift can be sanctified. To sanctify is to literally “set apart for particular use in a special purpose or work and to make holy or sacred.”

So Carson believes that the U.S. Government has role in every citizen’s marriage, and that role is to make it “holy or sacred”? Does that make the U.S. Government a god?   Doesn’t that conflict with the Establishment Clause?  If Ben Carson believes that marriage is such a strong institution, why not rail against divorce? Christians get divorced at the same – or higher – rate as any other group, not to mention that divorce is said to be a big sin in the eyes of Jesus. If Jesus thought divorce was so wrong, but didn’t mention homosexuality, why can’t the “key” two-parents-must-raise-a-child be in a same-sex marriage?

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Energy is the life-blood that keeps our economy growing. It fuels the tractors that plow America’s fields. It powers the trucks, trains and planes that deliver American products. And it drives the American people in their everyday lives. If we want to return America to its former prosperity, we need to ensure that America’s energy grid is not only reliable, but affordable. That means looking into all potential energy sources to find the most efficient, most effective and more reliable energy grid possible.

We can’t afford to mandate unrealistic fuel standards or price-inflating renewable mandates. But as these energy sources compete head to head, technological advancements and innovations will help drop costs and raise efficiencies even further.

[and the money quote]

When it comes to the environment, we should be good stewards of God’s resources, but the best way to do that is through market-based mechanisms and private efforts, not via government edicts that destroy businesses and intrude into citizens’ lives.

Yeah, because I’m sure that “God” was thinking of “market-based mechanisms and private efforts” when he told mankind to be good stewards of Earth. And wasn’t Carson just talking about how “government” should have an “interest” and “a role” in a couple’s marriage, i.e., “intrud[ing] into citizens’ lives”, and very personally, I might add? But the “government” shouldn’t be involved in determining how the entire country uses its natural resources, because that would “intrud[e] into citizens’ lives”?  Carson has very mixed, and incorrect, notions of what government’s priorities should be.

12. What caused the Great Recession, and what should be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

A number of factors contributed to the global financial crisis, but what became clear was that when bankers engaged in highly leveraged financial bets, ordinary taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the big banks’ bailouts.

I believe that certain types of regulations are reasonable for regulating financial markets. For instance, Glass-Steagall was a reasonable piece of legislation after the 1929 stock market crash, and perhaps should be re-imposed in a modified form.

This does not mean that the regulations imposed after the financial crisis were appropriate. In fact, Dodd-Frank is a monstrosity that does not address the root cause of the crisis, imposes heavy burdens on community banks, severely limits the freedom of financial institution to engage in ordinary business and saps economic growth with restrictive government controls.

I believe that when such government regulations choke economic growth, it is the poor and the middle class that are hurt the most.

Carson (or whoever wrote his ‘responses’ for him) must have just skimmed the “U.S. Economic History, Late 20th – Early 21st Century” Cliff Notes(TM), latching on to just enough topical buzzwords and meaningless phrases to put together a few sentences. Too many points there to elaborate on, I’ll let you all pick them apart if you wish.

And here’s Carly Fiorina’s responses. I’m just going to comment on one of them.

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Fiorina: As president, I will ensure that the United States is the global energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

That means reinstating the Keystone XL Pipeline that President Obama rejected. It also means rolling back the regulations from this administration that limit our ability to find resources by imposing regulations on hydraulic fracturing and our ability to be energy independent by regulating drilling on federal lands. As president, I will make America an energy leader through technology and innovation.

No, no, no! Fiorina is just so wrong, it’s hard to believe that she could possibly be serious. Keystone XL, fracking, and drilling, and on OUR federal lands, no less? How does one become an “energy leader through technology and innovation” while relying solely on finite, filthy fossil fuels? Aaarrgghhh!

Let’s turn to the Christian Science Monitor for a few things that are more reality-based and inspiring.

First, I’m sure that you’re all aware by now that Earth may have a new neighbor, as astronomers announced the possibility of a hidden ninth planet.

The evidence for the existence of this “Planet Nine” is indirect at the moment; computer models suggest a big, undiscovered world has shaped the strange orbits of multiple objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune.

Next, we can once again thank the Hubble telescope and NASA for showing us the amazing beauty of space, in this article about the Trumpler 14 star cluster. Just don’t let Donald Trump know about Trumpler 14, he’ll probably think that (a) the star cluster is named for him, and (b) therefore he owns it.
Trumpler 14Source: Hubblesite.org

And finally, for our Zookeeper, here’s an article discussing why the zebra has stripes. While it appears that the idea that the striping is for camouflage may be incorrect, there is still no consensus on a proven biological reason.
brown striped zebra

This is our daily Open Thread–discuss whatever you want.