The Watering Hole, Monday, November 23rd, 2015: NatGeo, Take Me Away!

I can’t deal with “Ugly Americans” [of course, “Ugly Americans” = “Republican Presidential Candidates and their Fans/Supporters”] anymore; we keep thinking, “How can these guys sink so low?”, then, the next hour or day or week, one or two or several of them come out with such outrageous shit that we really need a new word to define what circle of hell lies beyond “outrageous” or “horrific” or “despicable” or “abhorrent” or “inhuman” – sorry, I need more words!

And I’ve had it up to HERE with the holidays being turned into meaningless “shop-’til-you-drop” commercialism [how about if “Black Friday” could be turned into “Black Lives Matter Friday” – hell, make every day of the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday shopping season a day of protests]. So I’m going with some beautiful photos from National Geographic to start the week.

Here’s some pretty birds, from “A Flight of Birds”, a section of NatGeo’s Photo Ark, including a photo capturing the iridescent plumage of the Purple Glossy Starling, such as seen below,
and a more close-up shot of the Javan Rhinoceros Hornbill, like the one seen below:
javan rhinoceros Hornbill

And if you prefer a larger gallery for leisurely viewing, here’s more from NatGeo’s 2015 Photo Contest. The “Week 10” group includes a brooding sunset photo of Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland – here’s a chilly winter shot of the falls, just to start the calming process:

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy the views or rant away – or you can do both!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 5th, 2015: Mixed Bag Monday

Let’s start off with a bang:  According to Foreign Policy magazine, the same idiots in Congress who tried to stop the Iranian Nuclear Agreement now want to ‘make it up to Bibi’ by giving Israel bunker busters.  An excerpt from this excellently-written article by Jeffrey Davis:

Since the battle over the Iran deal was largely fought over the question of whether proponents loved Israel or not, both sides are talking loudly about providing the country with a big arms package. Those who supported the deal are eager to make it up to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, while those opposed have to find ever more extreme proposals to prove they love Israel more.

This absurd competition — which is primarily about political posturing, not Israeli security — has reached an almost perfect level of absurdity. There is now a growing chorus of people arguing that the United States should give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a huge conventional bunker-buster bomb — and a fleet of heavy bombers to drop it.

Israel’s air bases don’t even have runways that can accommodate heavy bombers, though apparently one base — Nevatim — could be modified.**

[**Personal note:  the engineer for whom I used to work had earned the money that enabled him to buy a nice house and start his own business from a contract constructing the Negev Air Base runways.]

Next, let’s go back to the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis.  Although most news reports agree that the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano, arranged the visit, so far none seem to have specifically asked or answered “Why?”  Was it solely Reverend Vigano’s idea?  Or – yeah, I’m the suspicious, cynical type – did someone with a stake in a Papal stamp of approval of Kim Davis and her ilk, someone perhaps running for the Presidency, arrange this very, very quietly?  Yeah, I’m looking at you, Huckabee.

Only the Washington Post appears to be curious about the backstory of this now infamous meeting:

Church leaders in the United States and in Rome have been resolutely tight-lipped about the meeting, perhaps concerned about the prospect of appearing to publicly rebuke or challenge the pope, particularly on such a sensitive issue. At the same time, church-watchers have debated and swapped rumors about who set up the meeting, whether it was at the behest of the pope himself, or whether it was an idea pushed by other bishops or religious freedom advocates or donors.

Among those who declined to comment was the Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, at whose residence the meeting took place.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, an English-language spokesman for the Vatican, told the Associated Press. “And in the pope’s characteristic kindness and warmth and hospitality, he shook people’s hands and gave them rosaries. We should understand it as that. In terms of why this person was invited, you have to ask those questions of the nunciature.”

A controversial figure both in Rome and in the United States, Viganò has gone further than other church leaders in his campaign against same-sex marriage. Among other things, he appeared at an event this year with the National Organization for Marriage, a group that vocally opposes same-sex marriage and with which U.S. bishops typically don’t publicly ally.

And, of course, Liberty Counsel, and through them Kim Davis, are more or less calling Pope Francis a liar.  According to Christian Today’s article, “Kim Davis denies Vatican account of her meeting with Pope, says she was invited”:

“Disturbed by statements coming from the Vatican, gay marriage nemesis Kim Davis would like to set the records straight that it was the Vatican that extended an “unsolicited invitation” for her to hold a “private meeting” with Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. last Sept. 24.

Liberty Counsel, the group representing Davis, said the Kentucky county clerk—who spent six days in jail for defying a court order for her to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples—had spoken with papal representative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano before she met the Pope.

“This meeting was a private meeting. No other members of the public were present,” Liberty Counsel said.

Davis, accompanied by her husband Joe and lawyer Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, arrived in Washington on the night of Sept. 23, the Liberty Counsel statement said.

The following day, the Davis couple were met by people with “heavy Italian accents” who led them to the Vatican embassy.

“Kim and Joe Davis were placed in a room with no one else present. Later Pope Francis arrived with only Vatican or Embassy personnel and security,” the Liberty Counsel statement said.

“He stretched out his hands. Kim clasped his hands, and he asked her to pray for him. She said she would, and she asked the Pontiff to pray for her, to which he said he would.

“Pope Francis then thanked Kim for her courage. They embraced. The Pope said, ‘Stay strong.’ He then presented Kim and Joe with two rosaries. There was no line of people or other members of the public seen anywhere,” the statement said.

Liberty Counsel said the Vatican requested Davis to keep the meeting a “secret” until the following Tuesday.”

Really?  In this particular case, I have to say that, since Liberty Counsel and Kim Davis are already proven liars, I tend to doubt their account of the “meeting”, which seems to be just another pathetic attempt to keep Liberty Counsel’s pet martyr for Christianity in the limelight.  But I still want to know, who really arranged this on Davis’s behalf with the Papal Ambassador?

Last, a belated birthday present for our resident Turtle:  from National Geographic, glowing sea turtle!

“The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the first reptile scientists have seen exhibiting biofluorescence—the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color. The most common colors are green, red, and orange.”

This is our daily Open Thread–go on, discuss things!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday April 21, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Politics

The good times are here. Well, let’s say there is some good news this week with respect to the environment. The first two have to do with the importance of biodiversity and resiliency in nature. Who could be against that? The last shows that we can have clean energy and jobs. In Georgia, of all places. Who could be against that?

1. Stinging nettle chemical improves cancer drug

Yes our common weed that itches like crazy when you brush against it also has the same effect on cancer cells.

2. Plastic-Eating Corals Discovered on Great Barrier Reef

A way too early study, with more research to come.

3. Georgia’s clean energy industry provides nearly 20,000 full-time jobs

Open thread, discuss.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday December 16, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Supposedly MIT scientists have found new insight as to what killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The more important question is why are there still Republicans around?


Open thread. Discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 12th, 2014: BREAKING into WIND power

Last week at the grocery store, I noticed a couple of men standing behind a table near the pharmacy section. They had some large tri-fold posters standing on the table, but, since my first view only encompassed the back of the posters, I didn’t know what they were pushing. I avoided them for a bit, but I had to pick up a prescription so I covertly checked them out from the safety (and better viewing angle) of the pharmacy counter. Once I realized that the posters showed wind turbines, my interest was piqued and, after I finished getting my prescription, I went directly over and said, “Hi, whatcha doing?”

The two men were from Green Mountain Energy, and the tall, bearded man named Gregory explained that they were offering NYSEG (New York State Electric & Gas) customers a choice to opt for electricity generated solely by wind power. New York State has a number of wind farms providing electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers, enough to offer an approximate $.02/killowatt-hour savings over traditional, multi-source electricity ($.089 versus $.11+.) However, even if it was the same price, just the idea that we would not get our electricity from oil, natural gas, coal, and other polluting sources made me feel that it would be worthwhile to switch. While New York State does produce hydroelectricity, the vast majority of our electricity comes from oil and natural gas. Ewww. Well, not anymore for us at least!

From Green Mountain Energy’s website:

In 2013, our customers had the largest annual impact ever, avoiding more than 6.1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2)! Over the past 15+ years, our customers collectively have avoided 30.6 billion pounds of CO2 by choosing cleaner electricity and carbon offset products. To put that into perspective, that’s like:

Taking 2.9 million cars off the road for a year
17.6 million households turning off their lights for a year
Planting 3.6 million trees

At first, of course, I hemmed and hawed about it, thinking that Wayne would be furious with me if I just blindly signed up and we got stuck in something we really didn’t want. Gregory assuaged that fear a bit by telling me that even if I signed up then and there, the contract would not be etched in stone. I was given a booklet about the company for us to review, along with Gregory’s phone number. We arranged to have him talk to Wayne, and, after a phone call the following day, a little research, and a visit back to the store to meet with Gregory, Wayne agreed to it. So we’re finally breaking into renewable energy sources.

Wayne and I have often said that, when we can eventually afford to have our roof fixed, we’ll go solar (our back yard is big enough and open enough to fit a small solar array, too.) But until then, I feel a little bit better about lessening our carbon footprint.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole Tuesday May 6, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics – Open Thread

Here is a sad statement about our last unexplored places:

“Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans, and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us.” stated one researcher from an international study team.

Trash before we get there.

Staying with our ocean theme, we seem to be slowly but steadily destroying the food chain, starting with the largest organisms first (think whales, tuna, sharks) and now right to the bottom of it, where acidification of the ocean melts the shells of tiny marine snails. Dare to dream of a fishless ocean.

Will fish farming be the only way to obtain seafood in the future?

And now for the good news: Vermont Legislature passes GMO labeling law, and the governor is expected to sign it.

Finally, a state with courageous politicians.


The Watering Hole; Friday April 25 2014; A Win for Biological Diversity

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
an’ foolish notion
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
an’ ev’n devotion!
(Robert Burns from “To a Louse”)

Yesterday, I received this uplifting note from the Center for Biological Diversity (an environmental-and-wildlife-activist organization HQ’d in Tucson, Arizona):

Public Opposition Helps Defeat Arizona Wolf-kill Bills — Thank You

Mexican gray wolf After an outpouring of public opposition from Center  activists and others, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer this  week vetoed two anti-wolf bills, including one that  would have allowed ranchers to kill endangered  Mexican gray wolves on federal land, contrary to  federal law.

Thank you to all who answered our call to action against these bills, especially those who flooded Brewer’s office with phone calls this week.

There are just 37 Mexican gray wolves in the Arizona wild. This struggling population desperately needs protection to survive — and some state lawmakers are intent on making sure it doesn’t get that protection. We’re happy to see Brewer veto these disastrous bills, but we also know that wolf-haters in Arizona remain a potent force. We won’t relax our vigilance.

Read more about the Center’s long battle to save Mexican gray wolves from extinction.

Much as I detest AZ Governor Jan Brewer’s politics, I do give her credit for occasionally making the right and proper decision. I also maintain the hope, no matter how faint, that SOMEONE, or some agency, will act NOW to stymie the idiots in the state of Idaho (and elsewhere, of course) and thus prevent the entire wild wolf population there (and anywhere else, for that matter) from being completely wiped out . . . by idiots.

I know, I know, common sense is an alien notion amongst both idiots and wingnuts (assuming there’s any difference), but still, we of un-shriveled mind can dare to hope, right?

In that vein, remember the words spoken by Mitt Romney in advance of the 2012 elections? “Corporations are people, my friend,” he said in all seriousness. Gives me an idea: if corporations which are in no way definable as “people” can be legally designated as people, then why not also so-designate wolves, polar bears, eagles, dolphins, whales, coyotes, owls, puma, tortoises, butterflies . . . etc., et al., as “people”? Why can’t we insist the SCOTUS also legally grant wildlife all the protections that both idiots and corporations now enjoy?

Time for a vote. Choose A or B (in order of presentation below) as either “people” or “non-people” — I’ll forward your votes to the SCOTUS (If I can find their email somewhere).



Oh, and in the process of deciding said issue, maybe the Scotussians could also agree to define wingnuts as non-people, and then let the chips fall where they may? Now THAT would be a definite job-creator, one that prolly even the NRA might support!

I know. My bad (on rare occasion). Oh well. Clearly some critters deserve protection, some don’t. It’s so simple.