Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Man With the Muckrake Now on WordPress

We have packed up our muckrakes and hauled them to WordPress. Stop by and see what information we have dredged out of the swamp, sewers and rivers:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Science: Gene Variant and its Religious Implications

Neuroscientists at UC-Irvine released a study in the journal Cerebral Cortex that says, "People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it - and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.

"This gene variant limits the availability of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor during activity. BDNF keeps memory strong by supporting communication among brain cells and keeping them functioning optimally. When a person is engaged in a particular task, BDNF is secreted in the brain area connected with that activity to help the body respond."

I was wondering if, soon, neuroscientists will announce another break-through in brain-derived neurotrophic factor. I suspect that there exists another 'gene variant' that causes some people to believe in ghosts, dead men walking, angels and voices in their heads. It is clear to me that there must be something going on in the heads of this set of 'believers' which is not going on in the heads of millions of other human beings.

Dr. Steven Cramer, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex, said, "It's as if nature is trying to determine the best approach. If you want to learn a new skill or have had a stroke and need to regenerate brain cells, there's evidence that having the variant is not good.

Here's a question that needs pondering- why did Nature offer the variant in the first place? And, extending my hypothesis, of what benefit to human evolution was/is the 'believer's variant'? Further, of what value to modern-day humans are those who still carry the believer's variant?

With all of the religious wars past and present, how could such a BDNF gene-variant be useful for human existence? How was a belief in the paranormal helpful to furthering the human race? The only idea that comes to mind is that it limits population growth through war. The limit to population growth might be its only saving grace. One might conjure that, in those dark days of prehistory, there was a dog-eat-dog scenario played out among our predecessors in the hunt for food. Perhaps one tribe's "god" became the nemesis to the other tribe, and that offered a reason to attack and kill them off.

The Muslim world, I would suspect, might have a greater number of BDNF belief-gene-variant than most other groups of humans, as adherents to that religious sect seem to be most fervent. Christian fundamentalists and Zionists would, I suppose, also be high on the belief-gene-variant.

Those of us who rank at the bottom of the BDNF belief-gene-variant column have stood, scratching our heads, in wonder at the intense 'religiosity' that we see playing out on the battle fields of the world. We just don't get it. Now, perhaps, we know why. Yet I still do not understand the benefit to humanity of a strong belief-system. As with our appendix, it should have died out long ago, just after the neolithic period.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Thoughts: Afghanistan- Caught Between Two Warring Deities

Today is Veterans Day, a time for Americans to reflect on the sacrifices that our military has made for the citizens of this nation. So many wars to remember; so many deaths to recall. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, First Gulf War, the War on Iraq, and now the Afghanistan War. It makes one wonder, what years did this nation endure without a war going on?

Veterans of the wars from Korea to the present might be wondering if their sacrifice and the ultimate sacrifice of their comrades was worth it. Why did they fight? What was their mission? Why did their president decide to send Americans onto the battle field? Was it really necessary to protect our nation from foreign oppression, from foreign aggression? Did the Communists in North Korea, the Vietcong in Vietnam. or Saddam Hussein in Iraq really threaten our nation? Many now are skeptical of the necessity of those wars.

And now, and for the past 8 years, we find ourselves in Afghanistan fighting the elusive al Qaeda and the religious Muslim fundamentalist Taliban. President Obama has a great weight on his shoulders deciding what he should do about this longest war in which our nation is involved. Public sentiment has turned against our involvement. Of course, it did in Vietnam, yet the president continued the useless involvement.

Afghanistan has turned completely into a war of tribal deities, Christianity vs. Islam. Christian fundamentalist preacher, Pat Robertson, said so two days ago. He said. "And they [Islam] talk about infidels and all this, but the truth is that’s what the game is. So you are dealing with not a religion. You’re dealing with a political system."

Well, no, Rev. Robinson, you're dealing with that other tribal deity, the one that your tribal deity doesn't like. It's all about religion now, since al Qaeda has left Afghanistan and is in many other locations around the world. We are fighting fundamentalist Muslims, period. Is that what our young men and women are giving their lives for? Is a war of religion what America wants? Our European ancestors fled here because of religious wars. Now, we are fighting one.

How very sad, especially on this day when when honor the memories of those brave men and women whose president thought that their lives would help preserve those at home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Birth of Humanity

Last week, PBS aired the first in the 3-part series on evolution. It was fascinating to realize that there were human-like creatures as far back as 3.3 million years ago. An increase in brain size occurred about this time and has never stopped increasing in size or cognitive ability. We are the present end-product of this 3.3 million years of human evolution

Part 2 is Tuesday evening on PBS. The program examines an intriguing theory that long-distance running–our ability to jog–was crucial for the survival of these early hominids. Not only did running help them escape from vicious predators roaming the grasslands, but it also gave them a unique hunting strategy: chasing down prey animals such as deer and antelope to the point of exhaustion. "Birth of Humanity" also probes how, why, and when humans' uniquely long period of childhood and parenting began.

This latter point of a 'uniquely long period of childhood' was touched upon in part 1. In fact, the 3.3 million year old fossil discovered in Africa was that of a 3-year-old. It was noted that its brain had not yet begun to develop [enlarge] just as the human brain takes time to develop. The ape family, on the other hand, have fully-developed brains by the age of three. This is why 'Lucy's Child' began the switch from ape-like to human-like.

It must be quite exciting for a paleoanthropologist to stumble across a valuable fossil like this- just lying atop the rock and sands. It seems with each passing month, scientists uncover one more link to our past, one more incredible example of our epic journey towards 'humanity.'

It is too bad that there is a knot of nihilists both in the Christian and Muslim worlds who deny all of this, cling onto ancient and dusty journals written by men who thought the stars were atop the cloud layer. Oh well, we didn't cry for the demise of the ice man and we shan't for these non-believers. Enjoy part 2 Tuesday evening at 8 PM EST.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"No Weapons Allowed"

I voted a few minutes ago- civic duty you know. But, what greeted me as I entered the building? A sign taped to the door, "NO WEAPONS ALLOWED." Can you imagine that? How un-American! No weapons at the polling place!!

In fact, I said to the nearly-empty room, "I left my shotgun outside!" They all chuckled. Normal people, they.

Yet, I can imagine a similar sign in another place which caused outrage. Teabaggers, them folks.

Clear and Present Danger- Taxes

Rep. Virginia Foxx [R-NC] opened her trap again on the House floor yesterday to claim that taxes are a much greater threat to the security of the United States than al Qaeda and/or other foreign terrorist groups.

Yes, that's what she said. Of course, this old teabag often opens her mouth before engaging her brain, but isn't that exactly the characteristic of the current junta of teabaggers.

Recall that Foxx was one of a handful of Congressmen who voted against the Matthew Shepard Act, claiming that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime. While debating the act at the House of Representatives, which was attended by Matthew Shepard's mother, she called the incident a "very unfortunate incident" but also "we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay". She continued that "It's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing hate crimes bills"

I wonder if there ought to be an additional requirement added to the list for those who seek a seat in Congress. An IQ of three-digits.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Old Math, New Math, Sensate Math

If you went to school in the 40's and 50's, math lessons were not only boring, but often futile for the less-than gifted student. High school was worse because the math teachers were under the impression that, since they 'got' math quite easily, the students should as well. I had some gaud-awful math teachers and, for me, mathematics was an ugly exercise.

In grade school we copied and copied stuff from our workbooks and 'practiced' the rote lessons until our fingers blistered from holding the pencils too tightly. Then we went home and did the same nonsense there for another hour. Memorizing 'facts' was little more than drill and kill. The 'math' lessons were appropriately called arithmetic which might have been useful if we intended to grow up and become shop keepers. For most of us, it was pure boredom and it killed any desire to move on to higher level math.

Thankfully, times have changed for most kids in school today, because teachers, textbooks and curriculum have been updated and math class is truly math, not just arithmetic. I came across a lesson at this LINK that would have been useful to me in 3rd or 4th grade. Rather than rote memory and mounds of practice sheets, this lesson clearly demonstrates the intricacies of mathematics in a relational format that actually makes sense to the student.

Note the subtle algebraic equations that accompany the 'fact families.' Note also the diagrams which begin lessons in geometry. The total set of mathematical relationships are offered to the student in one sitting. Wow! If only I had been born 60 years later, I might have become an aeronautical engineer!

GOP Congressional Ex-Candidate Endorses Democrat in New York

Republican Dede Scozzafava endorsed the Democratic contender for a vacant New York congressional seat over the Conservative backed by Republican leaders one day after she withdrew from the race. Ms. Scozzafava announced yesterday that she is supporting Democrat Bill Owens in his race against Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate, in a Nov. 3 special election in New York’s traditionally Republican 23rd congressional district.

Dede Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman, had been handpicked by local Republican Party leaders and first backed by the national party. But the surge of conservative activists like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh attacking Dede Scozzafava and endorcing Doug Hoffman’s independent bid for the congressional seat, energized his candidacy and money poured into his campaign.

Scozzafava stepped aside Oct. 31 after her lead in polls evaporated. Scozzafava said she was “outspent on both sides” as her fundraising foundered. Upon hearing the latest news, Newt Gingrich said, "How could she have accepted all that support? I'm very, very let down because she told everybody she was a Republican, and she said she was a loyal Republican."

Gingrich now backs Hoffman who had originally sought the Republican nomination, joining the Conservative ticket after his bid failed.

Republicans have just two other seats in New York’s 29 member House delegation. I see this latest trend as being quite telling when the Extreme Members in the Republican Party forces out moderate Republicans. I think that is very telling where the Republican Party is right now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Recovering From Religion

I found an interesting topic and website dedicated to people who have decided that they have had way too much religion in their lives. Recovering Religionists™ is a website that offers the person help in moving away from the religious indoctrination of their youth. It looks like a similar program as AA or CA or any number of other anti-addiction programs that are commonly offered for those who are looking to improve their lives of addiction.

I would not recommend such a program for those who suffer religious OCD, as that is a much more serious syndrome that requires both professional counselling and drug therapy. However, RR sounds like a great first-step for those who have tired of 'religion' and the associated baggage requirement for 'belief.' With the many advances in science and technology, adults in this wired world find it almost laughable that they are required to believe in miracles, ghosts, the undead, blood sacrifices, flying angels, and an invisible God who hovers just above the clouds.

For those wishing to divorce themselves from all of this mumbo-jumbo, RR may be just the place to begin emptying that sack of beliefs that they have been dragging around for many years.

H.Res.870 - Expressing Gratitude for Teabaggers

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) today introduced — along with 75 other Republicans — a resolution to officially commemorate the 9/12 taxpayer march on Washington. Other sponsors of H.R. 870 include Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa.), and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the party’s whip.

The names are all-to familiar to those of us who have been paying attention recently. They are the right-wing nuts sipping tea laced with hallucinogens. Add media comic Glenn Beck to the list, as he claims to be the instigator of the teabagger's get-together.

This brings back terrifying images of those numerous ceremonies when George W. Bush staged 'American Hero' photo ops and hung tin badges around the necks of Donald Rumsfeld, L. Paul Bremer, General Tommy Franks, George Tenet, and neocons Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol- honoring the idiots who brought the specious War on Iraq to our doorsteps.

What is most spurious about the current resolution is the necessity to 'honor' what every American citizen is entitled and encouraged to do- to peacefully and publicly assemble for redress of grievances. The First Amendment.

One could not imagine any Republican support for the millions of protesters of the War on Iraq who gathered on street corners, public squares and at the Capitol. No, not THESE people. The junta that now controls the GOP is self-serving ideologues who are only interested in their narrow agenda, rather than the interests of the citizens in general. This actions smacks of the awful pimping of Terri Schaivo at the hands of the right-wing of the GOP when in March 2005, a bill was passed by the GOP-controlled Congress to 'save the life' of the brain-dead woman. Recall how George Bush, in a carefully staged photo-op by Karl Rove, flew back to Washington from a vacation to sign the bill crafted for one citizen.

The GOP scoundrels are not all gone; many of them linger on. Hopefully, the citizens are more wise now than then, which may account for the plunging support for most things 'Republican.'

Teaching Homosexuality to Children

Crooks and Liars picked up on a fascinating story of an Illinois teacher suspended from his job.

Bigotry is not a natural instinct, it is taught. Homosexuality is as natural as the sun in the sky, but ignorant, hateful people will never accept that fact. The suspension of this high school teacher in Piasa, Illinois is a perfect example of how this hatred and ignorance infests the minds of our children:

Why are some conservative folks so afraid of this stuff? Do you think Logan Murphy, writing at Crooks and Liars, makes a good point. Bigotry is not natural, homosexuality is?

Please leave a comment.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Mysterious Islands': Film Challenges Evolution on 'Ground Zero' of Darwinism

"The Mysterious Islands': New Galapagos Film Challenges Evolution on 'Ground Zero' of Darwinism." That's the headline from the Creationists who 'created' this film to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Darwin's 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. All of Bibleland is abuzz and tickled pink that this new film will be the perfect tonic to allay the fears that this anniversary presupposes. An antidote to atheism, they say.

Back here in the real world, the anniversary is clearly a triumph of scientific investigation. Scientific inquiry, of course, is the wizardry of the Devil to those who 'believe' and who close their eyes, ears and minds to what the science community presents to the free-thinking people of the world.

No doubt the new film, The Mysterious Islands, will run non-stop at that quirky Creationist Museum in the hill country of Kentucky. The Christian Newswire says,

" As the world prepares to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's landmark book, "On the Origin of Species," Vision Forum has unveiled details on a new documentary, filmed on the Galapagos Islands, that debunks the conclusions Darwin reached during his storied trip to this island chain during the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Shot and directed by the award-winning Jon and Andy Erwin of Erwin Brothers Motion Pictures, the 90-minute film, entitled "The Mysterious Islands," is set for release in early November, just weeks prior to the November 24 anniversary date of Darwin's influential book."

"Debunks," they write. It debunks Darwin; debunks science; debunks scientific methodology; debunks paleontologists, archeologists...

debunk: verb: expose while ridiculing; especially of pretentious or false claims and ideas.

False claims and false ideas. Ha! Pardon me while I laugh. OK, I'm in control now. What a hoot! And the filmmaker's claim? The odd life forms found on the Galapagos Islands show God's creativity.


Personally, the Galapagos Islands, Darwin and evolution are quite dear to me. Lo those many decades ago while I was in college, I signed up for a biology course titled, Evolution. It was offered at the large Jesuit University I attended. The professor announced the first day of class that each student would present a theme to the rest of the class. Nervous and muted laughter swept across the classroom. "Who will be first?" the professor queried. No hands. "Someone has to be first and it is an interesting topic: the Galapagos Islands." he said. Oddly, I found my hand shooting up. "Yes sir, see me after class." the professor said, and then went on.

What had I done? How did my hand get raised? I was unaccustomed to speaking and clearly unprepared to give a one hour university lecture on a topic that I did not even understand. Well, actually, it went quite well, if I do say so, and I received applause from my classmates at the end of the slide-show presentation [no Power Point back then].

Of this new film, some 50 years after my debut performance at the university, the article drones on:

"This October and November, Americans and other Westerners will be confronted with an unprecedented onslaught of pro-evolutionary propaganda as the major media and leaders of academia heap praise on Charles Darwin, the patron saint of evolutionism,"

Propaganda, they write. Is that so. Seems to me that the Creationists and fundamentalists have been deluded through propaganda for those 150 years and continue to propagandize generation after generation with their myth-telling to the children. The poor children are always the victims. And they grow up to, naturally, continue the cycle of myth-telling to the next generation. And so it goes.

"New pro-Darwin feature films will be launched, including 'Creation,' a major motion picture produced by atheists and starring an outspoken atheist that will present a negative perspective on the biblical account of origins."

The biblical account of origins. Oh, THAT account. Yes, read that, used to believe it as a child; Santa and the Tooth Fairy as well. Grew up. Turned on my brain, became a free-thinker, became excited about science, and am quite excited with each new scientific discovery that is announced.

"Told through the eyes of 16-year-old Joshua Phillips, "The Mysterious Islands" presents a remarkable quest to Darwin's Eden with Joshua, his father, and a team of scientists and investigators including Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research."

Creation Research? Isn't that an oxymoronical phrase? Imagine, a 16-year-old child of Bible-thumping, church-going parents, telling us that he sees God's creative genius at every turn on that mysterious island. The credibility is astounding!

"Christians look to Jerusalem, Muslims to Mecca, but for the followers of Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Archipelago is the spiritual homeland to their evolutionary faith," Phillips observed. "Our film -- shot on ground-zero of evolutionism -- will be a counter-offensive to the Darwin adulation that blows holes in the conclusions he formed while observing the wonder-filled creatures that inhabit the Galapagos Islands."

Oh, for sure it will, especially to the head-bobbing, brainwashed faithful. Don't miss this film. Check your local fundamentalist church for show times.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Ignorance, he said, the Cross Burnings

President Obama signed the Ryan White Act today, a bill that will fund critical HIV/AIDS treatment and some prevention programs. The House passed it 408-9. One can only imagine the intelligence of the 9 'Nay' members- all Republicans, of course, all Christians. Four from Texas, Wyoming, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina.**

During his pre-signing remarks, with Ryan's mother present, Obama spoke of the ignorance that existed at the time Ryan was diagnosed with the syndrome. He also mentioned that there were cross-burnings, just like the KKK.

When Ryan tried to go back to school 151 of the 360 the students stayed home. Ryan lost his paper route as well, as his customers thought they could get AIDS through the paper. Ryan's mother recalls frequent comments like, "We know you're queer." Ugly ignorant people. The editors and publishers of the Kokomo Tribune, which supported White both editorially and financially, were also called homosexuals and threatened with death for their actions.

Right here in America, just 20 years ago, burning crosses, insulting remarks and death threats. Where did the ignorance and hate come from? Of course, it is not gone here in this nation. Bigots and hateful people still flock to church on Sunday, and write and say hateful things on Tuesday. Many call themselves Christians; Jesus is mocked.

Where are the strongest pockets of fear, ignorance, hate and bigotry against AIDS and homosexuals? Inside of the fundamentalist churches. Yes, right there, but the organ and the choir drown out the hate in their hearts.

** Here are the Christians who voted 'Nay':

Rep. Kevin Brady [TX] Saints Simons and Jude Catholic Church.
Rep. Paul Broun [GA] Prince Avenue Baptist Church
Rep. John J. Duncan [TN] Elder at Eastminster Presbyterian Church
Rep. Jeff Flake [AZ] Mormon
Rep.Louis Buller "Louie" Gohmert, Jr [TX] Green Acres Baptist Church
Rep.Cynthia M. Lummis [WY]Lutheran (L.C.M.S.)
Rep. Ron Paul [TX] Baptist
Rep. Ted Poe [TX] Church of Christ
Rep. Virginia Foxx [NC] Roman Catholic nut case
note: Foxx expressed opposition to the Matthew Shepard Act, claiming that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime. While debating the act at the House of Representatives, which was attended by Matthew Shepard's mother, she called the incident a "very unfortunate incident" but also "we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay". She continued that "It's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing hate crimes bills"

MARCY KAPTUR Under Investigation

"Nearly half the members of a powerful House subcommittee in control of Pentagon spending are under scrutiny by ethics investigators in Congress, who have trained their lens on the relationships between seven panel members and an influential lobbying firm founded by a former Capitol Hill aide. A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the subcommittee members under scrutiny include MARCY

The document obtained by The Post offers the most detailed picture yet of a widening inquiry into the relationships between lawmakers and PMA, a lobbying firm founded by Paul Magliocchetti that has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department. A year ago, the FBI raided PMA's offices and carted away boxes of records dealing with its political donations and the firm's efforts to win congressionally directed funds, known as "earmarks," for clients.

Together, the seven legislators have personally steered more than $200 million in earmarks to clients of the PMA Group in the past two years, and received more than $6.2 million in campaign contributions from PMA and its clients in the past decade, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly and Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The Post reviewed earmark and campaign records and found that the seven had each supported funding for PMA clients and also received donations.

While lawmakers received generous contributions, PMA used its growing influence with the panel over the past decade to become one of the top 10 lobby shops in Washington and took in $114 million in lobbying fees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

Several Hill staffers said they are confused by what appears to be a dual track, with the OCE and the ethics committee simultaneously pursuing similar questions.

Kaptur's spokesman said her office does not understand the duplication but is happy to answer all questions. "The congresswoman has always emphasized openness and transparency, and it almost goes without saying she will continue to cooperate with the OCE and, if it goes to the [ethics committee], with that committee as well," said Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought. "She has nothing to hide."

The article appears in the Washington Post today. Whether or not Kaptur has used
the power of her authority to provide earmarks to a power defense lobbying group
and in exchange receive kickbacks in the form of campaign contributions, this is
just further demonstration of how power corrupts. The continued use of taxpayer
money to benefit themselves has long been prevalent with our long term, for life
politicians. The real question is the influence of Congressional lobbying.
There is only way to change this out of control system of providing earmarks for
campaign contributions, namely, term limits. Moreover, the system will try to
bury these charges, ignore them, and hope people forget about it. Why do we continue to support people who take personal risks with taxpayer money?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Evolution- Becoming Human

Where did we come from? What makes us human? An explosion of recent discoveries sheds light on these questions, and NOVA's comprehensive, three-part special, "Becoming Human," examines what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid relatives.

Part 1, "First Steps," examines the factors that caused us to split from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of "Selam," also known as "Lucy's Child." Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone-embedded fossil. NOVA's cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine, and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million-year-old fossil child. And NOVA takes viewers "inside the skull" to show how our ancestors' brains had begun to change from those of the apes.

Here is a quick video preview.


Fascinating stuff that will surely make the viewer reexamine the Adam and Eve myth. I wonder just how many school children will be tuning in to this NOVA presentation. I know that we regularly watched NOVA with our children, and, as a consequence, hopefully they passed on the love of science to their children.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Damned Federal Law Limiting My Freedoms!

You know, "Freedom isn't free!" And don't you forget, 'We're fighting for your freedoms! "Freedom is on the march!" - George W. Bush

Patriotic lines said by our former president. He got two wars agoing to protect our 'freedoms' but back home in the good old US of A, they are taking my freedoms away. Just today Obama he signed that so-called Hate Crimes Bill. Says that I can't say anything about those homosexuals that's been ruining marriages all over this God fearing land! Just like when we could call them blacks by the 'n' word! They can use our toilets, too, etc.! Says so in the law!!We set them free and now they want to marry my daughter! Theys already passing bills says I can't carry but two weapons at a time, too! More damned taxes ever time I turn around, also. Damned socialist government, just like Hitler as well etc..

Now I got to be nice to them homos, also. Next, they tell me I have to wear pink, I suppose so. Communists! Why we fighting over there and we oughts to be fighting here???!!!

The Maverick Governor Palin Does It Again

A Book Review by Engineer of Knowledge:

With the release of Sarah Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue" not only gives an enlightening, inside look of Sarah Palin’s political success after resigning her position as Governor of Alaska while being investigated for abuse of power, but it is also proving some surprising medical breakthroughs.

The Food and Drug Administration is now considering approving Sarah Palin’s book for some medial uses. The book is not only showing success curing “Chronic Insomnia” sleep disorder, but is also showing much success as a very effective laxative.

Sarah Palin has also made it known that she will accept personal checks for her book when she is selling it out of the trunk of her car so long as the checks are made out to “Ms. Cash!”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Three 'Why Not' Ideas

While listening to the evening news droning on with the same stuff, my right brain kicked in and came up with three ideas that are worth trying. After all, it couldn't get much worse.

The segment on Afghanistan [year 8] showed one of the American troop outposts in the middle of nowhere handing out food to a small village. The people were very happy to receive the packages. Of course they would! Idea #1: Drop Food Not Bombs. How much food could be purchased for the price of one small bomb? A lot, I'd imagine. Well, what about CARE packages with "GIFT OF USA" dropped on villages? The bullets, grenades and bombs don't seem to be winning too many Afghan friends. Food might.

Then there was the story of a man whose CitiBank credit card interest rate was raised to 29.99%. Yes, up from 8% a year ago. CitiBank, the billions-from-Uncle Sam bank screwing the same citizens who saved their sorry asses a year ago. Idea #2: Public Credit Card Burning Ceremonies. Recall the Draft Card burnings of the 1960's? Who knows if that had any effect on policy, but if Americans got together in the centers of town all across the nation, lit a fire, and invited townsfolk to throw their credit card into the inferno, Wall Street bankers might take notice. Even if they don't, one less credit card is good for the consumer.

One other story catching my eye this evening was the one about tight small business credit. It seems that those greedy banks that we bailed out don't want to lend their precious money [our precious money] to small businesses. They have bonuses to pay, you know. Idea #3: Government Loans Directly to Small Businesses. There is TARP money lying around, unused. How about funneling that money to local banks throughout America, earmarked expressly for small business- on the order of FHA home loans in the 1950's. One locally-owned bank in each of the 435 Congressional districts would receive ¼ billion dollars for starters. Paper work and loan distribution by 435 specially trained, local accountants.

Anyone want to add a 'why not' idea to these?

"It's Their War"

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there — a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.

Hoh said he decided to speak out publicly because "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right. "I realize what I'm getting into . . . what people are going to say about me," he said. "I never thought I would be doing this."

Hoh was assigned to research the response to a question asked by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an April visit. Mullen wanted to know why the U.S. military had been operating for years in the Korengal Valley, an isolated spot near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan where a number of Americans had been killed. Hoh concluded that there was no good reason. The people of Korengal didn't want them; the insurgency appeared to have arrived in strength only after the Americans did, and the battle between the two forces had achieved only a bloody stalemate.

Korengal and other areas, he said, taught him "how localized the insurgency was. I didn't realize that a group in this valley here has no connection with an insurgent group two kilometers away." Hundreds, maybe thousands, of groups across Afghanistan, he decided, had few ideological ties to the Taliban but took its money to fight the foreign intruders and maintain their own local power bases.

"That's really what kind of shook me," he said. "I thought it was more nationalistic. But it's localism. I would call it valley-ism."

"but the truth is that the majority" are residents with "loyalties to their families, villages, valleys and to their financial supporters."

Hoh's doubts increased with Afghanistan's Aug. 20 presidential election, marked by low turnout and widespread fraud. He concluded, he said in his resignation letter, that the war "has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency."

With "multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups," he wrote, the insurgency "is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and Nato presence in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified."

This week, Hoh is scheduled to meet with Vice President Biden's foreign policy adviser, Antony Blinken, at Blinken's invitation.

If the United States is to remain in Afghanistan, Hoh said, he would advise a reduction in combat forces.

He also would suggest providing more support for Pakistan, better U.S. communication and propaganda skills to match those of al-Qaeda, and more pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to clean up government corruption — all options being discussed in White House deliberations.

"We want to have some kind of governance there, and we have some obligation for it not to be a bloodbath," Hoh said. "But you have to draw the line somewhere, and say this is their problem to solve."

The foregoing is a letter of complete resignation of a career pentagon officer over
the continued presence of the United States in Afghanistan as published on
He has been actively conjoled by the Obama Administration not to resign with
Holbrooke even offering him a position to keep quiet. Hoh seems to be a man of
principle and can't be bribed for his silence.

Carla Hughes Facing the Death Penalty

CNN reports on the conviction of Carla Hughes.

After about eight hours of deliberations, a jury has found Carla Hughes guilty of two counts of capital murder. Hughes was charged with killing her lover's fiance, Avis Banks, who was five months pregnant.

Prosecutors say Hughes killed Banks and her unborn child. They accused Hughes of fatally shooting, stabbing, and slashing Banks with a knife.

Jurors asked only one question during deliberations: could the prosecution have called Hughes to the stand. The judge sent a note back to the jurors directing them to their jury instructions. Hughes decided not to testify in her own defense during the trial.

This is a very fascinating case, for one reason that a woman could end up on death row in Mississippi. But also for the question of soundness of mind. Could a person do what she did while enjoying soundness of mind? In the midst of such an awful rage, is it possible for someone to understand the difference between right and wrong? Isn't it possible that crimes of passion like this have a built-in temporary insanity?

What's your opinion? What do you think about that decision to not let her testify? Did they think the verdict might be not guilty and she could mess it up by speaking? It makes me wonder what kind of advice she was getting. They must have known which way the jury was leaning and might have benefited from her testimony.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Public Option

It's in there! At last, the possibility of competitive insurance programs for the citizens of this nation. No doubt the right-wing is on fire with the news. Who the hell cares about them, anyway. The just say no collusion!

So it will be an 'opt out' option- a plan that permits an entire state to just say no to insurance competition. Hope that the state of Ohio has brains enough not to do that. Kent Conrad of North Dakota was lured aboard through this opt-out provision because he gets a lot of campaign money from the one insurance company that serves 87% of North Dakotans. I guess they like having one insurance company. Beats me, though.

Will the exemption from the anti-trust laws for insurance be eliminated in this bill? Who gave an exemption to them in the first place? No wonder our citizens go bankrupt from medical costs. So much for democracy, right Mr. Insurance man?

Now we will sit back and watch the Republicans in the House and Senate tell us why giving 'choice' is such a bad thing for this nation. Isn't it ironic that the GOP, the party that always demanded the freedom to choose in the business world, now wants to limit our choices.

The party of nowhere.

Colors of the Oak Openings on an October Afternoon

The Oak Openings of Northwest Ohio is a unique habitat formed from sandy glacial deposits on the edge of what was the precursor of Lake Erie tens of thousands of years ago. As the name suggests, the sandy soil is perfect for many large oak trees as well as scrub bushes and unusual plant species. On this warm and sunny October afternoon, I mounted my bicycle and road through the openings, camera in hand.

Islamic Fundamentalists Don't Like Democracies Either

We all know that Christian fundamentalists here in America don't like our democracy, but the Islamic fundamentalists are a bit more vocal about it. Yesterday in Kabul, there was an anti-democracy rally during which signs like the one here were raised. Reuters reports:

Protesters, claiming foreign forces had burned a copy of Islam’s holiest book during a raid in Maidan Wardak province last week, blocked traffic in Kabul for more than an hour. A spokeswoman for U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said none of their troops were involved in the incident and blamed the Taliban for spreading a false rumor that a copy of the Koran had been burned.

Thick plumes of smoke rose above the crowd as protesters set fire to a large effigy of what they said was U.S. President Barack Obama. “Death to America. Down with Israel,” chanted one man at the rally, which was organized mainly by university students. Others threw stones and clashed with police but no casualties were reported.

“No to democracy. We want just Islam,” said one banner carried by protesters, many of whom shook their fists in the air.

No democracy- just like the Christian fundamentalists working a bit more secretly within this nation of ours. Just in case there are new visitors to this blog and are confused about anti-democratic American fundamentalist Christians, think 'denial of civil rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.' Some fundamentalist Christians here wish to supplant the laws of the Constitution with Mosaic Law. Read my post from Sunday.

The truly sad irony about the fundamentalist movement both here and in Afghanistan is that we Americans just lost another 14 of our military men and women today while fighting the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan.

Dangerous people, fundamentalists. Very dangerous to a democracy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 National Book Festival In Washington D.C.

Every year the Library of Congress puts on the “National Book Festival” on the Mall in Washington DC. For those who do not know, “The Mall” is the grassy area that is surrounded by the Capital, Washington Monument, Jefferson Monument, National Art Gallery, Air and Space Museums, and the rest of the Smithsonian Museums. The tents were set up on the Mall with scores of authors, illustrators and poet’s presentations on the National Mall throughout the day in Children, Teens & Children, Fiction, Mysteries & Thrillers, History & Biography, and Poetry & Prose pavilions. This year it was held on September 26, 2009 and there were authors like John Grisham (A Time To Kill, The Firm, The Associate), Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Message in a Bottle), Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The Brooklyn Bridge, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea), just to name a few. People line up and speak with their favorite authors and get their book’s signed….for free! This was our second year attending and my family just loves this time together and we will do it again next year.

We park the car in the New Carrollton Station in the suburbs of DC and ride the “Metro Light Rail” and get off at the subway stop right at the Mall. It is the perfect “One Day Trip” to leave in the morning and be back home that night to sleep in our own beds.

Now what I really want to get to is that as we got on, sat down in our seats on the Light Rail, this “Poindexter Dweeb” type, wearing a clownish bowtie and vest without a suit jacket with pants that did not match any other piece of his clothing, stepped in our rail car and he was carrying his copy of the Glen Beck book, “Arguing With Idiots” so that everyone would see the cover.

Well it came to me how perfect this scene was pointing out the mind set of the type of people who read, follow, and believe the crap within the hard back covers of those pages. This obvious social reject lemming had found his voice and views within the pages of this extreme spouter of hate.

I then went on to think of those who present the counter side opinions like Bill Moyers, Charlie Rose, Bob Schieffer, George Stephanopoulos, etc. and none have ever dressed up like a Nazi to promote their books, shows, or the basis of their opinions. I want to continue by saying that Poindexter did not get off at the Mall to attend the National Book Festival, nor was Glen Beck invited to speak or sign his book. Poindexter was just making his own personal statement….and the rest of us in society were just laughing once again at his blatant display of stupidity.

Lessons from Michael Moore

My wife, some friends and I saw Michael Moore's film, Capitalism: A Love Story. Not unexpectedly, the theater was mostly empty, but next door, Amelia was well attended. I suppose in this economic and psychologically depressing time, escapism trumps reality.

The film was a review of the economic disaster that has been bubbling dangerously for the past 12 years and which came to a full boil in September 2008. The 'lessons' I walked out with last evening are ones that I already knew- Americans are a gullible lot. That sad truth has been told many times on this blog. The second lesson- Wall Street and its associated banking structures are a worthless parasitical commodity and, in fact, anathema to a fully-functioning democracy.

Tea-baggers, Limbaugh-listeners and Beck-watchers come to mind in lesson one. Many of these Americans are ripe for propagandist infusion. And, oddly, tend to believe in and propagate an economic 'system' which, in fact, acts counter to their own economic situation. The prime example of this was their support in killing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, an act of Congress that kept banks out of the investment markets. Libertarians and right-wingers applauded the efforts of former Senator Phil Gramm to kill that legislation. Of course, this led directly to the home mortgage fiasco and the subsequent failure of many large banks.

How many of the cheerleaders were immune from that disaster? Few if any. Yet, like pre-programmed robots, they called for [shouted!] deregulation so to 'get the government off of our backs.' They and we 'got' just that.

The parasite known as Wall Street with its associated financial institutions has proven to be a toxic and extremely costly cancer on our society. It is a totally unnecessary commodity for a fully-functioning democracy. In fact, I contend that it is worse- it is a plague on a democracy that is meant to corrupt that society. The system operates by taking advantage of the citizens, most especially, the under-educated and naive citizens. One needs only look at the 401 K 'instrument' that was sold as a secure financial tool to guarantee a decent retirement income. Hundreds of millions of Americans now look at their 401 K and see that much of their savings has disappeared. Disappeared into the portfolios of smarter, more adroit investors who took advantage of the minions in this society. That 'great sucking sound' that Ross Perot uttered decades ago was heard in the past few years as 401 K's were emptied into the pockets of the well-to-do.

That is how Wall Street operates- there has to be a small set of winners and a large pool of losers. Gambling, in fact. Yet the perversion is much more insidious. Citizen's homes were stolen. The very life-blood of a middle class democracy, the family home, was gambled away through complex mortgage schemes written by investors who bet on foreclosures. The loss of a job has been a historic fact throughout our history as a nation, but not wholesale loss of homes.

The 'theft' of a person's home through manipulative and deceptive loan practices is tantamount to undermining the very security of this nation. Those who formulated and sold these 'instruments' to unwary citizens are as dangerous as terrorists with bombs. Yet, they continue to go about their ugly business as if nothing had happened.

Worse yet, the tax-payers, the very people who were preyed upon, have given hundreds of billions of their dollars to prop up the people who raped them! It is staggering to know that our tax dollars were given to these filthy institutions who gambled with the savings and homes of the citizens and lost. Yes, they lost and we rewarded them for losing. That fact is stunning!

What other 'business' in this nation has been so generously rewarded for having failed? If there is even more egregious detail to understand and digest, it is this fact- these Wall Street institutions were given the billions of dollars with no strings attached. Correct. No rules, no demands on what they were to do with the money. That piece of the legislation did not appear anywhere in the document. Nada. Of course, the legislation was written with the help of Wall Street executives and former executives including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Foxes guarding the hen house!

What are the citizens to do? Do we throw up our hands and surrender? Do we filp the channel from the news to a sit-com or a ball game? Do we eat more comfort foods and get more obese?

What the hell can the citizens of this democracy do?

Your Local Neighborhood Christian Homophobe

Do you know who your neighborhood homophobe is? There ought to be a registry where one can identify them and know exactly where they live. They are a danger to your children and our democracy. Most are difficult to identify as they appear to be 'normal' citizens, blending in with other neighbors. In fact, these homophobes seem to be loving Christians, often humming Christian tunes and driving off to church services on Sunday mornings and other evenings during the week. They sing in the choir and bring macaroni and cheese casseroles to the pot luck dinners.

Yet they are secretly scanning the audience, looking for gays and lesbians who, they believe, are abominations to God and not worthy of full U.S. citizenship rights. Here's a comment from a Toledo area homophobe who runs the best homophobic blog in the area:

People writing the constitution never dreamed we'd be letting men marry men and women, women. These two-somes are unnatural --and unnecessary and hazardous to health of body, mind, and the future of civilization, families and nations.

Of course, people writing the Constitution never dreamed of women voting and blacks being free citizens. They also never wrote a single word referring to marriage, either. The homophobic and oh-so righteous christian woman who penned the words above, is a clear and present danger to this nation- like most fundamentalists around the world. Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, work hard to infuse their religious beliefs into the laws of the nation. The Taliban comes to mind. We have American military men and women fighting and dying to keep these fundamentalists from usurping political power and denying basic rights to its citizens.

As with the Taliban in Afghanistan, identifying fundamentalists is difficult, as they blend in well in society. They seem so, well, American, yet, beneath the facade, they have the same agenda as the Taliban- infusing fundamentalist laws onto the citizens. She writes:

As for constitutional rights, we all have the same rights regarding sex --to marry someone of legal age and the opposite sex --if we can find a consensual mate!

She hopes to bamboozle others, which is customary for propagandists, into believing false claims. Those who do do not know what the U.S. Constitution proclaims might believe that this document contains laws regarding marriage. Slick trick, but false.

Another trick played by fundamentalists is to present lies as facts . Here the local homophobe attempts to proclaim that gay and lesbian relationships are illegal:

Kindness to homosexuals does not include condoning sodomy and granting legal status of marriage.

Sodomy laws [note state laws] were invalidated throughout the United States in 2003 by the Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas.

When all else fails, the obsessive homophobe will declare that gay and lesbian relationships are in the same category as actual illegal activities. She writes:

This is not hate speech --it IS a denunciation of anal and oral sex as a substitute for the natural. Just as we should denounce adultery, incest, promiscuity, prostitution, rape, bestiality, necrophilia, various fetishes --because of their downside consequences.

Your local christian homophobe, working hard to deny a group of merican citizens their rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. They are a danger to this nation and they are organizing with other fundamentalist christians to overturn state and federal laws that protect the rights of our citizens. They are the American Taliban.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holiday Gift Suggestion: Scintillating Bolometer

Young and budding physicists would be thrilled with a brand new scintillating bolometer this holiday season! Even more desirable than an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

"That dark matter has never been found is no deterrent to the physicists who are looking for it." That oddly constructed English sentence and head-scratching thought fairly well describes the work of particle scientists today. These physicists tell us an astonishing fact: only around five percent of what makes up the universe can be detected. Thus, they hypothesize the existence of a substance/force/entity named, dark matter- a name that sends chills down the spine of SciFi and Star Wars fans everywhere!

The theory contends that the motion of distant galaxies can only be explained by a gravitational pull caused by more mass than can be seen. Estimates of dark matter are about 20 percent of the universe. Curiously, the remaining 75 percent made up of dark energy, a repulsive force that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-quickening pace. [cue the music from Twilight Zone]

WiredScience says, "At the heart of Abancens’ team’s detector, which is called a scintillating bolometer and resembles a prop from The Golden Compass, is a crystal so pure it can conduct the energy ostensibly generated when a particle of dark matter strikes the nucleus of one of its atoms.

"To prevent interference by cosmic rays, the bolometer is sheathed in lead and kept underground, under half a mile of rock. It’s also frozen to near-absolute zero, the temperature at which all motion stops. At the edge of absolute zero, it’s possible to measure expected changes of a few millionths of a degree Fahrenheit."

----------------------------------------------end of article

Frequent commenter, Steve, linked an article in ScienceDaily titled, Is Unknown Force In Universe Acting On Dark Matter? This article begins, " An international team of astronomers have found an unexpected link between mysterious 'dark matter' and the visible stars and gas in galaxies that could revolutionise our current understanding of gravity."

It goes on, " "The dark matter seems to 'know' how the visible matter is distributed. They seem to conspire with each other such that the gravity of the visible matter at the characteristic radius of the dark halo is always the same. This is extremely surprising since one would rather expect the balance between visible and dark matter to strongly depend on the individual history of each galaxy."

Dr. Zhao at the SUPA Centre of Gravity notes, "The pattern that the data reveal is extremely odd. It's like finding a zoo of animals of all ages and sizes miraculously having identical, say, weight in their backbones or something. It is possible that a non-gravitational fifth force is ruling the dark matter with an invisible hand, leaving the same fingerprints on all galaxies, irrespective of their ages, shapes and sizes."

Steve wonders if what many refer to as 'God,' might be this 'force and/or balance in the universe. This line from the article is especially God-inducing: "Such a force might solve an even bigger mystery, known as 'dark energy', which is ruling the accelerated expansion of the Universe."

Surely this highly-technical and coldly abstract version of God/god is way-too impersonal and 'humanless' for the 'believers' among us. God needs to have a human face, human emotions, and, most importantly, preside as a punitive human judge- perhaps residing in the state of Texas.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Israeli War Crimes: Dilemma for the United States


The United Nations Human Rights Council approved the Goldstone Report, which accuses the Jewish state of war crimes against Palestinians. The Goldstone Report also accuses Palestinian militants of war crimes during the Gaza conflict of nearly a year ago. The resolution by the Human Rights Council endorses the Goldstone Report's recommendations that both the Israelis and Palestinian militants show the U.N. Security Council they are investigating the war crimes accusations.

Israel has rejected the report as one-sided and biased and says the Gaza war was a legitimate act of self defense in response to years of Palestinian rocket attacks. Israeli officials say opening a war crimes investigation would be tantamount to accepting guilt.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered officials to prepare for a long diplomatic, legal and public relations battle explaining Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism. As Mr. Netanyahu put it, "We will delegitimize those who try to delegitimize us."

------------------------------------------end of article

Bill Moyer's Journal this evening featured Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the 'disputed' report. Judge Richard Goldstone served as the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. He also investigated the South African apartheid system and was a member of the International Panel of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina. More recently he was appointed by Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the Independent Inquiry Committee, chaired by Paul Volcker, to investigate the Iraq Oil for Food program.

Goldstone's credentials are outstanding. His life has been endangered by those who do not wish the light of his investigation to uncover their dirty deeds; he is the ultimate muckraker. He has received countless death threats, especially while investigating white supremacy in South Africa, his native country.

It will be difficult for the United States to defend Israel from these charges, yet that is exactly what Israel is hoping that the United States will do. Israel has begun a smear campaign against Goldstone, attempting to 'kill the messenger.' The Obama Administration is placed in a tight spot especially because our nation has historically defended nearly every action that Israel has taken. Israel hopes that the US will veto a UN proposal that Israel set up a credible investigation of its own on this subject.

I would imagine that many Americans will be sympathetic to Israel and hope that Obama will order such a veto. Yet, it is amazing to realize that Judge Goldstone is himself a Jew and a Zionist, which he admitted to Bill Moyers. Many Israelis have branded him a 'traitor.' Clearly, his reputation for fairness and impartiality along with his previous courageous work in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Argentina, and South Africa will make it difficult to charge Goldstone with incompetence.

Knee-jerk 'support' for Israel here in the US may this time be somewhat muted if those supporters open their eyes to the credibility of Judge Goldstone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Incompetence as Usual at the Ohio BMV

Incompetence, is there a stronger word? Stupidity mixed with arrogance, perhaps. Who do they hire at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles anyway? Is there a competency test or is it the good old boy system? I think of my 5 grandchildren in the Ohio school system who must pass proficiency tests to move along, yet these adults at the BMV display no hint that they passed a competency test themselves.

Look at my copy of the check I wrote to the BMV to renew my license plates. Is it crystal clear to you? Each car we own cost $54.87 to renew, for a total of $109.74. Have you seen anything wrong with my check? Neither do I, yet, upon calling the "BMV Citizens Advisory Committee" I was told that my application was denied. By the way, if you notice the date, it is one month to the day and I am without a sticker- a violation of state law, I am told! Try calling 1-800-589-8247 and let me know when you get through. That's the number for "questions regarding your registration." It has been busy since 9 AM. it is noon and still busy.

As a result of not being able to get though ,I found the BMV Citizens Advisory Committee, a service that "is to provide feedback to the BMV on the state of its relations with the public by undertaking a review and evaluation of the client service practices of the BMV and advising the BMV on methods to improve its interaction with the public." Yes, that's what it says. So I called.

"Did you call 1-800-589-8247 before contacting this department?" asked the agent. "Oh, it's busy, been busy for quite some time," I replied in a restrained voice. I the I explained my 'case' to the 'agent' who checked for me and I was told that my application had been denied. "Denied?" I asked, "why is that, an outstanding warrant, a traffic violation?" [joking!] "No sir, they cannot read the amount on your check." "You mean, $109.74?" i said, looking at the copy of my check. "It's the '4'" he said, it looks like an 'x'." "What '4'?" I asked, looking more closely at my copy of the check, "It looks like a '4' to me." "Oh, not the numerical four, the one written," he stated, " the one over the 100." Then he went on, "The 'y' of Boyer obscures the 4 and makes it look like an X or a K." "You must be kidding!" I said. "What else wouild it be other than a 4, for crying out loud!" Then I did the math, "$54.87 plus $54.87 equals a number ending in four, like 7 + 7." "Well that may be, but they could not process the check due to that problem with the 4."

Seriously, that was the conversation. I'd like to tell you that this is a Halloween joke, but it was true, word for word. I told him that this was insane.

"I'm contacting my supervisor," he told me."Good," I told him. "It will be a few minutes." We waited and during this time, he thought it would be a good idea to recap the 'problem' for me as though I were a complete jackass. I told him that the BMV clearly hires incompetent people if they cannot distinguish a 4 from an X or K. Yet, he assured me that each check needed to be verified by a person before continuing the registration process.

By a person. As opposed to? "if the person cannot read the correct amount," he droned on...

Luckily, before he raised my blood pressure even higher, the supervisor came on. Fortunately, she must have passed a competency test along the way. She told me [and the agent] that the check would be processed. I thanked her and she disconnected, but the agent was not yet done. He thought that he should finish his last lecture, but i interrupted and I said to him, "So, you are part of the Citizens Advisory Board created by House Bill 182..." I was reading to him what the website stated. "Surely, you will be passing on my complaint to the Board and Senator Bill Harris, won't you?" "Yes, but you have to remember..."


Return to Pokagon

Chief Simon Pokagon of the Pottawatomie is honored
with his name attached to a great state park in Indiana. My wife and I visited the park yesterday, a warm and breezy last touch-of-summer day. Ah, the childhood memories! The Potawatomi Inn has stood on the edge of Lake James since the late 1930's. It was a project of the CCC and much of it remains just as a kid had imagined it.

We had a great dinner in what is now called the 'historic dining room.' Those CCC workers were great construction crew because much of the inn looks as it did, lo those many decades ago.

Of course, not the indoor swimming pool or deck of the additions to the lodge and the removal of the 'motel' rooms at front. The child mostly recalls the long grassy slope leading down to the sandy beach at the edge of the large lake. Our family spent several days wading and swimming as well as making sand castles on the water's edge. Yesterday the dock lay oddly on the beach- an unusual look for one who recalls it 'floating' in the lake. The trees were in their fall colors rather than the summer's green.

Interestingly, we were not alone at the Inn. There was a large church conference going on [wasn't I lucky!] whose attendees enjoyed walking along the beach and sitting outside soaking in the warm rays of the October day. In fact, some did not leave for the 'afternoon talk,' choosing to find God outside in this beautiful fall day. I'm quite sure that black check marks were not earned for these unorthodox members, as they were from mainline Christian churches.

The quaint town of Angola brings back memories from the past, especially its curious roundabout in the center of town. Today the roundabout is the new trend for intersections, but Angola had one back in the 50's if not earlier. I have a most curious boyhood memory of seeing pneumatic tubes zipping money from one end of the store to another there in downtown Angola. I don't remember which store but surely the tubes have long disappeared. Perhaps the store as well.

Pokagon Park has a toboggan run that was also constructed by the CCC; today, it is updated and electrically cooled to extend the season. Going down was much more fun than dragging the heavy toboggan back up to the beginning.

The cabins are still available for those wishing to stay in more 'privative' surroundings. Many have been restored but this one looks like the one our family used those many summers ago. We would alternate between the lodge and the inn.

The buffalo, moose and deer no longer are penned up for wide-eyed children to examine, yet the Nature Center still offers children exciting 'adventures' deep into the woods or along the shoreline. I wonder if a child can still earn a badge for participating in one of the nature adventures.

Our short but warm and sweet retreat was a needed get-away because we have been much too busy doing things with and for others. Sometimes a bit of narcissism is needed to refresh the spirit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Organic Molecules Surround Another Planet

ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2009) — Peering far beyond our solar system, NASA researchers have detected the basic chemistry for life in a second hot gas planet, advancing astronomers toward the goal of being able to characterize planets where life could exist.

"It's the second planet outside our solar system in which water, methane and carbon dioxide have been found, which are potentially important for biological processes in habitable planets," said researcher Mark Swain of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Detecting organic compounds in two exoplanets now raises the possibility that it will become commonplace to find planets with molecules that may be tied to life."


Life beyond earth? From simple organic 'debris' floating in orbit around a planet? A bit of H2O, CO2 and CH4, add some heat, a few million years to cook and, voilé, LIFE!

Way to simple for some who would argue that this formula is oversimplified and needs a little more chutzpa!

╫╨ + ☼(♫♪) ÷[♀♂] • 3y{♠♣♥☻} -☺²ⁿ

Well, yes, that plus just one more special, magical touch- like a super catalyst! Something cosmic- even larger than cosmic!

Any guesses??????????

Flaming Bag of Dog Shit

I often find a bag of dog shit on my doorstep each morning when I turn on my computer. Those who follow this blog regularly know what I am talking about. There was one this morning. Why 'they' send me one so frequently remains a mystery- I never open it. All of their creative bitterness goes directly to the recycle bin without seeing the light of day. Such a waste of talent and time! But then, who would want to look into a bag of poop on the porch anyway?

Well, as Halloween is just around the corner, I recall several rather minor pranks my friends and I would pull on the nasty old ladies in the neighborhood, the ones who yelled at you if you stepped on their grass. Of course we soaped her windows and then threw corn at them before we ran away. Corn was easy to get in late October, just down the dead-end street for me.

Another creative annoyance someone taught us was the thread spool, string and pencil trick. We would get a large spool of thread and notch it all around the circle. Then, we'd wrap a string around it and shove a pencil into the center. Approaching the target window, we would press the notched spool gently to the glass by holding the pencil ends. Finally, we'd pull the string making a horrible noise on the glass.

However, the most creative trick was saved for the absolutely worst grouch on the block. My best friend had a dog, and for a couple of days before Halloween, he would collect his dog's poop. When the time was right, we emptied it into a paper bag, walked to the target house, ring the doorbell, and quickly lit the bag. Although we ran like hell and never saw the result, we hoped that the victim would stamp out the fire and, well, you know the rest.

Now that the poop ladies know this special prank [because they check this blog 24/7] I might get a REAL surprise tomorrow morning when I sign on!

Pope Fishing

The Pope is fishing, cast his rod just yesterday, hoping to lure some fine trout. But, he doesn't want any carp or catfish, only the finer variety. Pope offers Anglicans a place in church is the headline in most papers today. The opening line is this: The Catholic Church said Tuesday that it would make it easier for Anglicans to join the church, reaching out to those upset by the election of female and gay bishops.

It's all too funny. Imagine- what 'church' would want to open its doors to women and those abominable gays! Jesus would weep and demand the same thing, as he often showed during his life. Yes, Jesus is happy with the way things are, the way his church has closed its doors to certain people throughout the years. Surely he supports and encourages that type of bigotry within his church.

"Keep THEM out!" he would surely shout.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fifty Phone Calls

My wife and I spent two hours this evening making phone calls to the citizens of Ohio, urging them to call Republican Senator Voinovich, urging him to vote for health care reform. The gathering reminded me of the days we spent prior to the election; in fact, we were with many of the same people who worked for Obama. Tonight's event served as a great homecoming.

Whether Senator Voinovich will actually buck his party and vote for health care reform is unknown. He has been on the wrong side of most issues during his time in Congress and the hope is that, since he is retiring, maybe he just might make up for his dismal voting record with this positive vote.

I noted the Washington Post poll today that gave support for the public option at 51%, and increase over previous poll numbers. It seems to be a positive trend. On the other hand, the Republican Party continues to shrink to a 26-year low of 20%. Perhaps the party will just die out and take the Do Nothings with it.

I feel invigorated with these numbers and the positive response I received during my calling session. Who could have imagined after that ugly summer of tea-baggers on the loose, that health care might actually pass yet this year.

60,000 Spankings

In the year 2008 there were 60,000 students
receiving the corporeal punishment of
spanking in Mississippi which gives it
bragging rights as a State with most
spankings. Spanking is generally in
areas away from the capitol of Jackson.
Jackson public schools reported no spankings
for 2008. My county reported 742 spankings,
but none in the largest city, Pearl.
There are 152 school districts in the State,
and spanking occurred in 110 districts.

As we might imagine, the research shows that
spankings take place in the more rural
parts of MS, especially in the poverty and
minority areas with white administrators.

Those who support spanking say that it is a
way to get a student's attention, that it
is an immediate consequence, it's embarrassing,
and it's the biblical way. On the otherhand,
those in opposition say that spanking is not
a scientific based process as there is no
study that shows physical punishment is effective.
In Mississippi a spanking, usually three whacks,
must be witnessed by an adult of a different
race. There is parental notification.

There is no doubt that there has to be order in
a public school. It would be nice if it was possible
to have a situation where students, teachers and
principals recognized and respected one another.
However, there are many disruptive kids, and the
school must be able to have a system of discipline.
And, the definition of disruptive runs the spectrum.
Moreover, there are many physical and mental
disabilities which impact the behavior of our
children. Many of these do not improve with a form
of corporeal punishment. What is a public school
to do?

Furious, Foaming Fundamentalists: Genesis by Crumb

I understand that the fantasy world of the christian fundamentalist is all in a tizzy after the release of the Genesis Cartoon Book by cartoonist Robert Crumb. The Telegraph says, "A sexually explicit illustrated Book of Genesis by controversial artist Robert Crumb, which features Bible characters having intercourse, has been condemned by religious groups.

"It is turning the Bible into titillation," said Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, a religious think-tank. "It seems wholly inappropriate for what is essentially God's rescue plan for mankind."If you are going to publish your own version of the Bible it must be done with a great deal of sensitivity. The Bible is a very important text to many many people and should be treated with the respect it deserves."Representing it in your
own way is all very well and good but it must be remembered that it is a matter of people's faith, their religion."Faith is such an important part of people's lives that one must remember to tread very carefully."

------------------------------------------------end of article

What a hoot! "If you are going to publish your own version of the Bible..." Nonsense! Crumb did nothing of the sort. He took the exact words of Genesis and illustrated the nouns, verbs and adjectives. And this chuckle from Mike Judge [interesting name]: "It is turning the Bible into titillation..." Titillation? The book is filled with sex and violence, ripe for a Hollywood film.

What Judge and his set of purist fundamentalists are really upset about is that, for the first time in history, the reader can get a visualization of the harsh words coming from the holy god and the holy men. After all, we all have become visual rather than auditory learners through the age of TV. That's what irks them- that the graphic nature of the words have been put into graphics.

Compare Crumb's illustrations with the Disney characters displayed in the Bible for Children for laughs. The poor, uneducated child has been propagandized into 'believing' that the Bible is a wonderful love story when, in fact, it is essentially porn.

The homophobic fundamentalists will be especially upset, panties all tied in knots, over Crumb's illustration of the Lot section. Rather than depicting the suggestion of homosexual activity- one of the pillars of the bigoted fundamentalist agenda- Crumb shows Lot screwing his two daughters! What a hoot!

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