Speaking of roller coasters, the past few months have been insane up here, weather-wise, anyway. Record snow in January, then the spigot turned to a drip and we had very little in February, followed by record heat – and rain – in what is traditionally one of the snowiest months up here in the Colorado Rockies.
Then…this week happened.
A foot here, a foot there. Ice on the lake gone (a month early), the migratory Sand Hill Cranes and Hummingbirds now caught out in mid winter conditions, when last week the temperatures were normal – for June and July. This lake area, by the way, is the last place on earth where Sand Hill Cranes come to lay their eggs and birth their chicks. If the eggs don’t make it this year, and say a few more years, what happens to them? Just another extinct species, hey? Sorry you got caught up in that Chinese hoax.
It’s like dominoes, too. It’s been too hot too early all over their Central American wintering grounds, so they arrived early, and it was quite pleasant for them up here…but Colorado is Colorado. It can, and frequently does, snow in the middle of summer up here. Life at 8-10 ft above sea level is different. It’s punishing for the unprepared.
We picked up our first foot Tuesday night, and Erica & I woke up, picked up our shovels and snow blowers and had everything cleared and ready to go in fifteen minutes. Cranes and Hummingbirds don’t have that luxury, but as we’re learning there’s a web of life that sustains all of us. Kill off one species and watch the dominoes fall. One species of bird dies and mosquito populations soar. Infectious diseases do too, as a result, then we die.
We mess around with all these systems at our peril. If we take the universe around us for granted too long, something big and silent and completely unaware of our existence is going to have something to say to us. In the grand scheme of the universe (assuming there is a scheme) we may not be the almighty species we think we are. I don’t think that will come as a shock to many of you reading reading my stories, but golly, some people are getting mighty careless about the future of our home.
Modest proposal time. How about we make one more new law, and call it Terracide. As in, intentionally or knowingly take specific actions, against the scientific consensus, that imperil the future of the planet, or life thereon? How about punishment: exile, without a smartphone, to an Inuit village in coastal Alaska. The condemned shall build a house on the beach, and once complete, he or she may not move it – on penalty of instant death.
Hey, I’m just saying’…and maybe the water won’t be too cold.
There’s a modest trend that first attracted my attention years ago, the so-called ‘Tiny House’ movement. Adherents, rather like ‘Hippies’ in the late 60s, first started building tiny homes that could make comfy ‘off the grid’ living possible, and, as they’re built on trailer chassises they are, in a sense, mobile. More and more tiny house communities are being built if for no other reason than most people today just can’t afford a traditional house – of any size. As federal tax rates fall, taxes have to increase at the state and local level or you end up like Kansas or Texas, so as the burden shifts more and more to homeowners tiny homes represent an ‘end-around’ – or another way to cut your tax bill.
Still, like the situation confronting live aboard sailors, municipalities don’t like this so they make it harder and harder to set up tiny house communities. Too, these solutions probably aren’t the best thing for small families, but for young singles or retiring widowers I can see a kind of logic in these things. You can move with the changing job market, or with the seasons, and take everything with you – without all the deprivations associated with living in a mobile home, to wit:
Take the Waterhaus by Greenpod Development. Not exactly a mobile home, but it does offer a smaller ecological footprint than your average suburban ranch house. So, would this be a life of deprivation?
Or, how about this Zen-like living room space:
I guess the point of all these eco-rants is to not vent my spleen but the share a few decent ideas emerging out there to meet the challenges ahead. Planting a few extra trees and reducing your carbon footprint are good places to start, but that doesn’t have to mean you live like Siddhartha.
Or perhaps this is more up your alley:
Looks like we may have very low gas prices this summer, but as always we’re just one crisis away from stratospheric fuel prices – and we have a president who seems intent on fomenting one crisis after another. Sooner or later The Leader will get his way and we could have $10/gallon gas overnight, and I worry about driving a truck that gets 18-20 MPG – but like a lot of people I need to get basic things done to live where I do. As soon as I move, however, I’m downsizing, with fuel economy my highest priority. But what about electric? Are they viable yet?
Well, Tesla is taking steps right now to double the number of ‘filling stations’ available to drivers of their cars, and they have incentives available to make filling up as cheap as possible (i.e., free), too. Their new charging stations can ‘top off the tank’ in a half hour or less (temperature dependent), and that’s good for 170-200 miles, depending on the model. My F150 is fast approaching three years old and I have 18K miles on the odometer. I don’t have to drive to make a living, so a Tesla makes sense – assuming they get their prices down to mere mortal level with the Model 3. There are a couple driving around in Steamboat, so they can handle the demands of cold weather driving, too.
Adds up to another way to lower the carbon footprint without sacrificing too much, and I’m at the point where I think that’s a very high priority.
NOAM CHOMSKY is an unapologetic liberal, and believes in climate change too. Here’s what he said recently regarding the Republican position on the issue: “I also said that (the Republican position on climate change) is an extremely outrageous statement. But the question is whether it’s true. I mean, has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth? Not that I’m aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn’t even any question about it.
Take a look at the last primary campaign—plenty of publicity, very little comment on the most significant fact. Every single candidate either denied that what is happening is happening—namely, serious move towards environmental catastrophe—or there were a couple of moderates, so-called—Jeb Bush, who said, “Maybe it’s happening. We really don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, because fracking is working fine, so we can get more fossil fuels.” Then there was the guy who was called the adult in the room, John Kasich, the one person who said, “Yes, it’s true. Global warming’s going on. But it doesn’t matter.” He’s the governor of Ohio. “In Ohio, we’re going to go on using coal for energy, and we’re not going to apologize for it.” So that’s 100 percent commitment to racing towards disaster.”
Read this and soak up the implications, then look over this piece on proactive technology: “The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant,” says Uribe-Romo. “The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.”
Now, here’s the article. Enjoy. Maybe even pass it on to your climate change denialist cousins.
So, on to other gnews.
And yes, first up let’s play what’s in a picture, and this lovely lady comes from The Onion, Amerika’s answer to the Harvard Lampoon.
So, just what the devil is going on here? Has the Postal Service decided to take ‘going postal’ to new extremes? Mail order dominatrixes, perhaps? Log on to USPS.com and have this trashy lady delivered to your doorstep – who will then beat the crap out of you for improperly using your Zip+4 code on all your outgoing mail? Hey! Sign me up! The Onion’s headline doesn’t shed much light, either: U.S. Postal Service Appoints First Leather-Clad Postmistress General. So, what’s going on in this picture?
Well, The Onion is, first and foremost, a satirical rag in the tradition of the Harvard Lampoon (later the National Lampoon), so IRONY is their stock in trade. They’re subtle sometimes, too, as in this image/headline. Subtle, you say? Really? Is Leverkühn out of his fucking mind?
Well, yeah, but that’s beside the point. Trump is trashing immigrants and threatening to build a border wall, so what does The Onion give us? A white guy, on his knees – with a dog collar around his neck, no less. And that gal sure looks Hispanic to me. Or is she, oops, perhaps, Syrian?
See any symbolism now – that you might have missed before?
But hey, she’s cute – in a “Beat me, spank me, make me write hot checks!” kind of way, right? I mean, really, if your postal carrier dropped this kitten on your doorstep, would you send her back to the pound?
Of course you would!
Or take this bit of irony. We all know that since the ’80s small farmers across America have been swallowed up whole by banks, who then sell off the farms to big corporate farming concerns like ADM and ConAgra. Well, what happens to those farmers? Turns out that some of the biggest employers in these hard hit rural areas are for-profit prisons, so keep that in mind when you read this next little bit of irony from The Onion: Sometimes It Feels Like I’m In Prison Too, But Then I Go Home.
The lockup is a bleak place. You’re surrounded on all sides by reinforced cement and barbed wire, staring eye to eye with some of the most dangerous people you’ll ever meet. An environment like that really gets to you after a while. In fact, sometimes I feel like I’m in prison, too.
But then my shift ends, and I go back to my own house where I enjoy a nice, hot meal with my family and fall asleep in my own bed.
I spend day after day with men convicted of robbery, assault, murder. I’m cursed at and spit on. I have my life threatened on a daily basis. You take enough abuse like that, and you soon find yourself wondering, “Who’s the real prisoner here?” It’s a question that never, ever leaves my mind until around 6:30, when I walk right past security, head out the front gate, and drive three towns over to get a beer with some buddies.
Still, you patrol these cell blocks long enough with nothing but your baton and your wits to keep you safe, and you feel like you’re starting to lose your sense of self. After 15 years of doing this job, it feels at times like I’m just another inmate caged in this hellhole, powerless to escape, excluding my lunch break, which I typically take at the nearby Panera around noon. Also excluding dentist’s appointments, weekends, and a personal day I might schedule when I want to catch a ballgame with some friends visiting from out of town.
Then I don’t feel like I’m an inmate at all, if I’m being perfectly honest.
God, I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Attica and heard the gates slam shut behind me. It felt like they’d never open again. Of course, then I remembered I have an ID badge that lets me come and go as I please, which cheered me right up. See, in this line of work, you learn real quick that the abundant freedom you have to live your life pretty much as you please is the only thing keeping you from feeling like you’re the one with the life sentence.
Staring out of these bar-covered windows at the end of another long shift, I sometimes wonder if I’m ever going to breathe fresh air or feel the warmth of the sun on my back again. Thankfully, we have a decent amount of paid vacation, so anytime I feel overwhelmed, I’ll just spend the day strolling around the park downtown and getting all the sun and fresh air I could ever want.
But if I ever really start to lose myself, I can always just beat the shit out of one of the prisoners. That usually clears up who’s the guard and who’s the inmate right away.
That last paragraph kind of says it all, I guess. Like who’s really in this prison of the mind? Who’s really a prisoner of the corporate state? Oh well, c’est la vie, right? That’s IRONY, btw.
Or, take the cover of this week’s Journal of the Republican Housewife:
Nothing like a little fear to warm up your coffee, wot?
But whoa there, Kimosabe! Look at the American destroyer in that image, the one bound for North Korea! Wow, that’s some good looking’ ship, is it not? Well, read this, from Task and Purpose, a daily web-based news outlet geared towards US military servicemen and women, for an analysis of this image. Really fun stuff, too. Hint: that’s not an American destroyer, but is this more irony? You read and decide.
So…quick, name this woman! Who is she? Any idea? The old Postmistress General, perhaps?
Her name is right up there with John Glenn’s, right? Right on the tip of my tongue.
Why, this is Peggy Whitson, who broke the US record for most time spent in space on Monday. She received a phone call from der Leader, and he congratulated her while urging Nasa to reach Mars ahead of his own proposed schedule (you can watch the interview here).
Turning back to the screen that broadcast the astronauts’ image, Trump asked: “Tell me, Mars, what do you see a timing for actually sending humans?”
“Well, I think as your bill directed it would be in the 2030s,” Whitson said, alluding to a bill signed by the president last month, which outlined a mission by 2033. “Unfortunately spaceflight takes a lot of time and money, so getting there will take some international cooperation.”
“Well, I think we want to do it in my first term or at worst in my second term,” Trump said, “so I think we’ll have to speed that up a little bit.”
So, how would you like to be a NASA administrator – and hear that? Jump for joy, right? Or is this just another con from the con-man-in-chief? You never know, do you? What’s black is really white, and when the sun’s out it’s really raining. Up is down and right is wrong in Trumptopia, so who knows. Just give him time, right? It’ll all work out.
And speaking of, what about all these other mixed signals? What’s the purpose, enquiring minds want to know? On Wednesday, White House minions let slip the US would pull out of the NAFTA treaty, causing the peso to plummet. A few hours later the White House announces we’ll remain in NAFTA, but we’ll be renegotiating the terms of the treaty – and the peso soars. You want to make some quick money, you play the swing in exchange rates, right? Makes you wonder which insiders played that swing, don’t it?
But then…what about North Korea? Why threaten the fat kid with the bad haircut with nuclear annihilation if that’s not your end game? To bring him to the negotiating table? After you just announced we’re done negotiating? Whose stocks take a big bounce up? Like Raytheon, maybe? And who starts buying those stocks?
Welcome to Trumptopia, where no good con is left undone!
Build a border wall! “My highest priority!” Now it looks like no wall this year, and maybe not ever? Play the swing, folks. Watch stocks rise on construction companies before an announcement like that, then watch who bought just before. It’s all a game, all smoke and mirrors, but when you’ve packed the sheriff’s office with cronies no one gets caught. Free money, folks, at the world’s biggest feeding trough.
Why did we go to Iraq? Literally trillions were spent there, or – literally – wasted there. But where did the money go? Well, Halliburton, Bechtel, and Brown & Root, all Dick Cheney’s old quail hunting buddies took home the lion’s share of the loot…remember the reports of duffel bags found on airport tarmacs in Bagdad, stuffed with millions in hundred dollar bills? What a game! Good work if you can find it, hey? That’s what American politics has become…an all expenses paid trip to the cash buffet, so line up and binge! If Joe Taxpayer gripes, let’s send him to prison – because hey, we make money off that too!
See a pattern here? Think this is what the founding fathers wanted?
Really? You do?
Like a vampire tale, Republicans just can’t seem to kill the ACA, aka Obamacare. It’s going to implode, you’ll see. And we’ll do everything we can to make sure it implodes, too. Then there was this little tidbit, from Anthem BCBS, via Bloomberg:
At a time of extreme uncertainty in the health-insurance market, Anthem Inc. just posted its best quarterly earnings since 2013.
The company’s first-quarter results, announced Wednesday morning, beat analyst expectations on just about every measure, driven by growth in its Medicare and Medicaid businesses and a lot of new and healthier-than-expected patients enrolled via the Affordable Care Act’s individual exchanges. Anthem says it intends to stay in the exchanges in 2018 — something I (mea culpa) previously thought unlikely — though that is based on a risky assumption Congress will fund payments to insurers that lower costs for people insured under the ACA.
That last sentence is the killer, isn’t it? Assume congress will live up to it’s obligations to help the people, or just kill the sucker? Why not pass a bill that strips away pre-existing condition coverage instead, so we can milk more money out of terrified near-seniors? But let’s not forget to keep our own coverage top-notch, wot? And if some uppity reporter tries to leak these things, let’s send ’em to prison. Remember, reporters are the enemy of the people, and we make even more money!
Still not seeing the pattern?
So, how about RussiaGate? Been hearing much about that lately?
Well, you’re not alone. Just when things were ramping up in the Senate guess what happened? The MOAB bomb drop in Afghanistan, the Syrian cruise missile strike and the Carl Vinson leisure cruise in the western Pacific, and presto change-o, faster than you can say “It’s all smoke and mirrors, folks!” it simply goes away.
Still not seeing the pattern?
Let’s face it: where this investigation is concerned Democrats are on the ropes. Worse, as an opposition party they’re simply ineffective. Recent polling shows they’re not doing much better than Trump, let alone the Republican party, so where do we go from here?
The problem, as I see it, is that the Democrat’s winning strategy for 2016 is still in place, and the Clintonista elites are not going to go quietly into that good night. They’re going to make you see and understand that identity politics and political correctness are the way forward. They are going to continue to alienate the disaffected workers in America by telling them they’ve got it all wrong, and “we’re really on your side.” Except they’re not. They’re lining up at the trough, too, at least if you believe Breitbart and Fox, they are. That’s called shaping the agenda, and Republicans mastered that play back in the 80s. Democrats are clueless, true enough, but they need to change before they become less than irrelevant. The problem for them, I think, is that as the Republicans become ever more closely allied to Putin’s Russia they’ll be in for the same treatment Putin’s political opposition finds itself in. In the crosshairs. Sound far-fetched? You’re still not seeing the pattern, then. This is chess, not poker. This started in November, 1963. It’s a long game.
This goes beyond voodoo economics – and it’s weird persistence. This is why a lot of political observers conclude that Trump’s election may well be the last “free” election the US has, that we’re fast approaching consolidated one party rule, or rule by corporate oligarchy, where party is irrelevant. FEAR is noise, to keep you distracted. Far from draining the swamp, Trump has filled the swamp with men who have ties to the Koch Brothers (notice how quiet they’ve become lately) and the other big corporate players. It’s like, at this point, when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says Trump has no intention of releasing his income tax returns, he means it – because your leaders just don’t care anymore. What We, the people think, doesn’t matter. Our concerns are not their concerns. And if you think you can vote these people out of office, think again. When political historians start saying 2016 was the last election in American history, you ought to start paying attention. It was killed by the Citizens United decision, thanks to your friendly Republicans on the Supreme Court.
It’s all smoke and mirrors now, folks. Just look straight ahead and move along. That middle class tax cut Trump promised? Eyes ahead, folks. Move along. Democrats threatening to to block government spending over an ACA repeal? Go ahead! Let them! The fix is in, all the right congressmen (and women) have been bought and paid for! Let them eat cake!
Because we can be distracted. By Breitbart and Fox News. By the conspiracy nonsense they peddle 24/7/365.
And so, I’m going to leave you with one more piece to read, about the psychology of conspiracy theories, and what role this is playing in the current landscape. Worth a quick read, too.
So, happy trails, but oh, how about a look at M42. Total of 15 minutes in 22 L-channel exposures:
Color gets added later with addition exposures using filters that capture the ionized hydrogen gases around the Orion Nebula.