Both Major Parties Take The Myopic View Human Existence Revolves Around Profligate Economies

Whenever we’re on the verge of avoiding disasters and accomplishing something meaningful for America’s future, international welfare and life itself, obstructionists sabotage our progress. Both major parties, GOP extremists especially, take the myopic view human existence revolves around profligate economies ─ prices at pumps, tenderloin sales (subsidized by taxes), mortgages; car loans. Levying a $175 billion/year, decade-long tithe on tax-avoidant rich and corporations to fund Build Back Better is somehow too expensive, delaying passage of transformative, desperately-needed initiatives. Yet, the world’s most gluttonous military budget ($770 billion/year or $7.7 trillion projected over 10), emptying the government’s coffers, sails through Congress

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It’s Time to Focus on What was Good in 2021

Life’s impossible without viruses. But, Gaia hypotheses aside, 2021 was a grim reminder of our tendencies towards self-destruction. Vaccine-averse pandemic deaths, pervasive climate change disasters, political toxicity, supply-chain bottlenecks and dim-witted insurrectionists were unwanted hallmarks. Erich Maria Remarque, who wrote All Quiet on the Western Front, was correct in saying “human beings are a worse poison than schnapps and tobacco,” adding “the more primitive we are, the more we believe ourselves to be.” Yet, however Cassandra curses dog us scientists and social critics’ writings project dissatisfaction (as Dickens, Sinclair, Orwell and Huxley once did), it’s time to focus on what

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Savor Your Holidays the Way Butterflies Count Moments

By spring 1971, my dormitory wall had the usual art befitting college freshmen ─ a compulsory black light poster (Escher’s “Dream Mantis”), W.C. Fields, quotes from Langston Hughes and both ends of longevity described in wall hangings. Alleviating academic pressures, one philosophized about “growing taller by walking through the trees;” the other how “butterflies, by not counting days but moments, had time enough.”  Holidays, too, are perfect times to ponder contingencies of existence, how all life wins a cosmic lottery to be here. But once another calendar ticks down, it all seems fleeting. Neil Diamond’s “Done Too Soon” nails the

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We’re Teetering on the Edge of Civil Violence Northern Ireland once Endured

One needn’t read Nietzsche, Hegel or sociologic discourse to conclude “God” and America share slabs in the morgue. Our gun-maniacal culture of violence fills judicial and legislative dockets with “leads that bleed.” Mark Meadows, slapped with contempt of congress charges, hasn’t given depositions before the Capitol Riot Committee. But, a 38-page PowerPoint and incriminating texts were leaked, including Fox News e-mails “directing” Donald Trump to stop the Jan. 6th incursion. Outlined was the former administration’s plan to overturn President Biden’s election, a handbook for sedition which included fake declarations of national security emergencies, fabricated foreign interference and wholesale invalidation of

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Taxes Shouldn’t Subsidize Meat Addictions Contributing to Moral and Physical Afflictions.

With worsening wildfires, deforestation and threats to alpine species like the pika, the Colorado River goes dry each year, never reaching the Gulf of California due to global warming and the worst American drought in 1,200 years. Climate change not only keeps winter snow packs from meeting regional water demands, but 10 percent of what melts is lost to summer heat waves. Last year, Lakes Mead and Powell lost nearly a million acre-feet of water to evaporation. Not that cattle ranching, intense irrigation of arid land, and 40 million other Americans in seven western states don’t overuse the resource, contributing

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COVID isn’t Some Fad ─ Here Today, Gone Tomorrow ─ it’s a Biological Fixture

Quantum physicist Erwin Schrodinger said, “In an honest search for knowledge, you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period.” Opinions, beliefs and presumptive guesswork, before evaluating and confirming facts, only obscure the search for tenable explanations and truth. It takes rigorous, replicable experiments and statistical analyses (the “re” in research) before observable facts enter textbooks and the canon of objective knowledge. Having a population that doesn’t understand that process or the surrounding world it seeks to explain, ignoring experts in biological and environmental fields, has put us in the crosshairs of contagion and climate change. “True

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When Local Papers Go Under, Democracy Follows

American newspapers are traceable to Jamestown, Virginia (1619), even before the tradition fully evolved in England, but long after news summaries appeared in Germany and the Netherlands. Mostly one-off “broadsides,” it wasn’t until the 1690s before regularly-produced newsprint started to appear. The first daily in NYC, newsprint’s Mecca, was published in 1783 by Noah Webster, who gave America its first dictionary. By 1800 the still fledgling nation had 200 newspapers in circulation. By 1860, with affordable “penny presses” boosting readership in many cities, there were 3,000. Since 1800, when the first periodical was published in a NYC prison, 500 newspapers

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Cipolla’s Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves its children.” So wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor speaking out against Nazi atrocities. Executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp days before liberation, Bonhoeffer found “readiness for responsibility” springboards for action. In “Letters from Prison,” he wrote how stupidity, not malice was the root of his country’s problems. Evil and malice, he surmised, can be exposed and prevented. Against asininity we’re defenseless. Dolts self-satisfy by defying truth. So, facts that contradict a stupid person’s prejudgment are simply not believed or, when irrefutable, are pushed aside as inconsequential.

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On Learning Your Life’s Work Amounts to Nothing

No weapon’s more devastating than learning your life’s work amounts to nothing. Psychological experiments on how humans respond, when their reasons for labor are diminished, test the “Sisyphean condition.” Folks work harder when their purpose seems meaningful, a relationship between significance and motivation often ignored. Mythology’s Sisyphus was punished by Zeus for ruthless, inhospitable behavior towards travelers. Generosity and good treatment of foreigners and guests (i.e., Xenia) was a moral obligation in ancient Greece. Sisyphus’ hubris violated that code. For eternity in Hades, he was forced to roll a boulder uphill, only to have it tumble back again before reaching

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Only a party with perverse notions of ‘Patriotism’ and ‘Freedom’ Would Oppose Vaccinations and Mask Mandates

Cognitive bias studies reveal humans are far-removed from Enlightenment ideals of rational beings objectively weighing scientific facts, deduction and high moral tenets against their beliefs. Not that absolute truths and irrefutable evidence don’t exist on which majorities of people can agree and form consensus, even in the U.S. But, this is an unprincipled, irrational time in American history. Cultural-evolution is regressing. Lost probity, distrust in institutions and decades of political rancor, stoked by Republicans and Democrats alike, have spawned extremist subcultures that, to our collective detriment, refuse to be taught or follow advice from qualified experts. Arguments rarely have equally

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Corrupt, Sheepish Adherence to the Status Quo Begets an Aftermath of Wolves

Pursuant to federal duties prescribed in the Constitution, nothing embodies commerce more than transportation, communication and energy access. Yet, America’s electrical grid is near-obsolete, broadband distribution is poor and 1/4 U.S. highway miles and 1/3 of our bridges dangerously need replacement or repair. Linked to proposed infrastructure fixes is a transformative, 2,465-page reconciliation bill, comprising the Build Back Better Act ─ “BBB,” desperately needed to combat climate change and save our middleclass by expanding citizen safety nets. Just as record heat waves, floods, mudslides, high winds and wildfires turn tax-paid edifices into rubble, poverty is corrosive to society. Already weakened

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Less Reliance on Imports Will Generate Locally-Sustainable Economies and Jobs

As inoculations against SARS-CoV-2 lag, U.S. death tolls, topping 725,000, continue to climb. By year’s end, if vaccine-recalcitrance continues, more Americans will have died from COVID-19 than combined U.S. war fatalities, excluding WWII. Many infections, resulting from unheeded mandates and advisories, and resistances to fact, were preventable, dwarfed by domestic firearms murders (1.6 million since 1968), surpassing U.S. mortalities from 1918 flu. Final tallies depend on vaccinations. Tuesday, countervailing anti-vax propaganda, Fox News correctly debunked misinformation about the death of Colin Powell. Despite being vaccinated, Powell passed away from preexisting conditions and a “breakthrough infection.” Countering anti-vaxxers, Fox correctly reported

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Democracy Won’t Keep Pace When Celebrity Justifies Press Attention

Bedeviled by disinformation, advertising and political deceit within our own species, only ethologists, such as I, preoccupy ourselves with deviations between perception and reality among other animals. How senses evolve to narrow that gap with increasing resolution is amazing. Visual communication on land is seriously constrained by light scattering, creating veils between objects of interest and observers’ eyes, as anyone with cataracts can relate. Because shorter wavelengths (blue) scatter more than lower-energy light (red), diurnal and aquatic animals, living in shallows, adapted accordingly. Filters in front of photoreceptor surfaces selectively reduce transmission of shorter wavelengths like specialized camera lenses. These

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40 Years Ago Carter Warned of a Loss of Confidence in our Institutions and General Lack of Unity

On July 5, 1979, President Jimmy Carter canceled his scheduled address to the nation, communing instead with workaday citizens to find causes of America’s problems. His “malaise speech” followed 10 days later. Carter, first president to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change, intoned about our inabilities to solve underlying problems, especially energy. To blame, he posited, was a national loss of confidence in our institutions and general lack of unity, meaning and sense of purpose in our lives. At crossroads, Carter urged us to choose paths of common purpose instead of fragmentation and self-interest. The latter, he warned, led to canards that

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Expect Germany to Surge Ahead in Sustainable Energy

Pivotal to Olaf Sholtz’ recent election as German chancellor was climate change, enabling progressives to win large swaths of parliamentary seats from competing conservatives. With Angela Merkel departing, Germany, like the Netherlands and other EU countries, has a diverse range of political parties and perspectives from which to form coalitions, headlined by Social Democrats and Greens. Expect Germany to surge ahead in sustainable energy, zero-emission travel, and other investments in the future, perhaps even hydrogen aircraft. Electric vehicle (EV) shares of the auto market are already soaring in the EU. In Germany, it could reach 90% by 2040. In the

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Viruses Don’t Buckle to Obstinacy, Just Soundly Applied Science and Good Sense

Government investment is one of two main functions of authority. For 5,400 years, to keep peace internally, governments have kept populations cohesive by monopolizing force, resolving squabbles and forbidding violence by citizens to settle disputes. Historically, successful confederations, city-states and nations have learned to redistribute individual wealth, not to enrich a privileged few and upper-crusted strata, but to promote the common good by investing in the future, that is, well-considered, proactive aims and goals. Deriding government investment as “communist” or “socialist” is not only fallacious, but ideologically moot and irrelevant to problem-solving. American life would be intolerable without Medicare, social

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Migration is a Natural Phenomenon and Fundamental International Right

As a graduate student, I was honored by Hungarian biologist and biogeographer, Miklos Dezso Ference Udvardy (1919-1998), who requested reprints of a scientific paper of mine in Animal Behaviour. Dr. Udvardy had classified biogeographical provinces of the world in 1975 and coined the terms “zoogeography” and “competitive exclusion” to describe distributions of animals. After exchanging letters, he even sent me a copy of his important book on animal migration, Dynamic Zoogeography. Serving as Professor of Biological Sciences at California State University Sacramento from 1967 until his retirement in 1991, Dr. Udvardy was a true gentleman, eclectic scholar and acute, but

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Unconscious Bias is One Thing, Premeditated Another

Comparative examination of skulls, performed by anatomist artists Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer and Anders Vesalius became pseudo-science in the 19th century. Paul Broca (1824-80) compared skulls of men and other animals; Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1822) invented phrenology; and Samuel Morton (1799-1851) measured hundreds of human skulls, making erroneous judgments about cranial size, race and intelligence in Crania Americana. Prejudicial fallout lingered for decades. The 1800s not only saw America’s foremost expansion of slavery, but also rapid infusions of racial and ethnic minorities. To suppress them, especially newly ascendant African-Americans post-Civil War, Morton’s craniometric exercises built illusory ladders on which

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The Stage is Set for a Historic Reconciliation Bill

Afghanistan cost taxpayers over $2 trillion and counting, a meter continuously running because it includes veterans’ healthcare and unpaid interest on war-related borrowing. Considering results after two decades’ deployment, America’s pound-foolish effort to remake Afghanistan was just another interventionist march of folly. Even to a society habituated to yokes of debt, ranging from credit cards to mortgages; automobile to student loans, calling such sacrifice “investment” doesn’t wash. Neither does the $2.3 billion impact on America’s healthcare system, solely from hospitalizations of unvaccinated citizens in June and July. Further recalcitrance to get shots continues to overload ICUs in a perpetual motion

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If Incessant Economic Growth Serves US Corporate Interests, Externalities are Ignored

Travel anywhere worldwide, and whether Nike, MTV, GAP jeans or fast foods with accompanying health disorders, cravings for American products can be satisfied. US product proliferation via globalization is part of a conscious dissemination of Yankee attitudes oft-described as “cultural imperialism.” US corporations, wanting to cash-in on 95% of the world’s consumers overseas, have moved many operations abroad. Such US domination inevitably hurts local markets too small to compete against our politically inbred industries and financial systems. Even in the 19th century, you may recall, US fiscal and military coercion, dwarfed compared its gluttony today, forced Korea and Japan out

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A War We Couldn’t Win, But Should Have Better Managed

Late 2001, when 9 of 10 Americans supported Mideast invasion, I submitted work to Poets Against the War, a website anthology of anti-war poems with which 160 public readings were coordinated nationally. Running for Congress in 2008 and 2010, familiar with the region’s history, and studying analyses by Col. Andrew Bacevich (RET) and other experts, I considered the Afghan War unwinnable. I thusly advocated for complete, urgent, but orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops, military contractors and collaborators, who might be targeted for Taliban reprisals. When that and other position statements were archived in the Library of Congress, BBC News took

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High School History Remains Diplomatic Cherry-Picking

American history taught in high schools today remains diplomatic cherry-picking. Often omitted are dark sides of manifest destiny’s “divine sanctioning” on which U.S. expansionism rests. Except for the Seven Years’ (i.e. “French and Indian”) War fought for global primacy between France and Britain in North America (1754-63), little else between pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock (1620) and 1776 is accentuated. King Philip’s War between New England colonists and Mohegan allies against coalitions of Wampanoag, Narragansett and other tribes led by Metacomet (aka “King Philip”) is one such sacrifice to time and textbook size. Another is the Pequot War (1636-38) and

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More Pervasive than the Delta Variant is the Poor Judgement That’s Spread it

More pervasive than the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is America’s poor judgment that’s spread it. Despite heroic attempts by scientists, vaccine producers and hospital staffs to limit transmission, irresponsible governors and vax-resisters are oases in the desert for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate and evolve. The 3 COVID vaccines FDA’s made available – Moderna, Pfizer; Johnson & Johnson – have proven efficacy against all variants now circulating in the country, including Delta. But inoculations are lagging, and because Delta is 1,000 times more transmissible than D614G, 95 percent of patients treated in hospitals today for COVID infections are unvaccinated. Vaccine avoidance, if unabated,

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Avarice, not Pride, Precedes the Fall.

With inflation uncomfortably high, climate change causing Northern Hemisphere disasters and the Delta variant undermining economies here and abroad, an indecisive Federal Reserve Board scheduled meetings this week to rethink its ultra-low interest rates. Policymakers considered putting the brakes on a $120 billion-a-month bond-buying spree designed to keep long-term lending rates miniscule. As usual, the Fed’s intention was to incentivize borrowing, spending and debt-accumulation during the COVID crisis. This comes at a time experts insist the U.S. economy is gradually recovering from post-pandemic recession and jobs, ostensibly, are on the upswing. But a bold new era has dawned in America’s

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Science, Above All, Should be the Guiding Principle in which we Unify and Trust

Science has unparalleled potency validating facts and deriving truths because its well-defined methods makes reality tangible. Where philosophy relies solely on logic, reason and thought experiments, science primarily collects data through empiricism ─ testing, measuring and compiling evidence obtained from direct observation. Science is thusly independent of belief.  It assumes hypotheses under investigation are false until rigorously proven. And standards for rejecting “null hypotheses” are high; only 95-99 percent statistical confidence bounds give assurances correlations aren’t chance. Non-reproducible single occurrences are valueless to scientists. Stray contradictory claims, oft-repeated conspiracy theories, and targeted disinformation won’t induce rejections of theories or hypotheses

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‘Disaster Capitalism’ is as Old as Capitalism Itself

The idea crises can be used to disorient, manipulate history, and cultivate societal change is nothing new. “Disaster capitalism” is as old as capitalism itself. Baron Rothschild, 18th century British nobleman whose banking family loaned money (at huge interest) to warring factions, including Lincoln’s Federals and Davis’ Confederacy, put it bluntly. “The time to buy,” he said. “Is when there’s blood in the streets.” Taking the same robber baron approach, Wall Street, U.S. CEOs and industrialists routinely hedge bets by investing in crises and exploiting despair. In his last presidential address, Dwight Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial-political complex and risks

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Insect Populations in Decline are Yet Another Invitation to Disaster

In the early 20th century, when asked if anything about “God” could be concluded from studying natural history, scientific polymath J.B.S. Haldane famously responded “he has an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Currently, more than 380,000 catalogued species of beetles in order Coleoptera make it the largest subset of the most species-rich and successful class of animals on Earth ─ insects. This may be the Anthropocene epoch because of our negative impacts on the planet, but an estimated 10 quintillion insects may inhabit the biosphere at any given time. In fact, however much it affronts our human arrogance, causing us to

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Pandemic Issues Created Fertile Ground for Surge in Gun Violence

Crime is the term we humans use to describe unfair competition, deception, theft or threats of violence to deprive someone of something to which they’re entitled. Other animals steal, philander, commit acts of aggression and hoodwink one another as humans do. Phototropism enables hardy plants to flourish while others, beneath their canopy, starve for sunlight. Vast adaptive repertoires for concealment, enticement and mimicry fill ethological textbooks, making natural selection and co-evolution (to borrow P.T. Barnum’s and Richard Dawkins’ phrasing) The Greatest Show on Earth. Most other animals ─ mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish primarily ─ to solve territorial or

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Pandemic May Have Enabled Americans to Distinguish Between Glitter and Gold.

Nations are doomed when existential threats, moral imperatives and self-preservation become culture wars. In America, we could have treated COVID vaccinations, accurate depictions of U.S. history in schools and mitigating climate change as calls to greatness, staying logically and factually centered and united. Instead, nonconformist radicals and cultists broke ranks. Hyper-partisan dissociation replaced science and fundamental tenets of mutual protection and public safety. Example: how do I stay alive and protect others during a pandemic? With over 2 billion doses of sera successfully administered in 212 countries and territories around the world, those “politically red” among us still resist shots

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21st Century Economies are Hamstrung by 20th Century Infrastructures

In eight years, this is probably my fourth column focused on America’s deteriorating infrastructure with little done nationally or statewide to address the ever-growing problem. Unsafe, outmoded electrical grids, dams, tunnels, bridges and highways need immediate attention. Congested airports, seaports, truncated internet and railway lines demand sweeping plans for modernization, expansion and hardenings against cyber-attacks. Leaking and overwhelmed sewer lines and drinking water mains poison our cities with lead and other contaminants. Still, denial and hyper-partisan deadlocks between major parties kick the infrastructure can down the road. In 2016, Donald Trump pledged a $1 trillion national infrastructure program, delivering nothing.

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