science

Potpourri – v13.0


Curmudgeon Corner

Richard Branson has successfully staged his self-promotional space spectacular and it is most disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m as geeky as most science geeks and a space shot, even a barely sub-orbital one, is pretty cool. But the science and engineering and cool factors aren’t the real story.

The real deal is the acquiescence of the national press to publicize Branson’s space tourism private business launch. They have followed this present day P.T. Barnum and faithfully done his marketing for him. What do you suppose 3 hours of cable coverage is worth? Multiply your figure by the number of stations covering the event. Now yet more rich guys will pony up a quarter of a million dollars to ride his roller coaster. Well done, Sir Richard.

That’s a perfect parallel to the non-stop free press coverage that Donald Trump got for 5 years, especially during each of his campaigns. We blame Russian hacking and Trump’s horrendous cheating for his temporarily living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But just as culpable is the press having slavishly done his marketing for him with all that free publicity. I mean, was it really legitimate news to air in full every promotional event and thousands of his inane tweets and every other outrageous thing he said and did?

All news outlets censor, in the sense that they cannot cover everything that happens. They pick and choose every day. Where was their sense of discretion for five years? Where is it today?

Re-education

If you visit the Alamo in San Antonio, TX you’ll see various artifacts of the men who defended it against General Santa Anna’s army in February 1836. Among the items is a brick from the chimney of Davy Crockett’s home in Tennessee. No clue what that has to do with the battle at the Alamo, any more than the tableware that is on display there from the far away homes of others.

The story of the battle and the men who defended the Alamo has been glorified on television, in movies and primarily in proud Texas lore. Some of that lore is accurate. Much is fictionalized to suit Texas pride and there is great Lone Star chest thumping about it going on right now.

There was to be a book tour event at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin to highlight “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.” It was cancelled by the museum hours before the event because of political pressure from the state’s Republican lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, who proudly killed the session. (Is that cancel culture? If so, should righties oppose the cancellation?) As one of the book’s authors, Jason Staffords, writes, “Apparently, the state history museum was no place to discuss state history.”

Not to be outdone by his lieutenant governor, Governor Greg Abbott, he of anti-mask and voter suppression infamy, tweeted “Stop political correctness in our schools.” “Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’!”

In other words, pay no attention to facts and reality if they disturb Texans’ comfort in self-serving fantasy. It’s yet another effort of the far right to control the minds of Americans, to educate or re-educate them to manipulative “alternative facts.” We don’ need no stinking truth or learning here in Texas.

Separately, Ira Leavitt wrote about his home town library, saying, “Four new Niles-Maine District Library trustees, stealthy victors in a sparsely-voted election, want to carve deeply into the budget, resulting in staff and program cuts and a 23% reduction of hours.” He called them, “The small-minded people attacking the source of knowledge of their community” No stinking truth or learning needed in Niles, either.

Citizens for Renewing America wants to re-educate our teachers so that our young Americans are properly indoctrinated. For example, Critical Race Theory (CRT), a relatively obscure legal concept, is now a favorite boogeyman used by the far right to demonize any adjustment to its favorite narratives, facts notwithstanding, and they are staunchly against any word of it leaking out. You can download a PDF of the organization’s manifesto, Model School Board Language to Prohibit Critical Race Theory here.

Don’t be fooled by its apparent shield against discrimination, because it’s anything but that. Scroll down to the extensive list of concepts that it proudly declares are prohibited and read its proscribed penalties for violation of its Big Brother doctrine.

These people are focused on prohibiting critical thinking of any kind. They are about muzzling teachers and controlling the minds of our kids. It seems we don’ need no stinking truth or learning in our schools, either. These people and their tyranny are a harbinger of the Thought Police.

All these episodes are part of today’s version of the Scopes Monkey Trial. It’s a battle for knowledge, truth, reality and critical thinking against an entrenched, pre-frontal lobe mob. We lost the Scopes battle (only to “win” later on a bizarre, wimpy technicality). Today’s fight is a battle every bit as important and we better win this one clean. Evolution is real and so is the true story – not the heroic Texas fantasy one – of the Alamo. Our need for knowledge and learning in all things is real. So is our need for librarians.

A Credible Revolution

President Trump told us that his health plan would be incredible – so good you won’t believe it – better coverage, lower cost and all the rest. Of course, it turned out that he was right. His plan was incredible – it lacked credibility because there never was a plan.

Now President Biden has signed An Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy. In presenting it he said, “[W]e know we’ve got a problem—a major problem. But we also have an incredible opportunity.”

I don’t know how sensible his plan is, although Reagan effectively stopped our anti-trust (anti-monopoly) actions and it’s been competition elimination ever since. If Biden can reverse that, it should be a good thing for nearly all of us. Meanwhile, he started by labeling the opportunity as “incredible.”

Our language has evolved to the point where up is down and incredible means credible and spectacular. That’s not okay. I’m calling for a credible revolution, where “incredible” means “not credible, not believable” just the way we applied it to Lyndon Johnson. He had his “credibility gap,” which is what people said in the 60s when the president lied. And he lied a lot.

So, let’s stop using “incredible” when we mean wonderful or better than you might imagine or spectacular or really good. Let “incredible” go where it should, to describe those who lack credibility.

Can you think of anyone or any group that fits that description, boys and girls? I knew you could.

Short Reads in Reality

Dahlia Lithwick explains The Price of No Consequences for Trump.

Republicans, those stalwart “law and order” pounders of fists on desks, seem to have forgotten themselves. Jennifer Rubin explains in Republicans Now Stand for Lawlessness and Disorder.

There’s been enough pretending that there are honest brokers in the Republican caucus. Thom Hartmann makes his persuasive case in Dear Democrats: Don’t Negotiate With Terrorist-Lovers.

Maybe you want to know why Democrats aren’t running the table. Jeff Greenfield explains Why America’s Most Popular Party Isn’t Getting More Done.

Tucker Carlson is on a pseudo-patriotic crusade against “civilization ending poison.” It’s another of his fabricated hate fests, this one attacking teachers. Read a letter to him from an actual teacher, Dear Tucker Carlson.

Are you seeing the Delta variant trend?
236 deaths every day is equivalent to a Boeing 737-MAX crash every day.
GET VACCINATED!

————————————

Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.

And add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  4. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Crap! A Friday Extra


One of the features of watching a YouTube video is the line up of additional videos presented to tantalize us. YouTube captures what we’ve watched before and provides links to videos with some similarity to them in order to keep us watching. As you know, what commonly results is an enormous time suck.

I haven’t a clue how it happened, but somehow I got tagged for pseudo-science conspiracy crap videos. I know this because I clicked on a video and watched a very well produced documentary of idiotic, serious face “experts” claiming idiotic, seriously meant possibilities, like, “Only a handful of astronauts have seen the far side of the moon, so there could be massive construction there.” And there are crackpots spouting provocative, idiotic questions, like, “Can it be that the Moon is actually hollow?” *

To support their hollow Moon theory they quote a United States Geologic Survey study of radar pings to the Moon that supposedly have penetrated the surface. They report that the USGS determined that the moon’s crust is only 20 miles thick; past that it’s hollow. To fact-check their claim I went to the USGS site and did a search. The closest I could get to validating the claims of this YouTube video was a piece published in 1991 entitled Demography and Natural History of the Common Fruit Bat. I, for one, believe the fruit bat information confirms their claims of a hollow Moon, but that’s just me.

That information is especially powerful when paired with multiple claims by multiple no-name talking heads in this video. They say that NASA has banged on the Moon, which has resulted in echos lasting for hours. Perhaps that means that the Moon is actually a celestial bell awaiting a galactic clapper.

YouTube has lined up other crackpot videos. There’s one asking if the Soviet Union discovered aliens in the deepest lake in the world. Another tells the story of a pilot who survived the Bermuda Triangle and who will tell you what he saw. There’s some guy who was pronounced dead for 20 minutes and he’ll tell you what he saw, too. And there’s a video telling what would happen if Yellowstone National Park were to blow up. It sure is a good thing that someone is thinking about that.

There’s a video about a massive LA disaster you’ve never heard of and another where Apollo 11’s “third astronaut” Michael Collins reveals secrets from the far side of the moon. But if you were to watch that video you’d learn that there are no secrets and Collins doesn’t reveal anything. Fact checking ruins all the fun. Nevertheless, there is no end of provocative, pseudo-science crap just waiting for our clicks. Enjoy. Better yet: don’t.

The point of this is captured by a single statistic: The hollow Moon video has been viewed 2.1 million times. Clearly, people believe this crap and they share it with their airhead friends, who believe it, too.

Literally millions of Americans believe that the January 6 insurrection was just an ordinary group of tourists visiting the Capitol Building. Never mind that the building was closed to visitors due to Covid-19. And when you watch the videos again just ignore the chants to hang the Vice President and pay no attention to the bear spray, the Auschwitz tee-shirts, the beatings of Capitol police, the vandalism and the rest. Bear in mind that, “15 percent of Americans agree with the QAnon statement that the U.S. government, media and financial worlds ‘are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation’”.

Idiotic, false-on-the-face-of-it crap is gobbled up by otherwise capable humans who are commonly able to feed themselves, fill their own gas tanks and utter intelligible sentences in a single language. But now due to cowards in our government, these conspiracy gobbling, gullible people have outsized influence on our democracy. Fantasy rules. Rationality, logic and good sense be damned.

To use the suggestive question format of the conspiracy world, “Could this be evidence of alien life forms eating the brains of Americans?” Perhaps if NASA were to bang on their heads we would hear the echos.

————————

  • * Full disclosure: these are not verbatim quotes. They are the substance of such statements repeated throughout the idiotic video. My life has great value to me and I won’t waste it on crap, so I am unwilling to watch the video again in order to perfect the quotes.

————————————

Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.

Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Freedom v2.0


Reading time – 3:01  .  .  .

I received some off-line comments (i.e., not posted in the Comments section) questioning the contention in my “Freedom” post last Sunday that if we don’t begin working together instead of fighting one another that eventually we will lose our freedoms. Here’s an effort to make that connectivity clearer.

China is in the process of building an economic colossus and a 21st century military that will rival and be able to dominate any other nation. As they trigger their tidal wave toward world domination, what do you suppose will happen to your freedoms if we continue fighting ourselves instead of dealing with this international treat? Where will your freedoms go when a totalitarian power is incrementally dominating the globe and there’s little we can do about it?

Vladimir Putin has made it exquisitely clear that he’s completely comfortable assassinating adversaries anywhere in the world. His functionaries have ripped into our national security apparatus and stolen our top secret information. At the same time, he’s had his hackers set him up to control our infrastructure. What do you suppose your freedom will look like when he shuts off your electricity and water and at the same time he knows our national security vulnerabilities?

Those AR-15s our militia members carry around won’t be good for much, nor will bombastic speeches in Congress, especially when we can’t agree on facts or whether science is good or if Hillary ran a child pornography and sex trafficking operation from the basement of a DC pizza shop. All that conspiracy crap will have done its job of making sure that we can’t work together, that we don’t and won’t trust each other and that will make us impotent.

We are in the depths of the worst pandemic in a century, but 38% of Americans think somehow it’s a hoax, even as Covid-19 is the leading cause of death in America. What happens to individual freedom when people can’t breathe? What happens if all this continues because a huge percentage of Americans refuse to believe the science and won’t take the vaccine?

What happens to your freedom when infected people are all around? You know the answer to that because that’s how you’re living right now. Worse, that’s how our millions of hungry unemployed people are living, but they’re doing it food insecure and in fear of eviction. Take a guess at what freedom feels like to them right now.

What happens when bands of militants with too many firearms, too much anger and too little accurate information storm all of our state capitols? That isn’t freedom; it’s insurrection. Sedition. Treason. And your freedom looks pretty limited in the face of those armed attempts at minority rule.

By the way, I’ve talked with some of those over-firearmed folks and asked why they’re carrying loaded firearms. The answer every time has been, “Because I can.” I’ve always tried to get a real answer by responding with some version of, “Yes, of course that’s true. But you could also stand here clucking like a hen, but you’re not doing that. Why the gun?” Commonly, the response is a repetition of “Because I can.” I’ve never been offered a real answer that approached the truth, like their needing to feel in control, their need to take some action against whatever it is they don’t like at the moment, or so they can feel like the toughest S.O.B. in the valley or to flick off authority figures. Side note: These people aren’t powerful. Their guns are powerful and deserve respect. That doesn’t transfer to them.

How do you feel walking down the sidewalk along with angry people carrying loaded hand guns and assault rifles? Do you feel safe, like they’re on the same side with you, that they’re the good guys like you, that they believe in patriotism just like you do? Can you work with them to build a better, stronger America? If your answers are no, then they’ve already trimmed your freedom.

And the more that happens the more we will sink into international irrelevance because we aren’t all pulling the American wagon in the same direction.

The reality deniers and the angry people itching for confrontation are killing our freedom. And if you’re calling them names, like stupid, racist, idiot or moron you’re making things worse. Our undeclared civil war is killing 3,000 of us every day and people with big mouths, limited information and selfish notions are the leaders in this parade to the end of the “free country” you think this is.

That’s why we’re going to lose our freedoms if we don’t start working together.

Not convinced? Then read this essay – all of it. Get over your wanting to be protective or accusatory and give serious consideration both to the facts presented, as well as the opinions.

On second thought, read the essay even if you’re already convinced. We’re living in a fraught age and a culture of peril, with our freedom at grave risk. We all need to understand well what’s happening. That’s the reason to read the essay.

Many thanks to MN for sending the link.

—————————————-

—————————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Nation’s Business


Reading time – 4:54; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Reader JC wrote in response to my column last week that he wants me to let go of focus on Trump and instead focus on the nation’s business. My reply was that stopping Trump from further damaging our democracy is the nation’s business, leaving the implication that dropping focus on Trump would be a bad idea. Nevertheless, we’re all weary of dealing with his blatantly dishonest and sometimes obviously criminal behavior. We’re all sick of the impeachment debate, too. So, okay, let’s focus on the nation’s business.

I recall something about “draining the swamp,” which would be good business for the nation, but all I see from Trump says that he wants to populate the swamp with even slimier creatures. His current pick for the Federal Reserve Board is Stephen Moore, who boldly claimed that he’s not a big believer in democracy. Got a problem with that? Or his frequent and blatant mashing of facts? What do you suppose that attitude might do to the nation’s business if Moore gets his hands on the Fed?

Click the pic for the essay

Trump can’t get away with misappropriating funds in order to build his useless monument to himself on our southern border without the Senate Republican refusal to override his veto. And he can’t get away with de-funding Medicare and giving whopping tax breaks to already rich people without the support of Republicans in Congress. Neither can he get away with packing our federal courts with young and crazy righty judges, many of whom aren’t remotely qualified for their jobs, without help from our complicit Republicans. Read Paul Krugman’s clear, focused take on this Congressional spinelessness in his essay, The Great Republican Abdication. As well, read some of the reader comments attached to his essay.

All of this is about the nation’s business that isn’t being properly served. Are you getting the feeling that we have to stay focused on both our less courageous legislators and Trump?

Click the pic for the full stupid

Climate change is the biggest existential threat to our nation and likely to the entire world since the dinosaurs were wiped out 60 million years ago. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is my favorite whipping boy for the idiotic denial of this reality. He brought a snowball into the Senate in February 2015, claiming that its very existence proved that there is no global warming. Gotta love blatant stupidity that makes the hollowness of false claims so obvious.

None of the 3% of scientists who claim that there is no man-made global warming is a climatologist. The other 97% are climatologists and, by definition, they know what they’re talking about. They are unified and clear that we are in the process of hard boiling our planet. Nevertheless, Trump has pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords and pushed the levers for increased fossil fuel burning. And the Republicans in Congress won’t stand up to him. That’s a problem for our nation. That’s going to cause terrible consequences for your grandchildren, so watch here to see how they feel about that. Shouldn’t our nation’s business have some focus on the future?

or in stopping the Russians and Chinese from hacking our next election, or hurricane relief, or infrastructure rebuilding, or gun safety, or net neutrality, or white extremist violence, or the shrinking middle class, or draining the swamp, or wealth inequality, or   .  .  .

Which brings us to my favorite chant:

Q. What do we want?

A. Science!

Q. When do we want it?

A. After peer review!

Our leadership has been allowed to ignore what the vast majority of us want, like universal background checks before the sale of any firearm (about 90% of us) and universal healthcare (over 60% of us). We all know that our infrastructure is crumbling and we want it fixed. Indeed, we’ve been wringing hands over that for decades and we want action to rebuild it. The number of good paying jobs that will come from that long term investment in our country would be tremendous.

Meanwhile, our Congress has done nothing to make things better. Trump has brayed lies about how world-class our airports will be and the vast rebuilding of our nation that he will deliver, but he’s done literally nothing to start that ball rolling. All of that is the nation’s business, but public demand for those things doesn’t seem to matter.

We have citizen super-majorities for many of the nation’s issues which are ignored by those in power. Read Tim Wu’s piece on this and decide for yourself if you’re okay with the majority of Americans being blown off and the nation’s business ignored. Sadly, because these issues are being ignored by our Congress and the president, if we’re to deal with the nation’s business, losing focus on Trump simply isn’t an option.

Frustratingly, Trump’s continuously outrageous behavior gives him what he really wants – constant attention. We really do have to keep watch on this infant tyrant and stop him from breaking yet more stuff.

It’s time to recognize that this situation didn’t come about in a vacuum.

While we Americans aren’t the first to disempower ourselves through brainless acceptance of propaganda, we’re quite good at it. And we excel at demonizing one another and, in service to that, have perfected the art of “othering,” which keeps us divided and weak. Those things happen in the presence of leadership that undermines what we believed were our values and replaces them with constant fear as the driver of our behavior, like fear of Muslims and fear of immigrants.

Our nation’s business is ignored when we’ve metaphorically barred the door and stand ready with a shotgun at all times, because we’ve made ourselves so easy to manipulate.

Our job – your job – is to keep an eye on Congress, the president and DC fear mongering and stay conscious and active. And VOTE! Perhaps one day we’ll have a Congress and president that attend to our nation’s business.

Final thought  .  .  .

In the race for the Democratic nomination for president the constant question is about who can beat Trump. I have a contrarian thought on that positioning.

Watch for Ohio Governor John Kasich to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination, even as he has little use for what passes for today’s Republican Party. He’s a traditional Republican and will appeal to those who aren’t burdened by a permanently extended middle finger. Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be that party’s front runner.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

 Scroll to top