Monday, February 24, 2014

I told a young gay man today that I did my own taxes. I read the IRS publications, I did my own math, and I worked at it. And got money back.

He claimed that because I could do this, I must be part of the "1%" that is "the problem with this country!!!!!!!"

I said, "I'm part of the 1% because I can read and reason?" He then deleted all his posts.

I have no hope for this country.
The press is slamming President Obama's aggressive push to get the Pentagon off a war-footing for the first time in 60 years. Their claim: "He'll downsize the Army to the smallest since 1940!" -- dredging up images of an unprepared military and another Pearl Harbor.

The truth is, if Obama's plan is carried out, the U.S. Army will still be THREE TIMES the size it was in 1940.

Obama wants to cancel a fleet of unneeded A-10 attack planes (designed to destroy Soviet tanks in the Cold War and useless for close combat), but the military-industrial complex is already howling about that. Obama wants to transfer the Blackhawk helicopters (which are used for transport) to the National Guard, and take the National Guard's Apache helicopters (which are bristling with weapons) to the Army. The NG is red-faced screaming mad about that, too, and is already lobbying Congress to not take away its toys.

Obama's budget imposes a salary freeze on admirals and generals, while giving grunt soldiers a 1 percent pay hike for the first time in years. The Army-Navy Association is spitting nails about that. Obama wants 11 WWII-style cruisers put on reduced status so that the new Littoral Combat Ship can take over these duties -- but already the Navy is pissing its pants about that, too.

I can't help but notice that the "smallest Army since 1940" was pretty much reched under George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, but no one howled then. It trended down sharply under Clinton, and rose again under George W. Bush and under Obama. Only in 2011 did Obama undertake slight cuts. The first major cut came last year -- not this year -- but no one howled then.

The media has a lot to answer for on this, swallowing the military-industrial complex's propaganda line like this.

"Tell me again about how there were once 50 million of us on the plains, and how Meriwether Lewis cried in awe on the third day when the last of our herd passed his camp..."

"The Blackfoot called us 'iniwa', and we guarded the gates of the afterlife. To be known as a Bison Warrior was the greatest of honors, my son..."

Very sad day. He was a very funny man. RIP, Harold Ramis.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gays in Russia are encountering a conundrum that they did in the United States: Does showing the more extreme lifestyles of the LGBT community hinder or advance the cause?

One of the arguments LGBT people to advance their civil rights is "we're just like you". Coming out of the closet de-demonizes gay people, and makes others realize that "gay people" are your brother, husband, aunt, cousin, neighbor, pastor.

However, allowing the full diversity of the LGBT community to be seen can also hinder that goal. Drag queens in full bitch-camp mode doesn't make LGBT people look "just like their straight neighbors". Nor does polyamory, extreme inter-generational relationships, Radical Faeries, BDSM/leather, etc. Remember the Mattachine Society: They demanded that LGBT people picket in suits, ties, dresses, and the like. Never in casual clothes, and god forbid in anything campy, trans, or fetish. And yet, the LGBT community is pushing for a goal that allow extreme diversity. To hide, censor, or pretend that this diversity does not exist within the LGBT community is both a lie and a betrayal of that goal.

The reason why I bring this up is because in today's Washington Post article about the LGBT community in Russia, "everyday" people are interviewed and discussed. Yet, the picture used to depict the gay community is a.) a bar (hardly the place most straight people live) and b.) full of cross-dressing campy drag queens. If the goal is to talk about ordinary people like teachers, neighbors (living in their apartments or homes), co-workers, etc., why not show these people? To the average Russian, where propaganda depicts LGBT people as deviant, depicting gay men as drag queens reinforces the state propaganda. Indeed, it may even undercut American support. ("Ma, are we supposed to support civil rights or just the right to be a drunken club-going drag queen? C'mere, Ma, lookit this photo...")

There is a serious issue here, and I wonder if the press has considered what it is doing.

(Caveat: The only LGBT people who may feel comfortable being photographed may be those with the least to lose, like transvestites or drag performers. Thus, it may be the only photo available, other than the arrest one.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, Cuba -- killing most of its approximately 350 crew.

The USS Maine was one of several new battleships and other warships built by the United States Navy after 1884 to modernize the fleet. The Maine was launched on November 18, 1889, and commissioned on September 17, 1895. She was part of the North Atlantic Squadron for nearly all of her career.

On January 24, 1898, the Maine was sent from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba, to protect American citizens and interests during the Cuban War of Independence. She arrived the following day.

At 9:40 p.m. local time on February 15, an explosion on board Maine destroyed and sank the ship. More than five tons of powder charges in the ship's ammunitions magazine detonated, instantly destroying about 100 feet (or one-third) of the bow of the ship. The keel twisted, the sides exploded outward, and the upper deck flew into the air, went upside down, and landed on the central third of the vessel. The central third of the ship remained somewhat more intact, but was severely damaged and lacked structural integrity. The last third of the ship at the stern remained completely intact. The burning Maine rapidly sank. Most of the Maine's crew (none of them officers) were sleeping or resting in the enlisted quarters in the forward part of the ship. Eight others died later from their injuries. Captain Charles Dwight Sigsbee and all but two of the officers survived (as they were in the rear of the ship).

Official figures for crew and dead are difficult to determine, and even government sources disagree. The majority of sources say the ship carried 354 crew. But crew numbers cited by sources vary from as low as 327 to as high as 375. The number of dead is also difficult to determine. Most sources claim 266, although figures go as low as 252 and others as high as 274. The number of dead is complicated by the fact that several members of the crew died after the initial explosion. But even these figures vary. Some sources say just 6 later died of their injuries, while others claim 8 did so.

On March 19, a U.S. Navy board of inquiry lead by Captain William T. Sampson concluded that Maine was destroyed by the explosion of its ammunition magazines. But the board of inquiry was unable to determine what set off the ammunition. Nonetheless, the press and most members of Congress concluded that the Maine struck a naval mine laid by the Spanish (the colonial rules of Cuba). Resolutions declaring war on Spain were introduced in Congress on March 28 and passed on April 20, initiating the Spanish-American War.

Subsequent investigations have suggested that the cause of the explosion was the ignition of coal dust in the fuel bunker or a fire in the coal bunker, although some studies still conclude that the cause was a mine.

Many of the dead simply disintegrated in the blast. Bodies, partial bodies, and minor remains (hands, feet, portions of limbs, etc.) were found in the water. Bodies and remains continued to wash ashore for the next two weeks. All told, authorities believed they recovered the remains of 166 different bodies, which were placed in 147 graves in Colon Cemetery in Havana. Almost none were identifiable. A few bodies were transported to and interred in Key West. It's not clear how many bodies are there; perhaps as few as 19, and as many as 27.

The shallow harbor meant that some of the superstructure of the USS Main remained above the waterline for the next two decades.

In 1899, with the Spanish-American War at an end, the bodies at Colon Cemetery were retrieved and reburied in a field at Arlington National Cemetery. President McKinley, the entire Cabinet, the entire Supreme Court, and nearly all members of Congress attended the reburial.

A temporary memorial to the Maine dead was constructed in the first six months of 1900. Two Spanish mortars — taken by Admiral George Dewey from Cavite Arsenal in Manila, The Philippines, at the end of the Spanish-American War — were placed on brick piers on either side of a concrete base. In the center of the concrete pad was an anchor. The anchor was manufactured specifically for the site. The two-ton anchor was hand-welded using rough iron to give it a unique look. A slightly worm-eaten wooden crossbar was inserted into the top of the anchor. The crossbar was painted black to protect it, and a brass tablet was riveted to the crossbar.

In 1910, Congress authorized funds to raise the Maine, retrieve the bodies on the ship, and sink the hulk at sea. It took three years to build a caisson around the Maine, remove the water, and retrieve the bodies. On March 16, 1913, the tugboat USS Osceola towed what remained of the USS Maine three miles out to sea, where her seacocks were opened and she sank. (Tons of additional debris had been removed and sunk at sea during the previous three years.)

On March 20, 1912, the last of the USS Maine's dead were buried in the field at Arlington before President William Howard Taft, the Cabinet, and Congress. Estimates of the number of dead in the burial field around the monument include 229, 230, and 232.

On May 30, 1915, the USS Maine Mast Memorial was dedicated at Arlington. It was designed by local architect Nathan C. Wyeth, who designed the Russell Senate Office Building in 1903 and the West Wing of the White House in 1909. The round structure was designed to look like a ship's gun turret. The main mast of the shiip projects from the top of the memorial, while the exterior is adorned with the names of the dead. The ship's bell, which was found in the mud of Havana Harbor on July 22, 1911, was placed on the door of the memorial. (It had been split in half by the explosion.)

In 1962, a terrace was constructed for the anchor and mortars. The terrace is paved with bluestone flagstones, which also replaced the concrete pad on which the anchor rested.

The USS Maine Mast Memorial underwent a partial restoration in 2010, and a complete restoration in 2013.

I have a bunch of pictures of the USS Maine Mast Memorial here.

Ellie Banks: This is the street.
Stanley Banks: Too bad Kay couldn't have picked her in-laws from somebody we know.
Ellie Banks: 362, 364...
Stanley Banks: Bet they won't even have a drink.
Ellie Banks: What makes you think they won't?
Stanley Banks: Just that kind of people.
Ellie Banks: Well, what if they don't? You're not an alcoholic are you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love hurts
Love scars
Love wounds
And mars
Any heart
Not tough
Or stong
To take a lot of pain
Take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts
Love hurts

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that James M. Hamilton was a historian and economist who was named one of Montana State University's four most important presidents in 2011?
Never too soon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I love postmodern architecture. I also love buildings with huge amounts of wood and glass, nestled in alpine forests.

Thus, I love Thorncrown Chapel, a small nondenominational Christian house of worship located in the Ozark Mountains near Eureka Springs, Arkansas (on the border with Missouri).

The structure is just 48 feet high, 24 feet wide, and 60 feet long. It has 425 windows and 6,000 square feet of glass, and just 11 pews. Constructed in 1980 at a cost of $200,000 ($565,000 in 2013 dollars), the Architecture Institute of America (AIA) declared it the fourth-most influential building of the 20th century. (It is widely imitated.) It also won the AIA's Design of the Year Award for 1981 and the AIA's Design of the Decade Award for the 1980s. In 2000, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Buildings less than 50 years old can only be listed on the Register if they are of exceptional significance, as Thorncrown is.

Northwestern Arkansas is one of the most religious sections of the United States. Branson, Missouri -- described by Bart Simpson as "Las Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders" -- is close by. So is Bentonville, the home of the ultra-conservative company Wal-Mart. Retired schoolteacher Jim Reed bought the land on which Thorncrown was built as a vacation home for him and his wife. But after friends kept telling him how peaceful and spiritual the place was, he resolved to build a chapel there.

Reed commissioned E. Fay Jones, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and chairman of the Department of Architecture at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (only a few miles from Eureka Springs), to design the chapel. Jones' design was by La Sainte-Chapelle (right), the Rayonnant Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in Paris, France.

Gothic architecture utilized high, vaulted ceilings; pointed arches; and flying buttresses to create a columnless interior space. Verticality and light are important aspects of Gothic architecture. Rayonnant Gothic buildings are a particular style of French Gothic architecture which de-emphasize vast, overpowering spaces in favor of more personal structures. Rayonnant Gothic buildings also emphasize two-dimensional space and repetition in patterns. Sainte-Chapelle represents the height of the Rayonnant Gothic motif. Completed in 1248 CE, it is noted for its brightly lit stained glass windows, its delicate gilded stonework, and its bright blue painted ceiling with white stars.

Jones decided on a blend of stone and wood for Thorncrown that he called "Ozark Gothic". He wanted to emphasize verticality, weightlessness, and light, but he wanted to do so using elements (wood, stone, earth) native to the area.

Reed put $100,000 of his own money into the construction of the chapel. But Fay's design needed $200,000 to build. Reed ordered construction to begin, but when funds ran out the construction ended -- and the chapel sat half-finished. Finally, a woman in Illinois loaned Reed the money needed to finish the chapel.

Thorncrown is open year-round, and more than 300 weddings a year are held there (which is largely how it pays its way).

The vertical and diagonal trusses are made from Arkansas pine. Because the existing trees in the area could not be harmed or removed (the site had to be maintained in its original condition), the trusses were cut to a size that could be carried through the trees. The lengthier trusses were assembled on-site. A gray stain was used to make the wood blend in with the surrounding stone. The chapel is sunk about four feet into the ground to provide the foundation with stability. The retaining walls which form the foundation as well as the floor are made of local flagstone. The walls above the foundation up to the roof are single-pane glass.

Exterior Gothic flying buttresses were replaced by interlocking wooden trusses overhead. Hollow steel joints form cross-braces for the trusses, creating a diamond-shaped pattern. The overall effect is that of tree branches interlocking overhead, or a crown of thorns. The tying-together of the trusses through use of these steel joints permitted the wall columns to be thin and widely spaced. Each end of the chapel to thus is open, focusing attention on the entryway and the altar.

Most of the lighting is natural. The walls, of course, provide most of it. But Jones also built a skylight into the ridge of the roof to provide more dramatic lighting of the trusses. (Initially, the roof skylight was narrow, but Jones altered this design once construction began and he realized just how much light was playing among the trusses.) For nighttime lighting, there are 12 light fixtures on each side wall, attached to the columns. The lights are boxes of oak (with vertical oak lathes to create a sense of movement and verticality). A cross is cut from the center of each fixture, and frosted white glass behind the lathes conceals the light bulb -- permitting the cross to glow. The fixtures also have slits on the sides and an open top. Light plays up the columns as well as along the glass, spraying rays of light everywhere. The interior lighting also creates shadows and bars of light outside the structure, and the illusion of crosses can be see in the fog or against the ground and trees.

Thorncrown has minimal furnishings. There are 11 oak pews on either side of the main aisle, each identical to the other. The pew seats are upholstered in bright blue cloth. An organ sits to the right of the front door. The chapel cross, lectern, and altar railing at the rear of the chapel are made of steel. Usually, gigantic green Boston ferns conceal seating for the pastors and altar boys up front, although wooden screens made of pine lathing can also be used for this purpose.

Frankly, pictures like the one at the top of this post are immensely deceptive. Photoshopping an image so that the colors are oversaturated, the blues too blue, the yellows too golden, the browns too dark... it's just too easy to make any structure like this look good.

It's also too easy to use foreground exaggeration to make it look big. That's what the photo at the top does. Thorncrown is not a massively tall building at all. Foreground exaggeration magnifies its height, fools the eyes into thinking the top is more top-heavy than it really is. It creates a trompe l'oeil ("fool the eye") image that makes the eye feel proportion is lost -- and thus the eye dismisses what it's seeing.

It's not the "crown of thorns" roof that I like about Thorncrown. It's the glass walls, the transparency of it, the columnless interior, the way stone and glass and wood come together.

It's like having a combination of Philip Johnson's Glass House (New Canaan, Conn.) and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (Stewart Township, Fayette County, Penn.).

I love it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Too soon?

Wonder Woman isn't going to get a movie, I guess. Warner Bros. has said that Israeli supermodel Gal Gadot (a non-actress) will play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Superman/Batman team-up movie.


Now, the thing about Wonder Woman -- like Captain America -- is that she's really a product of World War II. Why the Amazonians would send Princess Diana into our modern world is kind of beyond me (especially if Superman et al. already exist here).

Therefore, it seems likely that any Wonder Woman film should be set in the 1940s. At least, at first.

Second, the choice of a villain or villains is really critical. The villain should be someone who can interact with Wonder Woman, someone who can have great lines, and someone who should be able to advance the story line.

Myself, I'd choose a storyline in which the great 1940s villainness Baroness Paula von Gunther returns. This allows the Amazonians to send Princess Diana into "man's world" at the correct time (1942), and provides the viewer with a great villain you love to hate -- and who can deliver some really catty, juicy lines.

von Gunther should be teamed up with another great Wonder Woman villain, The Cheetah. Now, in the comics, Cheetah (originally) was nothing more than a karate-skilled normal female with razor-sharp fingernails. She's later rebooted, given super powers by some plant-god.

I know: PLANT-god? Bleah!

Instead, I'd have von Gunther secretly working with another great Wonder Woman villain: Circe. It'd be the demi-god/sorceress Circe who'd be the person to have given Cheetah her powers. It'd be Circe who prompts the Amazonians to send Diana into "man's world" (as no man can resist Circe's hypnotic powers). While Circe has tried to turn men into animals that can be sent into combat, they always turn out mindless. But when Circe tried her tricks on a woman, she ended up smart, evil, and super-powered.

At the end of the film, I'd allow von Gunther and Cheetah to be killed. But Wonder Woman would be locked in a titanic battle with Circe, who finally turns to magic as a means of destroying Diana.

But I would have both of them frozen in ice or time or something.... by the War-God, Ares. Ares is truly the greatest of all of Wonder Woman's opponents. Ares wanted Circe stopped, because she was driving von Gunther to get the atom bomb. Ares, addicted to war, wanted humanity to wipe out one another in combat -- not in a flash of radioactive particles. Ares has correctly predicted four years of unrelenting combat, a Cold War, and hot-spots around the globe (Korea, Vietnam, etc.). Circe's attempt to give von Gunther the bomb, and establish a matriarchal fascist society dominated by women, interfered with his grander plan.

Unaffected by this would be "damsel in distress" Steve Trevor and comic-relief ally Etta Candy. It'd be Trevor and Candy's job to find a way to undo whatever enchantment or prison that Ares has locked Wonder Woman into.

This allows Steve Trevor (pretty much a boring character) to age into irrelevancy by the second film, although he frees her.

Initially, Wonder Woman's bracelets, ability fly, and so on were unexplained. But when DC Comics "soft booted" all their comic lines in 2011-2012, Wonder Woman's powers were given far more specific form.

For example: Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, gave her the power of the earth (making her super-strong), and the ability to swiftly heal so long as she is in contact with soil. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, gave her super-intelligence, scientific skill, and combat skill. Artemis, goddess of the hunt, gave her super-sight and super-hearing. Hestia, goddess of hearth and home, gave her the ability to withstand fire. The "Fires of Truth" are wielded through Wonder Woman's lasso. Hermes, god of speed, gave her superhuman speed and the ability to fly. Aphrodite, goddess of love, gave her mercy. Due to her divine origins, Wonder Woman can resist magical mental and physical manipulation.

Wonder Woman's costume was also explained. Her costume is not red-white-and blue but a red top with stylized golden eagle (symbolic of justice and honor), a golden belt (or girdle, symbolic of her defense of hearth and home), and merely blue shorts. She's more recently been depicted as wearing long blue sleeves and blue pants as well to de-sexualize the character. Her bracelets were formed from the remnants of Athena's shield, the Aegis, and not only can deflect bullets and energy but also rechannel (to some degree) energy outward again. Her lasso was forged by the god Hephaestus from the golden girdle of the earth-goddess Gaea. (Myself, I'd refashion this into a whip, not a lasso.) The original of her tiara remains unexplained, although it has been used as a razor-edged throwing weapon.

I'd incorporate the lasso as a whip into the film, allowing Wonder Woman to use it as a weapon (it should be hot, like fire), and to use it for various stunts and cool moves. Her tiara should not return to her (this isn't Captain Boomerang or Xena, Warrior Princess), but it would be used as a cool, last-minute offensive weapon that might prove quite deadly.

Circe. Defining Circe's powers would be critical in any Wonder Woman movie. Mythologically, Circe had the power to control men's minds, and make them her weak-willed slaves. They weren't any good in combat, but they were good as sex-toys, at doing manual labor, and at doing tasks that didn't require quick thinking. They lost a lot of their creativity and ability to lie well under her control, too.

Circe also had the power to turn human beings into animals. She used this almost exclusively on men, and seemed very unwilling to use it on women (although she could).

Circe was also a sorceress of some (but not unlimited or great) power. Her magic was most effective in the forms of potions, poisons, and powders.

The Wonder Woman comics also show Circe using energy blasts from her hands, and other fantastical powers.

I think any movie should limit Circe to traditional powers. The real battle should be Wonder Woman's attempt to uncover whatever power von Gunther seems to have over the leaders of Nazi Germany, and then her battles with Cheetah and von Gunther's men. Circe can have prepared a series of on-shot magical traps or tricks, but these are one-shot, prepared by her far in advance and taking days to prepare each one.

The way to defeat Circe would be a poisoned spear. Greek myth says that she gave this spear to her son Telegonus. (He used it to kill his father Odysseus, who resisted Circe's magic.) But in killing Circe, perhaps Wonder Woman falls prey to Circe's final trick (a powder that freezes her). That would allow Ares to merely put the frozen Amazonian Princess in storage somewhere, until Steve Trevor found a way to undo the spell...

I think this would have the ability to be a great motion picture. Oh, I should just get an agent and sell my screenplay. LOL!

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., once ran about a half-mile further west to terminate at the Potomac River (original terminus depicted)?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

FINALLY: Some well-written Superman.

Captain Marvel accidentally kills the assassin who murdered his best friend, Scott Okum. Superman's anger at the assassin's death is only exceeded by his fury at the way Billy Batson has been treated by the wizard Shazam -- left on his own to deal with powers he barely understands, isolated, living in squalor, emotionally scarred. Just a ten-year-old kid inside a superhero's body.

This is from Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, published in 2006.

Grand Central Oyster Bar - Grand Central Station NYC I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that by 1850, nearly every major town in North America had oyster bar, oyster cellar, oyster parlor, or oyster saloon where oysters and beer went hand-in-hand because oysters were seen as a cheap food to serve alongside liquor?

If you listen to people in Washington, D.C., they support the Height Act -- which keeps our buildings under 14 stories -- because they don't want D.C. to be a "city of canyons".

As if that would be a bad thing...
Here's the headline that ran in the progressive magazine Mother Jones:
Mormon Church Abandons Its Crusade Against Gay Marriage
Prop. 8 backlash has led the Latter Day Saints to soften their treatment of LGBT church members.
—By Stephanie Mencimer

And a month later, more of the same, this time reporting the views of LDS church-watcher Fred Karger:

"...and lost a considerable number of members who were unhappy with its involvement..."
"On April 6, during the LDS's annual conference, Boyd Packer, who is next in line to assume the church's top leadership post, warned, 'We need to be careful of the tolerance trend trap, so that we do not get swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate and legalize immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result from a violation of God's law of Chastity'."
"...the Huffington Post reported that a scant 16 Utah residents (a rough proxy for Mormons) had donated a collective total of $1,264 to four state ballot committees fighting same-sex marriage bills."
"Wolfson is cautiously optimistic. He thinks it's too soon to know whether the LDS church has unilaterally withdrawn from the marriage fight or whether this is just a temporary cease-fire: 'In 2012, part of their tactical reason for pulling back was to avoid any muddying the waters for Romney. That was a higher priority for them than even attacking gay people'."
How the Mormons Ensured Victory for Gay Marriage
-By Stephanie Mencimer

Frankly, this is all wishful thinking. Fred Karger is not an expert on the Mormon Church, and should not be considered an expert on its internal workings. His claim that the church "suffered such a black eye" is nonsense to true believers, and his assertion that the church "lost so many members" and "really had no choice" is nothing short of nonsense. (Mormonism remains one of the world's fastest-growing religions, even post-2008.)

Karger points to an apology by someone who is not an Elder of the LDS Church. But a non-official apology meant to placate LGBT Mormons means nothing. The Web site states right at the top that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is -- in other words, nothing changes. Just more of the old "love the sinner, hate the sin" crapola.

The San Francisco State University Family Acceptance Project booklet for LDS families still counsels them to consider homosexuality a sin, still tells them to "love the sinner, hate the sin", and argues that "accepting the sinner but hating the sin" is but a subterfuge to 1) keep kids in the LDS faith, and 2) help parents undermine homosexuality in their child as he/she "struggles" to overcome it. The booklet urges LDS congregations not to reject or expel LGBT people -- but only because this allows the church to "love" and "encourage" them to abandon homosexuality. Furthermore, the booklet quotes LDS Elder Dallin H. Oaks that homosexuality is nothing more than "susceptibilities or inclinations" -- not an immutable orientation.

The Mother Jones article goes out of its way to highlight the fact that gay person Mitch Mayne was elected a leader in his stake (the basic organizational unit of the LDS Church) -- but then buries the fact that he was only able to do so AFTER he broke up with his longtime partner and declared himself celibate for life. It buries the fact that noncelibate LGBT members are still excluded from physically worshipping in the church's sacred spaces and its most important ceremonies.

One might characterize the much-ballyhooed Mormon effort to reduce LGBT youth homelessness in Salt Lake City as nothing more than a publicity ploy: It was embarrassing, it undermined the LDS assertion that "family is everything", and it showed the church's heartlessness.

Jim Dabakis -- a FORMER Mormon, out-of-the-closet homosexual, and current head of the Utah Democratic Party -- says that the changes are permanent. Well, we'll have to see, won't we? As an ex-LDS, gay person, and co-founder of the Utah Pride Center, he'd have to say that, wouldn't he? He's desperate to keep LDS and government funding for the homeless youth initiative flowing. Why would he admit that the relationship is tenuous and hesitant? That'd shut off the money spigot for good. Dabakis also makes unsubstantiated claims about the lack of Mormon money flowing to anti-gay marriage initiatives. In fact, the LDS Church learned its lesson: Hide the flow of money, don't stop it. Let the National Organization for Marriage collect the money, not the LDS Church. Keep the hate-stream flowing, just not through the LDS pulpit.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kenneth H. Dahlberg died on October 9, 2011.

Why should you care?

Because without Kenneth Dahlberg, Nixon might not have become ensnared in the Watergate scandal and been forced to resign.

* * * * * * *

Richard M. Nixon was sworn in as the 39th president of the United States on January 20, 1969. The very day of the inaugural, the Nixon campaign illegally hid $1.4 million in leftover funds from the 1968 presidential campaign for use as a "slush-fund" in the 1972 re-election campaign. The funds were to be used as a way of evading a new federal election law which would force candidates to reveal the sources of their donations. At the same time, the Nixon team set up the "Committee to Re-Elect the President" -- an organization whose unfortunate acronym was "CReEP."

Four months after he took office, Nixon began bugging his own staff. John Ehrlichman, his chief domestic policy advisor, began putting together a secret staff to destabilize the American democracy through a campaign of "dirty tricks," illegal bugging, illegal spying, the theft of documents, fire bombing of offices, and other practices. The aim was not only to undermine the candidacy of any Democrat who ran against Nixon, but also to destabilize a wide range of groups opposed to the Nixon administration's policies (domestic and foreign). In November 1970, Nixon hired Charles Colson, a Republican political operative from Massachusetts, as special White House counsel. Seven months later, Colson hired E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, as a security consultant. That same month, a former New York City police officer hired by H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, proposed implementing the "dirty tricks" campaign. The plan was approved in July 1971, and Hunt began setting things in motion. He was assisted by G. Gordon Liddy, an attorney and former aide to Ehrlichman. Although the plan was scaled back numerous times, eventually Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Colson, and others approved a plan to illegaly bug Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters.

In early 1972, Maurice Stans, Nixon's former Commerce Secretary and now finance chairman of CREEP, set up a money-laundering operation with a Mexican attorney named Manuel Ogarrio Daguerre. Stans encouraged Democrats, corporations (which were barred by law from donating to political campaigns), businessmen or labor leaders having regulatory problems, special-interest groups, and underground sources (such as the mafia, mob-dominated labor unions, casinos and others) to donate to the Nixon campaign before the new campaign finance law went into effect on April 7, 1972. The donations would be laundered through Mexico (where the bank records were beyond the reach of American subpoenas). Ogarrio would then write checks to the Nixon campaign in the proper amounts.

On April 7, 1972, Herb Kalmbach, Nixon's personal attorney, resigned as deputy finance chairman for CREEP. Federal election investigators had begun investigating Kalmbach for illegal campaign contributions, and he decided to resign rather than threaten Nixon's re-election bid.

On April 11, 1972, Nixon's Midwest finance chairman, Kenneth H. Dahlberg, received a cashier's check for $25,000. It was an illegal corporate campaign donation which should have been laundered through Mexico. Dahlberg turned it over to CREEP. It was never deposited in CREEP's accounts, but put into a "slush-fund" of cash and cashier's checks that was kept in a safe in Stans' office.

On May 28, 1972, Liddy and three Cuban-Americans broke into DNC headquarters and installed bugging equipment. The equipment failed to function properly, and a second operation was planned.

On June 17, 1972, five burglars -- Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, James W. McCord and Frank Sturgis -- were arrested at 2:30 AM during a break-in at the DNC offices at the Watergate. On the morning of June 18, 1972, McCord admitted before a judge that he was a former CIA agent. Gonzalez and Martinez were anti-Castro Cubans living in Miami. Gonzales was a locksmith. Martinez worked for Barker's real estate agency. Sturgis was also a former CIA agent who had engaged in anti-Castro operations. The same day, Hunt removed $10,000 from a White House safe in order to pay lawyers to represent the five men. Notebooks carried by the burglars contained Hunt's name. Later that day, Nixon's legal counsel John Dean, Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray, and other staff obstructed justice by destroying the contents of Hunt's safe at the White House along with massive amounts of documents at CREEP. Nixon also ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to "hinder" the FBI's investigation of the break-in.

In early July 1972, Hugh Sloan, a former scheduling aide in the Nixon White House who had become CREEP's treasurer, resigned for personal reasons. Sloan had been pressured by his wife to leave after he revealed to her that CREEP was creating secret, illegal "slush funds" for use in political dirty-tricks campaigns. Shortly thereafter, the slush-fund was moved from Maurice Stans' office to the office of Fred LaRue. (LaRue was a former aide to Attorney General John Mitchell and was now Mitchell's chief aide at CREEP, overseeing the legal staff.) Stans approved the transfer of the fund to LaRue's office, as well as an $80,000 hush-money payment to the Watergate burglars. The same day, another $350,000 in CREEP funds was transferred from an Alexandria, Va., safe-deposit box and given to the burglars as hush-money.

On July 7, 1972, E. Howard Hunt turned himself in to the FBI. Walter O. Bittman, Hunt's attorney, received $25,000 in cash in a brown paper envelope in order to take the case.

On August 1, 1972, the Washington Post reported that a $25,000 cashier's check made out to the Nixon re-election campaign had been found in the bank account of Watergate burglar Bernard Barker.

Here's where it gets amazing...........

Dade County, Florida, district attorney Richard E. Gerstein was up for re-election. He was facing a tough primary opponent as well as a tough general election. When Gerstein learned that the Watergate burglary had involved citizens of Miami, he decided to investigate the burglars to "ensure that Florida law had not been broken." In fact, his investigation was a political stunt to boost his re-election chances.

Martin Dardis was Gerstein's chief investigator. As part of his investigation, Dardis had subpoenaed burglar Bernard Barker's bank account. In the account, Dardis not only found the cashier's check made out to Kenneth Dahlberg but also four other cashier's checks totaling $89,000. The four others were drawn on a Mexico City bank.

Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein spoke to Dardis. Bernstein had learned of the Dardis investigation from an off-hand comment made by an FBI source, and decided to fly to Miami to see what the prosecutor had learned. Dardis told Bernstein of the existence of the check with Dahlberg's name on it, but admitted that he did not know who Dahlberg was. Checking the Post's library, Bernstein found that Dahlberg probably lived in Minnesota. Checking the Minneapolis phone book, Bernstein found Dahlberg's home phone number. Bernstein called Dahlberg and asked him why a cashier's check for $25,000 in his name would be in the bank of a Watergate burgler. Dahlberg said that he was Midwest finance chairman for the Nixon campaign, and had probably received the check as part of his fund-raising duties. He then told Bernstein that he turned all his money over to either John Mitchell or Maurice Stans at CREEP.

The Dahlberg admission was the first evidence anyone had that CREEP was linked to the Watergate break-in.

On August 16, 1972, CREEP chairman Clark MacGregor held a press conference in which he claimed G. Gordon Liddy had mis-used a $100,000 CREEP cash fund (designated for security at the GOP national convention) to fund the Watergate burglary.

On August 22, 1972, the Washington Post reported that the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the Congress and the agency charged with maintaining reports about federal campaign finances under the new campaign finance law, found that CREEP had mis-used at least $500,000 in campaign funds. The same day, Judge Charles Richey, who was presiding over the DNC's $1 million lawsuit case against CREEP, shocked court observers by sealing all the pretrial testimony in the case until the lawsuit had been decided. Judge Richey phoned Carl Bernstein later that night to adamantly deny that he had been approached by anyone from CREEP. Bernstein was dumbstruck; he had not called Judge Richey, and had never met him. Why the urgent need for denial?

On August 26, 1972, the Washington Post reported that the GAO had uncovered an additional $350,000 in illegal cash funds maintained by CREEP. The Post also reported on the Mexican money-laundering scheme set up by CREEP finance chairman Stans, and that more than $750,000 in additional money (raised exclusively in the Southwest) had also been laundered through Mexico.

On August 29, 1972, President Richard Nixon held his first press conference of the year. Nixon admitted that there had been "technical violations" of the new campaign finance law, but tried to divert attention from Watergate by claiming that the Democrats had also violated the law. Nixon also claimed that White House counsel John Dean had conducted an investigation into the Watergate matter ("the Dean report") and found that no one from the White House was involved. In fact, Dean had not discussed Watergate at all with the President, and had made no report. Dean's investigation had been designed to provide facts to support a cover-up and to protect Nixon's closest aides.

On August 30, 1972, the Washington Post reported on Nixon's press conference. The paper also reported that Watergate burglar Bernard Barker had told friends that "someone" was paying his legal bills. It was the first public acknowledgement that illegal cash payments were being made to the Watergate burglars.

The rest of the history of Watergate is well-known.

Dahlberg later started the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Company, which developed one of the first hearing aids to fit inside the ear canal. He sold the company in 1994 for $139 million.

Dahlberg wrote a letter to the New York Times in 1976 in which he said: "The revelations of Watergate were so repulsive that I am grateful for their exposure."

* * * * * * * * * *

Now here's a weird twist of fate:

Dahlberg was a pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He was a triple ace (to be an ace, you have to shoot down at least five opponents). He was shot down and captured two times, escaping twice. In 1944, Dahlberg was shot down a third time during the Battle of the Bulge.

Martin Dardis was one of five G.I.s who rescued Dahlberg.

Dahlberg was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest award for bravery. He never received notification of the award and so never picked up his medal. He finally learned about it in 1967, and was given the award by Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

It was the photo of Dahlberg receiving his medal that gave the Washington Post the lead on who Kenneth Dahlberg was.

In 1991, Dardis and his four comrades were awarded the Silver Star for their heroism in rescuing Dahlberg.
When W. Mark Felt, former #2 man at the FBI during the Nixon years, died on December 18, 2008, the Washington Post confirmed that he was indeed "Deep Throat" -- the legendary secret informer who helped Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein break the Watergate case wide open and which caused Richard M. Nixon to resign.

What was Watergate??!?!!?????

Oy. Well........

Richard M. Nixon was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California in 1946, winning office for his tough anti-Communist views and no-holds-barred campaigning.

In 1948, Nixon led a House subcommittee investigation into whether Alger Hiss, a liberal intellectual and bureaucrat, was a Communist spy. Whittaker Chambers, a senior editor from Time magazine, exposed Hiss in dramatic, televised testimony. Hiss was sent to prison, Chambers went home to write his memoirs and become a famous conservative icon, and Nixon was on his way to the U.S. Senate.

In 1950, Nixon was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Senator Helen Gahagan Douglas (D), a former actress. Douglas was a moderate and a gentle, kind person. Nixon viciously attacked her during the course of the campaign, accusing her of having Communist sympathies. Nixon buried Douglas at the polls in November.

In 1952, Republican presidential nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower named Nixon his vice-presidential running mate. In August 1952, Democrats claimed that Nixon had received $18,000 from a "slush fund" that had functioned as a source of income for the candidate. To counter these charges, Nixon made a dramatic speech to the nation on September 23, 1952. Nixon listed his family assets, and outright denied the Democratic charges except in one case. Nixon admitted to a single gift -- a cocker spaniel dog named Checkers, which he gave to his two young daughters. The "Checkers speech" was a success and saved Nixon's political career.

In 1960, Nixon ran for the presidency against John F. Kennedy. Nixon lost by only 118,574 votes. The election was probably much closer; widespread Democratic vote fraud in Illinois probably cost Nixon the election.

In 1962, Nixon ran for governor of California and was soundly defeated by Pat Brown (father of Jerry Brown). Afterward, a bitter Nixon told reporters, "You won't have Richard Nixon to kick around any more."

In 1968, Nixon ran for president again, declaring himself "tanned, rested and ready." Nixon won the presidency in a squeaker (by 510,314 votes) over Vice President and former senator Hubert M. Humphrey. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) nearly upset President Lyndon B. Johnson in February's New Hampshire primary (49-to-42 percent). The near-miss led Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) -- who had previously denied any interest in the presidency and was in fact a rather conservative Democrat (contrary to his legacy today) -- to enter the race in March. Johnson, faced with an almost certain loss to McCarthy in April's Wisconsin primary, stunned the nation by announcing his retirement. With Johnson out of the race, voters turned to Kennedy as the more moderate candidate. Kennedy appeared to have locked up the Democratic nomination with a victory on June 4, 1968, in the California primary, but was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a Jordanian immigrant, in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The complete Watergate timeline, behind this cut..........

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's your chance of escaping poverty in America? Just 8 percent, the smallest -- by a HUGE margin -- of any industrialized nation in the world.

Remember that GOP lie about "in America, anyone can be rich if you just work hard?" It's bullshit.

Rep. Paul Ryan and his ilk are claiming that Obama's policies have worsened upward mobility by making people more dependent on government. The most recent study, using a huge amount of data, disproves that. It also shows that upward mobility is almost impossible in America.

The key factor? Sharply rising incomes at the top of the ladder holds back talented people lower down.

This is Blood Falls in Antarctica.

Millions of years ago (no one is sure just how long), ice covered a lake in Antarctica. The water leached salt out of the ground below, and some evaporation also occurred. The lake became salty, three times saltier than seawater. With so much salt in it, the water could not freeze. More and more ice was deposited on top of the lake, until the lake was more than 1,200 feet below the ice.

The ice became part of the Taylor Glacier. As the glacier moves, it scrapes iron from the earth. This iron mixes with the water. In time, a crack formed in the glacier that allowed the lakewater to find a way to the surface. As the iron-rich water reaches the surface, it oxidizes -- and turns bright red with rust. This is what forms Blood Falls.

Blood Falls does not cascade into the ocean. About 3,000 miles due south of New Zealand is the Ross Sea, which bites deep into the interior of Antarctica. The western shore of the Ross Sea is bounded by the Beacon Supergroup, part of the Transantarctic Mountains. This geologic formation is so high that it prevents moisture from reaching the shorline. The valleys (each some 20 to 30 miles long) between the Beacon Supergroup and the shoreline are therefore incredibly dry -- some of the driest places on Earth! The air west of the supergroup is very, very cold. In fact, it is so cold, that it plunges at near-hypersonic speed (200 to 300 mph) toward the ground. It heats up with friction as it does so, and when it reaches the ground it causes moisture there to evaporate. These "katabatic" winds also help keep the Dry Valleys of the Ross Sea some of the most moisture-free spaces on Earth.

The Beacon Supergroup traps an enormous amount of ice behind it. This includes the Taylor Glacier, which is in the Taylor Valley. At the west end of the Taylor Valley is Lake Bonney, a salty lake with an ice cover. An unfrozen body of water lies beneath the ice cover. Blood Falls pouts into Lake Bonney from the western end of the Taylor Glacier.

What's even more fascinating???

Microbes were trapped in the water of the subglacial lake 1,200 feet below Taylor Glacier. At first, these microbes used oxygen to survive, but soon all the oxygen was used up. There were, however, sulfates in the exposed rock. These microbes adapted to break down the sulfates. This frees iron, oxygen, and some by-products, allowing the microbes to use the oxygen to survive. Amazingly, the iron then reacts with the by-products -- forming sulfates again. The recycled sulfates are then used by the microbes to form oxygen again!!! It's a complete self-enclosed ecosystem that doesn't rely at all on the Sun, and has astonished scientists.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that Waded Cruzado was home eductated in Puerto Rico by her grandmother from the age of five to 10, and today is the President of Montana State University?