Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dawkins Speaks (Evolved This Ugly?) They Will "Accelerate Its Delivery" After the Election of 2012 (Einstein Proved Wrong About Speed of Light)

We knew this new breed (evolved or disevolved?) was ugly, but not this ugly. But it's gonna get even uglier when we realize that Obama may have been purposely chosen to enrage this bunch of morons, thus smoothing the way for the ascendance of the truly ugly Perry (or Bachman or even Madame Palin again (and all the rest of the clown regiment)).

Particles travel faster than light, say scientists

One of our most trustworthy of progressive voices, Michael at the Regressive Antidote, puts the seal on the U.S.'s evolutionary path for the last 50 years (and never once even needs to mention the coup d'etat that happened in 1963):

. . . the folks who had traditionally been advocates for the rest of us who don’t own yachts were now every bit as bought off as those in the more overly corrupted Republican Party. These Democrats would mouth the words about “fighting” (if I hear that word again from another politician, I swear I will projectile vomit) for the middle class, but that they would actually screw us at every opportunity.

Have you noticed how when they don’t control the institutions of government they are always somehow unable to block the Republicans’ worst crimes. But when they do control these institutions the Republicans are somehow always able to prevail from a minority position. Go figure. It almost seems like the Democrats aren’t really serious about the rhetoric they employ. But, of course, that would be dishonest . . .

That regressive policies have, with almost no exception, prevailed in every contest over the last thirty years, especially on questions of political economy. Taxes? Regressives won. Deregulation? Regressives got what they wanted. Labor relations? What’s this thing they used to call the “union”? Privatization? Why not? Debt? “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”. Trade policy? Dude, where’s my job? (Hint: it speaks Mandarin now.) Bailouts for big banks? A hundred pennies on the dollar. Need I go on?

That we are now where we are, precisely because of regressive economic policies. This is the single most crucial and most frustrating fact of our time. It’s not exactly theoretical physics to figure out that slashing taxes will produce debt. And it did. Or that trade deals will ship our jobs overseas. As they did.

Or that banksters with all the same latitude to indulge their greed that they possessed in 1929 will produce the same results as their grandfathers. Which they did.
Or that the much-vaunted private sector is no more efficient and inexpensive at doing things than the government. And it’s not.

That the American public has simply and utterly been downsized over the last thirty years. That people work longer and harder to make less, and live with far greater insecurity than before, while corporations and plutocrats are far richer than they were three decades ago. That people are more miserable, have less time to spend with their families, are less healthy, more stressed, more insecure and more poorly compensated – when they can scratch out a job at all – than their parents were. All so that the über-rich can now be über-über-rich. So that millionaires can be billionaires.

That people are sick to death (often quite literally) of a government that is unresponsive to their most basic needs. That they have lost all faith in the once-given notion that someone in Washington has their back. But that they still continue to believe in the dream of democracy, and will cast a vote (no matter which way they choose) for precisely the folks who brought us this nightmare, and who will accelerate its delivery after the election of 2012.

This situation is becoming acute, and I foresee about sixteen different ways in which it will only get worse from here. It is a fact of stunning proportions and epic significance that – less than three years since the end of the Bush nightmare – America is about to turn back to a more extreme version of the same disastrous politics brought to us by the same disaster-loving politicians.

Rick Perry will be the next president of the United States, you can count on that. (A fact which does, believe it or not, have its certain virtues. At the very least it means that both the oleaginous scumbucket, Ken-Doll Romney, and the inner-circle-of-hell traitor, Barack Obama, will both be humiliated in losing.) And Perry will seek to Texafy the rest of the country as fast as he can.

His state is one of the worst in the union on practically every measure of quality of life that there is (except for creating new, low-wage, non-union, no-benefit jobs, that is, and the wholesale murder of poor blacks and Hispanics on death row), and he will run successfully on the basis of his record as governor of Texas.

I tell you, some days it just feels like you’ve fallen into an alternative universe where the laws of nature cease to apply... Perhaps that little problem with physical reality also accounts for why regressives have such a hard time with evolution and global warming.

But I digress. A Perry presidency can only happen because the status quo is so untenable, and people therefore so badly crave change. Such seeming oscillations chart the course of American electoral politics during this Era of Corporate Rape. Where once we had stable centrist politics and even stable majorities in Congress, now every election is a referendum on the failed policies of the current incumbents.

We make radical u-turns, switching from one party to the next, without switching from one policy to another. Every politician pretends to be for the people. Every one of them actually serves the oligarchs who buy them their stations and a small bit of relief for their raging personal insecurities. Nothing changes but the letter after their names.

This is precisely why Obama and his party are sinking so rapidly now. He is nothing more than Bush’s third term, and Bush was nothing more than a continuation of the Wall Street-friendly policies of Clinton, and so on, back to Reagan. Of course Obama is failing utterly. He is pursuing policies that are utterly failing the American people, as they have for three decades. The only difference between him and the public he’s meant to serve is that he well knows that that is precisely what they’re designed to do, while the American public still – still! – doesn’t get it.

I was delighted (not really) to see Obama do his big speech and finally get some spunk going, nearly three years since he was elected, to start “fighting” for jobs in America. The only problem is that his is the only job he’s actually trying to protect. Idiotic liberals need to face reality.

The only significant difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama is that the latter is the more skilled lying corporate hack. Look at his policies. Look at what he hasn’t done. Look at the people he’s surrounded himself with.

This will be even more clear than it already is for anyone who has the interest and the courage to observe the guy accurately (sorry, regressives, that leaves you out) when he details his big no-cost jobs plan. Why it took three years into his presidency to notice there is a small jobs problem in America (and the administration evidently still hasn’t noticed the mortgage holocaust going down), and why Obama couldn’t have had his big plan actually formulated when he gave the speech incessantly exhorting Congress to pass ‘it’, tells you a lot about his real priorities.

We already know how fast he’d jump if the banks were hurting, because we saw him do it, giving them full public (that means your money and mine) bail-outs, with no restrictions and no requirements to loan taxpayer money, and doing so even though these are the very criminals who wrecked the global economy in the first place. For all you regular folk, it takes a lot longer to get some help, I’m afraid.

The speech was textbook bully pulpit. Apart from the small matters of content, timing and motivation, it was precisely what a president should be doing, and precisely the way it is effectively done by successful presidents. If you doubt that, recall that when the Bush junta began in late 2002 to market its plan for a wee skirmish in the Middle East, only about a third of Americans saw the wisdom in that manifestly ludicrous idea.

By the time Karl Rove and his Mad Men were finished making their relentless and ruthlessly amoral pitch for invading Iraq, the figure had become about two-thirds on the eve of the attack. People who give Obama a pass for having to work in a difficult political environment fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the American presidency. The most effective ones are effective because they make their own realities through the power of persuasion.

But the only thing that Obama is serious about is appearing to be serious. This speech was excellent political theater, but substantively as hollow as a Hostess Twinkie. And about as nutritious for the country as well. But hollow well suits a president who capitulates so frequently he’s starting to be known around DC as the Caveman of Pennsylvania Avenue.

In any case, he doesn’t care. The whole point of the exercise was to communicate to the American people (read: voters he’ll soon be needing again) that “I care”, and to trap the Republicans into either going along with his plan – which he knows they won’t, so no serious danger to the aristocracy there – or providing him with a nice campaign cudgel (“they don’t care”) to be used between now and November 2012.

Either way, this is likely to be one of the most sickening campaigns ever in modern American history. By all rights, according to the essence of the democratic idea, Obama should lose. He has failed dramatically, by any serious measure, and the voters’ natural inclination is to seek change – which, by the way, is precisely why he is today president himself.

So the White House will be desperately seeking to change the story such that the election is about anything but themselves. This is just what the chickenhawk-in-chief Bush did in 2004, with the assistance of the hapless John Kerry (or was it the hapless Jimmy Carter? or the hapless Walter Mondale? or the hapless Michael Dukakis? I get all these punching-bag Democrats so confused!). Bush the Vietnam coward actually managed to turn the Silver Starred and Purple Hearted Kerry into a knock-kneed wimpy-burger threat to American national security. Anything to get people talking and thinking about something besides the dismal incumbent.

Watch Obama do the same in this cycle, and do it hard because Perry will not be coming at him with wiffle balls. What that means is that the ‘hope and change’ guy who won hearts in 2008 with his appeals to our better angels will now be running a campaign Nixon and his Plumbers could be proud of.

And it’s all the more reason why he’ll lose. I mean, how inspirational, Barack! It also explains why he’ll continue in his remarkable efforts to eviscerate the Democratic Party – even the corporate obeisance version we have today.

I mean really, in what bizarro universe is this worthless chump not being shown to the nearest home for retired politicians by members of his own party?

First there was Scott Brown snagging the more-or-less-most-Democratic-Senate-seat-in-the-country because of Obama, then a wholesale mass bloodletting in the 2010 midterms, also because of the president, and last week the loss – by nearly ten points – of what is probably the most Democratic congressional district in the entire country, for yet again the same reason.

Now he’s hur(tl)ing headlong into pissing away the White House and loads of Congress and state-level Democratic-held positions along the way in 2012. Does Obama have to launch predator drone missiles against the FDR monument on the Washington mall for Democrats to realize the extent of his destructive capacity against their party?

In any case, 2013 is when history will get interesting, in a Chinese curse sort of way. The Republicans will own Washington, and will viciously destroy the welfare state and otherwise turn over every bit of national wealth and middle class prosperity to the country’s plutocrats that they can, as fast as they can.

Their program will, of course, have no effect on stimulating the economy (shhh!, don’t tell anyone, but it’s not intended to), and will very likely make it worse through reducing government spending and laying off public sector employees. As if we’ve learned nothing this last century. As if Keynes had been a botanist or something.
What then? It is possible, as happened to Reagan, that the GOP will get lucky and happen to be sitting in the White House at the moment the economy recovers. That’s a nightmare scenario, for it means that progressive, New Deal-style, ideas about the national social compact will be utterly buried for a generation or more.

Alternatively, and more likely, the economy will remain awful or get worse. It’s then possible that the public will just tolerate their downsizing like docile lambs, just as the Japanese have done for over a decade now. But the moment may also provide an occasion for people to rise up and demand an end to he national theft that’s been plaguing them for thirty years now.

Perhaps that seems unlikely, but there are signs of stirring in Europe and Israel and elsewhere that are rather promising. If the Arabs can have their Spring cleaning of kleptocratic oligarchs, why shouldn’t Americans too?

The thing is, though, there’s pretty much nothing that I put past the right in this country. And, if they’re about to head down the toilet because people are starting to catch up to the bankruptcy of their policies, the question becomes what might they do to change the channel before it’s too late?
A little racism or gay bashing, maybe? Nope. It wouldn’t be on a grand enough scale for this project. They’ll need something powerful, like a good national security scare or a full-on war, just like the Argentinean regime invaded the Falklands/Malvinas when they were in trouble domestically, and just like Margaret Thatcher responded in kind when she was in trouble domestically herself. Scary, eh?

It is scary, actually. And not just for, oh, I dunno, the Iranians or Cubans or Venezuelans in a desperate GOP’s crosshairs, either. This is the sorriest state I’ve seen the country in during my lifetime. What were once political outrages of epic proportions are now standard issue Republican Party rhetoric and policies.

What was once a Democratic Party largely for the people is now a bunch of corporate hacks hiding behind faux political cowardice to mask their real commitments. You know you’re really hurting when appearing to be a coward is more attractive than telling the actual truth about your politics.

Meanwhile, the country adopts stupider and stupider policies, turning to more and more idiotic characters, in hopes of salvaging our sinking ship. Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, unabated global warming – those sure turned out great, eh? Hey, well then, let’s do even more of that!

Sorry, but nowadays the only thing that makes me feel better about the present is thinking about the future.

And now a few words from a man who is acknowledged universally as an expert in his field.

September 19, 2011

A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy

OXFORD, England —You walk out of a soft-falling rain into the living room of an Oxford don, with great walls of books, handsome art and, on the far side of the room, graceful windows onto a luxuriant garden.

Does this man, arguably the world’s most influential evolutionary biologist, spend most of his time here or in the field? Prof. Richard Dawkins smiles faintly. He did not find fame spending dusty days picking at shale in search of ancient trilobites. Nor has he traipsed the African bush charting the sex life of wildebeests.
He gets little charge from such exertions.

“My interest in biology was pretty much always on the philosophical side,” he says, listing the essential questions that drive him. “Why do we exist, why are we here, what is it all about?”
It is in no fashion to diminish Professor Dawkins, a youthful 70, to say that his greatest accomplishment has come as a profoundly original thinker, synthesizer and writer. His epiphanies follow on the heels of long sessions of reading and thought, and a bit of procrastination. He is an elegant stylist with a taste for metaphor. And he has a knack, a predisposition even, for assailing orthodoxy.
In his landmark 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene,” he looked at evolution through a novel lens: that of a gene. With this, he built on the work of fellow scientists and flipped the prevailing view of evolution and natural selection on its head.
He has written a string of best sellers, many detailing his view of evolution as progressing toward greater complexity. (His first children’s book, “The Magic of Reality,” appears this fall.) With an intellectual pugilist’s taste for the right cross, he rarely sidesteps debate, least of all with his fellow evolutionary biologists.
Although he is a political liberal, he has taken on more than a few leftists in his writings — particularly those who read his theory of genes as sanctioning rapacious and selfish behavior.
Of late he has taken up the cudgel for atheism, writing “The God Delusion,” an international best seller. When Martin Rees, Britain’s astronomer royal, recently accepted a prize from the John Templeton Foundation, which promotes a dialogue between science and religion, Professor Dawkins was unforgiving. Dr. Rees, he wrote, is a “compliant quisling,” a traitor to science. Dr. Rees declined to counterpunch.
Professor Dawkins often declines to talk in San Francisco and New York; these cities are too gloriously godless, as far as he is concerned. “As an atheistic lecturer, you are rather wasting your time,” he says. He prefers the Bible Belt, where controversy is raw.
He insists he frets before each lecture. This is difficult to imagine. He is characteristically English in his fluid command of words written and spoken. (Perhaps this is an evolutionary adaptation — all those cold, clammy English days firing an adjectival and syntactical genius?)
He is gracious without being gregarious. Ask him to explore an idea and he’ll rummage happily. But he keeps the door to his private life firmly latched.
(Briefly, he has a daughter, who is a doctor. He is married for the third time, to the actress Lalla Ward. He is on friendly enough terms with his first wife, the zoologist Marian Stamp Dawkins, that she wrote an essay for a 2006 book celebrating her former husband’s lifetime of accomplishment.)

African Roots

Clinton Richard Dawkins was born in Kenya, where his father was an agricultural specialist with the colonial service. He later returned with his parents to England and in due course arrived at Oxford, an intelligent enough boy. “I didn’t have a very starry school career,” he says. “I was medium to above average, nothing special.”
He lighted his own intellectual fire at a university peculiarly suited to his temperament. Oxford relies on the tutorial system, in which students burrow into original texts rather than textbooks.
“I loved it; I become easily temporarily obsessed,” Professor Dawkins says. “I did not end up as broadly educated as my Cambridge colleagues, but I graduated probably better equipped to write a book on my chosen subject.”
(From that experience he drew a dislike of the current establishment insistence — bordering on mania — for standardized tests and curriculums. He views this as antithetical to true learning.)
After graduating in 1962, he studied with Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Nobel-winning scientist, and taught at the University of California, Berkeley. He returned to Oxford in 1971. He was working out his thoughts on sociobiology, which took form a few years later in “The Selfish Gene.”
At the time, the predominant popular view of evolution was that animals and insects worked together, albeit unconsciously, and that natural selection acted on individuals to do what was good for their species. Cooperation, again unconscious, seemed woven into nature.
Professor Dawkins’s voice slides playfully into High David Attenborough style as he mimics the mellifluous tone of BBC documentaries of the time: “The dung beetle is the refuse collector of the natural system, and where would we be without them? And male deer fight but take care not to kill each other.”
He stops. “That sort of thinking was pretty dominant in the culture.” Artful pause. “And it’s plain wrong. I wanted to correct that ubiquitous misunderstanding.”
Genes, he says, try to maximize their chance of survival. The successful ones crawl down through the generations. The losers, and their hosts, die off. A gene for helping the group could not persist if it endangered the survival of the individual.
Such insights were in the intellectual air by the mid-1960s. But Professor Dawkins grasped the power of metaphor — that selfish gene — and so made the idea come alive. Andrew Read, a professor of natural history at Penn State, recalls reading “The Selfish Gene” and feeling his world change.
“Gone in a stroke was the intellectually barren ‘it just is’ hypothesis,” he wrote in an essay. “ ‘The Selfish Gene’ crystallized it and made it impossible to ignore.”
Not everyone bought the argument. The moral implications proved deeply troubling, suggesting that altruism disguised selfish, gene-driven behavior. “Many readers experienced the book as a psychic trauma,” wrote Dr. Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. “It turned their moral worlds upside down.”
Prominent scientists and intellectuals cast Professor Dawkins as the herald angel of a selfish culture, accusing him and his fellow sociobiologists of setting the cultural stage for the “I got mine” age of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin, a man of the political left, painted a picture out of a George Orwell novel. “If biological determinism is a weapon in the struggle between classes,” he wrote with two other scientists, “then the universities are weapons factories, and their teaching and research faculties are the engineers, designers.”
To Professor Dawkins, this badly distorted his science and his political leanings, which are resolutely liberal. (He opposed the Vietnam and Iraq wars, admires President Obama and votes most often with Labor. More recently, he voted for the Liberal Party in his district, as he admired the fact that the member of Parliament was insistently secular. The member lost in 2010, to an evangelical Conservative.) He was writing about the behavior of genes, not about psychological and emotional states.
Our glory as a species is that we can overcome our genetic impulses, he says, acknowledging that the book’s title “perhaps lent itself to misunderstanding.”
“It’s not the selfish individual, and certainly not the selfish species,” he says. “My book could have just as easily been called ‘The Altruistic Individual.’ ”
But true to himself, he does not stop at this concession. “What would our critics have had us do, falsify the algebra?” he asks, and says of the criticism, “It was irritatingly stupid, actually.”
Progressive Evolution?

Professor Dawkins’s great intellectual conviction is that evolution is progressive, and tends to lead to more and more complexity. Species, in his view, often arrive at similar solutions to evolutionary puzzles — the need for ears, eyes, arms or an octopus’s tentacle. And, often although not invariably, bigger brains. So the saber-toothed tiger shows up as a cat in Europe and Asia, and as a marsupial in South America. Different species seized on the same carnivorous solution. (He most certainly does not, however, view evolution as progressing toward us, that is humans — were we to disappear, some other species most likely would fill our evolutionary niche.)
“There are endless progressions in evolution,” he says. “When the ancestors of the cheetah first began pursuing the ancestors of the gazelle, neither of them could run as fast as they can today.
“What you are looking at is the progressive evolutionary product of an arms race.”
So it would be no great surprise if the interior lives of animals turned out to be rather complex. Do dogs, for example, experience consciousness? Are they aware of themselves as autonomous animals in their surroundings?
“Consciousness has to be there, hasn’t it?” Professor Dawkins replies. “It’s an evolved, emergent quality of brains. It’s very likely that most mammals have consciousness, and probably birds, too.”
(He has embraced the Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer’s Great Ape Project, which would accord legal rights to apes, including a prohibition against torture.)
His theory of progressive evolution, it should be said, is controversial. Professor Dawkins had a single great rival in writing about evolutionary biology: Stephen Jay Gould.
Professor Gould, who died in 2002, was adamant that evolution was contingent — that while a species might progress in leaps and bounds, it was equally likely that it might reach a dead end, or regress. If a meteorite hit Earth and destroyed all intelligent life, he argued, the chances are vanishingly small that complex, intelligent life would evolve again.

As the writer Scott Rosenberg put it, Professor Gould saw our species as “simply a tiny accident occurring on a minor side-branch of the evolutionary tree.”
The two evolutionary biologists had well-armored egos, their intellectual battles were spectacular, and they did not share laughs over pints afterward. Professor Dawkins acknowledged their prickly relationship in writing an appreciation of his rival, who died of cancer: “Gould and I did not tire the sun with talking and send him down in the sky.”
Professor Dawkins feels more than a tinge of regret that he and Professor Gould did not appreciate each other more.
“Gould wanted to downgrade the conceit that it all progressed towards us, towards humans, and I fully approved of that,” he says now, even as he makes sure to add, “But evolution most certainly is progressive.”
There is a final cosmic joke to be had here.
The two men quarreled about everything save their shared atheism. But Professor Dawkins’s closest intellectual ally on progressive evolution and convergence is Simon Conway Morris, the renowned Cambridge evolutionary paleontologist.
And Professor Morris, as it happens, is an Anglican and a fervent believer in a personal God. He sees convergence as hinting at a teleology, or intelligent architecture, in the universe.
Ask Professor Dawkins about his intellectual bedfellow, and his smile thins. “Yes, well, Simon and I have converged on the science,” he says. “I should think in the world there are not two evolutionary scientists who could rival each other in their enthusiasm for convergence.”
As to Professor Morris’s religious faith? “I just don’t get it.”
Impatience With Religion

Aren’t the theologian’s questions — Why are we here? Is there something larger than us? Why do we die? — central to the human project?

Professor Dawkins shakes his head before the question is out. His impatience with religion is palpable, almost wriggling alive inside him. Belief in the supernatural strikes him as incurious, which is perhaps the worst insult he can imagine.
“Religion teaches you to be satisfied with nonanswers,” he says. “It’s a sort of crime against childhood.”
And please spare him talk of spiritualism, as if that were the only way to meditate on the wonder of the universe. “If you look up at the Milky Way through the eyes of Carl Sagan, you get a feeling in your chest of something greater than yourself,” he says. “And it is. But it’s not supernatural.”
It is a measure of Britain’s more resolutely secular culture that Professor Dawkins can pursue his atheism and probing, provocative views of Islam and Christianity in several prime-time television documentaries. In one, he interviewed young women in a Muslim school that receives state funds.
“One said her ambition was to be a doctor. But she explicitly said if there is a contradiction between science and the Koran, then the Koran was right,” he says. “They were lovely girls, but utterly brainwashed.”
Critics grow impatient with Professor Dawkins’s atheism. They accuse him of avoiding the great theological debates that enrich religion and philosophy, and so simplifying the complex. He concocts “vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince,” wrote Terry Eagleton, regarded as one of Britain’s foremost literary critics. “What, one wonders, are Dawkins’s views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus?”
Put that charge to Professor Dawkins and he more or less pleads guilty. To suggest he study theology seems akin to suggesting he study fairies. Nor is he convinced that the ecumenical Anglican, the moderate imam, the Catholic priest with the well-developed sense of irony, is religion’s truest representative.
“I’ve had perfectly wonderful conversations with Anglican bishops, and I rather suspect if you asked in a candid moment, they’d say they don’t believe in the virgin birth,” he says. “But for every one of them, four others would tell a child she’ll rot in hell for doubting.”
That, he says, explains why he is writing a book for children. He wants to raise questions — Why is there a sun? What is an earthquake? What about rainbows? — and provide clever, rational answers. He has toyed with opening his own state-sponsored school, though under the British system he would have to come up with matching money.
But it would not be a school for atheists. The idea horrifies him. A child should skip down an idiosyncratic intellectual path. “I am almost pathologically afraid of indoctrinating children,” he says. “It would be a ‘Think for Yourself Academy.’ ”
Human Gods

After two hours of conversation, Professor Dawkins walks far afield. He talks of the possibility that we might co-evolve with computers, a silicon destiny. And he’s intrigued by the playful, even soul-stirring writings of Freeman Dyson, the theoretical physicist.
In one essay, Professor Dyson casts millions of speculative years into the future. Our galaxy is dying and humans have evolved into something like bolts of superpowerful intelligent and moral energy.
Doesn’t that description sound an awful lot like God?

“Certainly,” Professor Dawkins replies. “It’s highly plausible that in the universe there are God-like creatures.”
He raises his hand, just in case a reader thinks he’s gone around a religious bend. “It’s very important to understand that these Gods came into being by an explicable scientific progression of incremental evolution.”
Could they be immortal? The professor shrugs.
“Probably not.” He smiles and adds, “But I wouldn’t want to be too dogmatic about that.”

The Bristlecones Don’t Lie

September 19, 2011 | Erik Loomis
A study published in 2009 — with Matthew Salzer of the Laboratory for Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona as the lead author — found bristlecone ring-growth rates in the second half of the 20th century to be higher than in any other 50-year period in the last 3,700 years.
“The accelerated growth is suggestive of an environmental change unprecedented in millennia,” the report states. As a result, the bristlecone pine is considered by many dendrochronologists to be an “indicator species” for climate change.
This is not good. Bristlecone pines are the oldest living things on the planet. To see significant tree ring growth versus any other time since 1700 BC is extremely strong evidence for climate change.

Also, you have to love the story in the article about finding a scientist finding the oldest bristlecone in the 1960s and the basic response is, “let’s cut it down!”

Maybe this will make me feel less depressed about it. If Richard Manuel can ever really make someone feel less depressed….
From one of my favorite women on the political scene we learn:

After Georgia was forced by the United States Supreme Court to abandon its scheme to deny Black people the right to an undiluted vote and representation, Leroy Johnson became the first Black person elected to the Georgia State Senate since Reconstruction.
The year was 1962. During his tenure, Johnson used his considerable influence inside the body to become the Senate's Chair of the Judiciary Committee. From this position, he was able to bottle-up legislation that was bad for the State of Georgia, especially its Black residents. Outside and inside the State Senate, Leroy Johnson practiced the art of leadership and engaged in the fight for justice. He produced solid results for a people who were hungry for justice.
Who among our elected officials today exercises the art of leadership in an engaged struggle for justice? Sadly, the numbers are way too small. It is more expedient to exchange silence for merely "being there," in the end exercising no leadership at all and becoming a spectator to power in abandonment of those who need the effective use of power the most. The art of the struggle has veritably been abandoned for merely occupying a seat at the table when the purpose of the struggle for the seat at the table was to empower the struggle for justice. The only reason we send people to occupy that seat is to leverage the power of the community where power is exercised, on behalf of those who need it the most.
As I was commiserating over the Troy Davis situation with a former member of the Georgia Legislature who rose to the highest possible position within that body for his party, he lamented that for all of his years in the Legislature, he had not introduced a single death penalty bill. I quickly interjected that he was so busy putting out other fires and sticking his fingers in all the holes of the leaky dikes and schooling his colleagues on the effective use of the power of their elected positions that he couldn't do everything. It will be interesting to see what legislative actions his former colleagues will initiate in the face of this clear act of barbarism by my state.
Occupying these "seats at the table" is important. Engaging in the struggle for justice is important. And contrary to what many would have us believe, leadership is important. That's why so much effort is spent on co-opting or marginalizing the leaders of conscience that we do have and preventing authentic representatives of our values to occupy those seats at the table.
Therefore, more is required of us. We must hone the skill of discernment. We must not give our vote to just anybody to occupy these positions of power. We must not allow "posers" to represent us. Posers are those who wear the jackets of authority, who are put in positions of power by us, but who do not engage in the artful use of that power on our behalf. Discerning who is friend and who is poser has been difficult. But, is being made more possible by the arrogance now of those who do not have the interests of the people at heart. They seem not to care that their "neanderthal" is showing. But we can look at them and clearly see that they ain't us. Their actions are a clue that they do not share our values.
Unfortunately, posers exist all around us: and in the media, too. The job now of people of conscience is to make sure that we don't enable these posers by our own supportive behavior. My friend reminded me that Leroy Johnson, alone in the Georgia State Senate, was more powerful in the 1960s than are the 55 Black members of the Georgia Legislature now. We need to stop and think about that.

More is less? What role have we all had to play in such a circumstance? Is our leadership more of a reflection of who we are than we have acknowledged? What can we do differently in order to get a better result?
Abu Ghraib has its antecedents right here in the United States. The violence sponsored by the United States abroad has its origins inside the United States. As the United States and NATO drop bombs on unsubmitting African people in Libya, the United States kills an innocent Black man in Georgia. There is more to come unless we affirmatively take steps to stop it. Republican voters cheered at the prospects of more executions at a recent Presidential debate. In a recent article, Africom brags on its lessons learned from Libya:

"The command had to define what effects it needed, and what specific targets would contribute to achieving those effects – a precise endeavor, Ham said. If attacking a communications node, planners must ask themselves what does that particular node do? How does it connect to other nodes? What’s the right munition to use? What’s the likelihood of collateral damage? What’s the right time of day to hit it? What’s the right delivery platform? And finally, how to synchronize attacks." “That level of detail and precision … was not something the command had practiced to the degree that we were required to do in Odyssey Dawn,” Ham said. . . . If we were to launch a humanitarian operation, how do we do so effectively with air traffic control, airfield management, those kind of activities?” he said.
The United States has to craft those practices with African partners, he added.
U.S. allies in Libya are as barbaric as their sponsors. Despite youtube's efforts to dissuade it from being seen, please watch this video sent to me from France: 
As committed Libyans valiantly resist the entire NATO arsenal of modern and old-fashioned killfare, a new kind of perverse global plantation is being created. There is a clear and present danger that Africa and Asia will become U.S. killing fields for the next decade or more while the United States, itself, becomes a police state - unless we stop this poser leadership that really stopped representing us a long time ago. If we fail to stop them, watch that video again - and welcome to the new America, hauntingly familiar to a place we never left.

Cynthia McKinney is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Cynthia McKinney.


No comments: