Archive for August, 2020

Trump-Supporting Christians are a Bunch of Full of Shit Hypocrites

August 31, 2020

I have no respect for the stupid pieces of shit who voted for Donald Trump.  Their gullibility is astounding.  They believe every word this clownish con man says, no matter how ridiculous or easily fact-checked and debunked.    Indeed, they disregard facts and reality as “fake news” and would rather live in an alternate reality where they think Trump is carrying out orders directly given by Jesus.  Deep down, they may not actually believe everything Trump says, but they like the way he re-affirms their hidden and usually not so hidden racism.  They just love the way he demonizes brown-skinned people.  80% of white evangelical Christians support Trump, making this group his most steadfast supporters. They are colossal hypocrites.  During the Clinton impeachment hearings 60% of evangelical Christians thought poor moral character disqualified a candidate from being president.  Now that Trump, the most immoral man on the planet, is president, only 20% think poor moral character disqualifies a candidate from being president.

On NPR a few days ago, a journalist was interviewing wavering Trump supporters about their reaction to the Republican National Convention.  Some jerk from North Carolina said Trump won him over again when Trump invoked God as the savior who would solve all the current world problems.  (Incidentally, this jerk said he was to the right of the Republican Party which would classify him as a fascist.)  What?  Trump doesn’t believe in God.  Trump has broken at least half of the 10 Commandments.  He’s committed adultery with Stormy Daniels and numerous beauty queens and porn stars, and over 50 women have accused him of sexual assault.  He’s regularly broken the commandment against stealing, and he currently is still breaking that commandment.  He ripped off college students with his phony university, and he often didn’t pay the construction workers who built his buildings.  His entire family used a charity as a campaign slush fund.  And currently he is using the White House to enrich his business in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution by continuing to own hotels used by diplomats and lobbyists attempting to curry favor with him.

Trump also violates the commandment against idolatry when he names buildings after himself, and laughably he asked how he could get a graven image of himself added to Mt. Rushmore.  Trump bears false witness on a daily basis–he’s told over 20,000 documented lies since he’s been president.  This is an astonishing number, even for a politician.  Trump has indirectly violated the commandment not to kill.  His incompetence has led to the deaths of over 180,000 people from Covid, and his policy of de-regulating environmental protections will lead to the premature deaths of tens of thousands more people.  When Trump invokes the name of a God he doesn’t believe in, he is using the name of the Lord in vain.

Thank you, Jesus" - Extreme Donald Trump fans - CBS News

Look at the fanatical cult-like support Trump has among evangelical Christians.  Note also the sea of white faces.

I’ve been unfriended on Facebook by a few of my peers that I graduated from high school with because of my criticism of Trump and their support for that pig.  I’m sorry to say most white suburban men my age (I am 58) still support Trump, despite his obvious incompetence, failures, and inability to handle the job of presidency.  These Trump supporters are evangelical Christians who constantly post biblical scripture on their Facebook pages–it is “Praise Jesus this and Praise Jesus that.”  Their hypocrisy is disgusting.  Trump goes against just about all of Jesus’s teachings.  Jesus said it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.  Trump’s tax cuts benefitted the rich and increased the tax burden (especially in the long run) on the poor working class people.  His recent proposal for a payroll tax cut will bankrupt Social Security in 3 years.  Rich people don’t need Social Security, but poor people sure do.  Trump also wants to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act which would take health care away from tens of millions.  What would Jesus do?  Deprive poor people of health care?  Would he be for separating children from their parents and putting them in cages?

Trump deliberately incites strife, pitting groups of people against each other–certainly another action Jesus would not approve of.  Instead of working with big city mayors to quell civil unrest, Trump is blaming them and sending thugs in unmarked vans to abduct peaceful protestors, thus pouring gasoline on the fire.  Instead of a plan to bring police and protestors together to discuss their differences, Trump openly sides with police brutality, encouraging them to slam car doors on protestors heads.

One of my former Facebook friends told me he likes the way Trump is working to block illegal immigration because he doesn’t want them to bring drugs across the border.  This is another example of hypocrisy.  I enjoyed doing drugs with this Trumpanzee in college, he once bird-dogged a drug deal for me, and he was arrested by the DEA on a college campus where he was doing drugs in the open.  But now, he wants to stop undocumented people from crossing the border because a tiny minority of them might be drug dealers.  The bible says we should welcome immigrants whether they are legal or not.  In Hebrews 13:2 it says strangers shall be welcomed and even entertained.  And in Malachi 3:5 it says God will pass judgement on those who turn aside strangers.  My ex-Facebook pals probably think that only applies to white immigrants.

Trump’s following is cult-like.  I think he literally could shoot someone on 5th avenue and his support would not fall below 40%.  The absurd Qanon conspiracy theory is spreading most rapidly among evangelical Christians, and this is not surprising.  Shmucks dumb enough to believe in a bizarre end of the world cult are dumb enough to believe Trump is battling a secret deep state group of cannibals and child molesters.

I’m confident Biden would beat Trump in a landslide, if the election was fair.  Trump’s presidency has been an embarrassing failure, and thankfully enough smart people can see through his re-election strategy of blaming Biden for the civil unrest occurring during Trump’s presidency.  No president has ever been re-elected with an economy that includes a tripling of the unemployment rate, and Trump should have already been removed from office for asking a foreign leader to interfere in our elections.  However, I’m afraid the seeds of sabotage have been sown.  An overwhelming number of mail-in ballots sent in by Democrats just won’t be delivered in time because Trump’s crony is now in charge of the postal service.  Instead of a crushing defeat like Trump deserves, there will be a disputed close result, and it will be up to the Supreme Court.  I don’t really believe in prayer.  Nevertheless, I’m praying for John Roberts to side with decency.

 

Wilderness Rebounded Following the Black Death

August 24, 2020

The recent ill-advised lockdown that failed to stop the spread of the coronavirus reduced human activity for several months, and the wildlife noticed.  Deer and coyote, normally more active at night, began roaming big city streets in broad day light.  It doesn’t take long for wilderness to rebound when the presence of humans is diminished or eliminated.  The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now 1 of the greatest nature reserves in the world, thanks to radiation fallout which makes the area an unpopular place for people to reside.  Past epidemics have led to the rebound of wilderness.  Europeans introduced many infectious diseases to the Americas, resulting in an 80% reduction in Indian populations.  Many Europeans then mistakenly believed the Americas had always been a sparsely populated segment of the world.  They collectively forgot their own past history with the bubonic plague.

The bubonic plague is believed to have originated in the Gobi Desert, possibly in the gerbil population.  Fleas spread the dangerous bacteria (Yersinia pestis) to the Mongolian raiders descended from Ghengis Khan who then carried it to Europe during hostile invasions and through free trade.  During 1347 a merchant ship with an 100% infection rate arrived in Venice, Italy and soon the plague spread throughout Europe in fleas carried by rats.  People slept on straw mats, crowded together in unsanitary condition, and bubonic plague outbreaks exploded.  In addition to being flea-borne the bacteria could be transmitted through the air between people in close contact with each other. The plague is an horrible disease, killing people in 3-4 days, and the victims die in agony–their lymph glands literally burst with toxic bacterial waste and white blood cells.  The victims turn back, hence the name “Black Death.”  50% of the population died.  Not enough agricultural workers remained alive to harvest the crops, and combined with bad weather from the onset of The Little Ice Age, famine soon followed the plague.  Wild animals and wilderness soon took over much of rural Europe.

Fast and lethal, the Black Death spread more than a mile per day

Bubonic plague, originating in Asia, decimated European populations for 2 centuries and wilderness areas rebounded.

Aspen Glow. A Limited Edition Fine Art Print from Peter Lik. – LIK ...

Birch and aspen trees quickly sprouted in abandoned fields that were soon replaced by oak forests with trees that eventually grew 150 feet tall.

Białowieża

Huge oak trees like this grew on abandoned agricultural land following the Black Death.

Grass growing in abandoned grain fields fed herds of wild cattle and horses recently freed from their dead human masters, and these escapees interbred with their wild cousins.  Bison expanded their range.  Soon birch and aspen forests sprouted in the fields, and moose invaded the new natural areas to feed on the saplings.  Brown bears enjoyed the fruits of long neglected orchards.  Eventually, oak trees shaded out the birch forests, and they grew to enormous size–the acorns feeding wild boars and roe deer.  Lynx and wolves reclaimed land they’d lost in the previous centuries.

The Significance of Aurochs | borderslynn

The aurochs, the ancestor of modern cows, along with cattle that went feral roamed the European countryside in the years following the Black Death.  The Black Death likely delayed the extinction of the aurochs by centuries.  They didn’t become extinct until 1527.

The Odd Couple!! (Wild Red Deer Stag & Horse) | Horses, Animals ...

Red deer and horse populations increased when human populations decreased.

King Jagiello escaped an outbreak of the plague in 1426 when he retreated to an hunting manor in the Bialowitza woods.  No roads or bridges penetrated this vast wilderness.  Royalty protected this wilderness for centuries, and today it is just a partial remnant of the post Black Death rebound of nature.

Author Mimi Matthews

Wolf packs took over when humans disappeared from large areas of Europe.

Spotted Lions

August 20, 2020

Vast areas of Africa remained sparsely inhabited until well into the 20th century, and I think this is why more megafauna survives on that continent than any other.  Some quite large African animals were unknown to Western science until the 1900’s, including mountain gorillas, bonobos, and okapis. A rare big cat, probably extinct now, could be added to that list. Last week, I wrote about post speciation hybridization events in big cats, and following the completion of that article, I recalled reading about reports of spotted lions in Africa.  I wondered if a population of leopard/lion hybrids might recently have existed on the dark continent.  I researched everything I could find about spotted lions on the internet, and the verdict is inconclusive.

Spotted lion, illustration

Photoshopped image of a spotted lion.  

A pelt of a spotted lion killed by a Kenyan farmer in 1931.  This is the only proof they ever existed.

During 1931 a Kenyan farmer shot and killed a pair of spotted lions that were stalking an herd of buffalo.  A few other locals had also seen spotted lions, and the natives knew this animal as the marozi and distinguished it from a leopard.  Later, Kenneth Dower led an unsuccessful expedition to find spotted lions.  Lion cubs often have spots that they retain through sub-adulthood, but reports of spotted lions hunting suggested these were adults.  Spotted lions were reportedly intermediate in size between lions and leopards.  There are 3 possibilities.  The marozi may have been a distinct species or subspecies of lion adapted to living in a forested montane habitat.  (All of them were seen at high elevations in the mountains.)  They may have been a population of lion/leopard hybrids.  Or they may have been a population of lions with a mutation for a spotted coat.  Scientists could answer this question with a DNA analysis of the pelt from the specimens shot by the Kenyan farmer, but so far no one has attempted to do this.

Lions share a close evolutionary relationship with leopards, but presently the physical appearance and behavior patterns of the 2 species are much different.  Lions live in prides and hunt in open habitats, while leopards are solitary and prefer environments with more trees and bushes.  The common ancestor of both likely had a spotted coat.  Lions lost their spots when they began occupying tawny-colored savannahs and deserts where a plain coat offered better camouflage.  It’s a curious possibility that a population of spotted lions, closely related to the ancestor of all lions and leopards, may have continued to exist until the 20th century.  I’m convinced they are extinct now.  They may have been a relict population killed off by farmers.

Post Speciation Admixture in Big Cats

August 13, 2020

12 million years of evolution separate the domestic housecat from the African lion.  A recent study used the genome of the housecat as an outgroup in their examination of the evolutionary relationships between big cats in the Panthera genus which includes the lion (Panthera leo), jaguar (P. onca), leopard (P. pardus), snow leopard (P. uncia), and tiger (P. tigris).  The ancestor of all species in the Panthera genus diverged from its now extinct relatives 4.58 million years ago.  The common ancestor of lions, leopards, and jaguars diverged from this early lineage 3.65 million years ago.  The common ancestor of tigers and snow leopards diverged from the rest of the Panthera lineage 3.47 million years ago.  Leopards and lions diverged from each other 2.57 million years ago.  (The chart below simplifies this history.)  However, genetic evidence suggests after these species diverged from each other and became separate species they occasionally interbred with each other.   Lions interbred the most because they had the widest geographical range and overlapped with more species.  Lions formerly lived from the southern tip of Africa across Eurasia and to the east coast of North America, and they came into contact with more species.  Jaguars originally evolved in Eurasia and were common there during the late Pliocene/early Pleistocene.  After jaguars crossed the Bering Land Bridge and colonized the Americas they became extinct in Eurasia.  Jaguars periodically interbred with lions during the early Pleistocene.  Snow leopards and tigers also interbred with each other during the early Pleistocene.

Chart showing speciation divergence within the Panthera genus and later hybridization events resulting in admixtures of certain genes that were positively selected for survival of the species. From the below reference.

Leopon (male leopard & female lion hybrid) - Apparently a leopard ...

Lion/leopard hybrid.  Lions and leopards diverged over 2 million years ago, but rarely did hybridize in the wild following this divergence.  Lions interbreed with tigers, jaguars, and leopards in captivity, but currently are not known to do so in the wild.  

Genetic evidence indicates some of the hybridization events benefitted the descendants and were a positive force in naturally selecting characteristics that helped the species survive.  The trait that gives jaguars a large skull and powerful bite originated from when a jaguar mated with a lion.  This characteristic later helped jaguars survive the megafauna extinction event because they could prey on heavily armored caimans and turtles as a substitute.  Interbreeding between snow leopards and tigers was also important.  The characteristic that helps snow leopards thrive at high altitudes originated from the pairing of a snow leopard and a tiger.  Populations of cats in the Panthera genus fluctuated during the Pleistocene and the authors of the below study believe hybridization events facilitated the survival of these species.

Reference:

Figueiro, H. etl al.

“Genome-wide Signatures of Complex Introgression and Adaptive Evolution in the Big Cats”

Science Advances July 2017

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700299

Vacation in a Shady Forest

August 6, 2020

I let my daughter choose our vacation destination this year, and she picked the mountains of southwestern North Carolina.  My wife and I readily agreed to this choice as an escape from the horrible heat of Augusta, Georgia.  On the way we stopped at the Georgia Guide Stones just outside Elberton, Georgia.  40 years ago, a mysterious organization paid to have these monuments erected.  Each stone is inscribed with 10 rules that society should live by.  The rules are written in 9 different languages including English, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Russian, and Swahili.  Among my favorite rules are a suggestion that earth’s population should be limited to 500 million people, and more room should be left for nature.  The Guide Stones are located in the middle of a cow pasture not far from soybean and sorghum fields.

The Georgia Guide Stones.

Before we checked into our hotel we visited Whitewater Falls.  It is wheelchair accessible, but I had to push my wife up a steep half-mile incline for her to get a view of the falls.  Bystanders were impressed with my feat of strength.  The woods around the falls consists of maple, tulip, locust, rock chestnut oak, rhododendron, hemlock, and white pine.  Bear foot, a yellow flower with unusually large leaves, was in bloom.

Bear foot also known as leaf cup (Polynmia uvedula)

Whitewater Falls.

We stayed at the Mt. Toxoway Hotel, a mom and pop operation with 8 rooms and maybe half a dozen cottages.  They still use old-fashioned room keys.  Toxoway is the Cherokee Indian word for red bird which in this region could mean either cardinal or tanager.  The air smelled sweet here–the hotel is located in the middle of the woods, though busy route 64 is 30 feet from the rooms.  The traffic does die down between 11 pm and 7 am.  I heard several species of crickets, frogs, tufted titmice (or cardinals imitating tufted titmice), and rufous-sided towhees.

That night we ate at a golf course pub, about the only place open on Sunday in the area.  They serve $14 hamburgers and $6 beers.  We sat on a deck with a nice view of the golf course and nearby mountains.  The view likely explains the inflated prices.  After we finished eating I was ready to pay our bill, and I went looking for the waitress because we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel to watch the season finale of Naked and Afraid XL.  Our waitress wore a mask when she served us, and I saw a woman who might’ve been her, but she was standing behind the bar and not wearing a mask.  I wasn’t sure it was her.  I decided to go behind her to see if I could recognize her ass, but luckily she saw me and took the money, and I didn’t have to resort to that awkward method.

The next morning we visited Gorges State Park.  The trail goes through a shady maple-dominated forest with some shortleaf pine, hickory, and rhododendron.  Maple is a shade-tolerant tree, but oak is not, and I think I saw just 1 oak tree.  Some areas of the forest are really dark, even during the middle of the day.  I could smell a skunk that walked along the trail, probably a few hours earlier, but I saw no wildlife, other than an horsefly that kept biting me whenever I stopped to take a photo.  There were lots of people on the trail.  We walked for an hour but didn’t quite make it to Rainbow Falls before we experienced a lightning storm.  It rained all afternoon, and I stayed in the hotel room and read a fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes.

Patch of Ferns in Gorges State Park.

View of the Gorge in Gorges State Park.

Moss-covered boulder.

We went to eat supper at a pub with more reasonable prices than the establishment we patronized the previous night.  The pub is named the Ugly Dog Cafe` in honor of their signature chili dog topped with cheese and jalapenos.  I ate a gyro, my daughter had a salmon BLT, and my wife enjoyed a portobello mushroom sandwich.  We slept good that night because it was nice and cool.  The temperature dropped to below 60–20 degrees cooler than Augusta mornings during summer.

On the way back home we stopped to take a stroll through part of Clemson Experimental Forest.  The University purchased worn out farmland decades ago, and the woods have grown back.  The trail we followed went through an open woods of shortleaf pine.  Somebody planted pawpaw trees by the sides of the trail, and 1 specimen was 20 feet tall, but none bore fruit.  A powerline right of way was a welcome respite from the shady forest we hiked through the day before.  I saw a couple deer here.  I prefer rural piedmont fields and woods over shady mountain forests.  They host a greater variety of landscapes and hold more wildlife too.  On the road we passed farms where bison, longhorn cattle, Brahma bulls, horses, and goats were pastured.  Seeing a beautiful black bison in South Carolina was the biggest surprise of the trip.

Trail in Clemson Experimental Forest.

Look how red the soil is at Clemson Experimental Forest.  Farming eroded all of the top soil at this site decades ago.

Butterfly Pea. Legumes grow well on poor soils.

Power line right of way at Clemson Experimental Forest.  I prefer the mix of fields and woods in the piedmont over shady mountain forests.