Friday, October 16, 2015

Fish for Friday

The Exxon Mobil Refinery in Torrance, California
Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

In case you haven’t seen this, the author also wrote Merchants of Doubt, a book-length version of the article: “Exxon’s Climate Concealment” [Naomi Oreskes, NY Times]. I haven’t been able to finish the book. Too depressing. The worst of it is that some apparently competent scientists became collaborators. I think that the most flagrant of the climate change deniers (those who know perfectly well they are lying) belong in prison. Excerpt:
Millions of Americans once wanted to smoke. Then they came to understand how deadly tobacco products were. Tragically, that understanding was long delayed because the tobacco industry worked for decades to hide the truth, promoting a message of scientific uncertainty instead.
    The same thing has happened with climate change....
    In the 1980s, Exxon scientists collaborated with academic and government researchers to build climate models and understand their implications. When one researcher expressed the opinion that the impacts would be “well short of catastrophic,” the director of the Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory at Exxon Research responded in a memo, “I think that this statement may be too reassuring.” He said it was “distinctly possible” that the projected warming trend after 2030 “will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population),” a conclusion that most climate scientists now hold, assuming we continue business as usual.
    What did Exxon executives do with this information? Until 1989, they circulated reports summarizing it inside the company. They allowed their scientists to attend academic meetings, to participate in panels, and to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals — in short, to behave as scientists. And they did acknowledge the “potentially catastrophic events that must be considered.”
    Then corporate executives turned about face. As the scientific community began to speak out more strongly, first about the risks of unmitigated climate change and then about the fact that it was underway, Exxon executives and organizations funded by them embarked on a campaign designed to prevent governments from taking meaningful action. These activities continue today.
    Exxon (whose spokesman has disputed the Inside Climate News reporting) had a choice. As one of the most profitable companies in the world, Exxon could have acted as a corporate leader, helping to explain to political leaders, to shareholders and institutional investors, and to the public what it knew about climate change. It could have begun to shift its business model, investing in renewables and biofuels or introducing a major research and development initiative in carbon capture. It could have endorsed sensible policies to foster a profitable transition to a 21st-century energy economy.
    Instead — like the tobacco industry — Exxon chose the path of disinformation, denial and delay. More damagingly, the company set a model for the rest of the industry. More than 30 years ago, Exxon scientists acknowledged in internal company memos that climate change could be catastrophic. Today, scientists who say the exact same thing are ridiculed in the business community and on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. [read more]
The Natural History Museum in London honors impressive animal and nature photography: “A flip of the tentacles.” [Sueddeutsche Zeitung] For example:
Fighting Komodo dragons

138 backing Republicans, 20 backing Democrats
Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House. “The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election” [Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen, & Karen Yourish, NY Times] Excerpt:
In marshaling their financial resources chiefly behind Republican candidates, the donors are serving as a kind of financial check on demographic forces that have been nudging the electorate toward support for the Democratic Party and its economic policies. Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.
    Republican candidates have struggled to improve their standing with Hispanic voters, women and African-Americans. But as the campaign unfolds, Republicans are far outpacing Democrats in exploiting the world of “super PACs,” which, unlike candidates’ own campaigns, can raise unlimited sums from any donor, and which have so far amassed the bulk of the money in the election.
    The 158 families each contributed $250,000 or more in the campaign through June 30, according to the most recent available Federal Election Commission filings and other data, while an additional 200 families gave more than $100,000. Together, the two groups contributed well over half the money in the presidential election – the vast majority of it supporting Republicans....
    Like most of the ultrawealthy, the new donor elite is deeply private. Very few of those contacted were willing to speak about their contributions or their political views. Many donations were made from business addresses or post office boxes, or wound through limited liability corporations or trusts, exploiting the new avenues opened up by Citizens United, which gave corporate entities far more leeway to spend money on behalf of candidates. Some contributors, for reasons of privacy or tax planning, are not listed as the owners of the homes where they live, further obscuring the family and social ties that bind them.
    But interviews and a review of hundreds of public documents — voter registrations, business records, F.E.C. data and more — reveal a class apart, distant from much of America while geographically, socially and economically intermingling among themselves. Nearly all the neighborhoods where they live would fit within the city limits of New Orleans. But minorities make up less than one-fifth of those neighborhoods’ collective population, and virtually no one is black. Their residents make four and a half times the salary of the average American, and are twice as likely to be college educated.... [read more]
How hard-line conservatives are like extreme porn, as explained by The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams: “Paul Ryan Gets Playboy’d” [The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, 2:54]:

Samuel Ward (1572–1643), on a team
of seven charged with translating the Apocrypha
“Earliest Known Draft of King James Bible Is Found, Scholar Says.” [Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times] Excerpt:
The King James Bible is the most widely read work in English literature, a masterpiece of translation whose stately cadences and transcendent phrases have long been seen, even by secular readers, as having emerged from a kind of collective divine inspiration.
    But now, in an unassuming notebook held in an archive at the University of Cambridge, an American scholar has found what he says is an important new clue to the earthly processes behind that masterpiece: the earliest known draft, and the only one definitively written in the hand of one of the roughly four dozen translators who worked on it.
[Two pages from Samuel Ward’s translation for part of the King James Bible]    The notebook, which dates from 1604 to 1608, was discovered by Jeffrey Alan Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who announced his research on Wednesday in an article in The Times Literary Supplement [“Fruit of good labours[],” by Jeffrey Alan Miller]....
    Studying the creation of the King James Bible “is like working with a jigsaw puzzle where 90 percent of the pieces are missing,” [Gordon Campbell, a fellow in Renaissance studies at the University of Leicester and a consultant for the planned Museum of the Bible in Washington] said. “You can arrange the surviving pieces as you wish, but then you find something new and you realize you put it together the wrong way.”
    The King James Bible, published in 1611, was produced by six teams of translators, known as “companies,” in London, Oxford and Cambridge, who were charged with creating an authorized version that would support the Church of England against the Puritan influence seen in some earlier translations. Along with Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623, it is one of the most influential books in the history of English and the wellspring of common phrases like “salt of the earth,” “drop in the bucket” and “fight the good fight,” to name only a few.... [read more]
Only in Australia?

A large group of mathematicians walk into a bar. The first orders a beer, the second orders half of beer, the third orders a quarter of beer, and so on. The bartender quickly pours two beers and says, “You guys sure know your limits.”

Lake Natron – Tanzania

A deep John Le Carré spy mystery which Seymour Hersh already told in the London Review of Books in May, if I remember correctly: “What Do We Really Know About Osama bin Laden’s Death?” [Jonathan Mahler, NY Times] Excerpt:
Mark Bowden was watching a ballgame — the Phillies versus the Mets — on the night of May 1, 2011, when the network cut away to President Obama in the East Room of the White House. “Tonight,” the president said, “I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children”....
    His book, ‘‘The Finish,’’ was published in the fall of 2012, and the story it tells is one that is by now familiar. The C.I.A., working in the shadows for many years, had identified a courier whom agency officers eventually traced to a large compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Agents studied this compound for months via distant satellite cameras but couldn’t be certain that bin Laden was inside. If he was — a 55/45 percent proposition, Obama said later — the president did not want to let him slip away. The safe play was to reduce the compound to dust with a bomb or missiles, but this would risk civilian casualties and also make it impossible to verify the kill with any certainty. Obama instead sent in a team of 23 Navy SEALs in two Black Hawk helicopters. The whole mission almost fell apart when one of the helicopters had to crash-land near an animal pen inside the compound. But the SEALs adapted on the fly and were soon making their assault, breaching gates and doors with C-4 charges and, eventually, killing their target. Before leaving, they blew up the damaged Black Hawk. As they flew off, a giant fire raged inside the compound. The Pakistani government was none the wiser until the SEALs were long gone.
    This irresistible story would be told in many different forms in the months and years that followed. Bowden’s was one of several books, but there were also countless newspaper articles, magazine features, television news programs and ultimately the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” which billed itself as the narrative of “the Greatest Manhunt in History.” In this sense, the killing of bin Laden was not only a victory for the U.S. military but also for the American storytelling machine, which kicked into high gear pretty much the moment the terrorist leader’s dead body hit the floor.
    Last spring, Bowden got another unexpected call on his cellphone...[from] Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter.
    Hersh was calling to ask about the photographs of bin Laden’s burial at sea — carried out, the U.S. government said, in accordance with Islamic custom — that Bowden had described in detail at the end of “The Finish”....
    Hersh wanted to know: Had Bowden actually seen those photos?
    Bowden told Hersh that he had not. He explained that they were described to him by someone who had.
    Hersh said the photographs didn’t exist. Indeed, he went on, the entire narrative of how the United States hunted down and killed bin Laden was a fabrication. He told Bowden that he was getting ready to publish the real story of what happened in Abbottabad. [read more & more:

Limerick of the week:
I can barely maintain my sobriety
Cuz the great Robert Benchley Society
    Held a contest and wow,
    I’m a finalist now.
Will I win the top prize? High anxiety!
[From Mad Kane's Humor Blog: Humor Columns, Limericks, Light Verse & Satirical Poems By Madeleine Begun Kane, Archive for the “Robert Benchley Society” Category.]

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the correspondence! Should Exxon executives be in prison for lying? Impressive animal and nature photography. 138 of America's wealthiest 158 families are backing Republicans. Jessica Williams compares hard-line conservatives to extreme porn. How was the King James Bible drafted? Fishing in a flood. Mathematical limits. Tanzania's Lake Natron. ​A real-life John Le Carré​ spy mystery. A high-anxiety guest limerick.