Thank you, Judge Roy Moore

If we take the Bible literally, at least according to that “fake news” reporter Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, we will have to follow some pretty strange instructions:

Sacrificing as a burnt offering your young son (Genesis 22:2) or your daughter, if she comes out of the doors of your house to meet you (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5).

Having rebellious children stoned to death by all the men of the city (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

Purchasing slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46), selling your daughter as a slave (Exodus 21:7-8) and making sure they submit to their masters, even cruel ones (1 Peter 2:18).

Executing pagan priests on their own altars and burning their bones (2 Kings 23:20-25).

Cutting off the hand of a woman if she grabs the penis of a man who is fighting with her husband (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).

Committing incest (Genesis 19:31-36) and cannibalism (2 Kings 6:28-29).

And having the military do all sorts of things to the enemy that would violate the Geneva accords:

Kill all boys and women but spare the girls who have not known man intimately for yourself (Numbers 31:17-18).

Destroy all that they have, killing man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel and donkey (1Samuel 15:3).

If we are going to take biblical law as the literal legal standard, we’re also going to have to ban some staples of modern life:

Non-submissive women (Ephesians 5:22).

Cheeseburgers (Exodus 23:19), shrimp po’ boys (Leviticus 11:12) and ham sandwiches (Leviticus 11:4).

Blended fabrics (Leviticus 19:19), rounded haircuts (Leviticus 19:27), tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), rude jokes (Ephesians 5:4), divorce (Luke 16:18) and using automobiles or electricity on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3).

Additionally, women will not be allowed to teach in houses of worship (1 Timothy 2:12), men will not be allowed in at all if their genitals have been injured (Deuteronomy 23:1), and blind people, dwarves and the lame will not be allowed at the altar (Leviticus 21:17-23).

Desperately Seeking Outrage

For the last ten months, no, for the last two years I have been combing newspapers, magazines, and the internet for the latest examples of idiocy from the Trump Administration. (It even pains me to type that phrase, to acknowledge in such a permanent way that I am living a nightmare.) I sought constant reinforcement of my position that Donald Trump did not deserve to be President, that he and all of his short-sighted cronies were bad for the country, and that his "policies" were nothing more than dangerous campaign fantasies to be outlasted. I am now convinced that DT opened up a festering wound in the body politic that will not be easily healed. His policy changes are like watching a car wreck in slow motion. His objective seems to be reversing the work of not only Obama, but of every sane president since the inception of the republic. And it continues to amaze me that about a third of the country is not only letting it happen, but support the fact that the government has been taken over by a disrespectful, childish, greedy, narcissistic billionaire. The United States now is a platform for his adulation. His little minions, such as Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and Jeff Sessions, are busy imprinting their own personal ignorance or self-righteousness on our institutions. Then there are those who are simply ignorant doctrinaires, such as Rick Perry, who didn't even know he would be responsible for our nuclear arsenal when he took the job of Energy Secretary, or Betsy DeVoss, the Secretary of Education who doesn't believe in public education. 

Well, yesterday I became supersaturated with outrage. I folded my newspaper in disgust. My brain was no longer able to absorb another thing about DT. My stomach clenched at the thought of another three or seven years of this. Right now all I wish for is that the mid-terms throw out all of the people who are complicit in the destruction of our democracy. Please vote.

More on Climate Change

  This is an article I recently saw in the Washington Post. I can't think of a way to improve it, so I will publish it here verbatim.

I’m a climate scientist. And I’m not letting trickle-down ignorance win.

By Ben Santer
Opinion

July 5 at 6:00 AM ET

 

How to fight the Trump administration's darkness

 

Fact Checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee examine several of President Trump's claims from his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord on Thursday.

I’ve been a mountaineer for most of my life. Mountains are in my blood. In my early 20s, while climbing in France, I fell into a crevasse on the Milieu Glacier, at the start of the normal route on the Aiguille d’Argentiere. Remarkably, I was unhurt. From the grip of the banded ice, I saw a thin slit of blue sky 120 feet above me. The math was simple: Climb 120 feet. If I reached that slit of blue sky, I would live. If I didn’t, I’d freeze to death in the cold and dark.

Now, more than 40 years later, it feels like I’m in a different kind of darkness — the darkness of the Trump administration’s scientific ignorance. This is just as real as the darkness of the Milieu Glacier’s interior and just as life-threatening. This time, I’m not alone. The consequences of this ignorance affect every person on the planet.

Imagine, if you will, that you spend your entire professional life trying to do one thing to the best of your ability. In my case, that one thing is to study the nature and causes of climate change. You put in a long apprenticeship. You spend years learning about the climate system, computer models of climate and climate observations. You start filling a tool kit with the statistical and mathematical methods you’ll need for analyzing complex data sets. You are taught how electrical engineers detect signals embedded in noisy data. You apply those engineering insights to the detection of a human-caused warming signal buried in the natural “noise” of Earth’s climate. Eventually, you learn that human activities are warming Earth’s surface, and you publish this finding in peer-reviewed literature.

You participate in rigorous national and international assessments of climate science. You try to put aside all personal filters, to be objective, to accommodate a diversity of scientific opinions held by your peers, by industry stakeholders and by governments. These assessments are like nothing you’ve ever done before: They are peer review on steroids, eating up years of your life.

The bottom-line finding of the assessments is cautious at first. In 1995, the conclusion is this: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” These 12 words are part of a chapter on which you are first author. The 12 words change your life. You spend years defending the “discernible human influence” conclusion. You encounter valid scientific criticism. You also encounter nonscientific criticism from powerful forces of unreason, who harbor no personal animus toward you but don’t like what you’ve learned and published — it’s bad for their business.

You go back to the drawing board. You address the criticism that if there really is a human-caused signal, we should see it in many attributes of the climate system — not just in surface thermometer records. You look at temperature from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. You examine water vapor and the height of the lowest layer of the atmosphere. Your colleagues search for human fingerprints in rainfall, clouds, sea level, river runoff, snow and ice extent, atmospheric circulation patterns, and the behavior of extreme events. They find human-caused climate fingerprints everywhere they look.

Your peers are your fiercest critics. They are constantly kicking the tires. Show us that your “discernible human influence” results aren’t due to changes in the sun, or volcanic activity, or internal cycles in the climate system. Show us that your results aren’t due to some combination of these natural factors. Convince us that detection of a human fingerprint isn’t sensitive to uncertainties in models, data or the statistical methods in your tool kit. Explain the causes of each and every wiggle in temperature records. Respond to every claim contradicting your findings.

So you jump through hoops. You do due diligence. You go down every blind alley, every rabbit hole. Over time, the evidence for a discernible human influence on global climate becomes overwhelming. The evidence is internally and physically consistent. It’s in climate measurements made from the ground, from weather balloons and from space — measurements of dozens of different climate variables made by hundreds of different research groups around the world. You write more papers, examine more uncertainties and participate in more scientific assessments. You tell others what you’ve done, what you’ve learned and what the climatic “shape of things to come” might look like if we do nothing to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. You speak not only to your scientific peers but also to a wide variety of audiences, some of which are skeptical about you and everything you do. You enter the public arena and make yourself accountable.

After decades of seeking to advance scientific understanding, reality suddenly shifts, and you are back in the cold darkness of ignorance. The ignorance starts at the top, with President Trump. It starts with untruths and alternative facts. The untruth that climate change is a “hoax” engineered by the Chinese. The alternative fact that “nobody really knows” whether climate change is real. These untruths and alternative facts are repeated again and again. They serve as talking points for other members of the administration. From the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who has spent his career fighting climate change science, we learn the alternative fact that satellite data shows “a leveling off of warming ” over the past two decades. The energy secretary tells us the fairy tale that climate change is primarily due to “ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” Ignorance trickles down from the president to members of his administration, eventually filtering into the public’s consciousness.

Getting out of this metaphorical darkness is going to be tough. The administration is powerful. It has access to media megaphones and bully pulpits. It can abrogate international climate agreements. It can weaken national legislation designed to protect our air and water. It can challenge climate science and tell us that more than three decades of scientific understanding and rigorous assessments are all worthless. It can question the integrity and motives of climate scientists. It can halt satellite missions and impair our ability to monitor Earth’s climate from space. It can shut down websites hosting real facts on the science of climate change. It can deny, delay, defund, distort, dismantle. It can fiddle while the planet burns.

I have to believe that even in this darkness, though, there is still a thin slit of blue sky. My optimism comes from a gut-level belief in the decency and intelligence of the people of this country. Most Americans have an investment in the future — in our children and grandchildren, and in the planet that is our only home. Most Americans care about these investments in the future; we want to protect them from harm. That is our prime directive. Most of us understand that to fulfill this directive, we can’t ignore the reality of a warming planet, rising seas, retreating snow and ice, and changes in the severity and frequency of droughts and floods. We can’t ignore the reality that human actions are part of the climate change problem and that human actions must be part of the solution. Ignoring reality is not a viable survival strategy.

Trump has referred to a cloud hanging over his administration. The primary cloud I see is the self-created cloud of willful ignorance on the science of climate change. That cloud is a clear and present threat to the lives, livelihoods and health of every person on the planet, now and in the future. This cloud could be easily lifted by the president himself.

For my own part, I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life in darkness or silently accepting trickle-down ignorance. I didn’t climb out of a crevasse on the Milieu Glacier for that.

 


So what do you think about that, Mr. Trump?

The Big Climate Hoax

Even before Trump got elected, I told myself that I would not comment on every little (and major) thing that his administration did, as I would take up my entire day with those complaints. However, I must make an exception for the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. I was distraught at his appointment to head an agency that he has tried on numerous occasions to thwart and cripple with lawsuits. However, his recent (March 9, 2017) comments on climate change are beyond the pale. He is denying that the regulation of CO2 is the job of the EPA. I wonder who he thinks is the appropriate regulatory body, Kellyanne Conway? He has thrown doubt on the causes of climate change being linked to human activity. Not only is he denying scientific consensus, but he is rehashing settled science in a way that is both dangerous and idiotic. If we have to go for the next four (or eight) years with someone heading the EPA who sets us back decades in our ability to protect human health and the environment, I am not sure that we can recover as a nation or a world. Just a list of those things that this administration is doing to turn back the clock on environmental protection is appalling - allowing coal waste to be dumped in streams, reducing the emission standards on cars and trucks, slashing the environmental justice budget by 20 percent - these are just a few and only during the first month of the Trump presidency. I am not sure how we can survive this assault on the health of the planet and its inhabitants. 

Are We Victims of Gaslighting?

I want to write this blog, both for myself and for others, to serve as a point of reference as we venture ever deeper into the unreality and post-factual world of Donald Trump. Yes, the things he says are often outrageous and well beyond the bounds of normal adult declarations. I am afraid that his preposterous statements will become normalized over time and that we will grow to accept them without much shock or objection. This is the result of Trump gaslighting us. As the literature states, it is a common tactic of a self-centered, insecure narcissist. The more emphatically he says something, the more vehemently he denies something, the more he blames the target, and the more he repeats a lie, the more the target begins to doubt their own judgment. Without regret, shame, or any sense of accountability or responsibility, the perpetrator of the gaslight begins to take control of the target's thinking, weakening their resolve, confusing their thinking, and riddling them with self-doubt. If you argue with a gaslighter, they will turn the tables and blame the target, deny the lie, or simply restate and embellish the lie. It is a force of will.

How does a target fight against gaslighting? Well, one way is to write down the truth before the domination overtakes you, to provide a stable reality check. Hence, this blog. Another way is to avoid defending yourself and avoid arguing with the gaslighter, because he doesn't care about rational arguments or facts or the truth. He cares about dominating the target's thoughts and sense of what is acceptable, of maintaining control. Therefore, establish your own standards of acceptable behavior and stick to the facts, regardless of what the gaslighter is trying to make you believe. Maintain a sense of outrage, regardless of how often you must call it up. No, Trump is not normal and his behavior is not acceptable. Lying is unpardonable. It is not a quirk of personality, but a devious and insidious strategy. There are no "alternative facts."

Stages of Grief

Like many people, I have gone through numerous emotional stages regarding the 2016 election. Although an unquestionable democrat, my reaction to the President-elect has been more intense than I thought it would be. After a few days of rage and disgust, fear and loathing, I have settled into a state of vague ennui and sadness. I am sad that the person that my fellow voters chose to be our president seems to have no sense of history, no respect for the institutions of our country, and no reverence for the the office he is about to occupy. I dread hearing his name for the next four years and wondering how he will embarrass us as a nation. I begrudge him and his greedy family moving into the White House, when they view it as "a step down." I disparage the unread and incurious playboy who will neither consider the nuances of diplomacy nor the protocols that dictate the sophisticated behavior required on the world stage. And I fear the long-term damage he will do to the Supreme Court and the civil rights of our citizens. Maybe he will surprise me and all of this distress will be for naught. But I doubt it.

Enough with the Sequels!

I don't visit Goodreads very often, usually only when I am out of things to read and have no idea where to go next. As you can see, I don't write this blog very often either. However, I find myself compelled. Searching in vain for a thriller, science fiction, or even contemporary fiction title, I find that authors must either be running low on fresh ideas, or so in love with their characters that they can't bear to leave them. Not only is Hollywood addicted to sequela, but it seems that authors have been similarly infected. I love my characters, too, but enough is enough!

Come on, Self-published Authors

Oh, dear. I have just tried to read several novels from self-published authors and had to struggle to get through even the first thirty pages.  Okay. I understand that those of us who are writing for the simple joy of putting our words on paper probably write with abandon. That's great and I hope you all enjoy every minute of it. However, there are some self-published authors who are serious about our craft. Serious enough to hire a professional editor, serious enough to parse each word, each phrase, to craft a compelling story and an interesting plot, to construct likable characters with recognizable traits. We are serious about telling a story and strive to do it like a paleontologist unearthing a rare fossil. We treat it with respect and savor it, not rushing on to unearth the next one as quickly as we can.  I hate to say it, but there's a lot of self-published junk out there. We can do better. This reflects on all of us. So let's put a little more thought into it. Let's not rush from one novel to the next without trying our best to perfect each one. If this means getting our work reviewed by people other than family and friends and taking the comments to heart, then we should do it.

Oh, no. Colbert Got It Wrong

As much as I love Stephen Colbert, I think he is on the wrong side of the Amazon/Hachette debate. These two giants can fight it out over the price of books and the percentage that they take from each sale, it's not my major concern. What does concern me is Mr. Colbert's lack of understanding of the publishing dilemma facing most authors who don't view the world from the celebrity platform that he is perched upon. Most of us, particularly first time authors, can't even get a publishing house to talk to us, a literary agent to represent us, or a traditional bookstore to stock us. Sure, Colbert only has to put pen to paper and publishers are falling all over themselves to get a chance to make some money off of him. So he can use his clout to bump up the sales of fellow authors from the Hachette family. I don't have a problem with that. But he needs to realize that sites like Amazon and Kobobooks, and even iTunes are the only platforms available to most unknown authors. He should use his notoriety to convince publishers everywhere to take a chance on a few authors other than the likes of James Patterson, J.K Rowling, or Scott Turow, instant best sellers . . . and take a chance on me, for instance.

Finally Published

One Finger on the World is finally published. It took two years of fairly steady writing plus about six months of editing and revision. Now, holding the book in my hand, I feel considerable relief and very gratified. Now comes the anxiety, waiting to see how it is received.

People who know me will recognize me as a fairly laid back person. This novel is dark, in stark contrast to my own personality. The characters are flawed, although I hope they are likable and have some nobility to them. My political beliefs unavoidably surface in my prose, covering such timely issues as: sexual identity, using violence to achieve a goal, rape and victimization, greed, addiction, the morality of hacking, honesty and betrayal, and reparations and redemption. Victimhood does not have to be a life sentence, as our protagonist discovers through the strength and maturity he acquires over the events in his life. Finding someone to love and being loved in return is one means of finding redemption, he finds. He also learns the importance of setting goals and exploring a world full of wonder; one he describes as both messy and glorious .

I hope this story causes you to re-evaluate some of your default attitudes and beliefs. As our protagonist is surprised to find, people are pretty much the same, regardless of their circumstances, lifestyle choices, political beliefs, or societal role, and it can be a cause for celebration and hope.

First Novel Challenge

I didn't set out to write a controversial first novel. You've probably heard more than once that the characters in a story just take it over after a while. Well, it's true. I put my characters into situations and they pretty much behaved the way they wanted. I felt like an engaged spectator for almost the entire second half of the book.

I'm a pretty light-hearted person, so the fact that this story turned out to be so dark was a surprise to me. I knew I wanted to write about flawed protagonists, characters who were not one-dimensional but had many layers, who were likeable, and with whom the reader could sympathize, if not outright identify. I also thought it would be interesting to have a hero who is not able to control what's happening to him, yet grows stronger as a result. Overcoming adversity without becoming embittered is something that most of us struggle with at some time during our lives, and these characters are no different. Trying to do the right thing, even when it's not in our own self interest, making amends for past transgressions, forgiveness even if it's not deserved -- these are issues that the characters face, that we all face.

Finally, there was the question of who my audience would be. I did not intend to appeal to any particular segment of society. I wanted the story to be universal, relevant, timely, exciting, and make the reader a bit uncomfortable. Love, it seems, is ubiquitous, and we are lucky to find it whenever and with whomever we can. It is a bond between two people that takes many forms. Whether you are part of the LGBT community or not, I hope that you find this story uplifting and enjoyable.

K. Sena Makeig