The Difference Between Good And Evil

Two stories in yesterday’s news caught my eye and the juxtaposition was jaw-dropping.  One is about a good person, a truly inspirational leader, stepping down, and the other is about a young, grossly ignorant punk being treated like royalty.

A good person stepping down

I was saddened to see that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand is stepping down.  I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Ms. Ardern, who has been Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party since October 2017.  She first came to my attention on March 15th, 2019, when 51 people were fatally shot and 49 injured in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a gunman espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hatred.  Ms. Ardern stepped up to the plate in a very difficult time, saying …

“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it.”

Ardern spearheaded legislation to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles just six days after the attack.  She also acted quickly to close the country’s borders early during the Covid pandemic, and imposed strict quarantine requirements that went a long way toward keeping New Zealand’s Covid mortality rate far below most other countries.

While she is still popular, however, time and circumstances take a toll.  In announcing her decision yesterday to step down ahead of elections later this year (October), she said …

“I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe Labour can and will win it. We need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three. I have given my absolute all. I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

I wish her the best and I hope that New Zealand can elect another with her passion and compassion, her humanity.

A rotten person rising up

There is something wrong with this country, my friends.  A young man, a high-school dropout who was not even old enough by law to have a gun in his possession, borrows a gun, crosses state lines, shoots three people, killing two, and just two years later he is being hailed as a hero???????

Yes, you know who I’m talking about … Kyle Rittenhouse.  On August 25th, 2020, he shot three people at a protest against the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  He was 17 years old at the time, not old enough to own a gun, but he borrowed one, an AR-15 military-style assault rifle, and had his mother drive him from his home in Illinois to the event in Wisconsin.  At his criminal trial in 2021 he claimed self-defense and the jury bought his bullshit, refusing to convict him.  Perhaps it was the crocodile tears he cried while on the stand that swayed them.

Today, Rittenhouse seems to be the darling of the revised Republican Party … you know, the Republican Party that welcomes insurrectionists into their ranks in Congress and supports liars, conmen, and cheats.  Tucker Carlson of Fox “News” introduced Rittenhouse on his show as “bright, decent, sincere, dutiful, and hardworking… exactly the kind of person you would want many more of in your country.”  Makes me want to throw up.  No, Tuck, I don’t want more like him in any country!  Rittenhouse has been welcomed at Donald Trump’s residence, has held ‘events’ at Turning Point USA, a video game called Acquitted was developed featuring Rittenhouse, and he has even received internship offers from Republican members of Congress!

This week, he got a bit of a slap in the face when an event promoting Rittenhouse at a venue in Las Vegas was cancelled, the owners saying that “this event did not align with our property’s core event guidelines.”  At least somebody’s got a bit of good sense – obviously the Republican Party doesn’t and for sure this young arsehole doesn’t!

And So It Begins …

It’s been a while since I’ve written a snarky snippets post … but then again, almost all my posts are snarky, aren’t they?  But today my snark-o-meter is telling me it’s time to let a bit of it out before I implode, so here we go …

Another day, another impeachment … ho hum

On President Biden’s first full day in the White House back in 2021, Marge Greene filed impeachment charges against him.  He had barely even sat down in the chair behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office when she decided he had committed impeachable offenses.  Nobody else chose to play her stupid game and the charges sat in the dead impeachment file box, but were added to numerous times over the last two years.  In total, impeachment charges have been filed against President Biden no less than nine times in two years, five of which were filed by Marge Greene herself.  Grounds?  There were none.  Republicans just like the limelight.  One of the things we have heard repeated ad nauseam for the past year or more was that once the Republicans had a majority in the House, they would be impeaching … pick a name!  President Biden, certainly, but also Attorney General Merrick Garland, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.  Grounds?  None.

And so it began yesterday when Representative Patrick Edward Fallon of Texas filed articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.  Grounds?  The resolution claims Mayorkas “engaged in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with his duties,” complaining that he has failed to maintain control over the border.  In other words, “None.”

Mr. Fallon has a bit of a history of histrionics:

  • Last June he blamed mass shootings on “overuse of these dang smartphones.”
  • In June 2021 he co-sponsored a bill that would ban teaching the history of racism in Washington DC public schools.
  • Also in June 2021, he signed a letter which demanded that Joe Biden take a cognitive function test.
  • Days after being sworn-in in January 2021, Fallon voted to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election.

Prepare yourself for a number of impeachments over the coming months, none of which will have grounds, none of which will result in anybody’s removal from office … it is just another of those distractions the Republicans love to use to keep us stressed and redirect our attention away from their own criminal activities.

Meanwhile, down in FloriDUH …

Newly seated Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson is unveiling his first legislative proposal … a proposal that would prevent businesses from tracking Floridians’ firearm and ammo purchases. Once I got past the spluttering indignation at such a proposal, I looked at his title and wondered what the Sam Hell the Agricultural Commissioner has to do with firearms regulation???  Since when do gun sales fall under the umbrella of the guy who’s supposed to oversee farming and fruit trees?  Turns out that in Florida, the Department of Agriculture also includes Consumer Services, the people who issue gun licenses.

Now … I don’t know about you guys, but I think there damn well better be a database of who owns what firearms in this country!  If you don’t want your name on that database, then don’t buy a gun!  Seems real simple to me.  Says Mr. Simpson …

“We are all blessed to live in the free state of Florida where our Second Amendment rights are valued and protected, but Democrats in Washington continue to try to chip away at these rights — and we must stay vigilant.  The ‘Florida Arms and Ammo Act’ draws a line in the sand and tells multi-national progressive financial institutions, and their allies in Washington, that they cannot covertly create a backdoor firearm registry of Floridians — or else.”

Oooohhhhh … tough talk.  Apparently, Simpson, and probably most of the airheads in Florida’s state government, believe that their “Second Amendment rights” are far more important than the lives of the people who pay taxes to support them.  Or the children who attend schools in that state.  If his proposal gains ground and actually becomes law, I suspect it will become a matter for the courts to decide.  We shall see if common sense prevails or if it has left the building.

Beating a dead horse … at our expense!

House Republicans have been busy little beavers this week, it seems.  Not, mind you, that they’ve been spending their time on anything useful or beneficial to We the People, but you have to give ‘em credit for finding unique ways to spend our hard-earned tax dollars!

They have commissioned a ‘special investigative panel’ to delve into the origins of Covid-19.  Um … haven’t the scientists already done this research?  Seems to me that the scientists have traced the origins to a Wuhan market in China, but apparently the Republicans in the House a) don’t believe in science, and b) have nothing better to do with their time and our money.  They claim to believe that the coronavirus originated out of laboratory experiments in Wuhan, China, potentially backed by U.S. money … probably somehow tied to George Soros or some other philanthropist.

But wait … it isn’t only the origins of the virus, but they will also be ‘looking into’ vaccine development, school closures and other mitigation measures to examining the roughly $5 trillion in emergency federal aid approved since early 2020.  Why?  Are they really so stupid that they don’t believe the measures taken to protect the public safety were necessary?  Are they a puppet of the conspiracy theorists who claim there was never a threat, despite the deaths of some 6.7 million people worldwide, 1.1 million in the U.S. alone?  And would they have preferred to let people lose their homes and starve to death rather than spend tax money for emergency aid?  Wow, what a bunch of people, eh?

Thank You, Dr. Fauci

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Dr. Anthony Fauci, and I am disgusted and appalled by the treatment he has received over the past several years.  Even today, he and his family continue to receive death threats and other forms of harassment.  Even though Dr. Fauci has saved countless lives throughout his career, and notably over the past nearly-three years of the Covid pandemic, some claim that he was single-handedly responsible for the creation of the virus.  It’s a classic case of “shoot the messenger.”

Two articles crossed my radar yesterday.  The first was a lovely tribute by Dan Rather [see below], and the other is an ‘exit interview’ published in The Washington Post that shows Dr. Fauci for the intelligent and patient man he is.  Dr. Fauci is retiring at the end of this month and he leaves behind some very big shoes to fill!  I wish him the best and hope the people of this country can show some good sense and leave him and his family in peace so that he can enjoy a well-earned retirement.

Thank You, Dr. Fauci

Withstanding an assault on science

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

11 December 2022

One of the most dedicated public servants in this nation’s history is stepping down after decades of government service. That this same man is being scurrilously attacked by the world’s richest man on a rapidly degenerating social media platform is a sad but instructive snapshot of our times.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has served presidents since Ronald Reagan. He has led efforts against infectious diseases ranging from HIV/AIDS to Ebola to, of course, Covid-19. His work and dedication have saved countless lives. And for much of his career, he was viewed with great respect on both sides of the political aisle.

But we all know what happened. Fauci has become a target for the anti-science, conspiracy-theory-marinated movement stoked by the former president. And today, Elon Musk sent out a tweet that epitomizes the debasement. Like a smirking bully on the schoolyard, he wrote; My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.

Many online were quick to point out how Musk had earlier tweeted favorably about vaccines. And they noted how he has been staggeringly wrong about the pandemic, which he said early on would just disappear. Plus, for what exactly is Fauci supposed to be prosecuted? You have to be fluent in crazy conspiracy theories to start trying to answer that question.

But even to try to debate on the merits is to have already lost.

This isn’t about facts and the truth. This is about scoring political points. It is about flooding our global discourse with horse manure. It is about attacking the very notion of expertise. It is about saying everything can be true so nothing is true. It is about intimidating scientists and health officials. It is about feeding the MAGA crowd with the red meat of a sacrificial lamb.

The rabid tone of the anti-Fauci brigades stands in stark contrast to the man himself. He is careful with his words, soft-spoken, and dedicated to the bounds of data and science. Perhaps what set Musk off was Fauci’s New York Times Op-Ed today, which is essentially a goodbye letter to his decades of service.

It is also a stirring call to action for those who will follow. Fauci writes, “I am confident that the next generations of young physicians, scientists and public health practitioners will experience the same excitement and sense of fulfillment I have felt as they meet the immense need for their expertise to maintain, restore and protect the health of people around the world and rise to the continual unexpected challenges they will inevitably face in doing so.”

He also looks back at his own career, stating with pride, “I ‌‌always speak the unvarnished truth to ‌presidents and other senior government officials, even when such truths may be uncomfortable or politically inconvenient, because extraordinary things can happen when science and politics work hand in hand.”

Public health is always going to be a mixture of policy and science. It is about weighing complicated and often competing factors. Furthermore, information, especially when diseases are new, is often incomplete. As science learns more, advice can change.

We can wish all we want that the world were simple. It would make everything far less complicated. But the truth is that most of what we contend with in life, like nature itself, is a web of complexity.

We are living in a time when many who try to confront this complexity through their expertise are denigrated, dismissed, and even demonized. Knowledge and facts are distorted by the funhouse mirrors warping our political discourse — social media, right-wing media, and the potent conspiracy theories they help foster.

The Covid-19 virus doesn’t watch Fox News, and neither do the chemical compounds altering our atmosphere with climate change. They don’t care what Musk tweets or what politicians haranguing scientists like Fauci say in a game of political gotcha in congressional hearings. Politicians can’t change the laws of chemistry, biology, or physics. But policies that ignore the data can have real life-and-death consequences.

This isn’t to say that scientists are always right. They aren’t. And on many complicated topics, scientists of good faith can disagree. Science, especially on the frontiers of knowledge, is about grappling with uncertainty. And any scientist will tell you that failure is part of the experimental process.

But that doesn’t mean that all opinions are valid. That doesn’t mean we just dismiss data or experts like Fauci who live in that world and try to use what they have learned to help the rest of us. Fauci and the overwhelming majority of scientists base their conclusions on the best available evidence at the time. All the while, they continue experimenting and innovating in the never-ending search for more knowledge.

So thank you, Dr. Fauci, for your service and for your courage. You have been the epitome of steady, and the world has benefited because of it. Godspeed, good doctor.

The Week’s Best Cartoons 9/3

The biggest topic for the political cartoonists this past week has once again been … the former guy.  I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty sick and tired of seeing his name and his ugly mug wherever I look on the ‘net.  That said, with the investigations into his business, his criminal mishandling of classified documents, and his involvement in the January 6th attempted coup, there is reason for the news media to continue covering those things, and the cartoonists to continue drawing cartoons about him.  He’s just so damn easy to make cartoons about, for he IS a cartoon.  Nonetheless, when I checked out TokyoSand’s weekly cartoon collection to reblog here, while still impressed by the talent of the cartoonists, I selected mostly ones that were not about the former guy for this brief sampling.  But please do click on the link at the bottom of this post and visit TokyoSand’s Political Charge to see all the cartoons.  As always, she’s done a great job at finding the very best ones!

I hope you enjoy this collection of the best editorial cartoons I saw this week.

Be sure to check out the rest of the ‘toons!

Let’s Talk About What’s Really Important

Here in the U.S., we seem to have lost sight of our priorities, of the most important issues we should be dealing with, and instead we have become mesmerized by the social and political divide.  I sometimes wonder if it isn’t a game played within the upper echelons to distract our attention from things that really matter in the long-term view.  I am as guilty as any of letting the political circus of these past few years occupy a large portion of my mind, my writing.  And make no mistake … the issues facing our social and political culture are important … very much so.  But other issues are more important and on a much larger scale.  So today, I’m not going to discuss Republicans vs Democrats, but I’m going to focus on the things that will someday in the near future make both parties either work together or become extinct.

There are disagreements, even among experts, as to what the most critical, most relevant issues facing the world today are, but they all agree on at least the top one:

Climate change and the environment

This is the big one. A toxic combination of dependence on fossil fuels and unsustainable industrial practices has created extremely dangerous weather events that threaten to destroy terrestrial and marine ecosystems as well as our access to basic resources like food and water.

Most of the world’s recent natural disasters – including superstorms, freak floods and out of control fires, as well as some of hottest and coldest seasons on record – are the direct result of man-made, fossil-fuel induced global warming.

Across land and sea, natural habitats are deteriorating. We are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate and destabilizing precious ecosystems. These ecosystems are so complex and interdependent that we cannot predict all the consequences of their loss, but here is what we do know:

  • Species extinctions are happening more frequently than at any time in recorded history. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was approximately 10 million hectares of forests per year. Healthy forests are essential; they not only regulate the earth’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels as well as seasonal weather patterns but are also depended on by millions of people for food, water and livelihoods.
  • Global warming has caused an increase in coral bleaching, killing ecosystems sustained by the nutrients the coral provide, including fishing grounds on which local communities across the world depend.
  • We are also endangering countless marine species with unsustainable fishing practices like overfishing and bycatch, where dolphins and turtles are caught in commercial fishing nets and later discarded as waste. Meanwhile, pollutants like boat fuel, pesticides, fertilizer, sewage and plastics are causing ocean dead zones – spots where no organism can live.

Next on the list is …

The hunger crisis and water scarcity

One in nine people in the world go hungry each day and suffer from nutritional deficiencies as a result. Current estimates show that 957 million people across 93 countries do not have enough to eat.

The problem isn’t that we aren’t producing enough food; it’s that people lack access to food. Many people don’t have enough money to buy basic foodstuff and cannot grow their own. And the number of displaced persons who suffer from food insecurity is increasing too. According to the World Food Program (WFP), countries with the highest level of food insecurity also have the highest outward migration of refugees.

The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine further complicates this problem. Sanctions against Russia, one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels, have further increased energy prices, causing food prices to rise too, ultimately making it much harder on people already struggling to afford food. Ukraine is also one of the world’s largest exporters of grain, which it has had to stop producing due to the war. Most of these exports were due to countries suffering food shortages. Together, Russia and Ukraine are also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizer. The war has caused a lack of supply, creating higher prices for farmers that ultimately translate to higher food prices.

As with food, there is enough fresh water for each person currently living on the planet. But not everyone has equal access to that water. Issues such as poor infrastructure, displacement and conflict mean that many people often have to use unsafe water sources, which is a health and sanitation risk. About two billion people still use a source that is contaminated with human waste, and about the same number don’t have access to adequate toilet facilities.

Major global health issues

The current overwhelming threat to our overall global health and well-being is the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though we now have access to effective vaccines and treatment is better understood, more than six million people have died, and the virus continues to threaten vulnerable populations across the world, especially in those areas where access to healthcare is limited. There have also been serious socio-economic side effects that will further contribute to health issues, including mental health issues, for a long time to come.

Other diseases also affect health on a global scale. Fortunately, increased access to clean water and improved education around proper sanitation has resulted in an overall decrease in the prevalence of some communicable diseases like hepatitis, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. And while the focus of the global healthcare community has now shifted to non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, all of these health problems remain a concern in countries that lack healthcare resources, and even some that have the resources, but at a prohibitive cost.

Many children across the world cannot have their basic human needs met. This includes access to food, education and healthcare.

Child health and education go hand in hand. Malnutrition leads to children who are hungry, cannot concentrate and, thus, cannot learn, and are at risk of developing permanent learning disabilities. Children who go chronically hungry can also develop physiological damage, known as stunting.

Even when children are attending school, the quality of their education might be poor, or educational capacity and resources may be limited. This means that they might leave school without the necessary numeracy or literacy skills required. It’s estimated that approximately 600 million children are not mastering basic mathematics and literacy while at school.

We can cry about the price of fuel, rent, food and other commodities, we can whine and stomp our feet about having to wear a mask in a public venue, but all of that means nothing as compared to the greater problems I’ve only touched on above. And yes, we can rant and rave about political issues, but again … in the grand scope of things, they pale. If we fail to find solutions to climate change … in 50-75 years, humans won’t be worrying about the price of celery or wearing a mask, for they will be too busy trying to find air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat.

My thanks to numerous sources, particularly Global Vision International (GVI)

We Could Be So Much Better …

A comment from our friend Larry a few days ago opened the doors to a train of thought … well, it was a train I was already on, but Larry’s comment bought me a longer ticket on that train.  His comment was in response to my post titled Remember, about International Holocaust Remembrance Day and a warning that in many ways, we humans around the globe seem to be on a path to similar destruction …

“We are the only species on earth that doesn’t fit into the scheme of things.”

For the past several days, my mind had been going in a similar, yet vague direction.  My thoughts were along the lines of how different humans are from any other species.  Notice that I said ‘different’ … not better.  Humans have shown themselves capable of many things … some beneficial, others destructive even to their own well-being.

No other species on this planet kills for pleasure, but rather they kill for food in order to survive or when they feel endangered.  No other species that I’m aware of kills because they don’t like the colour of another’s fur.  No other species is so enamoured by material gains, by luxuries and that man-made contrivance we call currency.

What really strikes me as ironic is that humans have immense capabilities … they build skyscrapers, have traveled into outer space, landed people on the moon, found cures for diseases, invented millions of electronics and gadgets to make our lives ‘easier’, and yet … they are never satisfied.  One small example … take the automatic clothes washing machine & dryer.  I well remember my grandmother using an old-fashioned ringer washer in her basement, risking the bones in her hand with every load.  Then she put them in a basket, took them outside, and hung them on the clothesline in the backyard.  This had to be done fairly early in the morning so the clothes could get dry by evening.  Then, she retrieved the dry (assuming it didn’t rain) clothes, took them in the house, and ironed them, for this was before the day of permanent press, another invention by humans.  Today, one simply tosses the clothes into the washer, then tosses them into the dryer, then folds them.  A load today takes a maximum of 10 minutes labour time in total, whereas my grandmother used to spend hours to do only 2-3 loads of laundry.  But are we any better off, really?  Are we satisfied or grateful for the modern-day convenience?  Nope.  Just like the millionaire who can never get enough, we are not satisfied and now we want a machine that will fold the clothes, too.

Medical science has devised a vaccine to save millions of lives in this era of the pandemic, yet instead of being grateful and doing our small part … and it is a very small part to go get the jab … about 30% of the people in this nation say that this life-saving vaccine is a ‘violation of their rights, their freedom.’  Since when do any one of us have the ‘right’ to take other people’s lives???  Isn’t refusal to wear a mask and refusal to get vaccinated a type of murder?  And this is the human species, the species that considers itself ‘superior’ to all others.  Humans actually believe that they were put on this earth to ‘rule’ over all other species, when in fact, humans evolved from one of those ‘other species’ and the planet was doing just fine without them.

Humans are obsessed with human-made contrivances.  I’m not talking now about such things as airplanes, cars, and washing machines, but intangibles – time, distance, money, etc.  Humans seem to feel a need to constantly measure everything.  Other species eat when they are hungry, sleep when they need to, and see no need to quantify it all.  Time … how many times in a 24-hour period do you check the time?  I am as guilty as any, checking the time periodically throughout the day, even though most days I have nowhere to be, nothing of importance to do.  Time has no meaning to other species, only to humans.  The calendar … in truth, there is no such thing as January or October … there is earth’s rotation that marks what we measure as a day, and earth revolving around the sun, that marks our term for a year.  But why?  Is it really necessary? Dark will replace light, cold will replace warm, whether we have a calendar to measure it or not.  It has always been so, even before humans evolved.

And money … money is not real.  Some would say that money is backed up by gold, but of what worth, really, is gold?  Can you eat it?  Will it keep you warm on a cold winter’s night?  Money is only as valuable as humans are convinced it is, but it’s an illusion.  The day will come when humans find out that all the money in the world will have no value and will buy them nothing.  The day will come when we will trade our labour for food and burn those hundred-dollar bills for warmth.

Humans, in all their arrogance, have appointed themselves keepers of the earth and all lifeforms residing on earth, and yet … humans are not taking care of the earth and are sentencing all species, including themselves, to extinction.  How?  By their love of gadgets … planes, buses, automobiles, heat sources that have long required the burning of fossil fuels … all of these things have contributed to the destruction of the environment. We are all guilty … we all throw away too much food, use more electricity than is absolutely essential, drive our cars for short trips when we could just as easily walk (a healthier option anyway), and extra trips that would be unnecessary if we only planned ahead a bit better. We unwittingly put our happiness at the top of the pyramid and everything else takes a backseat.

We could be so much better than we are.  We have the knowledge to solve the problems of the world, if only we would put the greater good ahead of our own desires.  If we stopped worrying about our individual ‘rights’ and started thinking about the rights of future generations to have breathable air, potable water, and edible food.  But, humans are short-sighted and I don’t see it as likely that people and nations will put aside their own desires, their fear of other, their bigotry and hatred, in order to preserve the planet for their heirs.  We can put men on the moon, yet we cannot learn to be kind.