Friday, April 29, 2005

Sirens?



here's a reply from DU -- when i got a shot of their tails i totally thought about the siren myth -- it's amazing how they look from behind. almost human if humans were fish. --brook

"Manatees and dugongs belong to the scientific order Sirenia. In ancient mythology, "siren" was a term used for monsters or sea nymphs who lured sailors and their ships to treacherous rocks and shipwreck with mesmerizing songs. Throughout history, sailors sometimes thought they were seeing mermaids when they were probably seeing manatees or dugongs. With a little imagination, manatees have an uncanny resemblance to human form that could only increase after long months at sea. In fact, manatees and dugongs may have helped to perpetuate the myth of mermaids."

Exxon

Exxon's "soon-to-retire CEO suddenly has a new anxiety: how to spend the windfall wrought by $55-a-barrel oil. By the end of April, Exxon will have a cash hoard of more than $25 billion. And if crude prices stay where they are, this geometrically growing bonanza could soon give Exxon more cash on hand than any other U.S. company... the cash is building at a remarkable rate. Each dollar jump in the price of a barrel of oil adds another half billion in earnings. Based on current prices, Exxon is accumulating more than $1 billion a month - even after allocating for dividends, share repurchases, and capital spending.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Extinction signals End Times

Just got back from Florida. It was one of those: "unemployed + stuck = roadtrip." Fueled on Fresca and Fig Newtons, I got to Melbourne Beach around 9 a.m., just in time to see a school of squid surrounded by pods of leaping dolphin. The morning sun reflected on the water like diamonds while a giant turtle peaked it's head up from the small surf. This might sound storybook to if you didn't grow up here. I expect such moments, feeling vaguely abandoned if I don't get one on my infrequent sojourns.

It's a classic Floridian interlude. Welcoming and ephemeral. The dolphin feed for only a few minutes longer. Later I would see a family of manatee playing in a lagoon. We called them to our kayaks and they offered their bellies for petting just like my dogs.

By coincidence, the local newspaper that day had announced the "downgrading" of much of Florida's wildlife including the manatee from "endangered" to "threatened."


Great news because everyone needs these experiences. There is no Santa Claus, Mickey or Pluto. Manatee and dolphin are real. You can touch them. Children taken out to meet these gentle giants are suddenly angels -- no sand throwing or temper tantrums.

We crave communion with the natural world. We vacation to heal the wounds our soul suffers as we participate in our economic lives -- largely involved in pursuit of money over nature. We approach Her with guilt and are humbled by her forgiveness.

I don't think I'm alone on this, but I think if there is a God, there is no other explanation for these creatures but to TEST our worthiness before Him (or Her -- yeah, go ahead with the hippie cracks -- but I perceive the feminine especially in nature).

The End of the World narrative works in terms of a vengeful God who would smite us for destroying His creation. But you don't have to believe in a God with a personality to accept this. It works for non-believers. Destroying these animals could trigger a series of ecological events we can't predict. We know this is the case with less impressive, "indicator" species like salamanders and Spotted Owls. Probably due to watching too much Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom as a kid, I believe there can be NO DOWNSIDE to protecting these animals.

But they are no longer endangered says the newspaper. Don't we deserve a big pat on the back?

Well, no. Victory is snatched from us once again. And would you be surprised to know there's a Bush planted smack in the middle of this dirt?

Nothing has changed in the population of these creatures but plenty has changed since Jeb took office. In Florida, wealth and power are measured in acres -- and it's ALL FOR GRABS. Jeb is working overtime to attract McMansion developers and he's piquing their interest in waterfront property by offering our coastal heritage in exchange. He is essentially, offering up Mother Nature's virginity in exchange for campaign funds.



(read This Vanishing Eden by Thomas Barbour if you can find a copy. My great-grandfather Frank Carlisle was his guide.)

Manatee numbers continue to decline thanks to blunt trauma from careless Sea Dooer's and boaters. Lowering the status of these creatures will allow developers to build waterfront with NO SPEED LIMIT in the canals. We want their habitat and we want it unhindered by silly speed limits. Developers demand that their clients be able to haul ass with their Sea Doos over any great creature without so much as a second thought. Think about the last time you were on the waterfront enjoying a nice quiet day in the sun. Now, imagine that gang of water motorcyclists ripping and jumping on wake right where you are sitting. You are sitting on the deck of a nice waterfront restaurant sharing you anniversary and all you hear is the insatiable whirr and grind of watercraft.

Why have speed limits on roads? Or stop lights, for crying out loud. I'm sure there's plenty of SUV drivers who could get to Walmart much faster if they could just mow over pedestrians in their way. It's the same thing. It's the pedestrian's own damn fault for not being in a car, or a nice safe SUV with plenty of cup holders. These animals are simply pedestrians trying to get home in time for dinner. Do you mow down stray dogs on your way home from work feeling good about your ability to do so without restriction?

I'll answer that. No. That would be devastating after a shitty day at work. Hit the side of a manatee with your Sea Doo and you are likely to break a rib, puncturing their lung and you won't even know it. You might feel a bump. You might crash your Sea Doo. But you won't know why. They die slowly, suffocating on the bottom of the lagoon where no one sees. If you hit a mother, her baby will die as well since they rarely find adoptive parents. It takes a baby manatee years to learn their survival skills -- migration patterns and language -- just like humans. Imagine your child orphaned in the woods when she's three. Just old enough to be mobile, but not much else.

My first thought is, why shit where you eat? Why wouldn't developers USE the protection of the environment, as attractions for their cheap-ass Cult-De-Sacs. What they lack in quality craftsmanship (and believe me, we're talking "cracker boxes") they can provide with the flick of a pen by providing Human/Animal Preserves. Why not? If Florida can give us the freaking Truman Show nightmare in the real postmodern-manufactured-utopia of Seaside. "Why buy a house when you can have your own little slice of PARADISE." Fuck, I'd live there. Deed restricted? fuck that. Nature restricted! Sea Doos and speed boats fucking prohibited. Sailboats, canoes and dinghies PROVIDED.

People who pay the money to live waterfront, shouldn't they be MORE interested in preserving it? I wouldn't want to live where mowing over children is sanctioned. When I live somewhere, I get attached to my neighbors. I still visit "neighbors" 30 years later. Am I off-base for considering the creatures who frequent my dock to be my "neighbors" as well? I would be devastated to find out someone bumped-off a manatee in my harbor. I would probably have them all named. I would know who is frisky and who is demure. The more I think about it, the more absurd it gets. They want to whaaaa?


Obviously "neighbors" aren't writing the rules anymore. Developers are. And developers aren't people; they are corporations with their own survival instinct. As a civilization, isn't it our responsibility to reign in our creations so they don't harm us?

Taking the manatee off the endangered list means certain extinction for the animal by opening habitat to essentially unregulated development.

Think for a minute about a coast without dolphin, manatee and turtles. What's left? The beach? Take another look. The hurricanes have wrecked havoc on the east coast. The beaches are eroding at an alarming pace and the politicians have taken the cheap way out, which is guarantees to quicken the problem instead of fixing it. Without a beach what's left? McDonalds? Strip joints. T-shirt Palaces. They can't afford to lose the manatee, or even their beaches, but they won't stand up to their creations -- the development corporations. It's like the Matrix. We have lost the war against our "machines," our corporations. We serve them now.


"People" acting rationally wouldn't do such a thing. Corporations acting without human intervention do these sorts of things because they are dumb, inanimate objects. A corporation can't rejoice at a leaping dolphin or be healed by the touch of a manatee. It is our job as stewards to tame these wild beasts. They are our creations. We owe it to our Creator to protect Her creations from ours. I believe any God would judge us according to our stewardship. "So, you want into heaven? How can we trust that you wouldn't spray paint the pearly gates with your logo?"


If we sacrifice these animals on the altar of sleazy, deed-restricted gated communities, then we deserve everything Mother Nature or a vengeful God has to throw at us. When volcanos spew menstrual blood and Avril Lavigne's face forms in ash to recite the Good Will Hunting screenplay, the sentient razors boring into your flesh will carve the images of every animal driven to extinction by your inaction.


The beaches and the wild animals are the Truffala Trees Dr. Suess spoke of in The Lorax (he kinda looks like a manatee, doesn't he?). They are the "real" resources. Folk might travel to Florida the first time to see the Magic Kingdom -- but you go there for the rest of your life because Great Blue Heron sit in the tree in your backyard.


Seeing a manatee up close and personal is the kind of experience that speaks for itself. In the mountains we have lots of "indicator" species on the endangered list -- salamanders -- it's not easy to get folks excited about saving a salamander. But put a manatee in front of these same people...this big water dog that will come when called and shows it's belly for scratching...sheesh! There's an animal with charisma!



I don't know how it's all going to pan out. No one does. What to do?

There's a few things.

Sign the damn petition: Eschew the theme parks this year. Take a morning (or an afternoon for the late sleepers) -- and get in a kayak and see these guys before they are gone. Eco-tourism is not native to Florida, but there are some great, easy trips to take. Cocoa Beach Kayaking is one I'm familiar with. Give a few bucks to Jimmy Buffet's Save The Manatee organization. Buy a tshirt. Spread the word.

And even if the world turns just fine without the manatee? Something tells me that would be worse than the punishment of a pissed-off God.

Fuck JC

"Forreal," Julie. Frist is nothing if not another opportunistic neocon with eyes lasered at the White House. I accidentally shook his hand in Elizabethton in the early 90s when he (and his faggy little campaign entourage) came into the office supply store I was working in (I still feel dirty).

The growth in this town seems to consist of payday loan sharks, mini-storage and cell phone stores on every corner. If I had the foresight to know that kids would be buying water and spending tons of disposable income on fucking flapping their lips 24/7 I would have already cashed out. Johnson City offers nothing anymore: no good book stores, no midnight movies, no deviance. Hell, they even bulldozed the whores and crackheads under downtown. Chain stores---my God, the chain stores. Some people think they've died and gone to consumer Heaven now that Kohl's has opened. Words elude me.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Back from the dead?

was back home fer spring break a few weeks back; saw this in Hampton
I shudder to think who/what coulda been inside

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I was actually hoping for Pope Jimbo.

HoustonChronicle.com - Burns: Guzzle away Uncle Sam's buying

Uncle Sam's buyingThe owners of heavy vehicles get a subsidy as the fuel flows

By SCOTT BURNS
Universal Press Syndicate

How would you like the U.S. government to send you a check that would pay for five years' worth of gasoline?

Well, it can be arranged.
Not everyone is eligible, of course. But if you use a vehicle 100 percent for business and purchase a vehicle, new or used, from a select list of big-time gas guzzlers, Uncle Sam is ready to help you out.

Yes, I'm talking about the well-publicized special tax break for vehicles with a gross weight of at least 6,000 pounds. Gross weight is the weight of the vehicle including fuel, passengers and payload. Because of this, gross weight can be a good deal more than the empty weight of the vehicle.

Forty-one domestic and 15 foreign SUVs qualify for this tax break. The Porsche Cayenne, a notably businesslike vehicle, is among them. As a consequence, while the depreciation write-off for any passenger car used for business is limited to only $2,960 in 2005, down from $10,610 in 2004, those claiming 100 percent business use of these SUVs could deduct 100 percent of the $89,665 price of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo during 2003 and until late October 2004.

For those who bought in time, the write-off represented an immediate income tax savings of $31,383, provided the buyer was in the 35 percent tax bracket. Think of it as a bagatelle for the nonindigent from the Jobs and Growth Act of 2003.
One of the particularly compelling uses I've seen of this tax break was a bright parrot-green Hummer2 parked at a luxury marina in Burnt Store, Fla. A sign on the driver's door advertised a dress shop.

Many readers will note (some with sorrow) that this tax break brought so much well-deserved excoriation to legislators that they closed it.

'Tightened' would be a better description.
If you failed to buy your Porsche Cayenne Turbo by last October, don't despair. Uncle Sam still wants to help. The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 reduced the immediate deduction to $25,000.

In addition, you can take normal depreciation on the remaining value. Normal depreciation is 20 percent. That would be about $13,000 for the Cayenne Turbo.

So your total tax deduction would be $38,000. For those in the 35 percent tax bracket, that calculates to an immediate tax savings of $13,300.

That, of course is mere money. Suppose we measure the benefit in something of global importance, like gasoline.
According to www.fueleconomy.gov, the Cayenne Turbo gets 13 miles per gallon in the city, 18 mpg on the highway. It has an estimated annual fuel cost of $2,241, assuming a premium fuel price of $2.24 a gallon.

Divide the immediate income tax savings by the annual cost of gasoline and you get the answer: Uncle Sam will pay for 14 years of gasoline, if you bought under the Jobs and Growth Act of 2003, or 5.9 years if you bought under the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004.

We should have a spelling bee for legislators to determine how many can spell 'counterproductive.'

Tax savings for guzzler buyers reduce government revenue, increase the federal deficit, increase our trade deficit and send yet more money to the Middle East.

If we were going to devise a formula for wrecking the country, it would be difficult to improve on this one.
We might as well call this portion of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 the Osama bin Laden Support Fund."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Follow up to cat hunting questions...

I just want to know how far they have to be off the porch before I can blast 'em. And yes, folks up here are serious about cat hunting....

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Unitarian Jihad

The following is the first communique from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad. It was sent to me at the Chronicle via an anonymous spam remailer. I have no idea whether other news organizations have received this communique, and, if so, why they have not chosen to print it. Perhaps they fear starting a panic. I feel strongly that the truth, no matter how alarming, trivial or disgusting, must always be told. I am pleased to report that the words below are at least not disgusting:

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he's pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/04/08/DDG27BCFLG1.DTL

And while we are on the subject of prizes....

Recently Sean “P-Diddy” Hannity and Joe Scarborough had a Dr. William Hammesfahr on their shows and repeatedly referred to him as having been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. This claim was based on a letter that Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-Fll) wrote nominating the good Doctor. Only problem is that Bilirakis is not qualified under the rules of the Nobel Assembly to nominate the Doctor. Never the less these fair and balanced journalists touted this phony nomination as part of the Doctor’s credentials (this was during the Schivo matter and I will let you guess which side the Doctor took.)

Well if Representatives from Florida can nominate fringe practitioners for prestigious awards, then so can I. Without further adieu, here are my Nobel nominations for this year:

I nominate Brook, Tony (not Tony), Julie, and Elizabeth (Brook) for the Nobel prize in Journalism (Don’t worry if there is no such prize, me and Queen Sylvia are close.)

I nominate Ric for the Nobel Peace prize (as he ain’t killed nobody.)

I nominate Kurt for the Nobel Prize in Medicine (seems appropriate as he is the only medical practitioner that I know,)

I nominate Bill for the Nobel Prize in Letters (yeah I know it seems self serving but I figure it will look good on a resume.)

I nominate AC/DC for the Nobel Prize in Rock, and Skynrd for the Nobel Prize in Rock (Southern Division)

I nominate Bill Elliott for the Nobel Prize in Nascar.

I nominate the Titans Cheerleaders for the Nobel Prize in Spirit and Peppiness.

And I nominate Plez for the Nobel Prize in Occasionally Published Online Newsletters (a new category, but one I have great hopes for.)

Feel free to make your own nominations in the comments section, those will be every bit as binding as my own, or Rep.Bilirakis'.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pulitzers are announced

This winners of the Pulitzer prizes have been announced, and would'nt you know it, the LIBERAL MEDIA ELITISTS have managed to rig it so Jeff Gannon did not win!

Go ahead and post a comment, the counter has already said you are here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

huge disaPOPEment: he's finally ready to die? isn't that his job?

i mean -- isn't that the job of all religions -- to prepare the flock to meet to meet God? is the soul not immortal?

was he UNTIL NOW insuffciently ready to confront the Truth? has he UNTIL NOW been anxious about the fate of his spirit? is there some reason he would be antsy about meeting God?

disclaimer: i'm catholic by culture and go to Home Depot on Sunday. i would love it if the church were more relevant. it just isn't.

i've been embarrassed thru the whole pope deathwatch. as soon as he got sick he needed to issue a statement about the frailty of life and the eternity of the soul. he could have shown compassion for human suffering. he could have used his political capital to encourage better healthcare for the sick. he did none of this. he's been ineffective in his job.

more inspiration has come out of hollywood than the vatican in modern times. if the church is so concerned about a culture of life, they should be offering an alternative. the pope has been in a vegetative state for YEARS; drooling while his churches become havens for child molesters. he's been a scared little man hanging on to life's last rattle as if that's all there is. finally, he is ready to die? it's about damn time!

there has been precious little wisdom, compassion, inspiration, or spirit to come from his leadership. i'm glad he's ready now. i wish he would have set a better example.

American Torturing Jobs Increasingly Outsourced


WASHINGTON, DC—AFL-CIO vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson, representing the American Federation of Interrogation Torturers, released a statement Monday deriding the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, under which American torturing jobs are outsourced to foreign markets. "Outsourcing the task of interrogating terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia is having a crippling effect on the Americans who make a living by stripping detainees nude, shackling them to the floor, and beating the living shit out of them," Chavez-Thompson said. "And specialists within the field—corrosive-material chemists, ocular surgeons, and testicular electricians—are lucky to find any jobs at all. How are they supposed to feed their families?" Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended extraordinary rendition, saying the program will create jobs in the long run by fostering a global climate of torture tolerance.

Next Summer's Family Reunion in JC

Some of our kin are hosting a reunion in July in Johnson City. I hope to be there. I hope Anthony can make it in from Amsterdam. Cousin Mary Belle turns 89 in June; she says she might not care to travel from Maryland even though I told her I'd drive her and the trip is only about 6 hours. Break it into 3-4 hrs + the second leg 1-2 hrs. I was just thinking about all our historical family connections - Maryville, Knoxville, Asheville, up and down the valleys & hollers - walking through the mountains, Greeneville, Chuckey and elsewhere. I wonder how folks down home in east Tennessee will feel about this homecoming of these Black local natives and descendants of Black local natives. I don't totally believe Tennessee knows us anymore and not sure how much she cares. July will come up fast.