Saturday, July 1, 2023

Extreme Supremes Endanger Democracy

In slightly more than one year this current Supreme Court has stripped more Americans of their rights than any past Supreme Courts.

Their conservative agenda gets more extreme every day. Thus far they have ended nationwide protections for abortion rights by overturning Roe vs Wade.

In the last week the conservative court decided that race-conscious admissions programs at the oldest private and public colleges in the country, Harvard and the University of North Carolina, were unlawful by overturning Affirmative Action.

They followed that up with striking down Biden's student loan relief plan stopping 43 million people from being able to participate in the loan forgiveness program.

The court also ruled in favor of a web designer who opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds and refused to make web designs for the LGBTQ community. Another step towards disenfranchising millions of Americans. All toward the extremist goals of making a segment of Americans second class citizens.

And...

The rightwing so-called religious agenda got a boost when the court broadened accommodations that employers must make for workers' religious practices, siding with a postal worker who was disciplined for refusing to work on Sundays for religious reasons.

I won't be surprised to see a sudden rush of postal employees and workers across the spectrum get religion. They don't even have to attend a church to claim the new exemption. I'm curious to see how far this dodge goes. You can bet the new exemption will open more doors and demands.

Organized labor took a hit from the Supremes who just made it easier for employers to sue over strikes, in a ruling siding with a concrete business in Washington state that sued the union representing its truck drivers.

It'll take a year or more to fully realize what these damaging decisions have done in an already polarized society.

As it stands, President Biden is doing all he can with a divided congress to address the wrongs the Supremes have wrought. For the country's sake Biden needs to be re-elected or Trump will finish the job by taking away all of our rights and freedoms under his fascist regime.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Story Time: The Sea Cook's Cat

For a change of pace here's a short story I wrote a couple of years ago.

Baily, the ship’s carpenter,
 reluctantly sat up in his hammock, nearly missing his head on the wooden beam that stretched across the cramped quarters. 

As usual he was in a foul mood and didn’t want to work in the captain’s cabin building more shelves. As he got to his feet a big black cat shot between his legs like a blinding flash in pursuit of an enormous rat.

“You devil!” he squawked while pulling his shirt on. “Startles me every time” he grumbled to himself as he trudged up the stairs and onto the deck. The blinding sun made him swear an undecipherable oath as he pulled his tricorn hat down over his brow. Seagulls' screams told him they were getting near land. He didn’t have time to eat. The captain expected him at eight bells and he knew the penalty if he wasn’t there on time. The whip. Just the thought hurried his pace.

Jason the cook was sitting on a stool peeling potatoes (it was early in the voyage and the ship’s food supply was still well stocked) when a black cat sauntered in with a grin. Jason smiled because he knew Lucifer had recently dined on a rat. He stopped peeling long enough to pet the huge cat who was brushing up against his legs.

Lucifer was Jason’s cat. He paid good money for him at the last port because he was special. He was a polydactyl cat. His front paws both had eight toes each which he used to his advantage in catching prey. His prior owner said he was retiring from the sea and needed the money. A prized cat like Lucifer could make life a lot easier on the whole crew. Food containers were rarely breeched because the wily feline never stopped hunting. Day and night. But, for reasons Jason couldn’t understand most of the crew, and the captain, seemed to fear him. Some, like Bailey, just hated Lucifer and would have gladly killed him if he didn’t think the crazy cook would cut him up into shark chum. He’d seen Jason fight with a butcher knife when two pirate ships tried to capture their ship the USS Ohio near Port au Prince, Haiti. His eyes were glazed with blood lust as he lopped off pirate limbs with such savagery his own mates gave him wide berth in battles. No. It was best not to antagonize the cook.

Sailors in the 18th century were a superstitious lot. So, it was no surprise that the crew aboard the USS Ohio thought a black cat brought bad luck, unlike the British and the Irish who wanted black cats and considered them good luck. The fact that its name was Lucifer didn’t help. It was also common knowledge among the crew that if a ship’s cat fell or was thrown overboard it meant trouble. The act would summon a terrible storm to sink the ship and that if the ship were able to survive, it would be cursed for nine years. So, no one bothered Jason about his black cat. Only Bailey dreamed about killing Lucifer.

Daniel had the devil to pay. He was caught stealing another man’s gold chain and given the worst task aboard the ship. The devil was the ship’s longest seam in the hull. He was given pitch to caulk that seam while squatting in the filthy bilges. He’d already received a good flogging – ten lashes – and endured the stinging saltwater thrown on his bloody gashes. The task could take days, but he couldn’t come up until it was completed. His moans of pain echoed eerily in the semi-darkness as Lucifer watched him with his curious yellow cat eyes. The lone candle flickered, almost going out, before returning to a steady glow that caused shadows to frolic in the filth. Then Lucifer came up to him confidently and asked, “Do you believe in God? "

Harry and Spencer, we’re enjoying a rare moment of rest by the scuttlebutt – a water barrel with a hole cut in it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. Rumors about what happened to their mate Daniel were rife among the crew and even officers. After a day of paying the devil the bosun’s mate had come down to check on Daniel. He let out a gasp of horror and vomited when he saw him. Daniel’s eyes were gone. Plucked out and sitting on his lap. His hair had turned from brown to pure white. He was peacefully chewing on his right arm, exposing bone as he ripped off gobbets of flesh. Nearby, Lucifer was curled up and watching the bosun’s mate scream for help.

The incident left all hands-on board shaken. When Daniel’s condition was brought up to the captain, he crossed himself and walked away without commenting. When they got to port a day later, Daniel was dead. The ship’s surgeon had sawed off his infected right arm, but it was too little, too late. The ship’s log recorded seaman Daniel Phillips died from an infection from a self-inflicted wound. There was no mention of plucked-out eyeballs. Or his white hair. They stayed in port for two days unloading cargo and onloading new cargo. During that time one of the sailors deserted. A mate of his said he feared Lucifer more than getting strung up on the yardarm for desertion.

His work finished in the captain’s cabin, Bailey was below decks working on the wooden gun carriage that had been cracked in the last battle when he heard something, “You’re next,” a silky voice assured him. He gripped his hammer tighter and called out, “Show yourself, coward!” There was a rustling among the small oak barrels that held gun powder. Piles of rags and cannon swabs near them shifted with unseen movement. A sudden cold wind blew past him. The normally stifling hot gun deck seemed to cool down a few degrees as he listened for more movement.

“I’m not afraid of you Lucifer!” he screamed, sure now that the cat was indeed the devil.

A dark pall fell over the entire crew, with the exception of Jason who went about his normal day, content with the companionship of his cat.

A feeling of foreboding kept everyone nervous. As the days turned to weeks the crew’s fears were palpable. Strange little incidents were happening daily. Rope knots would inexplicably come loose causing close calls for sailors climbing the rigging. A bad case of “the trots” affected half the crew who squatted below decks over wooden pails for a week. Moral got lower every day. Rumors about Lucifer were passed around in hushed whispers. Meanwhile, Bailey had enough. His hate for Lucifer was white hot. It burned his brain and his patience, causing him to formulate a plan to kill the demon feline. He had to wait weeks, but the opportunity finally came.

He pulled out the wooden cage to capture Lucifer with from its hiding place. It was solidly built to hold the black devil captive long enough to throw him overboard. Everyone below deck was asleep so Bailey was careful not to make any noise. When he got to the base of the stairway leading to the main deck, he positioned the cage on its side with the door propped open with a piece of string leading to his hiding place by the scuttlebutt. Inside the cage was a live rat Baily had caught the day before. Using tough twine, he made a halter for the rodent that was tethered by a nail on the side of the box. The rat was on a short string stopping it from scurrying away. He waited for an hour before Lucifer struck! It was over in an instant. Bailey pulled the cord, and the trapdoor came down on the startled cat who had the rat in his mouth. Dropping the half dead rodent Lucifer screeched so loud it woke everyone up. The sounds coming from Bailey’s box were blood curdling.

Moving swiftly, he went topside and threw the box into the calm sea. Jason, who was asleep in his own little cubby was locked inside that night by Bailey. By the time he battered the door down Bailey had returned to his hammock. No one knew why the cook was rampaging around the room and what caused the screeches that woke them up.

A day passed before Jason decided something bad had made his cat howl like a lost soul, and the crew was complicit. The first thought that came to mind was he’d poison all the bastards. That way he’d be sure to get the perpetrator of Lucifer’s disappearance. It turned out that he didn’t have to do anything about it.

A terrible storm come up from the north causing massive waves that battered the ship like a toy for hours before it broke apart and sank with all hands-on board.

With the exception of Jason who clung to a wooden box.

Miraculously, the seas were calm the next day when a ship came by, and Jason was spotted by a sharp-eyed sailor. He clutched the wooden box securely to his chest as they helped him get in the rowboat. Once on deck of the ship, the USS Vermont, Jason opened the box and pulled out Lucifer. To a man, the crew crossed themselves.

the end

Thursday, June 29, 2023

It's Final - Famous 'Bigfoot' Film Clip Exposed as Fraud by AI

It was a sad day for conspiracy theorists who believed that the famous 1967 Bigfoot (or sasquatch) sighting on grainy film was true.

The controversial clip known as the Patterson-Gimlin film has been analyzed numerous times over the years with mixed results. Some thought it was true, and others thought it was a prank.

Then Bigfoot conspiracists biggest fear came true. 

The hoax was definitively exposed by social media user Rowan Cheung. He's the kind of guy who stays up on the latest developments in the world of artificial intelligence.

Cheung posted footage of the clip stabilized and de-grained and the results are clearer than ever before. Bigfoot was just some guy in a gorilla costume.

This isn't the only Bigfoot story to surface this year. People have claimed to have discovered a sighting of Bigfoot via Google Maps.

Full disclosure I use to live in Humboldt County where Bigfoot was heavily marketed for tourists. 

When I came up to Humboldt in the late 1970s the story wasn't that old, and I got to talk with locals who lived in the Six-River Forest area where the fake film made its debut.

Most of the people I met knew it was a made-up story by liked the publicity it brought to their area. It increased tourism/jobs in the area for years. Heck, it still does.

As it stands, I would have liked to meet those two adventuresome pranksters.

related video - 2005 Bigfoot Patterson film hoax solved.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

For the Record: Patriotism is the Exact Opposition of Nationalism

With Trump perverting the meaning of nationalism and patriotism it's time to define both of the words that have been so abused by the extreme right.

According to Charles de Gaulle, who led Free France against Nazi Germany during World War II and later became president of France,

"Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first."

George Orwell, the author of "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eight-Four," described patriotism as "devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life."

He contrasted that with nationalism, which he described as "the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests."

Sound familiar? Think MAGA.

To understand what nationalism is, it's useful to understand what a nation is - and isn't.

* A nation is a group of people who share a history, culture, language, religion or some combination thereof.

* A country, which is sometimes called a state in political science terminology, is an area of land that has its own government.

* A nation-state is a homogeneous political entity most comprising a single nation. One example of a nation-state would be North Korea, where almost all residents are ethnic Koreans.

The United States is neither a nation nor a nation-state. Rather, it is a country of many groups of people who have a variety of shared histories, cultures, languages and religions.

Some of those groups are formally recognized by the federal government, such as the Navajo Nation and the Cherokee Nation.

Two examples of white nationalist groups are the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys - ten of whom were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Another example of a nationalistic group is The Nation of Islam. Black nationalists are as radical as the white nationalists. The Nation of Islam has been characterized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Trump has loudly proclaimed to be a nationalist and that under his regime the U.S. had embraced the doctrine of patriotism.

After reading the above information what do you think about Trump's claims? His misuse of words is part of an overall strategy to redefine their meanings for his cult.

As it stands, I hope you find the information helpful in your daily interactions with others. Kofi Annan put it succinctly when he wrote, "Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

'They're Coming to Take Me Away... Ho-ho, Hee-Hee, Ha-ha'

Back in 1966 there was a silly song that was playing on the radio. 

It had a catchy tune that came to mind today in this era of craziness.

A dude named Jerry Samuels (aka Napoleon XIV) - maybe an ancient "rap" precursor - made #3 on the Billboard chart with a song about the fate of a man who lost his dog.

You can read all the verses here. Or, just check out some of the following for a quick example:

"Remember when you ran away

And I got on my knees

And begged you not to leave because I'd go berserk?

Well, you left me anyhow

And then the days got worse and worse

And now, you see, I've gone completely out of my mind

(Chorus)

And they're coming to take me away, ha! ha!

They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-ha

To the funny farm

Where life is beautiful all the time

And I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats

And they're coming to take me away, ha ha

(Chorus)

They're coming to take me away, ha-ha

To the happy home

With trees and flowers and chirping birds

And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes

And they're coming to take me away, ha ha"

As I mentioned earlier, we live in such crazy times that this could be an anthem for all the loose lunatics running around the country today.

I especially can see re-writing this tune to become an ode to Trump madness. A few changes here and there and by golly who knows? Maybe a number one hit on today's Billboard charts.

As it stands, it sure would be fun to hear a revised version done by one of today's popular rappers.

Monday, June 26, 2023

What Are the Latest Dumb Things Said or Done Recently?

I really have to start the dumb things said or done list with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott because he's a gullible fool.

Abbott was duped by a satire website that he shared on his Twitter feed. What he did was link a story from a satire website called The Dunning-Kruger Times.

Okay. If the name alone isn't enough of a giveaway, the site states outright that it's part of a network of parody, satire, and tomfoolery, adding if you believe that is real, you should have your head examined."

The story Abbott shared said Garth Brooks was booed off the stage at the 123rd Annual Texas Country Jamboree in Hambriston, Texas.

So, Abbott gleefully tweeted "Go woke. Go broke. Good job Texas." 

One big problem.

The jamboree wasn't a real event, and Hambriston isn't a real place.

That didn't deter Abbott who apparently didn't pick up the multitude of clues provided by the website. For the record when he was informed of his stupidity, he deleted the tweet and pretended it never happened.

Moving on...

- Marjory Taylor Greene informed her supporters she is being spied on by her TV! Need I say more?

- GOP Sen. Markwayne Mullin challenged a union boss to a MMA fight for charity. Apparently, Mullins can't wait to get his hands on Sean O'Brian who stood up to him recently.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I doubt Mullins was elected for his cage fighting skills. His constituents more than likely expected representation on matters that affected them.

As it stands, the list of dumb things said or done by Americans increases daily and is a subject I will turn to again down the road.

GOP Governors Unite in Fight to Stop Unions in their States

Six Republican Governors have gathered to warn their residents against the evils of unionization which they claim would threaten their jobs...