Saturday, October 11, 2014

Blue Light Special and The Week in Good News

The Supreme Court (yes, that Supreme Court) struck down voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Texas, effective immediately.  As this story notes and others go into more elaborately, the Texas decision that the Supremes upheld is the more sweeping, indicating that the Texas law was a form of poll tax, deliberately restricting minority voters rights.

Nobel Peace Prize supports children's rights,  Physics prize for blue light, a key to earth-saving technology in the climate crisis.

This is actually a month old but it's still good news: thanks to the success of regulated limits, nearly two dozen previously threatened and endangered fish species off the California coast have bounced back to sustainable populations.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Everywhere We Were

Cave art in Indonesia has just been dated at about 40,000 years old, approximately the same age as the oldest art previously known, in caves in Spain and France.  The stenciled hands are most visible here, but there are also detailed renderings of animals, as in the ancient images in present-day Europe.  It seems pre-history is not fixed, any more than history or the future.  Such discoveries (or conclusions) seem to alter received knowledge about our humanoid origins continually.  Recently it was asserted for the first time that Neanderthals may well have fashioned tools and created art.  And that we carry their genes within us.  

The Daily Outrage:That's Rich

Outrage is the Internet's middle name.  Nevertheless:

Who cut back on their charitable giving after the Great Recession?  The 1% of course.  The uberrich are also getting worse at "job creation" via this article in the Guardian.

Champions of the evil rich, the fabulous Koch Brothers are finally getting exposed, if nothing else.  A Bridge Project report details their awful and negatively aggressive and ugly mistreatment of everybody who isn't rich, as parsed by Alternet.  This follows an absorbing narrative of Inside the Koch's Toxic Empire in Rolling Stone last month.

Also in the Guardian, Karuna Jaggar persuasively exposes NFL hypocrisy (again), this time in its Buy Pink breast cancer extravaganzas.  It's getting harder to argue that the NFL is about anything but mucho money mostly for those who already have it.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Seinfeld Election and Other Absurdities

According to the Wall Street Journal, the upcoming November voting is shaping up to be "an election about nothing."

"No single issue dominates, except unhappiness with the established order," they say.

 So here's where we are: The Republicans can't credibly talk about  unemployment because it is down (5.9%) below even what Romney claimed his policies would result in.  The Republicans can't credibly criticize the federal deficit because it is down, even below what the Congressional Budget Office predicted.  The Republicans can't credibly criticize Obamacare, because it is clearly meeting its goals.

Yes, I used "Republicans" and the concept of credibility in three consecutive sentences.  What's wrong with me?

The Republicans are said to be ahead.

In other news:

From the Borowitz Report: Man Infected with Ebola Misinformation Through Casual Contact With Cable News

From TPM Annoying Ads Central:

Man open carrying his new gun has his gun stolen at gun point.

T. Goddard's Not Quite As Annoying Ads Central But Getting There Quote of the Day:
"I don't need a semi-automatic rifle to shoot a duck. Maybe you do. Maybe you should spend more time on your shooting range."

-- Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), quoted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, to challenger Stewart Mills (R) in a debate.

The Big (Dry) North Coast Story

photo: Norcal Fishing News
At least according to the Eureka Times-Standard, the continuing Big Story on the North Coast is water.  Last month (when we actually got an unusual day or so of steady rain, which pushed us above the average for a usually dry month) there were a steady stream of headlines about rain: No Rain Expected, Rain To End, It May Never Rain Again, etc.  This followed weeks of headlines about El Nino, which everyone has stopped talking about. (The latest: it will be weak, if it happens at all this winter. So no help for the West Coast.)

Last week marked the end of the official 2014 "water year," according to the California Department of Water Resources, keeper of the stats.  The water year goes from September to September. The state got less than 60% of the averaged precip., making it a very dry year.  Melissa Simon in the Times-Standard (Oct. 2) quotes a local National Weather Service meteorologist to the effect that Humboldt County got between 30% and 60%, making it the fifth driest on record.  Which is actually of some comfort, in the climate crisis era of annual record-breaking.

Winter is our rainy season, and we've had three comparatively dry ones in a row.  Where it shows is in the levels of rivers and streams, which affects fish (especially salmon) as well as drinking water supplies in more isolated and small places.  Streams and rivers are additionally depleted by pot growers increasingly tapping into them directly for their prodigious water use.

But very locally, the solid month of rain we got last winter filled the reservoir, so we are good for home water for another year or two, especially if people conserve some.

The story in the next column of the paper was about a federal court ruling that a special release of reservoir water to help salmon in the Klamath River was legal, although the judge wasn't promising this would extend to another such release without a better legal basis.  The water would have gone to farmers well south of here.  So with the large scale agriculture elsewhere, our smaller crops and dairy farms here but also the marijuana industry mostly to our immediate south, and the rivers and fisheries, especially in tribal areas to our north, water is going to continue to be The Big Story for awhile, maybe a long while.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Gabby's Progress (And Ours)

Gabby Giffords with husband and former astronaut Mark Kelly, 2014
In connection with the previous subject of presidential safety, it's important to recall that an assassination attempt was made on a member of the U.S. Congress in January of 2011, not even four years ago.  Gabriel Giffords was shot in the head at close range by a gunman and barely survived.

Here's a story from last week on Gabby's progress, both physically and as the focal point of an organization that intends to be big enough to go toe to toe with the National Rifle Association on issues of guns in America.  In both cases, progress is slow and limited, but enough to be encouraging and not futile.

This is what one powerful gun did in a flash: it reduced an active, promising young leader to years of therapy so that she can say a few words in public.  This is what guns do--in a moment of emotion or delusion or accident, they change everything.
Member of Congress Gabriel Giffords 2010

And yet while we regulate aspirin bottle caps, our country insists on making ever more lethal weapons available ever more cheaply to ever more people, and present in increasing numbers of circumstances: on the street, in backyards, in bars and restaurants, in churches, in schools, in political debates.
On Youtube I saw an old interview with some celebrity, I don't remember who, in which he commented that the Sandy Hook school shooting was so horrendous, that if it didn't lead Americans to demand effective gun control, there really was no hope for this society.  That was 2012.  The situation has only gotten worse.