A Deer in the Headlights

Some stories are told best through pictures.

From Fox News:

Trump clings to idea Alabama faced big threat from Dorian


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump isn’t giving up on the dubious idea that Alabama faced a serious threat from Hurricane Dorian.

During an Oval Office briefing Wednesday, Trump displayed a map of the National Hurricane Center forecast for last Thursday that showed Dorian could track over Florida. The map he displayed included what appeared to be a hand-drawn half-circle that extended the cone of uncertainty over a swath of Alabama.

Trump had raised eyebrows and drawn an emphatic fact check from the National Weather Service on Sunday when he tweeted that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

Meanwhile, on another planet, GPO politicians and voters continue to support this president and his administration. I will leave you with this from Lynyrd Skynyrd:

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

People Unclear

This is number 40 of a long series

If you’re like me, you wonder where people like this come from:

GOP congressman asks if rocks are causing sea levels to rise

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I found it impossible to omit Representative Brooks’ affiliation with the Republican party. It’s not as though when you decide to run for office as a Republican you have to check the “global warming is a hoax” box. But it helps.

But let’s get serious for a moment. Representative Brooks may have a point there. The truth is that the world’s rivers daily deposit tons of soil, scourged from the continents, into the oceans. That has got to account for some sea level rise. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order. Take the Mississippi River as an example. All the stuff that gets washed down from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains eventually makes its way to the Mississippi Delta. A similar thing is going on with the Nile. This has been going on for millions of years. We should all be under water by now.

Not quite. Look at Florida. The state is bare inches (many inches) above water. It has an interesting geological history:

Sea levels have had a profound effect on both Florida’s geology and ecology. The fossil record indicates a mass migration of plants and animals occurred between North and South America approximately 2 million years ago, when sea levels were much lower and a land bridge connected North America. During the last ice age, Florida was as much as three times the current land area (red line on Figure 1).

Here is Figure 1:

The map shows what is now Florida and the shape of the coast line 5 million years ago (smaller) and during the previous ice age, when a bunch of the planet’s water was stacked up as ice on the continents (much larger). Melting of the continental ice shrunk Florida to its present day size.

And Florida is much the same shape as it was 500 years ago when Europeans began to explore it. All this while the Mississippi, the Nile, the Amazon, the Indus—all  these great rivers—have been dumping silt into the oceans. Only recently, the past 100 years, has human activity started to make serious changes to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And Florida is finally beginning to experience the result:

Map Shows Which Miami Condo Buildings Are Most Threatened by Rising Sea Levels

Even as scientists continue reminding us that Miami is one of the most susceptible cities to the potential damages of sea-level rise, developers continue erecting shiny luxury tower after shiny luxury tower in the areas most threatened by rising tides. So EMiami Condos, a website that tracks condo development in the city, put two and two together to figure out which buildings are at the highest risk. 

The site gathered information from the FIU School of Journalism’s Eyes on the Rise app. The app allows you to key in your address and find out how many feet of sea-level rise it would take for your home to be underwater.

Another source provides additional history:

Although all the details are not well understood, the driving force behind these glacial/interglacial cycles are slow variations in Earth’s orbit as it circles the sun, which slightly decreased/increased the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface. For the current interglacial, the orbitally-driven warming eventually came to an end after the Holocene Climatic Optimum (HCO), and by 4-5000 years ago all the vulnerable land-based ice had disappeared. The volume of the global ocean was static until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, and by the 19th Century global sea level had begun to rise again. Despite undergoing short-term accelerations, and decelerations, globally-averaged sea level has undergone long-term acceleration up to the present day (Church & White [2006]Merrifield [2009]).

With some 60-70 metres worth of global sea level equivalent locked up in the vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, and with global warming well underway, it raises the question of how much sea level rise we are likely to see this century (and beyond), and just how fast this might happen. Because the dynamics of ice sheet disintegration are only very crudely known, and ice sheet modelling is in its infancy, there is a large range of estimates of future sea level rise. Many now seem to converge on 1-2 metres of sea level rise by 2100 – much higher than current rates. But is this realistic? A recent paper, examining past ice sheet disintegrations, lends credence to these estimates.

Here is the pertinent graph:

Figure 2 – Global mean sea level from 1870 to 2006 with one standard deviation error estimates (Church 2008).

All records I have seen show the sea level rising since 1870, about the time the Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear, and we started burning fossil fuels in earnest. The rate of increase has, itself, been increasing during the time we have increased the burn rate. Here is what the current activity looks like:

Those measurements are millimeters.

Anyhow, Congressman Brooks lives in Alabama’s 5th District, approximately 600 feet above sea level. He has nothing to worry about regarding sea level rise, which is expected to be as much as 200 feet if all the polar ice melts. In fact, if he could stay around long enough he might be able to cash in on some of Alabama’s beach front property boom.

People Unclear

An ongoing scandal – number 17

I’m wondering whether I should quit putting out these memos. Apparently nobody reads them. Included in “nobody” would be former judge Roy Moore of Alabama. That he has not read the memo has been long apparent. From the Huffington Post:

Alabama Senate Front-Runner: Evolution Is Fake And Homosexuality Should Be Illegal

By Antonia Blumberg

U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has approached his work over the decades as he once approached mastering kickboxing and building a house with [his] own hands: with laser focus and a fervent belief that he has God on his side.

Moore, 70, is vying to become the next U.S. senator for Alabama, and his chances are looking good. A poll released Monday by Louisiana-based JMC Analytics and Polling found that the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court holds an 8-point lead in the Republican primary run-off over his opponent, U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed by Alabama’s governor in February to temporarily fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whoever wins will face Democrat Doug Jones, whose odds are low in the overwhelmingly red state.

Right out of the gate this says something. Especially it says something about the great state of Alabama, previously discussed. The matter of Roy Moore has been covered previously here:

There is one thing his critics (that would include me) can appreciate about Judge Moore, and that is he does not hide his intent behind noble claims of advancing morality in the name of all faiths. It actually is refreshing to see a public official, such as Moore, come out and state that this country is for Christians (Jews if they behave themselves), and the rest of you idolaters can just go screw off. I’m sorry. Did I say Christians? I meant some Christians. Joel N. Shurkin has researched and posted a better hash of this issue than I could ever have done:

Including a fairly lengthy discussion of Moore’s doings and past history. In brief, from Wikipedia, Roy Moore was elected Chief Justice of Alabama in 2001, and apparently without much hesitation, he commenced to trample on constitutional law by commissioning a monument enshrining the biblical Ten Commandments and having the sculpture installed in the Alabama Judicial Building. Consequences ensued.

Suit was filed against this legal breach, and a federal court ordered the monument be removed. Judge Moore was the person in charge of the facility, and he refused to comply with the court order. For this official impropriety he was removed from his position of Chief Justice. Additional political involvement ensued, following which Roy Moore again ran for Chief Justice and was again elected by the people of Alabama—may Jesus have mercy on their souls.

Once again Judge Moore misapplied his position by defying a higher court that ruled against Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. He resigned his position and is now running for the United States Senate, a position he is likely to obtain.

What makes Roy Moore’s ascent to such an elevated position is his lack of understanding of some basic truths. We can start with his defiance of modern science. From The Washington Post:

The last 50 years, Moore argued, have witnessed the tragic removal of God from public life, from schools, from government, something that was never intended under the Constitution’s establishment clause. “There is no such thing as evolution,” he said at one point as he waited for his lunch. Species might adapt to their environment, he continued, but that has nothing to do with the origins of life described in the Bible. “That we came from a snake?” he asked rhetorically. “No, I don’t believe that.”

Of course, Roy Moore is correct in believing snakes are not ancestral to people. Studies of biological evolution indicate snakes and people share a common ancestor with no direct line of descent from one to the other. What is obvious from his statement, however, is complete ignorance of some high school science. What is appalling is his flaunting of his ignorance followed by Alabama voters’ acceptance. Would always your worst enemies be ever so benighted.

But here is what’s adding drama to this mess. Current President Donald Trump, no stranger to benightedness, is supporting Moore’s opponent Luther Strange in the Republican primary race. I am keenly aware how much Donald Trump dislikes losing, but this race has all the look of a big smashup for Trump. It’s going to fun to watch.

Of secondary interest is who is supporting Moore. Prime would be former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, neither of whom seem to have their heads on straight. Palin is no stranger to these pages, for a time getting her own series. Few deserve the honor more. Palin’s association with the factual world is tenuous at best. From an old news story:

Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago — about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct — the teacher said.

After conducting a college band and watching Palin deliver a commencement address to a small group of home-schooled students in June 1997, Wasilla resident Philip Munger said, he asked the young mayor about her religious beliefs.

Palin told him that “dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time,” Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said “she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks,” recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska.

It is small comfort to know that Steve Bannon is the more rational of the two.

Call me an alarmist if you wish, but the United States is about to be saddled with yet another nut case senator. Could things get much worse?

Wait! Donald Trump is President of the United States. Never mind.

Friday Funny

Possibly a new series

From Fox News

From Fox News

Let me see if I have this straight:

Republicans in the Alabama legislature reportedly are planning to introduce articles of impeachment against Alabama Governor Robert Bentley after he admitted to inappropriate conversations with a former top political aide.

Pressure has mounted around the 73-year-old Republican governor ever since he acknowledged last week that he made inappropriate sexual remarks to his former confidante and adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but denied having an affair with her.

Recordings obtained by The Associated Press purportedly show the governor, before his divorce, professing love to someone named Rebecca or Rebekah and telling her how much he enjoyed kissing and touching her. Mason resigned from his office Wednesday.

Jesus Christ! I did hear that right. A man, one Robert Bentley, was caught on the telephone, telling a woman, Rebekah Mason, he enjoyed kissing and touching her. And his fellow party members want him out of office. For this? Excuse me! Aren’t these the same people opposed to homosexuality and same sex marriage? Here is a fellow politician, implicated in a heterosexual relationship, and they’re threatening to can him over it. Dudes, after homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships, there’s not much left. I need to have a conversation with Barbara Jean over this.

We all need to step back for just a moment. Maybe a little science lesson is in order. Where do I start?

How about if I start with a basic fact. There are maybe seven billion people on this planet. They every one of them got here somehow, ;and that somehow shares a common theme: sexual reproduction. Yes, people. If Governor Robert Bentley did not do what they are saying he did, then the Robert Bentley line would terminate forthwith. The same goes for all lines of descent.

Let me put it to my readers bluntly. People hump. That’s what they do. And it’s good for the human species. Everything else is Bat Shit Crazy.

Rolling Thunder

Posted on Facebook

Posted on Facebook

This is choice. Politicians say the darndest things:

Chairman of Alabama GOP: Allowing same-sex marriage will bring down ‘God’s wrath’ upon us

The chairman of the Alabama Republican Party fretted on Wednesday that widespread acceptance of same-sex marriages will bring down “God’s wrath” on the United States and on Alabama.

Did I ever mention that we don’t pay our political leaders enough? Remind me sometime to do this. In the mean time, special consideration is due to party chairman Bill Armistead. By providing us a direct conduit into the inner most thoughts of the Lord God Almighty, Chairman Armistead has provided, not just the great state of Alabama, but all of us an invaluable service. Consider, if you will, what would have happened to us, if we had not gotten too late this vital instruction from the creator of the Universe. Will the name of Chairman Bill Armistead live forever in the annuls of the human race.

Beware, however, of the broken conduit:

Teenager claims it was God who led her to kill 68-year-old pastor

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 3:00 am

It’s a case where a man of God was allegedly killed by a young woman who says she was following the words of God.

 The slaying of 68-year-old Ronald Browning may be surrounded by questions, but a criminal complaint filed in Raleigh County Magistrate Court can answer a few of them.

Why would a 19-year-old woman kill a pastor? She says it was God who guided her.

“I didn’t even know him,” Camille Iman Browne said in the complaint. “I was just following God’s plan.”

See what I mean. This teenager, this woman, is obviously not a true witness of God’s word. It’s so obvious. We know she’s not because… Because, well just because.

Then how, you might ask, do we distinguish between God’s real switchboard operator and a pretender such as the deranged Camille Iman Browne? The question has been pondered. The answer is obvious:

  • When we hear what we want to hear, it’s the true voice of God.
  • Everything else is the mindless prattling of scoundrels and fools.

God really does work in mysterious, and such wonderful, ways.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Point Made Clear

I had to go back and read this again. Here it is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yes! That’s what I thought it said. Especially the part about “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What I missed apparently in all of this is the part about Christians. Fortunately Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has cleared that up for us:

Alabama’s chief justice: Buddha didn’t create us so First Amendment only protects Christians

By Scott Kaufman Friday, May 2, 2014 12:50 EDT

Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us. “They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

I am glad Justice Moore has cleared that up, and I’m glad he has decided to stop playing games, because there was the possibility he had become circumspect in his push for a Judeo-Christian theocracy. Certain of Judge Moore’s past actions should have given the clue that he would be unbending in this:

Soon after his appointment [as a circuit judge], when Moore presided over a case where two male strippers (known professionally as “Silk” and “Satin”) were charged with murdering a drug addict, the attorney for the defendants objected to the display. This drew the attention of critics, who also objected to Moore’s practice of opening court sessions with a prayer beseeching Divine Guidance for jurors in their deliberations. (In at least one instance, Judge Moore asked a clergyman to lead the court’s jury pool in prayer.) Though such pre-session prayers were not uncommon in Alabama, having begun many years earlier by George C. Wallace, Jr., when he was a circuit judge, the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter in June 1993 with the threat of a lawsuit if such prayers did not cease. [Some links removed]

Regarding a plaque depicting the judges on version of the Ten Commandments:

In March 1995, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Moore, claiming that the pre-session prayers and the Ten Commandments display were both unconstitutional. This original lawsuit was eventually dismissed for technical reasons, but Governor Fob James instructed state Attorney General Bill Pryor to file suit in Montgomery County in support of Moore. The case ended up before state Circuit Judge Charles Price, who in 1996 declared the prayers unconstitutional but initially allowed the Ten Commandments plaque to remain on the courtroom walls. Immediately after the ruling, Moore held a press conference vowing to defy the ruling against pre-session prayers and affirming a religious intent in displaying the plaque. Critics responded by asking Price to reconsider his previous ruling, and the judge issued a new ruling requiring the Ten Commandments plaque to be removed in ten days. Moore appealed Price’s decision and kept the plaque up; ten days later the Alabama Supreme Court issued a temporary stay against the ruling. The Court never ruled in the case, throwing it out for technical reasons in 1998. [Emphasis added]

There is one thing his critics (that would include me) can appreciate about Judge Moore, and that is he does not hide his intent behind noble claims of advancing morality in the name of all faiths. It actually is refreshing to see a public official, such as Moore, come out and state that this country is for Christians (Jews if they behave themselves), and the rest of you idolaters can just go screw off. I’m sorry. Did I say Christians? I meant some Christians. Joel N. Shurkin has researched and posted a better hash of this issue than I could ever have done:

Moore was probably unaware that even the numbering of the Decalogue is a matter of dispute. There are at least four methods of numbering the “Ten”: Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox.

Is the first line, “I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt….”a statement or a commandment? Some Christians say it is a statement, a prelude to what follows. That would leave them with nine commandments, but they break the last one into two prohibitions, one against lusting after your neighbor’s wife and another against coveting your neighbor’s property, to get back up to ten. Maimonides, though, said that the first phrase was a commandment to recognize the one God, an affirmation of monotheism.

In typical fashion, Jewish scholars have debated just how many commandments the Ten Commandments contain, and numbers vary up to near 30, depending on how you divide the sentences. Of course, “Ten Commandments”is not a Jewish term anyway. In Hebrew, the Decalogue is called aseret ha-dibrot, which means statements or utterances, not aseret ha-mitzvot.

Beyond numbering, mainstream Christianity’s and mainstream Judaism’s relationships to the Decalogue have long been complex. Rosann Catalano, Arian’s Roman Catholic counterpart at the institute, says that “generally, they carry the sacred word of the living God and we’re obliged to heed them.” Yet while Catalano says that the Decalogue has not been superseded by the New Testament, Christians regularly disobey two of the 10, the one against graven images (visit any Catholic or Eastern Orthodox church) and the one requiring Sabbath observance (almost all but Seventh Day Adventists). They believe Jesus made them less imperative, and some Christian scholars believe the Sermon on the Mount might have superseded the commandments.

Perhaps surprisingly, mainstream Judaism also has a complicated relationship with the Ten Commandments.

The Jewish Studies scholar Everett Fox, whose poetic translation of the Torah was a best-seller, called the Ten Commandments the “cornerstone of Western civilization-although a glance at them will reveal that they have not even very well followed over the past two millennia.” Similarly, Rabbi Bradd Boxman of Har Sinai, a Reform synagogue in Owings Mills, MD , calls the Decalogue “one of the most important advances in the history of humankind. It incorporates the breadth and scope of what a just and civilized society should look like.”

But in traditional Judaism, the Decalogue is deliberately de-emphasized, the result of a brawl going back to when the Christians separated from Judaism. In the days of early synagogue, both the Decalogue and the Shema were recited at services. The early Judeo-Christians made much of the ethical focus of the Ten Commandments (at least the last six, anyway), arguing that it showed that ethics, not ritual law, was the fundamental essence of the Covenant. In response, the early rabbis decided to play down the Ten Commandments (see Berachot 12a) and the Shema became the sole “Watchword of the Faith” of Judaism.

Judge Moore dictated the design of the monument he caused to be placed in the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda. The monument is capped by an inscription of the Ten Commandments, but in an abbreviated form. See the image. The inscription reads (using lower case where appropriate):

I am the Lord thy God
Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Thou shalt not the name of the Lord thy God in vain
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
Honor thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not bear false witness
From Google Images

From Google Images

Judge Moore’s remark that “First Amendment only applies to Christians …” is hard to reconcile with his infatuation with the Ten Commandments, since the Ten Commandments, as traditionally accepted, is sort of a Jewish thing. The judge is right on one point: “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us.” Obviously Buddha did not create us and Mohamed did not create us. Mohamed is only considered to be a prophet and not a god—not a creator. However, and Judge Moore seems to have missed this point, the God of Islam is exactly the same as the God of Abraham. So, what’s Judge Moore’s point? Nothing, in my view, except that religious bigotry seems to be his thing.

I’m glad that point has been made clear.