It has been 20 years nearly to the day that Hurricane Isabel came ashore in North Carolina, causing enormous destruction along the densely built eastern seaboard as it moved up through Virginia and on into the northeastern United States. Now Tropical Storm Ophelia has made landfall in North Carolina and it appears it will follow a similar path of destruction as Hurricane Isabel did 20 years ago.
The notable difference between the two weather systems, besides strength, is how much later in the alphabet the “O” in Ophelia comes after the “I” in Isabel. I – J – K – L – M – N – O. That’s a six letter difference, yet the time of year for the landfall of both systems is nearly the same. Using the alphabetical convention for naming Atlantic storms this way is admittedly a seat of the pants method for marking 20 years of climate change, but it’s memorable in the same way that markings on a door jamb tell the story of a child’s growth over the years.
High water marks on a door jamb in Wertheim am Main, Germany. 2011 photo by Rainer Lippert.
The convention for naming storms has been in place since 1953. The U.S. National Hurricane Center at first maintained the list of storm names, a task which has since been taken over by the World Meteorological Organization. Only twice since 1953 has either organization run out of letters of the English alphabet and had to resort to letters of the Greek alphabet, in 2005 and 2020. They may run out again this year.
A scene from Jaws, a 1975 movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss. Warning: foul language.
In records going back to the late nineteenth century, the three most active Atlantic storm seasons have occurred in the last 20 years. None of the least active seasons have occurred in the last 20 years. If this trend continues, running out of English alphabet letters to use in naming storms may become a common occurrence over the next 20 years. Such an eventuality will be far from an ideal way for the inhabitants of the eastern seaboard and points inland to learn Greek.
Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on May 13 of this year that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings, while unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks, a magical thing has happened in this country, and that is the huge increase in vaccination rates everywhere, as evidenced by how few people are still wearing masks indoors in any setting. Before May 13, the fully vaccinated percentage of the population stood at about 35 percent; after May 13, it appears that percentage leapt to upwards of 70 percent. Incredible! Herd immunity achieved overnight!
A sign regarding mask policy at a Walmart in Chantilly, Virginia, on May 20, 2021, shortly after the CDC issued new guidelines. Note how the wording does not require unvaccinated customers to wear a mask as a condition of entering the store. Photo by Famartin.
It’s heartening to look around at fellow citizens in shops, grocery stores, and restaurants and assess by an eyeball estimate that even more than 70 percent of adults appear to be fully vaccinated. In some places around the country, the number of fully vaccinated adults could even be as high as 90 percent, based on visual estimates. What’s holding the vaccination numbers back for the total population is the lack of a vaccine suitable for children under 12. In some shops, young children are almost the only ones wearing masks.
The CDC has statistics putting the nationwide percentage of fully vaccinated people at about 50 percent as of late July. Fake news! Anyone can waltz into their local big box store, where signs at the entrance clearly advise unvaccinated customers to don masks before entering, and see with their own eyes that the CDC’s numbers don’t tell the whole story. The CDC must be gathering data from people outside of stores, or even from ones who never set foot indoors at a public venue. Since the CDC is obviously part of the Deep State, their numbers are not to be trusted by honest Americans.
It’s the honor system in operation, see, and since Americans are honorable people, they would never falsely represent their vaccination status in order to satisfy their own selfish whims and perverse ideas, not when behaving that way could endanger their fellow Americans, among them the honestly unvaccinated, such as young children and those who are immunocompromised. No, when it comes to weighing the evidence of one’s eyes and belief in the honorability of fellow Americans against the statistical mumbo jumbo disseminated by a cabal of Deep State scientists at the CDC, the scales definitely tilt toward siding with all the American patriots cruising maskless down the aisles of Walmart and Costco.
Supermarket social distancing signs in Ireland in August 2020. Follow the blue sign floor tiles! Photo by Ear-phone.
According to the CDC, as of July 25, 2021 the percentage of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 was 49.1 percent. That’s an increase of only about 14 percent since May 13, 2021. Herd immunity won’t be reached until the percentage of fully vaccinated is over 70 percent. Considering how vaccination rates have been slowing, it’s unlikely Americans will achieve herd immunity before the onset of cold weather forces more activities back indoors for the winter.
Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming. In Kansas, the state Dorothy called home, the COVID-19 vaccination rate is 44.9 percent, 4.2 percentage points below the national average. In a land of alternative facts somewhere over the rainbow, the vaccination rate is much higher – away above the chimney tops, in fact.
Absent widespread vaccine mandates, it could be that a vaccination rate of about 65 percent will be a limit past which we cannot move due to the political and cultural divisions in the country, as honorable American snowflakes dig in their heels like recalcitrant children and refuse to become socialist tools by doing the right thing for others, even passing up bribes from state and local governments. They may kill themselves for the puerile satisfaction of owning the libs, and so be it, but in the meantime they will serve as incubators for new, possibly more dangerous coronavirus variants, and they will spread their affliction to everyone else, even within the magical realm past shop doors.
For industries teetering on the edge of irrelevance,the strategy to remain relevant has always been the same – deny their activities have caused a problem, debunk evidence of harm, and claim they are only giving the people what they want, thus shifting blame onto consumers. From the tobacco industry to the fossil fuel extractors and the pesticide and herbicide manufacturers, they all follow the same script as evidence mounts that the products they once touted as a boon to humanity turn out to be poisonous. Poisonous to mind and body. Poisonous to people, to animals, and to the planet.
The Melbourne Global climate strike on Sep. 20, 2019, was attended by over 100,000 people, making it the largest climate protest in Australia to date, and rivaling the anti-war protests in 2003 and the Vietnam Moratorium in 1970. Photo by Flickr user Takver.
Add to the list of peddlers of poison for profit agribusiness and its processed foods, along with animal confinement operations and massive applications of fertilizers that deplete the soil instead of enriching it, ultimately leaching into the water every creature needs for survival. Give the people what they want. In entertainment, give the people gossipy reality television shows in the evening and mean-spirited confrontation programming in the daytime.
Social media companies give people information dressed up as news when it is nothing more than pandering to what they want to hear. If giving the people what they want absolves purveyors of poison from responsibility for their actions as they go about making money, then hardly anyone is responsible for anything. A sociopath is concerned only with what he or she wants, and whether the pursuit of those wants interferes with the rights and needs of others is material only to the extent that those others can obstruct the sociopath in achieving their desired end. That’s the society of imagined meritocracy and capitalism of “looking out for number one” that giving the people what they want instead of what they need has created.
The new Ford F150 Lightning battery-powered pickup truck is a step in the right direction of redressing these hypocritical imbalances in an energy hungry society. The original F150, the gasoline-powered one, has been the best selling vehicle in the United States for over three decades. The gas-powered pickup truck will still be available alongside the battery-powered version, but the investment Ford made in developing the Lightning was not insignificant. They could have developed a different vehicle altogether as their flagship entry into the battery-powered market. Putting that investment into a version of their biggest breadwinner, the F150 truck for the masses, is a big step toward making use of electric vehicles common.
A scene from the 1970 film Little Big Man, directed by Arthur Penn. Chief Dan George played Old Lodge Skins, and Dustin Hoffman portrayed the picaresque title character.
The development of the Lightning could do for electric vehicles what Ford’s innovation with the Model T did for internal combustion engine passenger vehicles over 100 years ago, namely make a new technology accessible to everyday people. Electric vehicle models have until now been popular only in niche markets, whether that’s more well off people with a need for sportiness driving a Tesla, or people whose need for merely getting around town could be met by a Chevy Volt. If the Lightning becomes as popular today as the Model T did in its day, then it could go a long way toward redressing the climate imbalances kicked off in large part by its predecessor.
In this illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice encounters the Duchess and a squalling baby, as well as a cook and the Cheshire-Cat.
In a speech on January 15, President-elect Joe Biden condemned Republican members of Congress who refused to wear masks while locked down in close quarters during the insurrection by dangerous right wing loonies at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. on January 6. Biden praised Delaware Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, for offering masks to her colleagues, and he then commented on the Republicans who refused masks, among whom was macho man Representative Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma, saying, “What the hell is the matter with them? It’s time to grow up!”
Indeed it is long past time for anti-maskers, QAnon conspiracy nuts, and all the other right wing loonies to grow up. Sane people have run out of tolerance for their antics and ravings. The refusal by some Republican members of Congress to wear masks in one part of the Capitol building while the rest of it was being overrun by seditious rioters may seem like a small thing, but the two actions are nevertheless equivalent in their reckless disregard for others. Since the wing nuts will most likely refuse to grow up just as they refuse masks, then perhaps after Inauguration Day on Wednesday the rest of the country can ignore them more easily once their cult leader is out of power.
Demonstrators at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017 wear Pussy Hats. Photo by Liz Lemon.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thanks men and women of the National Guard protecting the Capitol during the second impeachment of the outgoing president on January 13, 2021. Photo from the Office of Nancy Pelosi.
Maybe after four long, horrible years of darkness, relations of all kinds will have an opportunity to breathe and become vital again once all the available oxygen isn’t being sucked up by a malignant narcissist in the White House and his vicious, tantrum-prone followers. Maybe soon we can get back to working on the real problems which bedevil us, undistracted by the cries for attention of whiny, overgrown toddlers.
An effigy of the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief gagged by what appears to be a Pussy Hat during the D.C. Women’s March on January 21, 2017. Photo by Lorie Shaull.
“Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tua da gloriam.”
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.” — Psalm 115, from the King James Version of the Bible.
As Thanksgiving approaches and family gatherings appear to be limited for the holiday on account of COVID-19, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater problems weighing down many unfortunate people this year, such as hunger and homelessness. People of sufficient means can afford to fret over not seeing friends and relatives in person, or over temporary shortages of goods and services inconveniencing them, but they at least have a warm, secure place to live, and enough food and other necessities to go around. Should they become sick, they have access to quality medical attention.
The cover of a pamphlet from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reminding Americans of the need in a country with plentiful food to be mindful of not eating too much.
What about the people without all those good things to be thankful for this year? The economic disruption of COVID-19 has pushed millions of people into desperate straits this year, most of them workers in the service sector who could least afford to miss a paycheck. While professionals could work from home using a computer and an internet connection, that option has not been available to most service workers, for whom the choice has been to work and thereby expose themselves to the coronavirus or stay home as long as they had a home to stay in and money to buy food. Some have been able to sustain themselves on financial assistance, others have not.
As bad as prolonged isolation can be, poverty is worse. As inconvenient as it can be to have money and not always have goods available in stores to buy, or restaurants to visit for some time out of the house, it is worse to work in those stores and restaurants for low wages and be exposed eight hours or more a day to coronavirus, and yet have to endure the abuse of entitled, spoiled, petulant customers, or to not have a job at all. For all that, there are still ways to say “thanks” this holiday season, and to help someone else along the way.
Food banks are experiencing greater demand now than at any time in recent memory. The same goes for soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other charities helping the recently displaced as well as the chronically underemployed. There are safe ways to volunteer, but if that doesn’t seem possible, then help out by making a donation. Hospital staffs around the country are overworked, and they could use the assistance even of people without medical training. Farmers are reporting reduced demand for turkeys over 20 pounds because fewer large groups will be gathering for holiday dinners in their homes. The hungry who can’t afford to buy those larger turkeys could surely benefit by having them bought for them. Help carry the burden of this pandemic by picking up the fallen, and say grace in thanks to whatever faith sees you through another day.
Patrick Doyle composed this version of the traditional Catholic hymn “Non Nobis, Domine” for the 1989 film Henry V, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. Mr. Doyle appears as the soldier singing at the beginning of the scene, which depicts the aftermath of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt in the Hundred Years’ War.
“To be able to hold comfortably in one’s mind the validity and usefulness of two contradictory truths is the source of tolerance, openness, and, most important, a sense of humor, which is the greatest enemy of fanaticism.”
— from The End of Education, a 1995 book by Neil Postman.
In August, the CDC released figures on coronavirus death rates and comorbidities which right wing social media users chose to interpret as confirmation that only six percent of reported coronavirus deaths were ultimately due to the virus, leading the current president and his cult followers to howl that previously published death totals were wildly inflated, no doubt for no better reason than to make President Dumpster Fire look bad. Some misinterpreted the report out of ignorance, surely, but others who fanned the flames on social media chose to misinterpret it to suit their political agenda.
When a person gets stabbed to death by an attacker, the ultimate cause of death would be blood loss. That doesn’t change the fact that a knife wielded by a murderer caused fatal wounds to open up blood vessels which poured out the victim’s life. For that matter, every death could be attributed to lack of oxygen. But it’s not as if it’s an everyday occurrence that otherwise healthy people suddenly stop breathing and drop dead. There are contributing factors, and some less healthy people are susceptible to suffering catastrophic consequences from them when their body can no longer fight off an attacker. That attacker could be a coronavirus.
“Springtime for Hitler”, from the 1967 film The Producers, written and directed by Mel Brooks, and starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.
Social media consumers who jump on everything they see online that fits their distorted and often unreal worldview and then parrot it unthinkingly are not only a nuisance of the present era, but as the most important election of the era looms ahead such people are a menace to public safety. They read and digest vitriolic lies and then spew them out again, magnifying the reach of disinformation, much of it meant to cause harm. The most effective deterrents to the lies spread on social media by fools and evildoers are ridicule and facts. Hard as it may be in these times to keep a sense of humor, it is necessary not only for keeping one’s bearings, but for knocking down nonsense when facts alone won’t suffice.
“The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” — John 3:8, from the American Standard Version of the Bible.
The wind blows pollen from male trees in towns and cities across the country, and because there are far fewer female trees planted due to the perceived messiness of their fruits and seeds, much of the pollen lands instead in the breathing passages of people and animals, provoking allergic reactions. For trees, it’s an isolating and nearly sterile environment. Rain washes the pollen away from the streets and the houses and the cars eventually, but the people and animals have already inhaled more than some can tolerate.
A person can stand alone a very long time and be at peace, not feeling lonely, and until the wind whispers in their ear about the possibility of someone’s loving companionship they might stay alone, happily, for many years more. The wind has blown good news in that case, but it may as well have stayed calm and quiet. It is impossible to ignore the wind’s news, however, and in altered circumstances the person now realizes, oddly, how lonely life can be.
Boreas, a 1903 painting by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917).
Love scene from Vertigo, a 1958 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Kim Novak and James Stewart. Bernard Herrmann wrote the haunting score.
Would it have been better not to listen? Better to shut the windows against the noise, the pollution, the pollen, and everything else carried by the wind? Everyone has to make up their own mind about it, and things change and therefore minds change as well. Even a person who rarely feels lonely can suddenly understand what it means when experiencing the loss of a loved one, or when falling in love with someone whose absences leave a void filled only with reveries of times spent together and dreams of future unions.
Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer performs “Metamorphosis Two”, by American composer Philip Glass. Mr. Glass wrote the piece in 1988 and recorded it in 1989, and in 2002 he incorporated it into his score for the film The Hours.
Patience with those gaps means as much as patience with one another in the times spent together. Being patient demonstrates trust in the other person and acknowledges vulnerability to them. There’s no use in rushing; haste will only create a shaky foundation. You don’t know where love came from, and much as you would like an end to anxiety by knowing where it is going, you can’t. A person might say, imploringly, to the wind if not to one’s beloved, “I didn’t know I was lonely until I met you, and now that I have fallen in love and experienced loneliness when we are apart, I wish an end to loneliness. Please comfort me by returning my love!” But all you can wisely do is listen, and open yourself up, and give generously without demanding a return. “Love is a thing full of anxious fears.” — Ovid
Linda Ronstadt sings lead, with harmonies by Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, for their rendition of “Feels Like Home”, written by Randy Newman.
No matter how incompetently the current president handles crises, from the toll taken on the nation’s health and economy by the coronavirus to the nationwide protests in response to the police murder of George Floyd, his supporters, followers, and enablers continue giving him a free pass. No evidence makes an impression on them.
The coronavirus is a plot by Democrats to make the current president look bad! No, he makes himself look bad, in the same way that those pants don’t make you look fat – your fat makes you look fat. And the George Floyd protesters need to be dominated in the streets, because that’s what a strong leader does! Never mind that it is the behavior of a tinpot dictator, not the leader of a nation of laws guaranteeing the freedoms of speech and peaceable assembly.
A Flat Earth map drawn in 1893 by Professor Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Looks rather like a roulette wheel. From the collection of the Library of Congress.
There’s the word “peaceable” that reactionaries have hung their hats on for centuries as an excuse to violently quell protests. If only some of the protesters can be goaded into violence by agents provocateurs planted among them by law enforcement agencies or private reactionary groups, then the police employees in riot armor can have license to start swinging their clubs and firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into the crowds. In the ensuing confusion, it’s difficult for reporters or other independent investigators to locate and prove the identity of the provocateurs.
Boy making a rainbow with spray from a garden hose in Charleston, South Australia in January 2019. Photo by Photwik.
Too many people believe, in the end, only what they want to believe, and do not care to trouble themselves any further with truthful details. It’s simpler that way, comforting really. Observational evidence will not convince them to change their minds. To use an example from the natural world, through the years many gardeners and even some professional horticulturists have believed that watering plants in sunshine will scorch the plants’ leaves on account of a supposed magnifying lens effect from water droplets.
Not only has this myth been scientifically disproved, but the evidence there is no validity in it is plain for anyone to see who has watered annual flowering plants tightly packed in a hanging basket or pot. No escaping getting water on the foliage there, and those plants appear to get along alright, and better than they would if the worried gardener had withheld the spray of water waiting for a cloudy day. Yet many continue to believe, because they would rather believe the story their mind and culture invents for them than what the plants themselves are showing. We’re alright! Thanks for the water on a hot, sunny day! Here’s a rainbow for your trouble!
The surgical masks many people are wearing in public now are less effective at preventing coronavirus infection than they probably realize. The cloth masks and bandanas are even less effective. What’s the point of wearing them then, if they do almost nothing and social distancing and hand washing are far more effective measures? It comes down to signaling in a number of ways.
Guidance* from the CDC. Odd that the person in the illustration has no eyes. The mucous membranes of the eyes can be an avenue for the coronavirus into the body. As in the illustration, the masks most people wear do not cover their eyes.
In East Asian societies, where conforming for the sake of the greater good is the usual practice, wearing a mask during a public health crisis signals to others that you care enough not to pass along to them your potentially toxic exhalations. In Western societies, wearing a mask more often signals the opposite, which is that you do not want to catch anything from someone else’s infectious effluvia. However you look at your reason for wearing a mask, the ultimate effectiveness of the typical mask is minimal, though preventing yourself from infecting others puts it to better use because it stops most droplets you produce by sneezing and coughing from getting into the space of others.
Wearing a mask when almost everyone else is wearing one signals you are in on the latest information from the public health service. You know and understand everyone has to do their part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Never mind that wearing a surgical or cloth mask is not an important defense against a virus that is one micron in size, tiny enough that thousands of them can flow through the gaps in the material as well as around the laughably poor seal at the edges of the typical mask. It’s not rational to expect much from these masks, but people wear them either out of ignorance or because they want to signal they are considerate of others in the public space.
Another kind of signaling that comes with wearing these masks is being done by companies that are still open for business and dealing with the public more or less face to face, such as in retail establishments. Some companies have started requiring their employees to wear masks, and some even require customers to wear them if they want to do business inside the store. The owners and managers no doubt mean well, and there is no reason to expect they would be any wiser to the relative ineffectiveness of the masks than the general public, but there is still a taint of virtue signaling in their new policies. They say they are merely following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, and so they are. Meanwhile it doesn’t hurt their bottom line to trumpet to consumers the safety measures they have undertaken on their behalf, even though one of those measures – wearing masks – is almost entirely cosmetic.
From the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme, Talking Heads guitarist and singer David Byrne and bassist Tina Weymouth perform “Heaven”, with backup vocals by Lynn Mabry offstage.
The worst part of requiring employees to wear masks at all times when dealing with the public is that it may increase the workers’ chances of becoming sick with the coronavirus. It is one thing for a shopper to don a mask for half hour or hour stints, and quite another for a worker to wear a mask for an entire eight hour shift. A mask is often uncomfortable and requires frequent adjustment, leading the wearer to touch their face more frequently than they might if they wore no mask at all. Unless a worker exchanges their mask daily for a fresh one, the result can be unhygienic to the point of defeating any purpose to its use. The cloth masks and bandanas can be especially bad unless they’re washed or exchanged daily. Go ahead and wear a mask if it reassures you and others you encounter in these troubled times, just don’t harbor any delusions about its effectiveness, leading you to neglect the crucial measures you can take to stay healthy, like washing your hands frequently and keeping your distance from those others you’re trying to signal.
* Update: This news story illustrates how the CDC has bent to the political winds blowing from the White House, to the detriment of the health of all Americans as well as the CDC’s outstanding reputation.
Like everything else in our culture, food has gender associations. Steak is masculine, and salad is feminine. That’s a gross generalization, of course, but one that is valid enough for advertisers and marketers to recognize and exploit. The television commercials for Arby’s restaurants are an obvious example, wherein a narrator announces in his sonorous baritone that Arby’s has “the meats.” It’s not easy to imagine a female narrator making the same pronouncement.
Marketing campaigns and the tactics advertisers deploy in them are a window into a culture’s true underlying motivations, into its id, because advertisers understand the greater value for them and their clients of appealing to emotion over reason. They don’t create cultural stereotypes; they only exploit them. What follows is a short list, by no means comprehensive, of the preferred foods of men and women as advertisers see them.
For men – steak, hamburgers, pizza, beer, hot peppers, sausages, peanuts, fried chicken, barbecue, chili, chips, liquor, bacon, salami, shepherd’s pie, the keto diet (when employed as a scientific-sounding excuse for eating more meat).
Michelle Obama serving food on March 5, 2009 at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local non-profit organization that provides healthy, nutritious meals to the homeless in Washington, D.C.. White House photo by Joyce Boghosian.
For women – salads, cupcakes, chocolate, wine, baked chicken, vegetarian lasagna, quiche, souffle, casseroles, soups, cottage cheese.
What a lot of nonsense! It would be easy to blame advertisers for gender prejudices toward food if it weren’t for the reality that they only exploit and reinforce the prejudices already held by their target audiences. Having enough quality food to eat should be the first priority for people of any gender. Of the two stereotyped cuisines, however, the one supposedly preferred by men is overall unhealthier for the eaters and for the planet. Maybe leave the testosterone aside and make room on the plate for mushroom risotto, fruit salad, and an effort to help make the world a better place.