"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Today's Must Read

The election news -- which is still about 95% of what news there is, give or take a couple of terrorists attacks -- is, frankly, mind-numbing, particular since it's about 95% about The Hairpiece, who inexplicably is still leading the polls. Well, it's not really inexplicable, as this piece from Mahablog shows. The appeal of both Trump and Carson (who seems to have imploded) is pretty plain:

News media are confounded by The Donald. They have long politely overlooked conventional lies, such as claims that cutting taxes will reduce the federal budget or that Democrats hate Jesus. Now they’re covering a national candidate who is spewing lies at unprecedented rates (except perhaps by Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, both of whom seem to be fading).  If someone bravely corrects The Donald and explains that what he is saying is demonstrably, verifiably, I’ve got it right here in black and white not true, he just repeats his lie even more loudly.

And people like the Hot Air commenter eat it up, because he is showing them the universe as they want it to be. They’re not going to give that up easily.

That has to be it: In a movement heavily populated by world-class liars, it occurs to me that they're all lying for the advancement of their own political agendas. I don't think that's the case with Trump -- he doesn't seem to have a real political ideology, and I start to think more and more that he's in it for The Deal. He's also pandering to the crazies on the right big-time, but that's just the showman hard at work.

Read the whole thing -- lots of quotes, but it's very instructive.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday Science: Burp!

Nope, it's not about gas in your stomach -- it's about what happens when a black hole swallows a star:

Black holes are known for their voracious appetites. These bodies -- formed when a massive star collapses upon itself -- have occasionally been described as the “vacuum cleaners” of the universe and are notorious for their tendency to wreak havoc on the usual laws of physics that govern the rest of the cosmos.

Now, for the first time ever, scientists have witnessed a black hole swallowing a star and ejecting a flare of matter moving at nearly the speed of light -- a rare event that occurs when a star stumbles across a black hole’s gravitational well.

There's even video -- a re-enactment/visualization, of course -- this particular event happened 300 million light years away and took a little bit more than a few minutes to happen. Of course, when you're talking about interstellar phenomena, that counts as current events:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Today's Must Read

Been out of commission this week from some weird bug, then had no Internet for a day and a half.

And reading the news and commentary in the wake of the Paris attacks from the Republican "front runners" and the "liberal" media, I'm ashamed to admit I'm an American.

Consequently, I'm bringing you two posts from Digby: the first addresses the response of "journalists" (as they are known these days) to the attacks, channeling Glenn Greenwald:

Greenwald on the CNN debacle:

Labott’s crime wasn’t that she expressed an opinion. It’s that she expressed the wrong opinion: after Paris, defending Muslims, even refugees, is strictly forbidden. I’ve spoken with friends who work at every cable network and they say the post-Paris climate is indescribably repressive in terms of what they can say and who they can put on air. When it comes to the Paris attacks, CNN has basically become state TV (to see just how subservient CNN is about everything relating to terrorism, watch this unbelievable “interview” of ex-CIA chief Jim Woolsey by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin; or consider that neither CNN nor MSNBC has put a single person on air to dispute the CIA’s blatant falsehoods about Paris despite how many journalists have documented those falsehoods).

The second focuses on the march to fascism on the right (OK, Digby doesn't actually say that, but does she have to?):

So, you now, this is where we are now. We've got the media suspending reporters for tweeting "lady liberty bowed her head" after the House voted yesterday to stop Syrian refugees frm coming into the country, even as many of their biggest stars have been behaving like a bunch of hysterical schoolgirls 24/7 ever since Paris. We have the front-runner of the Republican party talking about he necessity to "do things that were unthinkable even a year ago" and "bombing the shit out of them." He also said we would have to have Muslims register with the government to be tracked by a database.(No word on whether it will be necessary to sew some kind of symbol on their clothing...)

Now we have the leading establishment candidate saying we have to "shut down" not just mosques but websites, cafes, diners --- anyplace where radicals are being inspired. He left out libraries and book stores but surely that was an oversight.

I think what's most worrisome about this is not the "conservative" response -- it's more or less what you'd expect, given what conservatism has become in the last generation or two -- but the complicity of the media. Actually, it's more than complicity -- the media has become a prime mover in this.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Culture Break: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Third Movement

I remember being totally blown away by this when I first heard it: it was about the most surreal piece of music I had ever heard. Somehow, it seems to fit the mood this weekend.

More On Paris, Thoughtfully

Charles Pierce has this:

It is long past time for the oligarchies of the Gulf states to stop paying protection to the men in the suicide belts. Their societies are stunted and parasitic. The main job of the elites there is to find enough foreign workers to ensla…er…indenture to do all the real work. The example of Qatar and the interesting business plan through which that country is building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup is instructive here. Roughly the same labor-management relationship exists for the people who clean the hotel rooms and who serve the drinks. In Qatar, for people who come from elsewhere to work, passports have been known to disappear into thin air. These are the societies that profit from terrible and tangled web of causation and violence that played out on the streets of Paris. These are the people who buy their safety with the blood of innocents far away.

Needless to say, read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


I'm generally offline in the afternoon and evening, so the attacks in Paris were a surprise this morning. This story from Hullabaloo seems to be the best summary of what happened:

France is in a state of shock this morning in the wake of a near-simultaneous rolling attacks at six different Paris locations Friday night by gunmen and suicide bombers. The situation is still fluid and details are coming in by the moment. More than 120 have been killed and dozens are in critical condition in hospitals. The latest word as I write this is that the Islamic State claims responsibility. That claim is unverified. The identity and nationality of the attackers as well as victims is still being investigated.

I really don't have anything more to say about this. Not enough information, and it hasn't quite sunk in yet.

Here are more details on the overall picture:

President Fran├žois Hollande has closed the borders and as of this morning has essentially declared war on ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God. seems to be on top of this and is posting periodic updates.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Culture Break: Depeche Mode: Freestate

I'm sort of catching up with the things I meant to post this week and didn't.

Since I've been listening to Depeche Mode a lot lately, it seemed only fitting to do a "Culture Break" with something by them, except I don't like most of the videos on YouTube. This one's nice enough, and I like the song (of course, I like most of their songs). It's from Ultra:

I'm not sure about the submarine, though.

Image of the Week

I meant to post these yesterday, but being a major airhead lately, forgot.

At any rate, a couple of recent images from my friend Bernice. This one, if I have it right, was chosen as the "Photo of the Day" on her photo group's web site:

And this one is a nice variation on that theme. (See what you can do if you get up early? Or was this one done late?)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Republican Field: A Couple of Highlights for Today

I'm generally avoiding election news, since the election is a year away (well, yeah, there was an election yesterday some places, but the news on that is post mortems, at this point, which I may or may not comment on). But sometimes you just can't resist, especially when you get candidates who are not long on brains or sense trying to appeal to a constituency that is even more impoverished in those areas.

For example, it's recently been discovered that Ben Carson has a theory on the pyramids:

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said. “Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”

In the Old Testament, Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, is sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers. He eventually rose to become a top aide to the Egyptian pharaoh, advising him of a dream vision he had of coming years of famine in the ancient kingdom. Joseph’s sage advice of the coming famine (and directions to store gain) helped the Egyptians survive the famine.

Carson said the design of the pyramids made clear they were for grain storage.

“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for various reasons. And various of scientists have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how—’ you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.”

I am nearly speechless at this -- just forget all the mummies and grave offerings and commemorative inscriptions inside the pyramids. And I want to meet these "scientists" who claim the pyramids were built by aliens.

And we can always count on Rick Santorum (google it!) for something completely incoherent:

Talking with Newsmax, a right wing website, Santorum was asked about HERO and a case involving a transgender girl being barred from using the girl's locker room at school. . . .

"I don’t know why children at that age — why this is even an issue, the idea that we are introducing this type of real dangerous confusion for young people at this early age. Do we really care about what we’re doing to millions of children who don’t have gender confusion and basically introducing the subject and saying, ‘maybe you should, maybe this is something you should start thinking about at age seven’?," a rambling Santorum asked.

"I mean this is really dangerous and it’s going too far because it is having an impact on not just folks who may be in a difficult situation at an early age but many who would never have been in that situation but now are being confronted with it."

WTF? Now, any rational person would figure that children who do not have "gender confusion" (whatever that is) would not be worried about it. Santorum, of course, figures that any mention of such a thing is going to impel children to try it out. (And just who, pray tell, is telling them to start thinking about it at age seven? With the implication, of course, that whoever it is is saying, "try it, you'll like it.")

I suspect that what we're seeing here is the result of a Catholic education on someone with limited intellectual capacities to begin with.

And these people are presenting themselves as presidential material. And in Carson's case, at least, people are buying it.

I fear for the future.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Today's Must Read

I've been reading the news and not writing much on it because it's 97.5% election news and the election is just over a year away and I'm already sick of it. And most of the focus is on the Republican race, and they're all idiots or crazy. Or both.

This post from Gin and Tacos pretty much summarizes the way I feel about the whole thing:

Think of it this way. If I devoted this space to explaining that supply side economics doesn't work, starting wars is a bad idea, or opposition to gay marriage is hypocritical, Constitutionally unjustifiable, and ignorant, how interesting would that be for you to read? In the last 15 years how many times would you estimate you've read those arguments? How many times have you made them or explained this to someone unwilling or unable to understand them? How many sentences into that post would your eyes glaze over and your mouse begin poking around for something more interesting?

It's just too much effort to continue to take these people seriously. The leading GOP candidates are an actual reality TV troll, a clinically insane man who hears voices from god, a woman whose entire resume is a series of staggering failures in the corporate world, and George W. Bush's dumber brother.

That's really it. I gave up writing on the opposition to marriage equality in any substantive way because I got tired of refuting the same damned "arguments" over and over and over again. Ditto with just about everything else.

But I can't bring myself to turn this blog into posts featuring cute kitten videos.

I just can't.