16 March, 2018

Make Every Day Count

I do not wish for pathways free of obstacles
Nor views unmarred by haze or fog.
I do not seek a life of ease on a bed of roses.
I do not wish to avoid bitter pangs of doubt, sorrow, and regret,
Nor to live a life free of pain or fear.
I do not wish for any of these.
They are not what truly matters.

My wish is for courage in times of trial.
When skies darken and dread descends upon us all
And others lose heart, and burdens and blame fall on me,
May I find a quantum of resolve.

And see a ray of light amidst the gloom
When all seems lost but life itself,
May every gift life has given me flourish anew,
And may I share this blossoming with all entrusted to my care.

May I always be a friend worthy of that name.
And have in my life others who are the same.
May we abide in trust,
Supporting one another in times of sorrow,
And rejoicing together in times of joy.

May we defy the storms of life side by side.
And exemplify solidarity in word and deed,
In days of triumph and hours of need.
May my presence be a gift
That enriches the lives of all I meet
And may their presence elevate and enlighten mine.

I have but one more wish:
In every moment of every day
May I feel the worth of life and be inspired
In every hour of serenity or stress,
May I feel the truth within me:
That where there is life,
there is time, and
Where there is time,
Hope, however slight, endures!
This perspective is my wish for me.
And for all of us - now and forever.

[An adaptation of an Irish Blessing especially for cancer survivors]

Photo Credit: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/charles_darwin

Home but Not Alone!

This wise, 2,600-year-old observation by Confucius is especially germane in the time of Trump!

"Humans share the planet with as many as 8.7 million different forms of life, according to what is being billed as the most accurate estimate yet of life on Earth." "Scientists have been Dr. Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, says this question has been a focus of scientific study for a long time.  He further states:  "We know we are losing species because of human activity, but we can't really appreciate the magnitude of species lost until we know what species are there." [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/aug/23/species-earth-estimate-scientists]

Therefore, the quest has grown increasingly urgent. According to the study, an astonishing 86% of all plants and animals on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be named and catalogued So, the 8.7 million different known life forms equate to roughly 10 million probable earthly life forms.

While Earth is undeniably humankind's home, we are undoubtedly not alone. While some of these 10 million Earthlings may be inimical to humanity, we pose a far more significant threat to every one of them. Number 45 puts them all in more danger than ever before.

Number 45 has made things worse instead of better, he has and has had many accomplices:

"Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the   American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry." [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/15/50-years-climate-change-denial]

This  1968 report did not use the term “global warming” which did not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Nasa scientist James Hansen would not tell Congress that “global warming has begun” until 1988. And the US did not enter into the Paris climate accord until 47-years later. Number 45 pulled out of this belated agreement after scarcely three months in office.  “Analysts say the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement will make it more difficult for the world to reach the goals that it set for itself in the Paris agreement.”

            The closest allies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, along with Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland rightly condemned this action. According to Bob Ward from the UK's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, "President Trump's speech was confused nonsense." Number 45 is so ignorant that he neither knew nor cared that "the agreement states that no country can withdraw within three years of it coming into force, and the process of withdrawal takes a further year to complete.” Thus, the United States cannot completely withdraw from the Paris Agreement before 5 November 2020. This date is the day after the next US presidential election. So, We, the People, still have a chance to stop this fool from doing the harm his greed and arrogance propel him to do.

            In this context, it is important to note that under the Paris Accords: “Each country set its own targets, with reductions to begin in 2020.” Nothing whatsoever is imposed on any nation. Every notion sets its targets through its decision-making process! This fact directly contradicts Number 45’s claim that others are burdening the United States. Furthermore, he cited many negative statistics about the predicted economic impact from the climate deal. The statistics come from a March 2017 study, prepared by NERA Economic Consulting, but as Yale professor Kenneth Gillingham states “the NERA model assumes certain hypothetical regulations, that tend to produce higher costs, but "one could easily model other actions with much lower costs." Furthermore, it also ignores the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, like avoiding the harmful effects of climate change. Also, the NERA study assumes:

1.   that other countries don’t make emission reductions in line with the Paris Agreement, therefore leading American companies to relocate;

2.  that industries are static and don’t change to adapt to the regulations, and;

3.  that there would be no increase in clean electricity generation compared to the baseline scenario.

In other words, the NERA model makes assumptions that generate an extreme result. His use of it provides yet another example of deceptiveness by special pleading from Number 45.

            The Resident declared: "China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can't build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement." Under the Paris Accord, each country decides what it will do to reach its declared goals. The agreement doesn’t allow or disallow specific actions, like building coal plants. Thus 45 is either appallingly ignorant or blatantly lying. Furthermore, China took steps to stop coal plant construction. China stopped development of 103 new coal-fired plants. Between the effects of an economic slowdown and an effort to move toward less-polluting sources, China cut its use of coal three years in a row. Consequently, every explicit and implied objection by 45 is spectacularly wrong and patently false.

            Paris Agreement was under negotiation, Reilly co-authored an MIT report that criticized the deal for not making steep enough cuts in emissions to reach the Paris agreement’s ambitious goal of capping this century’s temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius.

John Reilly, co-director of the Joint Program on Science and Policy of Global Change at MIT, said in October 2015, "We are making progress, but if 2 C stabilization is our goal, it’s not nearly enough." The pledges shave 0.2 C of warming if they’re maintained through 2100, compared with what we assessed would have been the case by extending existing measures (due to expire in 2020) based on earlier international agreements in Copenhagen and Cancun. Thus, some knowledgeable people criticize the Paris Accord. However, Professor Reilly observed that tackling climate problems depends on taking a series of incremental steps to reduce carbon emissions and noted that pulling out of the Paris agreement would require even more significant reductions in the future.

In another misrepresentation, the Resident declared: "India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We're supposed to get rid of ours." India does have plans to nearly double its coal production, and the agreement does not prevent that. But the Paris Agreement does not even mention the word coal, and it does nothing to put a global moratorium on coal. Each signatory sets its own goals and reports on its progress. 45 again lies to incite xenophobia and obscure the necessity of countering climate change.

Finally, and ludicrously, 45 declared: "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America's interests." Pittsburgh, Pa., voted overwhelmingly for Trump's rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. She won almost 60 percent of the vote in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. The percentage was even higher in many precincts within the city of Pittsburgh itself. So, 45 was not elected by Pittsburghers to represent them. Like the rest of America, most voters preferred Hillary Clinton. Thus, in the last analysis, the rationale for pulling out of the Paris Accord offered by 45 was hokum and hogwash in its entirety.

As a recapitulation, on the Paris Accord:

1.     An agreement cannot be both nonbinding and draconian; Paris is nonbinding!

2.     Paris cannot be “renegotiated.”

a.     Each country is free to revise its NDC at any time — no negotiations needed. If Trump wants different terms, he just has to say so.

b.     As to renegotiating the entire Paris framework, and tearing up thousands of staff hours of work on behalf of an erratic man-child, No, the other 190 nations involved are not down with that.

3.     Abiding by the agreement will not cost the US a bazillion dollars: carbon in the US is being driven down by trends that are bringing economic development, jobs, and lower energy costs in their wake. Trump would have us believe that slightly accelerating those trends would whiplash us around to economic catastrophe. It’s goofy.

4.     China and India are not getting away with anything: This is 31 flavors of wrong.

a.     Trump just says “clean coal” when he means “coal.” It’s not clear that Trump has any clue what “clean coal” means, but insofar as it has any meaning, it means coal plants that capture and bury their carbon emissions. Far from “blocking” the development of clean coal, a commitment to reducing carbon emissions is the only reason to invest in it.

b.     Second, China is not “allowed” to do anything. Like all other participants [including America], China offered its own NDC and can revise it at any time. Only China controls China’s policies.

c.     Third, China does not have access to cheap, abundant natural gas, but it has canceled hundreds of coal plants recently, and the government is committed to phasing coal out as fast as possible, and the country currently expects to reach its NDC target early.

d.     Fourth, India (which also won’t be “allowed” to do anything) is working at breakneck speed to transition. It has pledged to get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, which will include building out 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. India is set to pass Japan this year to become the world’s third-largest market for solar (after China and the US).

e.     Other nations are not laughing at us behind our backs — or they weren’t, anyway: In 45’s view, “foreign lobbyists wish to keep our magnificent country tied up and bound down by this agreement,” Trump said. “It is to give their country an economic edge over the United States.”
                                                                  i.    The core of 45's appeal and the root of the problem 45 embodies is tribalism. The tribalist (or “nationalist” as they are often called) sees all relationships, interpersonal and international, as zero-sum struggles. There are only strong and weak, dominator and dominated, winners and loser

                                                                 ii.    “At what point does America get demeaned?” he sputtered. “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”

                                                                iii.    This assertion is nearly as raw as tribalism can be unless one adopts Hitlerian language explicitly. 45’s ideological defects fit 45's personality defects perfectly.

                                                                iv.    Trump and his supporters feel ridiculous and weak, and the only way to restore his and their fragile egos are to behave in a domineering manner and show the world once and for all that we are in charge and the most important.

                                                                 v.    Bluster is not bravery; aggression is not strength; conceit is not competence. 45's followers and Trump himself must not be allowed to destroy the planet because they are insecure, resentful, bullying fools!

The Paris Accord is not a panacea; it will not resolve the threat of climate change. Nonetheless, the ideological fallacies and psychological flaws shared by 45 and his supporters do reveal the depth and breadth of the danger they are to the Republic, the Earth, and the likely 10 million Earthling life forms. Tribalism, in particular, is atavistic and pernicious. We are all one tribe. The planet provides a habitat for many more Earthlings than humankind alone. If humanity does not defend all Earthly life, humanity will destroy all Earthly life! 

In this context, we must remember Carl Sagan’s description of Earth as a Pale Blue Dot.

"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena….”

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.”

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”

Carl Sagan is without a doubt the wisest and most benevolent persons I have ever known of or met. We should have listened to him in 1997; it is imperative that we take his comments to heart and act upon them now.



14 March, 2018

Pens - Rise and Shine!

It’s sad to say some things have not gone right
You've found yourselves in a fearsome fight
It's high time to raise your game and make a stand

You can’t get lost along the way
You’ve got to give your all on every play
And show the league you’re here to stay

You've been searching for the team you used to be
Now you found it rising, alive and well
And it’s screaming – “Let’s make it three!”

Pens - rise and shine, show your colors
Draw the line, make a stand
Rise and Shine, you band brothers!

Revive your spirits and take heart
The final twelve games offer a new start
Now, find a way to finish strong

What you give is what you'll get
Somewhere inside you, lives a fighter – brave and true
The battle's calling, raise up and see it through

Pens - rise and shine, show your colors
Draw the line, make a stand
Rise and Shine, you band brothers!

Photo credit: https://theathletic.com/181560/2017/12/11/with-even-strength-play-still-a-trouble-mike-sullivan-turns-to-sid-and-the-kids/

Loss of Seventeen

Now the White-Winged Owl
Soars above the throng
And seems to be asking -
Why, why, why?

Just like the White-Winged Owl
I, too, am asking
Why, why, why?
Seventeen had to die.

And more time goes by
More politicians dither and twist in the wind
In the web of deception
And self-serving spin

Listen, my friend,
Little else matters
Most weren’t much more than babies when
They fell victim to wanton slaughter

Something’s way wrong with our culture
Each moment we stand by
While little gets done and children die 
Although we've lost seventeen

Now the White-Winged Owl
Soars above the throng
Asking why, why, why
Seventeen more had to die

I ask today, and I vow to ask again tomorrow
And the action so far is alarmingly familiar
And I see RepubliCONs doing absolutely nothing
To effectively prevent another loss of seventeen!

This is written in honor of the Seventeen Minutes of Silence being observed across the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave in memory of the MSD victims and in demand of action against weapons of war in civilian hands.

Photo credit: https://www.timesargus.com/articles/the-outside-story-northern-visitors/

02 March, 2018

Do! Or Kids Die!

Got no good news to show you, and nothing kind to say
The deadly threat we’ve created, just can’t be wished away
It's what we get for acting like timid sheep and greedy swine
Our kids now pay the piper, while we run out of time

We got to change the way we do the things we do
And we need everyone aboard to push this through
Do! Or kids die! We got to turn this stuff around
It's no lie; kids face mortal danger; we must not back off or down

Do! Or kids die! If we don't learn, we will grieve forever
There is no wizard here to make our thinking better
There's much to do and just a few,
Who see what’s true

There's no easy answer; there are no magic tricks
We can't stall any longer; we must enact a real fix
Join these diverse warriors, help them win this dirty war
The enemy hides everywhere - on our block or right next door

We’ve got to draw the line and take it to the street
Do everything we can to help, and never accept defeat
Do! Or kids die! We got to turn this stuff around
It is no lie; if we don’t more kids will get shot down

Do! Or kids die! If we don't learn, we will grieve forever
In this emergency, we must get our act together
For what we need to come to be,
The work all falls to you and me!

Photo reference: http://www.wctv.tv/content/news/Tallahassee-still-processing-after-Never-Again-rally-takes-over-downtown-474890103.html

01 March, 2018

Uncommon Valor!


Gunshots echoed throughout the school halls.
Fired by the subject of so many calls.
In a reign of terror seen too often before.
Teachers and students fell dead on the floor!

Afterward, some heroes spoke through their pain.
Their rallying cry - “Never again!”
Most adults seemed surprised – even stunned
When it came to courage, these kids had them outgunned.

Bravely youths went to state government’s heart
And called out: “BS, we demand a new start!”
The lawmakers just played their old, useless games
So, our heroes vowed to kick butt and take names!

Though cruelly maligned as “crisis actors!”
These young ones stood bravely against all malefactors, 
Reactionary frenzy did not chase them away;
Undaunted, they stood tall and said what they had to say.

Will America finally learn from the brave and the young
And by that learning, do what now must get done?
The right wing is vicious and well-heeled
But these valiant students are unwilling to yield. 

We must push back against the deceitful and cruel
And the use of the Internet as a bullying tool.
When will we as Americans finally see,
Unregulated weapons of war do not make us free!

Though targeted by lies, threats, and vile smears
These brave students are wise far beyond their years
Despite repeated malicious slanders, we all know what’s true
Uncommon valor is their common virtue!

This poem is written in honor of Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Carmen Kaskey, and all other student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They, at least, still reside in the "home of the brave."

14 February, 2018

Are We Fighting the Good Fight?

Are we sitting on the sidelines?
Or are we fighting the good fight?
Will we help people raise their voices?
Whether they be Brown, Yellow, Black, or White.

Are we championing civil rights?
And doing more and more
As we once did in Mississippi
During the summer of 64?

Have we learned from Mississippi?
Now that hatred burns today -
Will we revive the dreams of Martin and Bobby?
Before their memories die or fade away

Are we stepping up and speaking out?
Or have we turned the other way?
Are we living truth or living lies?
As hatred burns anew today?

Are we standing firm for justice?
Are we doing all we can?
Raising funds and raising hopes
For the real ideals of our dear land?

We must learn from Mississippi!
Because hate, greed, and rage burn today
We must dream the dreams of Martin and Bobby
And never let them fade away.

We must ensure the struggle continues
And prove it is far from over yet?
We must fight for truth and freedom
And show the haters we will not forget!

We must learn from Mississippi,
Because hatred fiercely burns again today.
We must keep the work of Martin and Bobby
Alive, vibrant, and advancing every day.

If we loiter on the sidelines
We will live forever in regret.
For our country and its future,
We must prove we haven't and won't forget!