Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Radar loop of WS StellaLast Tuesday’s winter storm (named “Stella” by the Weather Channel, but “Eugene” by WFSB-TV here in Connecticut) turned out to be a bust, in the mid-Atlantic and New York City regions. And there’s been a lot of grumbling about how it was forecast. Those places all ended up getting much less snow than had been predicted.

Lots of people wonder how meteorologists could have been as wrong as they were. Well, it turns out, they actually knew — as the storm approached — the storm wouldn’t live up to their stated projections. Yet, as the New York Post reports, they chose not to change their forecasts to match what they knew would fall (cached):

On the eve of Tuesday’s Winter Storm Stella, the National Weather Service got reports that its dire prediction of up to 2 feet of snow for New York City may have been exaggerated — but decided not to change its forecast.

Fears of a massive blizzard led officials to close city public schools and for above-ground train service to be stopped — but in the end, only about 7 inches fell in Central Park.

After announcing that snow could reach record levels in the city, NWS meteorologists in New York and other Northeast cities held a conference call Monday afternoon about computer models that dramatically cut predicted totals.

But they decided to continue forecasting deep snow, claiming that they didn’t change their forecast for fear people would mistakenly think the storm was no longer dangerous.

Their excuse? They wanted to make sure people were still “cautious”:

[Chief of forecast operations at the Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, Greg] Carbin said a last-minute change downgrading snowfall totals might have caused people to let their guard down because ice was still a potential danger for cities such as New York and Washington.

Full disclosure: It may have seemed to New Yorkers that this storm was a dud, but that’s not quite true. Where I live, in northwestern Connecticut, we’d been told we could get between 16 and 24 inches of snow, and that turned out to be accurate. So not all the predictions failed to pan out … just some of them.

In the northeast, and especially here in the Nutmeg State, folks often joke that our weathermen punch up their forecasts to make them seem more dire than they ought to be, in order to glue the public to their TV sets, radios, whatever. Perhaps this is just a perception error, as well as a function of the basic uncertainty of weather forecasting. Or, maybe it really is the play for ratings it seems to be. But in this case — and in the case of the January 2015 blizzard — it’s clear this actually happened, and that meteorologists do exaggerate; and moreover that they feel entitled to do so whenever they see it as necessary.

We’re used to politicians lying to us, and have come to expect it. And maybe we kid around about weathermen grubbing for ratings by predicting cataclysm when none is on its way. But clearly, they lie. And they know they lie. And they admit they lie!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Side of Polk cty (FL) school bus, via the (Lakeland, FL) LedgerWe all know that militant Christianists are a sanctimonious and hateful bunch. They think nothing of going after whoever they want, whenever their overpowering sense of moral superiority overcomes them. (Which happens quite often.) Their problem is, they’re infantile, so when they get caught up in whatever made them sanctimoniously angry, they can’t — and more importantly, won’t — control themselves.

A great example of this took place in Florida. A Polk county bus driver, as the (Lakeland, FL) Ledger reports, told the child of two mothers that his entire family is hell-bound (WebCite cached article):

The Polk County School District has placed a bus driver on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation into accusations that she told a second-grade boy he and his moms are going to hell because of his parents’ same-sex relationship.

Bus driver Violeta Jacobo didn’t face disciplinary action after an initial review of the incident, causing community members to speak out in support of the boy’s mom, Nathaly Encarnacion, and their family.

Initially, the school district had “investigated” and determined nothing untoward had happened. Jacobo’s paid administrative leave, and the promise of a second investigation, only came about due to an online petition. Some courage the Polk county school district has … they had to be pushed into doing the right thing!

First, and most obviously, I have to ask what this “paid administrative leave” bullshit is? How is this any kind of meaningful punishment? It’s actually a free vacation.

Second, what ethical person goes after a child when it’s his/her parents that s/he has a beef with? Seriously!? How is this behavior acceptable, even in dour Christianist terms? What is the point in doing such a thing? I think it’s all about cowardice; Jacobo didn’t have the courage to speak with the two mothers, so instead she felt free to demean a second-grader.

Photo credit: The (Lakeland, FL) Ledger.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Trento-Mercatino dei Gaudenti-alarm clocksDaylight Saving Time starts in the US this coming weekend. Once more I bring up the fact that it is a blatant fraud. A lie. A massive con-job. I’ve made the case many times as to how this is so, but Bloomberg just published an article explaining that it’s rank bullshit (WebCite cached article):

If you hate daylight saving time and all the confusion and sleep deprivation it brings, you now have solid data on your side. A wave of new research is bolstering arguments against changing our clocks twice a year.

The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. After Indiana finally implemented daylight saving, something that didn’t happen until 2006, residents actually used more electricity.

Daylight saving time isn’t just a benign relic of the 1970s energy crisis. The latest research suggests the time change can be harmful to our health and cost us money. The effects are most disruptive in the spring and fall, right after the time changes occur. Clocks in the U.S. will spring forward this year on Sunday, March 12. Most of Europe moves to daylight saving time two weeks later.

That DST is fraudulent has been known for a while, but has been acknowledged as such more often. It was implemented as a war-time measure (first during World War I, then again in World War II) and it might actually have helped in that regard. Beyond that, it’s just a ridiculous excuse to make everyone fiddle with their clocks, ovens, microwaves, etc. twice a year.

Bloomberg explains who the last remaining holdouts are, trying to keep DST foisted on us, and it turns out, they’re wrong:

Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That’s not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

The bottom line is, DST is a damned lie that needs to just fucking go away. What should happen is that we go on Daylight Saving Time this coming weekend, then stay there forever. Unfortunately, that would take an act of Congress. But given the clusterfuck that Washington has become (not just in the last month and a half, but over the last decade), that’s not going to happen. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Rutherford Cty (NC) Court House / via North Carolina Court System Web siteIt seems officials in North Carolina finally awakened to the idea that maybe … just maybe! … there’s been a little corruption going on, surrounding abuses at the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in the town of Spindale. The Associated Press’s coverage of this story continues, with a report that there might be a corruption investigation (WebCite cached article):

A district attorney has asked the state to investigate two assistant prosecutors after an Associated Press story that quoted former congregants of a North Carolina church as saying the men derailed criminal probes into allegations of abuse by sect leaders.

David Learner said Wednesday that he wants the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the accusations against his employees, who are members of the evangelical Word of Faith Fellowship church.

The AP story, released Monday, cited nine former Word of Faith members who said Frank Webster and Chris Back provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.

The ex-congregants also said that Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law, helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents.

As the AP reported and I’ve blogged, Word of Faith believes in beatings and other kinds of abuse as a way of exorcising demons and devils. Or at least, that’s their rationale for the abuse.

It’s nice, I suppose, that there might be a probe into Webster and Back, but really, I’m not confident it will go far. This is, after all, a Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state, where churches are sovereign, and no one questions them much. So this might die on the vine, just as past investigations into Word of Faith’s affairs did.

Photo credit: North Carolina Court System.

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'Brave Sir Robin / Nearly fought the fierce dragon of Agnor, almost stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol, wet himself at the Battle for Badon Hill' from Monty Python & the Holy Grail / Lewis Pitt, via PinterestOne of the realities behind the folks who run terrorist outfits is that, despite their bluster and braggadocio, they’re almost always sniveling cowards. That’s why terrorism — i.e. going after innocents and the defenseless — is their modus operandi. They only attack when they know they’ll win and when there won’t be much of a fight. This is as true of ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood as it is of any other.

Oh sure, they’re proud to announce they’re doing al-Lah’s will, and they’re holy warriors waging a sacred jihad and all of that self-righteous crap … but really, they’re all cowards. They chose to strike in a time and place that they knew would be easy, and never ventured into places like Turkey or Iran who’d be sure to fight back … and fight back hard. They enslaved and raped Yazidi women, for example — as though that campaign could have imperiled them.

Well, now that the Iraqi military decided to grow a pair and take them on, ISIS has been hemmed in, and losing key territory. And as Reuters reports, it’s reached the point where their leader has flown the coop (Google cached article):

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival.

It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the Islamic State “caliph”, who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014.

But U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group’s leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population center his group has ever held.

It turns out that cowardly tactics has been the way al-Baghdadi has lived for a while:

From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say.

Even if al-Baghdadi’s so-called “state” is completely destroyed, that’s not to say he and his outfit won’t continue to be dangerous:

Although the loss of Mosul would effectively end Islamic State’s territorial rule in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials are preparing for the group to go underground and fight an insurgency like the one that followed the U.S.-led invasion.

Still, it’s nice to see this monster finally show the world his true colors … which is ISIS black, but with a nice, wide yellow stripe down the back.Bye-bye, little Abu Bakr. Bye-bye!

Photo credit: Top, from Monty Python & the Holy Grail / Lewis Pitt, via Pinterest; middle, from Elf, via Giphy.

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The Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes Spring Equinox ritual at an ancient temple of Goddess Artemis in Peloponnese, Greece, in March 2016. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons / via Religion News ServiceI saw this article on the Religion News Service and thought it interesting. There are people trying to revive the ancient Greek polytheistic religion, as RNS explains, right here in the US (WebCite cached article):

[Article subject Dean] Cameron’s group has 15 members who regularly attend events and prayers, but the Facebook group it maintains has almost 160 members.

Local U.S. Hellenic chapters do not report to any national or international body. Worship is based on word-of-mouth traditions and classic ancient literature, said Cameron.

The Hellenes of Dodecatheon, a loose organizational group, reports around 2,000 followers in the U.S., but 100,000 believers use the traditions as a baseline for their religious practices.

Hellenism is a mainly domestic religion in which prayers and offerings are given in the home. There are designated holidays for different gods, but much of the worship is a guessing game based on scholarly interpretations of ancient text.

“As you can imagine, it’s really hard to find a Hellenic calendar,” Cameron said.

The neopagan movement stems from ancient Greek mythology that centers on religion, philosophy and tradition.

The article explains that this movement began in Greece, the religion’s native country, but due to the influence and power of the Greek Orthodox Church, it’s illegal there.

I’m glad those involved are willing to admit this revival of Greek polytheism is a “guessing game,” because it is. The forms of worship from pre-Christian Greece have — in spite of a wealth of literature, especially mythology, left behind — been lost. It’s interesting, too, that the focus of this revival is domestic. Ancient European polytheism was multi-layered; there were immediate-family rites, extended-family rites, tribal rites, community rites, state rites. These were done in homes, in the wild, in small private sanctuaries, and in magnificent temples. All these approaches could vary considerably. On top of these, and the fact that each state had its own form of religion, there were also the “mystery religions” to which some (in some locales and times, many!) belonged. Those, themselves, sometimes were subsumed as parts of the tribal, community, or state religions. I just don’t see all of that complexity in what these people are doing … but I suppose it could come in time, as more people become part of this movement.

This isn’t the only example of an attempt to resurrect a pre-Christian religion. For example, Asatru is a modern version of the old Norse religion. And there folks who call themselves Druids and want to recreate the old Celtic religion. There are, in fact, lots of kinds of Neopaganism, as well as other things like Wicca, which pretends to be a long-lost pagan religion, but which actually is a modern invention.

What many of these reconstructed/rebuilt/restored/reacquired religions miss, is the underlying approach of the religion. Modern people are looking for spiritual experiences and insights, because they’ve been raised under the influence of a soteriological religious tradition (i.e. of Christianity, and in turn to Abrahamic beliefs). But ancient polytheism was predicated on something very different. It was, in its essence, propitiatory. That is, its rites and customs were intended to curry the deities’ favor and mollify them so they wouldn’t afflict harm on people or even wipe them out. Granted, in classical times, ancient polytheism began to veer toward a deeper “spiritual” approach. This is especially true of the “mystery religions.” But even then, most of these “mystics” still practiced propitiatory rites nonetheless. Any reconstructed religion that doesn’t take this into account, isn’t really a reconstruction … it’s a new invention, but cloaked behind the trappings of an older religion.

I do, however, wish these folk luck in their effort to recreate an ancient religious tradition. I hope they’ll probe deeper into the tradition they want to restore, and move in a direction that’s not anachronistic.

One final pedantic note: I must point out, it’s not entirely anachronistic for people to “invent” new forms of polytheism! This actually happened in the ancient world, probably many times. We know, for example, that the cult of Serapis was, more or less, an invention of the regime of Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander’s generals, as he took control of Egypt. It was a hybrid cult, joining native Egyptian religious practice with Hellenic traditions. (A deity called Serapis mights have predated Ptolemy’s rule, but he and his dynasty actually built the Serapis cult — and the Serapeum — and made it prominent.)

Photo credit: Religion News Service.

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Stop Sign, via FreeFotoPlease pardon this slight departure from the usual topics of this blog.

I’m sure most of my readers know by now about the Groper-in-Chief’s Twitter tantrum, this past Saturday, over his predecessor having supposedly wiretapped his campaign offices in Trump Tower (WebCite cached article). He hasn’t offered the slightest evidence for this accusation — which is quite serious. He’s had a few days to come up with something … anything! … even remotely supporting his claim, but has refused to do so. In fact, the Apricot Wonder has asked Congress to investigate and find the evidence supporting it (cached).

That’s right, folks. Not only does the GiC have no basis for what he spewed, he knows he doesn’t, and now demands other people somehow find that evidence for him.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute offered a breakdown of how the alt right’s Dear Leader came to make this ridiculous accusation (cached). Among the conclusions of his analysis:

It’s worth noting here that, contra Trump’s claim on Twitter, none of the articles in question claim that phones were tapped. Indeed, it’s not even entirely clear that the order the FISC finally issued in October was a full-blown electronic surveillance warrant requiring a probable cause showing. If the FBI was primarily interested in obtaining financial transaction records, corporate documents, and (depending on both the facts and the FISC’s interpretation of the FISA statute) perhaps even some stored e-mail communications, that information might well have been obtainable pursuant to a §215 “business records” order, which imposes only the much weaker requirement that the records sought be “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

In sum, there’s very little there, and what is there, does not, in fact, support the GiC’s contention. He’s lying, plain and simple. And as I said, he has to know he’s lying.

But take note what happened here. The Apricot Wonder used Twitter as the platform for a big fat honking lie … and as a result, we’re now saddled with a Congressional investigation into wrongdoing which — at the moment — we have no reason to believe ever took place. All because of a Twitter fit that the mass media duly reported.

And that brings me to my idea: A mass media moratorium on reporting the Groper-in-Chief’s tweets. That’s right. What we need for the media to stop fucking reporting on every bit of lying drivel that comes out of the Groper’s Android phone. The country would be spared a lot of trouble, if they’d just do that.

But they won’t. “The president’s tweets are news!” reporters and editors will say. But, while that seems true, it’s not. Presidents say and do a lot of things in the course of a day which aren’t actually newsworthy. The Apricot Wonder’s tweets should be treated that way. If his infantile spew weren’t reported on, a lot of this shit wouldn’t happen. And he wouldn’t be able to misdirect us.

One might also say that the media should report on the Groper’s lying tweets, then debunk them. However, that won’t accomplish anything of substance, and it certainly won’t discourage the Apricot Wonder from lying even more. In fact, this approach actually fuels him, and he’s counting on the media to at least try to debunk him. This is because — amazingly enough — he wants the media to debunk his lies! You see, he’s playing up to his fanbois, and in their eyes, being debunked actually reinforces whatever outrageous thing he says. This is because of a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect. Ultimately, the Groper is counting on the media to report his lies, then make clear they’re lies, because this only deepens his relationship with the people he’s speaking to. Reporters who relay his lying tweets then show they’re lies, are just doing the GiC’s work for him. They might as well be on his payroll!

It’d be a good idea if, generally, the media treated the Groper like the infantile, paranoid, thin-skinned, whiny cretin he is. The media are showing him a degree of respect he hasn’t actually earned. If they did that, the attention whore who infests the Oval Office would have no choice but to grow up and begin acting his age. Cutting off his ability to build on his raging, immature “base” would benefit everyone.

Ed. to add: As of July 2 it has become crystal-clear that a moratorium on the GiC’s tweets is not merely a good idea, it’s imperative.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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