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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Quotes o’ the Day

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.

Toni Morrison

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To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.

Thomas Paine

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Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

William Shakespeare

———

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Stephen Jay Gould

Morrison

Gould

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano on Mars, is 16 miles high, almost three times taller than Mt. Everest.

● In the 1970s, future pop star Madonna Ciccone dropped out of college and moved to New York City. She took a job at a Dunkin’ Donuts, but was fired on her first day for squirting jelly filling on a customer.

● April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.

● In 1850, a French violin maker invented the octobass, a stringed instrument designed to produce ultra-low sounds, including sounds that fall below the range of human hearing. The octobass has three strings and is some 12 feet tall. Today, the only octobass not in a museum is owned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

● In 2013, Russia changed a long-standing law that classified all beverages with less than 10 percent alcohol by volume as soft drinks. The change thus classified beer as an alcoholic beverage in Russia for the first time.

● One teaspoon of healthy soil (e.g., soil enriched with compost) easily can contain six billion microorganisms, doing their thing to decompose organic matter and free up nutrients for reuse. To put six billion in perspective, the current human population of the planet is 7.9 billion.

● Your body contains about 1.3 gallons of blood. Blood cells make a full circuit of your vessels in about one minute.

● The screaming hairy armadillo, so named because it squeals like crazy when handled and is hairier than other armadillos, is native to central and southern South America. It is the smallest of the armadillos, adults being about a foot long. They live in underground burrows and eat plants, bugs, lizards, and an occasional mouse.

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This Just In

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Biologists with the Fish and Wildlife service found a live baby turtle in the stomach of a 15-pound largemouth bass and extracted it unharmed. The turtle, not the bass.

The biologists were in the Everglades catching bass for research when they noticed that the stomach of one of the fish was moving. They carefully opened the fish and discovered the turtle. After determining that the turtle was uninjured, they released it into the water.

KHARTOUM, SUDAN — A Boeing 737 en route to Qatar was forced to return to Khartoum for an emergency landing after a stowaway cat appeared in the cockpit and could not be subdued.

The cat, believed to be a feral stray, emerged from hiding 30 minutes into the flight and caused a major uproar, including attacking the pilot. When crew members were unable to capture or corner the cat, the decision was made to turn back.

Officials said the aircraft had been cleaned the night before the flight. They assume the cat slipped inside and found a concealed space to sleep.

DOLGELLAU, WALES — In January, a border collie was sold at auction for $38,893, setting a new world record for the sale of a trained herding dog.

The dog was a one-year-old named Kim who, according to her trainer, has the skills of a three-year-old. Kim was purchased by a farmer in Staffordshire.

The previous record was $26,088, set last October with the sale of Henna, another female border collie from Wales.

Kim’s trainer said, “She was doing everything. She worked cattle and sheep, and she was ready for any trials or farm work for anybody.”

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This post is about the nefarious practice of gerrymandering, a form of underhanded nastiness that politicians — mostly, but not exclusively, conservative politicians — have elevated to an art form.

Because I live in the Deep South, which is dominated by diehard “Christian conservatives,” I am saddled with a congressman who, by rational standards, is a deplorable jerk and a genuine threat to democracy.

More about the deplorable jerk directly, but first, as you undoubtedly know, gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral boundaries to favor one’s political party. The process is dirty, cynical and quite effective.

Gerrymandering is named for Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who in 1812 created a voting district that benefited his party, the Democratic-Republicans, and was mocked for resembling a salamander.


1812 Boston Globe editorial cartoon satirizing Gov. Gerry’s carefully created voting district.

Today, gerrymandering is so common across the country that it’s almost the norm. I am most familiar with what the GOP has done to the congressional districts of Georgia, so I’ll begin there.

Georgia’s cities are Democratic strongholds, so the Republicans have sabotaged them via strategic gerrymandering. Consider this map of Georgia’s congressional districts.

Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Savannah, and Columbus once stood as their own congressional districts, but were combined with enough surrounding rural counties to overcome the Democrats’ advantage.

Atlanta was broken into half a dozen different districts. Athens was sliced down the middle, the two halves being absorbed into, and neutered by, the sea of GOP voters in congressional districts 9 and 10.

The fate of Athens is especially galling because the city was, and still is, a liberal bastion. It was not only subjugated by the GOP, but is now represented by two especially wild-eyed and extremist nutjob Republicans.

One of them is my deplorable jerk of a congressman, the district 9 representative, Andrew Clyde.

This is the same Andrew Clyde who famously described the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 as a “normal tourist visit.”

This is the same Andrew Clyde who was photographed in obvious panic as Trump’s white supremacist goons tried to break into the House chamber while chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

Clyde is (sigh) the owner of the Clyde Armory, a giant Athens gun store. He got into politics because, well, the opportunity presented itself.

He is a typical bellicose right-winger who toes the party line and has no need to give the issues any thought. He is a textbook example of a conservative whose brain rarely functions at a higher level than reptilian mode.

In March 2020, before Clyde was elected to Congress, the accelerating spread of COVID prompted Athens-Clarke County to issue an emergency order requiring non-essential businesses, including the Clyde Armory, to close temporarily.

Clyde went insane. He flooded the media with hysterical rants, and he sued Athens-Clarke County, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional and would injure his business irreparably. As if anything known to man could hurt the bottom line of a gun store.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, and he warned Clyde and his lawyers not to come back to court unless they could demonstrate a better understanding of the issues and the law.

Clyde was elected to Congress handily and took office in January 2021. He won because he is a hidebound conservative and a gun nut, traits that resonate with the local rednecks.

It is ironically fitting, then, that the GOP representative from district 10, Jody Hice, is a long-time “Christian right” preacher and a right-wing radio talk show host.

Hice quit preaching when he ran for Congress, but he still hosts a daily radio program for Let Freedom Ring Ministries, Inc. That worthy organization is “dedicated to keeping America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and values in the mainstream.”

I’m not sure why they included “Judeo” in the motto. “White” would have been more descriptive.

Not long ago, Hice introduced a bill that would allow members of Congress to carry firearms, which probably earned him a donation from the Clyde Armory.

Hice, incidentally, won’t be in Congress much longer. He is running to replace Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State who refused to overturn the 2020 election results. As you recall, Georgia not only went for Biden, but also elected two Democratic senators.

Raffensperger, of course, is now persona non grata with the GOP and probably will lose in the primaries. Hice may well get the job, and will be in charge of Georgia’s electoral system, unless the Democrats can pull off another miracle.

These are scary times for democracy, people.

Two noxious byproducts of gerrymandering: Andrew Clyde and Jody Hice.

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The Questions…

1. What was the full name of baseball great Babe Ruth, aka the Bambino, aka the Sultan of Swat?

2. How long does it take to hard-boil an egg?

3. What is the largest organ in the human body?

4. What eye color is most common among humans?

5. What is the rarest color of M&M chocolate candies?

The Answers…

1. George Herman Ruth.

2. Seven minutes.

3. The skin.

4. Brown.

5. Brown.

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In 2000, the song “Things Have Changed” from the movie “Wonder Boys” won Bob Dylan both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for best original song. Dylan said he wrote it because he sympathized with the protagonist in the 1995 novel of the same name.

The story is a black comedy about an author and college professor (Michael Douglas) having an epic midlife crisis. His wife has left him, and his mistress is pregnant. His first novel years earlier was critically acclaimed, but the widely-anticipated second novel eludes him.

He smokes so much weed that he suffers regular blackouts. He is responsible for the death of his boss’s dog. His life is a mess and getting worse, but he soldiers on.

Dylan’s song is a succession of images about hopelessness, futility, and impending doom. It’s a great fit — even though the story somehow stumbles to a happy ending.

Things Have Changed

By Bob Dylan, 2000
Written by Bob Dylan

A worried man with a worried mind.
No one in front of me, and nothing behind.
There’s a woman on my lap, and she’s drinking champagne.
Got white skin. Got assassin’s eyes.
I’m looking up into the sapphire-tinted skies.
I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train.


Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose.
Any minute now, I’m expecting all hell to break loose.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

This place ain’t doing me any good.
I’m in the wrong town. I should be in Hollywood.
Just for a second there, I thought I saw something move.
Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag.
Ain’t no shortcuts. Gonna dress in drag.
Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove.


Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff, too.
Don’t get up, gentlemen. I’m only passing through.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road.
If the bible is right, the world will explode.
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can.
Some things are too hot to touch.
The human mind can only stand so much.
You can’t win with a losing hand.


Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet.
Putting her in a wheelbarrow, and wheeling her down the street.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

I hurt easily. I just don’t show it.
You can hurt someone and not even know it.
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity.
Gonna get low down, gonna fly high.
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.
I’m in love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me.


Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake.
I’m not that eager to make a mistake.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/things-have-changed.mp3

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Note: political rant to follow. I have harsh thoughts to express about the lunatic behavior of the conservatives. Proceed at your own risk.

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In a post back in July, I laid into the right-wingers regarding their decline from pesky, petulant whiners into rabid totalitarian nutjobs — in many cases, full-on Nazis — and I questioned whether enough normal people are left in the country to hold back the tide of right-wing lunacy.

It seems to me that, while the numbers are on our side, the capacity of the Republicans to lie and cheat is boundless. They almost certainly will taint the voting systems enough to tilt future election results in their favor to some degree.

The courts have shown a refreshing willingness to slap down the GOP cheating. But the Supreme Court has the final say, and it is now hopelessly conservative and partisan. The odds are poor that the Court will stop the GOP from gaming the voting systems. They will find a way to justify the GOP cheating on a technicality.

What this means is that American democracy is in deep trouble, probably the most serious in our history. In fact, democracy could easily end its run before much longer.

Goodbye to liberal democracy, hello to whatever Dark Side we lurch into in the future.

The conservative mindset was always selfish and mean; that is what defines them. But I think of the Reagan years as when the right wing decided that reality is an unnecessary annoyance.

Ronald Reagan was, in fact, a mere figurehead. In reality, he was a doddering old fool rapidly succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Team Reagan, consisting of Nancy and the boys, was in control, and the team decided the federal government would make an ideal whipping boy. It was brilliant. Reaganism captured the heart and soul of the GOP effortlessly.

You remember the Reagan crowd, which secretly and illegally sold missiles to Iran and secretly and illegally used the money to bankroll right-wing rebels trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua.

FYI, 11 federal officials were convicted of perjury and fraud related to the Iran-Contra scandal. President Bush the elder pardoned them.

The Reagan era gave us still more.

In 1984, the Reagan team rewarded the already rich and comfortable by cutting the maximum tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent. The loss of revenue was crippling, but the GOP replaced it by imposing the first-ever tax on social security benefits. Rich people 1, working class 0.

Meanwhile, the conservative masses responded to all this with mindless enthusiasm. They were happy to make government a scapegoat and a target of their prejudices while the GOP stabbed them in the back.

It was Morning in America, starring Ronald Reagan and his famous sunny disposition.

The Reagan era gave us even more.

In 1987, Reagan’s FCC scrapped the Fairness Doctrine, which for decades had kept American news organizations from telling lies and pretending they were facts. Disseminate BS, lose your license.

With the Fairness Doctrine eliminated, Fox “News” was born, created to spin the news — to weave a tapestry of propaganda, lies, and BS — in favor of Republican and conservative causes.

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes probably never dreamed how successful Fox would become. In no time, the network had captured and brainwashed virtually every conservative bonehead in America.

Here was the amazing spectacle of a disingenuous, openly biased right-wing operation convincing its audience that all other news outlets were lying to them, and only Fox was telling the truth. Does the word gullible come to mind?

Two decades later, thanks to that same Fox News audience, we had the equally amazing spectacle of Donald Trump, a human fecal stain, being elected President of the United States.

Make no mistake, supporting Trump, then and now, is an unforgivable failure of morality and decency. Siding with Trump shows that your judgment and character are in question.

Oops, sorry. I meant to say that it shows your judgment and character are in the toilet.

On October 7, 2016, the Access Hollywood tape went public, on which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the private parts. In a sane world, Trump would have been driven into exile in disgrace. But, one month later, half the country — half the country — voted to elect the man President.

If you can look at a person like Trump and say, “Yep, that’s my guy,” you are terribly, deeply sick.

The options to explain how you got that way are limited. Perhaps you are an especially low-wattage bulb. Perhaps you are an evil and twisted human being. Perhaps you have lost touch with reality and need professional help. Perhaps all of the above.

Dozens of times while President, Trump revealed himself to be a literal traitor. He sought and obtained the assistance of Putin and Russia to get elected. He spent four years stealing from us. His term as President was marked by graft and corruption on a mind-boggling scale. Because of his incompetence, 400,000 people died of COVID while he was in office.

Still, on November 8, 2020, half the country — half the country — voted to give him another term as President. Incredible.

On January 6, Trump sent an army of white supremacist thugs to storm the Capitol Building and prevent Congress from certifying Biden as the winner of the November presidential election. This was a naked attempt at a coup, but you can count on one hand how many GOP elected officials objected, or even acknowledged it.

Unfortunately for them, the insurrection was presented on live television and thoroughly documented for posterity. I saw it unfold. You probably did, too.

Consider this for the record:

The conservatives among us, plus virtually all Republican elected officials, want to pretend that January 6 did not happen. These people are deplorable and irredeemable.

Naturally, most also are anti-mask and anti-vax. Will COVID cull the herd by natural selection, or will enough of them survive long enough to steamroll us?

Place your bets.

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I think of “Against the Wind” as a song about aging and how life’s burdens become heavier as we get older. Bob Seger told an interviewer it’s about “trying to move ahead, keeping your sanity and integrity at the same time.” Close enough.

Seger ran cross-country in high school, so the running metaphor came naturally. We also know why he calls the queen of his nights “Janey”: His girlfriend from 1972 until 1983 was Jane Dinsdale.

Against the Wind

By Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, 1980
Written by Bob Seger

It seems like yesterday,
But it was long ago.
Janey was lovely, she was the queen of my nights,
There in the darkness with the radio playing low, and
And the secrets that we shared.
The mountains that we moved.
Caught like a wildfire out of control
‘Til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove.

And I remember what she said to me,
How she swore that it never would end.
I remember how she held me oh, so tight.
Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.

Against the wind.
We were runnin’ against the wind.
We were young and strong.
We were runnin’ against the wind.

The years rolled slowly past,
And I found myself alone.
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends,
I found myself further and further from my home. And I
Guess I lost my way.
There were oh, so many roads.
I was living to run and running to live,
Never worried about payin’ or even how much I owed.

Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time,
Breaking all of the rules that would bend,
I began to find myself searching,
Searching for shelter again and again.
Against the wind.
A little somethin’ against the wind.
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind.

Well those drifter’s days are past me now.
I’ve got so much more to think about.
Deadlines and commitments,
What to leave in, what to leave out.

(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’ against the wind.
I’m older now but still runnin’ against the wind.
Well I’m older now and still runnin’.
(Against the wind)
(Against the wind)
(Against the wind) Still runnin’.
(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’.
(Against the wind)
(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’.
(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) Still runnin’.
(Against the wind) Runnin’ against the wind, runnin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) See the young man run.
(Against the wind) Watch the young man run.
(Against the wind) Watch the young man runnin’.
(Against the wind) He’ll be runnin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) Let the cowboys ride.
(Against the wind) Aah!
(Against the wind) Let the cowboys ride.
(Against the wind) They’ll be ridin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) Against the wind.
(Against the wind) Ridin’ against the wind.

https://rockysmith.net/2013/03/09/tune-o-the-day-30/

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