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Critique, Critiqued

A few weeks ago, I published an essay in this space critiquing the recent March for Science. The March was supposedly intended to demonstrate grass-roots support for continued funding of basic scientific research, with no real political motive. In reality it was, of course, a highly political, highly public rejoinder to the Trump Administration for its demotion of Climate Change from “Most Important Issue of All Time!” to “Meh.” As regular readers of this blog might already have guessed, I am in accord with this adjustment. But as always, when you start goring sacred cows you expect pushback.  And sure enough, a few days ago a comment appeared from Javier, who was kind enough to set me straight about my misapprehension of the threat posed by Climate Change. But in doing so he repeated some logical fallacies common to the Alarmist argument, and revealed a few of his own. My […]

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Blue and Gray, Black and White

A Brief-ish, Modestly Revisionist History of the American Civil War   The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. –L. P. Hartley   Today is Memorial Day, when all of us collectively honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans by firing up the ol’ grill, swilling a few cold ones, and then heading on over the Home Depot for that great Holiday Sale Extravaganza. Movie channels will run all the old favorites, and there will, of course, be the requisite tributes, the “Thank a Veteran” PSAs. It’s all quite sincere. “Thank you for your service” and while you’re up wouldja mind getting me another beer. Memorial Day is meant to be an occasion for solemn remembrance. Yet in common usage, we do not “observe” or “mark” Memorial Day, we “celebrate” it. In some ways I am an old-fashioned person, and so the notion of “celebrating” […]

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One! Two! Three! What are we Marching For?

Hint: It ain’t Science Just a few days ago we celebrated Earth Day, 2017, during which all of us paused for a moment to share our appreciation for our home planet, this verdant and fecund oasis in the endless vacuum of space. Gaia says “Thank you,” by the way. In addition to the usual festivities, this year we were treated to something called the March for Science. It was a huge deal. Indeed something like 600 individual events took place all across the globe under its banner. Total participation was somewhere in the millions. If you are a jaded sort, your reaction to the March for Science might be something along the lines of: Huh? After all, pretty much everyone appreciates science, as far as you can tell. Regardless of our political inclinations, most of us understand very well that science provides the foundation for this wonderfully advanced and comfortable […]

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A Timely Brush with Mortality

Life is what happens when you are making other plans. –Author Unknown   In the end, it had to have been the breakfast tacos. They and the good-natured bantering with the young fellow who made them had become an essential part of my morning, six days a week. There were other factors, of course, and it was a long time coming. But those nuggets of pure flavor from the busy little trailer on South First, equal parts lard, refried beans, bacon, and more lard, were almost certainly what pushed me, finally, over the edge. They were, mind you, really really good, though, and for this reason it is easy to suppose that it might almost have been worth it. As often happens, the notification that Things Had Changed arrived uninvited and without warning. One early December afternoon I was unhurriedly carrying out a routine task, thinking about nothing in particular, […]

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True Grit

My first encounter with the little chow-mix dog did not exactly go as planned. Aloof to the point of chilly, unresponsive to all invitations, skinny and filthy beyond belief, Paris, as she was then known, seemed at first blush to be pretty much a dud. And this was a problem. The girlfriend had talked her up as the perfect choice for my mom, heartbroken after the recent, unexpected loss of her own dog of many years. So on the strength of this personal recommendation we made the four-hour trek to her mother’s place in East Texas, where Paris had been deposited by some well-meaning acquaintance. At the time Carolyn and I had not known each other very long, and her apparently serious lapse of judgement had put us all in a very awkward position. What in the world have you gotten me into? was all I could think. The backstory […]

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An Open Letter to the Readers of Salon

Or: Global Warming, Meet Lysenkoism; You Two Have a Lot in Common!   While wallowing in the bloom of online post-election bloviation the other day, I chanced across this entrancing article on Salon. Being a reliable voice of the American Left, Salon can be counted on to deliver the party line on whatever issue has momentarily captured the zeitgeist. And being the sort of person who likes to keep his finger on the pulse of our culture, for this reason I read it regularly. Though Salon is not exactly known for balanced, careful coverage, this hyperbolic, absurdly self-important piece was over the top by even its rather squishy standards. Herewith an open letter to Salon and its readers: The hysterical, apocalyptic tone of this article perfectly illustrates what is wrong with the Green movement and the larger Progressive movement from which it springs. Not content merely to conjecture, the opening paragraph […]

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It’s Election Day–Now Get Out There and Vote Dammit!

Or Don’t Finally, after a grinding, seemingly endless couple of years, the 2016 election is at last upon us. The end. Billions of dollars and hundreds of millions of man-hours expended, and it comes down to this. For one side exultant triumph awaits; for the other, bitter defeat. For all of us, winners and losers alike, there is utter exhaustion with a contentious, ugly contest that dragged on way too long. As Election Day has neared, there has been a rising chorus of voices importuning us to vote, vote, vote, FOR GODSAKES VOTE! Perform your sacred civic duty! Whether you favor the wildly inappropriate, thin-skinned, has-no-filters, Tasmanian Devil with confusing hair or the bitter, secretive, robotic harridan with an infallibility complex, just get out there and vote damn you! Heeding this call to action, millions have done exactly that. By all accounts Americans voted early (and in some locales, perhaps, […]

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Agents of Change

A few months back, a neighbor at my business park had a garage sale. Their space had been the warehouse for a well-known local retailer, but the business was about to change hands, so some housekeeping was in order. I dropped by an hour or so before the sale was to begin. You could see right away that it was shaping up to be a big event, with lots of individual items. As they were laying out the offerings, I browsed through the selection, hoping to get first crack at any bargains. This hope was quickly dashed, though, as it became apparent that even were I interested, the cheapest items were well beyond what my wallet would tolerate. There were probably two or three hundred items in total: furniture, appliances, art items, and knick-knacks, almost all of it thrift-store grade, but at ten times thrift store prices. A battered foot […]

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Red in Tooth and Claw

A few days ago, I was headed home after stopping at the dollar store to gather the usual sundries. As I passed through the busy parking lot, seeking the exit, something caught my eye. There, off to the left, a short distance away was a pair of male grackles, going hard at it, a small vortex of fury on a sea of asphalt, oblivious to everything around them. As anybody who lives in River City already knows, grackles are a part of the landscape here. They are numerous, gregarious, demonstrative, loud, and everywhere. They camp in large numbers in seemingly odd locations: next to busy parking lots, around high-traffic intersections, on campus commons. Wherever you find humans, you also find these close relatives of the common crow. Mature male grackles are mid-sized birds, a handsome glossy, iridescent blue-black from head to toe. Females are a tad smaller, and as is […]

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Of Myths and Realities

A while back, I wrote an essay in this space in which I shared some views on gender-related issues. God knows why anyone would ever willingly stray into that minefield, but this is my forum and I can say what I want. So often, works devoted to this rather touchy subject devolve into one of two extremes, being either rants or marvels of polite circumlocution. I had hoped to avoid either of those fates. And after much effort and many rewrites the product that finally emerged was, I think it fair to say, well-reasoned, relevant, decently written, strongly supported by credible citations, and forceful without being pointlessly inflammatory. The purpose in tackling this thorny subject was twofold. On the one hand, as a concerned American I felt it was important to weigh in against the plague of Political Correctness, which I believe has done real and lasting damage to our […]

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A Catastrophe That Isn’t

The pitch is about as direct as you can imagine, the causal chain unambiguous and damning. There is, we are told, a place called the Marshall Islands, a collection of coral islets straddling the equator a few hundred miles northeast of Australia. A little slice of paradise, it is an idyllic place of waving palm trees, warm ocean breezes, and happy, innocent natives. And now it is is doomed, shortly to be inundated by rising waters, thanks to melting polar icecaps caused by global warming. Triggered, of course, by an  increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Which is caused by YOU, dear user of carbon-based fuels. And that’s just the opening salvo. What follows is an epic guilt-fest with all the subtlety of a tire iron to the solar plexus. In tones by turns elegiac and insinuating, we are confronted with all that will be irretrievably lost when–not if–these […]

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The Last Full Measure

“Two oh two: Come to the door with your hands in the air” said the man in uniform, his amplified voice echoing up and down the quiet streets. After a short pause, the command was repeated exactly, then repeated again. For the next three hours, this scene played over and over, every fifteen minutes, until someone up the chain of command ruled “enough,” and they went in in force. When twelve police cars, three ambulances, and two fire trucks show up in your front yard, sirens blaring, it gets your attention. Naturally curious about what was happening, I walked over to the nearest patrol car, one of those newer SUVs they assign to shift supervisors, to ask what the fuss was all about. At my approach, the officer behind the wheel, a mild-looking blonde fellow in his early thirties, put down his smart phone and slipped into command mode. He […]

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At the Shore

With nearly imperceptible slowness, the black of night gives way to a featureless, colorless predawn. A faint dull red glow limns the eastern horizon, grading upward into gray nothingness. Little by little, sea and shore emerge from the formless void. The bright disk of the sun lies hidden for now below the horizon, but if all goes as planned the Earth’s spin will shortly bring it into view. Exactly where is unclear, though, as a high wall of cloud far to sea makes the point of its emergence an object of some guesswork. Anticipation builds as the minutes tick by. As I watch and wait, a high tendril of cloud, invisible a moment before, begins to glow like a thin wire in a hot flame. In seconds the fire spreads until the cloud tops are aglow along twenty degrees of horizon. Moments later, at the exact center of this luminous […]

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A Nagging Uncertainty

Recently, a small item surfaced in Google News that caught my attention. This article was about a group of scientists from Yale who had just completed what amounts to a census of the world’s trees. After several years of work involving researchers from around the world, the team came up with an estimate of just over three trillion, or about 420 trees for every living human. By any measure that’s a lot of trees. It’s also a eight-fold increase over the previous best guess of around four hundred billion. The new estimate results from a refined method. Previous estimates were largely derived from aerial images, which turn out not to be not all that good for estimating actual numbers. So for this latest effort, scientists relied on a host of independent studies in which researchers actually went into the wild all over the world and counted trees by hand. This […]

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Turn, Turn, Turn

With the passing of the autumnal equinox yesterday, the calendar officially turns from Summer to Fall, as is customary this time of year. And so even as we continue to perspire we begin to consider, faintly, the possibility, of open windows, long sleeves, and–dare we think it–sweaters and jackets. On the strength of a cold winter followed by epic spring rainfall, experts and common folk alike had predicted a mild summer. But the climate gods had other ideas, so the summer that was supposed to happen did not. The rains, so generous in late spring, came to an abrupt halt, as though the tap had simply been turned off, and there followed many unbroken weeks of unrelenting, historic dry, which have yet to end as of this writing. By August the gains of spring had been all but erased, and we were once again fully in the grip of drought. […]

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