The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 21st, 2016: Contents Under Pressure

Yesterday at work, after glancing at my calendar, I did a mental double-take, thinking, ‘holy jeez, it’s May 20th already, 2016 is going by too quickly!’ Later, after some Trump BS refocused my attention on the upcoming election, my thoughts changed to, ‘holy jeez, there’s still nearly six months until the election, I wish we could just jump ahead to November and get it done and over with!’

I doubt if any of us, during the campaign season that led up to King George being anointed by the SCOTUS, and even during the eight years that we (and the rest of the world) suffered through under the BushCo maladministration, ever thought that any candidate for the Presidency could come along who was even more unqualified than Dubya, and just as amoral as Darth Cheney. The stress of those years pales in comparison to what we, and everyone else in the reality-based world, are experiencing during this unbelievably mind-numbing Trump campaign.

A continual state of stress is unhealthy for an individual both physically and mentally, as we all can attest to. Is it any wonder that the heightened stress of these last several months is having an even worse impact on so many Americans than that of the Bush years, even with the never-ending war(s), the “you’re either with us or against us” mantra, and the economic crash that affected every American except those who caused it?

And after BushCo, the undercurrent of American racism, which slowly became ‘acceptable’ when President Obama won in 2008, turned into the norm in an ever-growing and ever-more-violent tide that has eroded the foundations of the Republic nearly to the point of collapse. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t win the Presidency, will the added pressure and stress of the national and international turmoil brought about by Trump’s – and his followers’ – jingoism, ignorance and hatred be too overwhelming to keep this Union intact?

Personally, I think something’s got to blow under all of this pressure, because it’s not going to ease anytime soon. It only leads one to question: when, how big, and how toxic will the fallout be?

This is our daily Open Thread – what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 16th, 2016: Wrong, As Always

Recent opinion pieces at The Christian Post website demonstrate that the “Christian” right – and these aren’t all what I would consider to be real RWNJs – continues to steadfastly ignore reality.

On Earth Day, Dr. Richard D. Land posted “Earth Day: How Environmentalists Hurt the Environment”. Some excerpts:

Many advocates for drastic measures to combat climate change (i.e., global warming) assert that human caused global warming is now “settled science.”

And yet, recently published data from the Department of Energy reveals that the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions for the past fifteen years by more than 10%, more than almost the entire rest of the world combined. How did America accomplish such a feat? The answer is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves releasing fossil fuel (oil and natural gas) trapped in rock formations by injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the formations.

As a result of widespread usage of this controversial technology, the U.S. has become the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer. As a direct consequence of fracking, the price of natural gas is one-fourth what it was a decade ago, and since America has a virtually inexhaustible natural gas supplies, people keep using more and more of this environmentally clean and very inexpensive fossil fuel. [Will someone please explain to me why anyone would want to literally undermine the land to access what is, by definition, a limited energy source?]

EPA studies declaring fracking can be done safely and cleanly moved U.S.A. Today to declare that “to help the environment and economy, keep on fracking” (4/19/16). U.S.A. Today also observed in the same article that fracking “has spurred a remarkable U.S. energy boom and . . . this boom has created jobs, boosted manufacturing and brought the USA closer to energy independence.”

Still, environmental activists on the left continue to oppose fracking, as well as the only clean energy “technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.” In fact, in a “Pew poll of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 65 percent of scientists want more nuclear power” (Eduardo Porter, NY Times 4/19/16).

Apparently Dr. Land is completely ignorant of WHY environmentalists – and any humans with a fairly basic knowledge of science and some critical-thinking skills – are against fracking and nuclear energy. Has he not heard about the earthquakes being caused by fracking? Is he somehow privy to exactly which chemicals are being used in fracking? The “EPA studies” that declared “fracking can be done safely and cleanly” did not say that fracking IS BEING DONE “safely and cleanly”, more simply that it “can” be done. (Here’s the Christian Science Monitor’s take on this.)

And “nuclear”?! Does “Fukushima” ring a bell? Sorry, but Indian Point is way too close for me to want any part of nuclear power. Not to mention disposal of nuclear waste, which has already been an environmental problem for decades. Or that nuclear facilities make lovely targets for terrorism. Where the hell has Dr. Land been?

Then there’s Ken Blackwell’s ridiculous drivel, “Trump is Bad But Not Worse Than Hillary”

[The blurb says “Ken Blackwell is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. He is also a member of the public affairs committee of the NRA. Mr. Blackwell is also the former Mayor of Cincinnati and a former Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” As Blackwell says in a different context below, “What more needs to be said?”]

“…no one should doubt Hillary Clinton’s determination to expand the state at every turn.
Trump the businessman has experience in confronting bureaucracy, and the Democrats are prolific regulators. President Barack Obama has imposed costly new rules at a rapid pace. Clinton likely would set new records.

Then there’s the judiciary. Antonin Scalia’s death has upset the delicate balance on the Supreme Court. Turning those appointments over to a liberal Democrat would lose the court for a generation, undermining any future conservative political victories.

America’s international security and standing also are at stake. Clinton had a disastrous hand in her husband’s presidency, noteworthy for the debacle in Somalia, unnecessary war in the Balkans, and broken agreement with North Korea. Then she was the first term Secretary of State for President Obama. What more needs to be said?”

1) What exactly has Hillary Clinton said or done to indicate a “determination to expand the state at every turn”? What is your definition of “expand”, and the vague phrase “at every turn”?
2) Trump the con-man has minions, er, “people” – the “BEST” people – to “confront bureaucracy” for him. And those minions don’t always win, either: it’s probably not a good idea to mention “Scotland”, “golf course” or “windmills” in front of The Donald.
3) Hillary Clinton is not a “liberal” Democrat.
4) WTF did First Lady Hillary have to do with Somalia, the Balkans, and North Korea? How does being “the first term Secretary of State for President Obama” disqualify her? And finally,
5) “What more needs to be said?” A whole hell of a lot more!

Donald Trump’s expected nomination comes as a disappointment for many Republicans. However, by every standard Clinton is worse. Conservatives might reluctantly vote for Trump. But, they should consider a vote
for him nevertheless, if he becomes a standard bearer of our platform. A platform that has made us the majority party in the United States.

Is Trump smart enough to do the right thing and are we smart enough to beat Hillary?

Politics is the art of the possible. That doesn’t mean abandoning principle. But if the good is unavailable, it means preferring the politically unattractive to the politically ugly. Too much is at stake for conservatives to treat the presidential election like a kamikaze mission or for Trump to be dumb.”

Two pieces about “Christian” megachurch pastor and devout Trump supporter Robert Jeffress demonstrate the extremely hypocritical and morally reprehensible “values” of religious conservatives. In one piece, Jeffress defends Trump’s childish tweet in response to criticism of Trump by another Evangelical, Russell Moore, with the equally childish (and un-Christ-like) argument that “Moore had it coming because he provoked Trump.” In the second piece, Jeffress calls Christians who won’t vote for Trump “fools”:

“Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of the influential 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, declared Wednesday that Republicans who have vowed never to support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee are “fools.”
“It is absolutely foolish to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States … at least Donald Trump has voiced a belief in a pro-life movement, he has at least talked about religious liberty as he did last Friday, you don’t hear either things coming from the lips of Hillary Clinton,” he continued.
“I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House,” he said.

So much for ‘separation of Church and State’ – I’d like to see the IRS have a little talk with ‘Pastor’ Jeffress.

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

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, April 30th, 2016: The View from Outside

We’re all tired of the U.S. media’s love/hate minute-by-minute coverage of The Donald, so I thought that ThinkProgress’s article on Trump’s international coverage might be interesting.

Occasionally humorous, i.e.:

MEXICO: “…the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan” and “El Deforma, a satirical news site similar to The Onion…has included articles about Canada building a wall in case of a Trump victory and Pink Floyd building the wall if Mexico doesn’t pay for it.”

SOUTH AFRICA: “South Africa’s the New Age called Trump “arguably the most successful internet troll in today’s political spectrum,” noting that much of his social media commentary “reads like a laundry list of troll tactics.”

Sometimes insightful:

CANADA: “…the Globe and Mail’s conservative columnist Margaret Wente noted that a majority of Americans “would rather swallow arsenic than vote for Mr. Trump” and predicted his fall. “If Donald Trump were a stock, my advice would be to sell it now,” she wrote. “The one thing that has to happen is that Mr. Trump will have to change. And he can’t. His most deadly foe is himself. Mr. Trump has no situational awareness. He has no ability to take advice, or build bridges, or learn from others, or direct a team.”

Some surprisingly self-serving and hypocritical:

ISRAEL: ““As an Israeli Who Loves America, I Am Worried by Trump,” wrote Ari Shavit in the liberal publication Haaretz after a series of Trump victories in February. “After the astounding victories of the vulgar populist in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, it is clear to all that America is no longer the country we have known. It is no longer a nation with a prudent economic establishment, a contented middle class and a stable political system. It is no longer a nation confident in itself, its identity and its future. It is a frightened, angry America. An America that has lost its way,” he wrote. “To an Israeli who spends considerable time in debates about Israel between Boston and San Francisco, Trump is a relief. Suddenly Israeli politics seem a little less embarrassing.”

“…in March, Naomi Zeveloff published a piece in the Forward on how Trump’s offensive style was actually winning many Israeli admirers. “If America elects a person who advocates discrimination and condescension and even resentment toward minorities, maybe we won’t be so criticized by the West,” Yaron Ezrahi, a professor emeritus of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained to Zeveloff regarding Israeli right-wing thinking on Trump.”

The TP article is very long with loads of links, and overall it’s pretty disturbing. But I recommend wading through it.

This is our daily Open Thread–okay, it’s the now-usually-Late-Afternoon Saturday edition. Go ahead and talk about stuff.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 25th, 2016: Take a Deep Breath

Old orchard in spring

Old orchard in spring

I know that I’ve trotted out this photo a few times over the years, at least in springtime. But it is one of my favorite pictures, and, well, it’s Spring. Although the apple blossoms are barely budding yet, lots of other flowering trees are blooming and the air is fragrant in the warming sunshine. The first of newly-mown lawns add their evocative scent. Bees are humming and I saw my first butterfly of the spring on Thursday. Of course, this also means that there’s a pollen alert every day, and this spring for the first time my allergies have escalated to the “burning eyes” level. But as long as I can breathe through my nose, even a little, I still want to stick my head out the car window like a dog and drink it all in.

Breathe in the springtime – it’ll do you good.

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 16th, 2016: This Day in History

History.com lists various events that occurred on April 16th in history, some of which have continued relevance these days. For instance:

– In 1943, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, “accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds.” Hoffman’s notes on the experience state:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

Since that discovery, efforts by (most famously) Dr. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey to promote LSD as a recreational drug eventually led to the drug being banned even for medicinal use in the U.S., and later by the United Nations. Research on the drug became nearly impossible, but a recent study explains a bit more about how LSD affects/stimulates parts of the brain:

“A team at Imperial College London says they found it broke down barriers between areas that control functions like vision, hearing and movement. The study was with a small group – 20 subjects – but the researchers say it could lead to a revolution in the way addiction, anxiety and depression are treated.”

– In 1947, Bernard Baruch coined the term “Cold War.” In a speech he gave at the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives (in which he also discussed industrial labor problems, in part calling “for longer workweeks, no-strike pledges from unions, and no-layoff pledges from management”), Baruch stated:

“Let us not be deceived-we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.”

– Also in 1947: while loading ammonium nitrate fertilizer, along with tobacco and “government-owned ammunition” onto a freighter in Texas City, Texas, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion killed 581 people as it blew the freighter to smithereens.

Coincidentally, on April 17th, 2013, the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, exploded, killing 15 people and injuring scores more, and caused massive damage and destruction of nearby property. Apparently in 66 years, Texans hadn’t learned that ammonium nitrate is dangerous.

– In 2007, a disturbed student who should never have been able to own a gun killed 32 fellow students and faculty at Virginia Tech. According to History.com:

“Two days later, on April 18, NBC News received a package of materials from Cho with a time stamp indicating he had mailed it from a Virginia post office between the first and second shooting attacks. Contained in the package were photos of a gun-wielding Cho, along with a rambling video diatribe in which he ranted about wealthy “brats,” among other topics…
The public soon learned that Cho, described by ex-classmates as a loner who rarely spoke to anyone, had a history of mental-health problems. It was also revealed that angry, violent writings Cho made for certain class assignments had raised concern among some of his former professors and fellow students well before the events of April 16.”

Uh, yeah, so what have we learned from that, what has changed to prevent a similar disaster? ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING.

– And on this day in history in 1956 – 60 years ago – my oldest friend, Laurie Miles, was born. We’ve been friends since we were about 4 years old, beginning soon after our families moved to North Road in Brewster Heights, a brand-new development (aka subdivision) set on top of a hill overlooking the Middle Branch Reservoir.

Top Photo: the Sechny 'homestead' ; Bottom: Laurie's dog Winnie

Top Photo: the Sechny ‘homestead’ ; Bottom: Laurie’s dog Winnie

Everyone should have a friend with whom, even through time and distance, one can just pick up and continue that friendship, wherever/whenever. Laurie and I enjoy that kind of friendship, wherein we’ve been connected for so long that it’s wired into our DNA.

So Happy Birthday to my oldest and dearest friend, Laurie.

This is our daily Open Thread–better late than never!

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 11, 2016: I’d Vote For This One

This ad has no demonizing, no demon sheep, no end-of-days predictions if the other candidate wins, and it’s not set to “Il Fortuna.” What’s not to like? One thing’s for sure, I’d vote for the “Generic” candidate over Trump or Cruz any day!

 

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This is our daily Open Thread–go ahead, open up a discussion.