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.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 14th, 2015: ICYMI Grab Bag

While the “Christian” flavor of the right-wing-religious-nut-jobs have been hogging the limelight lately, there’s been more of ‘teh crazy’ happening over in the Mormon corner. According to an article by Peggy Fletcher Stack in last Thursday’s Salt Lake Tribune, many Mormons, in the belief that the signs are about right for doomsday to arrive, are starting preparations (these Mormons are referred to as “preppers.) Here’s a couple of excerpts from the article, titled “Some Mormons stocking up amid fears that doomsday could come this month”:

“Jordan Jensen, a salesman at Emergency Essentials, said his Bountiful store has been “crazy busy, sales up by definitely a large amount.”
Those 72-hour emergency kits are “almost impossible to keep on the shelves,” Jensen says, “and we get a shipment every day.” A lot of customers, he says, believe “this is the month it will all happen — with a ‘blood moon’ and a currency collapse and everything.”

Here’s how the doomsday scenario plays out: History, some preppers believe, is divided into seven-year periods…In 2008, seven years after 9/11, the stock market crashed, a harbinger of a devastating recession. It’s been seven years since then, and Wall Street has fluctuated wildly in recent weeks in the wake of China devaluing its currency. Thus, they believe, starting Sept. 13, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, there will be another, even larger financial crisis, based on the United States’ “wickedness.” That would launch the “days of tribulation” — as described in the Bible. They say Sept. 28 will see a full, red or “blood moon” and a major earthquake in or near Utah. Some anticipate an invasion by U.N. troops, technological disruptions and decline, chaos and hysteria.

Some of these speculations stem from Julie Rowe’s books, “A Greater Tomorrow: My Journey Beyond the Veil” and “The Time Is Now.” Rowe, a Mormon mother of three, published the books in 2014 to detail a “near-death experience” in 2004, when the author says she visited the afterlife and was shown visions of the past and future. Though Rowe rarely gives specific dates for predicted events, she did describe in a Fox News Radio interview “cities of light,” including scores of white tents where people will live in the mountains and sometimes be fed heavenly “manna.” She saw a “bomb from Libya landing in Israel, but Iran will take credit.” And “Gadianton robbers” of Book of Mormon infamy, meaning secret and corrupt leaders, are “already here.”

Okay, that’s the crazy part–now for the scary-crazy part:

Her purpose in speaking out, Rowe told interviewer Kate Dalley, was “to wake more of us up. … We need each other as we unify in righteousness and continue to build a righteous army. When we need to defend the [U.S.] Constitution, we will be ready.”

Oh, great, another right-wing-religious-nut-job cult that doesn’t understand that the Constitution proscribes the very idea of their “righteous” religious rule. Then again, this particular zealot who is trying to build her “righteous army” may not have a whole army of followers:

“For the past year, the popular writer has been sharing her experience and visions at Mormon venues nationwide, drawing crowds of eager — and worried — listeners. Her two books have sold more than 20,000 copies apiece.”

Uh-huh, and probably all 40,000 books are sitting in a Newsmax warehouse or its religious-literature equivalent.

Next, from TheWeatherChannel, cool photos of volcanic ‘blue’ lava, taken by photographer Reuben Wu in East Java, Indonesia.

Last, NASA has some new photos of Pluto to share from New Horizons’ flyby of the “dwarf planet.” Photos of Pluto’s moons will be coming along soon.

This is our daily Open Thread–enjoy!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 9th, 2015: Overload

I have next to nothing today, simply because there’s way too much crazy shit out there and I’m just overloaded.

Looking at:  the several Republican 2016 Presidential hopefuls who have come out of their nutshells just this past week alone; the freaking HUGE sums of money being thrown at them and other possible candidates by the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, and “interest groups” (aka front men for the Kochs, Adelson, and powerful ne’er-do-well corporations); the newest batshit crazy delusions that they’re all spouting; not to mention the frightening impact that climate change is already having and knowing that there’s worse to come; on top of way too fucking many murderous “law enforcement officers” and dead young black men…well, I could go on and on, but the point is that my brain just can’t take in much more.

Last night, while watching the Star Trek Next Gen episode “Tin Man”, I felt a kinship with the character Tam Elbrun, a Betazoid whose unnaturally strong telepathic ability has caused lifelong psychological problems because he hears everybody’s thoughts, all of the time, and cannot shut them out. Tam is brought on board the Enterprise for an unusual first-contact mission, an attempt to communicate with with an alien “ship”, nicknamed “Tin Man”, which turns out to be the last surviving member of a sentient species of space travelers. Tin Man is saved from suicide by its contact with Tam, and Tam decides to remain inside Tin Man. Traveling through space with Tin Man enables Tam to eliminate all the thoughts hurled at his mind by humans and humanoids.

Most of the times that I’ve watched this episode in the past, I couldn’t really empathize with Tam Elbrun.  These days, I envy him.

This is our daily Open Thread – talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 8th, 2014: Keep Watching the Skies

I’m totally depressed.

My fucking Jets blew it yet again after raising my hopes.

This month is the tenth anniversary of my parents’ deaths, flashbacks started before Thanksgiving.

Our company’s holiday party is tonight, I dread going – I hate the fact that Adam is not here, flashbacks there, too.
.
I hate the “Holidays”.

This country is going crazy and descending into a chaos that could, IMO, result in a violent “civil” war.

I fucking HATE people.

So here’s a nice slideshow of 100 Hubble photos, courtesy of weather.com. At least the human mind brought us the Hubble to show us so many marvels. At this point, I feel that space is the only thing that holds promise and hope for the future. Hopefully some alien species will learn from our human fuck-ups.

Star V838 Monocerotis

Star V838 Monocerotis

This is our daily open thread – don’t mind me, just go ahead and talk about things.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 29th, 2014: Intelligent Life…Please?

Although I’ve only been back online since the beginning of the weekend (my home computer crashed early last week, and access from the office was hit-or-miss, too), my search for intelligent life in American politics found little. So for today’s post I’m turning to the infinite wonder and majesty of “space, the final frontier”, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, there could be a civilization out there that isn’t aiming to destroy itself through its own arrogant stupidity.

The following are just a few of the more recent Hubble Deep-Space images from a photo gallery that I found at space.com:

"All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream"

“All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream”

"A Selection of Hubble's planetary nebulae"

“A Selection of Hubble’s planetary nebulae”

"...two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg."

“…two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg.”

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss intelligence, life, whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 9th, 2014: Thank you, Carl Sagan

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle


earth_moon

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
carl sagan_cosmos25_02

And thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to life.

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 5th, 2014: Hubble, 24 and Going Strong

Last Thursday marked the 24th year in space for the Hubble telescope. After its inauspicious start, when it became obvious from the blurry images sent back that something was wrong with the telescope’s huge mirror, who’d have thought that we’d eventually be treated to beautiful and breathtaking images of star nurseries, a huge variety of nebulae, and glorious galaxies. The Weather Channel has a photo gallery of the top 100 images from the Hubble Telescope; here’s just a few from this amazing gallery:

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3

Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3)


Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

The mind-boggling size of these formations and their unimaginable distances from our tiny corner of the universe makes me feel about the size of a dust mote, and totally inconsequential.

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