Australia is being burned off the face of the earth while the Trump administration ponders yet another way to ignore global climate change in favor of profits. What is wrong with this picture?
The 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act has created obstacles to well known projects, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This pipeline would boost the Canadian economy and help North American energy independence. On the other hand, it would endanger pristine ecospheres and some lands held to be sacred to various First Peoples. [By “First Peoples,” I mean those whose ancestors lived on this continent before Columbus brought smallpox and measles and took slaves. “Aboriginal,” as in “before the origin,” is another useful description.]
A new rule being considered would relieve the USA government’s responsibility to consider any cumulative effect of projects like Keystone or new infrastructure projects, including highways and ports. Assessing the cumulative effect of greenhouse gasses would no longer be mandated. Nor would considering the cumulative effect on rising sea level. Nor would the cumulative effect of melting permafrost or methane hydrates * be considered.
* See blog post “Methane/CO2 Hydrates and the Venus Effect” inspired by an article in the “National Geographic Science Newsletter” of 3 January 2020.
The National Environmental Policy Act has already been weakened when in 1983, the White House of Ronald Reagan prohibited agencies from including “worst-case scenarios” in project reviews. No sense frightening people, they probably assumed.
As the government of the United States has grown in size and complexity, so have the opportunities for lobbyists, pseudo-scientists, and those whose self-interest trumps (no pun intended) the interests and future of the United States and, indeed, of Earth.
While the congress may pass a law, they often provide for its implementation through federal regulations, which may be hundreds of pages longer than the original law. It is through the manipulation of federal regulations that the Trump administration rolls back environmental regulations. They don’t need to approach congress; all they need to do is publish a proposed change to the regulations, sit back and ignore the protests and evidence that will be submitted to argue against the change, and then implement the change. This process is an underlying flaw in what we, the people, consider a democracy (which it is not) or a republic (which it was before it was hijacked by lobbyists and kleptocrats).
Trump continues to push the notion that destroying the Earth will create more jobs. Can anyone make sense of that idea? Even it were true (it is not), is the destruction of Earth through climate change, a process that has undeniable human roots, something we want to leave to our children? Is it something we, ourselves, want to face? If the positive feedback of melting permafrost, disappearing arctic ice, and warming methane hydrates * is real – and there is solid evidence it is – then what Trump is proposing is, well, nothing to worry about. Before it can be implemented, we may see the tipping of the atmosphere, the Venus effect *, and the end of all life on Earth.
* Please see “Holy Fire,” on the home page of this web site. I admit to missing Trump, but think he is even more evil than the villains in that story.
Google “New York Times Methane Hydrates” for additional references.
A National Geographic newsletter on January 1, 2020 dealt with methane clathrates (hydrates) about which I wrote in “Holy Fire.” Here’s what they had to say.
“… according to a recent Nat Geo report from writer Todd Woody. Around the world, scientists are finding reservoirs of frozen CO2 and methane on the seafloor … and as oceans warm, those icy deposits are on the brink of melting. “If that hydrate becomes unstable, in fact melts, that enormous volume of CO2 will be released to the ocean and eventually the atmosphere,” says USC paleoceanographer Lowell Stott.”
Could the release of even a portion of the methane and CO2 frozen at the bottom of the ocean lead to a positive feedback and cause the atmosphere to tip and global temperatures to rise enough to kill us all? There’s no way to know. And the problem of climate change is so big, there’s so sense in trying to solve it, right?
As I wrote in “Holy Fire,” “God gave Noah the rainbow sign; no more water, fire next time.”
Want to know more? Google “national geographic hydrates” for articles about these stored greenhouse gasses and about those who would tap them, release the methane (which is natural gas), and sell it to feed the voracious energy appetite of our so-called civilization.
“Holy Fire” is being serialized on this web site. If you want to “read ahead,” you can order a copy (Kindle or paperback) at the link on the home page.
On December 4, 2019, the National Geographic Science (NGS) newsletter began with two of many examples of technology outracing common sense and of greed taking on a stronger role in our already sick society.
Citing Spaceweather.com, NGS points to light pollution from the SpaceX Starlink satellites interfering with observations of the Alpha Monocerotids meteors. There are 120 of these satellites in low earth orbit (LEO). SpaceX, in a bid to provide worldwide broadband internet service, plans to orbit 100 times as many satellites (12,000) in LEO. Astronomers have concerns the satellites will interfere with critical observations.
It may be hard to get excited about observations of a meteor shower, but some astronomers warn the light pollution caused by these satellites will also interfere with observations of so-called “killer asteroids.” These asteroids are chunks of rock whose orbits bring them close to Earth. Please remember, it’s pretty clear that an asteroid impact off the Yucatan Peninsula was a significant contributor to the K-T Mass Extinction and the death of all non-avian dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
It may be hard to get excited about predictions of killer asteroid impacts. Certainly, our global society doesn’t have the political will to mount any sort of defense against an existential threat so unlikely and so difficult to tackle.
In fact, we seem unable to mount a credible, global defense against an existential threat which is far better understood and far more likely to destroy our current civilization – global climate change. And here’s the rub: there are legitimate concerns that 5G service operates on frequencies that will interfere with satellite measurements of water vapor in the atmosphere, and make weather forecasts more unreliable.
Tides with swells averaging five meters (sixteen feet) swept over Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands last week. Hundreds of people evacuated. Inaccurate weather forecasts could do more than spoil a picnic or a baseball game – they could lead to deaths.
But 5G will be worth that sacrifice because it can provide near-real-time virtual reality gaming with players across the planet, 3-D holographic entertainment, and perhaps some support to medical diagnosis. It may allow someone to operate a milling machine in a factory while sitting at home. It may allow a physical therapist (or a prostitute) to provide a rub-down from across the planet.
For those who do not remember, when television was introduced, it was touted as a way to bring culture, history, Shakespeare, classical music, and education to the masses. Think, now, what television has become. To paraphrase Karl Marx: Television is the opiate of the massives.
“Climate change does not respect borders; it does not respect who you are—rich or poor, small or large. Therefore, it is what we call a global challenge which requires global solidarity.” Ban Ki-Moon 1944-_____ CE
2019-12-02 BBC News website (Climate King Tides) “…island nation in ‘fight to death’”
Lentz, Paul. “Holy Fire” Ty Ty Press, Peachtree City, Georgia. Kindle Edition.
In 1933, Nazis took power in Germany. By the end of World War II and the Nazi era, at least six million Jews and at least four million others – including Gypsies, homosexuals, Slavs and others considered racially inferior, and the disabled – had been murdered by the Nazis.
While this was happening, a struggle occurred between Christians and the Nazi regime and among Christian denominations. This has been called Kirchenkampf – church struggle.
When the Nazis took power, about 95% of Germans were Christians. They were, however, divided. Not only between Protestant (about 63%) and Catholic (about 33%), but also among Evangelical Protestants.
The German Christian (Deutsche Christen) Church was a movement within the German Evangelicals which supported the antisemitic and racist principles of Nazism. Their objective was to align the protestant churches within Germany in support of those principles. A schism occurred when Evangelicals who opposed Nazi efforts to create a unified Protestant Reich Church, formed The Confessing Church (Bekennende Kirche).
Other struggles occurred between the Nazis and both the Catholic and Protestant (mostly Lutheran) churches. Some denominations were unsuccessful in defying the Nazis. Specifically, during the Nazi regime, the Salvation Army, Christian Saints and Seventh-day Adventist Church all disappeared.
It is easy to draw parallels between some of today’s Evangelicals and the German Christian Church. Ignoring or perverting the teachings of Christianity, many Evangelicals seem to overlook what I see as the immorality, lies, power grabs, intentional cruelty to immigrants (especially children), racism, orders for seriously ill foreign born children to leave the country, broken promises (e.g., to “drain the swamp”), relegation of immigrants to concentration camps (there can be no other name for those facilities) and other illegal, immoral, self-serving, and evil acts of Trump, his family, and his administration.
It is not as easy to see any signs of Kirchenkampf – a recognition and declaration by churches – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and others, and by the un-churched – that the Trump administration is evil, and a clear declaration of opposition to Trump and his coterie of vultures. It may, in fact, be too late. The Evangelicals of the “Trump Christian Church” have allied with the Trump Administration to create a synergy that is amplifying the power of both these Evangelicals and Trump.
Consider recent pronouncements by Franklin Graham in support of two children’s books which in a not-subtle manner, support Trump and denigrate any opposition. The books by Eric Metaxas are “Donald Drains the Swamp” and “Donald Builds the Wall.” They are written and illustrated in the style of children’s books and are, in my opinion, purely propaganda.
My purpose is not to criticize Trump, Graham, or Metaxas for these books. To be fair, I note a book, “If You Give a Pig the White House,” written and illustrated in the style of a children’s book and which denigrates Trump.
I have read these three books. As an author, editor, and reviewer, I have a single word for them all: “puerile.” Nevertheless, they are propaganda, written in a way that evokes children’s books. Are they aimed at children? I cannot know the authors’ intentions, so I cannot answer that. However, given the diction and art, I believe they would be very attractive to children.
A writer for Pathos, Libby Anne, published a commentary on Metaxas’ books on 24 November in which she compares the two books to a clearly antisemitic children’s book published in Germany in the 1930s. I have not read that book; only seen two illustrations Libby Anne published. The illustrations are clearly antisemitic.
On the other hand, one cannot speak of propaganda aimed at children without noting the efforts of this country during World War II when children’s cartoon characters were co-opted into clearly racist anti-German, anti-Italian, and anti- Japanese propaganda pieces.
Like Hitler, Trump must know his ideology is fundamentally (no pun intended) at odds with Christian beliefs. What will he do when he no longer needs their support? The Nazis’ goal for Kirchenkampf was the conscription, then subjugation, then destruction of the church, much as the communists attempted in the Soviet Union, and as the Chinese seem to be successfully accomplishing, today.
Returning to the Kirchenkampf : the Confessing Church was created after a major schism among Evangelicals. The Confessing Church was opposed to the principles of the German Christian Church and the philosophy of the Nazis. We have yet to see such a schism in this country; however, in my opinion, it is long overdue.
Patheos, “Metaxas’ ‘Donald Builds the Wall’ Recalls Nazi Children’s Books” by Libby Anne 2019-11-24
Wikipedia, “Kirchenhampf” and follow the links
Wikipedia “German Christians” and follow the links
Wikipedia, “The Holocaust” and follow the links
“Quantifying the Holocaust…” at ncbi.min.nih.gov [US Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health]
https://www.youtube.com/ [“The Ducktators” video – one example of US World War II propaganda]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy9rGAO-qfc [Another US World War II propaganda film.]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO3lsSxJQ6w [Another such film, from a different perspective, but still propaganda aimed at children. These cartoons and others of their ilk, are as racist as anything the Nazis created.]
Holocaust Remembrance “Frequently Asked Questions” at un.org/en/holocaustrememberance/docs/faq
The worldpopulatioreview.com posts that “The population of the Bahamas is 85% African, 12% European and 3% Asian and 3% Latin Americans.”
Let’s put that on the scala naturae, The Great Chain of Being. That means only 12% are potentially White and near the top of the Chain. The rest? Not worth considering. Non-whites, whether African, Asian, or Latino are not worth worrying about. At least, that’s the position of the white supremacists and their spiritual and (im)moral leader, Donald Trump.
So, how do we offer aid to Whites Bahamians without also helping those other people? Hard to do without offering aid to those others. I suspect this conundrum is something even Trump can not solve.
Trump claims the US is sending aid to the Bahamas. Of course, he also claimed the hurricane was headed for Alabama, and claimed his well documented statement to that effect was “fake news.” His claim is demonstrably false. How can we believe anything he says? That’s the subject of a different blog.
Using the Royal “We,” from the oval office, Trump made a number of statements about how the US Coast Guard was helping the Bahamas with “numerous helicopters” and “numerous people.”
However, I found no details (or confirmation of his statements) in the legitimate news media. The US Coast Guard reports (see references) they had rescued 135 people and six pets and are using 10 helicopters, with three cutters “near” the Bahamas “ready to engage in … response efforts and seventeen shallow-water rescue teams standing by…”. [2019-09-05 @ 1023 hours EDT]
60,000 or more people in harms way and Trump claims credit for 135 people and six pet rescues?
Not to denigrate the Coast Guard. They work for the President, after all. Given their history of service and sacrifice, they must be chewing through their cheeks to keep from announcing their distain for the soi-disant commander-in-chief.
Trump’s statements to the press have been altered by the official transcript from the White House. This reminds me of Winston Smith in George Orwell’s “1984” whose job at the official press office was to rewrite history.
Anyone read or re-read 1984 recently? If you want a quick refresher, check this link:
Or, just Google “Cato still 1984.” Despite the Cato reputation as a right-wing site, this article seems to be very non-political.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1962, “…a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.”
The founding fathers did a good job in the First Amendment to the Constitution of keeping government out of religion. They utterly failed at keeping religion out of government.
The current moves by the Religious Right and the Political Right to amalgamate are the culmination and condemnation of that failure. They are also an open defiance of the law by Mr. Trump and his coterie of vultures.
Trump swore to “…preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution…” That oath of office is prescribed in the Constitution, itself. Add oath-breaker to Trump’s list of qualifications.
The goddess Nemesis had responsibility for punishing oath-breakers, and Zeus was fond of punishing those mortals who exhibited hubris – too much pride. Where are they when we need them?
[Originally published as a blog by “WhatDrWho” in the dystopian novel, “Holy Fire.” Copyright 2016. See the Home Page for ordering information.
I wondered why an intelligent, rational, and well-educated person could fall for the propaganda of MAGA. A dear friend provided the answer. She simply said, “Perhaps they’re expecting a First Class cabin on the Titanic.”
Immediately my mind filled in the blank: “The Trump Titanic.” The latest, greatest, and likely the last of the edifices he will erect as a monument to himself – and to the extinction of the human race.
He is supported by, I think, two classes of people. First are the folks who fear their status, beliefs, and heritage (white, evangelical, poorly educated, irrational) will be overcome by people of color, people whose appearance and beliefs are different, people far below them on the Great Chain of Being that is part of their understanding of reality and the teachings of their church.
Second are those who are willing to accept the existential threats to the human race in exchange for money, power, status, fifteen minutes of fame on a sycophantic news outlet, knowledge they are part of a group who thinks, believes, and breathes like them. A group that will die with them and the rest of us when too many of the drivers of climate change tip and we face a run-away greenhouse effect that will render Earth hot as Venus and all of us dead, desiccated corpses littering the landscape. Alternatively, when one of the enemies Trump has made pushes his button and initiates a global thermonuclear war. (There are other scenarios; these seem at the moment to be the most likely.)
Trump and the more persuasive of his puppets are trying to hide their activities by making us believe the problems are too big to solve, hoping the little people will be distracted by rearranging the deck chairs while the ship sinks. They are masters of today’s technology and of propaganda.
If Gobbles and Hitler had the internet, we would be speaking German, today.
A person who displayed hubris – overweening pride – was marked by the ancient gods for destruction. The Greek gods never had to deal with someone like Trump whose hubris could bring down a civilization and a species.
I invite you to read and remember Shelly’s poem:
I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
It appears Republicans in the House Oversight Committee decided to besmirch Mr. Cohen’s credibility rather than countering his claims. That’s an ad hominem attack and is usually considered the last resort of someone who doesn’t have a factual basis for his argument. It wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t adopted tactics more suited to a Middle School student by posting a sign in the hearing room with Mr. Cohen’s picture and the words, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Where is that from? Fifth grade, perhaps? I recall being ten years old in fifth grade and think I was probably a little more mature than that, even then.
It’s bad enough we have a president who seems to present the mental age, mentality, vocabulary, and diction of a Middle School bully with early-onset senility. It’s not surprising Republicans in Congress would mimic the president. The have tied their wagons (Little Red Wagons, I suspect given their seeming mental age) to Trump. They no longer display any ability to use critical thinking and logic to challenge him. This has eroded any credibility they might have once had as representatives of their constituents. They seem to be ruled by fear rather than fortitude, by an idiot rather than integrity, by madness rather than moral fiber. My conclusion is they are depending on the Rebellious and Righteous Right to draw them back into office in 2020.
We are a sick society.
References: Atlanta Journal Constitution e-paper, front page, 2019-02-28
I'm a one-percenter!
Not the kind you may think, the one percent of the population that controls (owns) 90% or more of the wealth of the world, but a one-percenter, none the less.
You see, I overpaid my quarterly income tax estimates last year. Not my fault. The quarterly amount was calculated by my tax software before Trump’s so-called tax cut. I am now due a federal refund.
In reality, what I did was lend the government, interest-free, some $450, by overpaying the estimated tax.
$450 isn’t quite one percent of my income. Actually, it’s a bit less. But this puts me in the upper percentile of the upper percentile.
You needn’t worry. I don’t plan to contribute to inflation by overspending my windfall, although I was lusting in my heart for a new Gulfstream. And the yacht does need replacing. It is, after all, nearly a year old.
Nor do I plan to ignore my friends among the hoi polloi when I pass you in the street. It’s just that the smoked windows of my Lamborghini Miura SV (completely restored) make it hard to see you.
For those of you who find it difficult to make your paycheck last from week to week, and those Federal Employees who missed a couple of paychecks (and who may miss more), in the words of an unknown “great princess” (but not, likely, Queen Marie Antoinette), “eat brioche.” Just kidding.
References: “Let them eat cake,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake
When my father reported for duty at Quantico Marine Corps Base in 1952, there was no officer housing available. For one summer and part of the fall, his family – wife and three children – lived in a rented farmhouse somewhere in Northern Virginia. We had indoor plumbing and electricity, but I remember my mother cooking on a cast-iron, wood-burning stove.
Behind the house was a patch of what I thought were vines, but which my father called weeds. He warned me not to play among them. “Besides probably some poison ivy, there’s kudzu and maybe other stuff. It’s all growing where the old outhouse used to be.”
It took some prodding before he would tell me what an outhouse was.
It was some years before I understood that the lush vegetation grew there because it was fertilized by the human excrement that had been deposited over the years.
My next exposure to outhouses was at Boy Scout camp the summer of my 13th year. All we had were outhouses, and it wasn’t long before someone discovered that shining a flashlight down the hole would reveal thousands of worms crawling among the excrement. Later, I learned they were not strictly worms, but maggots, the larvae of flies.
It took a letter today from the brokerage firm who handles my retirement accounts to bring these things back to mind.
You see, in October of 2012, I received a check from that firm. The check was to cover interest earned on an account I had recently closed. The check was for 30¢ (yes, thirty cents). Back then, we didn’t have the option of scanning or photographing a check to deposit it. I didn’t have a local bank. To mail the check back to the brokerage firm, in San Francisco, to be put into another account, or to mail the check to my bank in Texas would have cost 45¢ postage plus the cost of a Number 10 envelope. Easy decision: I shredded the check.
In August, 2018, almost six years later, I received a stern letter from the brokerage. (I say “stern” because it began with bold type and all caps). Here’s the message:
THE STATE OF GEORGIA REQUIRES US TO NOTIFY YOU THAT IF YOU DO NOT CONTACT US, FUNDS FROM YOUR UNCASHED CHECK WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO THE STATE.
Please contact us by September 30, 2018
Wow! I was impressed. Flabbergasted. Puzzled. First, why was the 30¢ – interest earned after the account had closed – reported to the State of Georgia? In my opinion, that amount is de minimus, and all the interest on that account (less than $10.00) was not reportable to the IRS under federal rules. Question 1: How did Georgia know about it? Were they somehow able to examine my six-year-old brokerage accounts? If so, under what authority?
Second, I filed a Georgia income tax return in 2012 but owed no Georgia state tax. (I’m old, retired, and not wealthy, despite having a brokerage account). An additional 30¢ interest income would not have changed that. Question 2: Why didn’t Georgia cross-check with my income tax return for that year?
Finally, (and I will use the same stern letters as above) Why is Georgia going after 30¢ when it probably cost them way more than that to find this incident, notify the brokerage firm, and establish a suspense file. Why is Georgia burdening the brokerage firm with more than $2.00 in cost * to send the notice to me, burdening me with the cost of a 50¢ stamp and a Number 10 envelope to return the form letter to the brokerage firm, and burden the brokerage firm about $5.00 * to recut the check and mail it to me? Is Georgia that desperate for money? Should the residents of Georgia therefore heed James Thurber’s injunction, “Run, do not walk to the nearest desert island”? Are the state’s finances in such dire straits? Is this insanity being perpetrated by state employees or by contractors who are paid based on how much “illicit funds” they recover and who do not have to account for their expenses?
It’s clear to me that the Georgia State Bureaucracy is feeding not only at the cesspit of our civilization but at the trough of those too ignorant of their rights to dispute such ridiculous, insane, costly, stupid, insane (I said that, already, but it’s worth saying again) attempts at extortion?
* Costs of preparing and mailing a letter, the cost of a “postage paid by” return letter, and the cost of cutting a check are an amalgam of several Google searches. I suspect the actual cost may be a bit lower, if the brokerage has automated this process, a bit higher if Georg
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.