Monday, April 30, 2012

30 April 2012 High in the 80s

          It’s the end of April.  It seems far too early for that to be possible. 
          We spent about an hour waiting in a doctors’ office this morning.  It took that long to be logged in and to submit samples for lab analysis. 
          There seems to be a leak in our roof that demands attention.  Hopefully, cleaning the gutters will help.  That’s all the news that’s not fit to print today.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

29 April 2012 It’s time to rally round the women of your choice.


Will the ‘war on women’ get women into office?
By Kathy Kleeman and Debbie WalshPublished: April 27
            “Don’t get mad, get elected.”
            “Like 2012, 1992 was a post-census year, which means that reapportionment and redistricting had created a large number of new or open seats. It was also a presidential election year, when interest in electoral politics increases. Most important, though, it was a year when women realized that their power was limited at the highest levels of government.
            “That wake-up call had blared when the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and a University of Oklahoma law professor, Anita Hill, appeared reluctantly to testify about the sexual harassment she said she had experienced while working for Thomas. Suddenly, women across the country saw two plain facts on the evening news: The harassment many had experienced was not just an embarrassing personal incident, but a real and serious phenomenon with a name. And the senators hearing testimony about it were all men who didn’t get it…”
            Cassi Creek”
            It’s time to rehash a subject touched upon earlier.    The GOP/teavangelists have made a practice of co-opting national symbols and customs.  The Gadsden Flag – rattlesnake on a yellow field – was designed to be a symbol of national unity.  The teavangelists have turned it into a symbol of a divided nation.  The national ensign and any number of patriotic songs have been co-opted over the years since the Nixon era when blue-collar men, in favor of extending the Vietnam War, waved them about as if they were initiating a new crusade.  In fact, it was common for the preachers of various sects, particularly Protestants, to thunder from their pulpits infamously unjustified condemnations of many of their fellow citizens who opposed the use of American lives to prevent a war of unification in VietNam.   The appropriation of flags and other symbols combined with close-minded evangelical intolerance and regional bigotries was pathognomic for the disease of disunity we now seek to cure. 
            Women have been hit hardest by this disease.  The intolerant religious fundamentalists seek to punish women for their insistence upon their full rights as citizens.   Lead by current teavangelists and financed by medievalist robber barons and greedy financial manipulators, the GOP is trying to push women back to the dark ages. 
            The article above indicates that many of the problems women face are being mishandled in the halls of power by men, “who didn’t get it.”
            I’ve looked at the issues that should be dealt with in the next four years.  I’ve looked at those that may surface in the next two years.  In each instance, the males who currently hold the contested seats, or who will most likely win them, will vote to keep or enhance the status quo, and to further strip women and minorities of their rights and of equality under our laws. 
            I am male, and so lack some of the common experience that sets women apart from men in so many ways.  I can’t pretend to understand or promise that I can “get it.”  There is no way I can point to my experience and claim that I can right the idiocy that is now taking place.  Some of the problems I will never quite understand and those will never be prioritized at the same level by men and women.  I don’t see our male legislators – particularly those GOP/teavangelists making the necessary changes in America.  However, I have a wife, a mother, sisters, daughters, and female friends who do “get it.”  If they, or women like them have new answers, or even old but untried answers that just might work, I’m willing to vote for them.  The women who make up my family and friends didn’t create this mess.  I don’t know that they can correct it now.   I know the idiots who voted to send us to war without raising taxes or manpower, who deregulated the financial industry so that the current Wall Street thieves could emulate those of 1929, and those who want to repeal the enlightenment to replace it with fairy tales, can’t begin to fix it.  If there were ever a time for women to form a gender-based political party, it is now.  I’ve seen enough, heard enough, and learned enough.  We must eject the GOP/teavangelists before they make this a third world theocracy.  I’m voting for the women, they might just “get it.”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

28 April 2012 Tennessee legislators and the American Taliban

          I experienced the Civil Rights movement of the 1950-60s.   While I was still in junior high and high school, I possessed enough awareness of what was morally right and wrong that it was readily apparent when civic and religious leaders were on the wrong side of right. 
          I’ve seen the governor of Mississippi stand in the door of a university to block access for a black student who had been admitted to study there.  I’ve seen nightly news broadcasts, which showed fire hoses and police dogs, used to force demonstrators from the streets of Birmingham Alabama.   I’ve seen the National Guard deployed to protect black students who were trying to attend a previously segregated high school in Little Rock Arkansas.
          Later, I lived in an Arkansas city that avoided desegregation by creating a “Christian Academy” open only to white students whose families could afford the tuition.  Black students were allowed to enroll in the formerly all-white hospital but the city schools stopped their bus service so that transportation became a problem for black students who lived in a remote and segregated section of town.  Black airmen at the Air Force base outside the town were unable to find housing in town. 
          I lived in a town in S.W. Missouri that had no black citizens.   When a black Post Mistress was appointed, she had to find housing in a Kansas town 20 miles away. 
          It has not been all that long that racial equality became a legally mandated set of laws and actions.  We still operate with one of two major political parties that is apoplectic that a black male is now POTUS.  The major protestant church in the nation was founded to maintain slavery as an economic system. 
          The current spate of hate-filled legislation coming out of Nashville is treating women as if they were now property rather than citizens.  The apparent goal is to return Tennessee to the pre-Civil War pattern of religious and civil laws and traditions that will cause it to be little more that an enclave of third world culture along with the other “red States.” 
          The time to stop this backward slide is now.  We all know better.  We all must work to force Tennessee into the 21st century.  There is a better choice for us.  Park Overall is standing for U.S. Senator.  If we can elect her and others like her, we can prevent s 2nd Scope Trial. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

27 April 2012 Smarter than the average pick-a-nick basket

          This afternoon finds our erstwhile hero (and our quietly supportive heroine) happily at home in their little bit of the Appalachian range. 
          The morning began, wetly around 0200 -0300 as a series of sudden small, and rapidly dying thunderstorms butted against the higher ridges and then dumped their water content as the cells encountered cooler air.  The times are approximate, because the hero was too happily dozing next to the heroine to fully wake up and look at the clock.  She, mean while, slept happily ( we assume) through the series of dying storms.
          While Gloria is eagerly crafting a new bit of jewelry, hoping the bauble will attract a buyer, our hero is busily catching up on correspondence with old friends and trying to convince his self that it really is Friday, not Saturday.  This time-space dislocation is due, in part to the multiple wake ups initiated by rain hammering down on a metal roof in the wee, dark hours.  It may also be due to the nasal congestion caused by the local pollens and molds that call the forest home. However, the major source of temporal confusion is most likely the brief, encounter with a phone that may well be smarter than our hero. 
          The practice of not providing operators guides for electronic devices is a foul and loathsome habit.  The answers to users’ questions may most likely be found by searching for web pages that purport to answer questions about hardware and software but which generally make no effort to help beyond directing the poor, befuddled owner of new hardware to a users’ forum where high school graduates and foreign nationals compete to proffer solutions that do nothing except generate more calls to a customer service desk that is staffed around the clock by three men named Christopher, from Mumbai.  Christopher, in all their technical trinity’s competence are compensated by the manufacturer and service provider according to the number of service calls they generate for callers demanding to speak to someone who is able to speak English.  At this point in the game, the maddened user is referred to a small, set of pictographs and icons that may be of some use if the new owner can decipher them.  They are printed in a miniscule font that cannot be viewed by anyone over 45. 
          It is a devilish little financial and emotional game, which allows those citizens of India to take massive and devastating revenge upon the species, which once claimed India as a colony, and all other native English speakers. 
          We’ll leave our hero and heroine here for the nonce.  We suspect that they will enjoy the evening over a quiet dinner and cherished companionship.  Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of “Mr. Ranger won’t like that!”

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

26 April 2012 “Listen to the thunder shouting

  I am! I am! I am!”
          Thunderstorms are incredible displays of raw power that manifest on all measurable senses and on a few that can’t be quantified.  They possess and demonstrate the ability to discard the efforts of mankind to alter the outermost layers of the earth.  They can, and have, made it impossible to use our highest and most complex levels of technology.  We’re just beginning to understand them, a long way from fully knowing what keeps some relatively small and benign while others form into supercell and spawn deadly tornadic storms.  
          The flash of lightning and the clash and rumble of thunder are commonly found in mythical explanations that are found in multiple cultures.  The mythical thunderbird of Native American mythos is matched with similar African tribal legends, which also attribute lightning and thunder to a magical bird.   Olympian Zeus is pictured and sculpted with a ready arsenal of thunderbolts, Thor’s goat-drawn cart rumbles from legend to legend.  There is a relatively large list of “thunder gods” compiled by geographic origin that can be viewed at
          Last year, 27 April was a sadly memorable day in this region as well as many other places between the Rockies and the east coast, as a major tornado outbreak occurred, shattering records for total storms in outbreaks, and causing large loss of life along with immense levels of property loss and destruction.  There were tornadoes where they rarely happen including one within 0.1 mile of our home and two more that were within a linear mile or less of our home.  The common random distribution of vortices within the tornadic funnel was readily apparent. We were fortunate, suffered no property damage, no injuries, and had all services restored within 48 hours. 
          As we lost power and cable/internet shortly after the first of the three roared by, our only source of information and warning was our portable, hand-cranked NOAA weather radio. We’ve since added a smaller and better radio since then.  We’ve programmed it to disregard storm warnings that don’t apply to our location. By doing that, we miss about 90% of the alerts.
          The local papers and TV stations have been replaying footage of last year’s storm damage and featuring articles about people who have been able to rebuild and those who haven’t.  The region is not used to tornadoes, they have been rare here.  Climate change may be responsible for the increased incidence.  It may be climate change in association with other factors. Something has altered the local weather patterns. 
          The one-year anniversary has been the cause for some unease as thunderstorms form and roll in.  The weather pattern that brings the larger and more dangerous cells in after dark is particularly disquieting.  We’ve been watching the forecasts and hoping that there is no repeat outbreak and no repeat storms here. 
          Imagine our alarm when the weather radio fired off a warning at 0700 today!  Radar displays showed a large squall line moving toward us from our north west, at 60 MPH.  There was apparent wind bowing, suggesting acceleration over the ground.  The relevant Severe Thunder Storm warning listed likely hail, high winds, and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning.  We just had time to shower and dress before we were at risk of power loss. 
          The squall line hit just as predicted.  We received a quarter inch of rain, moderate winds, no hail, and were treated to a chorus of thunder peals echoing off valley walls and down the valley.  The dog went through her normal thunder routine.  She’s learned to associate the alarm from the weather radio with thunderstorms.
          A certain amount of skittishness is normal after extreme weather.  It is much easier to avoid dysfunction when it is daylight and the power and commo functions are intact. 
          Here’s to Henry Hudson and his keglers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

25 April 2012 If you want to play soldier join the army

I Hunt, but the N.R.A. Isn’t for Me
Published: April 24, 2012
Bend, Ore.
          “Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that every N.R.A. member is also a hunter — which is highly unlikely, considering that the most comprehensive national survey of firearm ownership to date found that only 35 percent of gun-owning households say they hunt. Even then, the N.R.A. would represent only       
            “The N.R.A. has never had much to do with hunting. It was founded in 1871 by two veteran Union officers who were dismayed by the poor marksmanship of their Civil War troops. The organization promoted safe gun handling and target practice. By the 1970s, after rising gun violence prompted a national debate over the interpretation of the Second Amendment, the N.R.A. also made it its business to oppose gun control.
            “On its Web site, the N.R.A. calls itself the “largest pro-hunting organization in the world.” Yet during election season, the N.R.A. makes endorsements based largely on candidates’ voting records on gun control — with little if any concern for their views on other issues of interest to hunters. Candidates who voted to allow the ban on assault weapons to expire, for example, are labeled “pro-sportsmen” often despite their weak voting records on environmental issues.
            “Even if the N.R.A.’s worst nightmare were to come true nationwide — expanded background checks, mandatory waiting periods, limits to the number of guns purchased by an individual per month — hunting could continue as it has for more than a century, with rifles and shotguns…”
          If there are that few hunters who belong to the NRA, the NRA can’t honestly claim to be supporting hunters.  Nor are they contributing much, if any, to the purposes of wildlife and land conservation.  Those programs get most of their contributions from taxes placed on hunting and fishing licenses, endowments, and membership contributions from various hunting and fishing groups such as Ducks Unlimited. 
          If the NRA members aren’t hunting, they are ignoring a legitimate heritage aspect of gun ownership.  It is certain that some NRA members spend time and money fine-tuning their target shooting skills, punching paper.  Others may participate in combat type matches that require the gun owner to see a scenario and then make a decision as to whether or not to shoot.  Such situations rarely arise for civilian gun owners.  The Trayvon Martin incident may be one instance when the gun owner might have received some benefit from such training.  However, given the information that is currently verifiably available, I doubt it.  I think that the incident displays an all too common failure to stop playing cowboys and Indians, Cops and robbers, or Soldier. 
          The NRA, by insisting that there is a valid need for organized militias that are controlled by the states, is feeding a dangerous fantasy held by a lot of men who should know better.  The commonly voiced argument is that the 2nd Amendment provides for local and state militias intended to enable those bodies to overturn a tyrannical government.  The local 50-person group that shoots up the old quarry once a month in the guise of “training” is not going to oppose the United States Armed Forces and be able to brag about it the next morning.  Any militia member who believes otherwise is in need of a rapid and brutal education before he takes the field with his AR platform rifle and homemade explosives. 
          The NRA needs to be returned to its original purpose.  In that guise, it can provide firearms safety training and host shooting matches.  If it convinces its members that they have any ghost of a chance of engaging in a successful revolt against the U.S. government, it had better sell them burial urns.  Their ashes will be blowing in the wind.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

24 April 2012 Ten Degrees and getting older

          Of course, the line is “ten degrees and getting colder down by Boulder Dam that day!”  It didn’t get colder last night.  The predicted drop to sub-freezing passed us by, delivering a low of 39°F.  The effort expended moving the plants in for shelter and outside again was largely wasted.   The plants seem unaffected.  We, however, have added to our pain levels for the day.  Those efforts that would have been carried out quite easily when we met and married are now efforts that carry an increased pain level. 
          A new and quite amazing friend of ours, Park Overall, is running for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary.  Her intent and hope is to oppose and defeat Bob Corker for his seat in the Senate.  She’s speaking at a rally in Nashville this coming Saturday at the state capitol.  We’d very much like to attend but a quick look at the map and the travel time required reminds us of the penalty for what we now have to regard as a long distance drive.  The round trip would be 8-9 hours of driving plus necessary stops to stretch and walk around.  The time of the rally would make it preferable to stay overnight. That’s not possible with our animal population.
          I was talking to another highly regarded friend.  Well, writing, not actually talking.  We met because of a Grateful Dead tape compendium project that took place 12 years ago, now.  He and I have forged a friendship that extends far beyond the music of a single band.  He mentioned in another forum that he is now being fitted for hearing aids.  That admission brought two other friends/correspondents to the same admission.  While loud music or noisy weapons may have been a causative for our similar disorders, we’re all old enough now that the common male auditory problems are also likely to show up in this group of Dead Heads. 
          Gloria trimmed a single wisteria bush this morning.  She worked as a landscape gardener when she was younger.  Today a single plant – trimming and clean-up after – made her aware of the passing of time. 
          Oh, well!  As Jimmy Buffett sang so long ago, “I’m growing older, but not up!”  At least, that’s the plan for the day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

23 April 2012 Cold, Wind, and Snow

          In short, that is the weather report for today and the forecast for tomorrow.
          During the morning’s Hike with Mike the higher peaks and ridge crests were cloud covered.  The wind was at about 5 MPH gusting to 10 MPH.  Small pop-up pockets or mist and rain would coast in over the valley walls and drop their water content on us.  It wasn’t that bad going down valley.  Walking back up, we were facing into the wind.  Sunglasses helped block wind and water. 
          At 1130, we called to see if the LT Farms store had strawberries for sale today.  We were told that they had some at the store.  I drove down and discovered that they had only 2 gallons available.  I left them with one gallon.   They won’t be picking for a while now.  It must warm up, so that the berries ripen. 
          I made one other stop for cheese, sourdough rye bread, and honey.  As I saw the peaks and ridges, they were snow covered down to about 3000 feet.  It’s is always beautiful to see the peaks like that. 
          The highways are a bit treacherous now.  The winds are funneling down the valleys and blowing out across the roads.  Winds feel steady at about 10-15 MPH and gusts of 30 MPH are frequent.  Gloria is in Greeneville for a follow-up Dr. appointment and will be driving back, most likely, in even stronger crosswinds. 
          The NWS predicts a low of 31°F tonight.  Snow showers and frost are likely.  This is quite different from last year’s end of April weather.  It was hot, sticky, and finally produced a record tornado outbreak that caused tremendous damage locally, and which cost one life locally.  Nationwide the loss of life and property were beyond previous scope.  People hear are still spooked by thunderstorms, as they well should be. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

22 April 2012 Odds and entities

          Earth Day 2012.  I recall the first Earth Day.  We’ve done precious little to improve things. 
          We’ve filled the Pacific Ocean with so much trash that we’ve created a floating island of plastic and other trash that covers more surface area than Texas.
          We’ve overfished the oceans for commercially important seafood while simultaneously killing immense numbers of less desirable species by means of our fishing techniques. 
          Our submarine drilling procedures and practices have polluted vast areas of ocean due to leaks of oil at wellheads.  The scope of the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico has still to be determined.   Clean-up after that disaster consists of far more than policing up tar on the beach and spending millions in advertising BP’s continued commitment to the clean up and recovery.
          Coal companies in the U.S. are busily denuding and removing mountaintops in order to obtain coal with fewer employees than are required by other techniques.  These processes destroy watersheds, forests, wildlife, and ultimately contribute to increased downstream pollution and flooding.
          Our federal and state legislators are firmly in thrall to energy companies that are ruining the aquifers that many people depend upon for potable water wells by means of “fracking.” 
          One of our two major political parties is conspiring with corporate sponsors to remove any social safety nets that have previously been enacted; and with the Christian evangelicals and other religious fanatics to bring about a repressive theocracy that will push our cultural and social traditions and practices back to Colonial days.  Our government would then be essentially equivalent to the Taliban when they controlled Afghanistan. 
          The other major political party is so self-engaged in maintaining re-elections that it is unable to carry out its own function.  Its members of Congress and Senators are virtually paralyzed and powerless to oppose the other party and its corporate owners. 
          Even the definition of a “person” is now uncertain.  The Supreme Court, in a massive payoff maneuver for the Bush II administration, has equated corporations with humans.  Meanwhile, the Evangelicals are intent upon assigning “personhood” status to every fertilized human egg.   This anti-family planning campaign is intended to strip the last 100 years of social and medical progress from American women. 
          If the GOP/teavangelists have their way, the only human voters will be white males who own property and who belong to the finally approved Christian cult that wins official status as the 1st Amendment is stripped away from the Constitution.  Minorities of all sorts will be disenfranchised and many will be deported.  Corporations will cast most votes. 
          We will continue to breed as if the planet was not already over-populated.  We will brandish the club of “American Exceptionalism” to justify our continued rape of the earth and its resources, even as we slide rapidly into third-world nation status. 
          Did I mention that today is Earth Day?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

21 April 2012 Strawberry Fields whenever!

          I had both shoulders injected yesterday.  During the few hours of relatively painless motion, on the way home, I stopped at the Larry Thompson Farms market.  The strawberry fields are producing a bountiful crop of remarkably sweet and juicy berries.  I bought a gallon of berries and decanted them into plastic salad clamshell containers lined with paper toweling.  Before I left the building, I decided that another half-gallon might well be needed to get us through the weekend. 
          We look forward to strawberry season here.  The LT Farms grow and market the best strawberries I have ever enjoyed.  They make the Florida berries that fill the national grocery shelves taste like cardboard in comparison. 
          After unloading the berries and taking Loki out, I drove to Tusculum to support Gloria’s showing.  When I returned home, I topped and froze half a gallon of berries. 
          It was nearly 1800 when Gloria arrived home.  We decided to have ribs for dinner at a local mom & Pop restored General Store in Limestone.  The place was full when we arrived but we found a table in the very back and placed our order at 1830.   Our drinks came and we played a word game we indulge in to pass time.  In about 15 minutes the table behind us, who we think were seated after us, received their order and complained about it being wrong.  We commented that it sounded like they got our order.  Another 15 minutes went by and the Hostess suddenly asked what we had ordered.  We repeated our order and mentioned that it was becoming important that Gloria get her food.  We were told that the kitchen was busy with call in orders, that our ticket had somehow become lost, and a couple other reasons why we were rapidly becoming the last people to be served before the kitchen closed. 
          Our ribs arrived about 1915.  The staff apologized for the error and we fell to, committing carnage on the ribs.  The ribs were advertised as Memphis-style, dry-rubbed, baby-back-ribs.  What we received were dry-rubbed and then sauced prior to serving them.  The meat was a bit greasier than we prefer and could have used a bit longer acquaintance with the smoker. 
          We met a bicycle tourist from France going into the restaurant.  As we were finishing up, we noticed a neighbor and his wife who had come inside to pay after dining outside.  Gloria got to meet the wife, whom she had not met. 
          As we paid our tab, the hostess acknowledged that our order had gone to the table behind us as we thought.  We made light of it but we probably won’t go there for ribs for a while.  They do have decent burgers and a Philly-Cheese-Steak that Gloria likes.   We’ll most likely limit our meals there to those items.  For a while, when we were first married, something like this happened nearly every time we dined out.  I hope we’re not encountering that pattern again. 
          When we returned home, I attacked the next half-gallon of berries.  My shoulders were still numb enough to allow me to stand and move efficiently. 
          Both trays of berries have been bagged, labeled, and are stored away for later months when the fresh berries are out of season.  The last half-gallon is on the counter and we’re picking the berries off as we move past them.  They’re really enjoyable.  
          Gloria’s selling her jewelry again today.  I took advantage of my injections and the lack of predicted rain this morning.  The lawn is now mowed and needs only a bit of trimming next week. 
          Our friend, Park Overall, is speaking at a Jackson Day fund-raiser in Kingsport tonight.  $25.00/plate is a bit steep for rubber chicken.  We’ll support her campaign as much as we can but we’d both prefer venues closer to home. 
          I feel the need for some more berries!

Friday, April 20, 2012

20 April 2012 No longer able to be an Olympian!

          The last month has been somewhat pain-filled.  I’ve been waiting for the Outpatient Surgery service to inject my shoulders with cortisol and lidocaine.  Both shoulders are torn and both display arthritic degradation. This causes them to hurt all the time while motion increases the pain beyond the static levels.  I’m not a surgical candidate.  It has been 4.5 months since my last injections.  Because of the pain, sleep has become degraded and less satisfactory.
          I drove in this morning and let them shove long, sharp, needles into my shoulders.  I let them pump oily, viscid medications into my shoulder joints.  For about 30 minutes this morning, my shoulders did not protest every motion.   I hope the analgesic effect hooks in tonight. 
          In other matters, Gloria was invited to display her metal/stone creations at a juried art show, taking place today at Tusculum College, in Tusculum TN.  I drove over this afternoon to show the flag.  I had a chance to compare her work to that of other artists.  I’m impressed by the quality of her work.  She’s becoming rather adept at some of her jewelry production.  I hope she makes a sale or two for her time and trouble.  But being accepted for the show speaks well for her talent and imagination. 
          Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, April 19, 2012

19 April 2012 Abstinence, if only…

Birth Control and Teenage Pregnancy

Published: April 18, 2012
An encouraging new report shows a big decline in the rate of teenage births. From 2009 to 2010, the birth rate among young women ages 15 to 19 fell 9 percent, to 34.9 per thousand, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is a record low for the 65 years that data have been available, and a remarkable 44 percent drop from the 1991 rate. This good shift is largely the result of an increase in teenagers’ use of birth control — a fact that Congressional Republicans ignore as they seek to dismantle reproductive health programs.
Some voices on the right unconvincingly assign credit for the latest change to abstinence-only sex education, even though the percentage of sexually active teenagers has remained fairly constant. Besides, some of the states with the highest teenage birth rates — like Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas — have policies that emphasize teaching abstinence over comprehensive sex education.

Cassi Creek:
          The GOP/teavangelists can’t wait to gut the funding for Planned Parenthood, for birth control education, and for the social safety nets. 
          The bible thumper icons, speaking from their media production studios, can’t wait to condemn birth control education.  They repeatedly rail against the increasing percentages of out of wedlock pregnancies.  Yet, their solution is to try to scare teenagers (and adults) with the concept of eternal punishment at the hands of some demonic entity, in some subterranean fortress of evil.  Such threats have been around since the last time St. Paul ate moldy rye bread.  Out of wedlock, pregnancies predate those threats by millennia. 
          The use of “abstinence only” “education” does not work.  Tell hormonally driven teens that they must abstain from sex and scare them with religious mythos.  The money spent on such idiocy will be wasted.  Sex is enjoyable, pleasurable, and people will engage in sex whenever they are able.  The threats flung about by the evangelists and other religious fanatics are easily trumped by hormonal imperatives.
          There should be mention of other threats.   The GOP/teavangelists voter base is under the sway of the American Taliban.  They can’t wait to show their hatred of modern culture by punishing those women unfortunate enough to become pregnant while lacking some religious rubber stamp document of submission.  In order to reinforce their dislike of single mothers, they can’t wait to punish them for their refusal to conform to the religious right’s demands.
          The punishment that inflicts the worst pain is economic.   They rush to eliminate food stamps, WIC nutrition programs, and day care, housing and health care assistance, to make life for single mothers and for poor families as difficult as possible.  They repeatedly proclaim that they don’t care to pay for birth control for poor women.  It offends their priggish, pious natures to think that poor people might be having sex and enjoying it.   In order to punish those they believe guilty of “sin,” they fall under the thrall of the GOP/teavangelists who are doing everything possible to bring about a theocracy more repressive than that, which controls Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
          The American Taliban is engaged in spreading their mythos by economic warfare waged upon the working poor, the former middle class, and the unemployed.  They are being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.  They are being denied accurate and timely information about safe sex and access to birth control by religious hypocrites, they are being denied family planning help, starved, disposed, disenfranchised, evicted, denied health care and education in order to force compliance to a theocracy that is clearly un-Constitutional. 
          There is no biblical hell beneath the Earth’s surface.  There is no Satan, no eternal damnation.  But the American Taliban is doing all it can to create a living Hell on Earth for those who refuse to follow its archaic bigotry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

18 April 2012 The thick and the thin!

U.S. troops pose with suspected Afghan bombers' bodies
By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 9:47 AM EDT, Wed April 18, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is among U.S. and NATO officials condemning the 2010 photos.
            “(CNN) -- The Los Angeles Times published photos Wednesday of U.S. soldiers posing with what the newspaper said were bodies of insurgents in Afghanistan -- sparking outrage and condemnation from U.S. military officials.
            “The two photos published by the paper are among 18 provided by a U.S. soldier, who wanted "to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline," The Times reported.
            “The military said an investigation is under way.

            “The photos, from incidents in 2010, represent "a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values," NATO'S International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, condemned the photos, as did U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.”

Cassi Creek:
          From the earliest battlefields, long before written chronicles of war, bits and pieces of the vanquished have been used as trophies.  The reasons for using the defeated to broadcast a message may vary.  Some tribes ate the vanquished in order to absorb their “powers,” and incidentally their protein.   Other combatants mutilated the defeated in order to increase the terror associated with losing in combat.  One of the most effective reasons was the unmistakable announcement of who really won the battle.  No soldier surrenders his right hand or his skull willingly.  Those trophies were used to enumerate the losses suffered by the defeated army, tribe, or nation; and coincidentally to increase the psychological terror imposed upon them.  
          Soldiers who brought the largest number of trophies to the post-battle reckoning were unmistakably superior in their craft than those who made up the trophy pile.  As with any such violent craft, luck also played a role in determining who won and who lost. 
          The Crusades, the wars for empire, various religious wars and every battle that took place left piles of bodies missing parts, and accoutrements.  Anyone could bring home someone else’s dagger, helm, or armor.  Bringing home some bit of opponent spoke more loudly of the horrors of combat.
          We like to depict U.S. troops as morally superior to all other soldiers down through modern battlefield history.  Some facets of modern warfare make it easier to hold such opinions than it should be.  We’ve never been that moral on the battlefield. 
          Scalping was always used to paint the defeated American Indians as barbaric.  True, post-battle mutilations were part of Indian warfare.  Sometimes religion played a hand in such activities. Quite often, it was the women who engaged in mutilations and quite often the defeated was still alive when these sports began.  Scalping was introduced as a means of counting the numbers of soldiers killed in the French-Indian War.  Scalps were exchanged for trade goods.  They often made their way back to the settlements and towns as heirlooms and curiosities.  
          The Sand Creek Colorado battle was probably the worst demonstration of mutilation by Americans during the Manifest Destiny period.  The irregular army under a religious fanatic leader displayed truly vicious and brutal behavior. 
          Photography began to be used as a recording device during the American Civil War.  While truly horrible pictures were made, the process was labor-intensive and not easily done by troops after a battle. 
          During WWII, American troops collected skulls and teeth during the Island-hopping Pacific campaigns.  The Japanese treatment of captured Americans made their soldiers quasi-acceptable targets for such trophy taking.  Cameras were somewhat more available and developing film more easily done, so such documentation did take place by all combatants.  The German forces even went so far as to photograph and document their inhumanity in conceiving and carrying out the Holocaust.  American and other Allied forces were able to document the liberation of the various slave labor and death camps.
          VietNam with its brutal guerrilla warfare involving the wholesale slaughter of villagers for political reasons saw trophy taking.  Teeth and ears were commonly collected by those who found their way over the line.  Taking pictures with prisoners was only a short step from taking pictures with the bodies of the enemy.  I’ve seen too many faded shots of grunts with propped up Vietnamese bodies. 
          In order to teach our troops to fight and kill, we have typically put them through a process of dehumanizing the enemy.  There is, within most of us, an aversion to killing someone else.  The basic training we provide our soldiers is designed to overcome that aversion to the degree that they are willing to follow orders when asked to kill others. 
          The current generation of soldiers has grown up playing 1sst-person-shooter video games; the participant is able to role-play and to virtually destroy single and groups of “the enemy.”  To a degree, infantry training and re-training now includes some forms of these games, which require “shoot – no shoot” rapid decisions.  While the trainee can lose, there is no physical penalty for failure. 
          With the inception of “killing games” and the dehumanization of the enemy, it becomes easy to disregard the former humanity of dead enemies.  While random killings and trophy collection are severely proscribed and certain to bring heavy penalties, collection of digital trophies is now easier than ever.  
          When we inure trainees to the innate brutality of warfare we strip away some of the all-too-thin veneer of civilization that exists in young males.  The physical and emotional drive to contest with others for status is partly involved in using weapons to achieve increased status among peers.  There is no longer a reward for body counting.  In many ways, we are trying to conduct a war with no killing and no casualties.  This, when demanded of the troops who most frequently take fire and casualties, is highly illogical and impossible of execution.  The confusion and frustration that are engendered among the line units is a factor in these countless small violations of the UCMJ.  Trophy taking by capturing digital proof of how one vanquished the enemy is going to carry status in some cultural groups in uniform and out. 
          In my experience and in what I have read, it is usually the least well educated among out troops who resort to violations of the rules of engagement and UCMJ. 
          The U.S, populace will treat this in divergent ways.  The more progressive of us will recognize the impropriety of such behavior and condemn it.  Unfortunately, they will too frequently condemn the armed forces as well.  The reactionaries will see little wrong and will ramp up the 2nd Amendment and gun law arguments with the NRA encouraging the various militias that are comprised of people who chose not to share the military risk, or who may even have been rejected by the military as unsound to provide with modern weaponry. 
          The armed forces have one purpose, imposing our national goals upon other nations, and/or groups, by means of force.  That almost always involves killing.  Once we’ve told a young soldier that it is permissible to kill at the nation’s request; it is very difficult to rescind that request.  Fortunately, most of our soldiers are fully capable of reversing that training.  For a few, there is little limit between video games and video training.  Those are the ones who take pictures with bodies and who find other way to take trophies.   It is always frightening when we see such actions carried out by young men and women in our uniforms.  Change the national emblems and suddenly all our pretence of moral superiority is peeled away with that thin overlay of civilization. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

17 April 2012 Up in the sky!

17 April 2012  Up in the sky!
 has an amazing video of a CME taking place yesterday.

SPECTACULAR EXPLOSION (UPDATED): Magnetic fields on the sun's northeastern limb erupted around 17:45 UT on April 16th, producing one of the most visually-spectacular explosions in years. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the blast at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths
The explosion, which registered M1.7 on the Richter Scale of solar flares, was not Earth-directed, but it did hurl a CME into space. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab have analyzed the trajectory of the cloud and found that it will hit NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft, the Spitzer space telescope, and the rover Curiosity en route to Mars. Planets Venus and Mars could also receive a glancing blow.
Using data from SDO, Steele Hill of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center assembled a must-see movie of the event. It shows the explosion unfolding at 304Å, a wavelength which traces plasma with a temperature around 80,000 K.”

Cassi Creek:
            Please visit and enjoy the videos of this immense CME.
The morning intruded at 0430 and I am running on a huge sleep deficit with a lot of pain.  I rarely nap but today is a good day to try.  Strawberry season is about to open.  We took the last of last year’s frozen berries out of the freezer last night. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

16 April 2012 Louder than a 747

          “JEFFERSON CITY - Two of the fourteen tornado sirens in the state's capitol don't work. Those are in addition to two other sirens in Jefferson City that were fixed recently. All these siren failures fall during a year that is on track to break into the top five deadliest years for victims of tornadoes.
          “The city chalks up the multiple siren failures to an aging system. The average tornado siren lasts about 50 years, about as long as those in Jefferson City have been operating. City officials say it's increasingly difficult to find replacement parts for the old sirens, which were initially intended to warn citizens who were outdoors of air raids.
          “Jefferson City plans on replacing all of its 14 sirens within 12 to 24 months with new digital sirens that can broadcast a further distance and voice announcements. They also plan on rolling out a phone warning system that will call landlines and cell phones to warn of inclement weather.”

Cassi Creek:
          I spent part of my youth in Jefferson City.  As state capital cities go, it has always been provincial in nature, more or less surrounded by anti-missile batteries and Minute Man ICBM launch complexes, and possessed of the misconception that some geographic feature will protect it from tornadic destruction. 
          Over the years since my departure, the cold war has ended, National Weather Service radar storm tracking has improved, and a city –wide warning system has been allowed to decay. 
          Jefferson City is not alone in this maintenance failure. The Cold War air-raid sirens were designed to alert people working outside to be certain to turn toward the bright flash so that they will be spared the horrors of watching western civilization destroyed.  Today’s conditions differ.  Those old Cold War warning sirens are now being placed into use to warn the populace of an impending disaster that can potentially be survived with adequate preparation and adequate warning.   Adequate warning is the crux.  If the warning sirens can’t be heard, they are merely non-functional relics of the Cold War. 
          During the Cold War’s earlier years, we attempted to place warning sirens where they could alert the greatest number of people to take cover.  In the passing of time, the cities have decayed and urban sprawl has put greater numbers of people beyond the linear audibility limits.  We have also become a much noisier place.  Cars block the roads, most of them blaring some audio file at > 100 decibels.
            Sirens were not designed to alert those inside buildings.  An AM radio alert was intended to notify indoor workers of national emergencies. 
  “CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) was a method of emergency broadcasting to the public of the United States in the event of enemy attack during the Cold War. It was intended to serve two purposes; to prevent Soviet bombers from homing in on American cities by using radio or TV stations as beacons, and to provide essential civil defense information. U.S. President Harry S. Truman established CONELRAD in 1951. After the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles reduced the likelihood of a bomber attack, CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System on August 5, 1963, which was later replaced with the Emergency Alert System in 1997; all were administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).[1]
            “Unlike its successors, the EBS and EAS, CONELRAD was never intended to be used for severe weather warnings or local civil emergencies.
            In fact, the old Cold War sirens were minimally useful when first installed and can be nearly useless today.  They require electricity to power them.  Since power lines and grids are often damaged in tornadic storms, a battery back up is necessary for public safety.  However, in a tornado or a tornadic thunderstorm, sirens may not be audible at all.  I’ve been within 100 meters of a siren being used to alert a town and have been unable to hear the siren due to wind, hail, and rain. 
            The current plan in use in many cities, universities, and other locations – landline and cell line calling programs – is also hampered by power, cable, and tower losses in proximity to approaching storms.  For these mechanisms to work warnings must be provided to the public at least 20 minutes prior to storms affecting target areas. 
            We live in an extremely remote and rural area.  It is highly likely that we will lose power, cable/internet, landlines, and cell access during any major storm.  The only thing that we can rely upon is a NOAA weather radio.  During last April’s tornadoes, we were fortunate to have such a radio in the house.  We now have two.  Both are battery powered, automatically recharging, and one of them has a small hand-cranked, internal generator  Reception quality is poor in quality but available despite the loss of power, cable/internet, and cell service that requires a powered booster to piggyback internet.
            There are no perfect warning systems.  There never have been.  In all probability there never will be.  Get your weather radio and learn to “Duck and Cover.”  Now that the threat of nuclear warfare with the Soviet Union no longer exists, that old drill finally offers some real hope of survival.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

15 April 2012 It all comes down to how their brains work

“Liberals and conservatives don’t just vote differently. They think differently

            Anti-evolutionists have been found to score higher on the need for closure. And in the global-warming debate, tea party followers not only strongly deny the science but also tend to say that they “do not need any more information” about the issue.
Cassi Creek:
            This study is worth reading.  It seems to have a great deal of merit.  Like all such studies, there may be bias in the formation of questions and the statistical outcome.  Still, the study’s conclusion seems to agree with my own observations. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

14 April 2012 sneer when you say "entitlements," pilgrim

 noun \-ˈtī-təl-mənt\
Definition of ENTITLEMENT
a : the state or condition of being entitled : rightb : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
Cassi Creek:
          I began formal work at age 14.  Since that point in time, every pay check I have received has had a deduction for Social Security insurance and for disability insurance.   Those withheld funds have been used by the government to create insurance programs so that workers will not end up penniless at retirement. 
          Included in the Social Security program is a medical insurance benefit intended to help those citizens over 65, who were essentially uninsurable until Medicare was enacted. 
          If I were a different person, I might have banked a 10 or 20 percent of my income in some sort of retirement fund.  I didn’t and that can’t be changed.  However, there have been enough recessions, embezzlements, and financial crime that any savings I did manage to put away vanished with market downturns and manipulations.  Therefore, I am happy to have that income from Social Security. 
          If I had amassed a small fortune via the stock market or by maintaining retirement accounts and real estate manipulation, I would be receiving some income on a regular basis.  If I had purchased the right sort of life insurance, I could now be living on income from that manipulation.  No one would question my right to those funds that my actions would have entitled me to receive. 
          Down size the investment total and remove it from the ability of insurance companies and unscrupulous investors.  Suddenly the fact that I have become entitled to a guaranteed income is regarded as money I am receiving, unearned.  I have paid premiums for 51 years in order to have a small retirement income.  I have paid premiums and still pay monthly premiums for Medicare health insurance coverage. 
          I contracted with my government to secure a small retirement income.  That insurance policy is available today only because the private sector has not been allowed to touch premiums paid into the system by me and by people like me.  That angers many investors and the GOP has incessantly tried to hand those funds over to their financial contributors. Part of their propaganda campaign to deliver social security premiums to the corporate world is to refer to monthly policy payments as “entitlements,” pronounced with a sneer.  
          What is happening is that Social Security and Medicare recipients are being denigrated because of the size of their premiums paid into the system.  If we recipients had banked a hundred thousand dollars, a year we would be regarded differently by the private sector and our entitled status would be happily catered to by the Congress and the GOP/teavangelists.  We can’t all be born wealthy.  We can’t all work at jobs that pay $100,000 or more/year.   We older Boomers are retiring now and many of us were once the people who staffed manufacturing plants, hospitals, and other former middle class job roles.  Many of us worked in career fields that were less than lucrative and that did not manipulate other people’s financial security.  It took me 30 years of technical field work to obtain a final income equal to what is now starting pay  in my profession, if one can find a job in that field any more.
          A portion of my retirement income results from injuries received in the service of the United States during time of war.  I defy anyone to claim that I am freeloading when I accept that long-delayed compensation. 
          “Entitlement is not” a dirty word.  It indicates that I have fulfilled a monetary agreement with my government to provide revenue and health care.  I expect the Congress to honor that agreement without chicanery, embezzlement, or manipulation to benefit corporate banks and investors. 
          If the GOP could misappropriate the portion of our budget that is intended to pay for Social Security and health care, “entitlements” would be suddenly a good thing to be parceled out amongst the hedge fund managers and other high priests of greed and privilege.  However, the program was constructed with every intent of avoiding those crimes that only became possible as the GOP nibbled away the safeguard regulations.  It required 70 years of GOP assault to undo the economic protections put into place after the Great Depression.  Now that generation is rapidly departing.  As with the Holocaust, the eyewitnesses are no longer available to sound the alarms and warn of another assault on the global economy by the very rich and the very greedy.
          The virus that causes otherwise respectable people to accept the lies proffered by the GOP/teavangelists are insidious and dangerous.  It causes malfeasance, greed, bigotry, and the desire to vote against the best interests of the populace.   Education is the only curative. 
          I refuse to be infected with that virus.  I and all the retirees I know paid hard cash taken from our paychecks to provide the benefits of Social Security, Medicare, and SSDI.  We are entitled to what we contracted for.  Entitlements? Yes, according to all three definitions cited above.  
          What we don’t subscribe to is the GOP/teavangelist belief that being wealthy entitles one to live outside the legal and ethical codes of the nation or to be entitled to steal all they can from the private of public sector.