Sunday, January 24, 2010

“Frack You, USA” - Part Two

I recently got the following email, apparently forwarded to everyone in the sender’s address book as suggested by the copy.  Lately I've gotten into the habit of checking for myself every claim made in these mass-forwarded emails.  More often than not I've found them to be part of some political agenda or doctrine - and either only part truth, or indeed, often outright deceitful frauds:

“By the way...this seems to be true. Check it out at the link below!!!

About 6 months ago, the writer was watching a news program on oil and one of the Forbes Bros. was the guest.. The host said to Forbes, "I am going to ask you a direct question and I would like a direct answer;  how much oil does the  U.S.  have in the ground?"  Forbes did not miss a beat, he said, "more than all the  Middle East  put together."  Please read below.

The U. S. Geological Service issued a report in April 2008 that only scientists and oil men knew was coming, but man was it big.  It was a revised report (hadn't been updated since 1995) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota, western South Dakota, and extreme eastern Montana ..... check THIS out:

The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since  Alaska 's  Prudhoe Bay , and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable... at $107 a barrel, we're looking at a resource base worth more than $5..3 trillion.

"When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea.." says Terry Johnson, the Montana Legislature's financial analyst.

"This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years," reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  It's a formation known as the  Williston   Basin , but is more commonly referred to as the 'Bakken.'  It stretches from Northern Montana, through  North Dakota and into  Canada .  For years,  U. S.  oil exploration has been considered a dead end.  Even the 'Big Oil' companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up the Bakken's massive reserves..... and we now have access of up to 500 billion barrels.  And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!

That's enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 2041 years straight.  And if THAT didn't throw you on the floor, then this next one should - because it's from 2006!

U. S. Oil Discovery- Largest Reserve in the World

Stansberry Report Online - 4/20/2006 

Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the  Rocky Mountains  lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world. It is more than 2 TRILLION barrels.  On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction. In three and a half years of high oil prices none has been extracted. With this motherload of oil why are we still fighting over off-shore drilling?

They reported this stunning news:  We have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth.. Here are the official estimates:  

- 8-times as much oil as  Saudi Arabia

- 18-times as much oil as  Iraq

 - 21-times as much oil as  Kuwait

 - 22-times as much oil as  Iran

- 500-times as much oil as  Yemen

- and it's all right here in the  Western United States  .

HOW can this BE? HOW can we NOT BE extracting this? Because the environmentalists and others have blocked all efforts to help  America  become independent of foreign oil! Again, we are letting a small group of people dictate our lives and our economy.....WHY? 

James Bartis, lead researcher with the study says we've got more oil in this very compact area than the entire Middle East -more than 2 TRILLION barrels untapped.  That's more than all the proven oil reserves of crude oil in the world today, reports The Denver Post.

Don't think 'OPEC' will drop its price - even with this find?  Think again!  It's all about the competitive marketplace, - it has to. Think OPEC just might be funding the environmentalists?

Got your attention yet?  Now, while you're thinking about it, do this:

Pass this along.   If you don't take a little time to do this, then you should stifle yourself the next time you complain about gas prices - by doing NOTHING, you forfeit your right to complain.

Now I just wonder what would happen in this country if every one of you sent this to every one in your address book.

By the way...this is all true. Check it out at the link below!!!

GOOGLE it, or follow this link.  It will blow your mind.”

But there's lot's more to this than meets the eye and than this email perhaps wants you to know - the email being forwarded to everyone today simply ignores and leaves out the most important and pertinent parts.  But, such is the way of ’Free Market’ mega-corporations today.

The email's subject actually refers to 'shale oil & gas' which is oil & gas mixed in shale, sand and rock and we’ve known about this stuff for decades.  it is nothing new, except for the extraction technology. (just Google 'Brakken' + ‘Shale’)

Getting at this stuff is very expensive and usually (80% of the time) involves 'Fracking' (Yeah, I know, it's a peculiar word - but it refers to 'Hydraulic Fracturing' - but is perhaps more suggestive of what it really is.  I recently wrote a blog entry on it).  It is expensive, and environmentally potentially devastating to ground water supplies.  That's why the big energy companies are now on an all-out push to make fracking acceptable - hence this email which I strongly suspect is a part of their public relations campaign.  They have the audacity,  to suggest, nay, actually SAY, it is part of a conspiracy by Saudi Arabian oil interests and environmentalists!  Totally Fracking ridiculous!

(I'm an environmentalist myself and I've still not seen any check from Prince Abdullah.  Maybe I should dun him?)

But, there is definitely a conspiracy - by big oil companies to keep ripping off everyone in sight for as long as they possibly can.  (Exxon-Mobil posted $45.2 BILLION in profits in 2008 - but is well off that for '09 - as are most of the rest of us). That's why energy companies deny climate change and block everything they possibly can in renewable energy sources, mass transit, etc.  They've got most legislators in both parties by the short hairs with campaign money, and have managed to have their way since almost forever.  After the most recent Supreme Court decision on corporate 'Free Speech' they pretty well have carte blance now too.  Now, in fact FOREIGN corporations can legally support any political agenda they wish so long as they operate in the USA!  Un-fracking believable!

And judging by their past history,  energy companies will continue to corrupt Congress and our system until they figure out a way to get a monopoly and charge a fee for bio-energy, rainfall and sunlight.  Trashing groundwater supplies over vast areas won't matter one whit to them.  Never has before, so why should it now?

One interesting side note to this is the fact that Exxon-Mobil has a purchase bid in for XTO - a company with fracking technology and shale oil/gas drilling rights - but conditioned their purchase offer on retaining the oil industry exclusion from the Clean Water Act.  That reprehensible exclusion is now under attack in Congress, as well it should be.

Doncha just wish that people and countries and corporations could just tell it like it is for once?  I get so weary and tired of all the deceit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I Am Now A “Liberal Progressive”

I used to call myself ‘Conservative’ until the term was redefined by those claiming the title today. I still consider myself ‘conservative’ in the sense of the original Latin ‘Conservare’ meaning ‘’to save or preserve’ and marked by moderation and caution. But I no longer define myself that way since I realized the ‘conservative’ label today describes a person mostly ruled by fear, paranoia, distrust, religious mythology, deceit and insidious propaganda generated through specious interests.

‘Conservative’ today has come to mean reactionary, spiteful, hate-spewing, hidebound, bible-thumping, regressive, gullible dinosaur throwbacks to the past. There is absolutely nothing actually conservative about them.  But, they do manage to make a lot of noise - and they got their man George W. Bush into the highest office in the land for eight long, painful years.

Which was a disaster.These days, even those who call themselves conservative grudgingly acknowledge the Bush II presidency was a disaster. But, they’d also like you to believe that was simply because Bush was not ‘conservative enough’! Nonetheless, he was THEIR man, the man they cheered on and supported throughout his terms in office.That is, until the actual reality of the disaster he was could no longer be hidden, or explained away. Then, much like disgraced leaders of the former Soviet Union, George W. Bush has become a de facto ’non-person’. So seldom is his name brought up today we can almost suspect he never existed. Some so-called conservatives even openly attack him in the media today.

But George W. Bush did and still does exist, and he was the hero of most conservatives for almost eight full years. At the time, nothing Bush did, no matter how outrageous, was wrong according to his conservative cheerleaders. Which is why it is confusing to hear all that ‘don’t-blame-us’ wailing and teeth-gnashing, and relentlessly hate-spewing vicious attacks on Bush’s successor. They even openly call Barack Obama ’The Anti-Christ’ amongst myriads of other bad names.

For anyone to pay any serious attention to ‘conservative’ complaints about Obama is a lot like listening to financial advice from bankrupts.   Maybe they forget what 8 years of fully-supported conservative administration willed to the Obama administration:

Just for starters:
  • Two wars;  
  • Costs of over-involvement in the Middle East;  
  • The worst credit crunch since 1929;  
  • The worst debt crisis since 1929;  
  • A terrible housing crisis;  
  • Highest foreclosure rate since 1929; 
  • Worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression; 
  • 25-40% asset loses in housing values and the stock market; 
  • A weakening currency against foreign ones; 
  • A diminishing oil supply exacerbated by two wars in the Middle East started by Bush; 
  • The worst budget deficit in the history of the country; 
  • Climate change issues;  
  • And, a polarized electorate.
These are just a few of the legacies of ‘conservatism’ inherited by Obama.  Oh yeah - we really ought pay serious attention to all those ‘don’t-look-at-us-conservatives’ bozos.

Oh, that’s so ridiculously deliciously stupid!  Don’t make me laugh!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

“Frack You, USA!” - A Corporate War On Americans

Let’s say you’d like to pump poison into the groundwater of your community - never mind why.   Or do the same with combustible fluids. Or carcinogenic agents.  And, let’s say understandably, you don't want to tell anyone what those poisons, combustibles or carcinogenic agents were. And let’s say your actions might even be suspected of causing seismic events on occasion.

Can you do that without worrying about being arrested, or being responsible for the consequences? Of course not! You’d immediately be arrested, thrown in jail, declared a terrorist and likely suffer rendition to some country where torture is allowed - and everyone in the country would cheer!

That is, unless you represent an energy company like Halliburton. And, pumping such a witches’ brew into the nation’s groundwater stood to make you lot's of money. And say, not incidentally, your former CEO was the Vice President of the United States of America. Such were the ingredients needed to have a special law passed for you, and companies like yours to pump whatever you wished into the nation’s groundwater - and not even tell anyone what is was! For, after all it is your special recipe, and a proprietary one at that, and disclosing the ingredients publicly would make it easy for someone to steal your secret recipe. Heaven forbid!

So, you and your friends go to work to get a special law passed exempting you from liability. The law is known as the “Energy Policy Act of 2005”. I don’t know for sure whether the acronym “EPA” is an corporate sneer at the Environmental Protection Agency or not, but I suspect it was. The law was vigorously championed by VP Cheney and his cohorts in the energy business like Tom Delay, and other corporate socialism types. Note also however, that 36 Democrats joined 48 Republican senators to pass the bill. Then senators Obama, Biden, Clinton, Reid, and Boxer were all among those who voted FOR the bill.  Senator John McCain did not, Sarah Palin notwithstanding.

The new law exempted the petroleum industry practice of “Fracking” (Hydraulic Fracturing) from the Clean Water Act. Fracking is the pumping under high pressure of fluids, including many extremely toxic and hazardous substances into the ground, to ‘fracture’ rock layers and force recoverable natural gas to extraction wellheads. Strongly supported by the American Petroleum Institute, the exemption was passed into law and signed by President Bush, becoming colloquially known in the industry as the “Halliburton Loophole”.

So, is there really a problem?  It is estimated that minimum of 100,000 gallons of fracking liquids is used for each well, 80% of the time. According to Abrahm Lustgarten, of ProPublica,  “in 2007, there were 449,000 gas wells in 32 states, thirty percent more than in 2000. By 2012 the nation could be drilling 32,000 new wells a year . .” Hmm, let’s see . . . . 450,000 times 100,000 gallons equals about 45,000,000,000 gallons. Gee, after awhile we’d be talking about a real quantity in the groundwater, wouldn’t we? By my math that is equivalent to about 216 SQUARE MILES covered by a toxic cocktail one foot deep.  To date this stuff is scattered in the ground waters of 32 states, and the industry has big plans for the future. In fact, in one case, EXXON-MOBIL has written into their purchase contract for a smaller company the provision the deal is null and void if the Energy Policy Act is repealed!

Fracking liquids can include hydrochloric acid, surfactants, solvents, lubricants, and corrosion inhibitors. No one really knows because the companies doing the pumping don't have to tell.  It is said to contain many of the same carcinogenic chemicals found in household Drano and such things you probably wouldn't want to drink, or even get on your skin. But, under the ‘Energy Policy Act” the companies who use this stuff don’t have to tell anyone the ingredients.  It is their propriety ’secret recipe’ (their words), and to disclose the actual mix would put them at  ‘competitive disadvantages’! (No, I’m not making this up.  I don’t have enough arrogance for that.  I have to leave that to the industries themselves.)

Besides the act shielding energy companies from responsibility, or even disclosing the ingredients of their toxic cocktails, the EPA too,  under Bush has been complicit. That’s right, the Environmental Protection Agency, the group which is tasked to PROTECT people and the environment itself engaged in onerous duplicity: “Under Christine Todd Whitman's tenure as Administrator, the EPA engaged in SECRET negotiations with industry, while supposedly addressing drinking water issues related to the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." In 2004, the EPA undertook a study on the issue and "the EPA, despite its scientific judgment that there was a potential risk to groundwater supplies, which their report clearly says, then went ahead and very surprisingly concluded that there was no risk to groundwater,"

So much for ethics in the Bush administration. But, we already knew the score on that.  But, the Obama Administration too?  You betcha!

Is fracking actually dangerous? You can judge for yourself. There have been hundreds,  probably thousands of of anecdotal and documented cases of severe contamination. In Texas 16 cows died from drinking contaminated groundwater, 10 in Louisiana - but what the heck, Texas and Louisiana have cows to burn. But, there are also lot’s of horror stories concerning humans too. There are documented cases of household water supplies catching fire. Some residents have been instructed to leave their windows open to prevent a build up of explosive gases coming from their faucets. And, there are cases of houses actually exploding. Now, that might get your attention!

There is a move by some senators to repeal the exemption energy companies how enjoy courtesy of the Bush Administration. But, as you might expect, that is being vigorously fought by the industry and the American petroleum Institute, who have so far poured nearly two million dollars into lobbying.

And, as recently as January 15, 2010, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said “he would not favor a ban on " fracking . .“ After all, what is public health when it comes at the expense of corporate greed and profit?

Further Reading:

Energy Policy Act
American petroleum Institute
Hydraulic Fracturing
National Public Radio
Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Your Tax Dollars At Work - The Ongoing Saga of Glen Ith

Glen Ith was a wildlife biologist for the US Forest Service in Alaska, on the Tongass National Forest.  Was, as in the past tense, for Glen Ith is now dead.  He died four days after being summarily fired from his job, following 16 months of exile to a back room office.  Why?  He dared to expose the US Forest Service’s hypocritically arrogant decision to ignore federal law.  More specifically, the arrogance came from particular individuals within the US Forest Serve who imperiously decided their opinions were more important than federal law.

Glen Ith was a whistle blower who paid the ultimate price for his dedication to truth.  He had a well-earned reputation for dedication to his work as well.  He took the US Forest Service to court twice - and prevailed both times.  But that didn’t stop management in the US Forest from spending buckets of taxpayer dollars to pursue and harass him relentlessly, and ultimately terminate his career after a lifetime of dedication to his work.  Indeed, that was the very reason for it, and only added fuel to their determination to destroy him personally. Ith’s story is a saga of greed, arrogance, malfeasance, and ultimately, egregious human tragedy.

This is a story the American people should hear.  Fortunately for Ith’s widow, and under a new, friendlier and more open administration, an investigation has now been reopened in his case.

The investigation is just now getting underway. There are hundreds of internal  USFS documents pertaining to case, and there is a strong possibility high-level heads may roll for their complicity in Glen Ith’s tragedy, I believe. A close reading of the documents in that case can only lead a lay person to the conclusion of a campaign against Mr. Ith by management in the USFS. You can almost hear their collective sigh of relief at his unexpected death.  But, only time can tell on that.

An underlying problem, and partial cause for the alleged malfeasance is the underlying culture of the USFS management itself. I suppose something similar must be true for any large federal bureaucracy - but I know about the Forest Service arrogance from personal experience. There is nothing like the disdain and sneering arrogance higher management in the Forest Service has for anyone who dares oppose them. I have personally been on the receiving end of Forrest Cole’s sneering disdain myself. Forrest Cole is the current Tongass National  Forest’s manager, and was Glen Ith’s principle antagonist.

The US National Forest system comprises 193 million acres nationwide - and almost 17 million acres are in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest - almost 9% of the total. The Tongass is an integral part of the overall economy of Southeast Alaska, and most of the communities there are surrounded by the forest, including Alaska’s capital city, Juneau. Like the rest of America’s national forests, the Tongass was heavily logged during the 20th century, usually under sweetheart deals with the lumber companies. But, fortunately due to its remoteness, not quite to the same degree. Some US National Forests, particularly in the east have essentially been 100% logged and none of original forests are left. The Tongass still has an estimated 30% of the original old growth forest left.

The congressional mandate (law) to the US Forest Service under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) is to:

“insure consideration of the economic and environmental aspects of various systems of renewable resource management, including the related systems of silviculture and protection of forest resources, to provide for outdoor recreation (including wilderness), range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish;”

and to,

“provide for diversity of plant and animal communities based on the suitability and capability of the specific land area in order to meet overall multiple-use objectives, and within the multiple-use objectives of a land management plan adopted pursuant to this section, provide, where appropriate, to the degree practicable, for steps to be taken to preserve the diversity of tree species similar to that existing in the region controlled by the plan;”

It is left largely up to the USFS, under the constraints of applicable law as to how to do this. Thus the sometimes ambiguity of the decision making processes. Further, many in the management hierarchy of the USFS are influenced by other factors, beginning with their educations. Most national forest managers come out of university forestry programs, whose emphasis is on the wood fiber production for industry.  Few people out of the wildlife or environmental sciences make it into management due to the service’s traditional culture. This means there is a strong inclination for timber production - tree farming if you will. In fact, most national forests in the eastern United States are de facto tree farms today.

Further still, due to traditional management culture, many in Forest Service management are personally and naturally close to the players in the timber production industry, and openly favor their side in negotiations between other interest groups. There are some exceptions to this tradition of course, but they are few and far between. It is very illustrative to read the USFS’ justifications for logging the Tongass as a testament to obfuscation, denial and distortion, not to mention an almost complete failure to address the questions asked.

As a fiscal conservative, one of the most interesting USFS comments to me is “Profitability is not a yardstick used for evaluating the performance of the national forest timber sale program.”

Indeed it is not! It is estimated that every private timber job on the Tongass National Forest costs the US taxpayer over $141,000!

* For nearly a century, timber companies have enjoyed open access to national forest resources. Until very recently, the access has been essentially unrestrained. But this access costs everyone else. The federal logging program on federal lands now loses over One Billion Dollars annually - Plus over Two Billion more if community offsetting payments are added in. And due to its remoteness, it costs much more proportionally on the Tongass National Forest. In the last few years for example, the timber sales program on the Tongass cost the US taxpayer over between 30 and 50 million dollars PER YEAR over and above receipts for the trees.  Nonetheless, the FS claims with straight faces timber sales are not subsidized and simultaneously claim,  'profitability is not a yardstick'.

C'mon now! All this is enough to drive a fiscal conservative right over the edge! May Glen Ith’s crucifixion not have been in vain . . . .


Your Tax Dollars at work
Logging in Alaska
The Tongass National Forest
National Geographic Report on the Tongass
Daily Kos

* With a great deal of political help and back room deals - Recent timeline: (Source:  SE Alaska Conservation Council):

"2003 Settlement between Forest Service and State of Alaska over Roadless Rule:  Secret negotiations between Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey, former timber lobbyist and Jim Clark, former attorney for Alaska Forest Association and then chief-of-staff for Governor Frank Murkowski, result in settlement where Forest Service agrees to propose rule that exempts Tongass from the Roadless Rule."

"2003 Roadless Rule Exemption:  The Bush administration exempts the Tongass from Roadless Rule protections on December 23, 2003. "

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Does Religion Make You Stupid, Fat, Poor, and Sick?

Religion may be bad for your health, butt, mind and wallet!

Recently in MOBILE, Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne  stated publicly:

    "I believe that the Bible is the word of God. That’s my faith. I believe the Bible is true. Every word of it,"

Byrne’s main competition, Republican candidate Tim James of Greenville, Alabama said, "I believe in the literal interpretation, that the holy Bible is the inspired word of God. Period," Even the Democratic contenders all claim personal belief in the Bible, if not in the literal words therein.

And, that’s exactly what the good people of Alabama want to hear.  Along with almost all of the other southern states, the people of Alabama are mostly good Bible-thumping citizens. In fact, any gubernatorial candidate who hopes to be elected to the top job in any state in the Old South doesn’t stand a chance unless he or she can prove they can thump the Bible with the best of them. And, that would be the Good Book - the Christian Bible, King James version preferably.

Some words in the Bible taken literally are pretty draconian.  For example:

Exodus 35:2 commands a person be put to death for working on the Sabbeth;

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 commands that a stubborn child be put to death;

Deuteronomy 22:13-21 commands a new wife to be stoned to death if not a virgin;

Leviticus 21:16-23 forbids handicapped people from church;

I Timothy 2:9 forbids women with braided hair, gold or pearls in church;

Jeremiah 10:2-8 forbids Christmas trees at Christmas;

Leviticus forbids eating pork, shellfish or rabbit - but allows us all the locusts we want!

If the Bible were actually taken and acted upon seriously and literally,  and considering some of the above, there would not be enough people left to vote a governor into office!  But that doesn't stop people from saying they believe every literal word in the Bible.  In reality, thankfully, they ignore many of the Bible's commands - and it's a good thing they do too or a whole lot of us would be in very serious trouble.  But even so, religion might not be all that wonderful.  Oh sure, it is a comfort and solace for many people, but is it good for society as a whole?  Statistics say maybe not.

Mississippi for example tops the charts in the US with 82% religiosity. Maybe no real correlation can be proven, but Mississippi also happens to be #1 in obesity  #1 in poverty levels, #2 in illiteracy, and #2 in overall bad health levels.

And Alabama,  #2 in religiosity, is #1 in obesity, #7  in poverty, #8  in illiteracy and #6 in bad health.

Then there's Louisiana at #4 in religiosity, is tied for #7 in obesity, is #1 in poverty, #7 in illiteracy and #1 in bad health.

On the other hand Vermont, which is #50 in religiosity, is tied for next to last in obesity, is 4th from last in poverty, is #50 in illiteracy and #50 in bad health.

And Massachusetts,  #46 in religiosity, is last in obesity, #46  in poverty,#49  in illiteracy and #47 in bad health.

Hmmmm - - is there something going on here?  Do these statistics mean anything?

These are merely statistics, but to me they represent a state of mind - a state of mind which seems to closely correlate with expense and detriment for our country and grief for our society.  You may check these statistics (and many others as well) for yourself by referring to this excellent web site:  THE STATEMASTER.

Often a graphical view can be very illustrative - so I have prepared a few charts and present them below.  I have always suspected this, but the actual statistics were a real eye-opener for me. These charts show  curves driven by data from all 50 states, with the highest in religiosity on the left.  Click on the charts to expand:

It is perhaps also noteworthy that surveys show the BEST states to live in by lifestyle are ALL outside the south.  In fact, the highest southern state by rank is Florida which comes in at a dismal 37th out of 50, even if it is the famous 'Sunshine State'.  ALL other southern states fall below that!  Not coincidentally, Mississippi comes in "DFL" ('Dead Freaking Last')!

Whoo Boy!

I'm now thinking about moving to Vermont or New Hampshire!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How, When and Why I Gave Up Religion

I am not a religious person. I want to clear that up right off the bat.  In fact, I think I can qualify these days as anti-religious - as in anti ALL religions. But, once I was religious, at least as much as an adolescent boy can be. At the age of twelve I had convinced myself I wanted to become a ‘Preacher’, and announced the fact at church before my proud grandmother. I grew up living with my grandparents for big chunks of my childhood, so my grandmother exerted a lot of influence over me.  My grandmother herself was the daughter of a Methodist preacher you see.

My grandmother told me stories of her father who died long before I was born.  He was a ‘Stump Preacher’ in the North Georgia mountains. That meant he had a small country church somewhere near Dahlonega, Georgia and ran a ‘circuit’, preaching around about. He took his sermons out into the hills several times each month to bring the ‘Word of the Lord’ to those who were too far away to attend his little church. Stump preachers sometimes stood on stumps in the wilderness to deliver sermons, hence the name. One story about my great-grandfather which sticks in mind was the time he preached in a logging camp somewhere in the Georgia hills. At the time the big lumber companies were busily cutting down all the hardwood forests all over the Allegheny Mountains, from Maine to Georgia.

One evening around 1910, Preacher MacDonald - that was his name - was standing on a stump delivering a fiery sermon to the men at the logging camp by lamplight. One  logger, apparently drunk, started heckling him. After pausing a few times to admonish the man and call for quiet, my great-grandfather finally lost his patience - obviously not possessing too large a stock to begin with. Stepping down from his stump my preacher ancestor carefully placed his worn bible there. Then he strode purposely up to the inebriated logger and knocked him flat with his fist, and completely unconscious. My grandmother told me this was not at all unusual - she had witnessed similar things several times.  Preacher MacDonald was of the opinion no one got to heckle the ‘Word of the Lord’ without suffering the consequences. And, he was a large man with the will and the punch to enforce his opinion. My grandmother said that little hillside congregation was extraordinarily quiet, respectful and attentive for the rest of her Dad’s sermon that  evening, and when the collection hat was passed around it was filled to overflowing.

I have one single picture of my great-grandfather. He is standing by my great-grandmother staring at the camera with his fierce hawk-like eyes, wearing a Stetson sort of hat and a carefully combed beard and sweeping mustache, looking a lot like pictures you see of Wild Bill Hickok.

When I lived with my grandparents, I went to church - whether I wanted to or not. My brothers and sisters did too - it was expected and part of our weekly routine.  But that didn’t mean I liked it. Besides messing around with the girls during Sunday School, there was not a whole lots to recommend it, in my opinion. The preaching bored the absolute bejesus out of me. To this day I can’t remember one single sermon I listened to, except the time the preacher was sick and one of the church members got up to tell about how he had once been an alcoholic until religion turned his life around. I remember vividly his telling about how he would steal absolutely anything to get enough money to buy more liquor.

He told a riveting tale about being so corrupted by stealing he got in the habit of stealing even when he didn’t need to. He said one time he was out in the woods and there was absolutely nothing to steal, so he took off his shoes and placed them at the base of a tree - then sneaked back up to steal them. I still believe him.

When I turned sixteen I got my driver’s license. As a farm kid I had been driving since the age of eight or so anyway, and could drive anything on the farm from a mule to a John Deere tractor to a two and a half-ton log truck. Any automobile was a piece of cake. And like most farm kids I loved to go fast - so whenever I had the car to myself I did.

One Saturday afternoon, my brother and I were out ‘scooter-pooting’ around in the car. When we got to the paved road I floored the old Chevy and got up to about 90 MPH or so. Things went fine until we rounded a curve in a sliding turn and met the biggest bootlegger in the county taking the air in his big, yellow Cadillac. I was pretty well out of control and couldn’t do much other than try to keep the Chevy on the pavement - so our bootlegger neighbor had to take to the ditch in his big, fine Cadillac. My brother and I did not stop. But, old Marcus the bootlegger knew who we were all right. When you live in a small community, that’s just the way it is. Ordinarily Marcus might have complained to my grandfather, who would have dealt with the situation. But Marcus and my grandfather were bitter enemies - and not on speaking terms. In fact, my grandfather was so ornery he was not on good speaking terms with a fairly large number of our neighbors - and due to that, my brother and I could, and often did get away with almost anything.

But Marcus was not one to let it go. It so happened he was also a senior deacon at our church. And, oh yes, everyone in church knew what he did for a living; made, hauled and sold bootleg moonshine liquor. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t be a deacon in our church, at least in that day and time and place.

Next Sunday when my family sat there in church, my brother and I were perhaps smirking a little at old Marcus’ glowering looks. So, we were surprised when Marcus asked the preacher if he could say a few words. Being allowed, and without preamble he launched into a spittle flinging personal attack on two teenage boys - my brother and me, by name, right there in church, in front of God and everybody else.  We were called hooligans and worse. It was shocking and humiliating, as I’m sure Marcus fully intended. The rest of the congregation sat there transfixed, and nodding as in agreement with Marcus, with many a superior, snide glance over at my brother and me.

But it was also infuriating. Here was this sanctimonious criminal bastard venting his spleen on two rowdy boys in front of a congregation apparently in full agreement - and he was the biggest crook in the county! And, everyone knew it!

It was enough for me. I must have some of my great-grandfather’s short temper in me, because all I could see was red. I leapt to my feet and shouted, “That’s it! You God-damned bastards will never catch my randy red, rawboned ass in this God-damned church ever again! Or any God-damned church for that matter! You can all have your God-damned bootlegging deacon, and I’ll never set foot in any church ever again and you can all kiss my ass!”  (My grandfather was a great example to learn swearing from!)

With that I got up and stomped out - and my entire family did too, including my grandmother - my grandfather seldom went to church - I think maybe he had already figured things out. I was never so proud of my family as on that Sunday morning. And, you know what’s a fact? I've stuck to that vow too, my whole life. The only times I’ve ever been near a church since was to a funeral or a wedding. I do make concessions for those. But, I still don’t have to like ‘em, do I? And, I certainly don’t.

Looking back on it now after all these years, I realized that old man Marcus actually did me a huge favor. Besides saving all those hours I might have otherwise wasted by attending church simply because I was expected to, that single event opened my eyes to the realities of religion. Next to my divorce from my first wife, and my final discharge from the US Marines,  that was about the most freeing event in my entire life. By forcing me to take a good long hard, reality based look at religion and churches I came to realize what shams and huge Ponzi schemes all of it is. And, in time I have realized this is true of all religions, be whatever they are. And, one of the worst parts is how they all incessantly fight one another.

The amounts of wasted money, treasure, lives and destruction due to religions are staggeringly immeasurable and uncountable. The grief caused by religions over the milleniums is incalculable. All religions I know are dangerous, irrational fantasies based on fear and punishment. Any belief in a mystical metaphysical boogeyman, residing in an imagined 'Heaven', rewarding those who believe and never-ending punishment to those who do not, is, in and of itself,  an irrational fantasy;

I’ve decided to enjoy my Heaven right here on earth, right now.  So, please tell the ‘faithful’ not to waste time praying for my poor, rotten, disbelieving, sinful soul,  I’m gonna put my bets on the Tooth Fairy!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sarah Palin is NOT the Wicked, Whacko Witch of the West!

Sarah Palin is an extraordinarily special person. God takes the time to directly plan for her. That’s what she said after her nomination to be Senator John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate according to Steve Schmidt, McCain’s top campaign strategist. Schmidt said he asked Palin about her serenity in the face of becoming "one of the most famous people in the world." He quoted her as saying, "It's God's plan."But who’s to know really? Schmidt also said Palin was inaccurate and not truthful  - which we all know can not be so. By now everyone recognizes how well Sarah Palin always and invariably adheres to the strict, literal truth. She carefully checks all her facts and sticks strictly to reality.  Always and no ifs, ands or buts.

But, what is really bothering me is this: If God is directly making plans for Sarah Palin, what about the rest of us? Will God have any time left for the rest of us, or are we just not special enough? And, another thing - exactly which God is taking all this time to do Sarah Palin’s planning?  Jehovah?  Allah?  Jesus?  Thor? Or, is it the creator Sun God Ra, or the Egyptian Cow Goddess Bat? I am really, really seriously discomfited by all this. I suppose I am just confused by all the multiplicity of gods out there and having a lot of trouble deciding which one to follow, or to ask to intercede on my behalf. After all, there are thousands of gods out there.

But Sarah Palin does not have this problem. She obviously knows EXACTLY which God to invoke. That right there gives you some idea of how very special she is, which brings up another, entirely new question for me: What the dickens makes Sarah Palin so darned special anyway? Was she special born - like Jesus? Did she win some secret God lottery? Did the Pope appoint her? Like I said, I am confused.

There is one thing we really do know for sure about Sarah Palin: She probably no longer has any Devils, Witches or Evil Demons left in her.   Maybe she did before, but no more! That’s because they were all exorcised in a public ceremony at the Assembly of God Church in Wasilla, Alaska.

Unless of course some Evil Demons or Witches have somehow re-entered her since somehow. But, Sarah is so special I just can’t see that happening. That will lay to rest all those insinuations by anyone who disagrees with her - characterized as “Vicious Palin Haters” by Sarah’s supporters.

Some even go around claiming Sarah Palin is really is the ‘Wicked, Whacko, Witch of the West” and hoping an Alaskan farmhouse will fall on her.  But, some God or the other must have different plans for Sarah Palin.  Like becoming the 2012 presidential nominee for the Teabagger Party and totally spoiling that election for Republicans.

But, I could be wrong. She might also simply just self-destruct or disappear, like a Cheeto at a Weight Watcher's meeting.

* Update: As this little story was being written, a larger event was taking place.  The Fox News cable channel announced Palin will be joining their network.

“I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News. It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.” Palin said.

Oh, Yeah!

This places Palin squarely astride the network which also includes another renowned flatulist, indeed, the very founder of the Teabagger phenomenon. I can see the bumper stickers now:  “The Flatulist and Beckerhead - 2012: Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum”

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Fox Network Blowback

A few weeks ago the FOX Network wanted to charge other cable networks for programming including bowl games upon which they (FOX) hold as exclusives.   It created an uproar between other cable companies and Fox because the bowl games were coming up.  They would have no choice but to pass the increased costs on to their subscribers - about $1 each I believe - and subscribers are already in revolt.  Maybe our collective memories are very short, but one original promise by cable companies was they would provide programming WITHOUT ADVERTISING.  Yeah, right.  That sure didn't last long did it?

During the stand-off and in retaliation, Time-Warner Cable started a 'Roll Over or Get Tough' campaign and publicly posted a video scenario to bypass the networks and watch almost anything online, albeit a day late.  Amazing!  I find the original Get Tough posting has disappeared, but it was downloaded and is still available through other sources.

I found you can watch practically anything from any network online.  There are several online sources for this, and one very popular one called "HULU".  If the graphics card in your computer can handle this, it's sure worth a try.  If so, you are home free and can watch anything you want on your computer.  But, here's the best part:

Time-Warner demonstrates a way to connect a computer to a HDTV and watch whatever you wish on the big screen. The quality is good in HD - darned near like cable HD.  I've now rigged things up so my wife and I can either watch regular cable TV (We have only the basic cable and don't get many shows beyond the standard religious and shopping trash), or switch back to the TV and watch the regular TV shows. 

When online, just search through the TV shows or movies you want and click on which episode you want to watch - that's it!  One very nice thing is you can choose to watch a short one to two minute ad at the beginning - which are just movie previews anyway, and then there are no commercial interruptions during the show!

You will need a fast, late model computer with plenty of RAM (at least 1G) and a high quality graphics card.  (You can easily check your computer by going online and trying for yourself - the quality you see there will be what your TV will reproduce).

**Shorthand, step-by-step method - How to rig your computer to your HD TV:

1. Make sure you have either an S-Video port, a DVI of a mini DVI output port on your computer (see video in 'other sources' link above);

2. Check your TV to see which connection port(s) it has. You will need to buy a cable which will connect the two. I.e., DVI to HDMI, S-Video to S-Video, or Mini-DVI to HDMI. Cables are available online - search by using the words “DVI to HDMI cable” or whatever. You can also buy them at Best Buy or other electronics retail outlets, but usually cost more there. You can also get them in many lengths;

3. You may need a separate audio cable to go from the speaker port on your computer to the audio input on the TV depending on the type connections you have. If you have a HDMI port on both components, it should already include the audio portion;

4. Plug everything together and power up both the TV and The computer. You will need to configure your computer so the output graphics goes to your TV. I have an Apple computer so it is more or less plug and play. I only had to tweak the display preferences after I got things up and running to make everything fit on the TV Screen. I don’t know how complicated it is on a PC. I am sure you can find out how to do it online. (Here are the instructions from;

(Note: Be sure to turn your computers ’sleep’ function to off so it doesn’t shut down your viewing in mid-show)

5. Go the appropriate website (HULU, Fancast, Snagfilms, etc.) and tune in to whatever program you wish. (Note: One great thing is almost any program or movie can be paused, rewound or resumed just like in a DVD player);

6. Go to your TV menu and choose ‘Source’. Switch the source input to whichever port(s) you have used to connect (HDMI/DVI, PC, AV, etc.);

7. Pick up your TV remote and enjoy the show just like any other show! (Note: My Apple laptop came with its own handy remote - but many PC laptops also are so equipped I assume.)

So, thanks for being such predatory, mercenary jerks FOX Network!  That makes things doubly sweet for me! I would not have known about this otherwise. 

Here are some program source Links:

** This has been my experience only. I offer this information and assume no responsibility for any mistakes or difficulties you may encounter! In other words, you’re on your own!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Profoundly Stupid Statements

I am bereft.  Maybe it was the holidays and people were focused on other things.  But, I am feeling so starved lately for Profoundly Stupid Statements.  Since the change of administrations a year ago there has been a real drought of really, Profoundly Stupid Statements.  I think we all got spoiled by the absolute surfeit of Profoundly Stupid Statements during the last decade until this year.

Oh sure, we’ve had quite a few since Obama went in office coming from the so-called ‘Conservative’ faction.  Statements about Death Panels, statements comparing a national health care plan to the Nazi Third Reich and such like.  But nothing like what went on before during the Bush years.

 And, who can forget GW Bush’s absolute treasure trove of such things as:

"I think if you know what you believe, it makes it a lot easier to answer questions.  I can't answer your question.", or,

“ . . .I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

(That one sort of reminds me former governor “Ma” Ferguson of Texas saying many years ago,  “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, then it's good enough for Texas.” )

And then, so much came from Bush’s staff, like White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s:

“It's incumbent on those who believe Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction to come forward and tell us where they are.”

And, from his Attorney General john Ashcroft:  “I feel the best way to ensure Americans' freedom is to tighten restrictions on that freedom in any way possible. Only through wiretaps, illegal searches and seizures, unfettered government intrusion, a controlled media and a complete crackdown on free speech can we ensure the liberties of all people." 

And, from Bush's FEMA director Michael Brown  after Hurricane Katrina:  "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." 

Of course Brown then received his deserved congratulations from President Bush at the time:  “You’re doing a heckuva job Brownie!”

(Maybe I'm making the rash assumption here that Bush was referring to the thorough brown-nosing job he was getting from Brownie.)

Dubya’s mother, not to be left out, when asked if she ever thought about the dead American soldiers returning home from Iraq replied sweetly:  "why should I waste my beautiful mind on that?" 

Maybe it’s a family thing because coming from his father before him was the delightful: “The Democrats just want to ram it down my ear with a victory!”

Sarah Palin all on her lonesome seems to be trying to file the void - with a bit of help from others.  One of my favorite Sarah Palin claims is her theory the “In God We Trust” motto (completely unconstitutional by the by) being moved to the edges of coins is a conspiracy by the Obama administration. In fact, the decision was made in 2007 under Bush and later reversed by Congress.  And who can ever forget Palin's claim about reading newspapers to Katie Couric: "All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years."

You betcha!

And I loved it when asked about her duties of Vice President she answered,  "As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?" 

Equally priceless is Palin’s remark made when resigning as governor of Alaska (quitting):  "It may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: 'Sit down and shut up,' but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out."

Congress often got into the Profoundly Stupid Statement act as well:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN):  "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT): “Capital punishment is our way of demonstrating the sanctity of life.”

Former Sen. Larry Craig, (R-ID):  "I have a wide stance." (After being caught soliciting gay sex in the men’s room at the airport)

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-PA): “ Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"

Former Sen. Ted Stevens, (R-AK): "And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. "

Former Sen. Tom Delay, (R-TX), When told to stop smoking his cigar in a restaurant due to federal regulations:  "I AM the federal government."   Delay also once remarked:  "Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills."

Former Governor Wally Hickel, (I-AK):  “You just can’t let nature run wild”

Former  U.S. Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-LA) after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did.”

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, (R-CA):  “This Iraqi thing will blow over”

Of course other governors besides Sarah Palin got into the act:

California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger:  "I like the color red because it's a fire. And I see myself as always being on fire.”, and,  “ I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman"

There was SC Governor Mark Sanford’s email to his Argentinian lover made public:  "I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light - but hey, that would be going into sexual details…”,

And Sanford’s remark when the details of his illicit affair became public knowledge :  This is "very damaging stuff"  (Who’d have ever thunk it?)

Even the Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele gets going:  “We need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets."

Not to be left out, political commentators can not be stopped:

Rush Limbaugh claimed Mark Sanford would "not have had an illicit affair if his state had not been forced to take  stimulus money by the Obama Administration."  Rush claimed a depressed Sanford simply said “To hell with this!” and engaged in his affair after losing spirit.  I'm assuming he did this with a straight face.

Ann Coulter was quite succinct in saying:  "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." 

Hey, you just can’t make this stuff up!   I guess it may all just be part of a tradition going back many years:

“I’m the only person of distinction who has ever had a depression named for him.” ~  Republican President Herbert Hoover as the 'Great Depression' took hold.

For reasons of space, I am of course leaving out the Dan Quayle years here. There's a whole book in that guy in himself. But, unfortunately the eight years of GW Bush allowed him to push Quayle into second place.

And, sadly for we aficionados of Profoundly Stupid Statements, it looks like we’re going to be getting by on a bare minimum for a while.