Sunday, August 2, 2015

Climate Sunday: In Honor of Ted Cruz


I've been remiss in not doing more "Climate Sunday" pieces, but just recently of 2016 Presidential Primary Candidate, Senator Ted Cruz explained at the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners' forum that "the facts and data don't support" climate change. He dismissed it as a hoax and also probably worked that "not a scientist" thing in there, too. Cruz isn't uneducated and he isn't stupid--but the only bit of that I'll agree with is, well, no, he certainly isn't a scientist.

So in honor of Ted Cruz and the other politicians hewing to basically that same line--this post's for you!
With no further ado:

Climate models are proving to be deadly accurate. We can joke about the accuracy of weather people, but in the broader sense of being accurate about overall climate, we've seen conditions shape up pretty much as climatologists have predicted. They may have actually understated the case on ocean level rising, but it certainly has happened that, while pockets like the US east coast haven't been unusually warm, most of the planet has had successively warmer years. (The impact on oceans from the melting of ice can have impacts well beyond mere water-level rises, as well.)
We think of the Middle East in general as pretty hot, but this week Iran's heat index was an enormous 163 degrees. I'm not sure how people can breather or move in that kind of swelter. In neighboring Iraq, people took to the street to protest electricity shortages that have cut A/C, which is absolutely a requirement to deal with day time temperatures that have reached 120 degrees. (The electricity has never been reliable since the US invasion.) Thailand has also suffered terrible heat and drought this year, with a terrible likelihood of crop failure for their essential staple, rice.
Here in the US, despite some rains, the Pacific coast is still suffering from extraordinary heat conditions. It's hot enough to cause a couple hundred thousands of salmon to die. Part of the problem seems to be a "blob" of unusually warm water, which is causing the deaths of many animals in the Pacific NE ecosystem, although this condition seems to be ideal for producing a toxic algal bloom. (The West Coast isn't alone--severe algal bloom is likely for Lake Erie, as well.) Things are tellingly bad when wildfire rips through rainforest

Basically, the facts and data from news stories that are pretty current actually very well support the idea that the planet is warming and lots of weird stuff is going on as a result. But I'm sure the comments of Cruz and his denialist coterie sounded awfully nice to the billionaire campaign donors who were likely in attendance at that forum. And the fact that they can buy an awful lot of air time for the candidates that they favor certainly contributes something to the cause--more hot air.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Huckabee and God's Army Vs. Clinics

I don't think anyone had been under the mistaken impression that former AR Governor Mike Huckabee was anything but an open theocrat, so making the statement that the use of federal troops or the FBI to close abortion clinics kind of fails to make me bat an eyelash. After all, this is a guy who sermonized on the subject of being part of "God's Army" during his 2008 run for his party's presidential nomination, and has never been shy about considering his candidacy about "taking the nation back for Christ".

Regarding the above quote, I note that Byron York nudged back in 2007 at the claim (made by Huckabee) that Huckabee's theology degree set him apart from the pack in understanding the issues because, well, theology is what Huckabee's got and it isn't properly a theology degree anyway. Back in 2007/2008, Governor Huckabee had been a proponent of containment of Iran, even while considering the "war" between the West and the Islamic world a theocratic one--apparently, his position has "evolved" (or devolved, depending upon where you stand).  The reason I bring this up is because Mike Huckabee let his chief criticism of the containment plan produced by President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and the rest of the P5+1group (the P5+1 group having actually assembled with this thing in mind since 2006) rest on a Godwinning metaphor, one might be tempted to believe, is because he doesn't mind using the Nazi metaphor and uses it often--

But he uses it a lot for abortion rights.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Ethics of Being First Among Animals

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
                                       ~George Orwell,  Animal Farm

“I never yet heard of a useless thing that was not ground out of
existence by evolution sooner or later. Did you? And pain gets needless.”
H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau      

The slaying of the 13 year old lion, Cecil, by a Midwestern American dentist who paid $54K for the privilege of being able to say he killed a lion, and to parade its head and pelt around, has generated a certain amount of outrage. I can't say I'm not appalled by it, also. But the reasons are complicated.

I'm not a vegetarian, although I tried it for a few years because of my belief that most animal husbandry is ecologically unstable, wasteful and cruel. Here's what I realized by this experiment--humans are culturally omnivores for a reason. I came to the conclusion that while some people may do well on a vegetable-based diet, some of us are better-served with animal proteins, and Lord, I know, I'm one. I've since done what I can to be sure that the meat, dairy, and eggs I eat are sustainably sourced to the best of my ability. But I believe that, especially city-raised people like myself, need to get a grip on the idea that the deaths of animals is the price paid for keeping your ass alive. (Lierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth is a great meditation on this conundrum about being a meat-eater, and concerned about the act of killing and being ecological.)

What Walter Palmer did in taking his fancy trip to Africa to kill a lion just because he could pay enough for the privilege of doing so, turns a lot of the idea of responsible hunting on its head. It wasn't for food--the corpse of Cecil lay rotting. It wasn't for self-defense as can occur with bear and other predator animals. It was for solely privilege. To be able to say he was one of the guys who did kill a lion. It's probably no surprise that more liberal-leaning people are appalled by this, because that is naked conspicuous consumption, right there. But more than that, there is a spiritual notion behind it, beyond economics: this creature's life was given up for a sick trophy that had nothing to do with cunning or skill, but an asshole's desire to say he dominated this half-tame, lured, majestic beast. The life of the pride that Cecil lead itself is jeopardized because of this ignorant and unbalanced move. This "mighty hunter" wouldn't have disgusted me if he shot deer, rabbits, moose--that's meat. But he did this for balls and because he liked the killing bits. (This "skillful" and "responsible" guy wounded the lion and took 40 hours to track and finish him--so that's certainly not an ideal way to earn a trophy is it?)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Do the "Pro-Lifers" Want Another Murder?

The recent hack that disclosed the identities and addresses of numerous Planned Parenthood employees has me a little concerned for their personal well-being. Because anti-abortion activists aren't above stalking and issuing death threats, and, in some cases, carrying through on their intent to murderously act against reproductive health care workers, this alarms me. It alarms me that the people who engaged in the recent videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood "selling baby body parts" (which it by no means does) engaged in a pretty heinous fraud and possible identity theft to pull off their hoax.

It also bothers me that in order to perpetrate the hoax, the fake front orgs the anti-choicers used to engage with Planned Parenthood had to know full well what the prenatal tissue scheme was about so that they could exploit that subject without the PP personnel catching on. They knew that tissue donation was legal and counted on that to create their "front group" interfaces. Those representatives questioning Planned Parenthood personnel, represented themselves as being from research labs. They weren't asking how to buy body parts, they were talking about tissue donation, because only tissue donation was discussed. And  PP personnel even admitted that sale of parts was not an issue.

These videos are, for people who accept that sometimes, a person might want or need to terminate a pregnancy, simply weak gruel.

In the past, anti-choicers have even resorted to murder to try and persuade reasonable people that there is a problem with killing. (And this is obviously stupid.)  But they fail to recognize all these female-bodied persons who go to clinics of their own volition to get services that include abortion. They fail to take into account why women abort.  They criminalize women's unwanted pregnancies from the jump, not even looking into what makes them unwanted.

I find their tactics dishonest and their intentions to be less than very moral.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Arresting the WBC?

One of the most understandable impulses upon hearing that the always-inappropriate haters of Westboro Baptist Church are coming to disrupt funerals in your community with their brand of nastiness is exactly what LA Governor Bobby Jindal wants to do--he wants them arrested.

I sympathize, because really, they seem like awful people, and it bothers me that they use their religion to get in the faces of others at a burial--I consider that a kind of sacred space that they are violating.

But he does know how WBC will respond, I hope? Because this is what they do: they will sue. They will claim that their freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and civil rights were violated all to heck.

They've won in court with those claims before. Non-violent protests pinning them a distance away from the mourners staged by civilians seem to work, but arresting them, I'm afraid, just gives them exactly the kind of attention they crave.

They pretty much are awful people, though.

Mike Huckabee says Something Appalling

I'm a big fan of the multilateral Iran deal because I happen to not be a jackass. I understand that we don't actually know what Iran's current nuclear capability is, but it might not even be as dire as alleged and that anyhow, anything that gets them to dial it back and lets us verify it looks like progress. And let's not be stupid--we've been pretending for how long Israel doesn't have nukes?

Do we think that is for real?

So, when pretend presidential candidate former FOX News contributor Mike Huckabee says something like, President Obama is "marching Israelis to the oven door", that is exceptionally distasteful. I guess in some way it might be a step up from exploding Disney characters. And maybe he doesn't understand that sanctions really don't stop nuclear capability. It's not magic. And the threat of military force may actually create an incentive for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. His over-the-top statement has no clear logic.

He should drop the hell out for that comment: comparing President Obama to Hitler is beyond the pale and nonsensical.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Man from ALEC: Or, The Stupidian Candidate

I think I've made clear that I don't believe that Donald Trump is a real candidate, so much as a reality tv candidate (although if he decides to launch a third party candidacy, I can't be sure that I am not, on some very schadenfreude level, rooting for him--against the GOP).I also don't think brother of W., Jeb Bush, wants the job very much, or he would have spent the last umpteen years thinking more about how to craft and convey a compelling message about why he's supposed to be of any use to us, instead of making gaffes and coming off as a weenie.

Among people I consider valid GOP candidates: Scott Walker. I'm a die-hard lefty and I hate his guts, so I think that probably means he has a great shot at winning the nomination for the 2016 Best of the Worst Contest, especially now that WI court cronies have struck down the John Doe proceedings in or around his various runs for the office he holds. Maybe he uses his office and the taxpayer funds therefrom to run for things. Feh.

Of course, he's bad for climate issues. He might be one of the candidates least prepared to deal with foreign policy.  And I've pointed out myself, he simply refrains from answering questions he doesn't consider profitable to himself. But the thing that fascinates me is why--

Because I kind of have come to the opinion that unless some agency is feeding him the answers he doesn't have any. He gets a lot of his thought processes from the thinking of other folks. I mean really, how does someone actually say out loud where the people can hear that the "minimum wage is lame" unless you never thought for yourself what it might be like to live on it? How do you suppose that calling mandatory ultrasounds just a "cool thing" makes sense, unless you disregard the part about their being mandatory, and unnecessary to women who know full well what a pregnancy is and means to them? How do you come to the idea that piss-testing food stamp recipients for drugs and restricting their purchases is a great thing, when drug testing is useless and costly to taxpayers.

He doesn't have any thoughts in his pointy little head that ALEC or maybe the Koch brothers haven't put there.  If he ever seems dubious about an issue, it just means the correct answers have not been downloaded to his firmware, yet. His slightly skewed eyes are like the windshield of a driverless car. His lackluster stump speech that nonetheless brings all the stans to the yard? Is time-tested and ALEC-approved. He channels RW talking points--he is a political medium (because his type in politics is neither rare nor well-done.)

He would bomb Iran on his inauguration day. That is a thing he seriously said. And yet he is a serious candidate. I would say, a serious sociopath. But don't try him on that--he isn't for turning. He isn't for learning.  He's for ALEC and cronyism--it has worked so far. And I would call that lack of ability to be more than a talking-points-turner a real problem.