Monday, November 30, 2009
- Stephen Jay Gould (American evolutionary biologist, 1941-2002)
I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
It's been a while since I've featured Cynthia's wonderful kitty as part of the Friday Cat Blogging tradition. High time, I say! I particularly like like the sweet boy's position in this photo. And, as far as I'm concerned. Simon has the most magnificent whiskers in the universe!
You can read the rest of his opinion piece right here.
The fact is that climate science is fiendishly hard because of the enormous number of variables that interact in ways no one fully understands. Scientists should welcome contrarian views from respected colleagues, not try to squelch them. They should admit what they don't know.
It would be great if this were all a big misunderstanding. But we know carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and we know the planet is hotter than it was a century ago. The skeptics might have convinced one another, but so far they haven't gotten through to the vanishing polar ice.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
And this one makes a very, very good point as far as I'm concerned:
Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.
Well, however you have observed the day, I hope it was truly happy.
I have strong doubts that the first Thanksgiving even remotely resembled the "history" I was told in second grade. But considering that (when it comes to holidays) mainstream America's traditions tend to be over-eating, shopping, or getting drunk, I suppose it's a miracle that the concept of giving thanks even surfaces at all.
Here's a summary of the article:
I really don't think I could begin to explain what this is all about with an excerpt. I do urge you to click through and read about it yourself.
All evidence indicates Sarah Palin's Christianity isn't about the "Rapture" : it's about Christians achieving dominion over the Earth.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I found it in an article entitled "Boycott Black Friday and Celebrate Buy Nothing Day Nov 27th, 2009".
There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.
When you think about it, it's so, so obvious.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
And another: "From whom much is given, much is required." This is definitely worth remembering.
This nation is affluent and has more than it needs. The realization that what we have is a free gift can deepen our desire to share this gift with others who cry out for help. When we bless the fruits of the harvest, let us at least realize that blessed fruits need to be shared.
Our own Cynthia Burgess shot this photograph some time ago and I happened to come across it again this morning. She wonders if perhaps beavers are responsible for the condition of the tree on the right. What do you think?
Do visit Cynthia's blog entitled IMAGEPLAY PHOTOGRAPHY. She truly does wonderful stuff.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I want to share with you how it gets started:
Please go over there and read the rest of it. You won't regret it. Honestly, this really helps clarify a lot for me.
The really beautiful thing about the culture war, from an entertainment standpoint, is that it is fundamentally irresolvable. There isn’t a concrete set of issues involved, where in theory both sides could give in a little and find middle ground, reach some sort of compromise.
That’s because there are no issues at all. At the end of this decade what we call “politics” has devolved into a kind of ongoing, brainless soap opera about dueling cultural resentments and the really cool thing about it, if you’re a TV news producer or a talk radio host, is that you can build the next day’s news cycle meme around pretty much anything at all, no matter how irrelevant — like who’s wearing a flag lapel pin and who isn’t, who spent $150K worth of campaign funds on clothes and who didn’t, who wore a t-shirt calling someone a cunt and who didn’t, and who put a picture of a former Vice Presidential candidate in jogging shorts on his magazine cover (and who didn’t).
It doesn’t matter what the argument is about. What’s important is that once the argument starts, the two sides will automatically coalesce around the various instant-cocoa talking points and scream at each other until they’re blue in the face, or until the next argument starts.
And while some of us are old enough to remember that once upon a time, these arguments always had at least some sort of ideological flavor to them, i.e. the throwdowns were at least rooted in some sort of real political issue (war, taxes, immigration, etc.) we’ve now got a whole generation that is accustomed to screaming at cultural enemies as an end in itself, for the sheer dismal fun of it. Start fighting first, figure out the reasons later.
You know, I frequently tell my meditation classes that the two most dangerous mind states a person can cultivate or indulge in are self-pity and resentment. This article helps tease out just why that is.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Younger people may well not have this experience but I cannot ever be conscious of today's date without remembering with enormous sadness the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
I was fourteen years old and in the ninth grade. I got the news during geography class. There had been rumors among the students in the hallway between classes; someone had a transistor radio. And then the principal came on the P.A. system and told us that it was true. Not only had the president been shot but that he was dead. I remember sitting there in shock, tears welling up while praying the Kyrie over and over, looking out the window and noticing with amazement that the sun was shining.
Here are two powerful things this great man said that, as you can see, are connected and that we have often forgotten since his death:
I can't help but wonder if Kennedy's objection to censorship is part of what got him killed.
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all — except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.
I have read recently that certain members of the religious right are actually urging people to pray for President Obama's death by referencing Psalm 109. I wonder if those people were alive when Kennedy was shot. I wonder if they remember how traumatized this nation was. I wonder if they care. How these people can consider themselves Christian is utterly beyond me.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Trouble is, there's just no one else remotely like him.
The PBS mainstay Bill Moyers said he was retiring from weekly television and would end his Friday night public affairs show, “Bill Moyers Journal,” on April 30, 2010. That date will also be the last for “Now on PBS,” which has been canceled.
Mr. Moyers said he had been planning for some time to retire the program on Dec. 25, but was asked by PBS to raise the funds to continue through April, which he did.
“I am 75 years old,” he said of the decision to end the series, which began in April 2007. The program has recently been having a “good run of it,” he added in a telephone interview on Friday, “so I feel it’s time.” He said he was not quitting television work, although he has no new projects planned.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
By the way, he also humorously said that "the Lord had the wonderful advantage of being able to work alone" implying, of course, that the rest of us don't!
To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.
-- Kofi Annan
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
There's more right here over on OpEdNews.
According to a soldiers' advocacy group at Fort Hood, the U.S. base where an army psychiatrist has been charged with killing 13 people and wounding 30 in a Nov. 5 rampage, the official suicide figures provided by the Army are “definitely” too low.
Chuck Luther served 12 years in the military and is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, where he was a reconnaissance scout in the 1st Cavalry Division. The former sergeant was based at Fort Hood, where he lives today.
“I see the ugly,” Luther told IPS. “I see soldiers beating their wives and trying to kill themselves all the time, and most folks don't want to look at this, including the military.”
Luther told IPS that he believes the real number of soldiers at Fort Hood committing suicide is being dramatically underreported by the military.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Hat tip to Lisa over at All Hat No Cattle
In her new book, Sarah Palin claims that before John McCain chose her as his running mate, his campaign spent $50,000 on a background check. Yeah. When he heard this, John McCain said, we should have spent $75,000.
Some of us are a bit disappointed in Obama. I know I am. But articles like this make me so, so glad that the McCain-Palin ticket did NOT win!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
That very first sentence is a humdinger, isn't it?
The kingdom of God could be realized simply by daring to live differently from the normal conventions. The kingdom of God in the teachings of Jesus was not an apocalyptic or heavenly projection of otherworldly desire. It was driven by a desire to think that there must be a better way to live together than the present state of affairs. And it called for a change of behavior in the present on the part of individuals invested in the vision.
The hypocrisy of law makers claiming that people who object to abortion shouldn't have to have their tax dollars pay for them really gets to me. I object to war and yet my tax dollars certainly are used for that.
We need health care reform. 40 million Americans have no access to health care. 40,000 a year die because of lack of access. 30-40 million more have lousy care funded by state Medicaid programs, many of which are underfunded and few of which provide for routine care. The rest of us are indentured to our employers, afraid to unionize, afraid to strike, afraid to speak up on the job, for fear of losing our insurance coverage.
The health care "reform" bill in Congress does nothing to solve these problems. Aside from outlawing a couple of the worst abuses, such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or pricing such people out of the insurance market, or dropping coverage when someone actually becomes ill, it leaves all the evils of the current system in place, and assures that the crisis will continue and continue to worsen.
But with the ban on abortion coverage, there is a chance that at least some principled members of Congress, backers of a woman's right to unimpeded health care that she and her doctor say she needs, will reject the whole obscene package. If they do, this fradulent reform legislation will go down in flames.
Then we'll be back to square one, and we can finally demand that Congress and the President give us the reform that will work: Medicare for all.
The excerpt above is from an article entitled "Health Care Reform: DOA" by Dave Lindorff.
Friday, November 13, 2009
That's the opening sentence of an opinion piece by Linda S. Heard found on the Online Journal.
Muslims make up roughly one quarter of the world’s population. Just because one out of almost 1.5 billion ran amok, leaving 13 dead and 23 wounded, does not mean the entire Muslim nation* is responsible.
By the way, I just went looking for information on Linda Heard and found a piece she wrote entitled "You Think You Are Free?" that I think is worth calling to your attention. It's short so I encourage you to read the whole thing. I really agree with the quotation by Neil Postman toward the end about the respective predictions of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.
Let me know what you think.
* Oh, I almost forgot. It's really unfortunate that she used the word "nation" here and, given what she just said about Muslims making up one fourth of the world's population, I wonder if that's what she really meant. I think she meant "religion", actually.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I have one word for this: disgrace.
In honor of Veterans' Day, Physicians for a National Health Program cite appalling numbers from Harvard Medical School research: 1.4 million working-age veterans lacked health coverage last year, and about 2,266 died as a result - 14 times the number of deaths from combat in Afghanistan last year, or six preventable deaths a day. Single-payer insurance would change those numbers, they say; the current health reform bill will not.
The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people.
I so agree. (I don't really understand why this is not obvious to most people.)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I found the above facts right here.
To date more than 27,000 men and women have been wounded in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The amputation rate of wounded soldiers in Iraq has doubled from previous wars to 6% of those injured.
24.9 million military veterans live in the United States.
1 in 3 homeless males are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
76 percent of veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
A Great law protects me from the government. The Bill of Rights has 10 GREAT laws. A good law protects me from you. Laws against murder, theft, assault and the like are good laws. A poor law attempts to protect me from myself.
That last sentence makes so much sense, doesn't it?
U.S. capitalism in its 2009 incarnation is neither just nor efficient. One need only look at a number of widely accepted measures of economic health. While nearly one of six American workers is unemployed or underemployed, almost a third of our productive facilities stand idle. While homelessness continues to grow, nearly one in seven rental properties stands vacant and foreclosure rates rise.
Put aside Economics 101 and ask a simple question. Isn't there something wrong with an economy that fails to steer unemployed workers into the unused plants? And if some policy achieved this purpose, wouldn't more workers earn enough to rent those vacant homes and apartments?
Americans often pride themselves on looking at facts on the ground. I find it hard to deny that as an economy we have already produced enough homes and factories that everyone could live comfortably.
Conservatives argue that government programs that pay the unemployed to work in those vacant factories would be "inefficient" or would burden our grandchildren with huge obligations. Yet what could be more inefficient than allowing nearly a sixth of our workers and a third of our factories to sit idle? And as for future generations, their ability to pay debts will depend on the strength of the underlying economy, which is being eroded day by day.
Monday, November 09, 2009
I do hope what has been accomplished so far is simply the beginning - that we'll be able to enact new and better reforms quickly. But, quite frankly, I'm not hugely optimistic. The insurance and pharmaceutical companies are just too powerful and the Democrats are too intimidated.
Obama and the Democrats have no real vision for a transformed health care system, so they’ve gone for a slightly modified version of business as usual. They’ve cut backroom deals that win a few meager concessions toward the public good, while at the same time ensuring the profits of the insurance companies, Big Pharma, and other health care profiteers by maintaining their basic control of the health care system and rewarding them with bigger assured markets and more and more money. (To make matters worse, at the last minute they also cut a deal with anti-choice members of their own party that will further undermine women’s access what was, when I last checked, still a legal medical procedure.) In other words, they’re doing what Democrats have done since at least the Clinton years–acting like kinder, gentler Republicans, rather than like the defenders of the common people.
A whole lot of Americans don’t like the current health care system, and a whole lot more hate insurance companies. The Democrats might have been able to translate that into some sort of populist support for real change. Instead, they dithered and compromised, and failed to invoke any compelling ideology. Health care ought to have nothing to do with profits. It should be a basic human right in a civilized society. But that’s precisely the kind of statement the Democrats are unwilling to make—so they end up saying nothing at all.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.
It's from an article published at OpEdNews by Rob Kall.
Giving a $1.2 trillion gift to the health insurance industry, betraying women's rights, the house gave the white house what it wanted. The question is, will the Democrats wake up with a hangover in 2010, facing a public enraged that the bill has strengthened the very industry that is causing economic pain to families, death to tens of thousands annually and damage to our nation's industries' ability to compete.
This is a betrayal of women-- the vast majority of constituents who elected the Democrats who passed this bill. It is a betrayal of those who expected real change, since it is a weakened public option-- weakened at the behest of the White House.
As Wendell Potter has repeatedly said, this bill is a gift to the insurance companies. The Democrats celebrated last night, but that celebration may be short lived as voters learn how little they got and how much the health insurers gained.
Single payer, folks. Medicare for all. It's the only effective and fair way. Really.
UPDATE: Here's something Dennis Kucinch said:
You can read his whole statement right here and I recommend that you do so.
It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
To my mind, Mr. Kinney's response is much more respectable than that of blaming Islam or painting all Muslims with the same brush.
Warfare has a way of making us into something that we are not. I once cuddled a dying Marine who desperately wanted to believe my lie that the medical evacuation chopper was just minutes away. As I watched him die I felt that I was losing part of myself with him. I still see his face in my sleep.
Could it be that the psychiatrist we want to hate saw the unbearable suffering of warriors he was tasked to treat? Could it be that he identified with the suffering of those he treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital? Did he become one of us, another soul tortured by war’s anguish? I cannot forgive this man who betrayed us but I must try and understand him nonetheless.
Friday, November 06, 2009
You know, the Democrats could learn a lot from cats.
Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject submission to the impending visitation, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance.
- Saki (1870-1916)
Thursday, November 05, 2009
The horror stories just keep adding up.
People who scrape together enough money to buy health insurance will discover that they're riding in the back of the nation's healthcare bus. The most "affordable" policies will be the ones with the highest deductibles and the worst coverage.
We're hearing that large numbers of lower-income Americans will be provided with Medicaid coverage in the next decade. Translation: If funding holds up, they'll get to hang onto a bottom rung of the healthcare ladder. Many will not be able to get the medical help they need, from primary care providers or specialists.
The specter of "healthcare reform" that requires individuals to stretch their personal finances for often-abysmal insurance coverage is the worst of all worlds -- government intrusion for corporate benefit without any guarantees of decent health coverage.
And you know something? If you can't afford the co-pays and deductibles, you might as well not have coverage at all because you can't use what you do have.
Suppose desegregation of schools had been put to a popular vote in the South?
It's my opinion that gay marriage should not be put on the ballot in any state. Nor should civil rights such as the freedom to not be discriminated against at work or to have equal access to spousal health care benefits. America has a separation of powers, a system of checks and balances. Where is the balance of power when it comes to a "people's veto" or a bias motivated majority?
Think about it.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Well, I woke up this morning to the very dismaying news that voters in Maine have turned against gay people:
Oh, please. You want to "protect" heterosexual marriage? How about outlawing adultery and then let's really prosecute people who commit it and throw them in jail!
Maine voters repealed a state law Tuesday that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, dealing the gay rights movement a heartbreaking defeat in New England, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.
Gay marriage has now lost in every single state -- 31 in all -- in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine -- known for its moderate, independent-minded electorate -- and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign.
With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the votes. "The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation," declared Frank Schubert, chief organizer for the winning side.
I don't for the life of me see how "the institution of marriage has been preserved" when half of all marriages end in divorce. Sheesh.
(Many thanks to Paul Rogers for the photo above, by the way.)
UPDATE: Ha! Just for fun go read a blog post entitled Ten Threats Bigger than Gay Marriage written by an Alaskan with a nice little snarky sense of humor!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is promoting her new book and she's going to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show. ... Sarah and Oprah. On the one hand, a very powerful woman qualified to be President of the United States, and on the other hand, you have Sarah.
The rest of the developed world looks on us with appalled amazement that there's even a debate about universal health care. People die from lack of health care. Children die. Unborn babies die. How is it that the same people who call themselves "pro-life" and are against a woman's right to choose are just fine with the death of a fetus due to lack of pre-natal care? It's not really about the baby, is it? It's about punishing women for having sex and it's about punishing families for being poor. Shame on our society. Shame.
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Here are some observations that caught my attention:
I really recommend the article. It's truly thought provoking.
But their jobs are their livelihoods, not their lives, and every transaction is permeated with the ebb and flow of daily neighborhood and family life.
People work hard, especially tradesmen and laborers, but there is a complete lack of obsession and stress that characterizes North American jobs. Which, of course, many Canadians and Americans retired to Ajijic take for laziness.
It may be my bias, or my imagination, or my distaste for toil, but from here America looks like one big workhouse, "under God, indivisible, with time off to shit, shower and shop." A country whose citizens have been reduced to "human assets" of a vast and relentless economic machine, moving human parts oiled by commodities and kept in motion by the edict, "produce or die." Where employment and a job dominates all other aspects of life, and the loss of which spells the loss of everything.
But the truth is that we are all very commonly issued products of a profit driven workhouse where no human commons is allowable, lest the workers find meaning and joy in each other as human beings, and perhaps become less work driven, less productive and less profitable.
And then you might try asking the question, "Is my job my livelihood or my life?"
UPDATE: I just discovered that the Bageant piece is published on The Smirking Chimp as well. You might like to go over there to look at the comments. Here's one by MizzGrizz that I particularly appreciate:
Dear people, please remember who was elected president in 1980. And he won that election through racism and ridicule.
Somewhere in the late seventies and early eighties--perhaps at the very time wages began to stagnate---Americans turned from people who were just beginning to enjoy a creative leisure into willing inhabitants of a workhouse, living their lives with almost military regimentation, and anyone unable or unwilling to join the goddamn circus was excoriated.
It was right around then that anyone trying to make their way in the arts was excoriated with ''Get a REAL job.''
And the concept of the workhouse is exactly where feminism made its mistake. Instead of focusing on how to grant a quality life, and develop equal creativity and leisure for all, the new model insisted that women get out into the marketplace also. It was a pattern that wasn't, and isn't, even working well for men. Why in HELL did they think it would work for women?
I just came across an article that begs us not to do that. Here's part of what it says:
I was once scolded by someone for NOT idling my car before driving it! I wish I knew that person's email address so I could forward this article! :-)
Although typically ignored or played down by state and even national environmental regulators, more people need to be educated that the best way to warm up your car or truck is to drive it. And studies have shown that frequent restarting has little impact on engine parts such as battery and starter motor.
* Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it. If you are stopped for more than 10 seconds - except in traffic - turn off your engine.
* Every 10 minutes of idling costs you at least 2/10 (0.2) of a gallon of gas - and up about 7/10 (0.7) of a gallon for an 8-cylinder engine. Keep in mind that every gallon of gas you use you produce about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.
* Exessive idling occurs at drive through windows, drive through bank deposits, and train crossings; while waiting for your kids to get out of school, running into the convenience store, and when picking up your friends for a night out.
A good rule of thumb is: "Idling gets zero miles per gallon."
In the United States and Canada, if every driver avoided idling for just 5 minutes a day, millions of tons of CO2 would be prevented from entering the atmosphere each year. That would represent a staggering contribution to positive climate change efforts...