Now Is NOT the Time

In response to the question:

What’s the most disturbing truth about raising children?

Heavens. Where to start?

I’ll limit my answer to 3 unavoidable facts:

  1. The children you have right now (2015), and any yet to be born, are going to have to deal with the collapse of the biosphere. That’s not hyperbole: that’s the consensus of roughly 14,000 climate scientists, worldwide.                 BioShock                                                                                                                   They will grow up and try to thrive in a world where the norm will be mass migrations, food and water shortages, spread of deadly disease (malaria and West Nile virus, to name but two), and endless, endless wildfires, way too many to keep under control.                                                                                                                                They will live with storms that have the power to level cities. And it will be  hotter, much hotter.

  2. They will also have to deal with a world where there will be many, many applicants for fewer and fewer jobs.                                                                                                                                                             We only need so many people to grow our food, build and repair our highways, sell us our Starbucks, even trade our stocks for us. We put 250,000 new people on the planet (over and above the death rate) Every. Single. Day.                                  BirthRate Even if only half make it to adulthood, that’s still about 46 Million people that will need jobs in about 15 years. And then 46 million newer, new people the year after that. And the year after that.
    I’ve seen lines like this for part-time work at Chipotle’s. Seriously.

  3. Unless you are a Tiger Mom (or Dad), or can afford a good private school ($11,000/yr), your children are going to grow up — no way to say this but to say it — very dumb indeed.

The US ranks 28th in the world, just above tiny Portugal, in the education of its populace (Singapore ranks #1).

Horrid for a country that still likes to think of itself as a ‘superpower.’

I had to explain to a Millennial just yesterday why Benjamin Franklin was a Big Deal.

In sum: You are raising children

  • who will live in air-conditioning maybe 8 hours a day, before the power grids have their mandatory daily brownouts;

  • who will probably work part-time at a poorly-paid franchise operation, and

  • who will be unfamiliar with basic history, geography, or mathematics.

Further, engrossing, accurate reading: 

A Special Moment in History (Bill McKibben)


The Engine’s Running and the Garage Door is Locked

Again, I think this dialogue speaks for itself, so I’ll let it do so. I’ve included screen-shots for those of you with shorter attention spans. (The Newsroom, Season 3 Episode 3, ‘Main Justice,’)

WILL McAVOY: Mr. Westbrook, you’ve spent most of your professional career as a climate scientist in the public sector.

RICHARD WESTBROOK: Yes, 10 years as a supervisory management analyst in the Office of Environmental Information. And before that, I was a program specialist in the EPA’s Resource Management Division.

McAVOY: And you have a PhD in climate science from Stanford.

WESTBROOK: Yes, and another in chemistry with a masters in biology.

McAVOY: Okay. Tell us about the findings in the report that was just released.


WESTBROOK: The latest measurements taken at Mauna Loa in Hawaii indicate a CO2 level of 400 parts per million.

McAVOY: Just so we know what we’re talking about, if you were a doctor and we were the patient, what’s your prognosis? 1000 years? 2000 years?

WESTBROOK: A person has already been born who will die due to catastrophic failure of the planet.


McAVOY: (Stunned pause) Okay, can you expand on that?

WESTBROOK: Sure. The last time there was this much CO2 in the air, the oceans were 80 feet higher than they are now. Two things you should know: 1) Half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of an ocean.Newsroom-Fact3

McAVOY: And the other?

WESTBROOK: 2) Humans can’t breathe under water.

McAVOY: You’re saying the situation’s dire?

WESTBROOK: Not exactly. Your house is burning to the ground, the situation’s dire. Your house has already burned to the ground, the situation’s over.


McAVOY: So what can we do to reverse this?

WESTBROOK: There’s a lot we could do …

McAVOY: Good.

WESTBROOK:  … if it were 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. But now, No.

McAVOY: Can you make an analogy that might help us understand?

WESTBROOK: Sure. It’s as if you’re sitting in your car in your garage with the engine running and the door closed and you’ve slipped into unconsciousness. And that’s it.

CO2 Suicide

McAVOY: What if someone comes and opens the door?

WESTBROOK: You’re already dead.

McAVOY: What if the person got there in time?

WESTBROOK: You’d be saved.

McAVOY: Okay. So now what’s the CO2 equivalent of the getting there on time?

WESTBROOK: Shutting off the car 20 years ago.

McAVOY: You sound like you’re saying it’s hopeless.


McAVOY: Is that the administration’s position or yours?

WESTBROOK: There isn’t a position on this any more than there’s a position on the temperature at which water boils.


McAVOY: The administration…clean coal, nuclear power, raising fuel economy standards and building a more efficient electrical grid.


McAVOY: And?

WESTBROOK: That would have been great!

McAVOY: Let’s see if we can’t find a better spin. People are starting their weekends. The report says we can release 565 more gigatons without the effects being calamitous.

WESTBROOK: It says we can only release 565 gigatons.

McAVOY: So, what if we only release 564?


WESTBROOK: Well, then we would have a reasonable shot at some form of dystopian, post-apocalyptic life. But the carbon dioxide in the oil that we’ve already leased is 2,795 gigatons. So…

McAVOY: What would all this look like?

WESTBROOK: Well, mass migrations, food and water shortages, spread of deadly disease, endless wildfires. Way too many to keep under control. Storms that have the power to level cities, blacken out the sky, and create permanent darkness.


McAVOY: Are you gonna get in trouble for saying this publicly?

WESTBROOK: Who cares?

McAVOY: Mr. Westbrook, we want to inform people, but we don’t want to alarm them. Can you give us a reason to be optimistic?

WESTBROOK: Well, that’s the thing, Will. Americans are optimistic by nature. And if we face this problem head on, if we listen to our best scientists, and act decisively and passionately, I still don’t see any way we can survive.

McAVOY: (Rushing to get off the air) Okay, Richard Westbrook, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA. Thank you for joining us.

WESTBROOK: Thanks for having me.

McAVOY: This is News Night. We’ll be back right after this.

Indigenous People’s Memorial Day

Excerpted from James Nevius’ fine essay, to be found here in its entirety.

“The second Monday in October has been designated an American federal holiday in Christopher Columbus’s honor since 1937. To most people in the United States, this commemoration of his 1492 landing in the Bahamas no longer has much meaning – many Americans outside of large Italian American communities are only dimly aware that it’s an official holiday. Many people don’t even get the day off work, instead trading Columbus Day for the day after Thanksgiving.

“For generations, school children learned to recite, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. . That tale, much of it created by Washington Irving (the man who gave us The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), is bunk. Mariners knew full well the earth was round, including Columbus and his crew.

Columbus wasn't afraid of 'falling off the edge.'
Columbus wasn’t afraid of ‘falling off the edge.’

Columbus just thought the circumference of the earth was thousands of miles smaller, and thus that the islands of the Caribbean were the East Indies. Our holiday celebrates a man who was lost.

“Lost or not, he immediately captured some of the natives he met, writing of the “seven [natives] which I have ordered to be taken and carried to Spain,” and further musing that “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased”. In December, his ships reached Hispaniola – the island that now hosts Haiti and the Dominican Republic – where he forced the natives to provide him gold; those who didn’t had their hands lopped off.

Yes, THIS is someone we should celebrate! (coughSarcasm)
Yes, THIS is someone we should celebrate! (coughSarcasm)

It was the beginning of a rapid decline of the island’s population; historian Laurence Bergreen estimates that there were 300,000 natives on Hispaniola when Columbus arrived; by 1550, there were just 500. Many had been killed by disease or Spanish soldiers; others had been enslaved and sent back to Spain. A huge number simply took their own lives rather than live under Spanish rule.

Is this really worthy of a celebration and a three-day sale at the local department store?


“Rather than a holiday celebrating one man, let’s have a day where every local community celebrates the native cultures connected to that locale. In New York, we could honor the Algonquin-speaking Lenape; in Utah, there could be a festival for their namesake Utes; in the Dakotas, a celebration of the Sioux, while at the same time recognizing the plight of many Indians on reservations.


“Of course, not everyone would be pleased. These days, the strongest argument in favor of the holiday comes from Italian Americans, who helped originally promote Columbus Day as a way to mark their heritage and to celebrate a Catholic hero in a decidedly anti-Catholic country. But does anyone really want to ride a float commemorating a vicious slave trader who caused 50,000 natives to spontaneously commit suicide? I’d argue that they can come up with better symbols of Italian American pride.”

America by The Numbers

The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that the problem exists.

Brilliant, elegiac dialogue by Aaron Sorkin on what we once were, and what we have lost:

“Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is: There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.


  • 7th in literacy;
  • 27th in math;
  • 22nd in science;
  • 49th in life expectancy;
  • 178th in infant mortality;
  • 3rd in median household income;
  • Number 4 in labor force, and
  • Number 4 in exports.

“We lead the world in only three categories:

  1. Number of incarcerated citizens per capita;
  2. Number of adults who believe angels are real, and
  3. Defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.

“None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period,

“So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?”

In closing, here are 12 Categories (10 of which I would classify as vital: you can guess which those are) in which other countries leave us in the dust. If you click on the image, you can see it in higher resolution.

It’s instructive to note which countries just beat us out in a certain category — for instance, our insanely expensive healthcare system is bested by Costa Rica’s, a fact that should give one pause:


Simple Math: Oregon Shooting : 294 Mass Shootings in 274 Days

Here’s a very tired, very frustrated Obama breaking down the steps in a Typical American Mass Shooting.

“We spend over a trillion dollars and pass countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.

” So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon,… doesn’t make sense.”

It’s a lot like Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief, except we never get beyond step 1: Denial. These things happen to someone else. There are too many guns, there’s nothing to be done about it.

Playing with your guns all day
If only they could see you now
How you’ve learned to shoot so well
They wouldn’t laugh that way.   —  “Lullaby For Wayne”

Except that’s not remotely true. Here’s Will Oremus, writing for Slate:

After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since.

“On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania. By the time he was finished, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history.


“Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable … it announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.

“At the heart of the push was a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia. The country’s new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.” (Full article here)

So that’s all there is to it.

  • Buy back the guns from those who will sell — probably at an obscene markup to encourage trade-ins;

  • Prohibit private sales;

  • Restrict commercial sales to hunters and sport shooters (e.g.: If you say you plan to hunt rabbits, your license doesn’t allow you to buy a high-powered rifle).

If Australia can do it, so can we. Let Australian Jim Jeffries entertain and enlighten you on the subject:

Of Honeybees and Helicopters

A trend that I’ve always found quite galling is the bantering about of “well-known facts” that are, in fact, complete myths — especially those that  skitter up against science for a moment before careening off into Cloud-Cuckoo Land.
Case in point: this particularly treacly bit of nonsense, intended as a Motivational Thought:

Gaaah! What nonsense!
Gaaah! What nonsense!

By the way, yes — it’s that Mary Kay, the MLM cosmetics queen who left behind a personal fortune of nearly $98 million, and whose personal motto was “God first, family second, career third.” But that is another rant for another day

Here is the real story, according to Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope:

“According to an account at, the story was initially circulated in German technical universities in the 1930s. Supposedly during dinner a biologist asked an aerodynamics expert about insect flight.The aerodynamicist did a few calculations and found that, according to the accepted theory of the day, bumblebees didn’t generate enough lift to fly.

“Hummeln nicht fliegen! Mein Gott!!!”

The biologist, delighted to have a chance to show up those arrogant SOBs in the hard sciences, promptly spread the story far and wide.

“Once he sobered up, however, the aerodynamicist surely realized what the problem was — a faulty analogy between bees and conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Bees’ wings are small relative to their bodies. If an airplane were built the same way, it’d never get off the ground. But bees aren’t like airplanes, they’re like helicopters. 

Kind of like this, but not really.
Kind of like this, but not really.

Their wings work on the same principle as helicopter blades — to be precise, ‘reverse-pitch semirotary helicopter blades,’ to quote one authority.A moving airfoil, whether it’s a helicopter blade or a bee wing, generates a lot more lift than a stationary one.”

The take-home lesson here is that there can be quite a difference between a real-life concept and its mathematical model — especially if the initial model doesn’t reflect the structural reality.

And now for your viewing pleasure, some really, really cute bees:

I Want to Advocate for Animals, but with Smarter Role-Models


Vapid, vapid, vapid and making things up.

Watch Ellie go on a  Holiday from Logic at 0:32, when she claims that Biscuit (to my eye, either a Yorkshire or a Landrace pig) has been Created By Evil Scientists by “taking the DNA of the wild pig and genetically engineering it.”

The fact of the matter is that commercial white pigs (Yorkshire, Landrace, Chester White, etc.) are products of selective breeding, not genetic manipulation.

Exempli gratia: The Yorkshire pig was developed starting in 1761 (way before genetic engineering was even an idea) by Robert Bakewell, using local hogs in his home county of Leicestershire, while …
the Chester White was first developed around 1815-1818, using strains of large, white pigs common to the Northeast U.S. and a white boar imported from Bedfordshire county, England.

Don’t mistake me. Factory farming is flat-out evil. Animals don’t exist for our amusement, or to be our slaves, or so that some gluttonous eejit can wolf down a McKrinkleburger with Bacon and Cheese.

Nom nom. His name was Bob, and he's soooo tasty!
Nom nom. His name was Bob, and he’s soooo tasty!

BUT — Making Shit Up to elicit an Emotional Response isn’t the way to go, either.

At best, Ms. Laks is guilty of really quite stunning ignorance, and that in no way helps the cause.


We All Cook Out

I’ve lost count of how many weeks it’s been since we’ve had a normal summer day.

The talking heads doing the weather reports look especially strained — I imagine Management telling them to keep those Smiles Plastered In Place as they talk about yet another Southwestern Heatwave.

How refreshing it would be to see this, instead:

Keep those fans running, friends and neighbors.

More Simple Math

In the wake of this morning’s shooting, which, according to Mass Shooting Trackerwas actually the second of the day,

I’d like to present two maps, and dismiss a logical fallacy.


Bang bang
Bang bang

No doubt, you have seen something like this before, and it usually only serves to reinforce the idea that the poorer, disenfranchised Red States are more violent. So — let’s put this in context with

Map 2:

Our Cities are on a par with Entire Countries!
Our Cities are on a par with Entire Countries!

To quote journalist Richard Florida in his fine analysis for the Atlantic :

The pattern is staggering. A number of U.S. cities have gun homicide rates in line with the most deadly nations in the world.

  • If it were a country, New Orleans (with a rate 62.1 gun murders per 100,000 people) would rank second in the world.
  • Detroit’s gun homicide rate (35.9) is just a bit less than El Salvador (39.9).
  • Baltimore’s rate (29.7) is not too far off that of Guatemala (34.8).
  • Los Angeles (9.2) is comparable to the Philippines (8.9).
  • Boston’s rate (6.2) is higher than Nicaragua (5.9).
  • New York, where gun murders have declined to just four per 100,000, is still higher than Argentina (3).

… Yes, it’s true we are comparing American cities to nations. But most of these countries here have relatively small populations, in many cases comparable to large U.S. metros.

The sad reality is that many American cities have rates of gun homicides comparable to the some of the most violent nations in the world.

The fallacy I’d like to dispel with is the one that goes something like this:

“More people are killed with stuffed animals than with guns every year. Should we ban stuffed animals, too?”

I pains me to spell this out, but here goes:

We have two countries:

Country SG has Stuffed Animals and Guns.

Country SG
Country SG

Country S just has Stuffed Animals.

Country S
Country S

In both countries, the same number of people die from exposure to Stuffed Animals, and an additional (nearly equivalent) portion of the populace dies from gunshot wounds in country SG.






Or to put it another way, in closing, if John Lennon had lived in Country S, he’d probably still be writing great music.

Ah … not so much, no.