February 28, 2013

It must be terrifying to be Christian

From Ed Brayton's blog today:
Pat Robertson, responding to a question from a viewer, said recently that it’s a good idea to pray over any items you buy secondhand, like clothes, because demons may have attached themselves to them and it’s important to “rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

Interesting opinion piece on the pope

I missed this yesterday. It's an opinion piece by a theologian named Hans Kung -- a man who knows Ratzinger well. Here are a few excerpts. 
To this day the Curia, which in its current form is likewise a product of the 11th century, is the chief obstacle to any thorough reform of the Catholic Church, to any honest ecumenical understanding with the other Christian churches and world religions, and to any critical, constructive attitude toward the modern world.
Under the two most recent popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there has been a fatal return to the church’s old monarchical habits. 


One shouldn’t be misled by the media hype of grandly staged papal mass events or by the wild applause of conservative Catholic youth groups. Behind the facade, the whole house is crumbling.
While Kung is critical, it seems he wants better for the church. With an eye toward the future, he states his hope that the next pope will be open-minded. Fat chance of that. Made interesting reading, though. (Note that Kung ignores the church's position on gays, though he champions the ordination of women. Perhaps he axed gays from the op-ed in hopes of reaching more bigots with his arguments. Or maybe he's just another anti-gay Christian git. I have no idea.)

Bill Donohue tries to get all huffy

While trying to defend the gay pope's masculinity against a diss by Andrew Sullivan, the odious, hateful and incredibly stupid Bill Donohue said this:
But if the pope were truly gay, why doesn’t he have that prototypical gay lisp? Nor has anyone ever accused him of being a narcissist, another trait associated with homosexuals.
Donohue is NYC's resident Catholic loon. He ended his post this way:
I confess I don’t know enough about Andrew Sullivan’s “mental architecture” to explain why his intrinsic disorder manifests itself in such a vile way. That it does is beyond dispute.
The current (for the day, anyway) popey guy says gays are "intrinsically disordered". Wow, Bill Donohue certainly knows how to defend the pope, huh? What a jerk! If heaven is filled with people like this, the take-home message here is to avoid heaven at all costs. Don't forget! 

(While I'm on the topic, avoid the white light, too. I think that's a scam; always have. If you go into the light, you'll be in pain forever!)

Here's something I don't get

I'm going to use baseball as an example. During a game, you often hear the announcer say, "Those lefties sure do love that low-ball." And they do. You always see lefties go after that low-ball. It's right smack in the middle of their "wheel-house", as they put it. (Meaning the ball is right where you want it to be; it fits perfectly into your preferred swing.)

But why isn't the situation the same for right-handers? You'll never hear an announcer say "Those righties sure do love that low-ball." Doesn't come up.

Why there isn't true complementarity from left to right? Why aren't they equal? Doesn't a right-handed person do the same thing as a left-handed person, but from a different perspective? Why should there be a significant difference? I really don't get it.

Any suggestions?

Timmy speaks

Drawing by Conor Cunningham.
Cardinal Timmy Dolan's words:
“Look, there’s always been sin, there’s always been scandal, there’s always been some corruption in the members of the church. At a time like this when the church is under such intense scrutiny, those are obviously going to come through. We refer to the church as the mystical body of Christ. There are warts on the mystical body, there are scars, and as St. Augustine says, often the mystical body of Christ limps because the church is in pain. The church is sometimes wounded, and we see that now.”
Never a word for the raped children. Not. One. Syllable. Timmy would be the perfect pope. Hates gays? Check. Never speaks up for women? Check. Doesn't care about kids raped by priests? Double-check. Go, Timmeh!

The changing of the guard

Shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, Benedict will leave the palace for the last time as pontiff, head to the helipad at the top of the hill in the Vatican gardens and fly to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome. 

There, at 8 p.m. sharp, Benedict will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The Swiss Guards standing at attention will go into the palazzo and shut the doors behind them and go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over — for now.
Lombardi said the guards would change into civilian clothes and return to the Vatican barracks Thursday night. 
As I understand it, the guards will change their clothes and take a steam bath in front of the popey guy, as a sort of friendly, masculine send-off. Then, filled with memories of the men's bodies, Benedict will get the papal goosebumps one last time -- and enter his apartment alone. And with that, the popey guy will be no more.

It just tears your heart out, doesn't it?

February 27, 2013

At first?!

A NY Times article about the pope recounts his early papacy:
At first, he was stiff.

Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the pope's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, recalled that in the early days Benedict used to greet crowds with an awkward victory gesture "as if he were an athlete." 

"At some point someone told him that wasn't a very papal gesture," Vian said. Benedict changed course, opting instead for an open-armed embrace or an almost effeminate twinkling of his fingers on an outstretched hand as a way of connecting with the crowd. 
And with this move, I guess he wasn't stiff anymore. Hey, I didn't write it; the Times did.

Asperatus clouds

This is today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. (It's a site maintained by NASA.) These are called asperatus clouds. The shot was taken over New Zealand. Pretty cool, huh? According to the short article, asperatus clouds are "stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, are relatively unstudied, and have even been suggested as a new type of cloud."

Click the image to see a larger version.

Living human heads in jars

Remember the living Nixon head-in-a-jar on the show Futurama? This might be a possibility -- no, not Nixon's head, but maybe yours.

A story at physorg suggests that brain neurons do not have pre-set life spans. This is shocking and intriguing. Scientists moved neurons from the brain of a mouse with a rather short life span, and put them into a rat's brain. The neurons continued to live -- and aged at a rate similar to the rat's longer-lived neurons. The inference is that neurons live as long as their surroundings support them.

Get the picture? Heads in jars may be coming to a site near you. Just imagine what fun it will be to have Aunt Tilly's head in a jar on the mantel, where you can talk to her all you want. Who needs bodies when you've got heads?

Or worse

Remember Dov Hikind, who dressed up in blackface for a Purim gathering last week? As I said when I wrote about the incident, the man is famous for opening his mouth and saying terrible things in an ungainly way. He's upped the ante:
“I’m sorry people were offended,” Hikind said at a hastily arranged news conference outside his home. “In hindsight, I should have picked something else,” he said. “It never crossed my mind for a split second that I was doing something wrong.”

Hikind repeated the apology, bizarrely, in a radio interview on Monday night, even as he questioned some of the criticism as “knee-jerk.”

“If I was doing it all over again? I would look at, you know, additional alternatives,” he told Zev Brenner on WSNR, “because my real objective is — it’s not about being a black person or Indian, or maybe I would be a gay person . . . by the way, would that be okay, Zev? If I played a gay person next year?” 
Critics from all corners of the Democratic Party had slammed Hikind, accusing him of being insensitive, or worse.
It amazes me that this guy has been a public figure for decades. If he represented my community, I'd consider paying him to remain silent.

The popey guy's last speech

Actually, it wasn't bad. Ratzinger sounded more human than he has in the past. I like the ending of the NYT article about his last pontification from the Holy Window. They'd just mentioned that cardinal Keith O'Brien stepped down because of gay sex allegations. He will not help elect the new popey guy. However, back at the Vatican ranch...
His exit came as at least a dozen other cardinals tarnished with accusations that they had failed to remove priests accused of sexually abusing minors were among those gathering in Rome to prepare for the conclave. 

But there was no indication that the church’s promise to confront the sexual abuse scandal had led to direct pressure on those cardinals to exempt themselves from the conclave. 
The church just doesn't care about its criminal behavior -- and never will. Bring on the eats! We got us a popey guy to elect!

February 26, 2013

The popeyguy emeritus

You know, it has a ring to it.

Bigotry in Mississippi? Can't be.

AmericaBlog has a great story about local reaction to a Mississippi newspaper's frontpage coverage of the county's first gay wedding.

I especially liked this:
(Same-sex marriages are not legally-recognized in Mississippi. Though slavery was abolished in Mississippi two weeks ago, so hope springs eternal.)
Funny -- and accurate.

More bad news about BPA

BPA harms the developing brain. Especially if you have kids in the house, try to avoid anything that comes in a can or a plastic bottle. You should also shun receipts at stores. BPA is most harmful to the developing brains of female children.

If the mechanism discussed in the linked article occurs, "it can damage neural circuits and compromise a developing nerve cell's ability to migrate to its proper position in the brain." You don't want to risk your child's health, so be careful. Here are the culprits:
BPA, a molecule that mimics estrogen and interferes with the body's endocrine system, can be found in a wide variety of manufactured products, including thermal printer paper, some plastic water bottles and the lining of metal cans. The chemical can be ingested if it seeps into the contents of food and beverage containers.
That the use of this chemical isn't banned categorically in the U.S. reflects our brainless American culture. We shouldn't have to yell at the FDA to get a harmful substance banned. But corporate culture rules, and to hell with the people. U!S!A!, U!S!A! American life is turning into a cartoon.

Be still, my heart

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI will be known as "emeritus pope" in his retirement and will continue to wear a white cassock, the Vatican announced Tuesday, again fueling concerns about potential conflicts arising from having both a reigning and a retired pope. 
Looks like the popey guy is determined to be a continuing nuisance. Over at the Vatican, they're all saying "Drat!" If you cup a hand to your ear and listen closely, you can probably hear them. Go ahead and try it. Do you hear them? Now they're saying "Dang!"
In the two weeks since Benedict's resignation announcement, Vatican officials had suggested that Benedict would likely resume wearing the traditional black garb of a cleric and would use the title "emeritus bishop of Rome" so as to not create confusion with the future pope
Not create confusion?! This is Ratzinger you're talking about. Confusion is his middle name. This is all his doing, by the way. The story notes that "Benedict himself made the decision in consultation with others, settling on 'Your Holiness Benedict XVI' and either emeritus pope or emeritus Roman pontiff."

Emeritis Roman mastiff might be more appropriate. But the good news is that Ratzi's not letting go. He is the once and future popey guy. Oh, the juicy times that lie ahead! Be still, my heart.

February 25, 2013

TV note

I see that PBS' "Independent Lens" is showing a 2012 documentary tonight about Ai Weiwei. It's called "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry". I love this guy. If you're interested, tune in. He's a human rights-oriented Chinese artist who just won't back down. He's kind of like the ultimate, talented Chinese hippie, and the Chinese government harasses him endlessly for this. Folks, it's one thing to be an activist in America and quite another to be one in China. I admire this fellow.

Wingnut Jewish assemblyman makes fool of himself

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A veteran New York Assemblyman on Monday stood by his decision to wear blackface makeup, an Afro wig and a basketball jersey to a costume party in the face of criticism he called "political correctness to the absurd." 
For non-New Yorkers who may not be familiar with this clown, Dov Hikind is the stupidest leader in the local Jewish community. He is on the wrong side of everything. When I had a hand in getting NYC's gay rights bill passed in 1986, Dov Hikind was one of our most virulent enemies. He's also really, really stupid and is a bit of a Mrs. Malaprop, often saying things in a confused and graceless way.

Said Hikind about the uproar: "This is political correctness to the absurd. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body." The man is a world-class fool. Extra bonus:
Earlier this month, Hikind criticized the fashion designer John Galliano, who was recently photographed in New York City dressing as a Hasid with a long jacket and curly sidelocks...Hikind demanded an explanation from Galliano for his costume.
You can't make this stuff up. The man is a colossal fool. That he's still clamoring for attention after all these years is amazing.

This old man

That old tune wormed its way into my head yesterday and I wondered "what the hell is paddywhack?" ("And a knicknack paddywhack, give the dog a bone...") Here's what Wikipedia says about it.
Paddywhack (also spelt Paddywack) or Nuchal ligament/Ligamentum nuchae, is a strong elastic ligament or tendon in the midline of the neck of sheep or cattle which relieves the animal of the weight of its head. It is pale yellow in colour. (The yellow colour is the elastin on the ligaments.) The name is derived from the corruption of paxwax (originally faxwax Old English hair + to grow).

It is eaten in several countries. It is high in protein (78%), fat (10%), crude fibre (0.7%), and crude ash (1%). The meat is taken from domestic cattle, the bison, African buffalo, the water buffalo, the yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes.

Dried paddywhack is commonly packaged and sold as a dog treat.
Ugh. I'm sorry I looked it up. Sometimes it's better to be ignorant.

I'm sure gay families will be welcome

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia will host a large gathering of the Roman Catholic church called the World Meeting of Families in September 2015, an event expected to bring hundreds of thousands from around the world, church officials announced Monday. 
I'm sure they'll make every effort to include gay families. Right? Right? Of course not. The pope could hardly restrain himself when talking about these gatherings last year. "Family", to the pope, means "kill the gays".

I hope if there are any gay families that (foolishly) think of themselves as Roman Catholic, they'll head on over with their kids and several gay flags and lots of gay friends with video cameras to record the reactions of the loving Christians.

City of brotherly love, my ass. This is going to be a hate fest.

February 24, 2013

Sunday music

I like this. Matt Bauer: Don't Let Me Out.

Too friendly

In the city (i.e., Manhattan), we called areas like the one where I now live, "the country". Here in the country, people are different. For instance, in the city we rarely say hello to anyone on the street. A nod, perhaps. But that's about it (and only if pressed).

But here in the country, everyone is hello-mad. People are always waving at you and trying to slip you a hello. They do it from cars; they do it while walking along the street; they do it from their yards. I do not like this. Mind you, this wasn't a problem when I never went outside. But now that I've begun to walk through the area for health reasons, I can't escape these people. Horrors!

What I do is act like I'm blind. They can wave at me all they want; I don't notice. But on those rare occasions when someone is walking directly toward me and will pass within inches, slyly slipping me a hello, I use another technique.

The technique.
I've mentioned on the blog that I often wear white cotton gloves. They look fabulous on a 6'5" guy. When I walk, I wear the gloves but keep my hands in my pockets because of the cold. But when someone accosts me up-close with an unwanted hello, I take a white-gloved hand out and wave at them in my strangest, Mickey Mouse manner, waggling the fingers madly and adding an over-the-top smile to the mix.

I hope this will stop these people from saying anything further to me. Walking is a lone enterprise and I want to keep it that way. Am I a curmudgeon? Of course. If you didn't already know that, you must be new here.

Okay, I'm gonna put on my protective white gloves and go for a nice, lonely walk. And everybody better keep away from me!

Baseball question

Y'all know that I love baseball. But something confuses me. During games, the hapless "musicians" in the employ of stadiums often play the goddamn theme to The Adams Family. Why, fer hevvin's sake?

What brings this to a boil is that I watched a few Australian games this pre-season -- and they played the goddamn theme to The Adams Family, too! What is this about?

Years ago I told myself, "Well, I guess there are little kids in the stands." But of course, this show is from long, long ago. The kids wouldn't even recognize the tune. Adding to the mystery, stadiums also play the theme from Green Acres. Green Acres?! A terrible show from about 50 years ago? What gives?

I now control the news

I watched ABC news last night and was overjoyed to see them trash the pope, the Vatican and the cardinals. It almost seemed like I'd written the script. The segment was both accurate and snarky. It ended by saying that Cardinal Mahony, who hid LA's rapist priests, had compared his well-deserved humiliation to the pain suffered by Jesus.

It was great fun. But of course, these newsfolk have no mettle and even less memory. They'll soon be kneeling reverently as they watch white smoke curl into the sky. But you can't deny the majesty of this moment in time, when all the world can see the evil Vatican for what it is -- a group of old men who care about no one but themselves.

February 23, 2013

Minutes from now, heaven will open up

It's the first day of baseball spring training and I'm so excited, I could scream. In (looks at clock) ten minutes, the sound of baseball will wash over me. I cannot wait. Mets v. Nats. I couldn't ask for more.

NY Daily News comes out and says it

Pope Benedict’s stunning resignation is being linked to a bombshell report exposing a secret gay conclave at the Vatican being blackmailed over acts of a “worldly nature” with laymen.

The 300-page dossier — compiled by three cardinals investigating the theft of Vatican documents — was given to the Pope on Dec. 17, the same day he decided to resign, an Italian newspaper reported Friday.

Just days after receiving the report, Pope Benedict railed against gay marriage and homosexuality, calling it “the manipulation of nature.”

Members of the gay lobby included high-ranking Catholic clergy who organized sex romps at a Rome sauna, a suburban Rome villa and a beauty parlor, according to the report. The group was also known to meet at a university residence used by an Italian archbishop.

Quoting a high-placed Vatican source, La Repubblica revealed members of the gay faction were being subjected to “external influence” or blackmail, from laymen with whom they had relationships of a “worldly nature.”
There you have it. This sex-mad church is collapsing before our eyes. Kinda fun!

Is this the Vatican's most pompous moment?

Apparently the pope is upset at the media, especially the Italian media because of its relentless focus on Vatican scandals. The prevailing winds in Italy blame Benedict's departure on these scandals. Don't they know he's God's representative on Earth?!

Here is the Vatican's comment on this:
"If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., States, exerted pressures on the election of the pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living," the statement said. 

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi was asked how specifically the media was trying to influence the outcome; Lombardi didn't respond directly, saying only that the reports have tended to paint the Curia in a negative light "beyond the considerations and serene evaluations" of problems that cardinals might discuss before the conclave.
Indeed. It must be highly serene and extra-holy at the Vatican these days. The whole world can tell. I can't tell you how often I hear people say, "It's just so spiritual at the Vatican, especially now in this time of popely change. And those holy cardinals! Have you ever seen such serenity?!"

I especially like the Vatican's reference to "the so-called powers, i.e., States". That's so much fun. Because there are no real powers in the world. There is only the Vatican, the official house of Jeebus.

Apparently, the media's not buying it. The story ends this way:
The Vatican's attack on the media echoed its response to previous scandals, where it has tended not to address the underlying content of accusations, but has diverted attention away. During the 2010 explosion of sex abuse scandals, the Vatican accused the media of trying to attack the pope; during the 2012 leaks scandal, it accused the media of sensationalism without addressing the content of the leaked documents.

I love Ed Brayton's blog

Why am I in love with Ed Brayton's blog? Because he writes stuff like this:
Cliff Kincaid, the utterly deranged Accuracy in Media leader, went on the radio show of the equally deranged Rick Wiles recently and the two of them exchanged imbecilities.
He shows no respect for idiots. I like that.

Pity the Russian people

February 22, 2013

Transgender employent struggles

At CNNMoney, of all places, there's an article about the difficulties transgender people have when looking for employment -- especially in this economy. The article itself is neither positive nor negative. It's simply a recounting of the experiences of several transgender people. I recommend it. And I was very pleased to see an article like this on a mainstream web site. Kudos to CNNMoney.

Ghanian cardinal a real treat

This cardinal could be an even worse pope than Ratzi. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is said to be in the running to take over Ratzi's job. And this one is seriously off the beam.
Then, the conversation turned to the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal. Amanpour asked Turkson if it's possible the scandal, which swept across the U.S. and Europe over the past decade, could reach Africa. 

"Not in the same proportion as we have seen in Europe," Turkson said. "Probably because African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency. Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa, homosexuality, or for that matter, any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society. So, that cultural 'taboo,' that tradition has been there. It's helped to keep this out." 
Got that? His country's dedication to oppressing gays protected it from pedophilia. As the linked HuffPo article states, "The 64-year-old Ghanaian cardinal has displayed anti-gay sentiments before, defending anti-gay legislation similar to Uganda's so-called "Kill the Gays" bill." Great. A new gay-hating pope. Even the church, as an institution, doesn't think the pedophilia scandal is the result of gays moving into the priesthood. A five-year study undertaken by the bishops discounted this possibility.
The report notes that homosexual men began entering the seminaries “in noticeable numbers” from the late 1970s through the 1980s. By the time this cohort entered the priesthood, in the mid-1980s, the reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests began to drop and then to level off. If anything, the report says, the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving the church.
So let's see...gays enter the priest workforce and pedophilia is reduced. Seems simple, no? Not to this brain-challenged cardinal.

But don't worry. Italian newspapers seem to think that smiling Timmy Dolan of NYC, who was deposed on Wednesday about the pedophilia scandal, has a good shot at being the next pope. Oh, wait. That would mean the fellow who honchoed the American Catholic bishops' vicious vendetta against gays could be the next pope. Hmmm...Turkson or Dolan. Doesn't seem to make much difference, does it? Interesting times ahead!

Satmar Hasidic street gangs

In Brooklyn, "Satmar Hasidic scolds" are oppressing businesses -- again. These ultra-orthodox Jewish sociopaths want to force others to follow their ignorant, anti-women rules. But they're not just stating this at temple. The Satmars operate like a street gang. There's no place in America for actions like this:
Residents said the Va’ad Hatznius — known as the modesty patrol — struck again Thursday, blanketing lightposts and car windshields with flyers calling for the boycott of a new women’s clothing shop at 100 Lee Ave. and trumpeting an afternoon protest.

The store’s offense? Having big windows, through which the sight of women holding up dresses and picking through clothes are too easily observed from the street.
These people don't belong in modern society. I wish I lived in the area. It would be great fun to organize a bunch of women and men to dress scantily and hang out in their neighborhoods every day until they move away. I suggest they build a prison for themselves and live there. This way they won't be forced to see people being, you know, normal.

Moral injury

There's a great story at the NYT this morning. It's about soldiers who suffer from "moral injury" -- the notion that they've done something in war that violates their moral code. It's something I've always wondered about. Seriously, go read this story.

February 21, 2013

The origins of human language

A new paper suggests that human language is the result of the "grafting of two communication forms found elsewhere in the animal kingdom: first, the elaborate songs of birds, and second, the more utilitarian, information-bearing types of expression seen in a diversity of other animals."
The idea builds upon Miyagawa's conclusion, detailed in his previous work, that there are two "layers" in all human languages: an "expression" layer, which involves the changeable organization of sentences, and a "lexical" layer, which relates to the core content of a sentence. His conclusion is based on earlier work by linguists including Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser. 

Based on an analysis of animal communication, and using Miyagawa's framework, the authors say that birdsong closely resembles the expression layer of human sentences—whereas the communicative waggles of bees, or the short, audible messages of primates, are more like the lexical layer. At some point, between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago, humans may have merged these two types of expression into a uniquely sophisticated form of language.
Very cool!

Our sweat kills germs, including TB

I was surprised by this story.
Sweat spreads highly efficient antibiotics on to our skin, which protect us from dangerous bugs. If our skin becomes injured by a small cut, a scratch, or the sting of a mosquito, antibiotic agents secreted in sweat glands, such as dermcidin, rapidly and efficiently kill invaders. These natural substances, known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), are more effective in the long term than traditional antibiotics, because germs are not capable of quickly developing resistance against them.
If you're not a Republican, you learn new things every day. Our sweat can even kill TB. So go outside and work up a sweat right now. It's a good thing.
Sweat spreads highly efficient antibiotics on to our skin, which protect us from dangerous bugs. If our skin becomes injured by a small cut, a scratch, or the sting of a mosquito, antibiotic agents secreted in sweat glands, such as dermcidin, rapidly and efficiently kill invaders. These natural substances, known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), are more effective in the long term than traditional antibiotics, because germs are not capable of quickly developing resistance against them.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-scientists-unveil-secrets-important-natural.html#jCp

What the next pope faces

There's a story at the NYT today about Vatican intrigue. The upshot is that it won't be smooth sailing for the next pope. The story begins by recounting the theft of the pope's papers by his butler.
And if that original sin weren't enough, the content of the leaks confirmed that the next pope has a very messy house to clean up. The letters and memos exposed petty wrangling, corruption and cronyism at the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The dirt ranged from the awarding of Vatican contracts to a plot, purportedly orchestrated by senior Vatican officials, to out a prominent Catholic newspaper editor as gay.
Always thinking sweet thoughts, these princes of the church. What I want to know about is the "homosexual liaisons" at the Vatican. The butler pointed to this, but no one ever followed it up. Gee, I wonder why.

I think my favorite line is this:
And as cardinal, after priestly sex abuse cases bounced for years among Vatican offices, the former Joseph Ratzinger took them over himself in 2001. 
Yes, we've heard it before but it can't be stated too often. It's the information that won't go away: Ratzinger was in charge of the entire pedophilia scandal. The popey guy! Catholics are great at ignoring this but their lack of attention doesn't erase the issue. The whole world knows that the pope was in charge of sexual abuse cases since 2001. Most of the children who were abused after that date owe their pain and horror to one man: Pope Benedict. (Okay, the priest who attacked them is also responsible. Still, that's quite a pope they've got there.)

I've awakened in an alternate universe

That must be the answer, because I saw this today:
BERLIN (AP) — German bishops have agreed that Roman Catholic-run hospitals should be allowed to prescribe the morning-after pill to rape victims to prevent conception.
A Roman Catholic hospital doing the right thing?  Surely this can't be! But wait, there's more.
The German Bishops Conference issued the ruling at a regular meeting Thursday in the western city of Trier. But it said Catholic hospitals still can't prescribe drugs that would lead to the death of an embryo.
Phew. Same universe. For a moment, I was really worried. After all, in a parallel universe I might not have an iPad.

February 20, 2013

Disgraced cardinal Mahony thinks he's a saint

Phew. This guy is amazing. Even after it was shown unequivocally that cardinal Mahony hid the sexual predation of priests in his employ, he still doesn't acknowledge that he did anything wrong. And he never ever mentions the harm done to children. That just doesn't matter to this cardinal. You see, it's all about him.
Reflecting on the matter on his personal blog Wednesday, Mahony obliquely refers to his experience a "painful and public humiliation, which is spiritually a grace-opportunity."
That's right. He sees his transgressions as a "grace-opportunity." Isn't it special that things worked out so well for his eternal soul? After saying stupid things like this all week, he capped it off with this:
In a posting to his blog Monday, Mahony wrote that his personal Lenten journey involves suffering and "never protesting misunderstandings, and never getting angry because of false accusations."
Darn those pesky "false" allegations. They're always getting in the way of true spirituality. He ends his blog post this way:
I surely need your prayers and your encouragement in my own life to handle all of my mistakes, omissions, and commissions as God asks, and as Jesus and Mary lived out:  to take in what swirls around me, to hold it, to carry it, to transform it and to give it back as grace, blessing, and gift.
Jesus and Mary, walk with us and show us how to follow you!
How's that for chutzpah? This filthy creature thinks he's a saint! That's quite a church they've got there. I'm sure all the victims of priestly abuse are thrilled that Mahony will "give it back as grace, blessing and a gift". That makes the memories of sexual abuse so much easier to bear.

Is Al Jazeera turning into Fox News?

Today, when Egyptians protest against President Mohammad Morsi and the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Jazeera is often critical of them, in the style of the old pro-government TV station. Conversely, according to ex-correspondent Suliman, Al-Jazeera executives have ordered that Morsi's decrees should be portrayed as pearls of wisdom. "Such a dictatorial approach would have been unthinkable before," he says. "In Egypt we have become the palace broadcaster for Morsi." 
I can't believe I'm reading this. According to an article at Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera has become a mouthpiece for the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, just as Fox in the US is the mouthpiece for the GOP.
A prominent correspondent who, until one year ago, used to report in Beirut for the network, says: "Al-Jazeera takes a clear position in every country from which it reports -- not based on journalistic priorities, but rather on the interests of the Foreign Ministry of Qatar," he says. "In order to maintain my integrity as a reporter, I had to quit."
When, for instance, mass protests were staged against the neighboring regime in Bahrain, a close ally of the emir, Al-Jazeera almost entirely ignored the situation. In Syria, on the other hand, where Qatar supports the Islamist-leaning opponents of President Bashar Assad with money and weapons, the network's journalists are extremely close to the rebels.
That's a page directly from the Fox News playbook. This is distressing because Al Jazeera has been a sterling, independent news source since its creation. What a terrible downfall for a formerly trusted news source. And I'm not the only one who thinks this.
The Arab TV network has recently suffered an exodus of prominent staff members. Reporters and anchors in cities like Paris, London, Moscow, Beirut and Cairo have left Al-Jazeera, despite what are seen as luxurious working conditions in centrally located offices.
It's just sad. Of all the things I thought Al Jazeera might turn into, Fox News wasn't on the list.

A toast in Rome: the evil pope's reign is over

ROME (Reuters) - Across the road from the Colosseum, the ancient Roman stadium consecrated as a holy Christian site, clients at a busy bar are raising a glass to the pope: toasting the departure of the worst Church leader they can imagine.

For drinkers in Rome's best known gay bar, Benedict's abdication is a blessing. "He was less human than the last one," said Flavia Servadei...


In December, the pope welcomed Ugandan parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga, one of the proponents of a bill that, in its first draft, sought to impose the death penalty on gays.


"The college of cardinals is made up of very old people - a male chauvinist gerontocracy," said Grillini. "So we have no illusion about a new pope having more moderate views about civil rights and homosexuality."
Yes, the future pope will be an anti-gay nightmare of a human being. But there is heartfelt thanks that this pope's reign is ending. Benedict will enter the pantheon of past popes as one of the least popular leaders the church has ever known. This is only fair. Ratzinger is a hate-filled beast.

Hat tip to Artichoke Annie for the link.

Repulsive Cardinal to help elect new pope

Catholics United, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, says that former Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony should refrain from attending the papal conclave and recuse himself from voting. The petition launched last week had more than 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday representing a tiny fraction of the roughly one in four Americans who are Catholics.
"Please do not bring further scandal to our Church that has already been rocked by the sex abuse crisis by attending the Papal Conclave. You have been disciplined and you have lost your ability to have a voice within our Church," said the petition from the Washington-based group.
But Mahony has no clue he's dead meat. In fact, he's preparing to vote. This is such an evil notion and, as always, the church is tone-deaf. Do they never ask, "How must this look to Catholics and others?" The linked story states that Mahony is "attending the Vatican conclave to select a successor to Pope Benedict XVI". This means the new pope will be partially elected and tainted by a man who hid child rape and other sexual abuse by priests. Mahony's transgressions aren't a secret. The whole world knows the man is a verified beast. But the church doesn't give a damn.

Quite a fresh start they're getting over at the Vatican. What an appalling church this is. Over and over, the Roman Catholic church reveals that it has no moral center. None.

Dark Catholic deeds in Ireland

Ireland has apologized for allowing the systematic abuse of women by Catholic nuns.
DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland ignored the mistreatment of thousands of women who were incarcerated within Catholic nun-operated laundries and must pay the survivors compensation, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Tuesday in an emotional state apology for the decades of abuses in the so-called Magdalene Laundries. 

"By any standards it was a cruel, pitiless Ireland, distinctly lacking in a quality of mercy," Kenny said, as dozens of former Magdalenes watched tearfully from parliament's public gallery overhead. 


A government-commissioned report published two weeks ago found that more than 10,000 women were consigned to the laundries after being branded "fallen" women, a euphemism for prostitutes, even though virtually none of them were — and instead were products of poverty, homelessness and dysfunctional families. More than a quarter were directly referred by public officials, such as judges or truancy officers, and all spent months or years in menial labor without access to education. Most did laundry for local hotels, hospitals and prisons, while others scrubbed floors or made rosary beads for the church's profit. 
Each page of this church's history is riddled with horror. There is no light anywhere. As I told a Roman Catholic friend, "If there was a god at the heart of your church, these things wouldn't happen." But there is no god, and religion is just a fairytale. This fact makes the abuse more nightmarish, leaving only cruelty as the motivating force for depriving so many women of everything that matters in life. Every person involved in the running of this "laundry" should be imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Do you doubt that the Vatican was completely aware of what went on in this laundry? If there was still a living pope from those days, he would belong in a jail cell with the other perpetrators.

February 19, 2013

Gotta walk

Since I sit in a chair all damn day, I've decided to take up walking. It means going out of the house (shudder) but a boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do. I even bought a pedometer; I must be serious.

Anyway, this is really a post about my friend, Crow. I've been feeding a family of four crows for several years. I toss out endless peanuts, pleasing not only Crow and his family, but the local squirrels. In any case, when I go for a walk the four crows follow me.

They fly overhead and call down to me, and alight on trees and houses near my path. The calls sound friendly, not like the usual "caw" you expect from a crow. And when I get back to my house, they fly into the tree that hangs overhead. To reward their faithfulness, I again toss out a bunch of peanuts and they hungrily gobble them up.

Today I wondered if Crow would do a Lassie if something happened to me. If I was lying on the ground motionless near the edge of the forest, would Crow fly back to my house and fetch my sister? Crows are awfully smart. Who knows?

Okay, okay. If Crow found me on the ground, he'd sit on my chin and peck out my eyes. Still, I just love Crow!

New soap opera: "As the words morph"

On the news last night, the boyfriend of a murdered woman stated, "I am not the suspect."

I hear this all the time. "Suspect" now means "the guy who did it". The original meaning of the word is lost. This is why people don't gasp and clutch their pearls when told that a police officer "shot and killed the suspect".

They think it means the police got "the guy who did it". Words matter.

Big news if this pans out

They used a virus to kill liver cancer. It's only been tried in terminally ill patients so far, but it looks very good. Minimal side effects, too. This could be a game changer.

February 18, 2013

Less snow, more blizzards

This helps to explain the odd weather we've experienced in the northeast the past few years: 
Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink the snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.
It's always nice to learn why things happen. I think they call this "science".

Alternatives to the Boy Scouts

This one sounds like fun. It's a Christian wingnut organization called The Assemblies of God's Royal Rangers. Check out the group's description:
"We provide Christ-like character formation and servant leadership development for boys and young men in a highly relational and fun environment," says the Rangers' mission statement.

Every four years, the organization brings together several thousand boys and adult leaders for a "Camporama" at the Rangers' campground in Eagle Rock, Mo. Last summer's event featured a high-ropes course, two zip lines, a water slide, and a lumberjack show.

Like the Southern Baptists, the Assemblies of God considers homosexuality immoral and has urged the Boy Scouts not to lift the ban on gays.
I don't know how they'll keep the gays out, what with that "lumberjack show". I wonder if the lumberjacks shower with the Royal Rangers after the show -- you know, to help the lads establish manly behaviors. Probably, huh?

Vatican to keep pope out of prison

(Reuters) - Pope Benedict's decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

"His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn't have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else," said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is absolutely necessary" that he stays in the Vatican, said the source, adding that Benedict should have a "dignified existence" in his remaining years.
They evicted a group of nuns from a Vatican monastery so Benedict could live there. (They were just nuns, so what the hell.) The Vatican is determined, come hell or high water, to keep the pope on the premises -- and out of prison. I wonder how Catholics feel about this. Oh, that's right. Catholics don't think about unpleasant things. I forgot for a moment.

Submerged "superstorm" debris

The local news in NY has been covering this story since Sandy hit. The storm dragged many surprising things into the waters of NJ, NY and CT -- and they pose a danger to boaters and swimmers. Here's an excerpt:
Cars and sunken boats. Patio furniture. Pieces of docks. Entire houses. A grandfather clock, deposited in a marsh a mile from solid land. Hot tubs. Tons of sand. All displaced by Superstorm Sandy...

The sunken debris presents an urgent safety issue. Swimmers could cut themselves on submerged junk, step on one of thousands of boardwalk nails ripped loose, or suffer neck or spinal injuries diving into solid objects. Boats could hit debris, pitching their occupants overboard, or in severe cases, sinking.
The story focuses on NJ and CT but the problem is equally bad in the waters off Long Island. Think of the effort needed to clean this up. The income of many storm-battered residents depends on the trade generated by idyllic shorelines and marinas. This is an additional disaster for them.

Note: I lost the link to the original story. The link provided above leads to a much shorter story. Drat!

Russian dash-cams

Thanks to the prevalence of forward-facing dash cams in the cars of ordinary Russians, the world was able to see video of Friday's meteorite. But perhaps you found yourself wondering, as I did, why so many Russian drivers have these cameras in their cars. Apparently, they're popular for very good reasons.
One is that “psychopaths are abundant on Russian roads” and even the slightest perception of rude driving can quickly escalate into a fist fight or worse. The second reason, is that if you get injured or have your property damaged in such a fist fight, the best evidence in a Russian court is camera footage. Also, the website says, Russian websites are hungry for gory, horrifying footage of automobile accidents.
Russians also install dashboard cameras as a way to protect themselves from corrupt law enforcement officials.
So there you go. Gotta have a dash-cam in Russia. Who knew?

February 17, 2013

Exorcists happy with this pope

From HuffPo's ridiculous religion page:
"Benedict held an audience with exorcists from all over the world and welcomed us with words of great, great encouragement," Gabriel Amorth, devil fighter for the diocese of Rome for 27 years, said late Friday in an interview with Italian religious channel TV2000.

"He has continued to encourage us. The pope has done a lot to revise procedures... and given us powerful prayers that serve to exorcise," said Amorth.
Powerful prayers, eh? I'd like to hear these powerful prayers, wouldn't you? It's a wonder that certain words are more effective against the devil, and that it took over 2,000 years to locate these words. I wonder if the phrase "intrinsically disordered" made its way into the prayers.
He [Amorth] said that cases of full possession by the devil are very rare, but that he has seen victims "walk on walls, slither across the floor like a snake."

Disturbances caused by the devil, however, "have become extremely common."
And what are these disturbances, pray tell? He doesn't say. I wonder if "angry New Atheists" are among the unspecified disturbances.
The Association of Exorcists also has its work cut out because "the act of exorcism had been suspended for centuries, and while there is a huge request for exorcists, there are priests and bishops who do not believe in it."
Imagine that. Some priests are sensible.

Latest NOVA show is good but flawed

I watched this week's NOVA last night. It was called "Earth From Space". As always, I was mightily irked by the slowness of the show. The narrator says something...and then there's silence while some idiotic graphics are displayed. I assume this is so dimwits can ingest what's been said. I wish I had a filter that would join all the sentences together and skip the filler. Alas.

That aside, it was a good show with one major drawback. I'll get to that. It was largely an advertisement for the usefulness of NASA's satellites, and a plea to fund new satellites. There are 20 NASA satellites operating right now, but they're aging out. Within a decade, there will be less than 10. Allowing these satellites to fail is what insanity looks like. They give us vital information about our planet. Without them, we're blind.

The show did an (almost) bang-up job of explaining how the planet, life, water and air are related and interdependent. Change in one area causes change in the other. This aspect of the show was magnificent. I imagine many viewers learned for the first time about the global conveyor belt, the system of currents that drives the ocean down in Antarctica as heavy water dense with salt, and causes it to course around the planet, moderating temperatures and weather wherever it goes.

However, the show (which is funded in part by David Koch) completely ignored the Arctic end of the gyre, and the threat that melting ice poses for the continued circulation of the ocean current. In other words, they gave half the story -- the feel-good part.

In any case, the show is two hours and much of it was marvelous. See it if you can. It will bring Gaia to mind. Everything is connected in this universe of ours.

February 16, 2013

Religious fools will go wild

So there wasn't one meteor/asteroid event yesterday, there were two. You already know that. But you're wrong, Blanche, you're wrong. There were three.
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to the meteorite that detonated over Russia this week, island media reported, with startled residents describing a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls. 
This happened on Tuesday evening. Hoo boy! Are the religious loons gonna go nuts, or what? Three close passes, one of which almost hit. What could it mean? Is jeebus pranking us? Is he unhappy? I expect to see many priests saying stupid things today.

But why do they never say the obvious? The meteorite over Russia was god's way of warning Russians about the dangerous theocracy they're establishing. Jeebus was saying, "church and state don't mix!"

And the asteroid passing over Indonesia was god saying, "Muslim terrorism is an atrocity! Give up religion! Give up the idea of gods entirely!"

And as for Cuba, god is happy because travel to and from Cuba has resumed. This one was a form of celebratory fireworks. Now, let's see what the crazy priests have to say. Should be fun!

My favorite ill-fated passenger

So when the cruise from hell finally docked in Mobile, many passengers opted to get on buses for a two-hour ride to a hotel where rooms had been booked for them. Unfortunately, one of the buses broke down. Talk about bad luck.

NBC's evening news interviewed one of the passengers on the broken-down bus, and he is definitely my favorite passenger from that cruise. He didn't seem upset, as you can see from the photo above, and this is what he said:

"I don't know. Life gives you lemons. I guess you have to eat the lemons sometimes."

C'mon, don't you love him? I think he knew he was saying the expression incorrectly, but it amused him because he's a chemically happy fellow. Fun!

The gay pope and fashion

Hat tip to Annie for this one. A somewhat crazed woman wrote a paean to the sartorial style of the departing pope. It has paragraphs like this:
My own fashion sense is nearly nonexistent, but that only makes me more appreciative of Benedict's. Some highlights: Benedict saying Mass in 2008 at Washington's Nationals Park stadium in a billowing scarlet satin chasuble (a priest's outermost liturgical garment) trimmed with crimson velvet and delicate gold piping. Benedict greeting worshipers in Rome, his chasuble this time woven of emerald-green watered silk with a pattern of golden stars. Benedict on Oct. 21 canonizing Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, while attired in a fanon, a gold-and-white striped shoulder covering, dating to the 8th century, that only popes may wear.
Oh yeah? Well, I'm gonna get me one o' them fanons today at Amazon. As to why I say the writer is somewhat crazed, see the paragraph below. She seems quite comfortable using Bill Donohue-style "logic" to make her point.
It is especially fitting for our time that the pope has chosen his own liturgical apparel as an aesthetic medium. In the world of what passes for sophisticated culture these days, beauty and art have become nearly unmoored from each other. Art is supposed to be transgressive, while beauty is judged merely ornamental. Paint a Madonna, and you've got calendar kitsch. Paint a Madonna, and add some elephant dung and pictures of female genitalia cut out from porn magazines, and you've got a work to be exhibited in an exclusive gallery. Only in the decorative and useful arts — jewelry, fabrics, home furnishings, clothing, the design of cars, machines, and even humble objects — are beauty and fine craftsmanship still the criteria by which we judge value.
She knows lots more words than Donohue but the crazy is there. Only this woman, Giuliani and Donohue truly went bonkers over the poop madonna. Everyone else thought it was fun. And she didn't have to bring up Andrew Sullivan to suggest that this pope is gay. This pope is gay. Get over it.

February 15, 2013

Why the pope quit (maybe)

If this is true, the pope quit his job to escape justice. Wouldn't surprise me.
Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger, has scheduled a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for Saturday, February 23 to discuss securing protection and immunity from prosecution from the Italian government, according to Italian media sources.

Ratzinger’s meeting follows upon the apparent receipt by the Vatican of a diplomatic note from an undisclosed European government on February 4, stating its intention to issue an arrest warrant for Ratzinger, who resigned from his pontificate less than a week later.
Ratzinger orchestrated the hiding of rapist priests, thus sheltering them from justice. He is the person most responsible for the pedophilia scandal. The man belongs in prison. What a fitting end that would be for this pope.

On the other hand, I found this on Ed Brayton's blog and he suggests we take this news with a grain of salt. He thinks it might be one of those citizen's-arrest type things. But we can still hope it's real.

The new microbial frontier

Interesting article about our symbiotic relationship with bacteria. It's the type of article that I suspect is interesting only to science types. But if that describes you, I think you should trot on over and read it. It's fascinating. Here's a taste:
Due to these symbiotic relationships, the scientists here propose that the very definitions of an organism, an environment, a population, and a genome have become blurred and should be reviewed. It may be, for instance, that animals are better viewed as host-microbe ecosystems than as individuals.
I've always said that a human being is a colony rather than an individual. It looks like the facts are leaning my way.
De to these symbiotic relationships, the scientists here propose that the very definitions of an organism, an environment, a population, and a genome have become blurred and should be reviewed. It may be, for instance, that animals are better viewed as host-microbe ecosystems than as individuals.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-bacterial-world-impacting-previously-thought.html#jCp

Russia's meteorite enlivens the priests

An foolish Russian priest is all over the meteorite story. It took him only minutes to realize this was a sign from jeebus.
YEKATERINBURG, February 15 (RIA Novosti) – A meteorite which injured hundreds of people in Russia's Chelyabinsk Region on Friday was "the Lord’s message to humanity," a senior local clergyman said.

“From the Scriptures, we know that the Lord often sends people signs and warnings via natural forces,” Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk and Zlatoust Feofan said in a statement released on Friday.

"I think that not only for the Ural [regions] residents, but for the whole of humanity, the meteorite is a reminder that we live in fragile and unpredictable world,” the clergyman said.

He called on people to support each other and pray to God in thanks for saving the world from a devastating disaster.
Wow, jeebus saved the world!! None of the media mentioned that important point. Give him a few more minutes and he'll connect the disaster to gay marriage. Folks, religion has never been right about anything. It belongs in the dust heap.

There are a lot of things out there in space, and sometimes they hit Earth. It's not mysterious at all. But they love to connect their god to disasters. Just love it.

Odd timing

So on a day when an asteroid will come very close to Earth in the afternoon, meteorite fragments harm people in Russia in the morning. Very odd, don't you think? Can you remember any other meteorites "striking" the Earth? Other than Tunguska, I can't. (Note: in neither case did they "strike"; they exploded in the air.)
MOSCOW — Bright objects, apparently debris from a meteorite, streaked through the sky in western Siberia early on Friday, accompanied by a boom that damaged buildings across a vast area of territory. Hundreds of people were reported to have been injured, most from breaking glass. 
This seems wildly improbable. Two completely separate close passes on the same day? Last night I watched a broadcast where they finally said what country will be under the asteroid as it passes. The answer is Indonesia. I hope NASA is right and it passes by without harming anyone. I'm going to watch the NASA feed this afternoon. It's scheduled to pass by at 2:24 pm EST. Interesting times we live in, eh?

February 14, 2013

So red, so royal, so popely!

This, from an AP article at the NYT:
In the latest disclosure, Turin's La Stampa newspaper reported Thursday that Benedict hit his head on a sink and bled profusely when he got up in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar bedroom in Leon, Mexico. The report said papal blood stained Benedict's hair, his pillow and the floor. 
Heavens! I wonder what color the blood was.

A most pleasing garment

On a lark, I purchased a pair of overalls. It just seemed like a fun idea. Little did I know what an important step I was taking. I have never experienced such finery! This is raiment fit for a king.

I am never taking off my overalls. Soon, everyone who's hip, smart, rational and godless will wear overalls. We, the illuminati, will be identified by our stylish mode of dress. People will gasp; they will envy us. And over time, they will become bitter.

We will be it.

The Many Monties

The only movie remake I could fully support is "The Full Monty". They should make a new version every year, using successively cuter guys. I could really get behind a project like this. But other than this one movie, remakes are a terrible idea.

People like this are a huge problem

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Two top officials at a New Jersey municipal water authority have been indicted on charges they hid elevated levels of a contaminant in the drinking water supply.
I can easily imagine these guys telling their friends about hiding the dangerous contamination levels, and everyone laughing about it. Americans have been watching "comedies" that glorify stupidity for decades. They know how to do stupid now. 

Folks like this don't consider the effects of their actions. That kind of thinking is alien to them. It's chilling to think that such people are in charge of anything crucial. And they are.

February 13, 2013

The fallibility of infallibility

Go read this terrific op-ed at the NYT. It's by Gary Wills and it lays out the reasons why nothing will ever change in the Roman Catholic church. Don't waffle. Go read it because the pope wouldn't want you to. I rest my case.

Cable guy delivered bad news

There's a cable box outside that's malfunctioning. The guy who came today couldn't fix it. So my connection to the internet is very in and out. I'll try to stay in touch.

It's not all black and white

So there I was, lying on the operating table while the surgeon cut into my upper right cheek. There was a blue fabric over my face, with a hole cut out for the surgery. I couldn't see anything except the sky blue of the fabric.

I could speak while he worked. I mentioned that someone he'd operated on the week before was a friend of mine. The surgeon, a liberal, talkative fellow who knew of my politics and atheism, stopped cutting and exclaimed, "You're friends with him? He's a rightwing, religious loon!" I replied, "Yes, and one of the nicest guys who ever lived." This is true. The guy would help anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Some lefty types don't understand this. How can you be friends with a wingnut? But I don't have a problem in this area. It's because I have a rule. You can't talk Wingnut in my house and you can't talk about jeebus. You just can't. My friends understand this and they never break the rule.

This allows us to be not only friends, but good friends. One of my closest buddies is a Jesus freak. Goes to bible study. Would like to teach bible study, in fact. But he's the sweetest guy who ever lived and we share a moral outlook: "Help others and never hurt anyone." We are both official Good Guys, no matter our political or religious affiliation.

Wingnuts can be good people. I think some folks don't understand this. Though I rail against religious wingnuts here every day, I don't hate anyone for believing in god. I detest people who push their beliefs on everyone else, but individuals are free to believe whatever they want. I have no problem with this. I may not respect their intellectual prowess, as a result of their choices. But that has nothing to do with our friendship. We're good friends, and that's all there is to it.

Got an opinion on this? Share it in the comments.

February 12, 2013

Spotty connection today

My Cablevision modem is in and out today. The company says it's because of the snow. So if I disappear from the blog, have no fear. It's a temporary issue.

Ratzi's post-pope outfits

Everyone's talking about what the pope will do, now that he's stepped down. Where will he live? How will he occupy himself? What will he be called? Hmph. Luckily, I'm here to tell you that these folks are missing the main issue by a mile. The big question is: what will he wear?

I mean, think about it. No pope has abdicated the throne since 1415. That means there are no modern precedents. The pope could carve out a whole new niche: fashionista ex-pope-a extraordinaire!

The pope has a real opportunity here and I'm sure he's aware of it. No doubt, he'll soon get together with a fashion designer to draw up a line of fabulous, post-pope outfits. It would be a whole new arena for fashion. He may even come up with a "uniform". For instance, he could go with a simple, violet pantsuit in cotton, perhaps with understated gold buttons. He may even begin to wear dresses. Gowns, more likely. The field is wide open.

So get your cameras ready. The popey guy is heading for the catwalk!

When a pope dies

When a pope dies, he is effectively out of the way. This itself -- the death -- allows for the possibility of change.

But when a Pope steps down, he's still able to glare at the cardinals who will choose his successor. He still holds them in thrall. In such an environment, nothing can change. Even if the pope is not in the room when the cardinals make their choice -- they will have to face him afterward.

I'm sure the pope understands this completely. It's the reason he resigned: so he can be there to manipulate the process of choosing the next pope. If he died "in office", he'd lose that control -- and this cagey pope is all about control. Above all, he wants to know that his "legacy" of hatred will continue into the next papacy.

What an awful creature he is.

February 11, 2013

Timmy Dolan must be excited

From out the blue comes this:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion Catholics. 
Can you hear Cardinal Timmy Dolan's heart beating faster? I can almost see the drool hanging from his lips as he considers the possibility that he, little Timmy Dolan, may be the next popey guy. Wow! Wait'll he tells his mom about this!
Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church." 
Indeed. There are people out there -- gays, for instance -- who might get a fair shake now. Probably not, but the possibility exists with the departure of this evil, hypocritical pope. Of course, if New York's Timmy Dolan steps into the big, gold, pointy hat, things could get worse for everyone. Then again, maybe Timmy's only been following orders these past years. Who knows? On his own, he could discover his heart. I doubt it, but anything is possible.

However, it seems the current pope's evil plan guarantees the continuation of his pogrom against gays and women:
[Resigning while he's relatively well] will also allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor. He has already hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals — the princes of the church who will elect the next pope — to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.
So. The first pope to resign since the year 1415 is doing so to ensure that his particular brand of evil is perpetuated after his departure. This doesn't bode well for gays and women. Ah, well, let's revel in the joy of the moment. The wicked witch is almost dead, or at least she's retiring her broom. Hooray!

Cardinal Mahony's shady financial dealings

This story doesn't need much in the way of commentary.
LOS ANGELES-Pressed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to settle clergy sex abuse lawsuits, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony turned to one group of Catholics whose faith could not be shaken: the dead.

Under his leadership in 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles quietly appropriated $115 million from a cemetery maintenance fund and used it to help pay a landmark settlement with molestation victims.

The church did not inform relatives of the deceased that it had taken the money, which amounted to 88 percent of the fund. Families of those buried in church-owned cemeteries and interred in its mausoleums have contributed to a dedicated account for the perpetual care of graves, crypts and grounds since the 1890s.

Mahony and other church officials also did not mention the cemetery fund in numerous public statements about how the archdiocese planned to cover the $660-million abuse settlement.
Does that sound really shady, or what? But Jeez, a Cardinal was in charge. So it has to be aboveboard, right?
In 19 presentations to parish groups about the archdiocese's need for contributions that winter, the cardinal and his aides laid out what they done so far to pay the settlement, including selling real estate and liquidating $117 million in investments. But they did not reveal that the cemetery fund accounted for nearly all the investments liquidated.
That's quite a church they've got there. And they still think they have the right to tell people what is moral and what is not. This is a disgusting church. It has rot in its very soul. (Not that there's such a thing as a soul, of course.)

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/02/10/182552/cardinal-mahony-used-cemetery.html#storylink=cpy

February 10, 2013

Exceptional U.S. kills children for peace

A UN committee has expressed "alarm" over reports that hundreds of children have been killed by US military forces in Afghanistan in the past five years.
This is how our Nobel Peace Prize-winning, drone-killer president stays busy when he's not giving away the farm.

Aussie baseball not up to snuff

I watched the first game of the Australian Baseball Championship Series. The Canberra Cavalry vs. Perth Heat. Sorry to say, they aren't quite up to US standards. The stands were small and sparse, like you might see at your son's high school baseball game. They didn't even connect; there were spaces between them. I guess baseball's not very big there. (Feel free to correct me, Aussie readers.)

But as always, I was happy to listen to unscripted language. It's the love of my life. (I even watch true crime shows on TV, just to hear how people phrase things.) So it was fun to hear these two Australian broadcasters call the game.

At one point, they said the game was one player's "major league d'boo". Apparently this is the way they say "debut" down there. Fun. And when a player hit an inside-the-park home run, they exclaimed (in their wonderful accents): "An inside-the-parker!" Not very different from the way we say it, but fun nonetheless.

Language is always fascinating. And hearing a spontaneous speaker's choice of words and expressions -- well, I just can't get enough of it. But now, could we please get back to real US baseball? I've been a good boy. I even watched football. But nothing is like a baseball game. Nuthin'.

So what's new in brain-dead America?

The self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" is joining forces this weekend with action movie star Steven Seagal to train volunteer armed posse members to defend Phoenix-area schools against gunmen.
You can't make this stuff up. Extra bonus:
Arpaio even sent one group of posse members to Hawaii to conduct an examination into the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate. 
And this:
Seagal is already a volunteer posse member in Maricopa County, and has been deputized with sheriff's offices in New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, where a film crew followed the actor on ride-alongs with Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies for the reality TV show "Steven Seagal: Lawman."
Yes, and it's all about the kids. No self-promotion at all.

February 9, 2013

About a foot of snow here

The snow is piled in drifts this morning, making it hard to say how deep it is. But I think there's about a foot or so of snow out there. The predicted high winds never arrived, so no trees fell down -- and I've still got electricity. That's so nice.

If you live in the northeast, chime in. How much snow did you get?

Nemo? Meh.

Great story about animal intelligence

Check out this BBC article by Jason G. Goldman. I've always suspected that animals - particularly other primates - are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. And now it seems there is reliable evidence that they can imagine:
Kanzi, the famous bonobo, liked to pretend as well. Primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh described watching Kanzi hide invisible objects under blankets or leaves, later removing them from their hiding spots, and pretending to eat them. "Kanzi also engages the participation of others" in these games, Savage-Rumbaugh notes, "by giving them the pretend object and watching to see what they do with it."
How can you not love a story like that? There are other eye-opening behaviors reported in the article. It's worth reading, if such things interest you.

BTW, I've followed Jason Goldman's rise from lone blogger to respected science writer. He always wrote great posts and I'm glad he's seeing some success in the wider world of science writing. His words never fail to catch my interest -- and he seems to be a very decent fellow, to boot. Good for him!

Tough love

That's the title of an article by Jay Stringer at Do Some Damage, a crime writers' blog. When Stringer writes about writing, I pay attention. The man makes a world of sense and says things like no one else. Here's an excerpt:
Learning to write is like learning to fly, you just have to get up everyday and throw yourself at the ground in the hope that one time you miss. You never miss, but you never stop trying.
Is that great, or what? I love this guy. Nobody sounds like Jay Stringer except Jay Stringer, and that's an achievement in itself. If you're a writer who needs a kick in the butt, read this article and then make a habit of visiting Do Some Damage on Thursdays, which is when he posts.

February 8, 2013

New York: the new home of disaster

It's disheartening to hear the weather forecasters speak of an "historic snowstorm" descending on New York and Connecticut (and Massachusetts). They're using the same terminology they used for "superstorm" Sandy: monster storm, Frankenstorm, storm of the century. Sigh.

There are many homes that are still a wreck from Sandy. People are living without electricity, without heat, without internal walls. This storm is not what they need. They're already getting meals from tents each day, and working as hard as they can to repair their houses as they wait endlessly for FEMA money.

Looking out the window now, there's just a fine, dusty snow falling. I sure hope they're wrong, and the storm takes a turn and heads out to sea. As for my neck of the woods, I'm sure we'll lose power. There are going to be 60 mph winds at the height of the storm. (I don't ever remember seeing wind like that in a snowstorm, BTW.)

Another reason why this storm is so reminiscent of superstorm Sandy is that it will be a full moon when the storm hits, making the tides higher. And with fierce winds blowing onshore, it seems many areas will be flooded yet again. This is not good news.

I wish everyone the best. We'll see how it goes. And again, if I disappear, it just means my area lost power. See you on the other side!