Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Then, today, I read a piece on truth-out.org by Mike Lofgren that makes the case with much more authority and eloquence than I could ever muster. Mr. Lofgren was a GOP staffer in both branches of Congress over a period of nearly 30 years. He resigned last June in disgust over his disenchantment with the present evolution of the Party for which he had been for so long a loyal soldier. I commend it to your consumption with all my heart, soul, and mind. Here is the link. It's somewhat lengthy but can be read in far less time than it takes a Democrat to use the word "liberal" in a speech. Enjoy.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Genesis story confirmed by archaeological find
Archaeologists digging among ancient ruins in Palestine last month discovered a partial skeleton of what may be the progenitor of the Abrahamic religions. Half of the rib cage was intact, including a rib that has now been confirmed through DNA testing to be from a man's body. Carbon dating has determined that this "hybrid human" lived between 9500 and 10000 years ago. Theologians are still struggling with the significance of this find. "This could be an even bigger find than would be the Ark of the Covenant or Noah's Ark" said Pincus Ashkenazy, chief archaeologist for the Israeli Museum of Antiquities.
[Editor's note: The above story is entirely a figment of my imagination. No resemblance to any fact or real person is either intended or should be implied.]
As a non-believer whose inclinations run toward fact-based evidence as the most sound basis for conviction, I would have no choice but to question my pre-conceived notions of the existence of a Biblical God after reading and pondering upon such a story. But, as of today, no such story has ever appeared in any credible publication, to my knowledge.
Let me draw your attention to a story first published in The Washington Post. The text of the story follows:
DNA building blocks found in meteorites
By — Brian Vastag, Published: August 8
For 50 years, scientists have debated whether the components of DNA — the molecule central to all life on Earth — could spontaneously form in space. A new analysis of a dozen meteorites found in Antarctica and elsewhere presents the strongest evidence yet that the answer is yes.
Meteorites are space rocks that have fallen to the ground, and the new report bolsters the notion that heavy meteorite bombardment of the early Earth may have seeded the planet with the stuff of life.
“[M]eteorites may have served as a molecular kit providing essential ingredients for the origin of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere,” write the authors of the report out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While life has not been found beyond Earth, all earthly plants and animals rely on DNA to store genetic information. At the center of the ladder-like DNA molecule lie ring-like structures called nucleobases.
Two of the meteorites in particular, called Murchison and Lonewolf Nunataks 94102, contained a trove of nucleobases, including those also found in DNA. But these meteorites and also held an extraterrestrial secret: related but exotic nucleobases never seen before, said Michael Callahan, the NASA scientist who analyzed the space rocks.
Analysis of dirt and ice found near the meteorites showed no evidence of these exotic nucleobases.
Since the 1960s, other scientists have reported nucleobases in meteorites, but concerns about contamination always hung over those findings, said Max Bernstein, a NASA scientist who has studied organic molecules in meteorites but was not involved in the current study.
The detection of the exotic nucleobases, and their absence from surrounding material, helped rule out contamination in this study, said Callahan.
Bernstein said the study’s thoroughness gave him confidence in its conclusions. “I don’t think it’s contamination,” he said.
In laboratory experiments, Callahan and colleagues showed how the nucleobases could have formed inside meteorites. Simple chemical reactions involving ammonia, water and hydrogen cyanide — all ingredients found in meteorites — produced the wide range of nucleobases the scientists found in the space rocks.
“It would be awfully coincidental if our laboratory chemistry produced the same things we saw in the meteorites,” said Callahan.
Scientists have also found other building blocks of life — most notably amino acids, the links that form proteins — inside meteorites.
While Bernstein said that it’s impossible to discern whether the first life on Earth was built on chemicals that fell from the sky, that possibility is now stronger. “These molecules are at the core of [life’s] blueprints,” Bernstein said of the nucleobases. “It’s possible that the presence of these molecules in meteorites made us what we are today.”There you have it--a scientific explanation for how life on Earth came to be, one that is consistent with all we know about the age of our planet and the origin of the species. Hopefully, this new discovery will be enough to open at least a crack in the closed minds of many people who cling to antiquated notions of magical beginnings and heavenly endings.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I herein maintain that a political party (or sub-set thereof), which, when possessed of sufficient political influence to effect actions which accrue to the benefit of itself and its benefactors to the clear and present detriment of others, is inherently malevolent. I would also maintain that being forced to pay a fair and reasonable level of taxes is not detrimental to any individual or organization in the sense intended in the context of this definition.
Therefore, a political party which consistently pursues positions which 1) seek to deny any group of citizens access to their full constitutional rights through withholding funds or redefining terms or following a course of "death by a thousand cuts" in an attempt to pacify a zealous portion of their political base; 2) manufacture a financial crisis so as to provide the political cover for undermining the well-being of a class of citizens which does not vote "as they should"; 3) seek to thwart every policy position of a president in the hope that it will make him (or her) look bad and help their own political cause; 4) ceaselessly berate our government and its employees in the attempt to deny it the popular confidence needed to effectively govern; 5) denigrate a nearly unanimously-held scientific theory which, if allowed to progress to its logical conclusion without human intervention, would mean the end of life as we know it simply because the alternative is to deny certain industries (which contribute financially to that party's coffers) future profits; 6) focus on reversing decades of human progress rather than finding solutions to real problems; 7) consider any and all solutions to common human problems that don't originate with domestic capitalists as worthless; 8) refuse any reasonable effort to address the questions of racism, religious persecution, homophobia, poverty, hunger, or poor health on the false grounds that they are either nonexistent or beyond our means; 9) derive from the principle that the more capital that is held by the fewest number, the better for everyone; and 10) pretend that 25% of its base is not so uninformed and naive as to risk dragging the country into a mindless, immoral morass of senseless-but-well-armed blabber is an evil institution.
It has taken me six-and-one half decades to reach this rather extreme position. Still, the Republican Party of today is such a far cry from that of President Eisenhower that I have trouble getting my mind around it. The political revolution that started with Ronald Reagan has brought us to the point where neither he nor Sen. Barry Goldwater could likely run for office today without having to worry about in intra-party battle with a primary challenger from the Right. This, with none of the social, economic, and political upheaval that let to Germany's slide into fascism in the 1920's and 30's. Yet, we now have state legislators who advocate making it legal to murder abortion providers. Others want to force everybody to carry a firearm, deny health care to poor women and children (perhaps, the "soft genocide" of economic conservatism), and denying the EPA the power to regulate greenhouse gases. When a person, motivated by the promise or actuality of economic gain, acts in furtherance of a design which would inevitably lead to the death of someone (perhaps thousands), we might call that accessory before the fact to involuntary manslaughter. I would prefer to simply call it "EVIL".
Friday, January 28, 2011
The 6-member majority, led by Phil Angelides, former California state treasurer, and five other Democratic-appointees (a group that was "not particularly ideological", according to USA Today) spread the blame with a broad brush: Wall Street, the federal government, the Federal Reserve, mortgagors, financial firms, and derivative-traders all came in for a little finger-pointing.
The four Republicans dissented, finding fault, not with Wall Street but with Pennsylvania Avenue, Main Street, and that insidious, amorphous entity known as the "Housing Bubble". Yes, if only Clinton and Bush II had not wanted to encourage expanded home ownership, thereby prompting mortgage lenders to peddle very low-interest rate products, and if home buyers hadn't been stupid or dishonest enough to believe the lies that their mortgage bankers were telling them, this whole disaster might have been avoided. But, you might ask, what about the Merrill Lynch's and Goldman Sachs's of Wall Street? Well, according to the minority, they were victims, merely trying to second-guess the housing market and applying free market principles. They were merely catching a ride on the housing bubble, trying to make a buck here and there. When the bubble burst, they were as surprised as anybody (though they hardly fell as hard as most).
The four members of the minority suffer from an ideological aversion to regulation. This is part-and-parcel with their failure to blame unfettered capitalism for any part of the crisis, a view subsumed from American Enterprise Institute fellow, Peter Wallison (see USA Today editorial linked above). I strongly recommend checking out the Wikipedia article on the AEI. Their ties to the Bush II administration are truly Cephalopodic.
Is there a dot here anywhere? I believe there is. Here's how USA Today put it:
"These dissents raise valid points, which are acknowledged in the majority report. But they glaringly omit the many failures of U.S. regulators to spot the growing credit bubble and to take actions to mitigate it. That, unfortunately, seems to be the point. Last year, Congress passed a sweeping banking reform law, and various agencies will craft rules to implement it. The dissenters seem intent on avoiding any conclusion that would argue for tough standards."
When an investigative commission, with the power to subpoena witnesses, conducts an 18 month investigation and issues a report, I, as a concerned citizen and the millions of others in this country whose very livelihoods have been put at risk, would like to think that we will be told the truth about where the fault lies, so that we can do something to head off such calamities in the future. When the report finally emerges from that closeted investigation, I would like to think that every member would sign up to conclusions that point the way to solutions, not down a road that circles back to the slippery slope that we are trying to get out of. As USA Today opines:
"In fact, the commission seems to have become a microcosm of dysfunctional American politics. The panel's four Republicans refused to go along with Democrats, then divided among themselves. Sound familiar?"
Yes, all too familiar. It is yet another example--perhaps the most tragic example--of the fact that Republicans absolutely cannot be trusted to govern America. For they are more interested in defending their ideology than they are in solving problems--even the ones upon which the very future of our republic depends.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
In the real world, however, it is not the wealthiest Americans who create jobs. This can be understood from the fact that Bush II's tax cuts for the wealthy created only a few hundred thousand jobs over his eight years in office. Since 2000, the U.S. has lost 10% of its middle-class jobs. Today, businesses are holding billions of dollars in their vaults rather than using that money to hire workers. Why? Because they are waiting until the market shows more evidence of spending by consumers. When consumers spend, businesses hire. Therefore, it is in reality the American people who create the jobs through their demand for goods and services.
Why is this an important distinction? Because it means that our government would be much more effective in putting people back to work if they were to put more money directly into the pockets of the people who are now jobless (such as through extending unemployment benefits) or are working but not spending (such as by cutting middle class tax rates), rather than cutting tax rates for the rich in half (as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., proposes to do) or choking off regulations that protect our environment (which we hold in trust for our children and grandchildren) and the purity of our food supply.
If you need further evidence that the Republicans are not serious about creating jobs, look no further than Rep. Ryan's latest "deficit-reduction" budget. It would mandate a 15% cut in the number of federal employees, as if that would not add to the unemployment problem. The current crop of Republicans are either idiots or are lying to us. (Feel free to pick the least "uncivil" option.)
Friday, January 14, 2011
While I agree that our mental health system is in dire need of reform, Mr. Clark is barking up the wrong tree. America's world class murder rate is not the result of having more mentally ill people than other countries. It is the result of having more very lethal guns. Passing laws that would prevent mentally ill people from getting their hands on semiautomatic weapons and massive ammo clips would cost far more and take decades longer to achieve than for the Supreme Court to admit that the section of the Second Amendment to the Constitution that reads, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." is not there merely as an anachronistic place-holder. How is it that the so-called "strict constructionists", such as Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito seem to turn all squishy when it comes to the right to bear arms?
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Rep. Harper has a beef with Sheriff Dupnik for having said, in the aftermath of Saturday's mayhem, "We're the Tombstone of the United States of America. I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in the state carry weapons wherever they are. That's almost where we are. That's the ridiculous state to where we have become."
I think it's time that the Old Saw about the solution to mass slaughter at the hands of an armed madman being to arm everyone in the vicinity be laid to rest for good. Imagine that all of those two dozen or so people standing around their congresswoman last Saturday morning had been carrying Glock 19s of their own. Suddenly, one of their number pulls out his firearm and puts a bullet in the head of Congresswoman Giffords and then starts shooting at anybody and everybody in close proximity. A witness to that shooting pulls out his weapon and starts firing back in desperation. Another person draws his or her weapon and wants to shoot but may not at this point be certain at whom to direct the fire. Was it shooter number 1 or number 2? A dozen other citizens have drawn their loaded weapons by this juncture, anxious to be the hero of the day. Some people have dropped to the ground. Have they been shot or are they simply taking a defensive position? Two other people are struggling over an ammunition clip. Which one is trying to reload? Not a pretty picture to contemplate. In fact, it's pure insanity and could only be the solution of someone who values gun ownership over protecting lives.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
The second story involved the shootings yesterday at the Safeway market in Tucson, AZ. In this one, another apparently angry and deranged young man--age 22 and presumably more mature--took his Glock 19 semi-automatic and at least four clips holding at total of about 90 rounds as he went shopping for politicians and their groupies. By the time he stopped shooting, six people were dead, including a nine-year-old girl who was born on Sep. 11, 2001, and the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court in Arizona. At least 12 people were hurt, most notably the Democratic Congresswoman from the Arizona 8th Congressional District, which included Tucson. The shooter appears to be another weird loner who confounded and bemused his high school peers, disturbed the administration at Pima Community College who suspended him from enrollment, and the U.S. Army recruiter enough to reject him. Yet, such a troubled man is allowed to access--we don't know yet how--enough firepower to forever change the lives of nearly two dozen people within a few seconds.
In the United States of America, we are becoming inured of a lot of nuttiness lately. Hotheads and quacks can be found from Main Street to Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Guns are so common in rural America that the neighbor of the dead mother in Ohio was quoted as saying, "Out here, if you don't hear a gunshot in a day's time, then something's wrong".
I'll tell you what's wrong with America. It's initials are NRA. It's the organization that turns its back on cases such as these as the "price we have to pay" for their twisted idea of the meaning of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The only reason to want to own a gun, other than for sport, is fear. Fear of "those others" who lurk across the border, around the block, downtown, in dark alleys, and--worst case--outside their bedroom window. If they feared more their own son "borrowing" their gun out of curiosity and then accidentally killing himself or his friend or sibling; if they feared more that someone might use that hunting rifle to kill his mother or the kid next door out of juvenile rage; if they feared more that their "worthless" or "different" son might use their means of self-defense to blast into oblivion the hopes of dozens of innocent strangers; then--and only then--might we become more deserving of taking our place among the great civilizations of the world.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
And what do those champions of the Common Man, the true-blue, red-blooded American electorate plan to do about poverty? Well, judging by their announced intent to slash $100 billion from six months of government spending without touching defense, the military, veterans, or national security, I would say they, should they get their way, will do their best to "grow" poverty. This will create massive numbers of jobs in the health care, burial, and social worker industries. This is the price we pay for caring more about repealing the "job-killing, death-panel-creating Obamacare" bill than we do about lives shortened by poverty.
If Jesus met a battered Republican on the road to Damascus (or Detroit) would he stop to administer aid?
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Next door to Geoffrey's house was an orphanage. His parents tried to keep the orphanage out of their neighborhood but, due to governmental regulations, they were unsuccessful. Geoffrey's dad used to complain that, because the orphans were willing to cut the Pretentious' lawn for less than the local landscaper, they were depriving deserving Free Enterprisers of jobs.
"See what happens to the job market when government interferes?", Geoffrey's dad used to bellow.
"See that boy there?", he would sometimes say, pointing his thick finger for the benefit of Geoffrey. "He can barely push the lawnmower through our plush grass. They ought to feed him better. And look at his skin. It looks kinda dark to me. I'm going to have one of my employees check into his immigration status."
Geoffrey, naturally wanting to please his daddy and benefactor, tried to come up with a means to discourage the owners of the orphanage from staying in their location next door. At first, he would leave his toys in the orphanage's driveway, so the adults couldn't drive their cars into the garage without moving them. Later, he would let the air out of their tires or shut off the power to the house when they weren't looking. He would collect all of Liberty's poop and save it 'til it was time to mow the grass, then scatter it all over the lawn, so that the brown-skinned boy would step in it. [Note: Geoffrey didn't have to worry about stepping in the poop because he owned a Playstation 4 and seldom stepped outside.]
As Geoffrey "matured", his pranks became more and more demoralizing to his neighbors. If they attempted to conserve heat by replacing the old, drafty windows with new Thermopanes, he would shoot at them with his BB gun, although always from a direction that would not cast suspicion on him. When the orphanage replaced their blacktopped driveway with a new concrete one, Geoffrey sneaked out in the dead of night and wrote in big letters on the still-soft surface, "No amnesty for illegal alien orphans or those who coddle them. Signed, Compassionate Conservative". To do this, Geoffrey used the Big Stick that his daddy used to carry around while Talking Softly.
After several years of this kind of treatment, the orphanage moved to another neighborhood. Geoffrey's parents threw a block Tea Party, at which time they announced that they had bought the lot where the orphanage had stood and were going to tear it down and let the ground go fallow. Next year, they would allow their wealthy neighbors to mow the hay for the feeding of their thoroughbred horses and use the money saved on taxes to turn their lawn into a miniature golf course and tennis emporium.