Monday, August 31, 2015

A Double-Edged Sword for Alaskans



Over the next few days the President is going where no president has ever gone before: Alaska. The purpose of the trip is to upgrade and cement his legacy as the first president to make any substantial moves to fight climate change. To borrow a phrase from the song New York, New York, if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere.
Why there? For one thing, one of the prime engines driving CC is man’s use of fossil fuels. Just weeks ago, Obama gave final approval to Shell Oil to drill in the Alaskan Arctic for the first time in 20 years.
Alaskans are accustomed to receiving an annual dividend check from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is funded in large part from oil revenues. In 2014 each eligible Alaska resident received a check for $1,884. To them, the President’s drilling approval is a big step in the right direction.
On the other hand, CC is already profoundly affecting the lives and culture of people who depend on traditional ways of acquiring and storing their food. Because of thin ice, Inuit homes have had to be relocated, and one has already been lost.
Additionally, thin ice poses a danger of falling through to those whose livelihood depends upon ice fishing. Instead of several weeks suitable for walrus hunting, in some years the time has been cut to a few days. For more information from the standpoint of Inuits, go to http://www.nativescience.org/pubs/Impact%20of%20Climate%20Change%20on%20Alaska%20Native%20Communities.pdf.
Commercial fishermen will also face increased costs as cold-water fish move further out to sea.
Although it has not been mentioned, the effect of CC on tourism is also a factor. As glaciers recede from the shoreline, and calving of icebergs becomes less common, the attractiveness of Alaska as a cruise destination is going to diminish.
So the decision is between the indigenous people and those whose livelihood is dependent upon maintaining the status quo on climate, versus those who look forward to that big annual check.
As a liberal, I wish POTUS good luck on his quest. He will need it.
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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be Human?



The Smithsonian is presenting a traveling exhibit in 19 libraries across the country, asking What Does It Mean to Be Human? Fortunately, one of them is located nearby, and a friend and I visited it this past week.
The primary subject of the exhibit is, of course, human evolution, and timelines illustrating skeletal changes, social gatherings, tool use, art, etc. are abundantly displayed.
But I was more interested in just how the scientists have arrived at today’s body of knowledge on the subject. And I was not disappointed; explanations were plentifully supplied. For example:

 Early African Homo erectus fossils (sometimes called Homo ergaster) are the oldest known early humans to have possessed modern human-like body proportions with relatively elongated legs and shorter arms compared to the size of the torso. These features are considered adaptations to a life lived on the ground, indicating the loss of earlier tree-climbing adaptations, with the ability to walk and possibly run long distances.

Similar explanations accompany each of the various categories comparing “modern” human characteristics to those of earlier primates.
Naturally this exhibit is prime fodder for the Bible-thumpers. Letters vilifying the “fiction” of Darwin and the atheism of science have appeared in the newspaper, and there is a web site proclaiming that the exhibit is a propaganda vehicle for atheism.
The following is a quote from The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. It concerns the tools available 2,000 years ago to the man attempting to make sense of the world around him:

He was compelled to fix time without a watch, to compare degrees of heat without a thermometer, to observe the heavens without a telescope and the weather without a barometer . . . Of all our mathematical, optical, and physical instruments he possessed only the rule and the compass, together with the most imperfect substitutes for some few others. Chemical analysis, correct measurement and weights, and a thorough application of mathematics to physics were unknown. The attractive force of matter; the law of gravitation; electrical phenomena; the conditions of chemical combination; pressure of air and its effects; the nature of light, heat, combustion; etc.-in short, all the facts on which the physical theories of modern science are based were wholly, or almost wholly, undiscovered. 

I realize why that man might attribute the buzzing activity around him to the activities of gods, but I have a hard time understanding why a man with today’s tools would do so. Couldn’t evolution be a part of God’s plan?
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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The 80/20 Rule



I hate to say this, but there are times when I am ashamed to be an American. Fortunately the feeling doesn’t last very long because I can fall back on the 80/20 rule. Let me explain.
The 80/20 rule says that 20% of the members of a group cause most of the problems for the other 80%. I wish we could amend the rule to 90/10 or even 95/5, but it seems to be going the other direction.
Two events appeared in the news recently that illustrate what I am talking about. One involved a Hispanic lady who had the temerity to speak Spanish in a Los Angeles restaurant! You read that correctly, a Los Angeles restaurant. The City of Angels. In a state in which the non-Hispanic whites amount to less than half of the population according to the census bureau.
Another customer took issue with the Hispanic lady, berating her, and even inferring that speaking Spanish was tantamount to an open invitation for the Nazis to take over the country. Huh? Nazis? Give me a break!
But you can see for yourself at Spanish Nazis. I’m guessing the “American” lady is planning to vote for the Donald.
In another example of the “American Way”(?), Larry Lennox-Choate and Daniel Lennox-Choate were married in the U.S.Military Academy’s Chapel at West Point on November 2, 2013. In New York City they were recently attacked by a man shouting homophobic slurs. The situation escalated when the man punched Daniel Lennox-Choate, 30, in the face, according to police.
He picked the wrong guys to mess with; as part of their training they had gone through Plebe Boxing. The man fled on a bicycle, but not before his picture had been snapped by a bystander. Check it out at man picks on gay cadets.
As for you 20 percenters, take a little time to read the Constitution of the United States, and then try to explain where your actions are condoned.
For the 80 percenters, I am reminded of that old Latin(?) saying: Non illegitimi carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.