Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Least of These

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.

41Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25:31-46 KJV

I generally don't start out my posts with long quotes from the Bible (or any other book, for that matter), but there is a specific reason in this case. The Moose Lodge that Debbie and I belong to just had our big kick-off event for the East Pasco Toys for Tots on Saturday. The event was successful beyond anything we could have possibly imagined. We're not entirely sure how many people came through the lodge during the 12-hour event, but we started with 350 wrist bands, then had to send someone on an emergency run for 500 more. Monday morning when the administrator and myself were sorting through the debris, we found a couple dozen wrist bands left over. We thought the original 350 bands would be more than enough. Shows what we know.

In any case, the event was a band marathon running from noon to midnight. We ended up with 18 bands participating. Half were rock bands that we ran on the social quarters side of the lodge, and the other half were country-western and/or oldies acts that we put on the hall side. Both sides were filled to capacity for most of the day. The event was open to the public with admission being either an unwrapped new toy, or a minimum $5 donation. Once you were inside, we had several 50/50 raffles every hour and an entire banquet table of stuff that people had donated that were also being raffled off. In short, the money was really flowing in, and so were the toys.

This is the first of five fundraising events that our lodge is hosting for Toys for Tots between last Saturday and our big, grand finale Christmas Ball on December 12. Our goal was to collect $20,000 in toys and cash. At Saturday's band marathon, we came close to half our goal. Everyone is really stoked about that, as am I.

But I'm also not. Allow me to explain. Yes, it's great we set an ambitious goal, a goal that is much higher than anything we've raised in the past for Toys for Tots. It's fantastic that we look to easily beat that goal. However, before we dislocate our collective shoulders patting ourselves on the back, lets do a little basic arithmetic. Our lodge and chapter have well over 3,000 members between them. I realize that number includes people who are not active and will likely allow their dues to expire next time they come due. And that some of those members are physically or mentally incapacitated and can't realistically be expected to participate in lodge activities. But I think I'm on fairly solid ground when I say that at least 2,000 of them do not fall into either of those categories. (If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will quickly set me straight. There are people in the lodge who love nothing better that to correct everyone else, and as a natural-born people-pleaser, I try to make everyone happy.) So we'll use 2,000 as the number of active members. A mere $20 per member is not $20,000. It's $40,000.

No matter how you slice it, if you are an active member of a fraternity, $20 is chump change. It's the loose change in your car's ashtray. It's less than you spend every Saturday at Steak Nite. It's the $20 that you just stuck in the pull tab machine or used to buy another round of drinks. I'm not asking for $20 every week, or even every month. All I'm asking for is $20 once a year.

So here it is: I'm issuing a challenge to the members of the Zephyrhills Moose Lodge 2276 and Women of the Moose Chapter 1682 to raise $40,000 in cash plus toys for the East Pasco Toys for Tots for Christmas 2015.

Now lets take a minute to back up and explain the relevance of that long quote at the start of the post. At the beginning of every men's meeting in every Moose lodge, there's this little bit where a guy opens a Bible and declares, "This is the Holy Bible; our inspiration and our guide." Well, that quote is certainly part of the Bible and therefore, is to be considered an inspiration and guide to anyone who is a member. (I'm assuming that the women's meetings have something similar. Never having been to one of their meetings, I can't say for sure. Again, if my assumption is wrong, I'm certain that I shall be set aright.) The writer of the Gospel of Matthew is pretty clear about what we are to do, whom we are to do it for, and what the consequences are if we fail to do so.

[Side note: Yes, I am aware that certain factions of Christianity have a real problem with this passage. As someone who spent the first forty years of his life in one of those factions, I've heard all the overly-intellectualized meanderings I care to listen to as to why this passage isn't saying what it obviously is. So please... just... ya know, don't.]

I know that it is popular just now in these united States to blame the poor for their plight. Anyone with several hours to spare can ask me what I think about that particular bit of neo-liberal bullshit. Regardless, we are not talking about adults; we are discussing children. No child has ever asked to be hungry, naked or homeless. However much we may choose to blame their parents, I see no rational way the parents' "sins" can be imputed to the children, and I'm quite sure I don't want to be associated with anyone who would even dare make the attempt.

And because this is the internet, I need to include the following:

Dear Dick from the Internet,

Nothing in this post should be construed as a criticism of what our lodge has done for Toys for Tots (or any other charity) in prior years. If my wife and I were not impressed with how much the lodge has done and is doing in East Pasco, we wouldn't be members. All I'm saying is that it is not just possible, but falling-off-a-log simple to do so much more.

And yes I understand how poor you are and how dare I ask for money so some poors can have a better Christmas than your own kids. All I can say to that is you have a computer and internet access. If your kids have a crappy Christmas, you need to rethink your priorities.


And before this turns into a book, I'll wrap up with this:

C'mon Zephyrhills Lodge! Lets Loose the Moose!!

Friday, November 13, 2015


Friday the 13th was on a Friday this month. The day we had at the lodge seemed to fit pretty well with the date. It started out bad, then went to worse, then proceeded to horrible. But we survived; and I get to go back tomorrow and do it again. Wee.

Debbie and I have been traveling, though not together. I flew up to Michigan to drive my parents down here for the winter, while Debbie and her mom enjoyed a free 2-day cruise. I got back here around midnight Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and Debbie and her mom rolled in Wednesday evening. We both were back at work on Thursday. I played catch-up at my work while Debbie won another free cruise on the Carnival Vista. We have from January 2, 2016 to December 30, 2017 to take whatever 7-day cruise we want that leaves out of the Vista's regular port. Usually, these freebees are for an inside cabin, but this one is for a balcony! Woohoo!!

I was going to write up one of my diatribes about the nonsense at the "University" of Missouri, but my usual procrastination paid off and Fred Reed beat me to it:

How many of the black athletes, or black radicals at Missouri, or anywhere, have any business being at a university? How many have IQs below ninety? How many are way below? How many are studying real subjects, such as chemistry, languages, philosophy, literature, or history—as distinct from subjects for the enfeebled, Black Studies, Sociology, Education, and Breathing for Credit?

How many of the jocks can read? In many universities the black athletes are kept in special dorms and get high grades for courses they never attend and can’t spell. Is that happening in Missouri? Can we see their SATs? No one, I promise, will want to check.

Stray thought: If universities accepted only those with intelligence and interest, the noise level would drop appreciably. I am for it.

I know I keep saying it, but I'll say it again: Anyone who insists their child go into debt for life for the "privilege" of participate in this stupidity is guilty of child abuse. Get 'em a library card instead and apprentice them to a local tradesman.

And I'm off to bed so I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Following Up

I know I said I was going to try to post more than once a month, but life keeps getting in the way. Namely, this whole job thing. Not that I'm unhappy with being a productive member of society once again (whatever that means); it's just that I only found time to write a post once a month or so when I was working part-time, seasonal jobs. Working full time year-'round hasn't really improved the situation. Anyway. I'll be doing some rearranging of what I spend time on over the next couple months which will hopefully get me back on track here.

I know y'all are excited. Try to stay calm.

One thing that I've pretty much given up on (again) is Facecrack. I know this makes something like the third time I've sworn off the thing, but this time feels different. There wasn't any conscious decision that "I'm never logging onto Facebook again!" I didn't even "delete" my account. I just stopped taking the time to look at it. And guess what? The world didn't end. Who knew?!?!

I've also gotten rid of a couple blogs. One hadn't been updated in nearly a year and the second had been idle even longer than that, so it wasn't like either of them were taking up significant amounts of time. But having them sitting there staring accusingly at me just added to the whole inertia thing. So they're gone forever (-ish; nothing on the internet ever really goes away, but it would take some effort to find them). I'm keeping the Uncle Charlie blog, because there is some family history there that isn't readily available from other sources, and I still intend to make some additions when I get the time. (It always comes back to that...) Besides, that particular project doesn't seem as urgent. The information is static; what exists I pretty much have in my possession and Uncle Charlie certainly isn't doing much writing these days, so I don't feel the need to post more than once or twice a year. Which means that the information should probably be on something other than a blog, but hey; Blogger is what I know and I'm not interesting in wrestling with something new. That would give me another reason to procrastinate, which I'm already pretty good at, thank you very much.

The new job: As I mentioned last month, I'm back where I started doing bookkeeping and spreadsheets, along with some other internal stuff specific to the Moose Lodge like processing memberships, etc. None of it is rocket science, but Moose International has certain ways that they want to see things done. Some of them are common sense once you understand the nuances of IRC 501(c)(8). Others are... um... more subtle in their logic. In any case, I'm feeling pretty settled in at this point. Of course yesterday the lodge administrator signed the paperwork committing to installing a brand new shiny point-of-sale system covering the bar and kitchen portion of the operation. The lodge has never had anything even remotely like this before, so this is one of those standing-broad-jump-type installs. In some ways, that makes things easier; in others, not so much. But it will get done and it will be an over-all positive for the lodge. And the lodge administrator and I will be busier than a couple one-armed paperhangers for the next few months.

A couple posts ago, I wrote a long rant on Cecil the Lion. In that, I talked about how the revenue from trophy hunting supported local villages and also incentivised the locals to not kill lions and other nuisance "Disney animals", like elephants. Unintended consequences being what they are... well, best to hear it from a local:

“Before, when there was hunting, we wanted to protect those animals because we knew we earned something out of them,” said Jimmy Baitsholedi Ntema, a villager in his 60s. “Now we don’t benefit at all from the animals. The elephants and buffaloes leave after destroying our plowing fields during the day. Then, at night, the lions come into our kraals.”

Once again, Americans decide what is best for people living on another continent with no knowledge, or even any interest in knowing, the real-world effects of our actions. We are far too busy patting ourselves on the back for being so morally superior to those poor, dumb nige... um... Africans of Color.

I haven't posted much on the anthropogenic climate change jihad lately because not much has changed, other than how outrageous the lies are getting:

There are two stories floating around about the state of the earth’s atmosphere. Both are believed true by government-funded scientists and the environmentally minded. The situation is curious because the stories don’t mesh. Yet, as I said, both are believed. Worse, neither is true.

Story number one is that this year will be the hottest ever. And number two is that the reason it is not hot is because “natural variation” has masked or stalled man-caused global warming.

Which is it? Either it’s hotter than ever or it isn’t. If it is, then (it is implied) man-caused global warming has not “paused.” If it isn’t, if man-caused global warming has “paused,” then it is not growing hotter.

And just to be clear on where I stand: Yes the climate is changing. At no point in the 4 billion-year history of the earth has it not been changing. Sometimes those changes happen over such long periods of time that they would seem like stasis at human timescales. Other times the changes have been very rapid. Both have happened numerous times long before humans began burning fossil fuels. Yes, we are messing with the chemical make-up of the only breathable atmosphere we have access to, which probably counts as some level of stupid. Yes, fossil fuel extraction causes enormous damage to the biosphere. If you don't believe that, Google up images of the aftermath of tar sands extraction or mountaintop removal. Or even conventional oil extraction in countries with dysfunctional governments like Nigeria that allow oil companies to take every possible short-cut. None of which justifies so-called scientists changing data in order to make it fit some politically-correct result, or engaging in literal witch-hunts aimed at anyone who refuses to toe the line.

It would also help if everyone who proclaims that fossil fuels are the ultimate evil would stop using them!

It really is that simple. If, as we are repeatedly told by the mass media, renewables are now as cheap or cheaper than fossil fuels, then by all means, lead the way! Slap some solar panels on the roof of that McMansion of yours and go off-grid! Drive nothing but your electric car that you also charge from those same solar panels! Never fly on an airplane, ride a train, sail on a cruise ship or use any other fossil-fueled means of conveyance ever again!! Do that, and I swear I will become one of you!

Note that I'm letting you off incredibly easy. I didn't say that your solar panels had to be built entirely from raw materials mined and refined with renewable energy and built in a solar-powered factory. I didn't insist that your electric car likewise be built in a renewable-powered car factory. I didn't even tell you that you have to give up the massive energy-hog called the internet. All I'm asking you to do is give up your personal, end-user fossil fuel consumption for powering, heating and/or cooling your own home, and stop using fossil fuels to haul your ass around. That's it. Now get to it and leave me a note in the comments when you've accomplish that incredibly modest goal.

Oh, and as one of the .0001% of North Americans who have actually tried to live off-grid, let me just say, "Good luck with that."

And that should be enough for now.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Full Circle

Well, I'm back doing essentially what I was doing as a job back in 1984. Our Moose Lodge administrator came to me a couple weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in working in the office full time. I'd sub'ed a couple times when he was off at conferences, so I had a pretty good idea of what would be required. Given that they are willing to pay me more than I've made in most of a decade and the job is literally right around the corner, the answer was pretty easy.

So no more tax seasons sitting in Walmart Hell. I'll still do some returns on the side, but not the hundreds I've done over the last few years. That by itself makes the change worthwhile; forget about the higher pay, better hours and year-'round work. I do have to work every Saturday and Sunday, but I have Wednesday's and Thursday's off. Debbie gets Thursday off whenever she works a Saturday, so she'll just work more Saturday's so we have a day off together. It's not like what day of the week it is really makes a difference to us anyway.

So other than all that, not much else going on. Other than the obvious Florida summer stuff like it's frackin' HOT and RAINS EVERY DAY. Except today; it's just HOT with bright white hot sun and not a cloud in the sky. Not sure that's really an improvement. [Before I was able to post this, a thunderstorm blew in and is currently dumping a couple inches of rain on us. Remember the old joke about how if you didn't like the weather in Michigan, just hang around for a minute and it will change? Florida has Michigan beat six ways to Sunday on that score.] Of course in a few months I'll be whining because it's so cold that I have to wear a shirt and enclosed shoes. Maybe even socks. We'll just have to tough it out somehow....

I stopped watching, listening and reading (and quite frankly caring in any way about) anything from the mainstream media around 15 years ago or so, and last walked into a voting booth in 2004. So you know things must be completely crazy if I'm hearing about it. As far as I understand, some significant portion of the US population over the age of 35 is running for the GOP nomination. I was at work and some 24-hour news station was playing over the bar showing pictures of everyone running. There were, like, three screens of postage-stamp-sized photos. Other than Trump and three or four other people, I had no idea who any of these people even were. Have the GOP party hacks lost complete control of their party? Can we go back to the good ol' days when parties decided who their candidates were going to be in some smoke-filled room? Oh, right. This is supposed to be more democratic. Which just proves that there is such a thing as too much democracy.

But even a recluse like me can see that there is a shift occurring, and not just in the United States. John Michael Greer took a break from his series of posts to comment on the upset in Britain's Labor Party:

...a sign I’ve been awaiting for quite some time has appeared on the horizon—the first rumble of a tectonic shift that will leave few things unchanged. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen in the United States, but I was somewhat startled to see where it did happen. That would be in Britain, where Jeremy Corbyn has just been elected head of Britain’s Labour Party.


Logically speaking, if the policies you propose don’t yield the results you expect, you change the policies. That’s not what’s happened so far in this case, though.  Quite the contrary, the accelerating failures of neoliberalism have been met across the board by an increasingly angry insistence from the corridors of power that neoliberal policies are the only options there are.

What Jeremy Corbyn’s election shows is that that insistence has just passed its pull date. Corbyn’s an old-fashioned Labourite of the pre-Blair variety, and he’s made it clear for decades that he supports the opposite of the neoliberal consensus: more regulation of finance and industry, higher tax rates and fewer handouts to the rich, more benefits for the poor, and a less aggressive foreign policy.

As JMG points out elsewhere in his essay (and has been repeating endlessly since the start of his blog in 2006), different should never be confused with better. And even if a proposed change seems to be better, the follow-up question ought to be for whom. We do seem to be living in interesting times.

Speaking of interesting times, is everyone enjoying the crazy and completely illogical swings in the stock market? Now that we're pretty much fully in greenbacks, I know I've been enjoying the high-pitched squeals and puckered-sphincter looks from all the talking heads every time markets take another plunge. Oh, and anybody remember all the Saudi America crap that was being ladled out so generously a while back? Wonder why you haven't heard anything about that lately? Lessee if I understand what all the excitement was about: Borrow billions, use the money to over-produce a fungible commodity thus crashing its market price, then produce even more of it in a (mostly-vain) attempt to service those borrowed billions. Rinse and repeat. What could possibly go wrong? We should all be stinkin' rich in no time!

And this is from what are supposed to be the smartest people in the room? No wonder Trump is leading in the polls.

Anyway, I need to get things cleaned up and go to bed early so I can get up for another exciting day in the office!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Cecil the Lion

The internet was set aflame by the story of Cecil; a lion supposedly beloved of locals in Zimbabwe killed by a dentist from Minnesota. As usual in these cases, facts are hard to come by. There are no longer any sources you can trust for information. Every media outlet, internet or otherwise, reports unsubstantiated rumors as unvarnished Truth. The hunt was illegal, the guide a well-known local poacher. The lion suffered in agony for 40 hours. Dr. Palmer is a pedophile. Zimbabwe is looking to extradite Dr. Palmer. Zimbabwean locals have no idea who this "Cecil" was. The hunt was perfectly legal, conducted by a licensed guide.

I could go on for pages, but anyone who has tried to get to the bottom of any news story in the last ten years or so already knows the drill. True journalists, people who bother to fact check and at least try to get to the truth of a story, are like unicorns or honest politicians. They simply don't exist.

Meanwhile, for the safety of himself and his patients, Dr. Palmer has closed his dental practice, as he, his family, and anyone who has ever been a patient are now considered fair game. Literally. The local police have lost count of the thousands of death threats. Personal details of not just Palmer's life, but every member of his family are being shared on the internet. But it's all good; Palmer, the internet assures us, is filthy rich and can move himself and his family off to some foreign country to live incommunicado, safe from death threats and/or legal repercussions of his hunting trip.

This is the new "animal rights" movement in all its glory: Demonstrate your love of animals by dehumanizing people, destroying their lives and the lives of anyone close to them, or anyone who makes any attempt to defend them. Carriage horse owners in New York City. Elephant trainers in circuses. Owners of ponies who give rides to children at fairs. Hunters. Small-scale farmers. (Factory farms are kept safe behind a wall of bought-and-paid-for politicians.) Trainers who work with animals used in movies or TV. All these groups have been and/or are being subjected to the tender ministrations of these so-called animal rights activists. The tactics used are predictable. The person or group are horrible people, beneath contempt, outcasts, drunkards, racists. Their actions are indefensible to all right-thinking people. Inevitably, the person or group being demonized is labeled (always without even a shred of evidence) pedophiles or rapists. Which probably says more about the accusers mental state than the accused, but does little to mitigate the damage such accusations cause.

The favorite tool of the modern "activist" is, of course, social media. Anyone remember when the internet was supposed to eliminate arbitrary barriers and brings us all together in peace and harmony, singing Kumbaya? Instead, it became a place for international mobs to form over random news stories (even if it happens to be completely fake, like the UofV rape case), demonizing random individuals or groups and completely destroying their lives, then just as quickly moving on to the next outrage. The mainstream media, so focused on being "relevant" and eager to fill up all those 24-hour news channels, jumps on board without so much as the most cursory of investigations, never bothering to retract even blatant lies.

Left behind is the wreckage that was once some human being's life. And no one even had to leave the comfort of their living room couch or work cubicle to make it happen.

I'm a hunter and unrepentant meat-eater. I'm comfortable with killing game for food. I see no difference in killing, gutting, skinning, cooking and eating a rabbit, squirrel or deer, and going to Walmart and picking up a package of chicken, beef or pork. Other than in the later instance, I've paid someone else to do the dirty work for me. However, I will say that I'm uncomfortable with pure trophy hunting; killing an animal only for the purpose of displaying some part of it on your den wall. Note that I'm not talking about getting the head of a deer mounted that was killed primarily for the dinner table. I'm referring to what Dr. Palmer's hunt appears to have been; the killing of an animal purely for the sake of displaying some part of it on a floor or wall.

Note that I said, "uncomfortable with" rather than "violently opposed to". I fully understand that trophy hunting (as well as the less-lethal version, the photo safari) provides much needed income for countries like Zimbabwe. That it is much easier to convince locals to accept the loss of some cattle to predators from the neighboring preserve if they receive some benefit from them being there. That safari income is what pays the salaries of staff who go after commercial poachers. That some "Disney animals" like lions, tigers and elephants are over-populating certain areas, meaning some must be culled for the benefit of the remaining animals. That large predators can go rogue by hunting humans and need to be killed. I fully appreciate all of it. That doesn't mean that I would ever participate in such a hunt. However, should someone else choose to, I'm certainly not going to label him a murderer and try to destroy him and everyone around him.

In this instance, the part of the story that I do find disturbing is the length of time from the first shot to the lion being killed. If the forty-hour figure flying around the internet is even close to being true, something went terribly wrong out in the field. Someone, either Dr. Palmer or the guide (or both), at a minimum displayed bad judgement and more likely, incompetence. "Never take a shot unless you know it will be lethal" was pounded into my head at a very young age. Know your weapon, know its limitations, know your limitations, were simply givens. Leaving an animal wounded by a bad shot to suffer and die slowly was considered the worst sort of slob hunting. Because we are not living in some Utopia, things go bad from time to time. But you take every possible precaution to reduce the likelihood of things going sideways. Most importantly, if there is any doubt of a clean kill, if anything feels off in any way, don't take the shot. That something so basic seems to have been ignored is certainly troubling to me. Assuming there is any more truth to the forty-hour pursuit "fact" than there is in the accusations that Dr. Palmer is some sort of sexual predator.

Now I'm seeing Facebook petitions calling for the elimination of all trophy hunting. First of all, is there anyone over the age of twelve that believes "signing" any sort of online petition or sharing a post on Facebook has any impact whatsoever, other than making you feel good about yourself for "doing something" while not actually doing anything? Secondly, definitions matter. What, exactly, is a trophy hunt? If I take home a pound of giraffe meat along with the head and hide, is it still a trophy hunt? How about two pounds? Three? Thirty? If the goal is to ban all killing of "Disney animals", what do we do about over-population or rogues? How many local children killed and eaten do you think it will take before locals start killing animals? How much dead livestock or destroyed food crops? Third, given the success of the ban on sales of ivory and rhino horn in turning poaching into a multinational cartel, does anyone think a ban on trophy hunting would have the intended effect?

And once again, I've probably pissed off enough people and should head off to bed.