Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ship Of Fools

To the untutored and blunt mind, the world is black and white. Incapable of nuanced thinking, it apprehends things only as they immediately appear. While, as the old saying goes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, when that mind resides in the President of the United States, it is both tragic and terrifying:

This, of course, is not the first time that Americans have had to endure a national leader with limited intellect. The difference under Trump, however, is that the usual correcting mechanisms are absent. First, like the fool he is, Trump thinks he is the smartest guy in the room. Hence, his reaction to the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S Intelligence Committee:

No matter what the threat assessment asserts, be it the dangers of Russia or China or global warming, or the fact that Iran has been abiding by the nuclear pact, Trump knows better. Compounding, aiding and abetting his massive ego and ignorance is a White House staffed with spineless quislings. One of the most public faces of that quisling cadre is Sarah Sanders, who suggests our hearts should not be troubled, claiming that God wanted Trump to become president.

You need only watch the first minute of the following, if you can stomach even that much:

The current American ship of state is a ship of fools. Hopefully, it will sink soon beneath the waves of history, taking the entire incompetent crew with it.

It is the only way forward for such an extraordinarily troubled nation.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Still Here

I haven't been posting much lately, and will probably do so sparingly for the next little while. The problem is that I can think of very little that is in any way constructive, filled as I currently am with a bleak and cynical picture of our species. Just to illustrate, I shall offer two brief videos that amply demonstrate a short-sighted and foolish humanity.

Exhibit One: While there can be few people who are unaware of the juggernaut of climate change quickly overtaking us and the need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, like Pavlovian dogs (no disrespect to canines intended) they react to lower gas prices by doing this:

For Exhibit Two, please advance to the 18-minute mark of the following:

So I think I shall lay low for a little while, try to return to some semblance of equilibrium (admittedly difficult, given that I live in Doug Ford's Ontario, where education is the latest institution under attack. And that, my friends, is a whole other magnitude of stupid.)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Things We Don't Know

One of the things I have always used this blog for is to bring to readers' notice things they might be unaware of. For example, although most of us know something about the environmental and fiscal impact of rapidly filling landfills, how many of us are aware that almost 85% of mattresses can be diverted from them and recycled?

Imagine what we could achieve if the efforts outlined in the following report were to be adopted nation-wide:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Way We Were

At the risk of being accused of "old-fartism," I offer the following which a Facebook friend posted. While I don't agree with the implicit and explicit denigration of the young in the post, it does serve as a reminder of certain advantages Western lifestyles of yore possessed.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

The older lady said that she was right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day. The older lady went on to explain:
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn't do the "green thing" back then.

We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the "green thing" in our day.

Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a r azor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family's $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the"green thing." We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person.

Friday, January 11, 2019

So, Anything New To Report?

Well, the world becomes harder to understand. Despite my many years on this earth, the irrationality of humans is still the thing that most perplexes me. Despite the fact that it is much later than we like to think, we are still partying like it is the 1950's. And payment is coming due.

Kendra Pierre-Louis reports that the world's oceans are warming 40% faster than had been previously estimated:
“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”
The fact that the oceans are absorbing so much heat means that surface temperatures are not nearly as high as they would be without this buffer. However, there is a massive downside to this reprieve:
... the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.
An additional effect is rising sea levels.
As the oceans heat up, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more space than colder water. In fact, most of the sea level rise observed to date is because of this warming effect, not melting ice caps.

The warming alone would cause sea levels to rise by about a foot by 2100, and the ice caps would contribute more. That could exacerbate damages from severe coastal flooding and storm surge.
Some of the worst effects of climate change were once thought to be waiting until 2050 and beyond, a measure of time people had a hard time getting agitated about. The fact that some of those worse effects are already being felt through more intense storms, hurricanes, wildfires, etc. should be sobering.

And yet we largely continue to ignore all of this, get outraged at the mere mention of piddling carbon taxes and felt massively aggrieved when people suggest moderation of our bloated, carbon-intensive lifestyles.

Can our species be saved or, more to the point perhaps, do we deserve any manner of salvation from what we have wrought?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Further Descent Into Banana Republicanism

While the Toddller-in-Chief continues with his temper tantrum, and the American government shutdown is now in its third week, it is good to know that unpaid federal workers are not being forgotten. Indeed, the U.S. Coastguard has offered a plethora of suggestions as to how its employees can get through these difficult times.

I'm sure they will make all the difference in the world:

- Have a garage sale - clean out your attic, basement and closets at the same time.

- Sell unwanted, larger ticket items through the newspaper or online.

- Offer to watch children, walk pets or house-sit.

- Turn you hobby nto income

-Have untapped teaching skills and expertise? Tutor students, give music or sports lessons.

- Become a mystery shoppers. Retailers are desperate to check how their in-store customer service is and will employ you to shop and rate their

It must be comforting to all that in this time of crisis, good old American know-how and stick-to-it-ness will win the day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

UPDATED: A Breath Of Fresh Air

Newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez articulates the kind of values that progressives pine for in their political leaders. Given the gladiatorial nature of American politics, the chances of her vision coming to fruition are probably slight; however, just getting her ideas out there in the public arena is an accomplishment, one sure to spark a great deal of heated discussion in many quarters.

While the following video is about 14 minutes in length, even watching just a few minutes will give you a measure of the woman:

You can read more about her, and see additional video, here.

UPDATE: Predictably, the perpetually aggrieved and threatened and outraged rabid right has already launched a full frontal assault on Ocasion-Cortez.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Things We Would Like To Forget

One of the benefits of receiving the print edition of the Toronto Star seven days a week is the Sunday edition. While not necessarily replete with news, the Sunday paper frequently embraces the opportunity to explore issues in depth. Today, Mitch Potter looks at an aspect of Canada's bigoted past, something, I suspect, we would all like to forget.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a link, as it is not on the Star website, but here are some excerpts:
Let’s start with the seemingly benign but in fact casually racist phrase “Restricted Clientele” — a phrase that appears in a wide range of old advertisements for jobs, apartments and resorts in and around Toronto.

It wasn’t just Toronto advertisers that employed the words. “Restricted Clientele” can be found in old newspaper ads from Vermont to Miami. Unpack the phrase and it bleeds blatant anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

A few examples: a mid-’30s ad for the now-defunct Beaumaris Hotel and Yacht Club in Muskoka offering sumptuous accommodation and “cuisine par excellent” with the glaring caveat, “Restricted Clientele.” Nearer to home, a 1935 classified ad for “attractive, newly decorated rooms with screened verandas” on Centre Island in Toronto Harbour, “Restricted Clientele.”

A cluster of ads for ski resorts in the Laurentian Mountains entices Torontonians to make the journey “90 miles north of Montreal” to sample the best runs this side of the Rockies. A majority of those ads include the phrase “Restricted Clientele” but one in particular, a1941 ad for Mont Tremblant Lodge, juxtaposes that small-type condition beneath a much larger banner message proclaiming, “Skiing For All.” What they are really saying is “Skiing for all white people, excluding Jews.”
Of course, "restrictive clientele" is a euphemism, a phrase that sounds innocent but obscures an ugly truth. Oftentimes, such niceties were disposed of entirely, and the prejudice was quite blatant:
... far more direct — is the phrase “Gentiles Only,” which recurs in Star classified ads throughout the first third of the 20th century. Here’s a typical example from the mid’30s: “A fast-growing factory has a good opportunity for two neat, quiet women to fill good permanent positions. Gentiles only.”
Or how about this one?
... the Toronto-based Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal benefit society that was among the first to offer not just friendship but to extend insurance benefits to average working families... in 1937 — Foresters launched a series of ads championing the organization ... All seven of the ads include these three toxic words: “White race only.”
Uncomfortably, racist exclusions were relatively common in the last century, and they extended into home ownership. In 1944, a Toronto labour group, The Workers’ Education Association (WEA)
announced it had developed plans for “ideal workingman’s home.”...The price: just $4,700.
But there was a catch:
... when WEA officials purchased the property, they discovered an unwelcome surprise on the deed: a so-called “restrictive covenant” preventing the land from being sold to “Jews or persons of objectionable nationality.”
While such covenants on new developments were ultimately struck down, old ones were allowed to remain. Consider the section of Hamilton, Ontario known as Westdale:
Westdale was envisioned as an exclusive white Protestant neighbourhood. Specific groups such as blacks, Asians, Slavs, and Jews were unable to purchase homes; near the end of the Second World War restrictions upon Jewish home ownership were lifted whereupon many relocated from the central part of the city. However, legal loopholes allowed for discrimination to persist into the 1950s.
The lessons of history are often ignored. However, with bigotry increasingly rearing its ugly head worldwide, now would be a good time to make an effort to remember our recent past, lest we make the same mistakes again.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

What Fools These Mortals Be!

We humans are a strange species. Despite access to almost unlimited information and data, far too many prefer to notice only what is front of them at the present moment, simply reacting rather than anticipating and planning. Probably the best illustration of this is the fact that the majority of countries, and this certainly includes Canada, wring their hands when disaster strikes and pay the upfront costs of many billions of dollars instead of putting that money to better use: mitigating climate change and adapting to it. Interestingly, at least in Canada, that shortsightedness breaks down somewhat along gender lines, as you will see shortly.

If you have five minutes to spare, three stories, beginning at the four-minute mark, amply illustrate the above: