Monday, July 13, 2015

I wanted a photo of a butterfly on my computer



No, no! What I meant was I want a file containing a digital photograph loaded onto my computer. But I got this--a Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) resting on a computer that was in front of my house. The photo was taken in June 2015.

Besides the computer, this butterfly also visits the nearby milkweeds. I've been hoping to see monarchs on the milkweeds, but I haven't. Not even caterpillers or chrysalides, nor eggs. I haven't even seen a monarch in the neighborhood in quite a while. But the great spangled fritillary has become quite common here.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Getting Free from the Past

















Can you spot the difference in the two photos above? In some ways they are alike, but in one way they are very different. The picture on the left shows a Confederate flag flying in a place of honor at the South Carolina State House. It's not sharing the cupola mast with the flags of the United States and South Carolina, but it is in a place of honor, and protected--by state legislation.

The photo on the right shows the German Reichstag, the seat of government of Germany. Several flags can be seen. They are all the German national flag, re-adopted in 1949, replacing the swastika-bearing flag of the Nazi Reich (and, since 1990, the black-red-and gold represents unified Germany).

Both of the entities represented by the photos made war against the United States--South Carolina, as part of the Confederacy in the American Civil War; and Germany, as the Nazi state under Adolf Hitler. Both lost.

In today's Germany, there is no widespread nostalgia for the old days of the Nazi regime and the oppression it placed over Europe, especially against a minority group considered by many as filthy and subhuman. Glorification of the Nazi state is frowned upon. You can see no flags of the Third Reich flying at the Reichstag today. In contrast, South Carolina (and many throughout the South and even beyond) idolize those who fought for the continued oppression of a minority group many of them considered filthy and subhuman, and South Carolina

flies a Confederate flag at a memorial at the State House. Although slavery was officially ended in South Carolina by the Emancipation Proclamation, former slaves and their descendants continued to be persecuted and oppressed by Jim Crow laws. 

After the racially motivated murder of nine individuals in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina continues to honor the symbol of oppression. Germany got over its stained past; South Carolina has not.

"Rebel Flag at South Carolina Capitol" by Jason Eppink.
"Reichstag building Berlin view from west before sunset" by J├╝rgen Matern - Own work (JMatern_071104_8454-8458_WC.jpg). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki 

UPDATE:  State Representative Norman Brannon has announced that he plans to sponsor legislation to remove the Confederate flag. 

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

SCOTUS Opens Door to Teaching Creationism

...At least in private schools that are corporate persons and enjoy corporate freedom of religion. As put by Justice Alito in the 5-4 majority opinion in Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al., v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al.

According to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.



This misguided statement has the potential to allow all sorts of nonsense. A private school may teach that Adam and Eve played polo riding on the backs of dinosaurs, if that is their religious belief. Science be damned; if their religious belief says so, they can teach that the Earth is 6,000 years old. If consistent with their religious belief, demon-created earthquakes and  devil-guided tornadoes might find their way into the curiculum. 

Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast got it exactly right, saying 
"The four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients." That should be a statement of fact, not faith.

Whenever someone tries to justify religious notions with a scientific basis, they usually run into trouble, most especially if they completely lack any understanding of the science.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What War on Science?

Fewer  than one percent of peer-reviewed articles published from November 2012 to December 2013 reject human-caused global warming (one author out of 9,136).

Thirty percent of the United States Congress (both houses) do.

They are all Republicans.

Our country is in trouble when so many legislators refuse to believe in reality. The science of global warming is not the only science they reject.






Chart from jamespowell.org -- additional data available at that site.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Was Homo erectus Santa White?

I was wondering about Santa visiting the kiddies of Homo erectus families about a million years ago. Was Santa white way back then? The only way to solve this enigma is to ask a Republican!

Fox News has answered this question for us--Santa, a real entity, was(is) definitely white. Megyn Kelly says so, based on well, you know, something. She must be right, because renowned  paleoanthropologist Herr Professor Doktor Bill O'Reilly agrees.

But all of this speculation is moot, there's no such thing as extinct hominins; the majority of Republicans don't "believe" in evolution. That's right; Santa Claus is real, but evolution, climate change, and other things scientists talk about and work on are commie conspiracies to overthrow the American way of life.  As Representative Paul Broun (R-GA), who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, put it,

All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.

 

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Okay, Santa...Bring it on!


The U.S. military will be providing Santa Claus with an escort of fighter jets this year. Baby Jesus is hunkered down, ready to shoot those jets and Santa out of the sky. "It's my birthday! All those presents are mine!" the god-child is reported to have said.

The War on Christmas(TM) seems to have gotten a bit strange this year. Bill O'Reilly, please enlighten us with your usual cogent analysis.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Mark Leibovich Hit the Nail on the Head with this Tale

I've been reading Mark Leibovich's new book, This Town, about the interrelationships of the Washington "Villagers"--that collection of politicians, lobbyists, and media celebrities that have turned our nation's capital into an ongoing fraternity party. Leibovich presents case after case of Villagers working hard, in some cases desperately, to be "insiders," or members of the clique of Very Important People That Are Talked About And Invited To Parties and Dinner--And Talk Shows.

I'm finding the book pretty dull as a reader who is not excited by politicians and details of their behavior; I'm aware that Washington is crammed with panderers, egotists, and power-wielder-wannabes. But one anecdote struck me as more impressive than it was meant when written.

This tale involved the profile of General Stanley McChrystal that appeared in Rolling Stone in 2010, written by Michael Hastings. You may recall that McChrystal (then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan) criticized certain members of the Obama administration undiplomatically; as Hastings put it 

But part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama's top people on the diplomatic side.
For his indiscretion, McChrystal fell on his sword was fired and condemned to start up a consulting outfit, sign a book deal, join a couple of boards of directors, teach a graduate seminar at Yale, and accept $60,000 per speech to talk about stuff.

Leibovich describes how the Villagers rushed to McChrystal's defense and condemned Hastings for daring to engage in real journalism (as opposed to head-bobbing). But the real howler comes when Leibovich describes the reaction of now-disgraced former journalist Lara Logan:

But the harshest criticism came from inside the pack. CBS's chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan was brutal, saying that Hastings had violated an "unspoken agreement" between reporters and military officials. It is understood, she said, that journalists should not embarrass troops "by reporting insults and banter." She implied that Hastings had disingenuously gained the trust of his subjects and even that Hastings made up the offending material [bold added]--or at the very least burned the military leaders on an off-the-record agreement.
Who'da thought that a couple years later, Lara Logan would present a hard-hitting, troubling analysis of the attack on the American diplomatic compound at Benghazi, based primarily on an interview with some dude who made shit up? Leibovich concludes the tale 
The biggest point in this case concerns the place of the "reputable journalist" in the Washington Club--or lifetime banishment from it.

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