Tuesday, March 30, 2004

With all the garbage that is going on in our country, I have to take a breath and write of things beautiful. This morning is the kind that you paint in your mind. The storm came through last night and was mild as spring storms go, with an inch of rain spread over the entire night and no thunderstorms strong enough to freak out the dog or wake me up. The sky is post rain clear with low flying clouds crawling up and down the gorge. Yep they do go both ways here, which probably violates some kind of law on the other side of the creek...that is Rhea County, TN over there. The boys can hit Rhea County with their potato gun when I let them make noise. The Rhea County Commisioners made a lot of noise themselves, recently, when they passed a law saying gay people can't live in their county. After making the National news they met again and rescinded the law the next night, saying they were confused. I'll buy that explanation.

In addition to County Commisioners, we have an odd kind of disturbed person in East Tennessee, one that stands out amongst a whole bevy of disturbed persons. Arsonists! They strike mainly in two seasons of the year, early Spring just before leaf out and Fall, just as the leaves begin to cover the ground. We typicaly have dry spells then that suits their puposes. Just yesterday, Firefighters were dealing with 20 fires in our area. Three were folks burning brush that got out of control, two were campfires, and the other 15 were arson. Some body likes to set the woods on fire. It happens just before turkey season...I don't get the connection but I am told there is one. We hold our breath until the leaves fill out the trees or we get a Spring rain. This morning we breathe free and easy. I tried to photograph it for you but my talents fell short of adequacy. You will have to paint your own morning in your own mind. Take a mountainside with most of the trees still bare except for the White Pines, Virginia pines, and Hemlocks scattered in clumps over the hillside. Then you add the Tulip Poplars, which aren't really poplars but they do have a pastel yellow green leafing in early stages, and top that off with soft maples with their red blooms mimicking a delicate fall color. A couple of wild apples are in bloom taking up the slack left by the Sarvice Berries that were the first to show their pink touched white flowers. They are natives in the apple family and are my favorites of the Spring. Our warm weather is bracketed by the Sarvice berry in the Spring and the Witch Hazel in the Fall. Somehow I believe that the Spring color is superior to Fall. One is merely spectacular while the other is spiritual

As I sat here yesterday morning the power went off and I heard thunder to the south. I went out on the deck thinking that this would be a rare morning storm this early in the season. Turns out that a fighter jet had crashed a few miles from here, in Rhea County. The pilot was ok but commited stupidity and flew into a power line. I would have preferred a thunderstorm.



Monday, March 22, 2004

I know the second verse of Dixie. By cosmic chance in the space time continuum, I was born in Dublin, Georgia. I will always have sand between my toes and cornbread in my memories. I have picked cotton on my Grampa's farm. Didn't like it much. They have machines to do that now and Grampa's farm got bought for nothing from my Gramma after he died way too young from lung cancer. He was 56 and a heavy smoker. Gramma wasn't. She died in her nineties but her lights dimmed ten years earlier from Alzheimer's. A big timber company wound up with the farm. It got clearcut and grows pine trees now.

When I was nine or ten, Grampa was driving my brother and I around the "back" of the farm... He called the part of his farm that he hunted on, the "Back" because it was swampy and lay along the Oconee River in Laurens County. It was back behind the part where he grew corn and beans and cotton. His farm was about 500 acres and in those days farmers left as much of their land as they could alone. This way they could hunt things. On the farm part of the farm, he also had cows, but what I remember most that he grew was watermelon. That day he was driving two of his grandkids around and showing off his farm to us, you know, the "back" part.

I think this made for a fine day for Grampa. At that point in his life he was not yet fifty and had six surviving children who in turn had yielded him nine grandchildren. Grampa was doing allright in the "eat, survive, reproduce" sense.

Thinking back to Grampa's big belly, I think he was especially good at the eating part, even though he only had about a third of his teeth left by then. Breakfast at Grampa's house usually involved extremely well ripened cantaloupe and streak o' lean. I have tried to over come many prejudices in my life, but the most unyielding one is my hatred of cantaloupe. It is a personal failing I have decided to live with. I cannot get over the smell which sends me hurtling back to my Grandparents dining table where I would sit eye level to my plate, and stare at the beautifully presented slice of musk melon ripened to near stinking mush. The assault on my childhood heightened olfactory sense was intensified by the adult's command, "You have to eat your vegetable before you can have anything else." I never, ever, ate one of the damned things! Grampa never gave in and neither did I. He would eventually get tired of trying to convince me that I wouldn't grow very tall if I didn't eat my cantaloupe and go on about his day. I think if he had been taller that 5'5" it would have helped his case. Gramma would give me an egg after he left.

So there was Grampa driving us down the sand road on the back of the farm and, as we round a curve, an animal is standing in the road. My brother saw it first but we all got a good look at it. I remember thinking at first that it must be somebody's hound dog, but it didn't look quite right. It had a huge tail from a dog perspective. In the late morning sun it looked dark colored. Grampa immediately stopped the car, got out, and took his shotgun out of the trunk. The animal loped down the road for a hundred yards or so and cut left into the woods. It didn't seem like it was in too much of a hurry. The beast just didn't like being in the same place we were and decided to leave. Setting the shotgun at the ready beside him, Grampa started the car down the road to where the animal had turned into the woods. I think Grampa did a lot of driving around with the shotgun alongside his right leg because he seemed real comfortable with it. "Stay in the car," Grampa told us as he took the gun and got out. We sat there about two seconds before we jumped out and ran right up behind him. He smiled at us even though we had disobeyed a direct order. I remember wondering why, since he was a fairly stern man, but I understand now, as I look for evidence of independence and bravery in my own two kids.

"Boy's, that's a Panther," he said. "Don't see 'em much but they're here." He said it softly and as a matter of fact. It was no big deal to him. Just a perceived threat to his farm animals that he was going to shoot if he got the chance. I don't think they are "here" anymore. There are maybe fifty or less somewhere in south Florida. Back in 1958 there was at least one in Georgia and I saw it. I'm glad. I treasure that memory. I will not be able to share it with my own children, I don't think. We stared at the tracks. The car had covered some of them up but we could see where it had kicked up the sand when it turned and jumped into the woods. As hard as we looked into the woods, we saw nothing. From what I know now of Puma behavior, it was more than likely standing somewhere a little ways off watching us. Even big predators are nearly invisible in their element. Humans stand out like a stinking cantaloupe in a flower bouquet.

I thought about the panther because someone who hunts near us told me that his brother had seen one. It is always someone's brother or neighbor or cousin that is claimed to have seen a cougar. I'm skeptical but I am also hopeful. I would love to think that an endangered species could make a comeback like that.

It is an odd thing to me that anyone could be opposed to the Endangered Species Act, since it is supposed to keep species from disappearing from the Earth for all time. I think it is generally misunderstood. The Eastern Cougar should be thought of as our canary in the mine just as should every other species inhabiting the planet. Certain species are early indicators of the Earth's ability to support life. When the canary keeled over, the miners knew something had to be done. The mine owners did not necessarily agree and lots of miners have died over the years. Are you making any connections here?

Predators, for the most part, are not getting picked off by farmers with shotguns. They are getting killed by pollution and having no place to live. First it is the big predators, then the little ones. Then it will be us.

Even though we make a big public display about the sanctity of human life, killing people is actually no big deal in our society. We aren't very consistent about it though. A straight forward honest murderer who gets mad and shoots someone will probably go to jail. Certain states will kill him back, or at least will kill someone for the crime whether they actually did it or not. It is OK for Corporations, though, to kill a certain number of people if these corporations can make a profit on the deal. Humans aren't much of a predator except to themselves, it seems. Want to know how much a human life means much to the accounting department of a large corporation? It is the amount of money in the cost benefit ratio. Your life is worth somewhere between $3.2 million and $6.2 million dollars in cost benefit money to the Environmental Protection Agency. It used to be the higher figure but the Bush Administration has proposed the lower figure. Your life has lost $3 million dollars in value over the last few years.

This concept of cost benefit analysis for human lives was one of the main planks in Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. This contract was based on the basic conservative theory that voters are morons. Every time I watch a Speech by President Bush and he says he attacked Iraq to fight terrorism, I have to think that this particular piece of Conservative theory may be correct. Bush is the cattleman wanting his cows to be happy as they plod up the ramp to the abattoir.

If our society can justify taking a human life for a certain amount of profit, I have to be fairly pessimistic about having my kids by my side and seeing a Cougar.



Monday, March 15, 2004

Most of you got Brian's comment on Social Security. One thing he said stood out to me:

"I feel that we should definitely defend SS, but I must say that I do begrudge paying it since the reports on its solvency make me think that I will never see any return on the investment." Brian

Actually this makes me think about the failure of our media in that the idea that Social Security is insolvent falls right in line with Iraq having nukular weapons and being an imminent threat to the US. Social Security is doing fine. Even though Bush robs it blind every day to cover his war and tax refunds for very wealthy people, taken by itself, there will need to be only minor adjustments for things to run smoothly for the next nearly fifty years! Saint Paul Krugman makes this exceedingly clear as he rips Alan Greenspan for lying about it.
I don't think folks realize what is actually being proposed....Bush is not proposing to give you back your SS payments! He is proposing to confiscate them! To use them to reduce the deficit he created by giving tax cuts to rich folks.... Duh!!!

Nice guys, Those Bushies! How many of you remember Rod Serling?.......

Imagine, if you will, a large and powerful man stand before you holding weapons that can reduce your entire body to mush in seconds. He points into a metal box indicating that you should enter. Your hands and feet are bound together so that it is difficult for you to comply with his demands...but you do so as best you can. How did this happen to you?

Welcome to the Twilight Zone!

While on a legal visit to a foreign country, You are taken prisoner and told that you have been identified as having met with the worst terrorist on the planet and will be taken to a remote foreign country to be tortured and interrogated. When You plead your innocence and ask for your consulate, you are forced into a shipping container with 300 other prisoners. It is closed up and there are no air holes to allow the men inside to breathe. Someone takes pity on the suffocating men and shoots holes onto the container, ostensibly so they can breathe, but several are killed by the bullets as a result. Of the 300 men inside the metal box, only 20 survive. You are one of the "lucky" ones who lived.

You are held in a tiny cell in solitary confinement for three months. You are never allowed to contact anyone who can prove you are innocent. No one from your country is told you are there. You are held in shackles that will not allow you to stand up straight and "interrogated" over 200 times with such brutality that you eventually confess to being somewhere you know that you weren't. You are so mentally and physically broken that when someone finally comes and removes your chains and tell you to walk out of your cell, you are too frightened to move and have to be dragged out!

Why are you being released? The spy agencies of your own country have discovered that one of their citizens is being held prisoner in violation of the Geneva Conventions and all international law and after investigation they confront your captors with irrefutable evidence that you were not even in the country at the time they claim you committed the heinous act of "Having a conversation with a terrorist." You are innocent of everything! You have been imprisoned, beaten, tortured, brutally chained, and psychologically abused to the point that, after you return to your own country, you cannot sleep in your own bed at your own house even after you have been found to be completely innocent. The last and possibly greatest indignity to be perpetrated upon you is that your captors demand that you sign a document absolving them of wrong doing and agreeing to say nothing about your experience. You refuse, even though it may mean that you will go back to your cell.

It was only after intense pressure is brought by the diplomatic agencies of your home country, that you were released. They were going to hold you even though you had been proven to be innocent but eventually became afraid of the international scandal that was bound to occur.

Thank you for visiting American soil! We hope you enjoyed your stay at Guantanamo. Have a safe trip back to England.

This is the picture that is emerging and will add to the world view of America.

This next story is not going to die. It continues to present the picture of a man who has no business leading America:

‘‘We've released the president's complete military records, with the exception of his medical records, and they speak for themselves.”

Well no, they haven't. Even considering Bush's records were cleansed by folks who worked for Bush when he was Governor of Texas, there is information they are refusing to admit to. Check this! They are stonewalling:

The bureau's chief historian said he couldn't discuss questions about Bush's military service on orders from the Pentagon.

‘‘If it has to do with George W. Bush, the Texas Air National Guard or the Vietnam War, I can't talk with you,” said Charles Gross, chief historian for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

Rose Bird, Freedom of Information Act officer for the bureau, said her office stopped taking records requests on Bush's military service in mid-February and is directing all inquiries to the Pentagon. She would not provide a reason.

Air Force and Texas Air National Guard officials did not respond to written questions about the issue.

James Hogan, a records coordinator at the Pentagon, said senior Defense Department officials had directed the National Guard Bureau not to respond to questions about Bush's military records.

Records show Bush had a ‘‘secret” security clearance for Cold War fighter-interceptor missions and was certified ‘‘combat-ready” to engage Soviet bombers.

In April 1972, at the same time the military began drug and alcohol testing for the first time, Bush stopped flying the F-102, and according to White House documents, did not take a required physical in May. He was formally suspended in September 1972 for failing to take the test. What followed was a period in which Bush sporadically attended Guard drills, according to White House documents, and spent the summer in Alabama.


It's all fun! At least it is fun when it isn't tragic....And this is the guy who is so mistreating our military that they are refusing to reenlist. Bush is in the process of destroying the Volunteer Army and will have to reinstate the draft. Is that what you folks want?

Anybody see Rumsfeld get nailed on Face the Nation yesterday? They nailed him on his lie about the "Imminent threat" He says they never said that and they nailed him with several direct quotes. Good to see the media growing testicles!



Friday, March 12, 2004

When Camels Roamed Virginia

Hey let's move on to some other interesting things. So before we wiped out the large Native American populations with germ warfare, they had a pretty good trade system going. We find Obsidian spear points and Mexican opals in North Georgia and other trade items widely distributed from their geological origins. Archeologists thought that a large grouping of jasper or flint found in Virginia was from such trade. Turns out is was a flint mine dating back quite a ways. Rarely do we get a snapshot of an ancient period preserved in such isolation and clarity.

Because it was used for a relatively short period of time and charcoal from campfires used by the ancient miners, scientists were able to pinpoint its age with some accuracy. Some of the charcoal was from spruce trees, indicating it dated back to the late Ice Age.

Samples were sent to a lab in Florida and it was established that the mine was in use 11,000 to 11,500 years ago by Paleo Indians, DeJarnete said.
“This was a very different world, one when Mammoths, Mastadons, camels and bison were here in Virginia,” noted Dr. Albert Goodyear.


I realize that the article will contradict some creationist timing but I say look at the information and let the facts fall where they may. I was looking up a carnivorous plant I found and ran accross this very clear staement by the Botanical Society of America on Evolution. I had never thought of the KJB biblical account of the Ark in terms of population distributions before. See what you think:


So here's the flesh eating plant I was looking up. These little flora are widely distributed in most of the states in the US but not everywhere in those states. I remember them first from the dried up boggy areas of open sandy pastures in Georgia. I have found a very few in upstate South Carolina. They are usually about the size of a quarter. Be very carefull when you are out looking for them lest they grab your leg and eat you alive!


The photography and diversity of carnivorous plants is amazing to me. Try this for more stunning pix.


Here's the funniest thing I found to share with you today. You have to go there to get the joke!

Ethan told me this one at the coffee shop yesterday:
Did you hear what Stevie Wonder said after receiving a new cheese grater for a present?

"My gosh, this is the most violent novel I've ever read!"

Remember to tolerate everything except intolerance!



Wednesday, March 10, 2004

What a beautiful morning! The Goldfinches are just starting to change color from their winter camo to summer garish. We have two immature eagles chasing each other around. Oddly enough, the female seems to be the aggressor. (I knew it!) The book says it is time to start the spring plantings but we're still working on firewood for next winter. We are still cutting up storm downed hardwoods and I guess there is no way to use it all. Some of the trees are just too far back to get, but we'll stay warm enough as it is. Our house is not exactly solar all the way but it is designed to accept passive solar heating. On sunny days we have to remember not to throw more wood on the fire after about 9 am. The house will overheat if we do. I have to laugh at myself sometimes when I think about looking up and admiring my solar house from the warmth of my electric hot tub. I am not pure!
The SUV piece from the Union of Concerned Scientists drew a large response. Now I'll confess. We own five vehicles not counting the tractor. We live in a very rural setting. Well to be more honest we live a mile or so back in the woods. there is a rural setting back up the gravel road a bit. We have a 4 wheel drive pick up that does yard duty, a minivan that stays parked except for soccer transport and vacations, and three cars that do daily service. I wish there were some way around all these vehicles but there isn't at this point in America. We have chosen to go small as we can, use higher mileage cars and feel guilty. My personal car seems to average around 33 mpg and is still fun to drive. The thing is, I guess I can afford to drive whatever I want to but I don't. I have friends that I know are stretching it financially to drive Excursions and other beasts like that. Why do we do things like that? Here's the other kicker: The big ones are less safe, not only being more dangerous to everyone else on the road but to the people inside! Why would you knowingly choose to put your kids inside a more dangerous vehicle? I realize that the concept of global warming and environmental destruction is an abstract for most people but your children's safety should not be. Here's some feed back:
I still think John Anderson (I think that's the right name.) had it right. A big part of his platform was to increase gas tax by 50 cent per gallon. Regardless of what W says, we cannot sustain current consumption levels, the current "American way". Either regulation or economics, in the form of taxes, need to come into play here. The true cost of gas is way higher than the current price at the pump.

Pat sends this one. It's a Kerry speech about the Republican atack on science. Nothing surprising here. Bush does the same thing to anything or anyone he doesn't like. Don't find WMD's? Get rid of Scott Ritter and David Kay. Don't like someone saying there are no "NUK-U-Ler" weapons in Iraq? Ruin his wife's CIA career. Don't like the General saying the Iraqi peace is gonna get a lot of American kids killed? Fire the General. Don't like the science? Rip up the text book and fire the scientists. Replace them with fundamentalists:
Written before the Union of Concerned Scientists report!

Click here: :: John Kerry for President - Remarks by Senator John Kerry Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center ::

And this one, which documents the distortion of science at the hands of George Bush:

1. There is a well-established pattern of suppression
and distortion of scientifi c fi ndings by
high-ranking Bush administration political
appointees across numerous federal agencies.

These actions have consequences for human
health, public safety, and community well-being.
Incidents involve air pollutants, heat-trapping
emissions, reproductive health, drug resistant
bacteria, endangered species, forest health, and
military intelligence.

2. There is strong documentation of a wideranging
effort to manipulate the government’s
scientific advisory system to prevent the appearance
of advice that might run counter to the
administration’s political agenda.


Remember...Global warming doesn't exist, isn't happening, nope of course not...well maybe it is but it will be good for you. The Pentagon doesn't think so, neither does nearly every scientist on the planet, except for those working for the big oil companies and the Christian Coalition...and you know what? The ones working for big oil are getting scared too!

It is time for a top down change. Scientific research can not be compromised. We have to know the truth in order to be prepared to deal with what is coming for our children.

Brad sends this one:

This is a poll being conducted by American Family .So far, of the 17,000 people who have participated, 90 % favor John Kerry over GWB or Ralphy .
People who subscribe to American Family are typically pretty conservative . Interesting huh ? I am not certain if I should be surprised or not .

I'm not sure what this means, being a seriously non-scientific poll but I'll take good news where I find it!

Now! Just in case there are any of you who can sleep at night, try this one. I am no fan of Howard Stearn, by the way, and I cringe at what I hear in songs on broadcast radio. Howard Stearn isn't the point, however. Read down if you can and you'll find a good scary overview of the folks who want to take over your children's minds.

According to Newsweek, "As he prepared to run, in 1999, Bush assembled leading pastors at the governor's mansion for a "laying-on of hands," and told them he'd been "called" to seek higher office." And as Bob Woodward wrote in Bush at War: "The President was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's Master Plan," wherein Bush promised, in the President's own words, "to export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great country and rid the world of evil."

Now why doesn't everybody love America? Just because our President has promised Christians he will "export death and violence?" Christians want this? This is the Christian thing to do? Read on:


OK, lighten up, eh? At least we're getting some good jokes out of all this.

Courage folks,