One thing I know about my brother: He kept us safe.

— Jeb Bush, about George W. Bush during the 2nd GOP debate, answering Donald Trump’s comment


The worst and most deadly attack against Americans on American soil since Pearl Harbor happened during Bush’s watch.

Bush started two hugely expensive wars, killing thousands of American soldiers, and maiming tens of thousands.

Then he allowed the economy tailspin into free fall just before he left office.

And Jeb Bush says: “He kept us safe.”

How is that for monumental lack of judgment?


Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

Jon Krakauer, the author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven, is a masterful journalist, researcher and author. I have read all his books. His last book before this one was Where Men Win Glory.

When we think about rape, the image of a thug wearing a black ski mask jumping out of the bushes at night, wielding a knife, and forcing a female victim to have sex comes to mind. That’s what we think a rapist is.

In reality, a large percentage of rapists are non-strangers, and very often the boundaries of rape are blurry. A couple starts out necking and making out, taking off each other’s clothes, and then something happens and the woman changes her mind. “No” may not be perceived as “no” by the male, one thing leads to another, and rape occurs. How will the police, the prosecutor, and the jury deal with these facts?

In the book Missoula, Jon Krakauer takes on this very challenging subject. With his customary meticulous style, he reports about the circumstances of a number of rapes in Missoula, Montana, involving the Grizzly football team and its athletes, which made headlines for a string of rapes and high-profile court cases.

The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Apparently few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities.

When the accused are high-profile football players in a comparatively small community, it is a treacherous road for a woman who has been raped to report the crime. The criminal justice system structured so the defense has to tear down the victim, make her out to look like slut who “wanted it” and when she changed her mind, she took down the beloved athlete. It’s not unlikely that the rape victim is reviled and ostracized by the community, which makes her a victim all over again.

Due to this brutal reality, acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America.

Krakauer tells us about the experiences of several women in Missoula, starting with the nights when they were raped, and leading through their self-doubt afterwards. He shows how they were treated by the police, the prosecutors, and defense attorneys. He illustrates the vilification by the public. And he analyzes and describes the criminal justice system as it relates to rape.

This book is challenging to read. It takes a lot out of the reader to take in the minute and stark details of each rape. We feel like we are in the room when they happen. Missoula is a powerful and insightful book for anyone that wants to better understand rape in modern America.

Rating - Three Stars

The Hal Lewis Scam

So I saw this Facebook post today announcing a “Top U.S. Scientist” resigned over a “global warming scam.”

Hal Lewis 1

Here is the link. Please note the ample number of breast links on this “news” site for relevant background.

Hal Lewis

Note the date of September 29, 2015. If you read carefully into the article, though, you will notice that the original article is from October 2010. This is five-year old news, being passed off on Facebook as current. Hal Lewis died in May 2011.

Then I tried to research who Hal Lewis actually was. Far from being a “top scientist,” nobody in the scientific community of climate research even seems to know who he is. His last significant work in academics (physics) was in the 1970s, and he retired in 1991 from U.C. Santa Barbara. His claim to fame and Wikipedia notice is based on this letter.

Here is another post ruminating about Hal Lewis and his obscurity and credentials in climate science.

But it was posted on Facebook, so it must be true and certainly authentic in 2015. I guess I’ll change my opinion.

Conservative Logic

  • Fewer gun laws make the country safer
  • Lower taxes for the rich causes more job creation
  • Building walls solves our immigration problem (like prohibition solved our alcoholism problem)
  • Less access to healthcare makes us healthier
  • Removing access to contraception causes less sex, therefore less pregnancies and less abortions
  • Pro-life to save lives of the unborn and anti-life by starting wars and getting our young adults killed
  • Upholding religious freedom for one arbitrary group (Christians) by suppressing religious freedom of other groups (Muslims)
  • Not allowing gays to marry protects family values
  • Giving energy companies free reign and rights to drill, dig and strip protects our environment – or rather – our environment does not need protection, the market does this automatically
  • Closing abortion clinics results in less unwanted pregnancies and therefore less abortions
  • Renewable energy is too expensive and does not work, so we’ll continue to use fossil fuels until they run out and – then what?



Yesterday I had a brilliant, clear view of Yosemite Valley from the plane:

Yosemite from Plane 3

Yosemite Valley [click to enlarge]

A friend on Facebook posted this comment below the video of President Obama expressing anger about the lack of will in Congress to enact working gun laws:

This is bull shit!! What we need is harsher penalties for those who commit the crimes. We don’t need more gun control. Don’t change the gun laws, change the penalties for the crime!!

That had me pause. I happen to think we need stricter gun laws, and we desperately need a national registry for gun ownership. We already have one for social security, for income taxes, for FBI background checks; we have state registries for drivers licenses; we have private registries for credit reports, credit card ownership, and spending habits. We have an international registry for opinions: Facebook. It is my opinion that we need a national registry for gun ownership.

Now about harsher penalties for those who commit the crimes? The crime for  mass murder in many states is death, and in those states where the death penalty is not available, it’s life without parole. How are we going to make those harsher? I don’t get this argument.

Many mass shooters end up dead in the act anyway. They apparently walk into the crime knowing it’s a suicide mission. I just don’t believe that any pre-meditated mass shooter gives a single thought to the harshness of the penalty. He wants to have as many people as possible to go down with him, in his hate or confusion. Do we really believe he’d stop and draw a pro and con list and then decide not to do the crime because the threat of the death penalty?

This argument has also been used with rapists. Really? A rapist stops before the act and thinks about the consequences? If that really happened, there would be no more rapes.

Stricter gun laws, here they come!


Watching Kingsman was like watching a cartoon. And, I guess, it’s not surprising. The story is based on a comic book.

Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of a super-secret spy organization that recruits a street kid (Taron Egerton) through one of its agents (Colin Firth).

A tech tycoon (Samuel L. Jackson) creates a global threat, and the street kid, with his innocence and gusto, saves the world.

The movie got a surprising 75% rating on the Tomatometer. That just goes to show you that movies are now made for slapstick humor, lots of bang-bang-bang and you don’t really need to think.

It’s only been a few days since I watched Kingsman, and I have basically forgotten about it already.

Please don’t bother going.

Rating - One Star


I have come across these shower spouts in hotels from time to time. It’s really frustrating when you’re standing in the shower, the water is on with just the right temperature coming out of the spout, and there is no lever to divert the water to the shower head.

What the heck?


Apparently some hotels got tired of naked guests calling the front desk in frustration because they could not figure out how to turn on the water in the shower, so they put up this sign at eye level:


Even with this sign, I’d venture to guess that many a patron that does not routinely read engineering blueprints cannot figure out what the drawing means.

The gist is: you pull down the spout ring, which you can’t even see is there when you stand in the shower, to get it to work.

Why? Why? Why?

Did some designer jump up and down and yell:

“Look, Ma, I made something really complicated that used to be simple, trivial and functional! Now everyone is going to need help the first time they use this shower!”

Stunning Image of Pluto

This is one of the highest resolution images of Pluto released so far. I have reduced the size so I can display it here.


I remember fifty years ago, as a young boy, reading books about our solar system, when images of the outer planets were fuzzy blobs at best. I am a techie, I am into science, and I am absolutely delighted that I live in a time and an age where I can see an image of Pluto, an object 4.7 billion miles away, with this clarity.

Light itself takes 4.6 hours to get there. The New Horizons spacecraft which took this picture, flying by Pluto at a speed of 50,000 km/hour, took 9 years and 8 months to travel there.

And I get to sit here and post this picture on my blog.



Landfall is a story about sending a message through time. It starts when the FBI discovers a space capsule in the remote mountains of Alberta, Canada, that was assumed burned up thirty years earlier.

The story jumps back between what happened 30 years ago (roughly the present time of 2015 when the International Space Station is in orbit) and now (presumably about 2045) with the FBI trying to figure out what happened.

The book caught my attention because it’s about “time” messages. The author does a good job telling the story, but I found it so preposterous and incredible, that I had a hard time taking it seriously.

Fundamental to the plot is the need for an astronaut, in this case one of the protagonists, to surreptitiously get launched into space and dock with the ISS, and then take away an experiment, all without being “noticed” or stopped. It’s obviously not possible to launch a rocket into orbit with an astronaut on board without anyone noticing. But that kind of thing is exactly what is going on in this story. There is fundamentally nothing wrong with that, but it’s just too farfetched to make any sense.

The book reads easily and I finished it in a few days. But would I recommend it?


Rating - One and a Half Stars

Pope Stuff

Norbert Haupt:

I got a kick out of the first sentence: “So what’s the deal with the Pope? Do we like him … Do we not like him…?”

This shows how deeply important it is how we teach our children. They look to us to establish their own value system. That’s why children of Mormons become Mormon, children of Catholics become Catholic, children of atheists become atheists. What about children of illiterates? What about children of thieves?

Teach your children well.

Originally posted on The Grieving Atheist:

My daughter asked, “So what’s the deal with the Pope? Do we like him… Do we not like him…?”

I said, “Well, I would encourage you to look at what he says and does and decide for yourself. As for me, on a personal level, I kind of like him. He seems like a geniunely decent, humble and compassionate man. On the other hand, he’s still… you know… a Pope. So he’s kind of like the very likeable coach of a team I will never root for.”

View original

We live in the Sonata Community in South Escondido, within walking distance to Lake Hodges, a major shopping mall, a large high school and a community park – and unfortunately, to Be Wise Ranch, an organic farm. One would think that’s a good thing. I believe in organic farming. However, organic farms do not allow the use of pesticides, and the result is that our neighborhood is infested with eye gnats.

I have lived in Southern California for 30 years. We have a near perfect climate all year round. We like to enjoy the outdoors, to garden, grow exotic plants, have a glass of wine on the patio, doze in a hammock. But we cannot do any of these things where we live. If I go outside and start washing my car, within 20 seconds I am busy swatting gnats from my face and ears. I cannot spend five minutes planning anything in the yard without being frustrated by constant gnat attacks. I cannot sit outside and read any time of the day. We can never have meals outside on the patio, something we love to do. We cannot entertain guests outside. It’s a nightmare.

I don’t know the exact statistics, but there must be many thousands of houses within a three-mile radius of Be Wise Ranch in all directions. All of these neighbors have this problem. They have petitioned to San Diego County for help. The farmer has provided advice and traps. We have tried to use the traps and they turned out to be useless. Yes, some gnats got caught, but those in my face must have been the smart ones.

Here is a “gnat fence” comprised of traps spaced six feet apart. This is within a few hundred yards of my house.

gnat fence

Traps like this surround much of the farm itself, albeit not as closely spaced. I didn’t see any gnats in any of them. Can you imagine this line of traps stopping a gnat infestation covering many square miles? It seems ludicrous, like a barbed wire fence stopping flying pigs. I predict it will be as effective as building a wall between the United States and Mexico.

But joking aside, I believe this is a placebo, put up by the farmer to make people feel better.

There is no good answer to this. Be Wise Ranch can’t produce its product without its current practices. The neighbors living there are stuck. This isn’t going to change. If you live near an organic farm, you have to deal with flies. The rumor is that Bill Brammer, the owner of the farm, lives nowhere near here. The only solution is zoning. There should not be an organic farm near subdivisions of thousands of houses, a major high school, a major community park, and a huge shopping mall. But zoning requires political will.

The result is an inevitable drop in property values. There is no chance that I would buy an upgraded property in this neighborhood, knowing what I know now.

And now I have to go out and get the mail, swatting my way to the street and back.

Link to Yelp for Be Wise Ranch

I am fortunate. I have never had to use the services of Planned Parenthood. But I am a white male who was lucky enough to be born into and grow up in a stable economic environment. The current right wing in our political arena wants to defund Planned Parenthood, purportedly because the organization does mostly abortions.

Here is a chart of the procedures done by Planned Parenthood in 2013:

Planned Parenthood Services

[click for source – http://www.politifact.com

This shows that out of 10,590,433 procedures, 327,653 were abortions. That’s about 3 percent of the procedures. In contrast, here are some claims by some Republicans:

Planned Parenthood Services 1

[click for source – http://www.factcheck.org

These claims are obviously wrong at best, deceptive and skewed, or outright deceitful at worst.

I am not in favor of abortion. Being male, that’s easy for me to say. I have obviously never had one. But I don’t believe that our society has the right, or I have the right, or Tom Cole that the right, or Orrin Hatch has the right, to tell other women what to do or not do with their bodies.

More than 300,000 women annually find themselves in positions where they go to Planned Parenthood and eventually make the decision to have an abortion, whatever their reasons are. They make those decisions under extremely stressful conditions, economically, morally and psychologically. The last thing they need is some finger-wagging politician to tell them what to do. They need professional help from someone who is trained to help them, medically, if they decide to go forward, or psychologically, if necessary. This help cannot be legislated. It must be provided by qualified organizations, and Planned Parenthood is one of those.

We can, as a nation, remove Planned Parenthood. Then the 97% of the non-abortion-related services they are now providing will no longer be available. Those people needing those services will have to find other organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that provide those services.

If we outlaw abortions, that does not mean abortions don’t happen anymore, just like abolition in the twenties didn’t stop alcohol consumption.

I don’t believe that a single unwanted pregnancy will be prevented just because abortions are not legal. Women will still get pregnant, probably more of them, because there won’t be Planned Parenthood to help with contraception and education. With no ready services in this country, rich women will fly to Denmark, Holland or Germany to get the abortions they need. Those are the very few. The disadvantaged have to find back-alley quacks, or worse, cross the border to Mexico.

I do not understand what these Republican are trying to fix. We currently have a reasonably effective support system for unwanted pregnancies and contraception at the lower economic scale. Removing this support system will simply make abortions much more expensive, shift them underground, make them much more risky and of possibly criminal.

So what is it that drives these people to dictate their views to others and try to force their behavior? Don’t they know that does not work?

Rick Santorum has been ranting about the Pope’s statements about science, and particularly climate change. Here are two quotes:

“The perception that the media would like to give of Pope Francis and the reality are two different things…I’m a huge fan of his, and his focus on making sure that we have a healthier society…I support completely the Pope’s call for us to do more to create opportunities for people to be able to rise in society and care for the poor. That’s our obligation as a society.”

“The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we’re probably better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we’re really good on, which is theology and morality. When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, then I think the church is probably not as forceful and credible.”

Funny how Santorum decides about “controversial scientific theories.” His bachelors degree is in political science, then he got a one year MBA, then and a law degree, with honors. No science there at all. That did not stop him from advocating teaching of intelligent design in schools by introducing what became known as the Santorum Amendment.

Santorum is not a scientist.

In contrast, Pope Francis has a Masters degree in Chemistry. Pope Francis has considerably more scientific credentials that many of our congressmen.


[photo credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images]

Today Pope Francis addressed the crowd of 50,000 outside the U.S. Capitol from the Speaker’s Balcony. Among other things, surprisingly, he said:

And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.

I thought that was a powerful statement. I have been critical of the Pope in these posts and pages from time to time, but in the last few days in America, he has earned my respect.

He will have a deep and positive impact on the course of our world for some years to come.

He is someone I would be proud to know.

He is a man of — grace.


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