Science Feed

Collapse of Coronavirus Leadership: Alex Azar, Trump, and Pence? Heck Ya I'm Nervous

No doubt this virus is nothing to joke about because of its dark nature. Look at all of the souls it has recently dispatched, and the intense suffering that it's causing around the globe. If the Trump administration and the CDC are resistant to calling this calamity a pandemic, if WHO doesn't want to call it that, then what exactly are we dealing with? It's certainly more than an inconvenience, especially in the United States.

For us, this pandemic could endanger millions of people because of our lack of a basic social safety net. No one from the Trump administration has said that our government will pay for these long hospital stays and thousands and thousands of tests for individual citizens. If our profit partnerships with hospitals and insurance companies are in charge of billing for this disease, then we could be facing a financial collapse for thousands of individuals with insurance and the certainty of long term debt for those without it.

People are buying food and supplies in bulk, at least around my town. Yesterday, one lonely bag of jasmine rice remained on the shelf, and the dried noodle aisle was almost completely empty, as if a big storm was rolling in. I'm finding sales on weird items like holistic cough medicines and immune support supplements. Name brand vitamins are getting pushed, and so are some off -brand cold and cough medicines.

The liquor store had quite the run yesterday considering that most people were down at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Bar B Q event. I guess maybe this isn't that unusual, except if you follow what people are actually saying around town they pretend they aren't concerned at all. I haven't seen anyone wearing a mask, but I have seen an uptick in people rubbing on hand sanitizer. I, in fact, purchased the last bottle of 365 Lavender Hand Sanitizer at my local Whole Foods.

I am going to go ahead and act as weird as possible. I'm a nerd anyway, so no one will notice (not that I think anyone should care what others think about them). Since I pick up nearly every single virus that my kids bring around, I'm spraying all surfaces liberally with Lysol. I'm using hand sanitizer even when I don't need it, and I have picked up quite a few extra things from this place and that place just in case I decide to park myself at home. I'm unabashedly unashamed of my paranoia because I feel as if I am on a winding mountain road with a drunk at the wheel. This morning's visit to the Sunday news shows by Alex Azar the Human Health Secretary, previous pharmaceutical lobbyist, did nothing to assuage my fears. He's not a doctor, and this is not a political hoax as Trump has tried to declare.


Why the Bloomberg Message Matters so Much! Listen America...

Writing in juxtapositions hyphenates how circular and connected everything in the world is. When I interact with my dogs, I parallel their train of thought with my own because I respect the brain, the little soul, that exists in this furry, needy, little body. As Lukács relates his theory of social realism to Marx, he "contends [that human beings] are essentially socio-historical beings" and that the "formation of human society across time is a process of economic transformation, in which deep economic tensions resolves themselves in higher forms of social organization" (Graham 198). Even though Georg Lukács theory of the novel is simply that, a theory about novels, the economic juxtaposition is impossible to ignore. How does this all relate to what is happening in American politics now? Trump, an obvious fascist, represents an opposition to what most Americans fear the most, a debasement of the social structure as it swings left to shelter and support vulnerable individuals coded out of the mainstream economic upturn. 

How much of this upturn is due to an increased expansion of the fossil fuel industry is unknown by me, but I would say that it goes far enough to spike fear in the worker, enough fear to maximize a winner-take-all mindset such as the one that Trump represents. Critical realism debunks any possibility of a happy ending in the great American story because these higher forms of social organization, the economics of the neoliberal/capitalist state, will forbid any transfer of wealth into more sustainable energy forms. While Americans do see a few more solar panels and electric cars around, nothing is happening to offset carbon and methane output, quite the opposite, so a dirtier and more perilous world awaits for our children and grandchildren, even as we now watch helplessly as a worldwide pandemic unfolds. Politics at large, especially left leaning lip service, fails to permeate the echo chamber of winner-take-all-fascist-mindset even on the eve of our destruction.

The politicians on last night's debate stage fail to grasp Lukács theory of society functioning as an economic process constantly in transformation, so in other words, they will fail to beat Trump's fascist ideology because they are unable to adequately assuage the fears of the common worker, the fear of sustainable energy overtaking the fossil fuel industry. Even so, another, more dark and shady goblin lurks behind the transference of power from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, artificial intelligence. Fossil fuel workers realize at some level the sloughing off of jobs to machinery and robots. Even as we transfer wealth from one sector to another, skill based jobs are declining, no matter the purpose or intent. Following a cruel fascist into a dirtier future will only make this economic transformation more difficult and result in more penury and suffering. 

This is why I think it's vitally important to the public that Mike Bloomberg use his platform if not to win, then at least to inform. Stopping Trump means that Americans will face a brighter future even in the face of this economic transformation. Maybe we are trading one neoliberal narcissist for another, but at least Bloomberg is authentic, a strong juxtaposition to Trump.


An Appeal to Politicians Everywhere as We Begin to Experience the Horrors of Climate Change

This morning a red cardinal pecked away at the feeder hanging in my patio bird habitat. As I drove off to work, I thought about the delicate bones and feathers, the lightweight and aerodynamic body of the bird, and the interesting fact that birds are not hierarchical. In other words, the bird is never going to worship me the way my dog does because he doesn’t consider me above him. Birds, even though they are afraid of us, consider us rather beneath them. If you take something from your pet bird, he or she might pick a fight with you in an effort to take the perceived personal property straight back.  

But they can’t take back the world from us, the world that heats up a bit each year, smashing weather records causing species to die off. Most of us never take the time to think about the enormous amount of death caused by climate change. When species disappear, they leave a void in the ecosystem that they formerly populated, affecting the entire food chain. But even if, as amateur scientists and hobby writers, we understand this loss in its functional sense, the loss of a food source, most of us fail to realize how heartbroken we will be when commonplace animals and insects cease to exist.

Today, as I drove to my job, I thought about how much I love my little bird area and the interesting, verbally affluent characters that visit it each day for seeds and water. I also thought about what my patio area would look like without my colorful, feathered, and noisy little friends. Birds aside, we will soon experience the loss of polar bears in the wild, and when they go, the ecosystem will suffer in ways that we can yet understand. The suffering they now endure is painful to watch.

I hope we, as sentient beings fully capable of measuring and critiquing our effects on the environment, begin to analyze the consequences of failing to mitigate the horrors ahead of us if we continue to burn fossil fuels unabated. As a connected world, we will be able to view these tragedies, these heartbreaking cataclysmic moments, as they occur. It is time we felt a connection, and some kind of empathy, to our natural world.

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Maria Popova @brainpickings: an unusually wonderful blog

This Twitter account is managed by well-educated blogger, Maria Popova, and it is just the kind of project I would love to be involved in if only I was that talented, resourceful, and connected. No matter what your interest is, you can find intellectual stimulation, fresh ideas, wisdom from the past, and meaningful visual art.

In a world where so many are snapping selfies, sitting down to watch the very superficial Kardashians, and indulging in personal petty dramas that ruin lives and reputations, this Twitter feed is "unusually wonderful."

The design is simple and all of the material is easily accessible; Maria's blog contains no annoying advertisements because she is supported by her followers, and everyone agrees the content is well worth the voluntary donation.

If you are interested in self improvement, education, and literature, then follow @brainpickings.

Writing and Reading Green: What about John Steinbeck?

Professor Heather E. Bruce of the University of Montana, published a fascinating article in January's edition of The English Journal, Green (ing) English: Voices Howling in the Wilderness. As most of my readers already know, I am a John Steinbeck fan. I visit the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California; I read his works regularly, and I have studied a bit about his life. Even though I am only an undergrad, and a poor one at that, I still appreciate his early contribution to conservation and ecological awareness. As I read Professor Bruce's piece, I drank my Bombay Sapphire, munched on popcorn, and eagerly awaited her words on my favorite author's early achievements on this subject matter. My mind flew to the dustbowl of Oklahoma, his intricate descriptions of blight, dust, and the underlying causes. I reminisced about the characters in "The Grapes of Wrath." I thought about the enemies he had made in California farming, and the banning of his book. I started to worry.

Not once did the professor mention John Steinbeck. She included Simon Ortiz, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, and many important literary figures. I loved her discussion of the Mississippi River and how it had become a character in its own right. She reminded me that since Twain's time we have seen very negative changes in the delta region, and how ecological damage is compounded by disasters such as Katrina, and the BP oil spill.

John Steinbeck's best friend was marine biologist Ed Ricketts (1897-1948). Ricketts influenced much of Steinbeck's work and the underlying themes of ecology, and preservation. I could not believe the professor completely disregarded Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck. I read her article again, and I scanned it for his name, or Ricketts, but nothing. Together Ricketts and Steinbeck explored and studied species, habitats, and even indigenous peoples. They traveled to Mexico, and other foreign countries, searching for new life, and recording data. These experiences contributed to all of Steinbeck's work.

In spite of this exclusion, I still love Professor Bruce's very informative and inspiring article. She is correct, it is our responsibility to share with our children the importance of environmental justice, and how this is demonstrated in our important literary works. It is artful, the blending of ecology with the mind of the character, the details of a scene, the realism of a period in time. How we have toxified our environment, and the descriptions of abuse, are important concepts to share in our reading and writing. In this way, we can teach responsibility to those who are disconnected from nature by an urban life, or poverty.

I am going to check again! She must have mentioned him….

The Groaning Under My Feet: BP and a Host of Characters

You can't possibly mean that the floor beneath me will give away into a hole so awful I would scream myself into insanity, a place so chilled it could keep a child's room cold in the heat of August. An unused hairy abyss, cringing with disdain, a face creased into parentheses, hateful in design, and stinking filthy breath: a bitter woman of sorts. Is this the fate we meet under the sea, the end of Tony Hayward's hapless journey into international fame of sordid variety? He is so handsome with his curly hair and lilting English accent, a man of power and duplicity, he wants to deny the depth of the hole beneath him. I feel that way also…my mind ponders the possibility and I am saddened by the filth, yet, I understand.

He hurls you along, and behind him a trail of dead sea, a flotilla of hard cash sink into an eternal wasteland, a bitter woman of sorts; she wants to take our money, but bitter lines along the side of her face hinder her ability, she sinks without a sound. I am laughing at her frivolity.

Good cop--bad cop, hail to the Chief! Enter Doug Suttles, beautiful man of the hour. He can melt the audience with a glare from the podium, standing above the microphone, like the leader of an engineering army, he politely calms the masses. His southern voice softly edges the angry crowd into thoughtfulness, a brief moment of serenity; yet, he does nothing to stop pointing fingers of chemical death robbing the Gulf of its air. A black hand is upon the white shoreline, a hermit crab pulls itself from a greasy hole. It dies in the sun. I watch it from my television. I am standing on the floor, my air conditioner whirrs in the background. I miss the powdery beach with its colorful rainbow of umbrellas stretched along the sand. My child asked me not to cry, so I won't.

When the floor beneath us breaks off into the endless cold abyss, I hope it is warm enough to run a saw.

'Can you fit that pipe into the top, please?'

The Gulf Oil Catastrophe is on the Backburner Again

People in the Gulf of Mexico are losing their way of life, homes, and businesses. One of the world's most beautiful and interesting beach areas is becoming polluted with oil thanks to a drilling rig foul up. The delicate marshlands on which the survival of untold species of living things is becoming a wasteland of dead grass. Animals are suffering and dying. Life on the planet will likely be radically affected by this horrendous mistake. Yet, all the darn news cares about is some mess the Israeli army is involved in that has nothing to do with us.

Not only that, they spend time reporting on frivolities when they should be out conducting interviews with Gulf residents.

I would like to see some personal stories, pictures of the Gulf, a trajectory on this mess, and my President down there with his shirt sleeves rolled up. This is a national emergency if ever we had one. Priorities are skewed as usual via the ignorance of media elite.

I realize the Gulf Catastrophe is not the only important event of the last few weeks; however, it never has received the appropriate amount of attention, resulting in a watered down response effort.

Now Obama wants to look at criminal charges against the companies involved...I doubt if the statute of limitations is going to run out on this deal in the near future. I think now is the time to get everyone together on the same page so we can solve this problem before it pollutes the entire Gulf Coast, along with the precious water column.

I have always said Hillary Clinton would have made an excellent president. If Obama doesn't get his rear end down there to the Gulf and put his hands on this ordeal, then I will become a staunch republican.

The American people made a grave mistake when they elected Obama.