Monday, March 31, 2014

ABANDON ALL HOPE

Or at least most of it. 

“The fundies are so frightened they are out of their minds. Imagine being enslaved by such a small, in imaginative and venal interpretation of the Creator of the Universe. If there is a such thing as sin, this is a prime example...Lisa’s comment on my last entry.

And that attitude is a sin. Not against God but against our humanity. Which, I guess is a sin against Creation, in my opinion. If there is a Creator, whoever He or She is they were the ones responsible for our curiosity, our sense of wonder, our drive to learn how the universe works.

I’ve been watching the new Cosmos. I like what I see so far. And I’ve been replaying my DVD’s. Carl Sagan was not only a great teacher, although he does go on a bit occasionally. He was passionate. Passionate about the search for the truth. Passionate about the right of every child to learn the wonders of Creation. Passionate about our, for want of a better word, humanity.

Russell Crowe’s new movie sounds interesting, I probably won’t see it until it comes out on DVD. But, the chorus has already started. “It’s not like the Bible.” Yo, choristers. You do realize that it’s a story right? You can’t take it literally. Right? You do realize that it’s at least two separate versions cobbled together and really could use a good editor. Right. Wrong. Once you’ve locked yourself into Biblical literalism it’s as if you’ve undergone a do it yourself lobotomy. Denial of scientific evidence. Irrational and willfully ignorant. I have no sympathy for you and almost no respect. Actually, what I'm feeling is a lot closer to contempt than lack of respect. 

Or at least a lot of it. 

We’ve launched ships that have helped write the new books on the Solar System. We have telescopes that can literally “hear” the echoes of the Big Bang. When Voyager reached the other side of Neptune’s orbit they turned the ship around and she took a series of now iconic photographs of all the planets and the sun.

And between twenty and twenty five percent of Americans believe that the earth is standingstill and the entire universe is rotating around us. Face palm, head bounce, loud groan. The article didn’t indicate whether the people polled were also asked about their religious beliefs. However, a little time spent surfing the net has me believing that fundamentalist religious beliefs and scientific illiteracy go hand in hand. Don’t believe me? Try Googling fundamentalism and geocentrism. And despair.

Which leads to a comment I made on another thread.

Yeah, the fundies are crazy but they're determined. And thanks to misused religious freedom laws in this country they're free to indoctrinate their kids in so called Christian schools. Also free to try to screw up public education because they don't want their little darlings exposed to anything that might shake their "faith."

Here's a news flash for you fundies. I have to share a country with your ill educated offspring. That gives me a say in what they're taught. If you can't prove that your curriculum meets basic standards then we'll close you down.

 Oh, I forgot we don't have any basic, national standards in this country because education should be controlled at the local level so our little darlings don't get contaminated by outside influences. In case you didn't figure it out. this is a pet peeve.” I was really on a roll that night. 


The first amendment states that congress will make no laws regarding religion. It doesn’t guarantee that your neighbors won’t come to the conclusion your bats have left the belfry and aren’t coming back. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

GET TO THE BACK OF THE BUS GIRLIE

These are the stories that are the source material for this entry. From the RoanokeTimes and from ABC.

This is a story about a little girl and the obsession of the right wing fundies with sex and sexual identity. It’s an example, in my opinion, of the fundagelical subculture at its very best (worst). While we’re agonizing over whether a local bakery will provide a cake for a gay wedding sectarian academies like this are doing their best to make sure their students, especially girls, “know their place” and what might happen if they dare to color outside the lines.

Her name is Sunnie. She’s being raised by her grandparents. She was enrolled in a local Christian academy as a preschooler. She’s currently in the second grade. But no longer in the “Christian” school. She preferred to wear slacks with her uniform shirt and wasn’t the only girl who did. She likes baseball cards, collects rocks and likes to go BB shooting with her grandfather. Ask if she's a girl and she'll tell you yes. When she was three she asked to have her waist length hair cut and have it donated to cancer patients. Actually I'm not sure if she asked or just got out grandma's scissors and went for it. Instead of celebrating the generosity of a little girl the folks at the school asked if she was lesbian. Remember she was three years old at the time.

Fast forward a couple of years. With an enrollment of just over four hundred from preschool to 12th grade I’m sure that the kids in first grade know who’s a girl and who’s a boy whether they’re wearing slacks or not. Anyway apparently some of the first grade girls asked if a boy was trying to use the girls’ s bathroom. That was last year.

This year she’s eight years old and in the second grade. This year some of the boys tried to force her into the boy’s bathroom.  Remember what I wrote in my Everything I Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten Entry. I guess they skipped that lesson back in Virginia. The incident “brought concerns from the school about Sunnie’s gender expression and appearance to the forefront again.” And apparently the grandparents have discussed this with her doctor. The doctor told them not to worry about it until she hits puberty. The response from the school when this information was passed on? That they should “find a Christian doctor.”  WTF????????? It just keeps getting better and better. 

Anyway late in February or early this month the school sent out a letter telling the family that this little girl wouldn’t be allowed to reenroll next year “unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity."

This is part of the text of the letter. “You’re probably aware that Timberlake Christian Schools is a religious, Bible-believing institution providing education in a distinctly Christian environment, and we believe that our biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be ‘Christlike,’” Bowman’s letter reads, elaborating that her school “reserves the right” to refuse admission to students on grounds of homosexuality or alternative gender identity. “It seems that the school’s goals and biblical foundations are going to be in contradiction with the direction that Sunnie is heading at this point.”

In other words, grandparents get with the program and make sure the kid understands her place in the world. Lose the cards and the rocks. Grow out the hair and agree to be a good little girl. Make sure she understands that “you’re a girl; cut your hair and people might think you’re gay.” “You’re a girl so get used to being treated like a second class citizen.” “You’re a girl so get used to being pushed around by the boys.” “You’re a girl so get used to being objectified and judged by your appearance.” “You’re a girl so…”

And excuse me. God ordained. Yoo fuckin’ hoo. God had nothing to do with it unless you count creating a world that include eggs and sperm. A sperm carrying an X chromosome caught up with an egg carrying an X chromosome and the result was a unique little girl named Sunnie. Remember she’s been going to this school since she was in preschool. This is where most of her friends are. Instead of caving, the grandparents immediately enrolled her in public school and went public.

Naturally the school has gone into defensive mode, hired a law firm and issued a statement. They never said she couldn’t come back. Well they didn’t. Exactly. Just that she couldn’t come back until the family got with the program and made sure she understood exactly where she stands in the fundie Christian universe. Get the back of the bus girl. That’s your place. Get used to it.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

SELECTIVE MORALITY?

Some folks have really selective definitions of what is moral and what isn't. 
Our moral wall is weakening
I applaud the courage of Janetta Overholser (letters, March 24) in condemning the appalling laxity of today’s morality. It reminds me of a stone wall undermined by creeping damp. Each loosened stone represents a weakness in our moral structure — i.e., young persons living together sans marriage, midterm abortions and more. First one crumbling stone weakens the whole, then another, until the wall collapses. What once shocked is now the norm.
Not only the participants in such moral degradation are affected, but entire families. Parents and grandparents feel bewildered and somehow violated when what passes for morality intrudes on their standards. They question how far parental love and support can stretch when egregious damp loosens the stones of their belief structure.
And our laws seem to only encourage destructive behaviors. For shame!

Author's name withheld in the interests of avoiding their embarrassment 
Letter in the local paper (Eugene Register Guard) this morning, I left out the author’s name. Wouldn’t want to embarrass her.

I also have some worries about weakening morality. My triggers are a hell of lot different from this authors.

Did he/she oppose the voluntary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How many children born or unborn were sacrificed on the alter of American Exceptionalism as we claimed the right to remake the regimes in the Middle East.

Does the author believe that we need to do “something” “anything” about the Crimea and the Ukraine? Does he or she realize that Crimea had belonged to Russia for about two centuries before Khrushchev transferred sovereignty to the Ukraine in the 50’s. Pretty much on his own initiative and with little or no explanation. That Ruthenian/Ukrainian independence can be measured in decades? And damn few of those at that. If we’re going to revive the Cold War I expect their children or grandchildren to be first in line to join up for the fighting. Riiiiiiiiiight.

Does the author shed the same crocodile tears over families that need adequate food, clothing, housing, jobs so they can raise and educate their children? Does she give a damn about the mothers to be that don’t have access to any or all of the above. Oh, but I forgot. Before you start your family you’re supposed to consult your crystal ball first. If you find out things won’t go well, then you don’t get married or have kids. And if it goes bad after you have the kids. Well, you should have known that was coming, now shouldn’t you? And you are on your own.

Whose fault is the rape culture that objectifies women and tells our moms, sisters, daughters, nieces that if you only ____________ you wouldn’t have been ________. Give me a freakin’ break.

Is there the same concern for moral weakness as we rape the natural world? We cut down the last of the rainforests and rip out the lungs of the planet what in hell do they think is going to happen. We keep dumping fertilizers, oil, fuel oil, coal waste and other poisons into our rivers and oceans what kind of life is there going to be for the zygotes they’re so worried about? Are there crocodile tears shed when rights to freshwater in drought areas are traded to energy companies to use for fracking? I suspect not.


We can’t eat money and we can’t drink oil. Somebody needs to get their head screwed on straight. 

IS YOUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REALLY THREATENED?

Found this great test in the comment section of an entry over on Patheos. Given the Catholic church's actions over the past few years, make that centuries,  I think the bishop still doesn't get it. And the commenters were letting him have it with both barrels. Reminds me of a story dad told about is logging years. It was summer and the crew was having problems with wasps trying to horn in on their lunches. One young guy, new to the crew, found the nest as was all for taking an ax handle an knocking it down. "Go right ahead but let us get in the crummie (crew bus) first. And we won't be opening the doors." Guess he decided his idea wasn't so great after all.

And he learned his lesson a lot faster than that bishop will. And no, I don't know who wrote this originally, but it really hits home.

"How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being
Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions." Just pick "A" or
"B" for each question.
1. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own
choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.
2. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even
though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on
marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.
3. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.
4. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.
5. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without
legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.
6. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books
or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not
like.
7. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the
establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources
as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.
8. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith
of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.
9. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of
worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my
community.
10. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of
our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.
Scoring key:
If you answered "A" to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed
at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal
protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional,
concept: this means you can fight for your equality -- not your superiority.
If you answered "B" to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about
your neighbors.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SPACESHIP EARTH

Probably not the best shot that's on the web, but it'll do.

A shot from the Cassini space probe taken through the rings of Saturn. That tiny little, sort of blue dot is Earth. As you can see the inset shot is nothing more than a blur.

That's our home folks. That tiny, pale dot is the stage that's seen all out wars, plagues, arguments, loves, hates, indifference. All of human history in that speck.

I've been feeling, well ready to chew nails and spit red hot rivets this week. And I haven't exactly kept it to myself have I?

Sometimes it's time to take a couple steps back and look at the world from someone else's point of view. In this case it's Carl Sagan. Again. In a quote from The Pale Blue Dot.


"From [the] distant vantage point [of deep space], the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity—in all this vastness—there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known."

We need to remember that this planet is a space ship. A huge space ship, to be sure but a self contained "ship." If we treat her with love and respect she will provide everything we need to sustain ourselves and our children. If we don't, and we're doing a piss poor job of it so far, she won't. And we won't have anyone to blame but ourselves.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

THE WORLD VISION SAGA CONTINUES

Benjamin Corey at FormerlyFundie has a wicked take on World Vision's advance to the rear on allowing gays in marriages to work for them. Great post Benjamin.

And out of the mouths of babes. Or cartoonist David Hayward. So dad? What do you tell your kid?

I have to wonder if the change in employment policy caught the organization itself by surprise. I mean, with a good media blitz World Vision could probably have made up the possible losses of support. Instead they chose to cave in to what amounted to a bullying blitz.

Why am I surprised? The intolerant side of Christianity has been using bullying successfully for centuries. Once Christianity was legalized during the reign of Constantine there are stories of mobs of monks destroying pagan temples in the Eastern empire. Hell, different sects used the same tactics on each other. So why should it be different now? And it won't change until we force the change.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

TWO STEPS BACK AND THREE SIDEWAYS

Well, World Vision caved. With threats to pull donations the organization backed down on hiring employees in gay marriages. I wonder how many people who were "threatening" to pull their donations actually donated money to World Vision in the first place. How many of us might have been willing to pick up the slack. They could have at least waited to see if the threats were real. Instead they caved in. Didn't even take forty eight hours. If our ancestors had been that spineless Christianity would never have gotten off the ground. Who knows. It might have been for the best.

The comments on the blog entry were predictable. Quoting scripture. The same five or six verse sets over and over and over. When more liberal commenters gave alternate opinions those comments slid off like water off the duck.

One of these days it's finally going to sink in. They can quote scripture until they're blue in the face and their fingers cramp over the keyboards. It won't do you any good because a lot of us simply don't give a damn what you say. We don't share your beliefs. We don't believe that the Bible has to be taken literally. We don't believe that scripture doesn't have mistakes and we refuse to be bound by something that was written nearly two thousand years ago.

I don't even bother to answer those comments anymore. It just encourages them. Maybe when their share of the population falls to next to nothing it might just start to sink in. But, I doubt it. They'll just claim they're being persecuted. That quote from Tacitus that I've put in the sidebar is painfully appropriate. World Vision will be forgiven their lapse from grace. The fundies will be happy. "They make a desolation and call it peace."

I'm tired.

A REASON FOR HOPE, SMALL ONE

When I did the Spiritual Exhaustion entry several days ago, that’s just exactly how I was feeling. Between the religious bullshit and the political bullshit I was feeling flatter than roadkill. Well, the bullshit is still there topped with a letter from the pentagon to congress detailing how much it's costing the military (an us) to investigate the nonexistent Behghazi scandal.  We can't afford to feed and house the poor but we can pour millions down a rathole trying to find something that  isn't there. It's enough to depress a hyena. 

Other current events are split down the middle right now. World Vision announces that they’re going to employ candidates who are in gay marriages and gets slammed by the religious right. The organization already had a policy that insisted that single employees abstain from sex until marriage and that married employees be faithful to their partner. So they looked around, decided that they were a charitable organization not and church and decided to add married gays

And I mean they are really getting slammed. Granted that most of the demo that reads Christianity Today will probably be pushing up daisies in another twenty years. If they don't kick the bucket early from terminal bile poisoning. Trouble is,  the majority of evangelicals don’t seem to have heard the old saw ‘when you find yourself in a hole stop digging.” Too many of them only put down the shovel to replace it with a backhoe. And forget to listen to other believers who are just about where I am. Throw in the towel, let the whole damn, misbegotten mess crash and burn. Maybe when the smoke clears we can find a phoenix in the ashes waiting to take wing. Never mind the Millennial generation that's heading for the exit door in disgust over the support for hate and discrimination that seems to drive their elders. 

On a much more cheerful note. The new Cosmos is a worth successor to the original series. Tyson doesn’t have quite as much time to work with, remember the original was a PBS series. No commercial breaks. We’re only at the third episode but the programs seem more a bit more focused.

This week it was how our perceptions of comets have changed over the centuries accompanied by a short, but complete bio of Edmund Halley. The man who worked out that the comet that bears his name appears every seventy six years. He also mapped the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, invented a diving bell, worked out the distance from the earth to the sun and worked to publicize Isaac Newton’s Principia which included the math to support the Theory of Universal gravitation.

I kind of wish that Tyson has spent a little time explaining HOW Halley worked out the relationship between the orbit of Venus and the math that gave him the answer. In any case his theory was confirmed later in the 18th century when observed the transit of Venus across the sun during his first voyage.

And the intro to the third episode is, I believe an homage to Sagan’s Shadow’s of Forgotten Ancestors because that “orphan” baby in the basket is straight of the cover of the book where Sagan describes humanity as being like an orphan left on a doorstep with no information. No name, nothing but the baby. Cosmos, both series, is part of the search for our identity and place in the universe, 

Image courtesy of Amazon. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT, BUT SHOULD YOU

More sweepings from the culture wars. 

Another case of “you’re picking on us.” And as usual because of the source has a spiritual finger in the pie is probably only telling half the story.

In a nutshell. A pair of brothers, now in the third and fourth grade, have been handing out coins with Bible verses on them to their classmates during recess. This has been going on for over a year. So, what changed?

Reportedly a teacher and a principal told the kids they couldn’t do it any more. The teacher is supposed to have said she “hated the coins.”  I wonder if she actually hates the coins or if they aren’t staying in pockets where they belong during class time. I suspect it’s the latter since it’s been going on for so long. Apparently they arent’t very big and look a lot like tiddly winks markers.

Show me a third grader who can keep something bright and shiny in their pockets for longer than five minutes and I’ll show you a kid who is probably in a coma. I can sympathize with a teacher who has to spend precious class time getting the kids to put away their new toys and pay attention. I just might get a little frazzled myself.

Naturally the kid’s parents have contacted a law firm and are demanding an apology. Ok, here’s my take on this based on the little I know. And after some Googling I can only find the story on other faith based websites.

This has been going on for over a year, so the kids were what, second and third graders when it started? I really doubt if this was their idea, so it goes back to the parents. They’re the ones who bought the coins. They’re the ones who sent their kids out to “evangelize” their classmates,

I gotta tell you, if I was the parent of one of those classmates I’d be royally pissed. These kids are what eight, nine, ten years old? It’s my right to decide what my kids (if I had any) are exposed to when it comes to religion. It certainly isn’t yours. If it was high school I’d probably feel a little differently. At the least the kids would be old enough to have, maybe, made the decision on their own and their classmates would have enough maturity to say yes or no and have it be their decision.

Another glowing example of in your face fundamentalism. Pushing, pushing always pushing until someone pushes back and you can claim you’re being persecuted. Anything for a headline.


Ran across this fascinating article on the Alternet website.The fundies are losing the kids and at the rate things are going there’ll be more atheists and agnostics than self identifying Christians. And they're losing them because they keep insisting on trying to force their beliefs on those who don't share them. Just keep pushing. Just keep pushing. 

Unlike the Alternet article I don't see a time when Christians are reduced to meeting in secret and drawing a picture of a fish in the sand. I do see a time when the majority will be some kind of hybrid between some basic non trinitarian Christian beliefs and some neopagan practice. Preferably without the in your face my way or the highway zealot attitudes. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

HOW SCIENCE WORKS PART 2

Caution mini rant ahead. 

The Creationists strike again. At least a few of them. The newest schtick? Demanding that Cosmos offer them equal time to refute evolution. It's not like the episodes aren't complete so that extras can be added. I guess they could buy commercial time to present their "side" of the story. After all it's only fair. Right? 

Well, the fairness doctrine got dumped more than a few years ago and that only covered news stories anyway. Seeing as how Cosmos isn’t news program AND the episodes have already been completed I guess the folks from Answers in Genesis are SOL.

If you want to present your flat earth, off the wall ideas then do what the producers of Cosmos did. Line up a producer, get the financing, get your shit together, make your own series and see if you can get anyone besides TBN, CBN, EWTN or the Mormon channel to carry it. If you don’t recognize the station designations, don’t feel bad. You probably don’t watch them anyway.

Dr. Falkner really is an astronomer. But after reading his entry in the Creation Wiki I’m not sure that he understands, even though he’s a professor emeritus that he really understands how science works.

“I’m really concerned with people who put that much faith in the big bang. It is the overwhelmingly dominant model, and they’ve had a few impressive predictions, like the background radiation. But it has many problems—they keep changing the model to make it fit the data we have. As a Christian, my biggest concern is that it doesn’t agree at all with the Genesis account of how the world came to be, and my big concern is that when you make that the fingerprint of God, as it were, then when the big bang is discarded, what does that do to Christianity? “

Daniel Falkner and yes, he has the degrees. It's not a matter of faith. It's the best explanations we have at this time for how the observable universe works. Who knows how that explanation might change in fifty years. A hundred years. Or a thousand years from now. 

Back in the dark ages when I took Chemistry and senior science high school, biology in college and enough anthro classes to choke a small horse I was taught that you observed the natural world. If there was something you didn’t understand you came up with a possible explanation, a hypothesis. Then you tried to design an experiment to prove or disprove that hypothesis. Then you submitted your work to other scientists and they tried to duplicate your work. If they can’t, then it’s back to the drawing board. If they can, you come up with a theory to cover the information you’ve discovered.

You do the best you can with the information you can discover at the time with the available information and equipment. Who knows five, ten, twenty, fifty years down the road someone will add to the work. Then maybe fifty years later someone else will add to it again. That’s how science works.

You most definitely do not start with the Bible, the Koran or the Torah. And you don’t finish with them either,.




Saturday, March 22, 2014

HOW SCIENCE WORKS


Carl Sagan on how science works. Through observation and experiment. Observations that can be verified through experiment. Experiments that can be presented to other scientists and if necessary repeated obtaining the same results.

MAYBE I'D LEAVE THE ATHEISTS HOME TOO

I've read comments on the net from folks claiming to be atheists and they can be as militant as the most determined Southern Baptist or Pentecostal. So, it would probably best to leave the atheists at home too. I have to admire an honest agnostic like Bart Ehrman. He's done the reading. He's done the teaching. He's done the thinking. And at this point he's just not sure what he's willing to swear to right now. At least someone with that mind set might be willing to take the time to find out where the alien is coming from.

As I mentioned before I ran across a review of Pale Blue Dot that took Sagan to task for suggesting that we could terraform other worlds as long as that didn't have native life forms. Presumptuous. Arrogant. And so on and so forth. I noticed that the reviewer (apparently Catholic) had no problem with sending communities of colonizers with both lay and clerical members. And we know how well that worked here on the home planet. Just ask the spirits of the exterminated tribes what happened when the bearers of the cross or crescent came to their homelands.

Friday, March 21, 2014

NOT FOR EXPORT

The following opinions are purely personal. 

I’ve been slowly working my way through Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and knocking out James Michener’s Poland in record time.

I don’t know when or if it will happen but someday we will send human beings into space. There’s one thing I’m absolutely sure of. Under no circumstances should we allow followers of Judeo/Christian/Islamic religion to leave this planet. Make up the crews from atheists, pagans or even Buddhists, but there are very few of the others that I would trust to make contact with an alien civilization unless they’re willing to admit that the revelations we’ve received on this planet are unique to this planet.

If this universe has a universal God/dess working behind the scenes I’m assuming that each populated world (if there are any) would receive a revelation unique to that world. Any attempt on our part to interfere with that would be arrogant, sacrilegious and in the end probably self defeating since it’s probably going to be centuries before we can send out ships that can carry more than a minimum crew.

I’d like to assume that non militant atheists and agnostics would have the good sense to keep their mouths shut until they understood the lay of the new land. And I include nominally atheist philosophies such as communism on the list. Neopagans would probably also hold off until they’d had a chance to open themselves to any spirits native to the new world. If those spirits chose to reveal themselves. And Buddhists are by definition non theistic. I’m not sure how well Nirvana might translate into an alien world but it might just travel better than our traditional monotheistic religious groups.

I mean we’ve done such a fantastic job of respecting the beliefs of our neighbors here on earth. Michener’s first four chapters deal with threats of invasion of the Polish/Lithuanian state from four directions. Tatars from the east. The Teutonic Knights from Germany in the west. The Swedes from the North and the Muslim Ottomans from the south. Ironically it was their fellow Christians that were the worst enemies. Especially the Swedes.  It was the mid seventeenth century and Sweden was not only Lutheran but fanatically Lutheran.

The invading forces swore to leave no Papist alive. And they did their damndest to carry that out. Poland was out gunned and out generaled. Castles that were built to withstand the sieges of the last century were helpless against the new artillery. And when the castles fell, when the cities and villages fell no quarter was given. Men, women, children, babes in arms were slaughtered.

At least the Tatars didn’t hold anything against farmers; except for the almost universal contempt that nomads had for farmers. Once the population had been terrified into submission it was “pay your taxes, deliver your tribute, send your conscripts when needed and we’ll pretty much leave you alone.” There was no effort to interfere with religious beliefs or convert the conquered population to whatever religion the conquerors followed.


Look at our history.  I do not want to see that history repeated on other worlds.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

IN OUR IMAGE?

Carl Sagan really knew how the illuminate our prejudices.



This picture was taken last year by the Cassini space probe. That little dot below Saturn's rings is the earth. Carl Sagan's pale blue dot. Yeah, we're the center of the universe all right.

“This conceit is brought close to culmination in the notion that we are created in God’s image: The Creator and Ruler of the entire Universe looks just like me. My, what a coincidence! How convenient and satisfying! The sixth-century-B.C.  Greek philosopher Xenophanes understood the arrogance of this perspective:


‘The Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair…Yes, and if oxen and horses or lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen….’

Such attitudes were once described as ‘provincial’ - the na├»ve expectation that the political hierarchies and social conventions of an obscure province extend to a vast empire composed of many different traditions and cultures; that the familiar boondocks, our boondocks, are the center of the world. The country bumpkins know almost nothing about what else is possible. They fail to grasp the insignificance of their province or the diversity of the Empire. With ease, they apply their own standards and customs to the rest of the planet. But plopped down in Vienna, say, or Hamburg, or New York ruefully they recognize how limited their perspective has been. The become “deprovincialized.’

Modern Science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” Carl Sagan in The Pale Blue Dot.

Ah, Carl. To bad you passed beyond the veil between the worlds far too soon. We could certainly use your unique ability to illuminate pure, unmitigated willful ignorance and almost criminal idiocy.

Unfortunately we have plenty of boondockers in this country. Unfortunately, instead of realizing their provincialism when confronted with the country outside their little backward corner of the country they don’t deprovincialize. They insist that the rest of us conform to the prejudices they brought with them out of the back country. They need to be reminded that this is the twenty first century not the first, seventeenth or the nineteenth century and that the rest of us refuse to pretend otherwise.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

WHERE ARE THEY?

Found this on a FB link about a teensey, weensy snafu at an Oklahoma TV station. Somehow the fifteen seconds referring to human evolution in the first new Cosmos episode went missing. Supposedly through human error, that fifteen seconds about human evolution, got blipped out by a news promo. Yeah right. I really believe that happened.

Anyway the comment section on FB was, shall we day, illuminating. And more than a few of those comment were staggering in their profound stupidity. Yeah, that's kind of rude. I’m tired of playing nice in the sand box with the willfully ignorant. Don't you just love the folks that dis science? They can't write a readable sentence, They can't spell. It's obvious they have no idea how science is done. But, they're right willing to tell the rest of us we don't know what we're talking about. Here's one of the more coherent ones. 

NO PROOF FOR APE TO MAN EVOLUTION. BONES HAVE BEEN PROVEN TO BE OF A TRUE APE, OR A MAN

The evolutionists claim that man came from apes, & have collected fossil “evidence,” to prove it, right? Wrong! The fossil evidence that they have are either man or ape, not an intermediate species.There is no common ancestor of both man & ape (missing link).”

I'm tempted to do an entry one of these days on just how hard it is to end up as a fossil. Not only to become fossilized but to have that fossil survive and then be found by somebody who knows what he/she is looking at. Oh well, that's for another time. 

Well, gee. You won’t find the evidence because that’s not what happened. There is a common ancestor. One branch led to gorillas, another to chimps, another to gibbons and another to us. Which led to this charming graphic.


Earth to whoever came up with this. There never have been millions of apes. And until very recently, when agriculture was invented, there weren’t millions of us, either. As for the ones in the middle? Where are all those early humans? 

Well, they’re dead. Over time they were replaced by other humans that were a little bit smarter, a little bit faster and maybe, just a little bit meaner. But there is some compelling evidence that there was some interbreeding between Neanderthal and what we call modern humans. Scientists have been able to sequence Neanderthal DNA. Some modern human populations carry Neanderthal genes. 

You know the real kicker? All those now extinct humans, including the Neanderthals,  lived on earth longer than Homo (pseudo)  Sapiens. There seems to be crucial difference between us and our mostly long gone ancestors. 

We have the capability to destroy not only our cousins the trees and every other living thing on this planet, but ourselves as well. Now, that’s something to be (not) proud of. 

Oddly enough that particular entry allowed individuals to comment but didn't allow us to comment on other comments. Too bad. I'd have loved to give this guy an answer. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

SCIENCE AND RELIGION

Article on Huffington Post about a survey on the compatibility of science and religion. I'm not sure if the term religion should be used. Faith might be better since I refuse to be stuck in a box anymore. From the article"

"Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, was even more dismissive. In an email to The Huffington Post, he called the survey's findings "irrelevant," adding that "science itself is incompatible with the scriptures and doctrines of all the world's religions... It is all well and good to say that scientists and evangelicals can work together toward common goals, like preserving the planet etc., but ultimately those goals will in the end illuminate a universe that has nothing to do with the revelations of the Bible, and should rationally lead to a world where religious myths disappear."

If Krauss seems eager for less religion, the survey respondents seem to be looking for more. In fact, 60 percent of the Protestants surveyed--and 38 percent of all people surveyed--indicated a belief that scientists "should be open to considering miracles in their theories or explanations."

Now I don't necessarily agree with Dr. Krauss. If you have come to believe that the universe and God/dess are one and the same then there are no myths that need to disappear. If you insist that your particular "holy" book has to be taken literally and used as a science text book? Then "Houston, we have a problem" and the sooner those mythsend up in the trash heap of history the better.

As for the miracles. That's not how science is done. By definition science starts with a hypothesis. The hypothesis is verified or disproved by an experiment or series of experiments that can be repeated by other researchers. Miracles, by definition are one offs. You can't set up an experiment to verify the results of a miracle. It may have happened but it's not science.

I'm not sure how biology classes are run since I was in high school. We didn't do much experimental work in my high school biology class. It wasn't until chemistry in junior year that we were introduced to the idea of the experimental scientific method. And biology was a required class for everybody. Chemistry was an elective. So, given a non experimental biology program that is the end of the science requirements it's possible for a student to get through high school and know almost nothing about how experimental science works. Too bad.

EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN

Ok. I know exactly zip about the cartoon universe of My Little Pony. Back when I was watching cartoons we had Woody Woodpecker, Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry. I guess it’s aimed at little girls, but some boys like it too. Which leads to this story. And a lot of comments that blame the kid for bringing the gear, not the other way around. 

Lucky me, when I was in school we took our lunches in paper bags and the only clothes that had labels on them were Levi’s jeans. No Care Bears t shirts. No Spiderman. No Incredible Hulks. No Duck Dynasty. Man was I deprived. LOL

If there were tensions in town I wasn’t aware of them. But, I’m also pretty politically tone deaf so my impressions probably can’t really be trusted. This was a logging town. White collar were the guys running the mill, one or two lawyers, four doctors, several ministers, the teachers and school administrators. Everybody else pretty much worked the cutting crews, drove the trucks and worked at the mill.

The comments on this story ran heavy to kids pick on other kids and they always have. That may be true but I certainly don’t remember kicking, hitting or shoving. And I wonder how much of this behavior can be tracked back the rise of the media culture since, say the nineties.

I used to watch talk shows. I went through college with Mike Douglas, Phil Donahue and Dick Cavett. We occasionally watched Meet the Press; shows like that. But, the biggest difference I can think of is that guests were actually allowed to finish a sentence. Nobody shouted at each other. You were not only allowed to finish a sentence, you could even get through an entire paragraph.

I know it’s scripted but how many of us just said the hell with it as the current genre of talk shows gained traction. Hmmm. Shouting, interrupting, putting people down; sounds a lot like bullying to me. The great RL has made an entire career out of being a bully. Anne Coulter and her ilk aren’t any better. The last election cycle was damned embarrassing and the next one doesn’t look any better.

How many of these kids see bullying behavior at home. How many hours a week of so called entertainment models the kind of behavior that would have gotten me grounded until graduation if I didn’t clean up my act.  
Blaming the kid for bringing his lunch sack to school for his being bullied isn’t much better than telling a woman “if you hadn’t gone to that bar…” “if you hadn’t been in that part of town...” if you hadn’t had those drinks…”

Maybe that old saw about “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten” really is true. At least from when I was a kid. We learned we didn’t shove people. We learned we didn’t hit  people. We learned we didn’t shout at people or call them names. So what the kids being taught now? And how much good does it do to teach them these things in kindergarten if the kid sees exactly the opposite at home.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

PREACHING TO THE CHOIR

There’s a new book out, Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give you the Right to tell Other People What to Do by Robert Boston. And Salon has a lovely article ALL about it.  Kudos to Salon. Too bad the folks who really need to read it won't. And if they did, they wouldn't think it applied to them. Deceptions of the Devil and all that. 

Whoopie. Yippee Skippee. Hallelujah. And so on. Glad he wrote the book. I MAY even buy a copy when the used price comes down. Or not. My to be read before the end of the decade pile is in danger of tipping over and taking out a cat now. Problem is he’s preaching to the choir. The folks who agree with him are the ones who will be buying the book. We may even convince progressive and/or reasonably liberal Christians, Muslims and Jews to buy and read the book. Too bad we already believe this and are just happy to find all the arguments to support our beliefs in one convenient, easy to access package. 

Now if we could just convince the people who really need to read this book and take it to heart to buy it; read it, then follow through on what he says. I have a big blank picture of the results when we try to go through the author’s list of proofs of how religion actually receives a shit load of preferential treatment in the this country. "Well, of course we do. We're entitled to it because..."

If you believe that the religious freedoms of the majority of Americans are under attack, by all means get a copy and share it with your friends. If you belong to a Christian/pagan hybrid group that doesn't automatically get wheelbarrow full of tax exemptions (and would really prefer that some of your neighbors didn't get a look at your bookshelves) definitely read the book and pass it around.

We hear periodic calls from the Looney Tunes on the right that it’s time for a “New America Revolution.” Guess what guys just keep pushing and you just might discover that you aren't the only ones starting to believe that a second revolution might be needed.

What? YOU thought you were the only ones who are coming around to the idea that the country is going to hell in a hand basket, but for totally different reasons? Just keep pushing. Just keep pushing. Better watch out for the push back. Or better still be prepared to slide into total oblivion and irrelevance as we ignore you while we try to undo the damage you've caused and work towards building a world fit to live in. With or without your help.

Because as I said a couple of posts back. I don't really care what you think or believe anymore. I'm not going to waste energy trying to convince you you're wrong because I can't. It wouldn't matter how many Bible verses I could come up with to counter yours. All I can do is work to minimize and undo the damage you've already done. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

DON'T CALL YOURSELVES PRO LIFE UNLESS

Personal observations on the so called “pro” life movement or as I prefer to call some of them; fetus worshipers. Actually more like zygote worshipers. Once that fertilized egg implants it's on its own. 

Unless you’re willing to ensure that not only the mother but both parents have access to medical care, adequate food, housing and a job or jobs that allow a reasonable standard of living. I’m not talking luxury here, folks. A roof that doesn’t leak. No extra multilegged tenants. Fairly unfucked up food. Clean water and not too many drafts around the windows and doors.

And work to build a planet fit to bring a child into. Throw away those war drums. Read a damn history book. Russia was an empire while we were still arguing with the Brits over taxes. Some Russians and some Ukrainians hate each others guts. It’s been that way for decades if not centuries. The last time that part of the world ran it's own affairs was over a thousand years ago when first Novgorod and then Kiev were the centers for what became the southern branch of the Rus. That went south a long time ago and the area has been ruled by or paid tribute to everyone from the Mongols, to the Lithuanians, the Poles and finally Imperial Russia and the USSR. They’re going to have to work it out for themselves Unfortunately both sides probably have access to nukes. God/dess help us.

Stop carving the tops off mountains to get at the coal and dumping the waste into somebody else’s drinking water. While we’re at it quit using fresh water to frack for oil and natural gas that will be sold overseas. Quit trying to turn large parts of this country into what amounts to a world sacrifice zone. As in Peabody and the Koch’s get their profits. Asia gets the energy and the primary pollution. We get what rides the jet stream and the shaft.


So, unless you’re willing to build a world FIT for humans, all humans to live in admit to yourselves and the rest of us that this has nothing to do with life and everything to do with control. Your control of access to food, water, medical care, the vote; everything our ancestors fought for. And it looks like we'll have to fight for it all over again.

What? Did you think you were the only ones who might start thinking it just might be time for another American Revolution?   

Friday, March 14, 2014

SPIRITUAL EXHAUSTION

It's turning out to be that kind of a day. I wonder how the Bachmanns, Palins, Huckabees, Limbaughs, Becks, and Santorums of this country would react if our response to their religious polemics was a hearty "I don't give a damn what you believe because I don't share those beliefs and I refuse to bow down to them." And if you try to impose them on me I'll fight you. Oh and try this. Tell them Jesus wasn't a Christian and watch their head explode.

In a kind of a sad way I get a kick out of reading progressive oriented Christians that are trying to find a way to salvage the faith and undo the damage done by the fundagelicals over the last thirty years or so. Make that the last thousand years or so. You know what I've discovered? I don’t care.  I really don’t. The Quaker path speaks to me, but not fully. Celtic spirituality oriented towards the Druids and/or shamanism speaks to me. But, again, not fully. Fortunately there are some brave hybrid souls who have started to clear a path for the rest of us. Check out Quaker Pagan Reflections or Under the Oak. The links are on the sidebar. Especially Under the Oak. It’s a Patheos sponsored website to there will be other sites that might be interesting. The Wild Hunt website has some good information too, technical, but good. 

And the folks who came up with nothing better than “spiritual but not religious” to cover everybody who doesn't fit in their neat little categories can take that term and stick where the sun doesn't shine. Anybody asks me where my spirit is right now is  going to get a, hopefully polite, invitation to mind their own business. Because, now listen very carefully, it really is none of your business. And fortunately, for now at least, Caesar is no longer in the business ensuring my attendance of any worship service, anywhere at anytime. To the Madisons, Adams, Jeffersons, Henry’s of the founding generation; I raise my glass of nice, fresh apple cider in a hale and hearty “thank you.’

You mind your business. I’ll mind mine. And if your “business” interferes with mine I’ll fight you root, twig and branch. I will not be polite about it. That really is the biggest part of the problem isn't it? Most of us were raised to be courteous even if the other guy is rude, weren't we. Well we don't exactly have to be rude, hopefully. But, a firm, no nonsense "get the hell out of my face, space, life" should be sufficient. They'll be so shocked it might even work. It's not like the fundies are known for their courtesy to rest of us, after all. 

I won’t attempt to cap bible verses with you. Blather on all you want. I do not believe that the moldering collection of scripture is without mistakes. I do not believe the collection is complete. I do not believe in taking those scriptures literally. I do believe that they are a record of human beings trying to find their way through the universe in their lifetimes. And I do not believe that God, the Goddess of some combination thereof stopped speaking to human beings in this lifetime just because a group of religious leaders with their own axes to grind said so.

I refuse to look at the marvelous gift of Creation and see only a set of traps meant to test my faith or lead me astray. What a sorry, fearful view of their Creator the fundies have. Are you sure you haven’t created something in your own image and now claim it to be “god?” And worse insist that I worship it with you. There's the door, don't let it hit you on the way out and that click you hear is me turning the deadbolt. 

The short version? Your right to swing your religious weight around ends at my bonfire, medicine wheel, dream catcher, unfinished reading list. And the sooner the fundgelicals realize that the rest of us not only won’t put up with their crap, we actually don't care anymore and aren't coming out to play,  the happier most of us will be.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

OUR PLACE IN THE COSMOS







































I found this spectacular mountain shot on the web, but the mountains weren't identified. I'm assuming they're either in the Himalayas or the Andes. If you can get a sense of wonder and grandeur from a photo of those peaks, imagine what you'd feel if you were actually THERE. Anyway they seemed a good match for the Sagan quote.

Yeah, you can feel a bit like a Mayfly when you consider the unimaginable length of time from the Big Bang to now. But, also consider how many plants and animal species didn't survive. We're standing here. We survived and that's something. That's really something.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

THE IRISH AND EUROPE


I've been trying to find a way to post this map. It's from How the Irish Saved Civilization. The map shows the path the Irish monks took over the centuries planting monasteries as they went. Through Northern England, down what became eastern France, central Germany, Switzerland and down to the heel of the Italian boot. Bobbio is just bit north of Assisi. And we know who came from there. They took with them the Celtic view of the world. That Creation is sacred because God/dess or the Gods created it. That we humans share that sacred Creation with the bacteria, the fish, the trees and the chimpanzees. 

It's long past time to jettison the dominant definition of Christianity for the Celtic/Saint Francis view of the world. One that leaves room for the rest of creation. That this Pale Blue Dot as Sagan called it is special because it's part of Creation.




































I've been trying to find a way to post this map. It's from

PASSING FACE PALM APPROACHING FULL MELT DOWN

Between politics, crap like this and some stories about rape/shaming culture in certain fundie colleges in this country I was just about ready do somebody some serious injury last night. So I wrote it out instead of punching it out. 

“I rented the 13 episode series after having watched a portion on PBS, thinking that it seemed like a good watch. How wrong I was. This is nothing more than a New Age brainwashing series. The music, often Vangelis, repeating the same things over and over, does nothing but brainwash and dumb the viewer. The overall purpose of the video series is a "science as religion" infommercial (and perhaps a means of self-worship -- he seems to enjoy the sound of his own voice). Sagan, as it should by now now be widely known, himself engaged in his fair share of pseudoscience. He is best described as a sci-fi writer pretending to be a scientist. By accusing others of pseudoscience, he was able to divert attention away from his own pseudoscience because clearly, anyone accusing anyone else of something can't possibly be doing the same thing. That would be hypocritical! And, after almost 30 years, the tapes still sell for this ridiculous price. Save yourself the time and/or money and restrict yourself to series about real science. This is in the same league as "What the bleep do we know?", judging by the trailers and clips of the latter.

This is a review of the original Cosmos series I stumbled over on Amazon. I do love the one star reviews. In a back handed, how can anybody be so freakin’ braindead in the 21st century sort of way.

One the reviewer doesn’t tell us how much of the series he/she actually watched. I’m guessing just enough to trigger the inbuilt fundie meter. I gathered enough from the other reviews to suspect we might be dealing with some kind of “theology” student here.

Anyway, typical fundie bashing of anyone they don’t agree with. Beginning with, drum roll please.

“New Age propaganda.” New Age as defined by Webster: n eclectic group of cultural attitudes arising in late 20th century Western society that are adapted from those of a variety of ancient and modern cultures, that emphasize beliefs (as reincarnation, holism, pantheism, and occultism) outside the mainstream, and that advance alternative approaches to spirituality, right living, and health. If this mindless twit had bothered to actually watch the series he/she would have discovered that Carl Sagan was about as New Age as my mother. He doesn’t mention reincarnation, had no patience with the occult, astrology or the UFO cult of the times. He doesn’t discount the possibility of extra terrestrial life. Just that we’ve been visited recently. Or any time for that matter.

Geez, what do you have against Vangelis? The soundtrack also includes other “New Age” brain washers such as Vivaldi, Bach, Pachelbel and Rimsky Korsokoff.

Science as religion. Excuse me while I go take forty turns around the yard to cool off. Science is just that science. And Sagan did spend a fair amount of time over the course of the series lamenting what we’ve lost in the fires of history. And libraries.

“loves the sound of his own voice.” Yo, Spam for brains (sorry for insulting a perfectly useful if calorie and salt laden lunch meat) he’s the narrator for cryin’ out loud. The programs are his personal opinions so there are very few other talking heads involved. I guess he could have collected a bunch of slides, put labels on them and did a thirteen hour slide show. 

“A pseudo scientist pretending to be a scientist.” Face palm, head bounce, ear splitting scream. Two bachelors, a master’s and a PhD. Taught in California, at Harvard and Cornell. He participated in several space missions through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I mean how much MORE DO YOU WANT!!!. I have at least four of his essay collections upstairs. They’re probably pretty dog eared by now. He did write ONE novel. Contact, which I haven’t read. Saw the move though. It was cool. Known as a science fiction writer pretending to be a scientist????? Are we even on the same planet?

I suspect that the so called pseudo science in question is Sagan’s thorough going, passionate defense of the Theory of Evolution. And I do mean passionate. He spent at least ten minutes in the second episode waxing near poetic over the shared ancestry of bacteria, fish, trees…and us. And I just rewatched the third episode. I suspect the other "pseudoscience" is climate change. Sagan was ringing the alarm bells back in 1980. 

This is a prime example of the mountains of crap we have to put up with as we try to too many of our fellow citizens kicking, screaming and shouting at the top of their lungs out of the Dark Ages and into the future. Can’t stop now there’s too damn much to lose.

 And please excuse the caps and extra punctuation, but I passed pissed off yesterday and am rapidly heading into ballistic territory.


One consolation out of thirty six comments on this, ninety five percent were of the “bro, what HAVE you been smoking” variety. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

NEW BLOG ON THE SIDEBAR

I discovered a new blog today through the Patheos website. It's called Defeating the Dragons. The author has been attempting the highlight the so called "purity" culture at Pensacola Christian College in Florida. For purity basically read rape/abuse culture with the pressure on women to keep quiet for fear of being disciplined and/or expelled if you report being raped, harassed, ect. She's had several good entries and not just on Pensacola. Geez, I thought Fascinating Womanhood got left behind in the eighties. Apparently it hasn't. I highly recommend this one.

Probably more than several but I've only had time to read back to mid February today. I'm looking forward to learning more.

COSMOS REVISITED

A generation ago Carl Sagan did Cosmos. This weekend Neil deGrasse Tyson started the presentation of an updated version. I’m not sure how many episodes they have planned. The original ran for thirteen episodes.

The new one was bright and shiny. There’s been a lot of progress since 1980. The images from Hubble. The Mars Rovers. And a lot of non progress too. Which might be why Dr. Tyson lead off with the story of Griodano Bruno in his version. While Bruno is portrayed as a martyr for his scientific beliefs he was actually condemned more for his perceived heretical beliefs on matters of doctrine. Apparently he wasn't with the program when it came to the divinity of Jesus, transubstantiation, the trinity and the perpetual virginity of Mary. The beliefs he may have had about the position of the earth relative to the sun and whether other planetary systems existed outside of our own played a small part in his condemnation. 

Perhaps Tyson was trying to get his science vs. religious fundamentalist idiocy licks in early in the game. But one thing that Carl Sagan was know for was his attempts to be very exact it what he said and wrote. That said, Sagan certainly didn't face the organized opposition to science that has grown like a patch of poisonous mushrooms in the lst ten or fifteen years. Showcasing good science is a place to start. Calling the fundies for their almost criminal ignorance may be rude but it's becoming increasingly necessary. I can put up with a lot but willful ignorance doesn't make the cut. 

Sagan’s first episode showcased one of the most elegant math solutions of all time; the story of Eratosthenes, the village of Syene and the libraries of Alexandria. He was a third century scientist and mathematician who calculated the circumference of the earth based on information he received about what happens in Syene on the day of the summer solstice. There were no shadows cast by the columns at noon and the sun appeared in the water of the village well while in Alexandria the shadows cast were approximately seven degrees.


Given the distance between Syene and Alexandria and the angle of the shadows he calculated the circumference of the earth at approximately forty thousand kilometers. Very accurate given the tools he had to work with. Look what you can do with sticks, strings, feet and basic geometry. 

So, I will watch the new series with interest, and reserve judgement on making comparisons on with the original. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

FACE PALM-RAND PAUL UKRAINE EDITION

Another Face Palm moment. Rand Paul of Kentucky won the CPAC presidential straw poll this weekend and he has a solution to the crisis in Ukraine. To borrow from someone who shall remain nameless, it’s “Drill Baby, drill.” Especially for natural gas so we can export it to Europe and break the Russian monopoly.

Where to start. By the time anything comes on line Ukraine will either have reached a truce with the Russians or will be back in the Russian orbit. Whatever happens it will be painful. There’s a lot of bad blood, bad history, pride and politics laying between those countries. They don’t exactly hate each others innards but it’s a close run thing.

To top it off  various sections of the Ukraine has spent most of the last thousand years belonging to someone else. They’re a proud people and they do deserve a chance to carve out something resembling an independent destiny. However. If say Mexico went off the rails and decided to build a socialized economy resembling the revolution in Nicaragua just how far do you think they’d be allowed to go.

One of the reasons we’re having immigration problems now is that no one wants to admit that allowing Mexicans to work in this country and send money home was one way of propping up a semi dictatorship south of the border. And that worked out so well for us.

Anyway, back to natural gas and eastern Europe. We do not have a state run energy industry in this country. Outside of the Strategic Reserve it’s a “free market” economy. Our companies sell to the highest bidder. And right now the highest bidders with the easiest to reach customers are in Asia, not Europe.

The Ukraine is trying to come out of it’s third recession since the mid 2000’s. So, how they going to pay for that gas and oil?  Our companies aren’t going to give it away and I doubt if they’ll take grain, sugar beets and manufactured products in trade.

And if they manage to pay for it, how are we going to get it to them. There is a pipeline network originating in Russia. Somehow I don’t think it’s set up to pipe products into Ukraine from the west. “Hey, Vlad. We’d like to borrow your pipelines for several hours a day.” Big blank picture of that happening.

That leaves tankering the gas through the Med into the Black Sea. Can we even move that much natural gas at this time? The export facilities in this country are still on the drawing boards in this country. For some peculiar reason many port cities don’t want liquefied natural gas facilities. I can’t imagine why. I mean the energy industry has been doing such a sterling job monitoring pollution and transportation safety. What’s the problem? Yeah, I thought so.

And finally. I’m sure that the Russians are just going to stand by twiddling their thumbs as tanker after tanker of natural gas and oil offloads right under their noses. Yeah, I thought so.

So as usual the speech is meant to galvanize the “base.” Said base probably couldn’t find the Ukraine on a map with a compass, telescope, GPS, seeing eye dog and a great big red arrow titled “this is the Ukraine.”  Face palm, head desk, loud raspberry.


Almost done, finally, with Russia and the Russians. Unless Russia has really changed how they run their economy since the Soviet Union collapsed I'm not sure how long they can keep up their great power pretensions. And from the accusations of oligarchy, corruption and favoritism is guessing it hasn't Of course OUR economy isn't exactly smelling a rose either one you get past the stock market so our great power pretensions may not be looking so good either. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A LONG WAY FROM WHERE WE NEED TO BE

These entries are pretty much me figuring out what might be driving current events. When it comes to geography the US has it so good and doesn't even really realize it. 


In an early episode of World at War there's some footage of the USSR's attempt to conquer Finland at the beginning of the war. Well I could understand keeping the Germans out. That was probably part of it but it turns out that Finland used to be the Grand Duchy of Finland and the Russian Tsar was the Grand Duke. Partly strategic and I suspect partly "it used to be ours and we want it back." Countered with "in your dreams a$$hats." Anyway.

The Russian navy has several fleets. None of them have a straight shot at open water. The oldest is probably the Baltic Fleet. Most of the fleet seems to be headquartered on or near the Gulf of Finland. I’m not sure how many months of the year waters are open. But check out the map. Your ships start out from the bases near Saint Petersburg. Then it’s down the Baltic past territory on both sides that you do not control. Threading past islands, past Sweden, past Denmark and then it’s either the English Channel or into the North Sea heading north around Scotland and Ireland. And finally the North Atlantic and open ocean. Looking at the map it looks like a ship has to travel at least a thousand miles before it can actually do anything. No wonder Russia has spent several hundred years trying to get control of something resembling open ocean with year round ice free ports. And we actually believe that’s changed? NBL. (not bloody likely