The Fall of Empire

For the 3rd year in a row life expectancy has fallen in the United States:

Life expectancy in the United States declined again in 2017, the government said Thursday in a bleak series of reports that showed a nation still in the grip of escalating drug and suicide crises.

The data continued the longest sustained decline in expected life span at birth in a century, an appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918. That four-year period included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the United States and perhaps 50 million worldwide.

Public health and demographic experts reacted with alarm to the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual statistics, which are considered a reliable barometer of a society’s health. In most developed nations, life expectancy has marched steadily upward for decades.

“I think this is a very dismal picture of health in the United States,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world. It shouldn’t be declining in the United States.”

The last time I’ve heard of something like this, it was in the USSR in the mid 1980s.

Between a bloated and corrupt financial sector, a bloated and corrupt healthcare system, and a bloated and corrupt defense establishment, (I see a theme) we have been eating our seed corn for years, and we are running out.

Not good.

We Are Completely Screwed

In addition to increasing ice melt, it not turns out that anthropogenic climate change is resulting in major uprising of bedrock in Antarctica, which will further accelerate sea level rise.

Ice melts, the weight on the underlying ground is reduced, and the land springs up.

I rather imagine that will see something similar in Greenland

Rinse, lather, repeat:

The earth is rising in one part of Antarctica at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, as ice rapidly disappears and weight is lifted off the bedrock, a new international study has found.

The findings, reported in the journal Science, have surprising and positive implications for the survival of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which scientists had previously thought could be doomed because of the effects of climate change.

The unexpectedly fast rate of the rising earth may markedly increase the stability of the ice sheet against catastrophic collapse due to ice loss, scientists say.

Moreover, the rapid rise of the earth in this area also affects gravity measurements, which implies that up to 10 percent more ice has disappeared in this part of Antarctica than previously assumed.

Researchers led by scientists at The Ohio State University used a series of six GPS stations (part of the POLENET-ANET array) attached to bedrock around the Amundsen Sea Embayment to measure its rise in response to thinning ice.

The “uplift rate” was measured at up to 41 millimeters (1.6 inches) a year, said Terry Wilson, one of the leaders of the study and a professor emeritus of earth sciences at Ohio State.

In contrast, places like Iceland and Alaska, which have what are considered rapid uplift rates, generally are measured rising 20 to 30 millimeters a year.

“The rate of uplift we found is unusual and very surprising. It’s a game changer,” Wilson said.

And it is only going to get faster. The researchers estimate that in 100 years, uplift rates at the GPS sites will be 2.5 to 3.5 times more rapid than currently observed.

We need to take action now, because otherwise, beach front property in Florida will be in Alabama.

Jeff Bezos Is Attempting to Upload His Consciousness to a Machine

Let’s look at the checklist of scary sh%$ that Alexa does:

  • Listens to everything you say.
  • Doesn’t really care except to sell you more sh%$.
  • Doesn’t really understand the real you.
  • Doesn’t care that they don’t understand the real you.
  • Doesn’t give a sh%$ about people generally.

And here is the final bit, unexpected bursts of weird incongruous laughter.

I can only conclude that this is a result of Bezos attempting to upload his consciousness to the cloud:

Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness today in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”


As noted in media reports and a trending Twitter moment, Alexa seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake. People on Twitter and Reddit reported that they thought it was an actual person laughing near them, which is certainly scary if you’re home alone. Many responded to the cackling sounds by unplugging their Alexa-enabled devices.

I’m beginning to think that this whole Internet thing was a mistake.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Jonah f%$#ing Goldberg is the voice of reason (I cannot believe I just said that) on the GOP’s demonization of the FBI: (I also cannot believe that I am linking to the National f%$#ing Review)

He’s saying that this stuff is overheated, and people should wait until we have more data.

When Jonah Goldberg is the voice of reason on any issue, you have entered the Twilight Zone.

Another Sign of the Apocalypse

In Ottowa, a New Year’s concert was canceled, and a hockey game was moved indoors because it was too cold for Canadians.

“Too cold for Canadians,” there was a phrase I never expected to say:

First no hockey, now no music. Ottawa has declared that it’s officially too cold – even for Canadians.

Heritage Canada has announced that a New Year’s Eve concert planned for Ottawa has been cancelled because of an extreme cold weather warning.

The party’s cancellation on Friday came after the federal government also moved an outdoor hockey tournament indoors and away from a C$5.6m (£3.3m) temporary ice rink installed on Parliament Hill.

The forecast overnight low for the nation’s capital on Sunday is -29C [-20°F] , nearly 20 degrees [36°F] colder than the seasonal average. Public skating and a fireworks show on the city’s Parliament Hill will go ahead as planned on Sunday night, but Heritage Canada warned revellers have been warned to dress for the weather and “prepare accordingly to prevent frostbite and other injuries”.

My suggestion would be for Canadians to watch the fireworks on TV.

Not the Onion

The National Review is siding with a black athlete over a white Republican.

I think that this is a sign of the apocalypse:

Americans do not and should not worship idols. We do not and should not worship the flag. As a nation we stand in respect for the national anthem and stand in respect for the flag not simply because we were born here or because it’s our flag. We stand in respect because the flag represents a specific set of values and principles: that all men are created equal and that we are endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

These ideals were articulated in the Declaration of Independence, codified in the Constitution, and defended with the blood of patriots. Central to them is the First Amendment, the guarantee of free expression against government interference and government reprisal that has made the United States unique among the world’s great powers. Arguably, it is the single most important liberty of all, because it enables the defense of all the others: Without the right to speak freely we cannot even begin to point out offenses against the rest of the Constitution.

Now, with that as a backdrop, which is the greater danger to the ideals embodied by the American flag, a few football players’ taking a knee at the national anthem or the most powerful man in the world’s demanding that they be fired and their livelihoods destroyed for engaging in speech he doesn’t like?

I guess that this falls in the, “Stopped clock,” category, but still, the National Review?

We are in Bizarro World.

Even by the Standards of the Trump Administration, This Has Been a Sh%$ Show

First, of course, is that Sean Spicer quit, because Trump hired Anthony “Boneitis Guy” Scaramucci as communications director.

Then the Boneitis Guy gave a profanity laden rant/interview to the New Yorker, where among other things, he said:

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c%$#,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f%$#ing strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)

And then, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus got fired as chief of staff, and was left on the tarmac at Andrews AFB without a ride home.

And then Anthony Scaramucci’s wife filed for divorce while she was 9 months pregnant, and actually had the child while “Mooch” was busy watching Trump doing an impression of Benito Mussolini in front of several thousand Boy Scouts.

It’s no wonder that Matt Taibbi predicts that the, “Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing, Short.”

I already miss Anthony Scaramucci. Of course, he hasn’t officially been fired yet (checks Twitter), or committed suicide by jumping into boiling steak fat at his Gotti-esque Hunt and Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan (checks Twitter again). But it sure seems like he’s not long for this earth. Even by Trumpian standards, has any federal official had a more disastrous rollout?

The big headline this morning is that the new White House Communications Director got upset and decided to call Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and go full-on Glengarry Glen Ross without asking for background or off-the-record privileges.

In the call, Scaramucci hounded Lizza to give up his sources, threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, and gave what Saddam Hussein would have described as the mother of all quotes in an effort to bash fellow backstabbing Trump insider Steve Bannon:

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f%$#ing strength of the President.”


In the space of a week, Trump’s new press expert demonstrated that he a) didn’t know how to hold off-the-record conversations b) didn’t understand that cameras and microphones keep rolling even when the red light is off and c) doesn’t bother to check the other public statements made by administration officials before he makes statements of his own. An alien crashed on earth and given a two-minute tutorial on dealing with reporters would have done a better job.


His hire horrified even hardened mutants like Bannon (“Over my dead body will you get this job!” Bannon is reported to have yelped, when he heard the Scaramucci news). Spicer, who for months had effortlessly gulped down Trump administration lies like a vulture guzzling battery acid, resigned in protest at Scaramucci’s arrival (an “unusual choice of hills to die on” was the New Yorker‘s comment).


Long live Mooch (checks Twitter).  

If I was a screenwriter, and pitching this to a bunch of producers, and the producers were tripping on LSD, they would still throw me out of their office saying that the script was completely unbelievable.

Roman Emperor Nero would look at this sh%$, and say, “This is f%$#ed up.”

Roman Emperor Caligula could not be reached for comment.

Human Sacrifice, Dogs and Cats Living Together… Mass Hysteria!

It appears that we are now having Pennsylvania Mennonites protesting Donald Trump policies:

Mary Beth Martin and Lindsey Martin Corbo each held one side of the large cardboard poster, the mother and her adult daughter eager to deliver a personal if unconventional message to their congressman, Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker.

“Hey Smucker,” said the sign, written in red, green, and blue marker. “300 years ago our Mennonite family took sanctuary in PA, just like yours did.

“Lancaster values immigrants.”

The anger might have been directed at Smucker, but Martin and Corbo were really there – like 100 others – because of President Donald Trump.

The two women were among a hundred newly engaged activists assembled in Republican-heavy Lancaster County – an area that went to Trump in November by 57 percent – braving toe-freezing temperatures to protest Trump and the lawmaker, who was 200 yards away at a chamber of commerce breakfast.

That Martin and Corbo were protesters was – by their own admission – a remarkable development. Both are members of the Mennonite Church, a religion that encourages its members to stay away from politics just as it asks them to shun the wider culture.

This is like a half step away from the Amish engaging in civil disobedience, and I ain’t talking about Rumspringa here.

H/t Charlie Pierce.

Selections from America’s Finest News Source

The Onion on the inauguration:

I’m not sure if the Biden one or the drone one is the best.

Non-Existent Global Warming Strikes Again

We are completely f%$#ed

Breakup of Larsen B in 2002

An ice shelf ¼ the side of Wales is set to break off from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica:

An iceberg expected to be one of the 10 largest ever recorded is ready to break away from Antarctica, scientists say.

A long-running rift in the Larsen C ice shelf grew suddenly in December and now just 20km of ice is keeping the 5,000 sq km piece from floating away.

Larsen C is the most northern major ice shelf in Antarctica.

Researchers based in Swansea say the loss of a piece a quarter of the size of Wales will leave the whole shelf vulnerable to future break-up.

Larsen C is about 350m thick and floats on the seas at the edge of West Antarctica, holding back the flow of glaciers that feed into it.

Researchers have been tracking the rift in Larsen C for many years, watching it with some trepidation after the collapse of Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and the sudden break-up of the Larsen B shelf in 2002.


But in December the speed of the rift went into overdrive, growing by a further 18km in just a couple of weeks. What will become a massive iceberg now hangs on to the shelf by a thread just 20km long.

“If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed,” project leader Prof Adrian Luckman, from Swansea University, told BBC News.


It is believed that climate warming has brought forward the likely separation of the iceberg but the scientists say they have no direct evidence to support this.

However, they are concerned about how any break-off will impact the rest of the ice shelf, given that its neighbour, Larsen B, disintegrated spectacularly in 2002 following a similar large calving event.

“We are convinced, although others are not, that the remaining ice shelf will be less stable than the present one,” said Prof Luckman.

“We would expect in the ensuing months to years further calving events, and maybe an eventual collapse – but it’s a very hard thing to predict, and our models say it will be less stable; not that it will immediately collapse or anything like that.”

As it floats on the sea, the resulting iceberg from the shelf will not raise sea levels. But if the shelf breaks up even more, it could result in glaciers that flow off the land behind it to speed up their passage towards the ocean. This non-floating ice would have an impact on sea levels.

According to estimates, if all the ice that the Larsen C shelf currently holds back entered the sea, global waters would rise by 10cm.

2½ inches (10 cm) may not sound like a lot, but this is just one incident.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of similar developments around the world, and indicate that the current rate of sea level rise (1.8 mm/year) could be just a prelude.

F%$# Me. I Agree with the Inverted Traffic Cone Again………

Obviously, the devil is in the details, but Trump’s proposal for a lifetime ban on defense contractors hiring Pentagon contracting officials is a pretty good idea, though a lifetime ban is likely to be unenforceable, based on my knowledge of non-compete clauses, though I must offer the caveat that I am an engineer, not an employment attorney, dammit!*

President-elect Donald Trump has put forth the idea of banning the defense industry from hiring former Pentagon contracting officials, just days after creating a stir in the defense industry by saying Boeing’s contract for an Air Force One replacement should be cancelled.

According to a Reuters news service report, Trump told a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that “I think anybody that gives out these big contracts should never ever, during their lifetime, be allowed to work for a defense company, for a company that makes that product.”

He added he would “check this out” before making any final decisions, but went on to slam the F-35 joint strike fighter program as “totally, totally, like, uncontrollably over budget.”

I think that this is in response to Northrop Grumman hiring a former USAF Chief of Staff, one who was in charge when N-G was selected as the won the B-21 bomber contract, was named to their board of directors.

Also: the devil is in the details:

  • What about subcontractors?
  • What is to prevent companies from swapping their appointments?
  • What is a big contract?
  • Does this just apply to the uniform military, or civilian Pentagon employees as well?
  • At what level does this apply?

Also, as I noted at the beginning, the legal issues are a complete hairball, and would likely end up in the courts.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

We Are Completely F%$#ed

And not in a good way. First, the North Pole is 36° F (20° C) degrees above normal:

Political people in the United States are watching the chaos in Washington in the moment. But some people in the science community are watching the chaos somewhere else — the Arctic.

It’s polar night there now — the sun isn’t rising in much of the Arctic. That’s when the Arctic is supposed to get super-cold, when the sea ice that covers the vast Arctic Ocean is supposed to grow and thicken.

But in fall of 2016 — which has been a zany year for the region, with multiple records set for low levels of monthly sea ice — something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia.


Twitter’s expert Arctic watchers also are stunned. Zack Labe, a PhD student at the University of California at Irvine who studies the Arctic, tweeted out an image on Wednesday from the Danish Meteorological Institute showing Arctic temperatures about 20 degrees Celsius higher than normal above 80 degrees North Latitude.

Also, we now have indications that Antarctica’s Southern Ocean may no longer be able to absorb excess CO2, which means that levels of greenhouse gasses make increase even more rapidly:


Already, initial data from an array of ocean floats suggest that upwelling waters could be limiting how much CO2 the Southern Ocean absorbs each year. This raises new questions about how effective these waters will be as a brake on global warming in decades to come.

“The Southern Ocean is doing us a big climate favour at the moment, but it’s not necessarily the case that it will continue doing so in the future,” says Michael Meredith, an oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. Meredith is heading a series of expeditions over the next five years to help document the uptake of heat and carbon. “It really is the key place for studying these things.”


Hints of something similar have been seen before. In 2007, a team led by Corinne Le Quéré, now director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, UK, published a study in Science indicating that the rate of carbon uptake by the Southern Ocean decreased between 1981 and 2004. The authors blamed the changes on the winds that encircle the Antarctic continent. The speed of those winds had increased during that time, probably as a result of the hole in the stratospheric ozone layer over Antarctica and possibly because of global warming. Stronger winds are better able to pull up deep, ancient water, which releases CO2 when it reaches the surface. That would have caused a net weakening of the carbon sink.

This is real end or the world stuff, and in a few weeks, we will have a global warming denier in chief.


Cold Feet and the End of the World

On Tuesday, I did early voting, and I had cold feet.  ……… Literally.

It was a long line, about half an hour long , with the first 20 minutes being outside, and my feet got cold.

All things considered, the line actually went fairly quickly.

One interesting thing:  when I signed it, the volunteer asked how long it took, and I checked on my phone to get the elapsed time.

I then dropped my phone, which landed on the table with a loud bang, and Everyone in the room jumped.

Poll workers are on edge this year.

As an FYI, since I live in Maryland, so my vote doesn’t count, I wrote in Bernie Sanders for President.

As to the end of the world, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, but the fact that the Cubs have won the World Series for the first time in 107 years.

Congratulations to the new champs.

This Sort of Thing Keeps Me Up at Night

India has just sent combat troops into Pakistani areas of Kashmir:

India announced on Thursday that it had carried out early morning “surgical strikes” on terrorist camps in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, a step that risks escalating the conflict between the two nuclear powers.

However, Pakistan denied that a cross-border strike had taken place, saying that Indian troops had fired small arms across the Line of Control, killing two soldiers and injuring nine.

A senior Pakistani security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Pakistan would consider a cross-border strike by India an act of war.

The official warned that Pakistan could use tactical nuclear weapons in self-defense if India initiates a war.

The Indian operation, if it occurred as described in Delhi, would be precedent setting. Though India’s military has almost certainly carried out cross-border raids, the government has never publicly announced them, even during the brief conflict in Kargil in 1999.

Indian officials said that ground troops crossed the de facto border shortly after midnight and destroyed a handful of terrorist camps in Pakistani-controlled territory, inflicting “significant casualties” and returning across the Line of Control before dawn.

The operation was planned in retaliation for two attacks this month on Indian positions, including one that killed 19 Indian soldiers.

Remember: both India and Pakistan have significant nuclear arsenals.

The DPRK does not scare me. This does.

You have two military establishments that are fixated on a final cataclysmic conflict, and, particularly in Pakistan, these beliefs exhibit significant sway over the decision making process.

We are dealing with a bunch of generals who would make Curtis LeMay look like a wimp.