The Annual Whine about names

Greetings and Salutations;
Well,   Thanksgiving is coming up on us like a turkey-shaped train!   This should be a pleasant time of year for us…with good feelings and thankfulness that we have made it through the challenges of the year,  are still alive and have some provisions for the Winter.
Alas,  this is an ideal that is harder to achieve every year.   However,  delving into that topic is perhaps more appropriate for a different time.    No.   Right now,   I want to mock the annual whines that show up at this time of year from the people who are so self-centered and intolerant that they cannot stand for ANYONE to have a tradition or thought that differs from their reality.    In this specific case,   I was presented with THIS image on Social Media  today:
This is so bloody silly it boggles the mind that it is still showing up. When I saw it,  my first reaction was this:   What world does this poor soul live in? I have folks that, when they are talking about the Pagan Celebration Saturnalia, refer to it as Christmas. I have had people who are talking about the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s period say “Happy Holidays”.
Really…how many times in our lives has ANYONE said to us “Oh, no, you cannot say that…you have to say “Happy Holidays”?”   I suggest that, unless you are dealing with a governmentally funded organization,  you have NEVER heard it,  nor will you ever hear it.
I suggest that life would be much better if we simply enjoy the positive aspects of these special days, do something nice for someone else, and not decide to be insulted because someone else may call the day something DIFFERENT from what YOU call it.
I realize that in the hidebound, limited reality that too many Christians In Name Only live in,  this is blasphemy.  However,  We ALL need to remember, at this time of year, that we are a very diverse country,  with more traditions than we can shake a stick at.   That is why our Founding Fathers  included in the Constitution,  the “Establishment Clause”, that ensures that the government shall never give one religious tradition precedence over another.    These days, alas,  with the flood of religious fanatics that seem to be trying to take positions of power,   that clause is being stretched to the breaking point.
If we all want a better America…to “Make America Great Again”…we each need to remember that every citizen has the right to believe as they choose.   We may not agree with those beliefs,  but,  we should,  because of the Constitution,  respect their right to believe this.  Just because someone prefers to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”  is no reason to whine that they need to be expelled from the Country!   I am reminded of the old saying “Be careful what you pray for…you might get it”.    Think for a moment when disrespecting others and remember that it is quite possible that there are a LOT of people who think YOU are wrong..and should be deported.
Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas!
Joyous Saturnalia!
God help us all!
Bee Man Dave

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Art for Art’s Sake (and I am not talking about Garfunkel, here…)

Greetings and Salutations;
Just as a diversion from the ugliness of the day,   I want to tell y’all a short story that is at least 40 years in the making.
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When I was in my 20s and 30s,   one of the pleasant activities I engaged in was to spend a day going through flea markets and Antiques shops.   I really enjoyed finding some hole in the wall that was a bit off the beaten path.   THOSE were the places where I would meet the most eccentric, unique people,  and find some amazing,  buried treasures.   I ended up getting some fine tools for nearly nothing,  and exchanging some amusing stories with folks on these expeditions.

Wooden Bow Saw

On one of these outings,  I ran across one of the stranger things I have seen.   Hanging on the back wall of a little shop (as usual, packed to the gills with a variety of oddities),  was a very nice Bow Saw.    That was good,  as I needed a bow saw,  to deal with a bunch of branch trimming around the homestead.   However,   someone had used this saw as the  frame for a piece of woven art.   Now,  at the time,  that was just an annoyance to me,  as I was focused on the utilitarian aspects of the saw.   However,  since the price was right,  I acquired this odd mixture of the functional and the aesthetic.
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Because life is always complicated,  I put it aside for a bit.   Finally, though,  the work of using the saw came up on the list and bubbled to the top,   I pulled out the saw,  with the plan of simply cutting the woven thing off it, and discarding it.   However,  when I looked at it again,  it spoke to me,  and convinced me that destruction was NOT what should happen!   So,  instead of trimming back the branches that Saturday, so I could mow without having to do the Limbo under them,  I carefully disassembled the saw,  and removed the woven art from it – intact.   It was  rather fiddly work,  so it is probably a good thing that I am a tad Obsessive/Compulsive!
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Once the art was free of its frame,  I  got it rolled up, and tucked it away in storage.   As for the saw…I spent a couple more hours putting it back together,  sharpening the blade, and then, was ready to saw.   It worked great,  by the by…  Just at the moment,  I do not know where it is,  but, I am fairly sure I still have it tucked away in a box someplace,  awaiting the end of the chaotic moves that the last 5-6 years have been filled with.
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As for the art…It stayed in storage, quietly sleeping in the dark  until last week.   I was down in the barn,  feeding the barn cats (who I am gradually getting closer to being able to pet),  and moving some boxes around to try and evaluate what I have lost during the moves,  what has been stolen from the barn,  what has been destroyed by the storage, and what I still have left of the large collection of useful and useless things I started out with a decade ago when leaving the house in North Knoxville became necessary.   The good news is that, so far,  my packing was good enough that,  in spite of less than ideal storage,  most of the things I managed to move are intact.   As for the rest..well…no matter.   The important thing is that I opened one box,  and found,  rolled up inside,  the woven art I had acquired all those years ago.
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I took it up to the Octagon with me,  and,  as you can see,  above, after some thought and construction of a shadow box frame,  have finally gotten it back to a state where it can be hung on the wall,  and enjoyed again.   Since I am older, and, I hope,  wiser,   I find that I am looking at it with different eyes.   I see more in it than I did when I first got it, and,  I am rather glad that I hung onto it, and kept it intact.
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However,  Now,  I  have another problem.   I would like to know more about it.   Of course, the antique shop where I got it knew NOTHING about it, nor,  were there any notes attached to it.   So…Here is what I know.
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  • It was created sometime before 1970.
  • It is of all natural materials.
  • I purchased it in the East Tennessee area,  probably in the Sevierville/Gatlinburg area.
  • When I contemplate it,  I see a strong,  Native American influence.   Since the Cherokee are still around this area (in spite of the efforts of that Scummy Bastard,  Andrew Jackson),  It could be their work.  However,  it seems to have a far more “South Western” look to me.
  • There is a leather tab woven into it,  with a logo on it that might help identify the artist…but no luck so far!
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So…I present this for your interest and pleasure (I hope),  and I ask…if ANYONE out there looks at this and says to themselves…”WOW,  that looks like what my Great Grandmother/Grandfather  used to do”,  or “I have a bit of art with that same logo signature on it!”,  please leave a comment on this blog entry.   If you are an Ethnologist,  specializing in Native America Culture,  DEFINITELY get in touch with me! (*smile*).
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Whether or not I find out anything about this art, or who created it…I have to say that I thank the Artist  for creating a lovely  piece of weaving that  brings a bright spot of pleasure to the world!   We need more of these moments right now,  because it is, alas, a rather dark time in our history.
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God Help Us All!
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Bee Man Dave
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Another Day, Another Massacre

Greetings and Salutations;

One of the disconcrting issues of the day is the fact that America is becoming a more deadly place.   We apparently have a huge crop of domestic terrorists,  who have been emboldened by the current administration.   Now,  they are coming out from under their rocks,  and perpetuating acts of violence upon innocent civilians.   Today, Sunday, 2017/11/05,  one of these slime walked up to a small church in a small town in Texas.  He was carrying an AR-15.   He walked into the church, and started shooting.   As of this point in time,  the dead and injured numbers are still changing…but it looks as if upwards of 12 people were killed,  and many more than that injured.
 (Update – 2017/11/06 Death toll now at 27,  injured at about 30.)
Of course,  the Social Media today is filled with emotional responses,  essentially calling for all guns to be collected and destroyed.   This reaction is normal,  and expected…after all,  the SAME things have been said after every OTHER shooting in America.   However,   it is not rational,  or possible,  to do this.   Not only is the right of the citizens to bear arms  in the Constitution (that annoying Second Amendment),  but,  for every one madman/terrorist who perpetuates an act like this,  there are hundreds of thousands of good Citizens  who own guns,  and,  who do NOT go off the deep end and engage in this madness.   There are, I believe,  better ways to handle this problem…solutions that will WORK, and not turn millions of citizens into Felons over night.  Any such program would either fail (I know that,  were I to have guns in the house,  I would not turn them over to the authorities willingly)  or,  require such a crackdown by the police  that a Totalitarian state would look like a Picnic in the Park with George!   In the latter case, the concept of the Constitutional protections would be flushed and likely would be gone for good.
The NRA,  which has turned into a rather frightening,  fanatical society (which has caused a HUGE exodus away from membership by rational gun owners in the past couple of decades)  needs to get its act together.   It needs to return to what it was 40 years ago…a group of concerned citizens who are focused on education about gun safety,  and rational use.   Today,  though,  not only has it become a group of raving fanatics,  but,  it is nothing more that a whore for the Gun Manufacturers…pushing THEIR interests above those of the citizenry.

Elsewhere,  I discuss some changes in gun laws that I think would make a huge difference in helping keep guns out of the wrong hands and would cut down on the accidental shootings that plague us.

However, if we want to stop the violence, we need to focus on doing that, not the tools used. America is going through a terrible period where it seems that much of society is programmed to believe that the way to deal with ANY issue is to first, pull out a gun and shoot something or someone. This is insane. Change that, and the problems with gun violence will drop.   How do we change this?  Well,  first off, it will take adults to change their minds  and decide to follow another path.   Then,  those adults that become parents MUST teach their children the values of respecting life, as well as working to de-escalate a situation instead of turning to violence  Given a couple of generations of this teaching,   I suspect America would be a rather better place, and the incidence of gun-related crimes would drop quite a bit.

As for accidental shootings…there is not a one that has happened that is not a result of either ignorance about proper handling and storage of a weapon, or an emotional reaction that eliminates rational thought. I am all for teaching kids about guns as soon as they can grasp the subject. When very young…teach them to not touch it, and find an adult to tell THEM about it. In later years, pound into them the number one rule of gun safety – that is that every gun should be treated as if it is loaded and ready to fire. So…do not point it at anything you want to avoid having a hole in. They are tools not toys..

Finally, as to the scum shooter in Texas – he left a trail a mile wide and packed with red flags indicating that he was likely to do something like this.  Even in these early hours of the investigation into the incident,   it is clear to me that he had several problems that could lead to this violence.  EVERYONE should be aware of what those red flags are, and if they see them in a friend, family member or acquaintance, be SURE to report this to the proper authorities.

(Update – 2017/11/06 –  The shooter had received a less than honorable discharge from the Air Force after serving a 2 year sentence for Domestic Abuse;  He apparently had anger management issues)

 

 

God Help Us All.
Bee Man Dave

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Total Eclipse, 2017 – Part 1 – The Science

Greetings and Salutations!
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On August 21, 2017,  I,  along with millions of Americans,  made an effort to be in the path of Totality  of the Solar Eclipse.   I have been  witness to a number of partial eclipses,  but,  this was my first,  Total Eclipse.   It was a surprisingly profound and moving experience for me,  and,  I am still mulling over what I witnessed over that 3 minute period covering the last moments of the Sun’s disk being covered,  the time of Totality itself,  and the return of the Light.  In this post,  I am going to focus more on the Science,  and discuss the non-squishy things that I observed during this event!   As it turned out,  I was lucky enough to be in Springfield, TN, for the Eclipse (visiting inlaws).  Springfield was located about 15 miles SOUTH of the Center of the path of Totality,  so,  we were treated to almost 2 minutes of the Umbra.  This was great,  as it allowed me time to observe around me,  and still have time to look up at the Sun,  to admire the Corona, and see the Diamond Ring when the Moon started to uncover the Sun’s disk.
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I had contemplated on the weeks leading up to the day,  that I would make use of my wife’s good DSLR, and lenses,  to image the Eclipse itself.   However,  I decided  that,  since there were going to be a FLOOD of cameras pointed at the Eclipsed Sun,  that I would concentrate on the events around me, here on Earth.   Subsequently,  I still have no regrets about this decision.   There were many interesting things happening over that short period that I would have missed,  had I been staring up at the Sun and Moon.
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Of course,  as I had seen before,  as the Moon started to cover the

Umbra as photographed from the ISS

Sun’s surface,  the light around us gradually dimmed.  As it got darker and darker,  it seemed as if a blanket of silence was being laid across the world.   The Cicadas,  which had been buzzing along with enthusiasm through the morning hours,  fell silent.   We had heard and seen birds flying around the skies and chirping from the trees.   The birds gradually ceased making noise.   While Springfield is a rather smallish bedroom community for Nashville,  it is large enough that as the morning passed,  I could easily hear the sounds of traffic,  and music from a small Fair that was set up a ways from the house.   Even those sounds faded out with the last gleams of Sunlight,  and the darkness of Totality  covering the world.

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Umbra crossing America, Photographed by Lunar Orbiter

The quality of light during an Eclipse is quite interesting and weird too.  Normally,  when the world goes dark,  it is because of Sunset.   The quality of light changes to a warmer,  more orange or reddish tone as it is filtered through more of the atmosphere by the Sun “Setting”.  Not during an eclipse.  While the intensity of light fades,  the quality of the light remains  a silvery-blue that is the normal spectrum of full Sunlight.   Also,  when Totality passes across one’s location  the light level drops,   it is so sudden as to be shocking.  It is as if a giant light switch had been clicked off.  It became VERY dark.  It was not pitch black by any means, and still, the quality of light remained that silvery-blue that I mentioned before.   However, it was dark enough that people some 50 feet away from me were little more than moving shadows.   I had looked in the direction of the approaching Umbra,  and while I did not get a good or lengthy look at it,   I did see it in the distance, roaring across the landscape towards us.  The shadow on the Earth, and the column of darkness reaching into the Sky had an almost physical presence.   Since the Umbra moves at about 1500 MPH,  it was but a heartbeat after I saw it that the darkness of Totality engulfed us.   I took a moment to look around at the horizon right after Totality started.   Again,  it was a very weird moment.   I could,  off in the distance,  see the oranges and yellows of a Sunset…however,  unlike a “normal” Sunset,  that color was a circle that surrounded us entirely, and looked the same in ALL directions.
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Another aspect of the Eclipse was the change in temperature.  While I did not have a recording thermometer,  there was a distinct ramping down of air temperature as the Sun’s disk was covered by the Moon.   The area where I was at was a stone patio,  by a swimming pool.  When the Sun was blasting down with full strength,  there was a distinct feeling of heat from the light reflected back from the flagstones.   That decreased slowly as the Solar Disk was covered by the Moon.   When Totality hit,  the temperature dropped a few more degrees…very suddenly.  The temperature when the Eclipse started  had been up above 90F.   At Totality,  it was almost chilly,  as if we had lost about 20F.   It was not uncomfortable,  by any means,  but it was quite noticeable.   After Totality Passed,  and the disk started to re-appear,  the temperatures warmed right back up to that 90F level.  For a 3 minute period,  it was quite a roller coaster, though.
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I did hold off putting my protective glasses back on until just after seeing the Diamond Ring as the Moon moved past the edge of the Sun’s Disk.  However,  even the tiny sliver of the Sun that was revealed a few seconds later was painful to look at,  so, it was very good to have the glasses.
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I had learned,  quite some time ago,  that the spaces in the leaves of plants that allowed dots of Sunlight through would act as a pinhole camera,  and produce many, small images of the crescent of the Sun’s disk  in those couple of minutes before and after the maximum Eclipse happened.  Luckily right next to where I was observing from,  there was a rose bush that provided a number of these small apertures,  so I was able to get a picture of the Crescent Sun on the concrete of the wall.  Again,  something interesting and different to look for during the Eclipse.
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To touch on light effects again…we all know that when we look at a shallow swimming pool,  the bottom of the pool will be covered with a grid of light, looking rather like a net.  That comes from the tiny wave peaks in the top surface of the water,  focusing the Sunlight on the bottom,  like a long lens.   Well,  as the Sun was being covered by the Moon,  and became closer and closer to a point source of light,  instead of a large disk, that grid disappeared.  All that was left were some expanding rings where spray from a circulation pump was hitting the surface of the water.   These rings were small enough that they were almost completely wiped out by the grid,  and the width of the disk of the Sun.   They were normally just kind of fuzzy shadows on the floor of the pool.   This was likely because the point source of the Sun in its last moments before it was completely covered  allowed these tiny variations in the surface of the water to focus a sharp image on the floor of the pool.
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One other positive thing about this Eclipse was that I was able to point out some of these phenomena to other folks with me,  and,  I think that their experience viewing the Eclipse  was enhanced a bit.  I did not pester them a lot,  but, for things like the small, projected Crescent Sun images,  had I not called their attention to them,  they would never have seen them.
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I was glad that I was able to observe almost everything I had on my mental checklist.   For example, while I was looking at the Corona,  I also observed Venus (which was VERY easy to see.
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However, there were some things that I did NOT manage to observe (after all,  1:55  is NOT a lot of time!)    I looked for Mercury,  but,  in the short time I had,  I saw neither it, nor the couple of other planets that should have been visible.   I also   was not able to see any stars.  While they were theoretically visible,  the air around Springfield was a bit hazy,  and so,  there was enough sky-glow that it was even hard to see a lot of details in the Corona.    I did not see the “Shadow Bands” that often accompany the moment of Totality, and really did not even look for them.   However,  those things do not detract from the experience at all.
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God Help Us All!
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Bee Man Dave

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Why SHOULD Confederate Statues be removed?

Greetings and Salutations;

Neo Nazi protesters at Charlottesville, VA

This week has seen madness in this Great Land that has not happened in decades.   The Events in Charlottesville, VA, are easily found on the Net, in all their disgusting detail.   I may touch on them in another entry, though.   Here,  I want to talk about the excuse used by the Neo Nazis for their attack upon the city.   This was the removal of the statue honoring Confederate General  Robert E. Lee from the public square.
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I have no doubt that General Lee was a brave man and a courageous warrior.  I believe he might well have been an ethical person too.  However,   he was fighting to destroy this great nation, in support of a culture that felt it right and proper to own another human being,  looking up them as sub-human, and nothing more than a tool to be used and abused until they were useless,  then to be discarded and replaced.   He and the entire Confederacy,  were  wrong.  They fought for their cause and lost…perhaps because their cause was Evil, and God was on the the side of the Union,  perhaps because their economy  did not support a war machine as well as the North did…It does not matter.  The bottom line is that they lost, and their attempts to destroy America failed.
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There are many that, today,  still are fighting that war.  They grumble under their breath about the “War of Northern Aggression”  and “The South Shall Rise Again”.  They often display the stars and bars – the pseudo-Confederate flag that has come to represent that time.   Many of them are simply young, and ignorant.  They have no idea of the reality of what they are praising meant.  Some are still stained with the Evil of racism, White Supremacy, and White Nationalism  that drove much of the conflict in those bloody years of 1861-1865.   These latter folks are the real danger to America.   The ignorant idealists can be educated, and when presented with the reality of that time,  no longer support it or idealize it.   However, the distressing number of Racists and Neo Nazis that this administration has enticed out from under the rocks is a sign that America has a LONG way to go yet.   It was this latter group that marched through Charlottesville,  chanting Nazi Slogans,  carrying torches,  and, clashing with the counter protesters.
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So..Why are we removing the Statues of Confederate Generals from the Public Square?   Many of these were put up well after the end of the War,  beginning in 1917 , through  the 1950s and 1960s,  as a reaction by “The Cult of the Lost Cause”  to the Civil Rights marches and attempts on the part of citizens of color to gain the equal recognition and protections they were due under the Constitution.  This was the beginning of the enactment of “Jim Crow” laws around the country.   The purpose of these memorials was not to remember  the Civil War,  but to bring fear to the hearts of people of color.  They were there to remind all those people that the people that fought to keep them in the dehumanization and bondage of Slavery were not only still around,  but were, in many cases, still in power.   Also,  they are glorification of a failed society.  They are honoring the Generals who were Traitors to the United States.  To leave them up in a position of honor in the Public Square, is not only to continue that oppression of people of color,  but, could be  acknowledging that perhaps these people were right…and had a point worth supporting.   They did not.  They were on the wrong side of Society, and because of that were  defeated.  While the statues should be preserved,  they should be tucked away in museums along with the other historical debris of time,   surrounded with evidence of what actually caused the Civil War,  and why it failed.
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 The Mayor of New Orleans addressed this recently,  in talking about why that city was removing  its statues of Confederate Generals.  I think he put it very eloquently, and it is worth reading his full presentation.  However,  here is a video of an excerpt of it that really strikes home.

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This address,   given in May, 2017,  really strikes to the heart of the arguments, both for and against keep these Confederate Statues ups,  and shows WHY they should be removed and put in museums,  not in the Public Square. It is more than worth to 20 minutes this gentleman speaks.  It is worth listening to several times to remind us what reality is.

God help Us All

 

Bee Man Dave

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the donald and the BSA

Greetings and Salutations;

Boy Scouts sing and dance to music as they await the arrival of President Trump at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean,W. Va., Monday, July 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

I have said before that it appears there is no depths to which this world will sink and America will run towards in its march to relevance in the world.   This last Monday,  we had another example of that,  when the donald visited the Boy Scouts of America’s Jamboree.   Held every four years,  this time there were about 40,000 boys gathered for it.  There are quite a few transcripts and recordings of the speech that he gave to the assembled crowd of Scouts,  so I will not waste space here  going into it in detail.   However,  I do have a few  things to point out about it.
  • When the donald started his speech he said he was not going to make a political speech.   Yet, almost immediately,  he dropped into his usual campaign speech,  including digs at President Obama,  threats towards his staff about failing to repeal the ACA and the like.
  • He took a dig at the HHS Secretary,  claiming that he was going to fire the man if he failed to get the ACA repealed.   This is not only kind of pathetic,  it is a cowardly abrogation of his OWN role in that goal.   The ACA is not likely to be repealed because Congress realizes that only about 17% of Americans want this,  and they like those cushy jobs in D.C.  However,  if the president takes a back seat to the process and does NOTHING to push for its repeal,  then there is even less of a chance it will vanish.
  • He not only took a dig at President Obama for not showing up at the Jamboree  while in office,  but, he got the crowd to “Boo” the ex-president.   This is typical behavior for the donald  but  had no place in this speech or at this event.
  • Finally,  the donald felt it was appropriate to make a number of snide remarks about the “Fake News” media (which,  to him, apparently means anyone who does not agree with him without question).
The Scouts brought no honor to their organization either.   They were good, little, stooges,  applauding and cheering when the donald talked about what a great president he was,  and,  booing President Obama on cue.   I can understand the donald’s behavior, after all,  HE was never a Boy Scout.  However,  every one of the 40,000+ folks in that rally  have,  time and time again,  sworn the same Oath.  For those of us whose memory is fuzzy…here it is:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. 
Every one of those Scouts recites and swears to adhere to the Scout Law  which says:
A Scout is:
    Trustworthy,
    Loyal,
    Helpful,
    Friendly,
    Courteous,
    Kind,
    Obedient,
    Cheerful,
    Thrifty,
    Brave,
    Clean,
    and Reverent.
Their actions at this rally upheld NONE of these goals..and in deserting that Oath and Law,  every one of them besmirched the reputation of the Scouts,  and crapped on the grave of Baden-Powell.   I can only hope that yesterday and today,  the reactions of that crowd has triggered some serious discussion about Scouting,  and what those words mean,  between the kids and their parents or Scout Masters.   I also hope that every one of these kids will have the insight and wisdom to contemplate and learn from the fact that they were conned by a flim-flam man  into deserting their beliefs,  and that it took a painfully short time to do this.
In the past couple of days,  there have been a number of reactions,  and much discussion on the News and Commentary channels.   There are reports that a noticeable number of parents are pulling their kids out of the Scouting program because of this event.   There have been an increasing number of condemnations of the event and its political nature, from Eagle Scouts of all ages.   The administrators of the Scouting Program in America issued the following press notice
 “The Boy Scouts of America is wholly nonpartisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate, or philosophy,” the statement said. “The invitation for the sitting US president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.
“The sitting US president serves at the BSA’s honorary president,” it continued. “It is our long-standing custom to invite the US president to the National Jamboree.” 
The fact that there is no comment about how appropriate it was to inject politics into this speech is glaring by its absence.    Other,  regional leaders,  were rather more blunt about it,  saying that the speech was wrong and should never have been given.
Another factor in this debate is that as part of the rules of the Organization,   and its attempt to remain non-political,  it is required that if a Scout is involved in a political event,  it is fine for them to wear the uniform when acting as a Color Guard or the like  However,  any further activity requires that they change OUT of that Uniform, and into civilian clothes.
The BSA has its problems and is not totally clean of politics,  of course.  The ongoing debate over allowing LGBTQ folks in to the organization is still not resolved,  although the BSA has taken some courageous steps forwards on the issue.   The Para-military aspects of the organization are not always the most comfortable thing to deal with.   That having been said, though,  I am of the opinion that the organization does more good than evil in the world.   The skills that kids in the program learn will stay with them,  and give them the ability to handle the random problems of life in a more positive fashion.   The values that the Oath and Laws teach will reinforce their path to becoming good, productive and positive Citizens.   The group functions of Scouting,  ranging from local camping trips, to events like the Jamboree,  hone their ability to work as a team,  and may be the only introduction to people with radically different views.  That introduction is important, of course, because it can help build understanding,  and tolerance into their Rules for Life.    One of Baden-Powell’s goals was to ensure that every boy that came through the program would end up with these values engraved on their heart, and that these values would become a guiding light for their life.
This event went a long way towards eroding away those values, though, and taught some lessons that are destructive,  hateful,  and the complete abrogation of what a Boy Scout should be.
it is hard to know what to do to clean up some of these issues.   Luckily,  I am far past Scouting,  and have no children in the program,  so,  I do not have to spend sleepless nights trying to decide what to do about this.   I would like to see  some things happen in the future, though.
  • I would like to see a much stronger statement from the ruling Council,  specifically condemning the donald’s speech for dragging politics into the event.
  • I would like to see the Convening Authority do the same thing that Rev. Faith Green Timmons of the Bethel United Methodist Church did when the donald started an angrily political speech in her church in September,  last year.   She stood right up,  stopped him and said “Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not give a political speech”    Here,  by the by, is a link to that moment
  • I would like to see,  over the next year,  the BSA focus more on upholding the Oath and Law, and what it stands for…so the NEXT time this happens,   either the boys will walk out,  or, at the very least,  they will not enthusiastically support such speech.

Baden-Powell  wrote the following in his final letter to the International Organization he created:   “… I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one. But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it”

 

It would do well for the BSA to re-read this,  and work to return to that vision of what the Organization should be.  Perhaps,  with time and effort,  the Members, present and past, of the Scouts can restore some of the honor lost this week.

God Help Us All
Bee Man Dave

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Tick, Tick, Tick….A PSA for the Summer

Greetings and Salutations…
A small PSA for the Summer.
For whatever reason,  the flea, mosquito and tick problem  is pretty terrible this year.  The relatively warm winter,  the early warm up to Spring-like temps, and the rains that have swept across the country have ensured they are breeding like gangbusters.   So,   what do we do about this?
Prevention is the cheapest and least complicated way to deal with the problem.  All three pests can be slowed down by taking these actions:
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when out in the grass for any lengthy time.  If possible pull your socks up and over the end of the pant legs.
  • make sure to use a good product like Back Woods OFF to spray legs from waist down to feet.
  • Spray your wrists where the shirt sleeves stop (or your entire arm, if you are wearing a short sleeve shirt).
  • Do not forget to treat any OTHER exposed skin (back of the neck,  face,  etc)   I suggest spraying the product on your hands and rubbing it on your face, though.  I am no fan of spraying stuff directly at my face!
  • There are some sporting goods suppliers that sell squeeze bottles of pure DEET…which is GREAT for zapping most bugs that want to feed on you.  But,  read and heed the instructions for application of the stuff as it is pretty strong stuff.

Now, here is a very informative article about Mosquitoes, both discussing their life cycle,  and offering excellent suggestions on controlling them.   (I recommend reading it.)

The steps I suggest above,  and others which are talked about in the various articles I have linked,   should go a long way to eliminating mosquito  and flea bites.
 Ticks,  alas are a different issue entirely.   While the above precautions will go a long way to keeping them off you,  it is not perfect…so you MAY end up being a host.  On the positive side,  most of the time,  ticks will crawl around for a while before biting into your skin.They are looking for a warm, damp,  protected place with plenty of blood vessels close to the surface.  Also,  some ticks are so species specific that they are unlikely to attach to a human…but I would not bet on that to keep ME from being a host.   The tick,  once it gets onto your skin,  and finds a good place will then bite into you,  looking for blood.   One bit of “good” news is that they have to be dug in for about 24 hours before they are likely to transmit any of the several,  nasty diseases they carry.
I recommend that when you come in from a day frolicking in Nature (and in this case, I will include working in the garden,  mowing the lawn,  trimming bushes and trees and such like tasks),   head to the bathroom.  Strip down to skin and spend some time carefully checking out your entire body for ticks.  Remember what I said about where ticks like to hang out?  The human body has several areas that qualify so be sure to check carefully there.   I suggest having a pair of pliers handy for the ones that have not dug in yet.   When you find one crawling around on your skin, grab it with the pliers,  crush it,  and toss its flattened carcase into the trash.  It is a quite satisfying feeling.   If they have already attached,  there are a number of places on the Net with excellent instructions on how to remove them intact, so one does not leave a head attached to the sin.  I either slide a small blade from my pocket knife along the skin,  and carefully scrape the bug off.   I also have,  in my medicine closet,  a defunct credit card  with a triangular notch cut out of a narrow side.   It starts about 1/4″ wide,  and tapers to a point,  after about an inch.   I press that card against my skin,  and slide the notch around the tick.  As I keep pushing,  the notch will capture it,  and lever the jaws out without breaking up the tick.
(I really want to make a snide statement about the current state of politics here…but will restrain myself to keep from moving past the point of simply mentioning the urge…)
Now,  how about fleas?   They are pretty amazing creatures in some ways.  They can jump mind-bogglingly high off the ground,  and it seems like they can create generations every two days.  I know it takes about two WEEKS,  but,  if one gets fleas in the house,  It seems like the volume goes from no fleas to billions of them overnight!   They are a problem that needs dealing with though…as they, too,  carry diseases,  and,  they swarm in such huge numbers that, like vampires,  they can kill companion animals from blood loss.   Here,  by the by, is a good article about fleas…with pretty amazing images….
So…what do we do when the period on the page your are reading starts moving and then springs away and your realize your companion animal(s) have been scratching and grooming almost constantly for the past few days.
I tend to attack both in the short term and the long-term.
  • First off,  I get a bowl filled with a mixture of water and dishwashing detergent.   I put a goodly squeeze from the bottle in and carefully swirl the water to mix the detergent in without creating foam.  Foam is bad!
  • I take the bowl,  and a flea comb, and start working on the first animal I can get my hands on.   I comb the areas where they cannot reach easily (upper neck,  side of face behind and below ears,  and across the top of the head and down the spine to the tail.
  • With each stroke of the comb, I usually get a combination of some hair,  and a bunch of fleas.   I take the loaded comb,  and dip it into the bowl,  then, scrape the flea/hair mix off into the bowl.  The detergent ensures tht the fleas will not float, so, they are goners.   If, by the by, when you are doing this,  the water starts turning red,  that is blood from the animal that the flea has already ingested and deficated.   It shows that it is VERY GOOD to be doing this.  Repeat this step for all companion animals in the house.
  • As quickly as possible,  I get a topical flea treatment for the animal(s),  and treat all of them.
  • Speaking of topical treatments.   There are three that I have had excellent results from.   Revolution,   Advantage II  and a clone of the latter called Advectra.   I have used many of the absorbed inseciticides over the years,  and these are the only ones I have found that do not bother the animals,  do a great job of killing the fleas and ticks on them,  and keeping them parasite free for up to a month.
  • It is also possible to get a flea shampoo from the Vet that works well, but, the joy of that experience depends entirely on how happy your animals are about getting a bath.   I have had a few over the years that were fine with it,  but most of them hate it.    As an alternative,  the “Original formula” Dawn dishwashing detergent works VERY well.   It will not leave any residue that will help keep the fleas from repopulating the animal,  but, it does get rid of the current crop.
Now, then…For a longer term attack.
  • After getting the animal(s) treated and cleaned up a bit…wash every bit of clothing that they have been in contact with.   Hot water and extra detergent.  and an extra rinse is the way I go about it.   This includes bedclothes…
  • If you have a single area where the animal(s) like to hang out a lot,  set up a “Flea Trap” there.  If you have a small, desk lamp, no purchases needed.   make up a detergent bowl as detailed before,  and set it on the floor where there is likely to be a concentration of fleas.  Set the lamp up,  pointing down into the bowl,  with the shade two or three inches above the bowl.   Turn the lamp on and leave it for a few days.   You will likely see a bunch of flea bodies at the bottom of the bowl.  Leave the trap there until the bodies stop accumulating.
  • Get a treatment to spread around the house and kill the fleas in the rugs,  curtains and furniture.   If none of your furniture has cushons or cloth upholstry on it…that makes the job easier.   There are several good products for this.   Talk to your Vet,  look on Amazon,  poke around on Chewy,  and visit your pet supply stores in the area.
  • Get a spray type treatment for furniture, curtains,  mattresses, pillows and the like.  spray everything down with a fine mist that covers the surfaces as evenly as possible.  They do not have to be WET,  but they should be covered.
  •  There is another alternative treatment that works quite well too.   It is called Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.  It is available from many sources, and is a fine, flour-like powder.   It is non-toxic and works very well for killing off fleas.
  •   I sprinkle it on the carpet,  work it in with a broom,  leave it for a day or so,  then vacuum the rug.   The DE kills the fleas and the vacuuming removes it, the carcasses, and a bunch of live fleas.    One can use it to treat animals too…just sprinkle it on the animal,  and work it into their fur.  Breathing the small amount of dust that is raised by this is not recommended,  but, has not been a problem  for me.   I suspect people with respiratory issues should wear a mask when working with it.  Vacuum often.  if you have a hose type vacuum,  or a hose attachment,  be sure to run slowly along the molding at the base of the walls.   When the bag is full,  take the cleaner outside,  carefully remove the bag,  and dispose of it without taking it back inside.   The bags typically hold the fleas in,  but,  there is a chance that the fleas will escape and re-infest.
  • If you go outside and see fleas on your skin or clothing right outside the door,  there are some spray concentrates that hook to a water hose and will cover several thousand square feet,  killing off the fleas and ticks,  and of ten slowing their return.
The flea reproduction cycle ranges from a few days to a couple of weeks…so any eggs that are not killed by the mentioned treatments  will hatch out with the plan of getting some food and reproudcing before they die.  So…to be safe,  plan to treat the companion animal(s) once a month for three months.    Plan to spray or use DE a couple of times a month for the next three months.  It is a pain to do,  but,  it takes work to beat back Nature at times.
With luck you will never have to deal with these issues…but if you do…hang in there.   In the end,  the fleas will be gone  and by preventative treatment next year,  (Topical Flea treatment when the fleas start hatching out in the early Summer,  or DE treatments, and a yard spray),   they should not come back.
Have a great  Summer.
God Help Us ALL
Bee Man Dave

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Thoughts on this Fourth Of July

Greetings and Salutations;
As the midnight hour passed this morning,  and the 4th of July celebration began,  it struck me that there was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance in this year’s celebration.   Some aspects remain the same…There are parades (Gatlinburg holds their parade at midnight,  so can claim to be the first parade of the day).   There is flag waving,   and a celebration of “American Values”.  There are cook-outs,  and fireworks.
Yet, when I look at the holiday,  it feels more hollow than usual this year.   I look at the path that America was put on by the election of the SCROTUS in November.  I look at the unbridled hate expressed by so many for those who are different from them.   I look at the physical violence that is on the rise.   I look at the way America’s reputation in the world has been swept away, and replaced with one of a ship of fools,  captained by a thin-skinned,  vindictive madman with the emotional maturity of a five year old.   It brings me to weep.
The current administration  has appointed heads of departments whose ONE job is to dismantle and destroy those departments.   DeVoss,  the head of the Department of Education,  is a proponent and big investor in Charter schools.   These private institutions  make a ton of money for their investors,  and,  as studies have shown  do a rather worse job than the public school system at educating our children. (http://www.data-first.org/questions/how-do-charter-schools-compare-to-regular-public-schools-in-student-performance/)   One wonders if by simply improving the funding for public schools, and providing more support for the poorly performing schools,  the ones that drag down the averages could not be brought up to provide a good education.    One other issue I have with Charter Schools and the reports claiming they do so much better  a job is that Charter Schools cherry pick their students.   They,  unlike the Public School system  do NOT have to take all comers.  They can skim off the best of the best…which will, naturally,  pump up their scores.
The EPA is under attack too.   The administration is writing Executive Orders to roll back Clean Water and Air regulations.  The EPA’s attempts to monitor and regulate industry, to keep America from turning into a stinking,  industrial wasteland are being killed by the head of the Department.
Speaking of industrial wastelands,   the administration is pushing to cut back the size of various national monuments, parks and sacred sites.  Why?  because there may be valuable minerals or oil under them and Industry,  like the horde of locusts it is,  wants to sweep through and rape the land for a little profit.   These places are the crown jewels of America,  and a huge tourist draw for people around the world.  There appears to be a move afoot to allow loggers into the Sequoia National Forest…which will mean that we will see toothpicks made from majestic trees that have been growing longer than America has been in existence.
The tragedy goes on and on, alas.   To top it off,  the Republicans continue to show contempt for the vast majority of citizens.   Craig Christie,  Governor of New Jersey for example,  has offended many with this closing many state beaches and facilities to public use,  due to a budget conflict.   However,  as these pictures demonstrate,  “the Public” does not include the Governor and his family
All that having been said (and with these, I have just skimmed the top of the cess pool),  America does retain much of its greatness,  and SHOULD be celebrated.   Most Americans are still polite,  friendly folks who will make room for a stranger, and treat them well.   For example,  here is a picture from  a New York Subway…The photographer who took it, Jackie Summers,  pointed out that he, a Taoist,  had moved so a Hassidic couple could sit together,  and,  that couple had scooted over to make room for a Muslim woman to nurse her baby.   That is what America is all about…accepting diversity, and making room for it.   We are not the hateful,  angry,  reactionaries who are causing the violence and hate.
Do you want to really Celebrate the Fourth of July as an embodiment of what is best about America?   Take a moment to do a kindness to a stranger.   Rescue a companion animal that is in danger of dying either in a shelter or on the street.   When you get lunch at a restaurant,  see if they provide contributed meals to the needy and homeless.  If so…contribute the cost of your lunch towards that fund.   If you see someone who is sad and feeling lonely,  invite them to the cookout.   If you have a friend who you have not seen in  a while…touch base with them…invite THEM to the cookout!   Simply take a moment to do something kind  without expecting thanks or a reward. Walk away from a political argument online.    It will honor you and America.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,Tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
 
(inscribed on The Statue of Liberty)
God Help America
Bee Man Dave

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“how we treat the least of these…”

Greetings and Salutations;

This may be a bit of a downer,  but it is important…and should not be lost among the tsunami of Evil that is flooding America today.

 

I have been involved,  to one level or another with rescuing Companion Animals for decades.   Sadly,   the supply of discarded animals is still FAR too huge.   This was a disgrace in the 60s,  and continues to be just as bad today.   What does this mean?   Well,  It means that kittens like this:

are routinely taken to shelters, and, typically within a few hours,  or if they are VERY lucky,  a few days,   they are injected with a poison and killed.   Black cats are STILL the last to be adopted and the first to be killed in a shelter.   We have just passed the Summer Solstice.  The Springtime months mean that shelters and rescue groups are overwhelmed with a flood of kittens and pregnant cats.  These range from feral cats that have been caught by someone,  to house cats whose owners  have not had fixed, and have gotten out into the world.  Instead of dealing with the kittens,  these people seem to think that,  magically,  by dropping their cat off at the shelter,  the kittens will all end up in a loving home, as will Mom Cat.   This is, alas, delusional.   Most of these animals face the needle in days or weeks (at most).
I have written  about this before,   but, until the problem lessens quite a bit, I will continue to bring it up…
     What then,  can we do?
  1. Rescue an adult cat from the shelter and give it a good home.  Kittens are cute,  but,  Adults can be far better companion animals.
  2. If adding a Companion Animal  to your household is not possible,  that is fine.  However,  what about fostering a cat or dog for a time?   This is inexpensive,  and easy to do.
  3. Contact your local shelters and Rescue Groups and find out what they need.   Typically,  these needs include blankets,  dry and wet food,  cleaning supplies,   etc.
  4. Pressure your local government to provide adequate funding and support to allow the shelter to become “No Kill”.
  5. If you see or interact with an animal that appears to be a stray,  please do not just walk by it.   If you cannot reach out and help the animal directly,  then, keep the contact information  of a couple of rescue groups in your phone,  and take a minute to let them know about the situation.
  6. If you can take time to help a stray or Feral animal,  please do so…Feed  the cats on your porch, and,  arrange for them to get neutered.   There are rescue groups that will help with this,  and many locations now have low cost or free “fixing days”

 

None of these actions are difficult, or expensive, but they will make the difference between life and death for an animal that has depended on humans for thousands of years.  Most if not all of these animals have been mistreated by humans…and it is up to those of us who choose to be Guardians…or simply to help out a little,  to balance that Karma a bit.
God Help Us All
Bee Man Dave

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Some Thoughts On Father’s Day

Greetings and Salutations;

 

I thought I would take a moment today,  since it is Father’s Day, to talk about something that is not a political rant or a discussion of bees and their world.

 

From Left: Unknown Fingertip, Dr. J. O. Mundt, Earl Mundt

 

     My Father,  John  Orvin Mundt,  had a pretty amazing life.   He was born in Wisconsin,    and grew up on a farm,  where he certainly learned the necessity for,  and the value of,  hard work!  This ensured that he would keep a large garden planted with enough produce to feed three families going every year to the day he died.  This was a family affair, too,  as not only the kids  got to be yard slaves taking care of weeding and picking the produce,  but, even Mom was pulled into it.  On the positive side,  she was the one that ensured that we always had a goodly area of the garden covered in flowers (that we could enjoy,  but did not have to pick)  However, his “Safe Place”  and Zen Temple was the three, 200+  foot rows of Raspberry plants that he lovingly cared for around the year.  He would come in from work in the late Summer and through the Fall,  and work his way slowly through the tangle of canes,  trimming them,  removing the stubs of old canes,  weeding,  and carefully squirting a drop of shellac onto each cut end to keep the Cane Borer beetles from burrowing down the soft centers of the plants,  laying eggs and hurting the plants.

 

     As a young man, he survived the Great Depression,  although he nearly starved to death during it,  and, it left some scars that never did heal.   Because of that experience in his life,  he was  not willing to let a single morsel of food go to waste.   We had to clean our plates of every bite.   When we processed the produce from the garden,  we had to get every last sliver of tomato, or kernel of corn  into the jars.   We pressure-canned everything, so it would stay good for a long time.  Now,  with up to four kids and two adults in the house,  we made it through the rest of the year on those jars of canned produce.

 

     When he was a boy, in Wisconsin,  he felt he was not welcomed at Church.  As a poor farm boy,  he did not have nice clothes to wear.  His worn, but, clean,  coveralls and shirts were looked down upon by the other members.  However,  in spite of that,  he persisted in the teachings of the Lutheran Church,  and, while he struggled at times with the conflict between Dogma  and reality,  he did,  I believe,  gain much spiritual growth from the Church and its teachings.  He, like all of us had his failings,  but,  as long as I knew him he always exhibited the best of Christ’s Message…He loved and cared for all,  and had no prejudices against other people because of cultural, sexual, or racial differences.  He also did his best to pass on those attitudes to his children,  and, I have to say,   looking at my brother and sisters,  I believe that he did a far better job of that than he believed he had done.

 

     He was a quiet man,  who was prone to NOT talk about himself to any extent.   Was it because he still had painful wounds to his soul that he did not want to reveal?   Was it because he was more interested in others than himself?   I believe that both of these are true,  but that the latter came to be the dominant factor in his life.  Lord Knows,  he had some wounds too!   Decades after his death,  after many conversations with my siblings,  and comparing notes,  I have come to the conclusion that my father either WAS one of the German-Americans that were interned during World War 2,  or he was very close to those that were swept up in that debacle,  and it rattled his world.   Perhaps the worst part of this,  is that Dad  was always kind of in awe of a country where a poverty stricken farm boy from rural Wisconsin  could get access to such great support and educational resources at little or no cost.   These allowed him to continue his education to become a world-renowned Microbiologist,  speaking many languages and reading more,  with many discoveries in the field to his name, and, being able to influence the life Journey of many, many students.

 

     His work at the University of Tennessee,  with the students,  was another example of his caring for others.   He made it a point to learn as much as possible about the students he was advising,  and honestly evaluate their prospects in the field.   Being German Lutheran,  he was quite willing to tell a student that they had no aptitude for the work.   However, unlike many advisers,  he would go on to talk with them about their strengths, and to suggest alternative degrees that they ought pursue.  MOST of the students he had to do this with came to appreciate him quite a bit…because he had been absolutely right,  and they ended up in a degree program that fit them far better and gave them much more happiness and success.   Some students ignored his advice, and pushed on.  I have, over the years,  run across a few of these, and a number of times,  they had gotten a degree in Microbiology,  and then had ended up in a career change to something that had nothing to do with the topic.   Dad was not perfect…he did make mistakes and some of those students he had advised to bail out,  attacked the subject with greater determination than ever,  and successfully got their degree.   They may well have found a niche in the broad field that really did fit them well, too.

 

     I could go on at great length about the successes and failures of my Father,  and how he taught me much from both of them.   Perhaps, though,  that is more for a different post.  I wanted to finish off by saying that we had a rough relationship for a lot of my life.  My brother and sisters were FAR more successful in the areas that he held important.   I, though was that little, 9 year old, third child who lost his tools all the time.   HOWEVER,  perhaps the best memory I have, and at least the one I am proudest of,  is that, several years before his death,  our relationship was shaken up and re-formed into a friendship between two adults. The somewhat shocking moment of realization I had that this change had happened was one weekend when he asked me if I would come and speak to his lion’s Club meeting about the world of computers and programming – focusing on it as a career.   I went in,  and did about 45 minutes extemporaneously,  with some props  I had printed off,  and (which will surprise those that know me) kept it relatively short.   Afterward,  as we were driving home, Dad observed that it had been quite a good presentation,  and that I had not used any notes…  He seemed rather impressed that I had become a knowledgeable enough person,  and was well spoken enough to be able to do that.   He rarely exhibited surprise,  but he did at that…

 

     The fact that we became adults, and friends that could speak honestly with each other is both one of the most touching, and biggest honors in my life.   He died years ago, yet,   for some reason, I feel him with me  today,  I am sad that he is not here and I cannot show him my house, and help him with his Raspberries a bit.
Thanks,  Dad.

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Bees….Nature’s Artists!

Greetings and Salutations;
Bees are interesting creatures.   They sometimes do amazing things,  all driven by nothing but instance.   We, who are their Guardians,   are, at times,  amazed by what they do.   For example…I am sure y’all have seen the classic pictures of frames of bees and honey from a Langstroth hive.   It looks amusingly neat,  with row after row of comb,  filled with honey, pollen and brood   lined up on the supporting frames.   Even a wild swarm will,  when it takes residence in a safe cave,  will build comb hanging down from the ceiling in more or less parallel sheets.   However,  this is not always the case.   Sometimes,  if a hive is poorly maintained,   or the cave is too irregular for those neat walls of comb,  then,  the bees will create what is called “Wild Comb”.   They will build a twisting sheet of comb  where ever they can,  in order to make the cells necessary for storage and reproduction.   Sometimes,  these efforts create lovely, almost sculpted, sheets of comb.   Recently,  I ran across a picture of one of these examples of wild comb on the Net,  and thought I would pass it along  here in the blog.
This is worthy,  I think,  of being mounted on a stand,  and admired as an art piece  just as the work of Matisse,  or some other sculptors….
In these days of Darkness…it is a good thing to find even a small example of beauty and glowing life.
God Help Us All.
Bee Man Dave

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Remember Luther?

Greetings and Salutations;

     Here is something completely different    that I ran across today and I wanted to share it as it struck a chord in me.   One of my good friends shared this on Face Book,   and so I am going to share it with y’all.    It is worth the read,  as “Peter” brings up some very good points.

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

 

Dear Frank

Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t very well); feed the hungry that come to our doors; care for the sick; comfort the dying; and bury the dead. So thanks for thinking of us. Rest assured, we are ready to respond to your calls to prayer and action.

I have to say, though, that I was a little confused by your summons. Of all the things that worry me, loss of religious freedom for Christians in America isn’t one of them. I can’t say I have ever experienced anything in this country that could reasonably be called a restriction on my religious liberty, much less persecution.  When you started talking about attacks on Christianity, I thought you might have been referring to the racially motivated slaying of pastors and lay people at Mother Emmanuel church in Charlotte some time back. Or I figured you were referring to the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt this past Palm Sunday. That’s what I call persecution. But having to pay a judgment for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex couple in violation of the law against discrimination? This you call persecution? There’s a letter in the Bible, written by the Apostle Peter (ever heard of him?). He’s an expert on persecution, having been on the receiving end of it more than once. He says you don’t get divine kudos from suffering the consequences of breaking the law-even if you are a Christian. Moreover, there is a Christian fellow named Paul (aka Saul) who wrote a letter to a church in Rome nearly two thousand years ago. He said that if your enemy is hungry you should feed him (that’s in the Bible too). So wouldn’t it have been the Christian way to have baked a cake for the same sex couple in your example, even if you deem them enemies (another assertion I don’t quite understand)? I’m confused.

But in any event, Frank, let’s get over this persecution complex. Stop with the drama already! You are not under attack just because you have to follow the rules like everyone else. Look, I understand the owners of this establishment you mention in your speech don’t approve of gay and lesbian people getting married. They don’t have to approve of them. But if they are going to do business in this country, they have to follow the law against discrimination-just like the rest of us. If you don’t like the rules, don’t join the game. It’s that simple. Furthermore, I don’t understand why baking a cake for people whose conduct you find personally offensive is such a big deal. Heck, Frank, if all of us small church pastors refused to bury everyone whose conduct we didn’t approve of, the country would be ten feet deep in corpses!

I am struggling, too, with your claim that Donald Trump is a champion (albeit an unlikely one) for religious freedom. What freedoms are we talking about here, Frank? The freedom to lie with impunity? The freedom to grab young girls by the genitals? The freedom to discriminate against people of color in the sale and rental of real estate? The freedom to refer to women as “dogs,” “fat pigs,” and “ugly”? The freedom to call your opponents “idiots,” “losers,” “liars” and “frauds”? The freedom to slander people with accusations of criminal conduct based on absolutely no evidence? By my count, the above violate at least four of the Ten Commandments (you will find those in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy-both in the Bible). If Donald Trump is the champion of American Christianity, God save it from its enemies!

All kidding aside, you might be right about God putting Donald Trump in the White House-though your reasons for so believing are probably different from what I might conjecture. Still, how do you know that? Where did you get this info? I have to hand it to you, Frank, you sure do have the connections. As I am sure you know, God does not consult with us small church pastors on weighty issues of that kind. So it was kind of you to leak this classified intelligence to all of us who are evidently a good deal further away from the divine pipeline. So let me see if I have this figured out correctly: God doesn’t give a flying fruitcake if we deprive twenty-million people, most of them poor, of access to health care. Nor is God particularly concerned about how men treat women in the workplace, how people of color are treated in the real estate market, how the hungry and homeless are cared for (or not), but God flips out if we bake a cake for a same sex couple to celebrate their wedding? I have to be honest with you, Frank. I’m just not seeing it. Not in the Bible, not in the realm of rational common sense.

Here’s the thing, Frank. At the last judgment, Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about who they voted for, how many times they have been divorced, what their sexual history or orientation is or for whom they did or did not bake wedding cakes. His sole concern is for how we treated the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, those deemed “least” among us. No, I didn’t get that from any private chat with God. We small church pastors have to rely on the Bible for our intel. I got this stuff from the Gospel of Matthew, 25th Chapter to be precise. As I said, that, too, is in the Bible. (It’s a great book, Frank. You should read it sometime.)

You know, Frank, I would like to think that we are brothers. I would like to believe that we are on the same side. I would like to believe that, beneath our differences, we worship the same God and follow the same Savior. But quite honestly, I don’t recognize the Jesus I learned from my parents, my Sunday School teachers, my pastors or my years of study and reflection on the Bible in your angry, fearful rhetoric. Yes, I will answer your call for prayer. But I will be praying for the real victims of persecution-the victims of racial discrimination, sexual violence and bullying. I will answer your call to action. But I will be acting to establish health care as a right for all people; making the college campus and the workplace spaces where women and girls need not fear being called “pigs,” “dogs” or “ugly” nor will they need to fear rich, white celebrity males who feel entitled to grab them by the genitals. I will respond to your call for action by working for a society in which no one needs to worry about where she will sleep at night or where the next meal is coming from. You want prayer? You want action? You’ve got it.

Well, thanks again, Frank, for thinking about us small church folk. I appreciate your concern about our being persecuted and under attack. But don’t worry about us. We don’t have your money, your access to the halls of power or your seeming direct connection to the Almighty. But we have the scriptures, we have prayer, and we are learning every day what it means to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s all we need. You can keep your champion in the White House, thanks just the same.

Christ’s servant and yours,

Peter

I have,  for years,  disliked Franklin Graham,  as he has lost the path that his father,  Billy,  trod with such grace.   He has become corrupted by power and greed,  and his messages every day show this.   It is kind of sad,  both for him, and for the people influenced by his message.   They are on a Dark Path,  that can lead nowhere good.

 

By the by,  this post is from a Blog Site called the Trinity Portico.   Pastor Peter Olsen, the author,  has  a lot of very thoughtful articles on it.  It is DEFINITELY  worth a look.

 

God Help Us All

Bee Man Dave.

 

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Hillary Clinton Returns!

Hillary Clinton has finally emerged into the world again.   She had an interesting interview the other day,  where she spoke openly about the 2016 election,  and discussed the issues and problems that caused the donald to steal the Oval Office away from her.   She acknowledged the fact that she made mistakes in the campaign,  which hurt her chances,   but,  she also pointed out that the Comey announcement a week before the election that the FBI was re-opening the email investigation,  and the  massive push on social media of negative stories (many of which were unfounded lies)  probably hurt her more than anything.    I will say that I do agree with her on these points.   I would add to them the fact that the Main Stream Media forgot that it was supposed to be objective and spent entirely too much time focused on the trump train wreck.  While  HRC was out  talking with people in small town halls that had a lot of respectful dialogue,  and working to create the best,  most inclusive platform she could,  the cameras were focused on an empty stage in a packed auditorium,  while everyone waited for the donald to show up and spread his inflammatory messages around like shit in  an animal hoarder’s house. I am sure that,  had the media spent more time reporting on the quiet,  respectful discussions that Hillary (or Bernie) were having,   things might have come out differently.   However, alas,  as they say in the Newspaper Industry – “If it bleeds,  it leads”.   Blood and gore ALWAYS get the front page…as they sell the newspapers or, today,  get clicks into the website.

 

 

 

The really sad thing about her loss of the race is that she likely would have been a GREAT President.   When she was  in Congress,  she was well liked,  and dealt with both sides to move things forwards.  She was KNOWN for the fact that she would show up at hearings and such with an armload of data, all of which she had studied and knew inside and out.   She was, indeed,  a Policy Wonk (in the best possible way).   She came into the race with decades of  experience and knowledge of the ins and outs of dealing with and negotiating with,  people on the domestic and international scene.   She is known as a tough negotiator too,  which allowed her to push compromise where the two sides were at logger-heads.   Her work as Secretary of State had deepened her pool of understanding of the world situation. This,  by the by, is one reason why Putin worked so hard to the the donald elected.   He was terribly worried that she would take the Presidency,  and he knew he could not out-negotiate her!

 

 

     For me,  the real problem that kept her out of the Oval Office is that the American public are hypocrites,   not allowing their candidates to have mistakes or changes in stance,  and yet ignoring the huge list of their own screw-ups.    Add to that the misogyny of the voting public,  the meddling in the election by outside forces,  and the (possibly Unconstitutional) laws the states have passed forcing the Electoral College to a “Winner take all” rule…and it is little surprise  the  Republicans  were able to take the office…in spite of the results of the vote by ACTUAL CITIZENS!   Remember that the donald  only took the swing states by 75,000 votes or so – out of 63 MILLION cast,  so,  I suspect that if the Electors had not been “bound” by the “Winner take all” rule,   HRC would have gotten the majority of votes needed to take the Presidency.

 

 

 

     As for the Bernie supporters who still cling to the idea that if HE had been the candidate,  he would have won…I hope that gives you some comfort at night.  I disagree that he would have been an easy victory.   The Republicans had a HUGE file of dirt on him that goes back to his college days,  and would have used it with the same,  overblown rhetoric  that was used against HRC.   He would have been torn to shreds  by the tsunami of agenda-driven spin and lies from Russia.  Yes,  it is true that there are some Emails indicating that Wasserman-Schultz preferred HRC over Bernie.   Yet there STILL is no evidence that any of the suggested strategies were implemented.   In my own case,  I saw about as many HRC ads from PACs as I did Bernie ads.  It may be that many in the Democratic party looked upon Bernie with a questionable attitude because he has NEVER been a  Democrat.   He is and always will be an Independent,  Democratic Socialist.   Frankly,  that is a good thing,  and in  a way,  I wish that there were more like him in the Congress.   However,  his hooking his wagon to the Democratic Party was an attempt to hook into the pool of Democratic Voters  and so take the office.   That did not work as well as he would have liked…since several MILLION voters in the Primary voted for HRC over him.   I was not one of those.  I DID vote for Bernie in the Primary  for a variety of reasons.   For me,  it almost came down to a coin toss, though.   I looked at the two of them and was amazed that our Party had put forth TWO excellent and very qualified candidates.   That is why I DID vote for HRC in the General Election.

 

 

I agree that the Democratic Party needs to buckle down and start working together to be a force such as the Republicans.    People of good will can disagree over issues…but,  when push comes to shove,   we as progressives,  need to be able to compromise,  and to get behind ONE Candidate.   We must NOT be so self-centered that we pout about our favorite Candidate  not being chosen,  and either refuse to vote,  or write in his name,  or vote for a third party option that is worse than the Republican alternative.   Bite the bullet…work to change the Party…but without powerful representation,   we, and our goals as Citizens,  are irrelevant to the Republicans.   Look at what Mitch McConnell said after the donald’s victory.   He said “Winners get to make the rules.  Losers get to go home”.  That,  folks, is the draconian attitude of most Republicans.  They will dismiss our Liberal opinions and do their best to ride rough-shod over anything “Liberal” in the governmental and legal structure of the country.   Look at what they are doing now!   They are working as hard as they can to wipe out not only the legacy that President Obama left,  but, to roll back our society to where it was in the 1800s.   The Republicans of today seem to believe that the Television shows “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show”  are not situation comedies,  but, rather are documentaries of a lost way of life!   We,  as a group,  cannot wait for the Republicans to destroy themselves.  They are  perfectly happy to burn down the house with ALL of us locked in the living room.   We must look ahead…be sure to VOTE in the coming elections;  and look to the younger generation of Democrats to rise up and move us forward again.

 

 

God Help Us All

 

 

Bee Man Dave.

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“The Other” – What Does This Mean?

Greetings and Salutations;
I recently wrote a short entry on the works of Ayn Rand, the philosophy of Objectivism that she created,  and, how this philosophy is the tap root that feeds the attitudes and actions of the  Republican Party.   For the leaders of the Party to succeed, they must ensure that their followers will be motivated to support the Party without question.   To achieve this goal,  the leaders of the Party  have worked very hard at keeping the followers of the Party  so fearful and distracted that,  even if they have the intellectual skills to look at the Party’s actions and words,  they remain distracted by the shiny things, smoke and mirrors  waved in front of them.   This ensures that the followers will not actually look at what the leaders are doing; make rational decisions about whether they support these actions; or understand how those actions will affect them, personally.  Rather,  they buy into the Party Line, and  vote for the Party no matter what arguments against such a vote are presented to them or evidence showing this is a bad idea is available..
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“Tribalism”

My first topic in this article is “Tribalism.”  For as long as there has been life on the Earth,  related or similar creatures have  clustered together in exclusive groups.  This is true for almost every species from ants to humans.  There are benefits to this,  including better  protection against the dangers of the world,  an increased probability of finding and acquiring food,  and (once we  to the stages of individual, sexual reproduction)  finding a mate to perpetuate the group.  In the lower animals,  we call it herding,  being part of a pack, and similar terms.    When we reach the developmental level of the Human Animal,  we call it “Tribalism”     This grouping of people into tribes  is typically so deeply rooted in our instincts that it is usually automatic, and  invisible to us.   This happens in spite of the evidence available that shows that such exclusive grouping is NOT the best way of dealing with the world.    Throughout history, beginning with the earliest Hominids appearing on Earth,   groups  of people have gathered together and formed a Tribal Group,  for the above mentioned reasons.  A  MAJOR objective of the tribe is its own protection against attack and destructive violence (This instinctive need to protect the tribe was one of the roots of the appearance of “The Other”,  and often shows up in today’s world as an almost insane obsession with spending huge sums of money  on enlarging the Military.   More on this later).
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“The Other”

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Now,  let us look at the concept of “The Other“.  This concept is strongly rooted in “Tribalism” and,   is a basic tool used in  philosophical  and sociological schools which examine the broad range of ways that we,  as humans,  look upon and interact with other humans.  “The Other”  has a large  influence on our building of  a self-Image.    As we mature, everyone builds a self-image  that defines us to ourselves and to the world.   Much of that self-image is generated,  and re-enforced,  by a comparison with someone else –  “The Other”.     Early on in our path to maturity,  this creation and feeding of the Self-Image is powered by our demonstrating how they are less than we are…and thereby, building ourselves up.   We all do it to some extent:
  • My dress is a LOT more elegant and well cut than hers is (So I have better taste and fashion sense)
  • I  am the champion Quarterback on the Team (so the other Quarterbacks were losers)
  • I have been to College and have a Master’s Degree in English and a Doctorate in Astronomy (so this  guy working as a stock boy in Walmart must be an idiot);
  • I own the company and make a ton of money so I am much better than the losers that work for me
 Hopefully,  as we mature,  we disconnect our self-worth from how we compare to others,  and,  grow it
  1. by traveling and continuing to explore new areas of knowledge,  so as to expand our horizons
  2. by interacting with a more diverse group of people
  3. seeking  out new experiences
  4. adding to or increasing our skill set
  5. by self-study and understanding we achieve greater self-awareness.
On this,  more positive path,  we cease to look at “The Other”  and say “I am so much better than that loser”.   Alas, none of us achieve this goal to perfection,  but with luck, work, and an increased understanding of ourselves we can move towards it.
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In the less developed members of  humanity,   “The Other” is looked upon with suspicion, and fear.   Since the survival of the The Tribe depended on its ability to gather sufficient food,  find a protected environment,  and reproduce safely,   any stranger that showed up was viewed with suspicion.  They were “The Other” – an unknown part of reality and the tribe would not have any idea if the stranger was here on a peaceful mission,  or was looking to take any, or all of their three parts of survival by force.   Today,  alas,  these same,  quite primitive instincts remain in place, and, too often, control our actions.  “Otherness” (as discussed Here ) takes many forms. The Other may be someone who is of…
  • a different race (White vs. non-White),
  • a different nationality (Anglo Saxon vs. Italian),
  • a different religion (Protestant vs. Catholic or Christian vs. Jew),
  • a different social class (aristocrat vs. serf),
  • a different political ideology (capitalism vs. communism),
  • a different sexual orientation (heterosexual vs. homosexual),
  • a different origin (native born vs. immigrant).
The primal and instinctive fears we still harbor within us  can be inflamed by invoking any of these “Othering”  factors.  Then,  the resulting emotions can be used to motivate followers to action,  and blind them to the results of those actions.   Let me take a moment to give some concrete examples from the current political world.
  1. During the campaign,  the donald undercut his opponents in the race to the Primary Election   by emphasizing their differences,  and by claiming that they were “Low Energy”, stupid,  or “Flip-Floppers” –  implying that his Republican opponents were old,  feeble, or untrustworthing,  and so unable to deal with the pressures of the Presidency.   For his one Female opponent,  he derided her for her appearance – saying with contempt that she was so ugly she could NOT possibly be considered to be presidential material.
  2. During the race to the General Election,   he exaggerated Sec. Clinton’s state of health, implying she was about to keel over dead at any moment;  He pushed the misogynistic view that it was impossible for a woman to be President;   He and his campaign staff would inflame the audience members at rallies to chant “Lock Her Up”,  in spite of the fact that after 40 years of investigations by his own party,  NO criminal acts had been uncovered.
  3. During the Campaign,  the donald said, over and over again,  that the ACA was failing,  was likely to disintegrate in a year or less,  and was a total failure.   He said  HIS plan was to cover all Americans with a better plan, and make Premiums go down quite a bit.  He also NEVER used the act’s real name –  The ACA – Rather he continually called it “ObamaCare.”  to appeal to the latent racism in the hearts of his followers.   This claim of his was, of course  a lie,  but by repeating it many times and being careful to avoid any questions on exactly HOW “his GREAT Plan”  was supposed to make these changes to the Health Insurance situation,  he distracted many Americans who were unhappy that their Premiums HAD gone up, and by connecting the ACA with “The Other”  of President Obama,   got their votes.
  4. During the campaign,  the donald KEPT pushing the theme of “Radical Islamic Terrorists” flooding into the country.  This, in spite of the fact that almost EVERY terrorist attack in America since the events of 2001/09/11  have been done by citizens of the country who have been radicalized by the war that George W. Bush dropped us into shortly thereafter,  or have nothing to do with Islam or the Middle East at all – being perpetuated by White Supremacists against people of color,  and the like.
  5. Throughout the campaign,   the Republicans in general,  and the donald in specific,  characterized the news media as “The Other”   There were unsubstantiated claims that they were lying about him.    He claimed that the responsible and ethical journalists were creating “Fake News” about him.   He even went so far as claim such falsehoods as this:
  6. “A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference  While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”  These comments and many more like them over the past couple of years,  are an obvious attempt to make the Press into “The Other” –  A danger to America,  and to destroy their legitimate role in society as a watch dog of the government.

The Concept of The Other permeates other parts of society too.  The Black Lives Matter movement has been vilified since its beginnings with a variety of unsupported claims.   It was created when the institutional racism which has been growing in America for the past few decades reached a point that it appeared to the people of color in our society that it was open hunting season on them.   Having tried petitions and filing complaints about blatant racism exhibited by the government on all levels from the leaders down to the LEOs who seem to be the strike forces for that racism,  and had NO positive results from them,  people of color have taken to more energetic activism.   For this,  they have been peppered with claims of being Vandals whose only goal is to destroy businesses and loot them (in spite of the proven fact that only a tiny percentage of outside agitators in the crowds were doing this,  and a huge majority of the protestors were peaceably exercising their First Amendment Rights).   They are accused of raising a war against Whites or cops, in spite of the fact that they  NEVER say “Black Lives Matter More than Other Lives”.  They are  threatened and arrested when filming examples of police abuse of unarmed civilians,  in spite of the fact they are doing nothing wrong and are not interfering with the events.   They are called “Thugs”  and “Animals”  to the extent that many White folks automatically lock their doors when a person of color approaches their car.    The fact is that a vast majority of people of color are no different from you or me.   They are people of good will, who worry about their children, and try to teach them good values.  They are trying to do the best job at work they can,  because they take pride in doing a good job.

 

Yet…they are changed into the “Boogie Man” because the Republicans need an enemy  to focus the emotions of their followers on.   Look at the picture of the Black society in America as painted by the Republicans.    According to the donald,   all people of color live in inner city ghettos that are filthy,  deteriorating,  and filled with violence.   Added to that,  many Republicans portray them as parasites,  working only to get benefits from the Government,  so they can live the good life without working.   They portray them as sexually promiscuous,  producing many children they cannot afford to feed, and continually aborting inconvenient fetuses.   They are portrayed as criminals,  flooding the Perfect World of White America with drugs and prostitutes.

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Another example of “The Other”  is the LGBTQ community in America.   Again,  the Republicans scream out unsubstantiated claims about them,  and,  almost every legislative body from states up to the Congress has passed or tried to pass laws which remove the basic rights for Citizens as laid out in the Constitution.   Some of these laws have taken root and are still there.  Most have been thrown out by the courts.   The current tempest that the Republicans are using to stir up their followers is the amazingly silly,  but emotional,  fears over which gender bathroom that TransGender folks use to relieve themselves.   The rhetoric on this is amazing,  as it is so far out of left field that one wonders what planet the folks that produce it live on.  There are a huge number of people who claim that if trans women are allowed in woman’s bathrooms,  they will sexually molest small children.   There are some who say that allowing this will enable sexual predators who are NOT Trans  to claim “To be women today”,  head into the bathroom,  and engage in perverted acts.   This view is unsupported by reality and has NEVER been shown to have any evidence of being the truth.   The fact is that Trans folks have been using the facilities next to Cis folks for hundreds of years,  without problems.    Yet…by invoking “The Other” as a danger, the Republicans rile up their followers,  build support and get votes.

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The last example of “The Other” I will touch on here are the immigrants and migrant workers who enter America.   The Republicans have been painting every Refugee and immigrant that is not White as a possible terrorist.   They produce a continual drumbeat of fear over a flood of Muslim Terrorists slipping into the country and destroying our infrastructure, and society.   They  have pushed the idea of “Muslim Terrorist”  so hard that many of their followers believe that is one,  not two,  words.   There are approximately 1.7 billion Muslims in the world.   Less than 200,000 are the fanatical fundamentalists who are engaging in this (ultimately futile)  war to take their society back to a mythical time when the Caliphate ruled,  and all Muslims supported Religious Purity!

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The fact is that,  since 2001/09/11,  there have been a few, fairly small  acts of terrorism,  but almost all of these were not perpetuated by immigrants,  but,  rather,  were by Citizens or legal residents of the country whose basic,  fundamentalist views of reality  had been inflamed and radicalized by the treatment of Muslims  in America since that day.

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The issue of migrant workers is another use of The Other.   The Republicans  have, for as long as I can recall,   trumpeted how terrible these people who snuck into the United States to live and work are.   As the donald said in his FIRST speech when he stepped into the ring to run for the Office of President:

 When Mexico sends its people,  they are not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.  They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

The bottom line is that the concept of “The Other” is a useful tool for the Republicans to keep their followers stirred up.   Their view of America is of a lily-white population,  and a society of bucolic peace rather like the fantasy presented in “The Andy Griffith Show”.   In order to achieve the goal of controlling their followers,  they, rather cynically,  use the concept of “The Other”  to give Americans an enemy – a Boogie Man – to hate and look upon as the Enemy of their culture.   Alas,  this is delusional on their part,  for a variety of reasons.

  • America has NEVER been a homogenous society.   it has always been a melting pot  from its origins with the Landing of the Pilgrims, until today.   The country is too big,  and too diverse to be the sort of society that much smaller countries,  such as Japan,  or Norway  exhibit.
  • They are blind to the fact that immigrants bring strength to the county,  and are NOT tearing it down.   Diversity is the best survival tool on Earth.   As a botanical  example of the importance of diversity,  let me tell this story.     Back about 40 years or so ago,  The Tennessee Valley Authority  wanted to perk up the park lands near one of their flagship dams,  so it would be more attractive to tourists.   So,  being a bureaucracy,  they had crews come in and plant hundreds of pine trees over the entire park.   This looked great for quite a while  as the saplings rapidly grew into large shade trees. But,  after a decade or so of growth,   we had a massive infestation of Pine Borer beetles.   They must have thought they were in heaven when they landed on the grounds around the dam,  as there was nothing there but pine trees.   Over a two year period,  the infestation killed off EVERY one of the pine trees.    Had the TVA paid attention to the forestry experts around the area,  they would have ended up with a mixed species forest that would have likely made it more difficult for the Pine Borers to survive – because the pine trees were far more scattered out –  and would have ensured that the appearance of the Reservation would not have been seriously impacted if the pine trees HAD been lost.
  • The fact of the matter is that the ACA, while it does have problems, was a huge step forwards for Americans.  It shielded them from many of the abusive treatments that the Health Care Insurance industry profited from in years past.   it  ended up getting 20 million Americans who had not had insurance before covered so they could have a net in case of catastrophe,  and,  could access preventative care – cutting the number of people in Crisis that showed up at the E.R.   The Republican alternative, as it is turning out,  essentially returns us to the bad old days of unregulated Industry,  promising to kick 24 million people off their coverage,  and likely causing rural hospitals to have to close their doors.   This is a moment where the folks that voted for the donald are getting a cold chill down their spine.  Many of them have just realized that the “Obamacare” they hated is the same package as the ACA – which is providing them with life-saving medications and treatments.  So…when the Obamacare goes away…they will be out in the cold again!   A perfect example of “The Other”  distracting the voters so they will not realize that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
  • As I have pointed out earlier,  not all Muslims are insane,  fanatical fundamentalists;   all but a tiny percentage are living life just like everyone else,  trying to rear their children to be good people,  trying to keep food on the table,  and trying to keep danger and violence out of their lives.
  • Migrant workers do not come to America with the goal of putting Americans out of work.   They come here because even the crappy wages they are paid are much better than they can get in Mexico,  which allows them to live here, and still send money back home to help their families.   They come here as undocumented workers because there is a huge demand on the part of Americans for cheap labor to pick the produce,  clean the houses and hotels,   run the restaurants,  and build the buildings here.

What can we, as Liberals/Progressives do to fight  against this use of “The Other?”   That is a difficult question,  as I have demonstrated here,  the concept of “The Other”  is a basic instinct that cannot be eliminated.   However,  each of us DOES have the ability to look at these instinctive reactions,  and choose not to allow them to control us.   So,  I suggest that ways to help push back and keep the Republicans from exploiting this instinct include the following:

  1. Continue to be aware of the basic concept of “The Other” as a tool of control,  and look at every statement from a politician with care.
  2. Be aware of the images their words generate.   If it feels like those images are of faceless,  scary enemies…step back and do not accept what is being said without question.
  3. if you run into people on Social Media who are caught up in this madness…politely and calmly interact with them,  with the goal of confronting them with the truth,  in the hopes that this will bring them to see reality again.
  4. If they are ranting about “The Other” of the day – The Muslims,  folks from the LGBTQ community,  “Libtards”,  etc,   give it a shot.   However keep in mind that  sometimes there will be no “dialogue” or possibility of dialogue.  As I have pointed out elsewhere,   dealing with Right-Wingers who are caught up in that beau monde of delusion  can be frustrating  because they seem to be immune to facts.    In that case,  I suggest stating the truth,  and moving on.
  5. When you run across a person like this,  remember it is a waste of time and energy to attempt to argue with them,  as that is like playing chess with a pigeon.   The pigeon may always lose, but, it will just strut around  crapping on the board and knocking pieces off it,   and will claim to have won anyway.

God Help Us All!

 

Bee Man Dave

(A) http://anthro.palomar.edu/hominid/australo_1.htm  –  Early hominids (5.3 million years ago)
(B) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other
(C) https://othersociologist.com/otherness-resources/   The concept of “Otherness” as it applies to the tribe,  and how it is often controlled by political movements.
(D) http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/other.html  The other as it applies to other tribal groups
(E) http://www.yiannisgabriel.com/2012/09/the-other-and-othering-short.html  The other and “Othering” – a short introduction
(F) http://www.academia.edu/5033172/The_Construction_of_the_Other_in_Saids_Orientalism_and_Fanons_Black_Skin_White_Masks
(G) http://bigthink.com/risk-reason-and-reality/how-tribalism-overrules-reason-and-makes-risky-times-more-dangerous

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What Drives Republicans?

Greetings and Salutations;

I have been unable to avoid the turmoil over the ongoing madness in the Political world these days.  One thing that I have observed is that the Republicans have pushed a big chunk of their motivations for the ongoing cuts in social services and government  so far behind the rhetoric that it is easy to forget that the programming exists.  However,  it does…and if we fail to recognize it,  the process of understanding and fighting against their “Slash and Burn cuts” to these programs will be more difficult at best,  and impossible at worst.

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Much of the world view of the Republican party leaders is firmly rooted in the philosophy of Objectivism.   This school of thought is based on these precepts:

  1. Materialism –  Objectivists believe there is nothing beyond that which exists as a physical object,  and those objects have intrinsic properties that are independent of other influences.
  2. Realism –  Since everything has a material existence,  and properties,   All that look at an item will see precisely the same thing.
  3. Ethics – Objectivism believes in “Rational Self-Interest”. One’s own self interest is all that has importance,  and,  no person has the obligation to take any concern for the happiness,  needs,  etc,  of any other person.
  4. Politics – The Objectivist does believe that there should be SOME government,  but it should be the minimum needed to provide for property rights, common defense and law.   The government should have no powers outside of these three areas.
  5. Business – Objectivists,  based on these other facets of their belief system,  prefer a laissez-faire capitalism,  where business men are allowed to do pretty much anything they want,  because they understand that becoming too extreme will lose them business and profits.

A somewhat longer and more detailed discussion of this philosophy and its failings is available here..

 

A major proponent of this philosophy was the author, Ayn Rand.  (here is  More information about her life)   Her two major books:   “The Fountainhead” – published in 1943,  and “Atlas Shrugged” – Published in 1957 have  became quite wide-spread,  best sellers.  They have  helped generate a movement that exists today.  However,  her main claim to fame is her creation of  the philosophy of Objectivism.   She used her books  to expand and  polish it to the point it exists today.  For those who have escaped reading Ayn Rand’s works,  here follows a synopsis of her two,  major novels.

  • “The Fountainhead” tells the story of Howard Roark, who is an individualistic young architect who refuses to compromise his artistic and personal vision for worldly recognition and success. The story follows his battle to practice modern architecture while opposed by an establishment centered on tradition. Roark embodies what Rand believed to be the ideal man, and his struggle reflects Rand’s belief that individualism is superior to collectivism. here is a link to a   Further discussion of this book
  • “Atlas Shrugged” depicts a dystopian United States, wherein many of society’s most prominent and successful industrialists abandon their fortunes and even the nation, in response to aggressive new regulations, whereupon most vital industries collapse. The title is a reference to Atlas, a Titan described in the novel as “the giant who holds the world on his shoulders”. The significance of this reference appears in a conversation between the characters Francisco d’Anconia and Hank Rearden, in which d’Anconia asks Rearden what advice he would give Atlas upon seeing that “the greater [the titan’s] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders”. With Rearden unable to answer, d’Anconia gives his own response: “To shrug”.   This,  very lengthy tome (at 1000 pages)  provides a very complete examination of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.   Here are some more information and links about the book

Based on the definition of Ethics used by the Objectivists,   there is no call for society or individuals to provide aid to the disadvantaged.   As a matter of fact,  Ms. Rand,  in “Atlas Shrugged”  expresses quite a bit of contempt for the poor and disabled…calling them  “parasites”, “looters”, and “moochers who demand the benefits of the heroes’ labor”.   She hated the idea of any form of a welfare state,  decrying the very concept ,  and saying that ALL Citizens should succeed on their own with out the help or support of the Government or any other citizen.  What caused this hardening of attitudes towards government and the needy?   Let us look at her life to see if there is any insight there.

Ayn Rand was born into a fairly privileged life in Russia.  During her Formative Years,  her father was a quite well off  Pharmacist,  who apparently had quite a gift for the profession,  and so garnered accolades and wealth.    However, In 1917, her father’s shop was seized by Bolshevik soldiers during the general upheaval of the Civil War that kicked out the Czars and installed the Leninists and the family was shipped off to the Crimea.  In that event, they ended up   losing all of their wealth,  and were forced to  live in poverty until she managed to escape to the United States in 1926.   These events,  at pivotal points in her life,  really solidified her dislike for Government and the power it wields.   I suspect that the 9 years or so of living in the Crimea impacted her too,  as she and her family were one of many in the area who were stripped of wealth,  and likely heard quite a bit of complaining about how they deserved a better life,  and bitter comments  about how the Czars had lived the high life,  and when the Communists,  led by Lenin, took over,  they failed to distribute the wealth evenly as promised,  and so kept most of it for themselves.   If she had a bit too much “hero worship” for her father,  the conflict between the humiliation of being cast into poverty,  and the great life that his perfection had provided would have gone a long way towards killing off any Empathy she might have had for the downtrodden.  it has been my observation over the years that unless a person has spent significant time in self-reflection,  and worked on self-awareness,   that person will ALWAYS assume that everyone around them has a life and skill set that matches their own.

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Does any of the above sound familiar?   It should!   Buried in the proceeding text are most, if not all,  of the basic tenets of the Republican Party as it exists today!

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Most, if not all,  of the Republicans in power now look upon themselves as “Ubermensch”  –  The Overlords –  who have started out with nothing,  but, through the dint of hard work,  persistence,  and their own innate excellence,  have been elevated to the Lofty Position of Leaders of the Citizens.   Listen to their rhetoric.  It drips with the attitude of “I am smarter than you;  I am more educated than you;  I know what is best for you,  far better than what you could understand”.    Right Now,  the administration is working to eliminate  Health Care rules and regulations from the body of Law we live under…They are working to cut back, or eliminate programs such as Medicare/Medicaid  and Social Security.   They are working to build trade barriers that will give the manufacturers in America an advantage.  They are working to eliminate the tax burden that they have right now,   so instead of having to support the parasites,   they can keep all that lovely money for themselves.

The adherents of Objectivism though,  ignore the fact that their picture of their life story is, in most cases,  a lie.   Look at the makeup of Congress and the Administration today.   A vast majority of the Republicans in that body were born to rich parents,  have lived a life of privilege,  and, have NO concept of how the huge majority of Americans live today.   Also,  the fact is, as we are already seeing, they lack Empathy, or concern for anyone who is not themselves, or outside of their immediate family.  Objectivism,  as a basis for an entire society,  is doomed to abject failure.   It fails to take into consideration these very real facts:

  • Too many people are  liars, cheats  and eaten up with greedy twits.   If there is a plate of cookies on a table for all to share,  a vast majority of people will fill their own pockets with the cookies…taking far more than they need and deny others a cookie or two.   They will say, or do,  what ever is necessary to enrich themselves,  and throw others under the bus without blinking.
  • Rational Self-Interest”  is bad for society.   It inevitably leads to businessmen being unable to build a trust relationship that is vital for productivity.   As an example – Business A  makes a deal with Business B to provide parts – say,  milled heads for Diesel Engines – at a given cost  because they have found that Business B’s product is a very reliable one.  Business B is likely to start taking short-cuts in the manufacture of the heads,  so as to increase their profit margin.   Business A  builds a large number of engines  for a pivotal order using these (now inferior) heads.   When the Engines are delivered,  they fail,  and Business A is driven nearly out of business, or out of business.   What is the likelihood that Business A will EVER purchase product from Business B again?   I suggest that they will NEVER do it…because Business B cannot be trusted to provide a product of adequate quality.   Other vendors may cost  more,  but, if they can be TRUSTED to provide a consistent product,   Business A will work with them instead…taking a smaller profit m
  • Too many people are,  liars and greedy twits.   If there is a plate of cookies on a table for all to share,  a vast majority of people will fill their own pockets with the cookies…taking far more than they need and deny others a cookie or two.   They will say, or do,  what ever is necessary to enrich themselves,  and throw others under the bus without blinking.
  • Rational Self-Interest”  is bad for society.   It inevitably leads to businessmen being unable to build a trust relationship that is vital for productivity.   As an example – Business A  makes a deal with Business B to provide parts – say,  milled heads for Diesel Engines – at a given cost  because they have found that Business B’s product is a very reliable one.  Business B is likely to start taking short-cuts in the manufacture of the heads,  so as to increase their profit margin.   Business A  builds a large number of engines  for a pivotal order using these (now inferior) heads.   When the Engines are delivered,  they fail,  and Business A is driven nearly out of business, or out of business.   What is the likelihood that Business A will EVER purchase product from Business B again?   I suggest that they will NEVER do it…because Business B cannot be trusted to provide a product of adequate quality.   Other vendors may cost  more,  but, if they can be TRUSTED to provide a consistent product,   Business A will work with them instead…taking a smaller profit margin  for but likely seeing continued growth of their customer base,  and having a customer base that will keep coming back year after year to buy their product.
  • This is just one example,  but, almost any relationship has the same format.    Look at personal relationships.   Would any of us trust a person who bad-mouthed us behind our backs,  and/or failed to follow through on actions they promised?  I suspect the answer is “No.”  What happens to that relationship where these betrayals happen?  It becomes more and more distant;  we stop sharing experiences,  or making contact with that person.   We end up with them pushed away from us,  or simply an adjunct where we deal with them when we have to,  and then,  only with the minimum amount we have to.
  • Objectivism’s contempt for the disadvantaged will produce a society of classes that are separated by a wall of prejudice and hate.   Its adherence to the idea that every person is responsible for making their own success in the world ignores the fact that there are many times when events outside of our control will cause massive disruption in our lives,  and leave us unable to get back on the ladder without help.   Let us look at a person who has worked at one job for 20+ years,  but loses that job because their company closes.   Thanks to the economy,  including the fluctuations in inflation and the like,  what used to be a decent, if low, salary when they started to work  is now eroded away so much that  they are living  paycheck to paycheck and have no pad to help with disasters like this.   In addition,  they live in a “Right To Work” state…which means no unions,  and no advocates for better pay,  other than them going into the boss’s office and trying to negotiate for more money.   So…they are without income suddenly,  but the bills keep coming in.  Unless they are very lucky,  it can take months to find a new job…in that time,  they can end up homeless,  and starving.   They do not have enough cash to get training for another job…and, perhaps they are learning impaired enough that learning a new job is not likely to be productive in the first place.   What do they do in the Objectivist World?   Starve or freeze to death I suppose…or turn to a life of crime!   What, exactly,  should they have changed in their lives to take control and to avoid this?   To me,  this is the same, basic situation as Ms. Rand went through in 1917.   An outside force blasted in, and totally destroyed the house of cards that was their life.   Now,  in American Society,  at least for the moment,  we have governmental resources that will provide aid for a period of time.   Money and resources for food,  lodging and the basic necessities of life.   What is provided is not enough to allow a comfortable life,  but, it is possible to exist on it.   Oh yes,  by the by,  while Ms. Rand may have expressed contempt for the idea of Governmental Aid,  she was not shy about applying for it on towards the end of her life.   This is discussed here and while it might not be the height of hypocrisy for her to have gotten it,  she did find it uncomfortable enough to be receiving these benefits from the Government she hated,   that she turned over the responsibility for getting the payments set up to another person.
  • A society that is built on the concepts of Objectivism is a tough, and cruel place to live.  I suspect that even the people who advocate it would not actually want to live in it.   The “Dog Eat Dog”  attitudes that it entails ensure that the only way to succeed is to climb on the bodies of those that one has thrown under the bus.    it adds pain and suffering to the lives of many,  and benefits only the few.  The question which I have asked of many Libertarians/Objectivists  is this “IS this the kind of society YOU would want to live in?”   The only people that have answered “Yes” to that question have been the folks that are young and foolish enough to believe that they are immune to disasters in their life.   Most folks simply ignore my question.

So…as you listen to the pontifications of the Republicans in charge…Remember Ayn Rand, their God and Mentor,  and what her  flawed view of how reality should be can bring on.   It explains a lot about the actions they take and the laws they attempt to pass.

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What can we do to combat this?   There are a few, fairly simple steps that can combat this blight on Society.

  1. Do not let the Representatives and SCROTUS slip these cuts through without protest.   Even if you think it will not help to contact these folks…it does.
  2. If you are at a meeting with your Representative,   press them about how their policies are based in the debunked nonsense spread about like manure that Ayn Rand left us.
  3. VOTE!   make it a point to go to the polls and vote for a candidate whose platform and life of service shows that they ARE looking out for ALL of us…not just themselves and their wealthy clique.

Here is some useful information I have gathered together and am scattering around the Net.  Feel Free to repost to your Social Networks…If you have read this far,  you are likely NOT happy with the idea of living in the dystopian society that the Republicans want to create,  so,  hopefully this information will make it easier to contact your Representatives (from local and state up to Federal) to let them know what you feel about the job they are doing:


First off, understand that anyone that tells you that a communication from you as a Constituent, to your Representative is a waste of time, because the politicians only pay attention to the lobbyists that write them the big checks, is lying to you. They are likely fearful that if you DO contact your Representative, it will destroy their chances for some big score from the Government.
Now…to help change your government and what it is doing, there are some simple things to do.
1) Use this tool – https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members or this one https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials to track down YOUR Representatives.
2) Email or call them to let them know your objection or support for the item of interest. When you do this, be SURE to follow these guidelines:
…..a) Be Clear about what you are talking about.
…..b) Do not write a lengthy, emotional rant. Be polite, and simply tell them whether you support or oppose the issue, and give them a single reason why you feel that way.
…..c) Repeat as necessary.

CLING to the basic truth that “All that Evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing” and use that as motivation to send that next Email or make that next phone call.

Your Elected officials pay attention when 10,000 emails show up. They pay attention when thousands of constituents call them up. Why? Well, it is fairly simple. They like their jobs! They know that the folks that are contacting them are the voters that care and are paying attention to what they are doing. They are also the people that can vote for someone else if they are sufficiently unhappy with the job the incumbent is doing.

Politicians might ignore a petition with 10,000 signatures, but, 10,000 emails, phone calls, or snail mail notes make a big impact and will get their attention.

Feel free to distribute this block of text. It is available for use under the Open Source License – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_license. The only limits are that it must stay intact (but can be extended) and I would appreciate a credit if used.


God Help Us All

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Bee Man Dave

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Sifting Through The Ashes, Part Fifteen: Who are the Monsters?

Greetings and Salutations;

 

 

This post, from Michael Adam Latz,  showed up on my FaceBook feed this morning.   It is so full of truth and foreboding  that I decided to post it here,  so,  with luck,  many more will see it, and think about its message.

 

 

 

 

Of all the photographs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that wrecked my heart, this one was the absolute worst.

 

Why?

 

It shows soldiers from Auschwitz, the Concentration Camp where more than 1,000,000 Jews and others were murdered in the gas chambers, enjoying a day off.

 

Look at these people!

 

Seemingly ordinary soldiers on a day off, enjoying themselves. How many people had they already tortured and murdered? How many more would they gas to death?

 

Photos of Trump and Bannon don’t frighten me.

 

What terrifies me are the seemingly ordinary Americans who work at the Justice Department, for ICE, for the police department, for the airports and customs and TSA, for any department of government, who, in the course of their job, will carry out atrocities and fail to resist immoral orders and directives.

 

Our moral obligation is to encourage resistance and resilience in every sector of our society. Keep speaking about resistance! Call upon “ordinary” people to act morally, to resist immoral directives from their superiors, to rise every day with moral courage.

 

It is up to each and every one of us to resist.

 

 

 

The fact is,  as this comment shows,   the lie that “Only Monsters could do this”  is wrong.   It is a fact that each of us has, within ourselves,  the ability to be that Monster that would dutifully herd people into gas chambers,  and their corpses into the ovens.   Think this is simply the opinion of one,  flaky guy out there,  ranting on the Internet?   Let me introduce you to the work of Ron Jones,   a teacher at Elwood P. Cubberley Senior High School, Palo Alto, California, USA.   In 1967,  he  created what was supposed to be a small experiment to see how difficult it would be to get a group of ordinary kids to act as the guards mentioned above did.   I suggest you take a moment to read the entire story of the experience.  There were other articles and movies that looked at this experiment.   In short,  it took almost NO time for the privileged students to begin acting JUST like the Auschwitz guards.

 

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I mentioned the Stanford Prison Cell experiment above.   This psychological experiment,  done in 1971,  was also designed to test how long it would take for ordinary people to treat others as the guards at the German Prison Camps treated them.   As it turned out,  once again,   the results were quick…and chilling.   Here is a link to the page which documents the experiment.      Here is a discussion of how the results of that experiment could be applied to today’s world, specifically,  the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib

 

 
Finally,   there is the infamous “Milgrim Experiment”.    The test was created to see if people would follow orders to electrocute strangers.   Well,  sadly enough,  they were,  and,  thought nothing of doing it.   I recall this experiment,  and the reports that the people pushing the button to turn the electricity on would keep punching it past the point that,  if it had been “real”,  the subject would have died.    Sadly enough,  as this article  describes,  a recent re-run of the experiment shows that things have not changed in the least.

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As Mr. Latz  points out…All that Evil needs to succeed is for people of good will to do nothing.   Right now,  we are in a political situation that bears chilling resemblance to the two experiments in the psychology of humanity I have quoted here.   Specifically…read the techniques used in the Stanford Prison Experiment…and compare them with what is happening today with the current Administration.   We must not choose to be the good people who stood by and did nothing to stop the evil.   We must not ignore what is happening just over the hill.   We must not pretend that the fall of ashes the winds blow into our village,  like a flurry of terrible snowflakes  has nothing to do with us,  or is not as bad as it might be.

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RESIST!

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God Help Us All

 

Bee Man Dave

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An Update On The Bee World

Greetings and Salutations;
The world of the Bees continues to be complicated.    The issue of bee deaths is a problem still,  as the scientists are still trying to understand how the colonies work,  and what the environment stresses  do to affect them.    There have been a number of arguments over the past decade or so  as to what has caused the die off of colonies –  the “Colony Collapse Disorder” problem.    Slowly data is coming in,  and, while we are still trying to interpret it,  at least progress has been happening.
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The massive die-off of colonies started in,  about 2004,  and has continued on since then.   I recall in 2004/2006  there were beekeepers who were losing 60% to 80% of their bees.   This fueled a great deal of concern in the world,   as people suddenly realized that a huge percentage of the food that keeps them alive is pollinated by bees!  No Bees?  No Food!  There after been a couple of interesting articles that have shown up in the Cyber-Ocean discussing the situation,  so I thought I would post them here…
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First off  There is an interesting article in an Organics/Holistic Health website.  –   Now,  this article is really pushing the idea that it is a big problem with NeoNic Pesticides and some herbicides  that are damaging the colonies.   This IS a good point,  and I have to say that I agree with it to a point.    There are also links to sources on this article that allow for further research.
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A more conservative view was presented by Forbes Magazine.   It appears to be fairly level-headed,  in that it admits that there is a problem,  but, is fairly positive about the outcome of the difficulties.  Of course,  being a conservative,  money-oriented publication,  it does blow off the issues of the effects of the NeoNics on the colony…which I think is not a wise move.  However, if their data is correct,   and I have not checked it yet,  it appears that the big die-off of the 2004/2006  time frame has eased off,  and the number of colonies seems to be fairly stabilize now.  We shall see.
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The bee population in the United States  does face some serious challenges.  Challenges  that are putting severe pressure on them and making it harder for them to survive.   One other issue (which is examined in more detail in the Forbes article)  is the spread of Varroa Mites across the country.  These parasites are really bad for the bees  in that they spread through a colony,  integrate themselves into the brood cells,  and weaken all the bees in the colony.    Now,  one thing that is helping that situation a bit is the introduction of Russian bees into the gene pool of the American bees.  The Russian bees are very resistant to the mites,  and seem to help the situation quite a bit.   The battle continues!
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More later
Bee Man Dave

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Sifting Through The Ashes, Part Fourteen – Revisiting Health Insurance. A “Better” Plan?

Greetings and Salutations;

Well,  back in January,  I wrote a blog entry about the Paul Ryan plan to replace the ACA.  That plan was,  frankly,  bat-shit crazy,  in that it was essentially taking us back to the abusive days that ended a decade ago, with the implementation of the ACA..and was centered around the idea of a Tax-Free Healthcare Savings Accounts.   At the time,   I expressed my opinion that this was a BAD idea,  and discussed why I thought so.

 

Well,  the Republicans have finally released their proposal for the laws that will replace the ACA.   It,  frankly,  makes the Ryan plan look like the height of mercy and rationality.   When Shawn Spicer held his Press Conference to announce this nonsense,  his biggest selling point was that it was a much smaller stack of paper than the ACA!  It is 125 pages or so long.  The ACA is around 2000 pages,  so that is true.   However, as anyone with a lick of sense understands,  the ACA is a complicated piece of legislation,  that deals with a lengthy laundry list of problems with the Health Insurance Industry; unregulated areas that allowed them to abuse the Consumers and reap huge profits in the process..   So,  yes…it did take a lot of pages of text to detail all that it wanted to accomplish.   The simple fact that the Republican alternative is a fraction of its size simply means that the this alternative has some serious problems at dealing with these complicated issues.

 

While this is not a comprehensive List of the issues with the Republican debacle,  here are some high points that provide examples of where it fails the American Consumer.

 

  • End the requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty (sometimes called the shared responsibility provision). This would, according to one draft, be retroactive to after January 1, 2016, so that there would be no penalty on 2016 taxes   This is going to be a problem,  because the result will be that the younger,  healthier folks that take up some of the burden of the costs of health care  will likely drop that insurance, and go back to doing without again.  Of course,  this will ensure that the the amount of money available to cover insurance payouts will plummet.   It will also result in a much larger pool of Citizens who have no insurance,  so,  will depend on the Emergency Rooms for help when disaster hits,  and,  will likely walk away from that debt – raising the costs for the remainder of the folks.
  • End the requirement that certain employers (typically those with 50 or more employees) offer insurance to their employees.  I am sure that many companies will drop the insurance they have been required to offer their employees as quickly as possible.  I am also sure that the cash that these companies save from not having to pay out these insurance premiums will NOT go into the pockets of the workers.   Rather,  it will go into the pockets of the Management and Stock Holders in the company.  Of course, this will screw the consumer over because it will force them to go out into the market, and purchase health insurance on their own.   
  • Expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) by nearly doubling the cap (max contributions for 2017 are currently $3,400 for individuals or $6,750 for families, more on how they work here).  As I pointed out in my previous Blog entry,  HSAs are great if one has spare cash to drop into it.  However,  for the vast number of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck,  it is likely that they will NEVER put anything into a HSA..and if they can,  it will be a small amount.   Now,  The limits that this law places on contributions to a HSA are foolish also.  the caps are so low that the only way to get ahead is to never use the HSA.   It is trivial these days for a single visit to an ER, which mostly consists of sitting around waiting for attention for several hours,  to cost $5000…and an admission from the ER kicks the immediate debt up to $10,000 or more.  I just heard about a study by the Government  that came to the conclusion that at least half of the Citizens would not be able to cover a $400 cost for an emergency.  Their only emergency net is to put a charge like this on a credit card.   Now,  this could be a problem for the millions of Americans who do not have a credit card.  Also,  getting a loan like this through a credit card is ruinously expensive.  The interest rates on credit cards is always a huge percentage of the costs of using them,  and cause the amount owed to grow like Kudzu iuntil the balance is paid off.
  • Repeal of the premium health tax credit.   This is a “Luxury tax” on the high end policies,  and really only affected the people with $1,000,000 or more in yearly income.
  • Implement a tax credit ($2,000-$14,000/year) for taxpayers who do not receive insurance through their employer or a government program. Again,  like many program proposals by the current administration, the specifics of this tax credit are still unsettled: the options for the credit range from it being income based  to an age based calculation. Now, the draft may well incorporate both options.  A chart of these proposals is on page eight of the draft bill.
  • End federal funding for Planned Parenthood and any other healthcare providers that even MENTION the idea of abortion.  There are also other restrictions on coverage related to abortion – the term “abortion” appears 29 times in one version of the draft bill.  This is a terrible idea for several reasons.   First off,  this tramps all over the separation of Church and State,  as laid out in the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.   Secondly,  PP  offers a huge number of female health care services, including cancer screening,  prenatal care, etc.  It also spends a big chunk of time working with clients to help them find what is best for THEM.   Fourthly,  the Abortion part of their services is a tiny percentage of their services.    Finally,   Planned Parenthood  traditionally  builds its clinics in the areas that are ignored by the other,  For-Profit clinics.  So,  PP is providing a vital service for the poorer communities in America.   Removing funding from PP for their abortion services would be like killing your spouse because they broke their big toe.
  • Repeal a number of taxes (like the tanning tax, Net Income Investment Tax, Medicare surtax and medical device excise tax) used to pay for Obamacare.  Since these are a big source of funding for the subsidies of the ACA,  this will also leave us with an unfunded mandate that will,  unless other sources of revenue are found,  increase the Deficit, and hence,  the Debt.
  • Allow over-the-counter medications to be qualifying expenses for HSAs and similar plans
  • Restore the 7.5% floor on medical expense deductions.  This would be more impressive if it had not increased to 10% for taxpayers in 2016.
  • A big part of the ACA  is that it has quite a few provisions which provide support for research into ways to cure and prevent  the ills of humanity.   TrumpCare eliminates this funding.   So,  for example, funding for research into Colo-Rectal cancer will go away completely or, at best, be cut quite a bit.   This will lead to more people getting the problem, and any possible treatment for it being pushed off into the distant future.     As the old saying says “An ounce of Prevention  is better than a pound of Cure”.

Since the Republicans are seeing a groundswell of opposition from their Constituents who are realizing that if “Obamacare” goes away,  so does their coverage under the ACA (yes…there are a large percentage of Right-Wingers who do not realize that ObamaCare and the ACA are the same thing)  some of the provisions of the ACA are retained by this new proposal.  These include the following:

 

  • Children would be allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
  • Insurance companies would not be able to deny coverage or charge more for those with preexisting medical conditions. Of course,  because the Insurance Industry has big pull with the Republicans,  they are changing this so that if a person loses their coverage,  when they get new insurance the agency will be able to charge them a much higher premium.
  • Coverage in states with Medicaid expansion would remain.  However,  there are changes to coverage being moved through by the States,  which will cut down on the insurance available,  and likely will increase the costs of insurance.
  • Employers would still be required to report the value of health insurance benefits on forms W-2.  This  WAS important because it was proof that you had insurance during the year, and so were exempted from the penalty.  However, with the penalty gone,  this seems a waste of paper.   But NO!  there is a reason for it!  See the NEXT set of notes.

 

Some provisions had been discussed but didn’t make it into the draft proposal – but that doesn’t mean they’re completely off the table. Those include:

 

  • Taxing employer-provided benefits. Currently, health care provided by your employer is tax-free.  However, the above reporting on the W-2 will make it trivial to slip it into the “Taxable Income” bracket,  as the amount will already be included in the tax forms filed for each worker.   Guess who will get screwed by THIS little Revenue Enhancing measure?
  • Repealing the “Cadillac tax” on high-end health care provided by employers. At this point in time,  the tax is not being collected,  as it was scheduled to begin in 2020.  However, this  proposal would push off the tax from 2020 to 2025.

 

 

What can we do about this?   I suggest a few steps that are easy,  take little time, and can have a significant effect.

 

1)  Take a few minutes and Email your Federal Representatives,  and the SCROTUS.   Here is a tool that will make it easy to track down the appropriate contact pages and Email addresses  In your Email, be polite about it,  but, very clear about the fact that you strongly oppose the repeal of the ACA, and the substitution of TrumpCare for it.

 

2)  Vote.    In the coming elections,  make it a point to go to the polls and cast a vote for the candidate that BEST expresses the values you support.  No candidate will be perfect (unless YOU are running for the office),  but,  focus less on their mistakes of judgment, and more on their views that reflect yours.

 

3)  Support your neighbors, friends and family in voting.   Get them rides to the polls, or take them to the polls.   Help them get registered.   Do what is necessary to ensure that their rights as a citizen are not blocked by draconian and convoluted laws that are designed to keep them from being registered to vote.   Support them and remind them that it is VITAL that every Citizen take a little time and vote.

 

If we all do just one or two small, and painless things like this,   it will be possible for us to actually take back control of America from the politicians that are running things now.

 

God Help Us All!

 

Bee Man Dave

 

 

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Allegiance? Allegiance to WHAT?

Greetings and Salutations;

Today, February 19th 2017, is the 75th anniversary of a shameful event in America’s history. Executive Order 9066 (issued on February 19, 1942), signed by FDR, authorized the forced removal and Internment of approximately 120,000 Japanese-American citizens. These folks were immigrants who had lived in the country for decades. a third of them were children…making them “Natural Born Citizens”. Why was this done? The attack on  Pearl Harbor had awakened an irrational fear in the mind of the public. The Japanese had attacked on, of course, December 7, 1941. Over the next month or so, a wave of paranoia swept the country, and ALL people of Asian descent were looked upon with suspicion. There were rumors that they were here, spying on the war effort, and preparing for an attack from the inside of the country. These rumors were false, created and pushed by faceless people. Some of the rumors started out of fear. Some, I suspect, were pushed by people who held an agenda to acquire more assets for next to nothing from the dispossessed Citizens.

Japanese-Americans, Interned
in 1942

If you want to see some video,  click HERE

These videos have many more pictures and information on the events of the day.

 

In spite of the fact that these were hard-working, American families, and there was NO evidence of any anti-American sentiment or actions among them, after the E.O. was signed, Army troops were dispatched to tens of thousands of homes, marched up to the door with rifles loaded, and bayonets fixed, rounded up the folks living there, put them on a train, and dragged them out into various remote, unpleasant locations. There was no talk of Constitutional Rights, or Citizenship…society turned into a panicked, fearful, wild animal, and struck out at “The Other”. These Citizens lost millions of dollars of assets, often having to sell their property for pennies on the dollar; They lost their community, when it turned against them; They lost their businesses and their jobs;   They lost their dignity,  and worst of all,   they lost their Constitutionally protected Rights.

 

The living conditions they were put in were poor, to say the least. The camps had barracks built, but, they were of the shoddiest construction – Light construction,  No insulation; no attempts to seal against air leaks; public toilets, located in separate buildings. Food was short, and medicines almost non-existent. The excuse for that was the fact that it was war time, and everyone had to deal with shortages. Of course, it is also true that for many of the White Americans living in the area, and the White guys guarding the camps, these were the enemy…they LOOKED just like them, after all, and if the troops overseas were able to engage in terrible atrocities against our boys, these families were likely to do the same thing. So…supplies, I am sure, “disappeared” or were diverted to the War Effort.  Every year now,  on the Last Weekend in April,  the Survivors of these camps,  and their families,  hold a “Rememberance Day” to recall that dark time,  and show respect for those that lived through it but are now gone.  One of the camps,  at Manzanar, is now a National Historic Site,  and has a museum  and some re-built structures and fences.   HERE  is an strong essay about the 2016 gathering.  It is really worth reading….so go ahead…come on back when you are finished…I will be waiting!
George Takei was a 5 year old boy when his family was swept up by this madness. He was old enough to recall very clearly the time in the camps, although, as he says He looked at it through the eyes of a child – protected and insulated from some of the horror by his parents, and, unaware of how his Civil Rights had been violated. A decade or so ago, though, he was moved to ensure that this event in American History was not forgotten. It easily could have been, as I, for example never heard word one about it all the way through the history courses at High School. So, he, in collaboration with others, worked to create a Musical dealing with that period. Titled “Allegiance“, it is certainly in a class by itself.  First off, it proves that Musicals need not be laugh riots (See “Oklahoma”, for example) While there are moments of humor in it, it is a challenging movie to watch. To be drawn into that period of horror and unfair treatment, and to see how these people leaned on their inner strength to come through it with dignity and honor caused me to weep. The human tragedies played out in the film are engrossing and very real. All the performances are honest and strong…perhaps, partly because a large percentage of the performer’s families had been in the United States during World War 2, and so had been a PART of this Internment. George Takei played a couple of roles in the production, and I have to give him high marks for that. His portrayal of two characters (the Grandfather of the protagonist’s family, and the protagonist himself at an advanced age) was subtle and very well done. The two characters were similar enough that it was obvious that they came from the same blood-line, yet different enough to create two, distinct people that we, the audience could relate to.

I mention these two things in my preface, because,  today,  my wife and I went to see the movie. This is the second time it has been released for a short (I.E. one day) run, and, alas, we missed it last year. My wife asked me, as we were heading out from the theatre whether I enjoyed it. Some questions are difficult to answer, and this was one of them. As I told her, I thought it was a very worthwhile thing to see, and I did not regret the time at all. However, I am still in a Dark enough place that to say I “Enjoyed” it would be a stretch. It was hard to have such a clear reminder of what despicable and narrow minded people we Americans can be. However, if any of you have a chance to go see “Allegiance” I STRONGLY urge you to make the time, and watch it. I also suggest that you arrange the schedule so you can go to a nice restaurant afterward, have a good meal, and chat about the production, and digest what you have just seen.

“Allegiance” is important today not just for the fact that it examines a serious failure of America,  but, also as a warning that we need to watch out for, and fight against, events like that ever happening again.  Sadly, this warning is too relevant today. Look at the current administration, and the message it is pushing over and over again about Muslims. Followers of Islam are the new group of “The Others” that inspire hatred and fear among too many Americans. Some of the actions called for by the current administration have sounded chillingly like the actions and decisions that FDR took in 1942. Let us, as Americans live up to that motto “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”. Do NOT become sucked into the Evil that the administration preaches, and repeat the mistakes of E.O. 9066. As “Allegiance” points out, this contaminates society, and makes us far worse than we should be. It can cause hateful words that truly hurt to be hurled back and forth, and leave wounds that separate us for decades.

Please…this one time…learn from our history of past mistakes, and fight to avoid repeating them.

God Help Us All

Bee Man Dave

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Sifting Through The Ashes, Part Thirteen – The Republican Party

Greetings and Salutations;

This article “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”  came across my desktop today. It was so relevant to the insanity in the Political World today that I thought I would send it out into the Cyber Ocean myself.

Written some  four years ago, ,  in an opinion piece in the Washington Post,   the observations voiced in it are still  very true and worryingly relevant.  The situation has, alas, gotten so much worse since then. The Republican party has become a collection of raving, mad fanatics, who, like the mindless Zombies in “The Walking Dead” and similar programs are moving towards destruction of our world.  Although they claimed they were wanting to “Make America Great Again”,  so far, there have been no signs that this is happening.   All the changes they are implementing help the 1%ers, and hurt the rest of us..

Can America survive this collection of madness, intolerance, and the lack of governing skill? I fear that the answer is “No”, and that the coming Winter will be one of the worst periods for America that it has ever seen. The Democrats have their problems, of course, but in comparison with the hive of madness that the Republicans are caught in now, they are like a couple of  kittens spatting over a catnip toy.

What, then, can we, as Citizens, do about this problem? Let me hit some high points here.

  • I have been puzzled by this last Presidential election ever since the campaigns kicked off.
    One problem for me was the length of time that the dog and pony show went on.  24 months for a political campaign is just a bad idea.  It seems to me that a few months (say 3 months) should be quite sufficient time to allow the candidates to debate each other several times, and to re-enforce the points of the party platform.  This last General Election campaign was so long, and so full of hateful rhetoric it simply ended up producing a weary population that would  do almost anything to get it to stop.
  • We, as a country, should not tolerate the blatant and constant lies presented by the Republicans. The statistics from the fact checkers show that for every single lie produced by a Democratic party candidate, the Republicans produced hundreds of lies and slander. Some time ago, I offered a “Three Strikes” rule to govern the campaigns. It is pretty simple,  but,  I hope,  not simplistic.  I said that if a candidate is shown to have generated a “Pants on Fire” lie – a lie so egregious that even his supporters say “WOW!!! I cannot believe he said that!”, THREE times…they should be banned from the current campaign and not allowed to run for office for at least 10 years.
  • We must, as a Country, elect politicians who have principles, and yet are not so fanatical that they will reject the tool of compromise. For me, compromise is defined as “the art of horse trading so that both parties walk away feeling as if they have gotten the best of the deal” I am sure I do not have to give examples of how this art has been crushed to death, burned and the ashes scattered to the corners of the world by the Republicans over the past 20 years or so. Giving up a little bit in order to get a majority of one’s agenda is a smart way to live.
  • Speaking of Principles, we, as a People, must be willing to keep an active view of our Representatives. We need to keep track of them, and if they are not truly representing our views, we need to vote them out and replace them. We are pretty terrible at this, though.  Even in the last, highly contested, election, where emotions ran high, and there were continual screams about “Cleaning out the Swamp” and “We want CHANGE” and such, the fact is that nearly 100% of the incumbents were returned to office. That is not cleaning out anything, or making changes. It is sucking up to the status quo as if it was the only life-raft in the middle of the ocean!
  • As Citizens, it is vital that we stay engaged in the political process. In the last election, the president elect got 24% of the total possible votes. He LOST THE POPULAR VOTE by 2.8 million votes…and only took the Office because he and his team knew how to play the system. Nearly half the possible voters did not even bother to go to the poles!   It can be  challenging to vote, as life can be difficult and complicated.  but it is vital to make that effort if we truly love our country,  and want to improve it.. This huge pool of non-voters is one of the major reasons that we have a clown in office that is turning America into a focus of mockery all around the world  and working as fast as he can to destroy all social progress made in the past 40 plus years.
  • We need to ensure that the results of the Election represent the will of the people. There are three major changes that need to happen for this to be true. 1) the massive gerrymandering that perverts the ability of voters to register and vote on an level playing field needs to vanish. All districts in America need to be re-drawn, preferably by computer, according to the population in an area…NOT by political parties. 2) The State Laws which hobble the Electoral College need to be repealed. 3) The Electors in the College have GOT to understand what their job is. In this last election the College Voters failed to uphold their Mandate, as expressed by Hamilton in the Federalist Papers #68. They have become a rubber stamp for the election results and this is NOT right.

Will this happen? I doubt it, because Americans are liars. They lie to each other, and they lie to themselves about what they really want. The claim was that they wanted change in this last election. Yet, what they voted for was a crazy combination of clinging to the status quo, and wanted to burn the house down…never mind the fact that they are locked in the living room of that house!  The Republicans are not likely to support such change,  as they benefit from it.  After all,  they took control of the government in the last election  thanks to those weaknesses in the system.

We do not have to be the “perfect activist”.  We do not have to be out chaining ourselves to construction equipment;  or being arrested at protests;  or chasing down our Representatives all the time and pressuring them to support or oppose a given issue.    It can be as simple as spending five minutes  sending an email or calling one’s Representative,  and letting them know what your feelings are on an issue when we see news of something important to us.

It can be learning the skills to talk with people of opposing views, and not simply end up in a screaming match.  One of these is to start the conversation with the understanding that neither of your is going to change the other person’s mind!   A good technique is listening to what they say,  and then restating it back to them.  In theory,  this shows them that you ARE listening to them and their concerns,  and are not simply dismissing them.   This is pretty difficult to do these days, alas,  as there was so much emotion in the past election, and the chaos that started with that unexpected result is still stirring up a really deep and dark pool,  that it is too easy for the conversation to deteriorate into taking stances,  and name-calling.

I hope I am proven wrong, of course, but, one of my rules for living is “Hope for the best, but expect the worst”. So far, my expectations have been met.

God Help Us All

Bee Man Dave

 

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