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Trump’s Trolley Kills Five

trumpyWell, America … you have murdered the trolley workers. Their blood is now on your hands. Let me be clear; a minority of Americans can rest peacefully, albeit, fearfully. They at least tried to pull the lever. They just couldn’t get enough help from their fellow Americans who “voted their consciences” or didn’t vote at all.

Ok, I get the feeling your face is dressed in confusion. “What the hell trolley is he talking about? Who died?” Let me back up and explain.

The “trolley problem” is a well-known thought experiment in the field of ethics. You remember ethics? They used to be common in the halls of government in this country.  In the trolley problem, you are confronted with a serious dilemma.

A trolley car is out of control and careening down the tracks where five workers don’t see or hear it coming. If nothing is done, the five workers will assuredly die. You see this and happen to be standing by a large lever. If you quickly pull the lever, the trolley will be directed onto another track where you see one worker who will unquestionably be killed. Do you pull the lever to save five lives at the expense of one life?

If you pull the lever, you will be directly responsible for the death of one man. If you don’t pull the lever, you didn’t have a direct role in anyone’s death. There are those that will argue that you are responsible for five deaths, but you can legitimately say you did not personally take action that resulted in these tragic deaths. That’s the gist of the trolley problem. Kill one person or take no action and allow five to die.

After a few days of the Trump administration, sane people all around the world are shaking their heads. An increasing number of Trump supporters are shaking their heads. We’ve been subjected to a sequence of utterly insane actions from “The Donald”. It only promises to get worse.

Yet, in November past, huge numbers of Americans didn’t vote or they voted their consciences and wouldn’t vote for the viable alternative because they didn’t “like” her. They stood by the lever and watched as the trolley ran over America’s future. The magnitude of the slaughter is already immeasurable and it’s just getting started.

The trolley rolls on and some Americans still stand idly by staring at the lever. Some now deal with the lever by intentionally looking in the other direction. If you don’t watch the carnage, you can’t be responsible for it can you?

A seemingly intelligent friend is now dealing with the situation by not watching, listening or reading the news. An ostrich with its head in the sand can’t pull a lever. People that haven’t even heard about Trump’s completely nonsensical way of paying for his nonsensical “great wall,” can’t pull the lever. They – with intent – ignore the existence of the economic realities of how tariffs work (a tax on Mexican imports is paid by Americans, not Mexico) and aren’t going to be thrilled watching as their food choices dwindle and the prices increase on those remaining. After we get to that point, it’ll be too late to pull the lever.

Trump supporters and non-supporters alike are shaking their heads on the immigration ban. Immigrants from seven countries are barred, while immigrants from others such as Saudi Arabia, aren’t included in the ban. You remember Saudi Arabia don’t you? That’s the country at the center of the Wahhabi Sunni sect, the most radical and dangerous Muslim group in existence. The overwhelming majority of the World Trade Center terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. But they’re not on the list. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Trump has extensive business dealings there. Wake up and pull the lever!

Trump fires the acting Attorney General because she gave him her best legal advice as she promised during her confirmation hearings. Pull the lever!

Trump removes the generals from the National Security Council and replaces them with a radical right wing pal. That kind of thing worked for some German leader in the 1930s didn’t it? Pull the damn lever!

Trump appoints someone to head the Department of Education that has absolutely no experience with public education. The lever! The lever! Pull the lever!

Trump puts a guy with a B.S. degree in Animal Husbandry in charge of our nation’s nuclear arms.

This insanity goes on without end and no one’s pulling the lever. Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of the trolley car barreling out of control and screaming down the tracks. Whatcha gonna do? You can pull the lever or not. Either way, someone’s future is already bleak. Either way, you are responsible. But if no one pulls the stinkin’ lever, America’s going to be run over and it ain’t gonna be pretty. Do something or do nothing.

 

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A Death in the Family

graveNo one’s getting out alive. One of the few constants in the universe is that there is an ultimate end to everything. If we’re to believe all of the philosophical euphemisms surrounding death, we shouldn’t fear it. It comes to all things. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is inescapable. All things are ultimately buried, even if only metaphorically.

When the end comes, whether it be expected or a sudden and shocking event, the process of grieving begins.  People deal with their grief in different ways, some constructive, others not so much. In her landmark book, “On Death and Dying”, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross spoke of what she called the five stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although she directed her words to those who were dying, the five stages also apply to those forced to grieve the loss of a loved one.

As the “survivor”, I too am confronted with the five stages. I seem to be following the classic path, but having that knowledge doesn’t seem to mitigate the suffering. I remain intermittently distraught and withdrawn. Anyone who has gone through the five stages knows you can bounce back and forth as you move toward the inevitable “acceptance”.

When I first learned of the illness, my initial reaction was indeed denial. There was just no way it could be happening. As the months went by and evidence of the disease manifested itself more and more, I gradually replaced my denial with anger, at times, fairly extreme. I’m sure friends wondered why I wasn’t my usual jovial self. Occasionally, I was overtly unpleasant.

As a non-believer, I wasted little time in the bargaining phase. I’ll confess that I did contribute a substantial sum of money in the hope that it would be used to reverse the progress of this ugly ailment, but most of my time was spent in anger. I have moved on to the depression stage. My sense of humor has gone dormant, hopefully, not dead.

The only remaining stage is “acceptance”. I’m definitely not there yet. In some respects, I hope I don’t get there. To accept is to surrender. Submission has never been one of my finest attributes.

The funeral is scheduled for Friday, January 20th. I truly hope it helps me get out of my current funk, but optimism is in short supply. The funeral takes place in Washington, D.C. as a new President is sworn into office. Together with many of my fellow citizens, I will mourn the death of civilization as we’ve known it for all my lifetime. It has been said that American democracy was an experiment. It appears that in the wake of our past election, that experiment has failed.

I mourn the death of civility in American politics. I lament the passing of a great country where people of all races, religions and lifestyles had nearly gained the respect of their fellow countrymen. I shed a tear at the departure of the era of truth where honesty mattered. I’m white, male, financially comfortable and in good health. By those measures, I should be celebrating. But I can’t bring myself to turn my back on others who face the loss of their hard earned freedoms. I don’t want to see the rise of hate, a new era of bigotry, the face of misogyny and a world of misology.

I’ve never liked funerals. I especially am not going to like this one. From dust to dust.

 

Global Climate Change and the Future of the Domesticated Turkey

pollutionThere’s an old wives’ tale that turkeys are so stupid that when it rains, they’ll look up in fascination with their mouths open and drown. Much to the dismay of old wives everywhere, this is false. The turkey has been given a bad rap in the folk tale channel. The truth is the domesticated turkey isn’t the brightest bird in the barnyard, but it’s not that stupid. You’ve never seen one watching Fox News have you? Case closed.

Unlike the turkey, other animals have been awarded a falsely elevated status where it comes to intelligence. It’s unfair, but once rumor turns into avalanche, there’s just no stopping it. There is no question in my mind that the single animal with the most overrated brain is your common, run-of-the-mill, garden variety homo sapien. Mankind has spent much of its history trying to exterminate itself. If it hasn’t been through warfare, it has been through soiling its own nest. A common house cat has the innate smarts to use kitty-litter and bury its waste. Mankind’s not that smart. The fact is the species isn’t bright enough to save itself.

Looking for evidence for my claim that humans are grossly overrated in the intelligence department? This one seems to be incontrovertible – there are still people who don’t believe we have a serious problem with global climate change. As a scientist, I find this beyond stunning. It amounts to an indictment of the human mental machinery that is without defense. The mere fact that there remains one person on the planet who hasn’t spent the past quarter century living in a cave in Borneo that doesn’t have at least some grasp of the problem proves, “Mankind is too dumb to save himself from his own self-induced calamity.”

The scientific evidence keeps piling up and up and up. But even if someone’s not “scientifically inclined”, how sharp does he have to be to conclude that if a half dozen kids spend an afternoon in a swimming pool, there’s a good chance there’s an element of “pollution” in the mix? With the obvious in every corner, there are those who still cite the claims of their preachers and Foxite talking heads to deny the phenomena exists.

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Obama and the Great British Petroleum Scandal

Damn Harry Truman! Harry was President when I was born. And here I am a mere 5’8” in height. Truman could have done something, maybe sent in the government to insist the hospital staff do something to accelerate bone growth. My basketball career was done before it ever got started thanks to Harry T. What is government for if not to help citizens like me? Hey, Harry – I thought you said the buck stops with you.

By the mid-fifties, I was playing hockey on the frozen ponds of Michigan. Hockey sticks weren’t cheap and I ended up breaking my share. Where the hell was Ike when this was going on? Those diabolical Canadians were obviously selling cheap “Northland” hockey sticks to the kids in the U.S. to keep them from becoming a hockey power. The proof can be seen in the results of the recent Winter Olympics where Canada beat the Americans by a goal. The whole time this was going on Ike was visibly absent. He could have stepped in, but he didn’t. And there you have it – we lost the gold.

In the sixties, I was at the lake when a freak storm blew over a tree which knocked over a power pole which sent a big electric transformer crashing through the roof of our neighbor’s house. There was only one way off the island with its five houses and the fire that burned in one of them blocked access to the bridge. We were trapped. No one came to the rescue for over three hours. Where was Lyndon Johnson as this was going on? Why didn’t he have an emergency backup plan ready to go? Wasn’t his job to anticipate such problems and deal with them when and if necessary? He fell down on the job. That’s probably why he didn’t run for another term. The incompetent bastard!

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Climate Change and the Theater of the Absurd

A recent column by Leslie Kaufman in The New York Times dealt with the topic of skepticism about the validity of the science of global climate change. Admittedly, there are many populist groups such as the Tea Party whose members also tend to doubt the theories. But that isn’t “news”. It’s not news when a group of people with conflicting interests who are unschooled on the science of global climate change express doubts about things they don’t want to be true.

What makes Kaufman’s story interesting is that she discussed the skepticism over global climate change theories held by – of all people – TV weather forecasters. Referring to a study performed by researchers from George Mason University and the University of Texas, she says, “. . . that only about half the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was ‘caused mostly by human activities.’” So some weathercasters have doubts. Oh boy!

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Arizona Nearly Blown Off the Map (If you believe the media)

Without a free and vibrant press, you wouldn’t be reading this. A free press is essential to the maintenance of freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. Unfortunately, the press doesn’t always act responsibly. You can expect small minded provincialism from little newspapers nestled in isolated mountain towns; they try their best with the limited talent pool they can dig out of the caves. But I can’t help but expect better from the major market media.

Recently, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona, a station generally known for fair and balanced reporting, ran a story about the “emergency shutdown” of the Palo Verde nuclear generating station forty miles west of Phoenix. They ran the story and ran the story and ran the story.

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“Not Evil Just Wrong” – the Movie

I’ve always claimed to be open minded enough to review and consider all sides of an issue. In keeping with my boast, I endured the public release of Not Evil Just Wrong, Ann McElhinney’s cinematic effort to counter Al Gore’s Nobel Prize winning An Inconvenient Truth.  I knew I was in for a real scientific treat when I walked into the small military church in which the movie was playing and was asked to sign the guest book to validate the Tea-Partier’s attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records.  It’s not clear why it was important to be a part of history’s biggest opening night for pathetically flawed pseudo-documentary films.  I can only assume that if it somehow wormed its way into the record book, that would prove the rambling nonsense it contained would magically become validated science.  Judging from the number of empty seats in the room, it’s probably a non-issue anyway.

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