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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

FAT FUCKING IDIOTS

I admit, with no small personal embarrassment, that I, along with many of my fellow Americans, are too often - fat fucking idiots. Please allow me to justify my choice of language and then my claim. As of November 13, 2013, the United States had 317 million citizens, about 16% of the total world population. We weigh a total of 56 billion, 426 million pounds, about 34% of the total human biomass. By comparison, Asia has 61% of the human population but only 13% of the total human biomass. World wide, the average human weighs 136 pounds, while the average American weighs 178 pounds. Sorry my fellow Americans, we be fat.
The second word in my description, according to the Wide World of Words website, originated in the Roman Latin word “fornix”, which meant a wall “bent over” as in an arch or a vaulted chamber. As such it came to refer to the cellars of Roman drinking establishments, where prostitutes often practiced their trade. Over time the word evolved into the noun “fornicationem”, meaning a brothel, and the verb“fornicari”, meaning what you do in a brothel.
From here “fuck” entered the English language just in time to explain what Christopher Columbus and his ancestors were about to do to native Americans, and what the first four generations of European Americans would then do to their African-American slaves, and the next five generations of European Americans would do to their African-American fellow citizens. About the only comfort Americans of all ethnicity can draw from that history is that Americans are not much worse than the anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism and anti-Christianity hysteria in today's Egypt, Serbia, Sweden, India, Russia, Japan, China and Tennessee, to name a few. The rest of humanity might not be as fat as America, but they are just as much “fucked” and “fuckers”.
And that brings us to that last word in my allegation, born in ancient Athens, from the Greek “idi-O-tes”, meaning a selfish person not interested nor educated in public affairs, as in soldiers who could not be bothered to ask why they were being sent off to fight. The Romans called such uneducated selfish people “idiota”, which became the Old French “idiote”. By the 16th century in English the word had unfortunately lost its connotation of selfishness and came to mean merely a person whose decisions were consistently (in Latin) a bad (dis) star (aster), or a disaster.
So the phrase “fat fucking idiots” is an honest use of the English language, meaning, any offense felt, may not be because of the language, but the message it delivers. So please allow me to justify my argument via a “thought experiment” like those used by physicist Albert Einstein, but this one created by a biologist
Imagine a super smart green algae cell, floating down a stream. Sheer chance steers our genius eukaryote down the narrow neck of a discarded bottle, sitting on sunny sand bar below the surface. Our algae abruptly finds itself in an environment seemingly designed for its pleasure and comfort. The water in the bottle is warm and still. Fresh oxygen and nutrients enter the bottle through the small open mouth. The algae begins to divide and grow, doubling in mass every twelve hours. The question asked by this experiment is: what is the earliest point at which our super smart algae can be expected to realize it is eating itself out of house and home?
If you would rather work this out yourself, stop reading here. For those who cannot stand the suspense, the correct answer is no more than twelve hours before algae doomsday, or just before the final doubling. As long as at least half the bottle is still empty, our sentient algae would not realize it (they) were about to block half their sisters from receiving nutrients, and those dead cells would then poison the survivors. Until the remaining space and resources are smaller than that already occupied by the colony, it is unlikely its members would realize the doom about to descend upon them. And that threshold would be crossed only when a single generation of sister cells was about to consume the last of the available resources.   Evidence of an approaching similar non-theoretical threshold in the real world is growing, as proven in a pair of disaster incubators, separated by 5,000 miles.
The first is just east from where the last drop of Pacific Ocean moisture is squeezed out of thin air above the front range of the Rocky Mountains, allowing the now bone dry cool air to rush out across the surface of America's Great Plains, where it collides with the heavier, warm air flowing unhindered into the center of the continent from the warm Gulf of Mexico. This shifting atmospheric collision front, which usually occurs around 100 degrees west longitude and between 40 degrees and 35 degrees north latitude, is known by one of two names': either “The Dry Line” or “Tornado Alley”.
A similar collision zone occurs high over the western Pacific, when equatorial heat creates rising air (a high pressure zone) that is forced to drop its moisture with altitude as the air pressure drops. Finally, at about 30 degrees north latitude the now relativity cool dry air falls again, creating a low pressure zone. The spinning of the earth twists the meeting of these two air masses, and approximately 600 miles northeast of Papua New Guinea, 500 miles southeast of Guam, and 2.500 miles southwest of Hawaii, between 5 degrees and 10 degrees of north latitude and between 150 and 160 degrees west longitude, in the Subtropical Convergence Zone, are born the Pacific hurricanes, called typhoons.
At about two on the afternoon of 8 July 1680 the Reverend Increase Mather witnessed a “whirl-wind” strike Cambridge, Massachusetts. A servant named John Robbins was crushed by the storm, becoming the first European killed by a tornado in America. Over 1,200 tornadoes hit America in an average year, four times as many as anywhere else in the world. Almost all of them (80%) are rated an EF 1 with winds of 110 miles per hour or less. Less than 1% are EF 4 or above, with winds over 267 miles per hour. Since 1875 more than 18,000 Americans have been killed by tornadoes, but the annual numbers have dropped in the last century, from 260 per year before 1936, to 54 annually from 1976 to 2000. Most of this drop is due to better public warnings, but it seems the downward trend in the victims  is changing again.
On Friday, 31 May, 2013, the largest tornado ever recorded by humans slammed into the small central Oklahoma town of El Reno. It was, by radar measurement, more than two and one half miles wide. Winds in its satellite vortices reached 295 miles per hour, second in power only to a 1999 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, with winds of 302 miles per hour. But the Moore twister was smaller. In between those two individual massive storms, on 27 April, 2011, occurred the largest tornado outbreak in American (and thus, world) history. On that single day Tornado Alley produced 209 twisters, including 11 rare EF-4s and 4 of the still rarer EF-5.s. That May saw 770 tornadoes, three times the previous record number, recorded in 1974.
Five months later, and 5,000 miles to the west, on 7 November, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the southern Samar Island, Philippines. Just before impact the super storm's sustained winds were measured at 196 miles per hour,  a speed which reached out 56 miles from the eye wall, making it one of the largest and the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall. Most of the 5,632 who died, drown in the 20 foot storm surge. Typhoon Tip in 1979 may have been larger, but its winds were slower and it weakened substantially before it made landfall in Japan. So the largest, strongest tornado, and the largest, strongest typhoon in history, both occur in the same year. Would such evidence convince climate change skeptics that we are past the time for action, that our bottle is half full, rather than half empty?
There is substantial political support for the glass being half empty. First and foremost is the lack of evidence. The United States Weather Service was not established until 1870, and the scientific approach to observations and forecasting is a almost purely a 20th century invention, providing us, less than half way through the second decade of the 21st century, with just 41,245 daily observations from any specific location in America. However, no matter your stated political belief system, few would spend a spring day in Tornado Alley, or a fall week along America's Atlantic Coast, without checking the National Weather Service forecasts, and act according to their warnings. To argue that climate predictions, also based on the scientific method, should not be given at least the same weight, is simple sophistry.
What would we lose if the predictions of climate change are wrong? Taking action on coal fired power plants could save $2 billion in emergency room visits by the 30% of children suffering asthma attacks brought on by air pollution. And according to a March 2011 American Lung Association study, such reduction in pollution would also reduce the 13,000 Americans killed every year by the 386,000 tons of hazardous poisons pumped into the atmosphere by the 400 coal fired power plants in 46 of the 50 states. Saving the climate at the same time, would be just be pure gravy.
And gravy is something even a fat fucking idiot should be able to understand.
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