Timothy Egan points out the greatest tragedy of the mudslide... that we knew it was coming.
Don't tell me, please, that nobody saw one of the deadliest landslides in American history coming. Say a prayer or send a donation for a community buried under a mountain of mud along a great river in Washington State, the Stillaguamish. Praise the emergency workers still trying to find a pulse of life in a disaster that left 25 people dead and 90 missing.Egan details a frightening example of exactly this kind of failure that he witnessed in the same area 25 years ago.
But enough with the denial, the willful ignorance of cause and effect, the shock that one of the prettiest valleys on the planet could turn in a flash from quiet respite in the foothills of the North Cascades to a gravelly graveyard.
“This was a completely unforeseen slide,” said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. “It was considered very safe.” He said this on Monday, two days after the equivalent of three million dump truck loads of wet earth heaved down on the river near the tiny town of Oso. Unforeseen — except for 60 years’ worth of warnings, most notably a report in 1999 that outlined “the potential for a large catastrophic failure” on the very hillside that just suffered a large catastrophic failure.
Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.Climate change may have no connection to the storms that initiated the disastrous slide, but that doesn't mean human changes to the environment weren't directly responsible. For reasons that remain utterly unreasonable, we're willing to spend, not billions, but trillions fighting against will-o-the-wisps of foreign threats, and suffer almost daily inconvenience over possibilities that are remote at best. Meanwhile, we continue to be incredibly oblivious to threats that are real, immediate, and which we make worse through our own actions.
Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast. And that’s why reports like the ones done on the Stillaguamish get shelved.And that's how whole families end up buried under waves of ugly gray mud.
Come on in, let's see what else is going on...
Ross Douthat insists that conservative Christians need to be measured with a special ruler.
Here is a seeming paradox of American life. One the one hand, there is a broad social-science correlation between religious faith and various social goods — health and happiness, upward mobility, social trust, charitable work and civic participation.You have to take Douthat's word about that "broad correlation," because he provides no evidence. However, he does attack a few specifics.
Yet at the same time, some of the most religious areas of the country — the Bible Belt, the deepest South — struggle mightily with poverty, poor health, political corruption and social disarray.
Earlier this year, a pair of demographers released a study showing that regions with heavy populations of conservative Protestants had higher-than-average divorce rates, even when controlling for poverty and race.The adjustment championed by Douthat separates "active" conservative protestants from "nominal" conservative protestants, showing that while the nominal conservatives have the highest divorce rate of any group, Christian or non-Christian, the solidly active conservatives only under-perform when compared to... all other Christians. So there. The thing is, what this study takes as "nominal" isn't just people who check Baptist on a form, or even those who dust off a suit for Easter. It also includes people who go to church up to half the time, a condition that most people would take as pretty active in the church. By constraining the set of "active" to only those who sit a pew every Sunday, Stokes and Douthat are basing their defense of conservative protestants on a small subset of the above, and a very small subset of young couples without children in church activities. But it doesn't really matter. Because, just as Pinky's friend The Brain is out to take over the world every night, Douthat is only out for one thing each Sunday.
Their finding was correct, but incomplete. As the sociologist Charles Stokes pointed out, practicing conservative Protestants have much lower divorce rates, and practicing believers generally divorce less frequently than the secular and unaffiliated.
On the secular side, though, there’s a sense that there’s a better way — that a more expansive state can offer many of the benefits associated with a religious community, but in a more enlightened, tolerant, individual-respecting form. And if delivering these benefits requires co-opting or constraining religious actors — be they charities and schools or business owners — well, that’s either a straightforward win-win, or a relatively modest price to pay.In other words, allowing people who work for a corporation to have the health care they need is making people in Mississippi get divorced. Abracadabra.
The New York Times comes out against the proposed rules on crowdfunding.
Before Facebook paid $2 billion last week to buy Oculus VR, a virtual reality headset maker, 9,500 people donated $2.4 million via Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website, to get Oculus off the ground. Those early donors got thank-you notes, T-shirts or prototype headsets, but not a piece of the company. Donations through Kickstarter are just that, donations, not investments.As a self-confessed Kickstarter addict (I've now backed 69 projects from publishing and film to custom marshmallows), I hope the SEC gets this right. It would be great to be able to actually get a piece of some of these companies when you see an idea you love.
That is where the Securities and Exchange Commission, with its explicit mission to protect investors, is supposed to come in. But the agency’s proposed crowdfunding rules, to be finalized in the months ahead, are a joke.
Dan Kaufman sees Wisconsin on the brink of change.
Wisconsin has been an environmental leader since 1910, when the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment promoting forest and water conservation. Decades later, pioneering local environmentalists like Aldo Leopold and Senator Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970, helped forge the nation’s ecological conscience.Wait. Who would think this was a good idea?
But now, after the recent passage of a bill that would allow for the construction of what could be the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, Wisconsin’s admirable history of environmental stewardship is under attack.
The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. In its footprint lie the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and by far the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine.
To facilitate the construction of the mine and the company’s promise of 700 long-term jobs, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last year granting GTac astonishing latitude. The new law allows the company to fill in pristine streams and ponds with mine waste. It eliminates a public hearing that had been mandated before the issuing of a permit, which required the company to testify, under oath, that the project had complied with all environmental standards. It allows GTac to pay taxes solely on profit, not on the amount of ore removed, raising the possibility that the communities affected by the mine’s impact on the area’s roads and schools would receive only token compensation.That's not just a possibility for disaster, it's the recipe.
Bruce Ackerman says we are each due more than simple existence.
With gay marriage litigation moving forward at warp speed — federal judges have struck down five state bans on same-sex marriage since December — we may soon witness one of the worst shouting matches in Supreme Court history. Passions were already running high last June, when a divided court struck down federal, but not state, laws defining marriage exclusively as a relationship between a man and a woman. Justice Antonin Scalia denounced the majority opinion, which cited the demeaning and humiliating effects of the Defense of Marriage Act, as “legalistic argle-bargle” lacking any basis in our constitutional tradition. Writing for the five justices in the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy countered that the assault on human dignity should be decisive in condemning the statute as unconstitutional.Anne Applebaum shows that there's always a place where bigotry can flourish.
In making this “dignitarian” move, Justice Kennedy relied principally on his two earlier pathbreaking opinions supporting gay rights, in 1996 and 2003. He did not link his guiding philosophy to the broader principles hammered out during the civil rights revolution of the 1960s. Yet that constitutional legacy would strongly support any future Supreme Court decision extending Justice Kennedy’s reasoning to state statutes discriminating against gay marriage. Indeed, the court should reinforce its dignitarian jurisprudence by stressing its roots in the civil rights revolution — and thereby demonstrate that it is Justice Scalia, not Justice Kennedy, who is blinding himself to the main line of constitutional development.
Halfway through an otherwise coherent conversation with a Georgian lawyer here — the topics included judges, the court system, the police — I was startled by a comment he made about his country’s former government, led by then-president Mikheil Saakashvili. “They were LGBT,” he said, conspiratorially. ...This is in Georgia, a country that is right now partially occupied by Russia. But there are still "conservatives" who are willing to idolize Putin's government because of it's vile policies against the LGBT community. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the shirtless shit has fans in the US.
The lawyer meant to say that Saakashvili — who drove his country hard in the direction of Europe, pulled Georgia as close to NATO as possible and used rough tactics to fight the post-Soviet mafia that dominated his country — was “too Western.” Not conservative enough. Not traditional enough. Too much of a modernizer, a reformer, a European. In the past, such a critic might have called Saakashvili a “rootless cosmopolitan.” But today the insulting code word for that sort of person in the former Soviet space — regardless of what he or she thinks about homosexuals — is LGBT.
Kathleen Parker is (once again) a voice calling in the wilderness of her own party.
The past couple of weeks have marked a turning point in American ugliness as the mob has turned its full fury on first lady Michelle Obama.I don't suppose there's any value in pointing out that Obama's ratings are still higher than Bush's at the end of his presidency, but I did it anyway.
From criticism of her trip to China to a recent “tell-all” by former White House assistant press secretary Reid Cherlin in the New Republic about Obama’s allegedly tyrannical behavior, the gloves have been removed.
Every first lady faces trials, and Hillary Clinton’s years in the White House were certainly no picnic. Even Bush felt the sting now and then. But the harsh barrage against Obama, often in the most personal terms, is in a class of its own.
To what do we owe this fresh venom?
Some might say it’s all about race — and though surely true in some cases, this seems too facile an explanation. Perhaps with President Obama’s approval ratings in the low 40s, it is our animal nature to pile on the weakened leader. How better to hurt him than to attack his family?
Leonard Pitts on the Hobby Lobby case.
Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet maker, say doing so would require them to violate their religious beliefs. Both argue — erroneously, according to medical experts — that drugs and devices sanctioned by the FDA for contraception actually induce abortions.It's more than ominous. If Hobby Lobby wins this, the results will go way, way beyond healthcare.
This is only the latest of a series of incidents in recent years in which it has been argued that religious conscience ought to give people and businesses exemption from providing ordinary and customary services to the general public.
This year, legislators in Arizona, Kansas and other states tried or are trying to pass laws allowing businesses to refuse service to gay men and lesbians. They cite religious conscience.
Now there is this. And the crazy part? The companies do not even have to offer their employees medical insurance. Under the ACA, they could opt out and allow workers to buy their own insurance from an exchange. Instead, they have gone before the top court, arguing religious conscience.
And Court watchers say the justices — or at least the conservative wing — gave that argument a sympathetic hearing in last week’s session. That is an ominous sign.
Science Daily will make you take a second look at the eyes looking down at you from the nearest tree.
Understanding causal relationships between actions is a key feature of human cognition. However, the extent to which non-human animals are capable of understanding causal relationships is not well understood. Scientists used the Aesop's fable riddle -- in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out-of reach-reward -- to assess New Caledonian crows' causal understanding of water displacement. These crows are known for their intelligence and innovation, as they are the only non-primate species able to make tools, such as prodding sticks and hooks. ...If the birds ever do strike back, you know who will be leading the revolt.
According to the authors, results indicate crows may possess a sophisticated -- but incomplete -- understanding of the causal properties of volume displacement, rivaling that of 5-7 year old children.