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Cooper's Hawk

Monday, October 29, 2012

Resource exploitation puts humans at greater peril from extinction level event

From the Daily Mail:

Lessons from the end of the dinosaurs: Resource exploitation puts humans at greater peril from extinction level event.

  •     Food chains already under strain before asteroid hit, study shows
  •     Man's exploitation of resources and reliance on monocrops could place humans in similar danger
The mass extinction of dinosaurs by a massive asteroid was made worse because it destroyed the fragile food chain, lessons that modern man should learn, a study warned.
More than 65 million years ago a mountain-sized asteroid plunged into the earth in Mexico wiping out many species including the dinosaurs and ending the Cretaceous Period of Earth history.
The study found the food chain was already under strain before the asteroid hit and could not cope with the cataclysm as plant life died off.
They warned man's exploitation of the earth resources could place humankind in the same peril as we stress the planet with monocrops and drive to extinction animals, plant life and marine species.
Scientists examining the impact zone of the now-buried Chicxulub crater on the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula said it had wide spreading knock on effects.
Using a computer model they examined what happened up and down the food chain and found the structure of North American ecosystems made the extinction worse than it might have been.
Jonathan Mitchell of Chicago's Committee on Evolutionary Biology said: 'Our study suggests that the severity of the mass extinction in North America was greater because of the ecological structure of communities at the time.'
The findings suggest a combination of environmental and biological factors meant food webs were already under strain before the asteroid hit, meaning such a large scale disturbance was more likely to have an effect on the survival of species.
Mr Mitchell said: 'Besides shedding light on this ancient extinction, our findings imply that seemingly innocuous changes to ecosystems caused by humans might reduce the ecosystems' abilities to withstand unexpected disturbances.
The study has implications for modern conservation efforts and Mr Angelczyk said: 'Our study shows that the robustness or fragility of an ecosystem under duress depends very much on both the number of species present, as well as the types of species.
'What you have is also important. It is therefore critical that conservation efforts pay attention to ecosystem functioning and the roles of species in their communities as we continue to degrade our modern ecosystems.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2224798/Resource-exploitation-puts-humans-greater-peril-extinction-level-event.html#ixzz2AkfZKU5y


http://www.whole-systems.org/extinctions.html



Of course we are now losing species to extinction at a rate exponentially higher than occurred during the time of the dinosaurs.

Romney on disaster funding


Romney: Federal Disaster Relief Spending Is 'Immoral'

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.
Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut—we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…
KING: Including disaster relief, though?
ROMNEY: We cannot—we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

 

Street Offering

The accent aigu was in San Francisco last week and snapped this picture with her iphone. Shrimp, joss, money, fruit, candy and bacon.

"Saw this in the Mission dist. last week, an offering in the street...to the bacon gods obviously..."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cookies



Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The Cookies backed up Little Eva.

Have a cigar, you're going to go far...

Leslie and I were in a room, high on a hill. We were living in a different age, an age when the government had finally achieved its darpaesque goal of total information awareness. Every one of our actions, associates, comments, every keystroke, every search, movement and thought we had made or ever contemplated making was now inputted into a large, central, master government computer. We were required in this Orwellian world to keep our televisions on at all times. The television allowed the authorities to both keep tabs on us and to chart our compliance. 

On the bottom of the set was a tabulator, much like a taxi meter, that added and subtracted, mostly subtracted, from a running total that charted our net balance with the governmental machine. Subversive thoughts or actions judged to be contrary to society's parameters resulted in swift and immediate penalties, including violence at the hands of the authorities.

Somehow I had run afoul of the beast. Last night's dream, now receding from memory, was a recount of my Kafka like efforts to evade its clutches.

I read an interesting article the other day about the San Antonio school system, now requiring students to carry around an identification card with an RFID chip so that they can be accounted for at all times. A few parents and students spoke out in opposition, fearing a myriad of potential abuses with the system, but most went along with the program without a peep. The schools feel that they have every right to track the students. From Slate:

"...Gonzalez, the school district's communications director, maintains that students have never had an expectation of privacy on campus. "By virtue of the fact that you are a student at a school, there is no privacy."

The ACLU put out a position paper on chip free schools that has an interesting couple of bullets.
• Dehumanizing uses. While there is an expectation of supervision and guidance in schools, monitoring the detailed behaviors of individuals can be demeaning. For example, RFID reading devices in school restrooms could monitor how long a student or teacher spends in a bathroom stall.
• Violation of free speech and association. ... For example, students might avoid seeking counsel when they know their RFID tags will document their presence at locations like counselor and School Resource Officer (SRO) offices.
• Conditioning to tracking and monitoring. Young people learn about the world and prepare for their futures while in school. Tracking and monitoring them in their development may condition them to accept constant monitoring and tracking of their whereabouts and behaviors. This could usher in a society that accepts this kind of treatment as routine rather than an encroachment of privacy and civil liberties.
You can make a case for a school that makes money off of enrollment and attendance wanting to know where its kids are. What I found thought provoking was the last point, that the whole exercise helped acclimatize and condition children to a world that is increasing becoming one of total surveillance. They can already be tracked through their phones and the social networks. A small jump to wearing a chip.
We willingly adopt the yoke.

Huffpo had an interesting article on the subject from John Whithead, Are America's Schools Breeding Grounds for Compliant Citizens?  It contained the following quote from Professor Henry Giroux:

"Public school reform is now justified in the dehumanizing language of national security, which increasingly legitimates the transformation of schools into adjuncts of the surveillance and police state... students are increasingly subjected to disciplinary apparatuses which limit their capacity for critical thinking, mold them into consumers, test them into submission, strip them of any sense of social responsibility and convince large numbers of poor minority students that they are better off under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system than by being valued members of the public schools." 

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Interesting piece earlier this year at Salon by Steven Rosenfeld about President Obama and his pitiful record in regards to civil liberties titled Obama's dismal civil liberties record. The constitutional law expert has delivered no "change we can believe in" in this regard, often permitting excesses that might even make George Bush's one and two blanche.
President Obama now has power that Bush never had. Foremost is he can (and has) ordered the killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are deemed terrorists. Like Bush, he has asked the Justice Department to draft secret memos authorizing his actions without going before a federal court or disclosing them. Obama has continued indefinite detentions at Gitmo, but also brought the policy ashore by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of assisting terrorists, even citizens. That policy, codifying how the Bush administration treated Jose Padilla, a citizen who was arrested in a bomb plot after landing at a Chicago airport in 2002 and was transferred from civil to military custody, upends the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878’s ban on domestic military deployment.
“We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national security state,” Jack Balkin, a liberal Yale University Law School professor, told the New Yorker in a 2011 feature about a prominent NSA whistle-blower. “The question is not whether we will have a surveillance state in the years to come, but what sort of state we will have,” he wrote in a prescient law review article published early in Obama’s presidency.

The larger dangers, Balkin said, was that the government is creating a “parallel track of preventative law enforcement that bypasses traditional protections in the Bill of Rights.” Moreover, he worries “traditional law enforcement and social services will increasingly resemble the parallel track.” And because the Constitution only restricts government actions, not “private parties, government has increasing incentives to rely on private enterprise to collect and generate information for it.”

“The major defining feature of the Obama administration on this issue is the eagerness with which it embraced the stunning evisceration of civil rights and liberties that was a hallmark of the Bush administration, and then deepened those outrageous programs,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, who is an attorney representing many Occupy protesters swept up in last fall’s mass arrests. “He has successfully counted on the acquiescent silence of the liberals.”


Do I think things would be any different under President Romney? Doubtful and debatable. Did I expect more from Barack Obama? Yes, I did.

Fred Neil

Poof!

Heading out to the open highway once again, seeking fame and fortune, or at least a way to pay the tab on all of the somewhat excessive fun I've been having of late.

This has been a very low output month for me, in a literary sense, I actually think this is good. When I get back to it, things will probably be a bit fresher. Didn't feel like pushing the pace, no point in trying to set records.

Had a very strange dream last night that I will soon recount and then I am gone...


Friday, October 26, 2012

Monsanto Redux


I wrote a rather rushed and sloppy post about Monsanto before I left for Spain. I think I need to fill in a few dots now in order to get a bit of inner peace. My original post was about the Seralini study that reported that Monsanto GMO corn led to a higher incidence of a variety of tumors.

My second post talked about the nasty reaction to the study and the Monsanto/Blackwater connection.  I think that I need to expound a little on that. The excellent environmental blog, Red Green and Blue, has done a great job of weighing in and keeping up with the issue. Check out their link here. Here is a snippet from Jeremy Bloom:
This is the longest study ever performed – Monsanto’s studies nearly always ended at 90 days, so they never addressed any long-term health effects.By showing an increase in tumors and shortening of lifespan, it makes pretty clear that Monsanto’s longstanding claim – that GMO food is just as safe as conventional, and Roundup is harmless - needs some serious looking-into.This blows a hole in Monsanto’s decades-long practice of blocking publication of negative evidence, and then using the absence of evidence as evidence that everything was just fine with GMOs and Roundup. (See: Monsanto blocks research on GMO safety).Most of the arguments being used to invalidate the study make good soundbites for public relations – but fall apart when compared to, you know, actual science. Which implies they’re actually part of a PR campaign to discredit, not an actual scientific debate of the merits. (See: Yes, scientists are attacking the latest Monsanto study – but not because of the science.
Monsanto and their proxies  have attacked the studies for various reasons, the type of rats, the number of rats, the length of the study, all which curiously mirror Monsanto's own studies. An interesting story at Truth Out on the back and forth in Europe over the study, Inside the Monsanto Information War.

Slate Magazine ran a pretty nasty and snarky article by Keith Kloor that casts those that disagree with Monsanto and GMO's as the "climate deniers" of the left. The European Food Safety Authority believes that the study was inadequate and wants more data, quibbling with the statistical analysis and the number of rats tested. The whole thing has the making s of a big old nasty war. I find it curious that many of the people who fault the study are also against the requirement of labeling GMO foods, echoing the same tired bullet point that it will make food more expensive and hurt the third world. What rubbish! This leads me to wonder who is paying these supposed experts?

John Vidal of the Guardian runs down these bullet points in his article Study linking GM maize to cancer must be taken seriously by regulators:
  • 1. The French researchers were accused of using the Sprague Dawley rat strain which is said to be prone to developing cancers. In response Séralini and his team say these are the same rats as used by Monsanto in the 90-day trials which it used to get authorisation for its maize. This strain of rat has been used in most animal feeding trials to evaluate the safety of GM foods, and their results have long been used by the biotech industry to secure approval to market GM products.
  • 2. The sample size of rats was said to be too small. Séralini responded that six is the OECD recommended protocol for GM food safety toxicology studies and he had based his study on the toxicity part of OECD protocol no. 453. This states that for a cancer trial you need a minimum of 50 animals of each sex per test group but for a toxicity trial a minimum of 10 per sex suffices. Monsanto used 20 rats of each sex per group in its feeding trials but only analysed 10, the same number as Séralini.
  • 3. No data was given about the rats’ food intake. Seralini says the rats were allowed to eat as much food as they liked.
  • 4. Séralini has not released the raw data from the trial. In response he says he won’t release it until the data underpinning Monsanto’s authorisation of NK603 in Europe is also made public.
  • 5. His funding was provided by an anti-biotechnology organisation whose scientific board Séralini heads. But he counters that almost all GM research is funded by corporates or by pro-biotech institutions.
And from GMWatch, Scientists' response to critics of Seralini's study
Friday, 21 September 2012 23:27
One main criticism has been that Seralini used "the wrong rat" in his study. Seralini's critics said that the Sprague-Dawley (SD) rat is "prone" to tumours and so no conclusion can be drawn from the increase in tumours from treatment with GM maize and Roundup. The suggestion is that the rats would have got the tumours anyway, even without GM maize or Roundup.
Of course, the big problem with this argument is that the GM maize-fed and Roundup-exposed groups got significantly more tumours than the controls, as the scientists' response below explains.
We only add to this that data on cancer incidence in SD rats and humans gathered by the Ramazzini Institute in Italy show that the Sprague-Dawley (SD) rat is an excellent human-equivalent model for long-term carcinogenicity studies. The cancer pattern of SD rats was found to accurately mirror that of humans (see slides 13–16 of this presentation): http://bit.ly/QsDRno
In other words, the SD rat has high predictive power for identifying carcinogenic effects in humans. 
It's true that as SD rats age, they get more "spontaneous" tumours. But so do humans. And SD rats, like humans, also develop cancers from environmental exposures to carcinogens, and these will be added onto the background "spontaneous" level of cancers, just as we see in Seralini's study. 
Plus, hundreds of carcinogenicity and chronic toxicity studies done on pesticides, chemicals, and GM foods by industry for regulatory purposes use the S-D rat. So if Seralini's critics want to argue that the S-D rat is "the wrong rat", they will have to chuck out all the pesticides, chemicals, and GM foods that were approved on the basis of S-D rat tests. That means, goodbye, glyphosate, as well as to many GM foods.
The issues raised by this study need to be seriously vetted. The FDA has never performed its own study on GMO corn, instead accepting Monsanto's own studies on two occasions. We need to find independent government and academic scientists that can deliver objective and honest scientific research without absorbing Monsanto's pressure, wrath and intimidation. Or at least somebody not on their payroll, if that is still possible. Until then, let us hope that at least GMO food be adequately labeled so that we can make our own personal decision in regards to consuming these products.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sip the Wine

You only get so many heartbeats...

Dirty mirror, Death Valley
Dave from Japan sent this over from Delancey Place; from author Steve Johnson's 2010 book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. I find certain parts of the study a bit specious, that you can judge an area's creativity by the number of patents created by its citizens. I live in a small town with a tremendous amount of very creative people. I question the measurement indices, still an interesting read.

delanceyplace.com 10/25/12 - the number of heartbeats per lifetime

In today's excerpt - flies, elephants, cities, and ideas:
"Scientists and animal lovers had long observed that as life gets bigger, it slows down. Flies live for hours or days; elephants live for half-centuries. The hearts of birds and small mammals pump blood much faster than those of giraffes and blue whales. But the relationship between size and speed didn't seem to be a linear one. A horse might be five hundred times heavier than a rabbit, yet its pulse certainly wasn't five hundred times slower than the rabbit's. After a formidable series of measurements in his Davis lab, [Swiss scientist Max] Kleiber discovered that this scaling phenomenon stuck to an unvarying mathematical script called 'negative quarter-power scaling.' If you plotted mass versus metabolism on a logarithmic grid, the result was a perfectly straight line that led from rats and pigeons all the way up to bulls and hippopotami. ...
"The more species Kleiber and his peers analyzed, the clearer the equation became: metabolism scales to mass to the negative quarter power. The math is simple enough: you take the square root of 1,000, which is (approximately) 31, and then take the square root of 31, which is (again, approximately) 5.5. This means that a cow, which is roughly a thousand times heavier than a woodchuck, will, on average, live 5.5 times longer, and have a heart rate that is 5.5 times slower than the woodchuck's. As the science writer George Johnson once observed, one lovely consequence of Kleiber's law is that the number of heartbeats per lifetime tends to be stable from species to species. Bigger animals just take longer to use up their quota. ...
"Several years ago, the theoretical physicist Geoffrey West decided to investigate whether Kleiber's law applied to one of life's largest creations: the superorganisms of human-built cities. Did the 'metabolism' of urban life slow down as cities grew in size? Was there an underlying pattern to the growth and pace of life of metropolitan systems? Working out of the legendary Santa Fe Institute, where he served as president until 2009, West assembled an international team of researchers and advisers to collect data on dozens of cities around the world, measuring everything from crime to household electrical consumption, from new patents to gasoline sales.
"When they finally crunched the numbers, West and his team were delighted to discover that Kleiber's negative quarter-power scaling governed the energy and transportation growth of city living. The number of gasoline stations, gasoline sales, road surface area, the length of electrical cables: all these factors follow the exact same power law that governs the speed with which energy is expended in biological organisms. If an elephant was just a scaled-up mouse, then, from an energy perspective, a city was just a scaled-up elephant.
"But the most fascinating discovery in West's research came from the data that didn't turn out to obey Kleiber's law. West and his team discovered another power law lurking in their immense database of urban statistics. Every datapoint that involved creativity and innovation-patents, R&D budgets, 'supercreative' professions, inventors-also followed a quarter-power law, in a way that was every bit as predictable as Kleiber's law. But there was one fundamental difference: the quarter-power law governing innovation was positive, not negative. A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn't ten times more innovative; it was seventeen times more innovative. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was 130 times more innovative.
"Kleiber's law proved that as life gets bigger, it slows down. But West's model demonstrated one crucial way in which human-built cities broke from the patterns of biological life: as cities get bigger, they generate ideas at a faster clip. This is what we call 'superlinear scaling': if creativity scaled with size in a straight, linear fashion, you would of course find more patents and inventions in a larger city, but the number of patents and inventions per capita would be stable. West's power laws suggested something far more provocative: that despite all the noise and crowding and distraction, the average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand."

Rape and Pillage


"I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." Richard Mourdock

It seems quite weird to me that the subject of rape has been such a divisive topic in this year's election. If my memory serves me correctly, and forgive me, but it has been a long election process, it all started when Missouri's Todd Akin started talking about "legitimate rape." As opposed to the other kind, because you know how those womenfolk like to lie.


The Romney campaign sputtered and stammered about rape and incest exceptions and are now running ads advising that in a Romney administration, people could abort fetus's in those situations but only in those situations. So ladies you better have some backup if you are seeking an abortion, because you will be facing a tribunal. We want proof. It would be nice if you could shoot a little video while being accosted, that is, if it is not too much trouble.

In Pennsylvania, a law has been proposed that would further criminalize the process. Woman on assistance must prove that they have been raped to qualify for further help.
If a woman gives birth to a child who was conceived from rape, she may seek an exception to this rule so that her welfare benefits aren’t slashed, but only if she can provide proof that she reported her sexual assault and her abuser’s identity to the police. 
    In determining the amount of assistance payments to a recipient family of benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program, the department shall revise the schedule of benefits to be paid to the recipient family by eliminating the increment in benefits under the program for which that family would otherwise be eligible as a result of the birth of a child conceived during the period in which the family is eligible for benefits under the TANF Program. [...]
    Elimination of benefits under subsection (d) shall not apply to any child conceived as a result of rape or incest if the department: (1) receives a non-notarized, signed statement from the pregnant woman stating that she was a victim of rape or incest, as the case may be, and that she reported the crime, including the identity of the offender, if known, to a law enforcement agency having the requisite jurisdiction or, in the case of incest where a pregnant minor is the victim, to the county child protective service agency and stating the name of the law enforcement agency or child protective service agency to which the report was made and the date such report was made.
A similar bill was introduced in New Mexico and then quashed. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) wanted language that would force women to prove that they were forcibly raped as opposed to that other kind of rape, you know the kind where they say no but their eyes say yes, yes, yes.

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Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) told reporters that an abortion exception is never necessary to save a woman’s life, explaining, “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” of a woman dying from childbirth. Walsh claimed pro-choice advocates simply used the prospect of maternal death “to make us look unreasonable.”

Walsh went on to assert that women whose health would be jeopardized if they carry their fetus to term are simply using the exception as a “tool” to get an abortion for “any reason.”

The GOP obviously has a women problem. The female is so despicable, they are not above anything in their desire to kill unborn babies, even if it may be the result of them trying to save their own lives. Because we all know that a woman who has been raped has innate ways of terminating the pregnancy without abortion. Through their hormones and all.

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Now Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has brought the whole issue to a head. During a debate on Tuesday Mourdock said he was opposed to abortion even when a woman has been raped, saying "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

My question is, at what point in the rape event does god come down and sanctify the whole thing? I am not disagreeing, just trying to get clear on the timing, admittedly not being of much of a theological bent myself.

The rape of Lucretia - Titian
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I started looking at the rape thing yesterday and trying to figure out why God can get behind it, in certain circumstances and of course I first turned to god's holy word, the bible.

The bible is replete with instances where god both sanctions and encourages rape:

Lo, a day shall come for the Lord when the spoils shall be divided in your midst.  And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the city shall be taken, houses plundered, women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city.   Zechariah 14:1-2 

They must be dividing the spoils they took: there must be a damsel or two for each man, Spoils of dyed cloth as Sisera's spoil, an ornate shawl or two for me in the spoil.   Judges 5:30 

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.   Exodus 21:7-11

When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house.  But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive's garb.  After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife.  However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 

As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace.  If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor.  But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town.  When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town.  But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder.  You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given youDeuteronomy 20:10-14

And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.  Numbers 31:15-18

Could modern day believers still subconsciously or otherwise, believe that they have been granted a divine right to rape? Have the believers repudiated the holy book, or did the new testament take care of all this rape business when Jesus arrived?

The Rape of the daughters of Leucippus - Rubens
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My friend Edgar was in a few months ago and we were talking about colonialism. He is from South America. He told me that one of Columbus's journal pages described the nine year old girls as the best conquests. He said that the lure of the new world was not just booty, it was also booty, if you get my drift. I started looking at some of the facts concerning the Genoan's trip to the new world.

Read Thom Hartmann's 2004 article Columbus Day celebration, think again. Columbus and his merry men landed on Hispaniolo and committed all sorts of vile sexual deeds, causing the local Taino indians to often commit mass suicide, that is until they were utterly exterminated.

Much of the information came from journals of Columbus own crew member, Miguel Cuneo.

Cuneo wrote: "When our caravels where to leave for Spain, we gathered one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians, and these we embarked in our caravels on February 17, 1495. For those who remained, we let it be known (to the Spaniards who manned the island's fort) in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done."

Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib girl as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to have sex with her, she "resisted with all her strength." So, in his own words, he "thrashed her mercilessly and raped her."

Columbus once referred to the Taino Indians as cannibals, a story made up by Columbus - which is to this day still taught in some US schools - to help justify his slaughter and enslavement of these people. He wrote to the Spanish monarchs in 1493: "It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell. Here there are so many of these slaves, and also brazilwood, that although they are living things they are as good as gold."

Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus' men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: "A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand."

However, the Taino turned out not to be particularly good workers in the plantations that the Spaniards and later the French established on Hispaniola: they resented their lands and children being taken, and attempted to fight back against the invaders. Since the Taino where obviously standing in the way of Spain's progress, Columbus sought to impose discipline on them. For even a minor offense, an Indian's nose or ear was cut off, so he could go back to his village to impress the people with the brutality the Spanish were capable of. Columbus attacked them with dogs, skewered them with pikes, and shot them.

Eventually, life for the Taino became so unbearable that, as Pedro de Cordoba wrote to King Ferdinand in a 1517 letter, "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth. Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery."

Eventually, Columbus and later his brother Bartholomew Columbus who he left in charge of the island, simply resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus' arrival, some scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola (now at 16 million) at around 1.5 to 3 million people. By 1496, it was down to 1.1 million, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus. By 1516, the indigenous population was 12,000, and according to Las Casas (who were there) by 1542 fewer than 200 natives were alive. By 1555, every single one was dead. 

Columbus, a demented rapist and killer or merely an explorer following god's will? The expansion into the new world is a story replete with rape and violence, much of it promulgated in god's name. Perhaps the politician's are right, it was all part of god's great plan. As it says on the bumper stickers, we're not perfect, just forgiven.

The rape of the Sabine women - Poussin


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Carlos Nakai & Nawang Khechog - Sentient Beings

Valley of Death

The timing wasn't exactly optimal. But what could I do? I had booked the vacation at the Inn at Furnace Creek in Death Valley about eight months ago, before I had ever contemplated going to Spain. Now we were off on another jaunt with our friends S and T and we had barely got our sea legs back a week removed from the spanish voyage. Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the ride I guess. Besides, neither Leslie and I had ever visited Death Valley and it was on my bucket list. So what if I'm broke?

We had to explain to the dog that he was going away once again and plead with the cat to forgive our second extended absence of the month. We met our pals at their house and drove up to our mutual destination, with one short stop at Tommy's in Barstow for needed sustenance in the form of chili cheeseburger. The ride went quickly in the new silver steed. Very quickly, S being of the pedal to the metal, Parnelli Jones temperament. They had been making the trip for over thirty years and we now had the privilege of accompanying them to one of their personal power spots.

We drove past the Amargosa Opera House, this day looking pretty tightly shut. Our friends had been stopping by there for ever, listening to chanteuse Marta Becket sing and dance. She retired last february after 45 years, the final curtain falling on the stage.

The Furnace Creek Inn is a pretty plush hotel, considering it is located in the middle of nowhere. The staff was courteous and professional, they whisked away our luggage and led us to our adjoining rooms, located as far away from civilization as possible at the resort. Although the Inn was full, we were practically alone all weekend, most of the guests at the Inn and the ranch on a major bike ride through the valley to raise funds for diabetes.

I pestered my comrades to take a short ride around the general area but they demurred. S finally relented and we rode down to the Devil's golf course to try to play nine. The golf course is a large field of salt crystals and quite picturesque. Walking on the salt beds is difficult and falls can be treacherous and painful. Might want to lay up.

Afterwards we took the bumpy road up to the Natural Bridge trailhead and hiked partially up the trail. Not knowing what was in store for us we finally decided to go back and get our bearings and try again another day. We corralled the women and had dinner in the dining room.

I am told that the dining room used to require a jacket. No longer but it was definitely swanky upscale. My friend Vlad had warned me not to try anything too adventurous but there is a new chef there and the food was actually pretty good.

I guess this is the point in the story when I should give you a bit of information about the general area. Death Valley is a narrow valley bordered by the tall Panamint Mountains on the west and the Amargosa and Funeral Mountain ranges to the east.

As everyone knows, it is the hottest place on earth. The hottest temperature ever recorded was 134° in Death Valley in 1913. Air temperatures regularly exceed 130° in the summer and ground temperatures can be 70° hotter than that. Badwater in Death Valley is the lowest point in the western hemisphere, at 282' below sea level.

The original native american inhabitants were the Timbisha, a Panamint Shoshone clan. Timbisha means red rock face paint, for the red clay that they used and that can still be seen in the hills near artist's palette. The Timbisha have been in the area for over one thousand years but the white folk tried to do some nasty stuff to get them out of there, including once even using high pressure hoses to destroy their homes.

The original native american word for Death Valley was Tomesha which means "this place is burning my god damn feet through my moccasins" in Shoshone. Gold miners seeking the rich lodes in California purportedly named it Death Valley while ensconced on the ridge of the Panamints, thanking the good lord that they would never again have to traverse the valley of death. If you need any more information you can look it up, like I did.

The next morning I got up way before dawn and drove up to the Mesquite Dunes area to see the sun rise. It was dark and I had no idea where I was going when I set out across the desert. There are really no trails out there. You see something and you walk towards it.

Walking on the dunes was an incredible experience for me as an artist and photographer. Wading through the temporal sea, you are charting through a vast, virgin canvas. I was one of the three first there on this fine morning. You are very conscious of your footsteps so early in the day, so as not to mar either the earth or another artist's sightline. In the afternoon it is a complete jumble, waiting for the night wind to reset nature's etch a sketch. I tried to walk on saddles and ridges and stay off the faces, to keep the surface clean.


The waveforms sometimes reminded me of the underside of a whale, other times of a supersweetened painting by the artist Paul Grimm. Camel backs and female torsos. So lovely. After the set of the sun I found my way back to the car and cleared a large quantity of sand from my shoes and socks.

Afterwards I drove back to a very good but quite expensive breakfast. Gas and food is pricey when you are in the middle of nowhere, bring piles of money, if you've got them. Not being rich, the past month has set me back on my heels a bit.

After a short rest our  group took a cruise, first to the West Side road, then Badwater and Devil's Golf Course again.


We finished our evening cruising up to Zabriskie point.

We went to the ranch and had pizza after dinner. A little less money and not too bad. The bicycle people were starting to saunter in, having finished their race. We came back exhausted and crashed. The hotel has some very cool schmaltzy paintings of old 49er presidents on the wall. This guy was my favorite, Paul DeDecker. Some say that the Inn is haunted by ghost's of old 49ers.

I rose again before dawn, catching  a few stray meteors hurtling out of my favorite constellation, Orion.

Drove back to Zabriskie. I was alone with an english marine biologist who just got done with a North Sea ocean survey.

Had the place to ourselves when they arrived.

A fifty armed squacking beast bearing cameras from every hydra like arm. Equal parts, Ansel Adams, hadassah and metamucil, the Contra Costa Camera Club hurtled onto the plateau in all its glory.

"Gladys, what's your iso? F stop anybody?  Don't fall, you'll break a hip." It was amazing to see these people commandeer every available sight line. I decided to amscray, and fast.

Photography is basically a singular pursuit for me. I enjoy the time creating by myself. I think I take up knitting before I ever subject myself to that. Loses something as a group effort.  I spent a lot of this time this morning bracketing and choosing various manual exposure settings. Hard to take a bad shot at Death Valley.


Somebody dropped a lens cap and went all the way to the bottom to retrieve it. Anyway I took a million shots at first light and look forward to processing them in the months ahead. Might have a few keepers. Kerry calls them money shots. He and Jasmine's photographs can be seen in every National Park in the west. Check out his new shot of the Superstitions at www.southrimstudio.com.

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I am reminded of Anders Aldrin's wonderful color woodblock print, Zabriskie Point.

And Antonioni's film of the same name that had the famous Dark Star passage from the Grateful Dead.


Went back to the hotel and grabbed an incredible brunch. Chef Renée outdid himself. Won't even go into detail but truly epic and except for one other couple at the end, we had the place to ourselves!

We ripped!



After brunch we swam and everybody relaxed, me a little bit, itching to get back on the trail and catch some more visual game. 

I took the car and drove up to Mosaic Canyon, a slot canyon reminiscent of some Utah formations I have visited and went for a nice hike by my lonesome. 


After the hike I trucked back to the dunes for late afternoon and sunset shots. I got back to the Inn after a long walk out, dead tired, low on water. Joined them in the dining room and started to feel really squirrely. Sweating and nauseous, slightly dehydrated, I excused myself and went back to the room, sleep off a mild case of heatstroke.

It was a very nice trip, want to thank our marvelous hosts who were just the best company. Set me back a bit but I look forward to returning one day. Couldn't do everything, but who can? Hope that you liked the pictures and didn't think that I had fallen into a hole. 

Dave told me this morning that there are people that will archive your blog for a hundred years after you die. Hmm. Might have to consider it. Hate to see everything I ever wrote go pow when some guy at google accidentally unplugs an extension cord and kills the whole system...


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Submit and obey

I was interested in a couple news items this week. The preacher in Iowa who suggests a woman in his church be slapped for objecting to his taking political action against a judge.
By DAVID PITT
Associated Press
 
Politics and religion have collided at a Burlington church after pamphlets encouraging voters to remove an Iowa Supreme Court justice were made available at a Sunday service.

A woman who attended the City Church service Sept. 30 told a pastor she believed it was illegal for a church to display material promoting specific political action. The pastor told her it wasn't illegal, and in an Oct. 7 sermon another pastor, Steve Youngblood, castigated her for raising objections about the pamphlets that back the removal of Justice David Wiggins.

"Don't call yourself a Christian and do that," Youngblood said in the sermon. "We need to draw a line in the sand. We need to begin to say that at City Church this is how we're going to be."

Under a 1954 federal law, it is illegal for tax-exempt organizations, including churches, to promote political candidates or ballot issues. Those who violate the law can lose their tax exempt status, which allows tax deductions on money given to a church and allows a church to avoid paying property taxes.
The woman who objected to the pamphlet contacted the Facebook page of Vote Yes To Retain Iowa Supreme Court Justices on Oct. 3, and a complaint was filed Oct. 10 with the Internal Revenue Service, alleging the church is involved in a political campaign.

An IRS spokesman declined to comment Friday.

"The IRS is prohibited by law from commenting on any specific taxpayer or entity," spokesman Christopher Miller wrote in an email response to the Associated Press.

In his Oct. 7 sermon, the audio of which was posted online, Youngblood speaks of the woman who complained, saying he'd "like to slap her" and that her husband should rise up and "correct her."

"What makes me madder is that this person's husband won't correct them," he said. "I don't like rebellious women. I don't like rebellious men, either. They're even worse."

Youngblood then told the 150 people attending the service that the pamphlets were available, and he encouraged them to pick one up.

Youngblood said Friday a church member placed the pamphlets on a table in the foyer, outside the ballroom of the Burlington apartments, where the church meets.

Youngblood said the pamphlets, which encouraged people to vote against retaining Wiggins in the Nov. 6 election, were not distributed in church and the church wasn't advising church members on the issue. Social conservative groups have mounted a statewide campaign to remove Wiggins because he joined a unanimous 2009 ruling that found a law banning same-sex marriage violated the Iowa Constitution.

A similar effort sparked by the same ruling succeeded in removing three other justices in the 2010 election.

Although the church didn't initially address the issue, pastors are now.

"Actually we weren't but it wouldn't bother me to do it. I would have. In fact if you heard the sermon, I held it up and said here it is, go get it," Youngblood said. "I'm not going to be bullied. I'm not going to be intimidated. I'm not intentionally breaking the law."

He said the church has been contacted by a legal group offering to represent it for free if it's challenged by the IRS.

Youngblood said it's a coincidence the issue arose about the same time as a national push to overturn the restrictions on churches advocating for candidates or ballot measures.

That effort is sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based organization that sponsored its fifth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday event Oct. 7. The group said 1,600 pastors across the country signed up to present "biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates." The group said it hopes to eventually go to court to have the law struck down as unconstitutional because it believes the law violates preachers' free speech rights.

Youngblood said he is not part of that effort and wasn't trying to create controversy.

"I'm just saying in this particular church we're going to make a stand for what's right and against what's wrong and we're not going to be bullied by an individual or by a government," he said.

After contacting the Vote Yes To Retain Iowa Supreme Court Justices group, the woman who objected to the pamphlets was referred to the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, a nonprofit group that defends religious freedom and supports the right to same-sex marriage. Though she initially said she would be willing to be interviewed, she changed her mind when contacted by the AP Friday. She said the stress from the situation has caused her health issues and she didn't want to talk further.

"The woman who blew the whistle on all this feels unable to talk to the press because that sermon was so intimidating and humiliating," said the Rev. Jane Willan, minister at Zion United Church of Christ in Burlington, who has talked with the woman and her husband.

Willan filed the complaint with the IRS, alleging the church is involved in a political campaign.

Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Connie Ryan Terrell said she has grave concerns about the church's actions, including Youngblood's sermon.

"He read from that pamphlet during the sermon and encouraged people to pick it up after church and in my opinion that is a direct violation of the law, which prohibits houses of worship and nonprofits from endorsing candidates," she said.

David Selmon, another City Church pastor, said Sunday the church does not condone violence.

"There are things people say that they just say, not literally meaning they would slap somebody," he said. "I've heard people say, 'that person needs to be shot' but I don't take it seriously."

Selmon said Pulpit Freedom Sunday could be used as a defense for Youngblood's comments. Although the event was well-advertised, Selmon said Youngblood was not aware of the event when he spoke.

Selmon said the judge retention issue is not a matter of being Democrat or Republican. "It's stated in the Bible, if you're a believer, you vote 'no'," he said. "I believe we followed the teachings of the Bible and the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Just like drug addictions and fornication is a sin. We preach against sin."

Selmon said the pamphlets are still available at the Burlington apartments, as well as voter registration forms and ballots.

Meanwhile, Youngblood addressed the controversy accumulating around his comments during his sermon Sunday.

"I got a little fired up last Sunday. I'm still fired up, but I'll try to hold in a little bit," he said. "I'm still mad, and I'll be mad the rest of my life over someone who acts like that in the house of God."

City Church's Facebook page accumulated several comments Sunday scolding the pastor and church for the slapping portion of the sermon, but they were removed quickly. 
This whole idea of rebellious women submitting makes me think of that post a few months back about the computer being able to differentiate and pick out  the republican women's faces from the crowd. Maybe it is like poker, the woman who is willing to submit broadcasts some subtle "tells?" I predict that the first time I rebuke my wife and suggest that she submit will be the last time and some very unpleasant things will occur to boot. Very quickly. Whole thing sounds a little bit like the Taliban to me. When is the I.R.S. going to get some stones and stat revoking their tax status?

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The other story was about the woman who lived by strict biblical precepts for a year, dutifully submitting, and then can't get her book published because she used the word vagina twice. Heavens. I guess that good christian women may have one of these gadgets but a decent god fearing person certainly should not speak of it.

 “If Christian bookstores stuck to their own ridiculous standards, they wouldn’t be able to carry the freaking Bible."
Rachel Held Evans

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Have you heard about the nervous parents in Encinitas who are protesting the new yoga program generously donated to the school, fearing that it will indoctrinate the children into hinduism? Never mind that the program had been scrupulously vetted to remove any references to vedanta or religion. Ridiculous. What will the dimwitted troglodytes think of next?

"Yoga practices and poses are not merely exercise; they're religious practices," said Marsha Qualls, who has a student at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School, calling the techniques "a kind of prayer."

Some of the parents said they have already asked to have their children removed from the classes.

"I will not allow my children to be indoctrinated by this Hindu religious program," said Andy Vick, who has three daughters at Mission Estancia. "Because of this, you're forcing me to segregate my children."




You may not be able to teach yoga in Encinitas but in Texas, Rick Perry is going to bat to allow cheerleaders to promote Christianity on the football field. Religion is okay, long as it ain't any of that far eastern stuff. Now where might the indoctrination actually be taking place in these two situations?

Politics, blecchh!

"Put your gold money where your love is baby, before you let that deal go down..."
Loser - Robert Hunter - Grateful Dead

Is there anybody out there who isn't totally disgusted with politics at this point? If so, please raise your hand. Please lord, let it be over.

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I got in a scrap of trouble with a dear friend who thought that I was being a bit more pompous than usual and putting down Americans on my Spain blog.

"Robert, I travel a hell of a lot more than you do (she does) and the Russians are the worst this year."

"I thought it was the Israelis?" I said.

"Israelis, they were the bad seeds last year. But let me tell you, the Americans aren't all that bad." She proceeded to tell me a tale of her chastisement of a wayward Israeli for his transgression while in Asia. I think that what brought all this on was my blog tale of the Americans who threw a fit because they couldn't find a Subway restaurant in the sea of culinary excellence that is southern Spain. And some people didn't even speak english. Imagine?

Anyway I shouldn't bag on the United States. Our plumbing fixtures may not be as nice as they are in Europe and Japan and our roads are littered with horrible fast food advertising and trash but that's no reason to put us down. After all, we invented the frisbee and the Ford Mustang. amongst many other fine contributions to the world.

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Like an idiot I left my longtime pocketknife in my jeans and had to do what is known in the business as a surrender at TSA when I took off for Phoenix on the first leg of our journey. Lost an old friend.

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Church in the Valley - Leakey, Texas

Not to bag on Americans but I thought it rather odd how people caterwaul after the debates. Romney stuck it to him on this, Obama won that. We demonize the candidates and each other, in a country now split right down the middle.

The reality is that this is not about individual men, it is about as two starkly different visions for America. Many of my friends are Republican. They are very good people and fervently believe in their vision for America. They want the best for our country as do my Democratic friends. The devil, of course, is in the details.

We are voting to shape and figure out who we are and what we want to be, We need to talk less about personalities and more about issues. One merely needs to read the respective party platforms to see the stark differences. This is a big national conversation, deciding who we are, who we want to be and the limits to our responsibility towards each other.

The Republicans want lower taxes, more energy self sufficiency and less regulation.  Drill. baby, drill. Rein in the EPA, page 19. Privatize federal land, page 18. Screw labor, smite the heathens, screw the attorneys. Privatize Medicare and Social Security. Respect life, reduce entitlements, you know the drill. Vouchers, freedom of religion, deny climate change. Here is a snippet from the first page of the platform:

"Every voter will be asked to choose
between the chronic high unemployment and the
unsustainable debt produced by a big government
entitlement society, or a positive, optimistic view of
an opportunity society, where any American who
works hard, dreams big and follows the rules can
achieve anything he or she wants."

The last chapter is titled American Exceptionalism. This is the first paragraph:

"We are the party of peace through strength. Professing
American exceptionalism—the conviction that
our country holds a unique place and role in human
history—we proudly associate ourselves with those
Americans of all political stripes who, more than three
decades ago in a world as dangerous as today’s, came
together to advance the cause of freedom."

I think that it is reasonable to assert that many Republicans are successful people who are happy with their lot, which has been achieved through their own hard work and are afraid of anything that will jeopardize the status quo and smack of redistribution. The game is called sink or swim and you better win. Serious penalty for losing but it ain't our problem.

My friends on the right are untroubled by the social lilt of their party to the right and even if they do have some fear of a radical right social agenda, it is trumped by the need to hold on to their wealth. Perfectly understandable. They tell me not to worry about the abortion thing or personhood amendments all that social stuff will never happen. I worry.  They tell me it's the economy, stupid. Which admittedly sucks.

The Democrats also have a platform. You can access it here

We Democrats offer America the opportunity to move our country forward by creating an economy built to last and built from the middle out. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have a drastically different vision. They still believe the best way to grow the economy is from the top down – the same approach that benefited the wealthy few but crashed the economy and crushed the middle class.
Democrats see a young country continually made stronger by the greatest diversity of talent and ingenuity in the world, and a nation of people drawn to our shores from every corner of the globe. We believe America can succeed because the American people have never failed and there is nothing that together we cannot accomplish.

Same line of general bullshit as the Republicans, different ox getting gored. Responsibly ending the war, notice how this time they add a qualifier? First time up it was ending the war. Rebuilding the middle class. Protecting health care reform. Etc.

Here's an interesting paragraph:

Standing With Those Demanding Greater Freedom. As we continue to perfect our union here at home, setting an example for others to follow, we will also continue to champion universal rights abroad. We recognize that different cultures and traditions give life to these values in distinct ways, and each country will inevitably chart its own course. America will not impose any system of government on another country. But we also know that the sovereignty of nations cannot strangle the liberty of individuals. So as people around the world yearn for greater freedom, we will continue to support progress toward more accountable, democratic governance and the exercise of universal rights. We will do so through a variety of means: by speaking out for universal rights, bolstering fragile democracies and civil society, and supporting the dignity that comes with development. 
Across the Middle East and North Africa, we have stood with the people demanding political change and seeking their rights during the Arab Spring. Since the beginning of the protests in Tunisia, the United States has consistently opposed violence against innocent civilians, supported a set of universal rights for the people of the region, and supported processes of political and economic reform. 

Obama and co. are all in with the Arab Spring. Now when those weapons that get supplied to the anti Assad rebels get passed in to the hands of Al Qaeda jihadis, or the democratic movement gets co-opted by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, we have ourselves a major problem, mission control. And it's happening as we speak.

The Obama Administration is all in with its Israel neutral, we are going to make ourselves a lot of new friends in the region stance, which is so fundamentally different than its predecessors.  I predict that all of this political, resource and blood capital will be found to be a total waste, as it seems to be in Iraq and every other middle eastern country that we have tried to fix. We will see.

I disagree with this president and my democratic party on many other issues but just could not pull the trigger for the other side. I can't blame the President for not fixing the disastrous economy he inherited fast enough. Economies and markets right themselves on their own time line. Maybe if Romney got elected he could get lucky and catch an uptick but so much is out of our hands right now. It is a global economy and China is slowing down. Don't think Obama is a marxist and never did. Obama promised a lot that turned out to be merely platitudes and colorful speech, can't get giddy about his prospects for re-election. Still like Gary Johnson.

I do think the other countries in the world are much more comfortable with Obama than Bush. Do we need another Bolton/Yoo/Cheney axis that believe that it is better to be feared and loved and work so hard to alienate the rest of humanity? Republicans constantly had everybody else pissed off.

I cringe at the thought of a full scale retreat back to fossil fuels. The magnitude of the drilling contemplated by Romney and his cronies and backers is inconceivable. Its always safe technology until the shit hits the fan which it always eventually does and then environmental degradation is the cost of doing business. And the drilling won't help our country more than a scoche, since oil and gas are globally traded commodities that can quickly leave our shores and be absorbed into the world market. Might make a lot of people real rich first, it is true.

Don't think we can get rid of the EPA, FDA or any other similar big government regulator that stands between me and the big corporations that consistently put profits before human beings. Will be interesting to see how the Monsanto case before the Supreme Court pans out. Perhaps their buddy Clarence Thomas will actually recuse himself.

Romney said the other day that people don't die in their apartments, they go to emergency rooms. Even though people do die in their apartments, the statement is still ridiculous because the emergency room system is not designed to be a front line care giver, they are already overburdened, it is expensive and the rest of us end up paying for the indigents through higher premiums. I don't think Romney can conceive of the plight of the poor because he is so far removed from it and always has been. That stuff just doesn't happen in his neighborhood.

And I don't see how cutting taxes on the very rich is going to help things much. They may create jobs, but they aren't in this country and it does us no good when they park their profits offshore.

There have been Personhood initiatives popping up all over the country, life begins at or before conception, eggs have the full rights of the born. Birth control is next and then maybe no sex outside of the government approved missionary position. Those folks that supposedly believe in limited government can't wait to get into your personal life and regulate your moral behavior, your sexual preference, your reproductive choices.  

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We are in a real pickle and both choices have real positives and negatives. Which narrative and paradigm do we choose to believe, that the rich are plunderous robber barons or that the poor are spongey parasites trying to game the system.

And its not about how we feel about the candidates, it's how we feel about each other and our social contract. We are far from being on the same page as a people. And there is little accessible middle ground.