The Disconnect is Real

twentytwentynews, surreal times, trump, politics, climate change

Jerry Waters, Contributor

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty disconnected lately. Disconnected in the sense that I don’t understand the hostility and self-righteousness and fear that’s screaming at me from conservatives. I used to be able to disagree without it becoming personal. Hell, we used to be able to find some small middle ground on which to discover mutual respect, but that’s nonexistent now.

Normally, I write about science and the environment. Usually, those are safely nerdy topics that don’t generate a tsunami of political heat. But lately, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve been threatened and ridiculed over things that I never imagined would be controversial politically. I mean, clean air and water? Space exploration? Conservation of natural resources? Yeah, I get that there are conflicting sides and different interests at stake, but I don’t understand the vitriol from the right.

We all still live on the same planet, right?

I mean, why is the head of the EPA hell bent on rolling back every regulation that protects the beautiful country we live in? Do people really want coal ash, fracking byproducts, and other chemicals in their drinking water with no legal means of recourse against the companies doing the polluting?

Why, again, are we drilling for oil off our coastlines? Why are we unnecessarily hastening environmental reviews for major construction projects destined to kill endangered species and lay waste to natural landscapes?

More importantly, why are Trumpsters and conservatives so mad at me for caring about the environment or worrying about the consequences of space exploration and research? They love to hurl insults and threats, but they’re very thin-skinned if you push back at all.

I’ve been amazed at watching them make excuses. The “tax cut” fiasco which explodes our deficit and exacerbates wealth inequality. Ignoring the fact that the Russians definitely and calculatingly interfered with our elections. Their stunning failure to fix healthcare and their laughable plan to repair our nation’s infrastructure. They worship Trump as infallible and excuse his every ignorant, crass, and dangerous remarks. They live in a toxic, mind-numbing, non-permeable bubble of misinformation and propaganda.

Perhaps, I’m not the one who is so disconnected after all. Indeed, “the Russians are laughing their asses off” because we suffer such an ignoramus, who is systematically dismantling our government and squandering our diminishing natural resources for his own profit and self-aggrandizement.

I will continue to write about the environment and science, but I had to get that off my chest. Each day, I’m sickened that Scott Pruitt is in charge of the EPA and that our children’s education is in the comically incompetent hands of Betsy DeVos. While we were distracted by the dizzying displays of perpetual White House scandal, Trump presented a budget that eliminated funding for public broadcasting and for NASA’s education programs. I mean, this shithead wants to get rid of the TVA and defund any efforts to produce renewable energy.

It’s exhausting keeping up with Trump’s destruction of our beloved country. It’s heartbreaking watching this greedy buffoon and his cronies get rid of necessary environmental regulations and reviews so that they can make a few bucks in the short term.

I’ve no doubt that America will survive this, but it’s clear that every day that Trump is in office that our nation becomes diminished, sicker, and unstable. The anti-environment and anti-science fervor that has swept the Republican party must be stopped in its tracks because the consequences will be deadly.

Forgive my rant, I’ll get back to writing about the things I love, but in the era of Trump I find myself banging my head on my desk regularly.

Do we need more off-shore drilling (except off Mar-A-Lago, of course)?

oil, rig, maralago, trump, zinke

Jerry Waters, Contributor

If you say, “Drill, baby drill” around a Republican, it appears to have the same effect as an illegal, highly addictive aphrodisiac that’s almost as potent as, “I dig coal”.  Conservatives were elated when Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords and downright giddy as his administration took a wrecking ball to environmental regulations that were designed to keep us safe.

Although the world has made monumental strides in developing and producing a multitude of clean energy sources, the Republicans insist on prolonging their dirty affair with oil and fossil fuels for as long as possible. No matter how many pipelines burst an d pollute drinking water or supertankers spill millions of gallons of toxins into the sea, they truly believe that oil and coal are the fuels of our future.

Recently, the Trump administration announced that it intended to open most US coastal waterways for expansive oil drilling, except for Florida.  The new policy doesn’t care if the drilling takes place near endangered species or fragile ecosystems. Yet, it seems that drilling off Florida’s coast could be a bigly distraction to Trump’s weekly, tax-payer funded golf game, so that was quickly nixed.  Other states are applying for the same exemption as Florida, but it depends on whether they are red or blue and how much they are willing to kiss Trump’s ass.

The big question, though, is do we need more off-shore drilling?

The short answer is “No.”

Right now, US oil production is at an all-time high while demand has remained fairly steady. Prices are low. Also, the Trump administration let the oil-spill clean-up tax expire and have no plans for renewing it, which is a huge financial boon to oil companies as supply exceeds demand.  Fracking has turned out to be cheap and profitable. Under Trump, they can now get away with polluting, creating flammable tap-water, and causing earthquakes to their heart’s content.

It’s 15 to 20 times cheaper for US oil companies to drill or frack on land than it is to for them to do off-shore drilling. Even with the stunningly stupid roll-back of drilling safety regulations, there’s not a good business case for increased off-shore drilling. They just want to have that option for the day that they are in direct competition with clean, renewable energy. They want to get every dime possible out of the fossil fuel infrastructure they’ve spent decades creating before it becomes wholly obsolete. Who cares if a few people or some fish die in the process? It’s all about the money, baby.

“Drill, baby, drill” is the ancillary to Trump’s Golden Rule- “Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.” It’s why he put his nefarious minion, Zinke, in charge of the Interior Department. Zinke has flip-flopped on most major environmental issues, but he’s clearly a Trumper today. He has lifted bans on trophy hunting imports, rescinded the ban on bullets that cause lead contamination, and reduced national monuments.

In the spirit of Roy Moore, Zinke rode a horse to his swearing-in. Even better, when he’s not chartering private jets at tax-payer expense, he demands that The Flag of The Secretary of the Interior be flown after a small ceremony whenever he is in the building. I promise, I’m not making this stuff up!

Zinke is hell-bent on destroying our public lands and water-ways to ensure that big business can exploit them any way they see fit. Besides, now that he’s raised the price of admission to most parks, you can’t afford to go there anyway.

His love of the “Drill, baby, drill” mantra isn’t necessarily practical, but it’s brazenly political. Zinke wants big business to know that he’s got their back and that he’s not going to let something like a protected or endangered species get in the way of making a few bucks. I mean, fuck the Greater Sage-Grouse, really!

So,with all of Trump’s focus on eliminating safety regulations, and pesky Greater Sage-Grouses, for Big Oil, what could possibly go wrong?

I’m sure Zinke has the stable, genius answer and will point us to that over-used scripture that he has marked with a Post-It in his Bible about “Man having dominion over the earth” while he’s loading his gun to kill some big game animal to decapitate and put on his office wall.

By the way, that Flag of The Secretary of the Interior better be flying when he comes back to the office with his new trophy, or there’s going to be some serious Hell to pay!

Like coffee? You better save the killer bees

coffee, killer, bees

Jerry Waters, Contributor

I was recently horrified to discover that man-made climate change is threatening the very gasoline that fuels human existence: coffee. These dreadful tidings are enough to move the hands of my personal Doomsday Clock rapidly forward to display a quick two seconds to midnight. Folks, this is a DEFCON 5 situation that requires immediate attention and the kind of rapid global action that can only occur after unhealthy abuse of espresso.

So, the problem is that rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns have already begun to affect the Latin American coffee crop. The biggest pollinator of coffee crops happens to be the killer bee whose work is vital for high commercial yields. Aside from temperature and precipitation changes, the killer bees are also losing habitat quickly due to humans destroying their homes.

Compounding these issues, killer bees really don’t much like humans messing with them and beekeepers aren’t exactly fond of handling critters with “killer” as their descriptive moniker. As all these compounding factors threaten coffee production, it is feared that if some major corrective measures aren’t taken that the industry could have some very rough times ahead.

As I write and sip my very bold Colombian morning blend, it drives home the point about how interconnected we are as a planet. I never thought that I would be thanking a killer bee for my morning joe, nor did I imagine that I would suddenly be very concerned about her survival. In fact, too many Americans are blissfully oblivious to the rampant global destruction that’s caused by their unquenchable consumerism.

As my java kicks in, I think that all coffee-loving Americans need to start doing their part to ensure that the international companies that bring us all these products we desire are doing it in an environmentally responsible way. This revelation about the contribution of the killer bee to my caffeine addiction brought home the reality of the fragility of our ecosystem.

From the Pacific Trash Vortex to the earthquakes caused by fracking, the selfish human desires for profit and self-indulgence are wreaking havoc on our planet. Of course, it is politicized because it costs more money to ensure that the utilization of natural resources doesn’t result in their depletion or become the catalyst for a chain of events that harm other living things and biomes.

Somehow, we all keep forgetting about our symbiotic relationship with the killer bee.

In this age of seemingly infinite consumerism with the carcasses of plastic bottles and K-cups seemingly everywhere, I can’t pretend to know any quick fix or magical solution. I think it simply begins with awareness followed by a personal commitment to think about the consequences of your lifestyle choices. Maybe, it starts with finding out if your coffee is produced by a responsible grower who doesn’t exploit his workers in the fields and understands the great value of the killer bee to the yield of his crop.

So much of this debate over man’s impact on the climate is absurdly obvious as we continue to pave and clear-cut and mine and try to force nature’s hand. As a species, we’ve got to become much more aware of our footprint and we must commit to preserving the delicate balance of our planet. We have no choice but to inject politics into the debate or we risk more profiteers, like Trump, shredding global agreements to curtail pollution.

I can probably live without my iPhone and certainly don’t need a toaster connected to WiFi, but when you start talking about coffee shortages, you have my undivided attention. So, let’s make sure we do everything we can to help the killer bees keep killing it.

Stand in solidarity with us. tea drinkers, because you may be next. Maybe, this is what folks mean when they say I need to get “woke”…

Read more on the Coffee Loving Killer Bees

New mysterious signals from outer space: Are Earthlings ready for alien contact?

alien, signals, stephen, hawking

Jerry Waters, Contributor

The Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner Breakthrough Listen project recently announced that they have received over fifteen fast radio bursts from an unknown galactic source and that they have no idea if they are intentional. The signals were first detected in 2012 and appear to emanate from a source 3Bn light years away. It could be waves from neutron stars, black holes, or possibly intentional communication from extraterrestrial life. Scientists across the globe are giving their opinions and unsurprisingly arguing about the origin of these unexplained transmissions.

Ironically, some scientists and writers, like Nadia Blake, are showing extreme bias by saying, “Invoking aliens as a potential solution to an ongoing mystery is lazy” while others are convinced without much supporting evidence that this is undeniable proof of alien contact. Of course, most people understand that while it’s appropriate to speculate, it’s also way too early to sign off onto any type of conclusion until more research and irrefutable evidence can be gathered.

The most intriguing question is that if these signals are definitively proven to be from an intelligent alien source; are humans ready for alien contact? Do we have a planned coordinated international response? Surely, if they ask to be taken to our leader then we’re not going to let them tweet with Donald Trump…

It’s easy to dismiss these questions out of skepticism or arrogance, but that would be imprudent and potentially disastrous for our species and our planet. Scientists just proved that it’s raining diamonds on Jupiter and Saturn. Luckily, they didn’t say that was happening on Uranus or no one would ever take them seriously again! Well, joking aside, the point is that so many discoveries and advances seem so far-fetched and impossible at the time until they become hard facts or everyday common knowledge that is indisputable and invaluable.

It’s deeply troubling to think that we might miscommunicate with alien life. It’s equally frightening to think that we’ll react aggressively simply out of ignorance. There’s also the possibility that their intentions may be to deliberately destroy or colonize our planet. Yet, much like our heated intra-planetary debate about the pros and cons of artificial intelligence or the manipulation of genes and chromosomes, we have not reached universal consensus.

We can’t even get universal agreement on the science of climate change and the we’re already feeling the measurable negative effects. We currently have the resources to ensure that no one our planet goes hungry, yet hunger and starvation persist across the globe.

Although, as a species we continue to fail to address so many urgent and critical challenges, our technology and knowledge base seems to be advancing almost exponentially. Our cell phones have become powerful computers. We can access information from across the world instantly. Our inventions and breakthroughs are happening so fast that most of us can’t acknowledge or comprehend their current impact or long-term consequences. Many of the people reading this article had a Commodore 64 as their first computer and remember when cell phones were unbelievably expensive and the size of a shoe box.

So, are we ready to have any kind of meaningful discussion with alien life? Ready or not, they may be calling and it’s time we figure out what we’re going to do when that happens. The odds are ever in our favor that one of neighbors is going to come calling sometime soon.

For the skeptics, perhaps it’s time to contemplate the juvenile vanity inherent in the belief that humans are the only sentient beings in the universe. For the folks who watched one too many episodes of the X-Files, it’s time to put down the PlayStation controller and get involved in helping craft a global policy to address this contingency. Yeah, I’m talking to you, nerd.

If you ask me, I think we’re ready. For all our faults as a species, I still think we’re mostly good, decent, and curious in a healthy way. I just hope that their first contact isn’t with a Trump or a member of the Freedom Caucus, If that happens, I hope I can afford a seat on the next SpaceX flight off this rock to go collect diamonds on Uranus, I mean Saturn…

Stephen Hawking’s Signals from Space

New climate change policy: Don’t ask, don’t tell

climate change

Jerry Waters, Contributor

While the EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is busy dismantling every sensible environmental regulation he can get his oil-soaked hands on, he has simultaneously launched a new strategy to ensure that the fossil fuel industry wins its public opinion war over the realities of climate change. This last week, the EPA disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment which is the fifteen-member federal agency in charge of helping the government, the military, and big corporations deal with the practical and tangible issues arising from climate change. They are also supposed to guide the production of the National Climate Assessment Report which is supposed to be produced every four years. Well, that just got thrown into a landfill.

So, the new EPA strategy for dealing with climate change has now become ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ In fact, policy has changed so that even saying things like ‘global warming’ or ‘man-made climate change’ just might get you fired if you work for the EPA. Well, they may not fire you, but you could end up being another research scientist that’s been recently relocated to the accounting department.

The thing that’s stunningly stupid about this is that even if you harbor the insane delusion that mankind has absolutely nothing to do with climate change, it’s obvious to every person on this ever-warming and polluted planet that it is, indeed, happening. You can debate the causes all you want, but there’s no arguing about the measurable fact that temperatures and ocean levels are rising. The destruction of rain forests isn’t dependent on anyone’s opinion, it just a fact. The list of endangered and extinct species is real regardless of what anyone thinks or believes.

Having said that, wouldn’t it be in the best interest of scum-sucking fossil-fuel lovers and champions of industrial pollution to know how climate change affects their bottom line? I mean, what’s the point of destroying the environmental habitat of a beachfront to build condos if rising sea levels or fierce tropical storms are going to endanger your investment in a few short years? You’d think these profiteers would at least like the facts about how climate change will impact their businesses even if they believe mankind didn’t cause the problem.

That’s not how our new EPA or the geniuses in the Trump administration see it. They just want everyone to believe that the majority of the world’s most respected scientist are engaged in a liberal conspiracy. Those Birkenstock-wearing hippies are trying to kill the coal industry and they’re always bitching about water pollution. Didn’t they read that part in the Bible about man having dominion over the planet? Besides, if we don’t acknowledge that there’s a problem, then there won’t be a problem anymore. Obviously, that approach worked with gays in the military and Pruitt is hoping it can work with climate change, too!

All joking aside, this is something that Americans should be outraged over. This is a global problem that transcends politics. Mother Nature isn’t going to care about your political leanings as coastlines deteriorate, our water becomes increasingly toxic, and summer temperatures get so high that commercial jets are grounded.

This new policy of deliberate ignorance is nothing more than a short-term strategy for the fossil fuel industry to squeeze every penny out of consumers before their industry becomes obsolete. The damage they are doing to our planet is horrific and, in some instances, irreversible. Hopefully, clean and renewable energy will continue to flourish before it’s too late. As Americans, we can’t allow the destruction of the EPA.

Pruitt may be thinking that the EPA’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy will work, but just like the military discovered, reality can be a drag queen with an assault rifle.

Inconvenient Truth: More Information on Climate Change

EPA enforcement reduced to “promise you won’t do it again”

trump, environment

Jerry Waters, Contributor

Feel like dumping a bunch of toxic chemicals in a lake? How about burying some industrial waste in the woods where no one can see ya? Well, now’s the time, polluters! See, the Trump administration has decided that enforcing environmental protections is just a big waste of time and bad for corporate profits. So, in the spirit of using the Earth as a huge industrial sewer, they’ve decided to look the other way so companies can go make America great again, like when we used to have choking smog and flammable streams.

Oh, soon we’ll be able to relive the good old days when our eyes burned in every urban area. Yes, we can’t wait for everyone to share the same excitement as the people of Flint, Michigan enjoyed as they played Russian roulette with their tap water. There’s nothing that can add excitement to your life like getting some rare terminal disease because some corporate fuck gave the greenlight for toxic chemicals to be illegally dumped in your subdivision!

That’s right, under the new dumpster politics of the Trump administration, the EPA has prosecuted environmental malfeasance 60% less and hopes to prosecute even less with smaller fines. It’s part of their new “promise you won’t do it again” plan. We can also count on EPA head and fossil fuel lover Scott Pruitt to make sure that fines don’t impose any significant imposition on corporate polluters because that would just be rude and mean. Besides, who’s really to say where that cancer or burning rash or racking cough really came from anyway?

Besides, you can’t trust liberal scum like Smokey the Bear or that crying Indian guy all broken up about finding some trash in a stream… bunch of pansies! C’mon, it’s not like acid rain was ever really that big a deal. It’s not like the ice caps melting is going to affect anyone’s stock portfolio anytime soon. So, fracking causes a few little earthquakes… we’ll call the flex-fuel “whaaa-ambulance” for you.

Look, the whole point here is that the new administration isn’t anti-environment per se, no, no, it’s just that they are very, very pro-profit. See, cleaning up that pollution crap is pretty expensive and without illegal immigrants to do it, well, it can just sit there awhile. Making a few bucks is what’s really important. So, a few people get sick or go blind or have kids with three eyeballs, but hey, products are cheaper and their 401K retirement accounts are looking freaking amazing.

Everybody just needs to chill because Trump is just getting rid of all those job killing regulations. It’s going to get really exciting in this country when the FDA and the USDA have to start killing two regulations for every one they need to impose. At this rate, it won’t be long when we can start drinking unpasteurized milk again and maybe even take pills that got to skip all the laborious clinical trials. Golly, maybe we can finally get rid of those stupid child-proof caps. Just think of all the new products and profit! Hell, we might even see thalidomide make a come back!!

Oh, the glory days of lead-based paint, asbestos, and lawn darts. See, Trump gets what makes America great and we just haven’t been the same since the Love Canal.

So, suck it up snowflakes, coal is coming back and, soon, you’ll be free to dump whatever you want, where you want and never have to worry about paying big fines or going to jail. Yep, that oily, corrosive, rancid smell is the smell of freedom, baby!

It won’t be long before the Environmental Protection Agency can change its name to the new Trump Economic Profit Agency and Casino.

While all the liberals freak out, we’ll just keep chanting “Drill, baby, drill” and try to find an open-minded doctor for our strange looking kid, that knows anything about tri-ocular vision or can explain any of his other interesting mutations.

Screw the environment, we’re building a wall!

environment, wall, turtle, endangered species, twentytwentynews

Jerry Waters, Contributor

The latest genius move by the Trump administration is one where they waive all environmental impact studies prior to the construction of a massively unnecessary and expensive wall on the Mexican border. Who cares about the indigenous wildlife that might be impacted? So what if the wall causes flooding problems or affects drinking water? Trumpists say, “Screw the environment, we’re building a wall!”  Well, they used to add that Mexico would pay for it until Vicente Fox politely told them to “Fuck off!”

Yeah, it seems that in America’s fervent quest to seal its southern border, studying the environmental impact would just take too darn long. It’s not like it’s a wall spanning 2,000 miles with drastically diverse ecosystems and habitats cutting through densely populated urban areas and vast uninhabited expanses… oh, wait, never mind. Anyway, it’s just the environment. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, there aren’t any international treaties that cover this sort of thing. Crap, well there are a few, but surely, we can find a way to circumvent that…

Trump figures if he can waive ethics laws for his staff, why not waive environmental laws for a wall that hasn’t even been designed yet?

So, there’s about 90 endangered species that could be impacted by the wall. But, who really gives a shit about the coastal California gnatcatcher or the Quino checkerspot butterfly? So, a few wetlands, streams, and habitats bite the dust and in their place we get a great, beautiful wall (with a door, I hear) and maybe even a casino. It will definitely solve the problem of people overstaying their visas and it will definitely keep folks from finding other ways to enter the country illegally. It’s surely the best use of taxpayer dollars and sure to endear us to our Mexican neighbors.

People are sure making a big deal about all this and acting like the wall goes right through national protected wildlife refuges… damn it, like the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Texas… well, you gotta break a few spotted owl eggs to make an omelette, as they say.

Trump and his folks have promised to be careful. They were careful when they gutted the Clean Water Act to allow companies to dump pollution into streams and nothing really bad has been on the fake news about that yet.

Besides, this is a great way to keep everyone busy and forget about doing the very hard work of reforming the legal immigration system. In fact, the Trump administration is working real hard right now to lower the amount of legal immigrants allowed in America. Well, except for the ones he needs to exploit as domestic labor at his Mar-A-Lago club for so he can golf and party with his rich buddies.

C’mon, you didn’t see the Germans all worried about the environment when they built the Berlin Wall. The Chinese built the Great Wall without giving one hoot about the environment and, now, it’s a huge tourist attraction you can see from space!

So, we spend 1.6 Billion as a down payment for about a hundred miles of wall and, according to Trump, the whole thing’s gonna cost around 20 Billion… he’s just the greatest at math, no one does math like him. Maintenance, fuggetaboutit… no one builds a wall like Trump… it will pay for itself if Mexico won’t chip in.

Well, I’m glad we’ve got all that settled here because we sure wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money investing in clean, renewable energy as we face the dire impacts of man-made climate change.

So, say it with me, “Screw the environment, we’re building a wall!” Maybe, we can sell some of those Quino checkerspot butterflies to help pay for it. Well, we better do it quick before they go extinct.

Little Donny Two Scoops’ War Against Science

Jerry Waters, Contributor

Prior to conning half the US population into voting him into the presidency, Trump tossed around the bullshit idea that climate change was nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. On several occasions, he would tweet about winter storm events and claim that they were definitive proof of the aforementioned and mysteriously elaborate Chinese conspiracy. Given Trump’s adoration of the fossil fuel industry, his juvenile statements are not surprising, just indescribably pathetic.

Before he took office, scientists were scrambling to preserve findings and data to ensure that his amazingly dumb ass wouldn’t destroy decades of research and plunge America into a deeper anti-intellectual dark age.

However, even Hair Fuhrer decided it would look good to sensible, non-Trumpian Americans if he pretended to at least explore the concept. So, he met with Al Gore and said he’d “keep an open mind”, but that he still viewed the concept with great skepticism. That’s his clever code for “fuck the environment if I, or my golf buddies, can make a buck.”

Which brings us to Trump’s latest head-shaking shenanigans, where he rubber-stamped Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s reassignment of 50 career officials, including Joel Clement, the agency’s top climate change analyst. Clement has since filed a whistleblower complaint against the Interior Department alleging that he was reassigned to accounting (yeah, that’s right, fucking accounting) for “speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities”.

The ridiculous orange narcissist also believes that vaccines cause autism, windmills are bad for people’s health, environmentally-friendly lightbulbs cause cancer, asbestos is great, and that coal is so bigly clean. There are probably many more ignorant delusions held deeply by Trump, but we don’t have the time to sort through each one of his bizarre, unfounded, or demonstrably insane beliefs.

To be clear, Trump hates facts. He really despises science because science is nothing more than the interpretation, analysis, and synthesis of facts to study the world through observation and experimentation. Scientific fact remains true whether you believe in it or not. Science doesn’t care about your selfish profit obsessions or your professions of faith or your unhealthy addiction to confirmation bias.

What Trump learned during his “Art of the Bullshit Real-Estate Deal” days was that most people were inclined to believe almost anything if they thought it might profit them. That’s why so much surrounding the real estate business is a scam. Properties aren’t sold based on what they’re quantitatively worth, they’re sold based on the buyer’s perception of worth. That’s why facts are Orange Mussolini’s anathema… maybe he can ask Bannon what that word means.

This is precisely why Trump can’t accept science: You can’t sell over-priced property without hyperbole, immense exaggeration, and worthless promises that it will surely double in value. Trump shows us daily that you don’t have to be smart to sell people bullshit and have them come back asking for another helping.

So, it’s up to us to continue to pursue facts and expand our scientific understanding. Our species and our planet are counting on us. Once Trump gets impeached or his term expires, it’s going to take a bunch of work to correct the damage he has done.

Little Donny Two-Scoops’ war against science is nothing more than the incoherent ravings of a greedy and profoundly selfish man-child. He’s given the ignorant credibility by giving belief the same standing as evidence. Well, the fact is that this man is a danger to our planet and that no one, not even the great Twitler, can win against science.

As Einstein said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Well, after watching Trump in action, we have no choice but to concur.

The real and present danger of Artificial Intelligence

Jerry Waters, Contributor

Growing up, I saved all summer for a Commodore 64 computer and learned BASIC so I could program it to randomly generate numbers for my characters in Dungeons and Dragons. Now, mentioning the Commodore 64 is a quaint anachronism as we have the modern capability to talk to our cell phone supercomputers and they can pinpoint our location anywhere on earth.  Our technologies are growing exponentially and average people are having a hard time keeping up and understanding the myriad of complex consequences.

Recently, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, gave a dire warning about the potential dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) because he believes that the technology is expanding faster than we can regulate it or fathom the potential dangers.

I may date myself here, but Hollywood tried to warn us with films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and War Games. We’ve also had similar ethical debates regarding genetic engineering and cloning. In fact, I just read somewhere that there’s a doctor ready to perform the world’s first human head transplant. To be honest, aside from it being existentially creepy, I’m not real sure how I feel about that and I haven’t even begun to untangle the messy legal and ethical implications involved in such a procedure.

One thing I know is that we can open a Pandora’s box unintentionally if we don’t establish regulations and processes based on sound ethics and solid legal principles. I also know that it’s worth the investment to enforce these regulations and processes or we’ll be watching the reality television version of Frankenstein.

AI has the potential to help humans beyond their wildest dreams or to become the nightmare from which we never wake. I’ve used Siri in my iPhone to recommend restaurants and to snarkily ask, “What did the fox say?” Obviously, the technology is in its infancy. What happens when terrorists decide to use it create a computer super virus? What happens if AI designers develop a system that becomes self-aware and determines that mankind is a threat to its survival?

How much should AI be able to interface with other technologies and why? Is someone planning on a human brain/ AI hybrid?

We know what can happen if we don’t take the time to answer these questions. Aren’t we still dealing with the consequences of the proliferation of nuclear weapons? When you get right down to the crux of the matter, aren’t most of our current human conflicts over who controls the fossil fuels that power our current technologies?

Elon Musk is adamant that we do something now because “by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late”.  It’s noteworthy that other leading human intelligence echoes his concerns, folks like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. The big questions they ponder are: 1) Who controls the technology to determine its impact?,  2) How do we prevent them from becoming completely autonomous?, and 3) How do we prevent them from fighting humanity?

Certainly, it’s easy to dismiss all of this as hyped-up fear, but the technology exists right now. With all the hacking that’s been dominating our headlines, how do we know this information will stay secure and not fall into the hands of some James Bond archetypal villain?

As Alex Morritt put it, “Whoever perceives that robots and artificial intelligence are merely here to serve humanity, think again. With virtual domestic assistants and driverless cars just the latest in a growing list of applications, it is we humans who risk becoming dumbed down and ultimately subservient to machines.”

After this last disaster of a presidential election, it’s hard to argue against that point.  In the meantime, I’m going to use the app on my phone to check my refrigerator live-feed video to see if I need to buy more milk while I’m out.

The foxes in Alabama’s polluted henhouse

Jerry Waters, Contributor

This week, The Center for Biological Diversity, The Sierra Club and The Center for Environmental Health have joined together to notify the states of Alabama and Mississippi that they intend to file suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ensure that these states are not filling their environmental protections boards with people who have conflicts of interests regarding the fossil fuel industry and pollution.

With climate change denier Scott Pruitt heading up the EPA, it’s no wonder that red states are following the President’s lead by appointing people to environmental protection boards that seek to destroy the environment for financial gain. This is truly a case of the foxes watching the henhouse. It may be more apropos to compare it to Trump’s “drain the swamp” analogy which has become code for actually filling the swamp with more toxic waste and genetically-engineered monsters.

Pruitt is a very special kind of asshole who has not only funded his previous political campaigns with fossil fuel money, but he’s also sued the EPA fourteen times prior to Trump appointing him to head up the agency. He profoundly hates the Humane Society, free-range chickens, and scientists. That’s right, Pruitt fired all the scientists on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors so he could replace them with fossil fuel industry executives. Pruitt doesn’t think carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global climate change, but does believe that coal is headed for a major comeback.

So now, Alabama is going to take Pruitt’s lead. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s not like Alabama has ever had a problem with conflicts of interests. It’s not like in 2010 when the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM) Anita Archie was also hired as a lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama for the sole purpose of helping people in the fossil fuel industry get air and water pollution permits. It’s not like Alabama is home to Superfund pollution sites or the home of 3M dumping Teflon waste in drinking water. See, there’s nothing to see here.

Of course, we might get concerned if Alabama was rated second-worst in the nation for drinking water or twelfth-worst in the nation for air pollution coming from coal and oil-fueled power plants. Oh, well, yeah, so there is that. Cough. Alright, so it’s not like Alabama uses all kinds of pesticides that are toxic and- oh, yeah, there’s that, too.

Just this year, the Southern Environmental Law Center had to file suit to try and stop the Black Warriors Mineral Mine #2 from dumping waste into the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River. You know, that source of drinking water for the good people of Birmingham, Alabama. They’re also dumping toxic crap into Turkey Creek and threatening endangered species.

Maybe ADEM could see if some of these coal miners want to take a quick shower and sit on the board to protect the state’s streams from coal pollution. Maybe ADEM could get some frackers on there, too.  Also, there’s probably plenty of room on the board for people who make chemical herbicides and pesticides… it’s not like it’s poison, right? Why can’t people just spend a little more on some Brita water filters and quit acting like they have some kind of deeply personal relationship with the flattened musk turtle? Who cares if a few people get sick because they forgot to wash their produce before they ate it? Don’t they know better?

Well, let’s hope these environmental legal warriors win their suit against the EPA or else we’re going to have a whole bunch of genetically-mutated, three-headed foxes guarding a very, very polluted henhouse.