Sunday, February 25, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers...

Once again, they offered their thoughts and prayers, but there was still blood on their hands.

Albrecht Dürer's Praying Hands, ca. 1508, with some color added.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cannon Fodder

In wars of the past, masses of soldiers were thrown at each other in battle with no consideration of their humanity. Kings and emperors treated men like some cheap commodity: "Shovel on more coal!" Whence the term "cannon fodder" for those people who were held in such low esteem that they could be shovelled into battle like coal feeding a steam engine or hay feeding cattle.

The modern American equivalent of cannon fodder is the army of working men and women shovelled with contempt into low-wage occupations that stifle thought and personal growth. These days it is the wealthy class, rather than kings and generals, that handle the shovels. This is the reason science and history are despised by the ruling class--they require the modern cannon fodder to fuel their wealth, not inquisitive persons who question things or are skeptical of what their rulers tell them. Politicians promote this state of affairs by convincing the masses to vote for them in the belief that the policies called for by the politicians will bring them, too, into the aristocracy of wealth. The masses can be mollified by dreams of a better life.

Promise them anything--"I promise not to cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security! I promise to make the economy grow at an unprecedented rate! I promise a new system of health care insurance that will cover everybody, more cheaply, and will be fantastic!"

But when you examine what promises are being kept, they are not these. Autocrats don't make promises to cannon fodder. Those who are pleased with the autocrat's actions are the exceedingly wealthy and the executives of corporations with lots of money to contribute, those who have a realistic chance of influencing the Dear Leader.

Fodder is only useful as long as the oxen are plowing the fields.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

W's Happy Dance

I heard that yesterday, former President George W. Bush was seen and heard in the street doing a "happy dance" and singing over and over again, "I'm not the worst presnint ever after all!" I can't verify this, but I guess in Trumpterms, that means it must be true as an alternative fact.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Birth Certificate and Golden Shower

We're all familiar with the long-lived yet long-discredited Republican myth: Barack Obama was born in Kenya, his Hawaiian birth certificate is a forgery, and conspirators placed a false announcement of his birth in the local paper many, many years before he ran for president. Today, everybody except the congenitally deluded understands this myth was just an expression of the ignoratti's racial animus toward our nation's first African-American president.

A new story has just arisen, this time with regard to president-elect Donald Trump. It follows close on the heels of news of the Russian hacking of the presidential campaigns and Trump's involvement as a puppet or useful idiot of Vladimir Putin. It includes "perverted" sexual activities that Putin might use to blackmail the soon-to-be leader of the free world, with an episode of "golden showers" in particular. Some elements of this story lend it credibility: Trump has visited Russia; Trump campaign people had been involved in lobbying for Putin's desired outcome in Ukraine; and Trump has been filmed bragging about his sexual activities with numerous women to whom he was not married.

This story has not been verified. Conceivably, the whole thing may be a story made up by "some dude" sitting at a computer. A precedent for that is the alleged quote by George W. Bush regarding having to act within the bounds of the Constitution: "It's just a goddam piece of paper!" All citations of that quote linked to the same source (if any link was provided) and that source provided no evidence of its veracity.

But you know, Donald Trump continued to bring up the false birth certificate myth long after it was debunked. It would serve him right if for years people refer to him as "Pissident Trump" and giggle over a leak from the White House, and wonder if his next speech will be live streamed. Indeed, a golden age of comedy.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kiss a Rock Week

Ribbon Limestone, Moselem Member of Virginville Formation (Ordovician), near Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania

October 9-15 is Earth Science Week. This year's theme is "Our Shared Geoheritage."  Rather than focusing on one aspect of earth science, this year's theme considers a variety of geologic fields and how people interact with earth features and resources and are affected by them.

Earth Science Week promotes education and understanding of our environment. There are activities for the classroom, other activities that focus on specific areas, and contests. And, very helpful, a directory of geoscience agencies, companies, and organizations around the country.

So go ahead and learn more about how geology has affected history and continues to affect life, politics, and the economy. Check out Earth Science Week for more information and local events.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Thank You, Americans for Prosperity (for reminding me why I should vote for Katie McGinty)

I received a flyer in the mail today from Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the evil spawn of the Koch brothers, pleading for me to vote against Katie McGinty. Their chief argument is that McGinty, as senator, will support energy policies that might be disadvantageous to fossil fuels.

Should I be surprised that a bunch of rich old farts want me to vote in a way that will make them richer? At my expense? Of course AFP favors continued use and extraction of fossil fuels, just as Big Tobacco favors continued smoking.

The flyer threatens that electricity costs will go up, groceries will cost more, and wages are down, and it is all, according to AFP, Katie McGinty's fault. But AFP fails to mention the costs that will be incurred if energy policy ignores climate change and the pressing need to switch away from fossil fuels.

According to The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change, issued by the White House, "a delay that results in warming of 3 deg C above preindustrial levels, instead of 2 deg C, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output." And these costs are incurred every year. But the Koch brothers won't be paying--your children and grandchildren, and their children, will pay. If mitigation is attempted, but delayed, those "costs increase, ,on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay." Not only does mitigation become more expensive, it also becomes more difficult.

Unemployment in the past decade has been strongly affected by the severe recession that began during the George W. Bush administration. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that the Clean Power Plan will likely increase jobs by about 360,000 in 2020, with slower rates of job creation down to a gain of about 15,000 jobs in 2030.

Changes in weather patterns resulting from climate change will lead to greater monetary losses in coastal zones. According to the Risky Business Project (co-chaired by Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry M. Paulson, Jr., and Thomas F. Steyer), under the business-as-usual scenario, $66B to $106B worth of coastal property will be inundated by rising sea level, and that figure rises to $238B to $507B by 2100. Losses due to hurricanes will grow by more than $42B due to the effect of higher sea level on the inland reach of storms. Potential changes in hurricane activity could increase that figure to $108B. Increased incidence and duration of extreme heat threaten productivity, energy systems, food production, and health. Health impacts of extreme heat have already cost lives in Europe and Russia.

So, cleaning up emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, from power generation and transportation sources is extremely important from the standpoint of global warming. But it is also very important for its consequences on health. A study published in Nature Climate Change, predicts immediate, substantial health benefits coming from a strong Clean Power Plan, with expected prevention of 3,500 premature deaths in the United States annually, as well as reduced incidence of heart attacks and hospitalization.

So AFP and the Koch brothers don't give a damn if you take a loss on property or miss out on the rising tide of employment in the renewable energy field, or even get sick and die--the Kochtopus doesn't have all your money yet, so it still has a reason for being. And they want you to believe that you, too, will gain from their efforts.

And then there is a whole 'nother issue not mentioned in the AFP flyer--if you vote against McGinty, for whom do you vote? There are three candidates listed: Democrat McGinty, Republican Toomey, and Libertarian Clifford. The flyer does not suggest which of McGinty's oppnents one ought to vote for. Well, they legally cannot do that, because as a 501(c)(4) "social welfare organization," they are obliged to be non-partisan, neither supporting nor opposing any political candidates (and yet they are opposing McGinity?). It's obvious (Clifford who?) that AFP prefers Pat Toomey for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. Like the Koch brothers, Pat Toomey denies humans have had anything to do with changing climate: "My view is: I think the data is pretty clear. There has been an increase in the surface temperature of the planet over the course of the last 100 years or so. I think it's clear that that has happened. The extent to which that has been caused by human activity I think is not as clear. I think that is still very much disputed and has been debated." The overwhelming consensus among climate researchers is that human activity is the primary contributor toward global warming. But Toomey is a politician; he don't need no stinkin' science!

For the reasons discussed above, as well as for his desperate efforts to deny the reality of climate change and his giving fossil-fuel profits higher priority over human health, Pat Toomey is unfit for reelection to the United States Senate. But there is still another factor to disqualify him. He has refused to discharge his Constitutional duty to vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for justice of the United States Supreme Court. Sure, he cannot bring the name up for a vote on his own. But he could argue with the other dodging senators (particularly Justice Committee chair Grassley and Majority Leader McConnell) and try to convince them to allow the Senate to fulfill its duty. When I wrote urging Toomey to do the job he is being paid to do, he responded very condescendingly, saying (as I translate) "I hope I hope I hope a Republican will be elected president in 2016!" Well, Sen. Toomey, how's that Donald working out for you?

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's the Buzz?

I just thought it was time for a new picture.Way past time, actually. So here's a yellowjacket on a goldenrod in front of my house. I don't know what species it is, and I probably won't be able to figure it out from this view. Bugs can be so difficult to photograph because they always seem to move just before you press the shutter. Perhaps my next post will do better--I sprayed a yellowjacket nest at my neighbor's house (it was by his deck stairs and people were getting stung). I took a couple of the bodies home to identify, and will get some pictures of them motionlessly posing (with a pin through the thorax). 


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