Curses! Fooled Again!

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of flood stays these scientists …

Um, no.

How, you might ask dear reader, do the scablands of eastern Washington relate to the Antarctic ice sheet?

Two stories from different centuries crossed my desk this morning. They don’t seem to be related but they do point us to a Truth.


Part I: Many scientists believe that Antarctica’s immense ice sheet is doomed. They have no doubt that Antarctica will melt into the sea.

That may not be entirely correct.

“A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers.”

Really? NASA’s research challenges settled science of most other studies that show Antarctica is losing land ice at a mind-boggling rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latched onto that factoid in their 2013 report without considering that it might not tell the whole story.

Now that the IPCC science is settled, no further reports are required.

In fact, the Washington Post last year opined that “A key climate change icon has reversed its warming trend, at least temporarily. … has been cooling, but that doesn’t disprove global warming…” (Jul 20, 2016)

There ya go. Since the net gain of Antarctic ice slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008, now we know why the global warming^H^H cooling^H^H climate change community can say Antarctica is melting.

Well, they can say that except for this little quibble about the facts.


Part II: Many geologists believed that the strange topography of eastern Washington State showed “geological change,” formed gradually and uniformly over thousands of years. They had no doubt.

The National Geographic reported about the Channeled Scablands, “The only possible explanation for the all the region’s features was a massive flood, perhaps the largest in the Earth’s history — ‘a debacle which swept the Columbia Plateau,’ ripping soil and rock from the landscape, carving canyons and cataracts in a matter of days. ‘All other hypotheses meet fatal objections,’ [Harley Bretz] wrote in a 1923 paper.”

The former high school teacher committed geological heresy.

The Horseshoe-Shaped Potholes Coulee along the Columbia RiverThe Flood-deniers, the geologists of the day. vehemently denied the Bretz theory. Dr. Bretz did thorough research including actually visiting the channeled scablands but the other geologists called his ideas not just “wholly inadequate” but “preposterous” and “incompetent.”

That’s a good story by itself.

But wait! There’s more!

The Geological Society of America did finally recognize Dr. Bretz’s theory. He received the Penrose Medal in 1979 but the story doesn’t end there.

Richard Waitt, a geologist with the USGS, explored the Walla Walla valley in southern Washington in 1977. He discovered that one of 40 sediment layers there contained ash from an eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

“I knew right away that there couldn’t have been just one flood,” Waitt said.

More than one flood? Why, that contradicts Dr. Bretz’s settled science!

When Mr. Waitt published his findings in 1980 that there had been at least 40 ice-age floods in the scablands, he faced such stiff resistance that he felt like Dr. Bretz himself. “Baker and his students were totally against it for years,” he said.


The science is settled, baby!

Oh. Wait…

As Glenn Hodges found in the National Geographic article, “Because scientists are first and foremost human beings, they’re loathe to change their theories or their minds because of mere data…”

 

Monuments

Sunday will be the 50th anniversary of the Detroit race riots.

“Gun battles raged in Detroit’s streets. Snipers clashed with National Guardsmen and police. Many residents huddled for safety in their homes, while others — both black and white — looted businesses. Many of the businesses were then set ablaze.

“The riots engulfed the city beginning July 23, 1967, and continued for five days — one of many to hit the U.S. that summer. The violence prompted President Lyndon Johnson to send in federal troops to quell the upheaval.

“Forty-three people — 33 blacks and 10 whites — were killed. More than 7,000 people were arrested. Over 1,400 buildings were burned. Fifty years later, Detroit is still recovering.”

We’ll see a lot of news coverage this week and next, alongside laudatory prose of how much the country is doing to remember the events and will use them to assure we never repeat those times.

U.S. Flag Flown Upside DownThe Algiers Motel incident, for example, happened one fire-lit night of the racially charged 12th Street Riot. The building itself is gone and grass grows on its lot. There has never been a monument there to the lives lost but there will be soon.

About a century earlier and some 500 miles to the southeast, we made a different kind of history.

July 21, 1861: The Civil War’s first major battle erupted at Manassas, known as Bull Run, Virginia
July 22, 1862: President Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet
July 23, 1863: A skirmish at Manassas Gap, Virginia
July 24, 1864: The second Battle of Kernstown, Virginia

Today, we are tearing down monuments to that War. I wonder how long it will be before historical revisionists tear down the new monuments in Detroit.

 

Going to the Mattresses Again

It’s raining; it’s pouring. The old man ain’t snoring. Darn it.

I sure could use it, too. I slept pretty well, I think, until 5:13 when I woke for no apparent reason. I did go back to sleep and was dreaming at 7:00 when SWMBO startled me right off the mattress by imitating a fire siren. I.Did.Not.Get.Back.To.Sleep after that. I simply played possum until the alarm.

I don’t think my mattress is the reason I don’t sleep as well as I did as a kid but a mattress could well be the reason we don’t sleep as comfortably as we did as kids.

Mattress thoughts have been popping up lately. One of my misc.writing buddies was musing about how to choose one “for a friend.” Liz Arden built one for herself from foam blocks a couple of years ago. And I realized this morning that I have bought exactly one mattress in my life. Part of that may be my pugnacious parsimony.

The Good Housekeeping Guide to Buying a Mattress reminds us right at the start that a “big part of what makes a good one is very personal: One person’s luxury is another person’s backache waiting to happen.”

Even online mattresses can cost thousands of dollars. I simply won’t pay that.

Mattress sellers say we won’t find bedding that can stand up to a decade of daily punishment for under a grand.

Horse puckey.

Part may be that I just haven’t found anything I like better.

SWMBO and I came this >┃┃< close to buying a Sunline TransPort toy hauler this weekend. It’s a pretty good alternative to the not-so-Perfect Travel Trailer and it would be parked here today if I hadn’t built a spreadsheet to run the numbers. Sunline built light but this one was just too heavy for the new truck.

Stack of MattressesIn going through my checklist, I sprawled out on the brand new, pillow top, queen-size mattress and took about a nanosecond to realize that was the only part of the trailer that sucked. It made my back hurt to lie down and it made my back hurt to get back up again.

That would have meant I’d have to buy two mattresses in my lifetime.

<SMH>

The last load of family furniture came north when Boppa moved to the Keys in 1984. That included the full size maple Sheraton four poster bed with tester frame that my folks slept in and now we do. (We had previously slept on a bed I built from 5/4-inch plywood, “decorator” cinder blocks, and a mattress that came from somewhere.) A couple nights on the horsehair mattress my folks had enjoyed was enough to send me to the Scott foam store.

My dad had worked for Scott Paper when they made a foray into the urethane foam business. They opened an outlet store at the Chester plant for foam blocks cut to size for chair cushions, boat cushions, mattresses, and the like. I bought the “green” high density mattress foam, stuffed it into a bedsack, and violas played.

About ten years ago, SWMBO and I decided we needed something different so we tried a couple of the inner spring mattresses on the guest room beds but didn’t like any of them. Next, I replaced the bedboard on top of the saggy, custom made box spring. Finally, I moved the horsehair mattress that came with this bed back on it and put the foam back on top of that.

Wow.

Anyone counting on their fingers has just realized that we’ve used this block of foam for about 33 years. The horsehair under it is easily a century older than that. I lay down on the bed this morning (briefly … that has nothing to do with why this reminiscence is late going up) and realized it is still about the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever tried.

There’s a lesson in here.

Commercial mattresses probably work OK for maybe about half the population. The rest of us would do well to experiment the way Ms. Arden did with blocks of varying density foam. Or try the way I did with foam and horsehair. Or go with toppers on a conventional inner spring mattress. Something will work, but it will take some research.

That and the fact that I should probably go down to UVM for a sleep study.

 

Independence Day

“Too often in recent history liberal governments have been wrecked on rocks of loose fiscal policy.”

Here’s a revolutionary idea.

Independence Day commemorates our declaration of independence from the King of England. The revolution officially began two days earlier when the Second Continental Congress approved the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain, a resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia in June. After voting for independence on July 2, Congress debated and revised the Declaration itself for two whole days and approved it on July 4.

In the centuries since, only the 111th Congress has moved with anywhere near the speed of that first gathering, since the 111th Congress passed trillions of dollars of spending on millions of pages of bills in less than 100 days. And no one in Washington read any of them.

The Declaration of Independence fits on one page. Everyone in the Continental Congress read the whole thing. Imagine that.

In Peoria just one hundred fifty-seven years ago, the young Rep. Abraham Lincoln said,

Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning July 4, 1776we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.” … Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. … Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it.

Lincoln spoke of the enslavement of persons. Today our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust by a government that would enslave We the Overtaxed People, taking more and more of our rights and our land and our life’s blood to its own purpose.

Just to rekindle our liberal friends, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the “loose fiscal policy” quote.

The second session of the current 115th Congress is back to its usual wiener roasts (they have “worked” 81 days this year and are off for the months of July and August) and Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus is indeed still fiddling in Washington.

Two hundred thirty-six years ago tomorrow, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum and an artillery salute for the soldiers who fought off the foreign monarchy that did enslave us. It is now time to mark July 4 with a double ration of electoral salute to those who would be the modern monarchy of government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Can you do that? Take the test if you dare.



Much of our litigious life today grew out of English Common Law. We abandoned one really good idea in the first Revolution, though. We abandoned the No Confidence vote.

An earlier version of this column first appeared in 2011.

 

For Whom the Toll Tolls, II

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Monroe County, Florida’s, commissioners said about adding a toll on U.S. 1 into the Keys.

“Some statutes have changed, tolling mechanisms have changed, a lot of things have changed,” Commissioner Heather Carruthers of Key Weird told the Keynoter. 18-Mile StretchShe introduced a resolution to explore the logistical and legal aspects of a toll at the board meeting on Wednesday. Commissioners endorsed the resolution on a voice vote.

Ms. Carruthers says there are a lot of big-ticket items looming for the Keys and their only recourse is to raise new, um, revenues.

That’s kind of refreshing. Most politicians promise to cut spending when they raise taxes. Our commishes make no such false promises.

Still, riiiight.

In For Whom the Toll Tolls we noted that Monroe County already collects about $700,000 in tolls each year on the Card Sound Bridge and spends about five times that much to keep the bridge up. They are in the midst now of a $2 million “upgrade” to change over from human toll collectors to the Sunpass system.

We can guess that they would install the border crossing^H^H toll booth on a wide spot in the 18-mile stretch that connects Florida City with Key Largo.

FDOT Florida Traffic Online shows 20,500 vehicles traversed the 18-mile stretch on an average day in 2016. At a buck a car (more for boat trailers and 18-wheelers bringing beer) that’s an easy $7.5 million. Ka-ching!

It would cost my neighbor Joe a couple of bucks more to go the Cleveland Clinic.

It would cost Rosie Martin a couple of bucks more to come to work. Rosie is a cashier at Kmart in Marathon. Like many store employees who work in the Keys, she can’t afford to live in the Keys so she commutes from Homestead.

It would cost the Borden Dairy delivery driver more than a couple of bucks extra to get to Walgreens with a truckload of milk. Guess where I get my milk?

And it would cost every tourist a couple of bucks more to visit.

A record 5,466,937 million visitors traveled to the Florida Keys in 2015. About one million of them were day trippers.

What do you bet the toll will have to be two bucks or more?

What do you bet the toll will cut the number of day visitors in half?

I have to put a new roof on my little house, rebuild my seawall, buy flood and wind and fire insurance, and build the not-so-Perfect-Travel-Trailer. A new toll will raise the prices on every bit of material that goes into each of those projects.

I can’t raise taxes or charge a toll on my driveway to cover those looming “big-ticket items.” I guarantee I can’t do them all in a single year, either. Imagine that.