Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"It's the climate stupid" Continued

After two unusually snowy winters, the season has been AWOL this year in SE Penn.  My crocuses started to come up around Feb. 10 and we have daffodils blooming.  Meanwhile Europe has been freezing.  These extremes have been tied to excessive (to largest recorded) of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations, which may be due to the ever decreasing Arctic Sea icepack.   The GISTEMP plots for December and January tell the tale (note how warm the Arctic is):

As I would expect and have predicted, the public is taking notice:
Americans' belief in global warming is on the rise, along with temperatures and surprising weather changes, according to a new university poll.
The survey by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College says 62 percent of those asked last December think the Earth is getting warmer. That's up from 55 percent in the spring of that year and 58 percent in December 2010. It is the highest proportion in two years.
Nearly half the people who say they believe in global warming base that on personal observations of the weather. Climate researchers say that's reaching the correct conclusion for reasons that aren't quite right.
 No, the basis is not quite right, but in a world of excessive politicized and unvetted information sometimes people with busy day-to-day lives will rely on the own immediate observations.  If this is bad (i.e. stormy and hot) summer I expect the denialists will take a big hot in public opinion.

Monday, February 20, 2012

There is no Catholic voting bloc.

It irks me to no end that non-Catholics people of all political stripes continue to comment on what Catholics believe and how they vote in behave based on old tired stereotypes that do not much anything I have ever experienced. Now I don't find much useful information on these days, but this piece is a must read for non-Catholics of any political persuasion about the non-existence of any monolithic Catholic voting bloc or culture:
.... the idea of a Catholic bloc is patently ridiculous. As voters, American Catholics mirror the electorate as a whole, divided into Democrats, independents, and Republicans at about the same percentages as all Americans. And it’s hard to trace such political complexity to religious allegiance.
The article goes on to make a distinction between "Latino" "intentional" and "cultural" Catholics that I do find to have some basis in reality:
Unlike the Italians, Poles, Irish and similar white ethnics, Latino Catholics have retained their distinctive identity as Catholics. Their voting behavior reflects that.
This is particularly true when considered from the perspective of the famous social teachings of the church, which emphasize social and familial solidarity, the common good, preference for the poor, tradition, and welcoming of the immigrant.
Latino American Catholics (excluding Cubans) strongly associated with the Democratic Party in 2008, with 67% of Latino Catholic voters supporting Obama. But the bloc includes swing voters, and turnout can be volatile. This vote can be critical in swing states like Colorado, Florida and New Mexico, and perhaps soon in states like Arizona and Texas.
An important social phenomenon for understanding intentional Catholics is what’s sometimes referred to as distillation. A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last year found that one-third of those raised Catholic have left the church. Fully 10% of the American electorate is formerly Catholic....
But as a result of disaffiliation, many Catholics who remain with the church are “distilled.”  More and more of those who remain are those who actively choose to embrace the church and its teachings...
Largely white, with impressive education levels, mostly suburban and with moderate to high income levels, such Catholics are in evidence in weekly Mass attendance and parish activities. Politically active, intentional Catholic voters lean toward the Republican Party (with some youthful swing voters) and are motivated by economic issues and increasingly by opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration.
“Cultural Catholics” make up the third important group of Catholic voters. They are a complicated mix of mostly white Americans with lower levels of Mass attendance and higher levels of ambivalence toward Church authority.
These assimilated voters have varying education and income levels, often hail from urban and suburban communities, are more female than male  often with blue-collar roots and are not intentionally but culturally oriented toward the church.

Many culturally Catholic voters are at odds with both conservatives and liberals on many issues. They are more socially conservative than the majority of Americans, but many are put off by the more intense social conservatism of intentional Catholics and evangelicals.
They are more economically populist than most Americans but are uncomfortable with the libertarian zeal of the tea party.  They are alienated from the lifestyle liberalism of many progressives but remain supportive of unions and governmental programs for the middle class.
The bishops may have little role in these voters’ personal faith, but cultural Catholics look to the church for the sacraments that mark the turnings of their lives and for the traditions that connect generations. Their religious sensibility might almost be described as ethnic.
Even many supposedly culturally aware academics miss these characteristics of such a large portion of the American population and cling to 19th century stereotypes.  This is why any comments from conservative or liberal pundits on the contraception nontroversey and supposed monolithic Catholic reaction are nothing more than hot air.

The Rickster Riseth - updated

Who would thought the subject of the Saturday Santorum posts a while back has risen to the status of GOP frontrunner?  So much has been said about him, so let's just hear it from the horses mouth:

Reuters 2/15/12
"Let's mandate that every insurance policy covers toothpaste. Deodorant. That might be a good idea, right? Have everyone cover deodorant, right? Soap. I mean, where do you stop?"
Piers Morgan via Mediaite
Morgan then left the topic of contraception to ask Santorum about a subject no one else likely would have asked Rick Santorum: Whitney Houston. “Celebrities are the aristocracy of America,” Santorum replied, adding that he considered her death “disturbing,” especially since “you see, in a sense, the royalty of America setting such a poor example.”
Video interview from Oct. '11 via Newser
One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”
It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative.
Ricky thinks health care reform is bad for marriage:
Do you realize that if you are married under Obamacare, you pay a lot more than if you are living together under Obamacare? A lot more," Santorum told 500 voters packed into Froehlich's Classic Corner restaurant. "Thousands of dollars more for the average American family you paid if you are married."
 "Coal miner" Frothy claims he's not the one who's anti-science:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we need someone who understands, who comes from the coal fields, who comes from the steel mills, who understands what average working people in America need to be able to provide for themselves and their families," Santorum said to a crowd of about 500 people in the Democratic-leaning eastern edge of the state.

Santorum's claim to have come "from the coal fields" is a stretch - by two generations. He has never worked in a coal mine. His parents' professions were psychologist and nurse, and Santorum is a lawyer who has spent all of his adult life in politics.
 His views are not "anti-science" as Democrats claim, Santorum said. "When it comes to the management of the Earth, they are the anti-science ones. We are the ones who stand for science, and technology, and using the resources we have to be able to make sure that we have a quality of life in this country and (that we) maintain a good and stable environment," he said
The Rickster blames the media for people not liking what he says, instead of because of, you know, what he says:
On Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, Santorum told a Tea Party crowd, "It's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your job. It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology. " But in front of a crowd of more than 500 people here on Monday, he said the comments were not meant to question the president's religious beliefs, rather a critique of what he called the "extreme" environmental regulations of the Obama administration.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Change in focus

If you look carefully you'll see that the sub header on this here blog has changed, reflecting the new focus.  I'll still be making comments on the converging challenges, but also life in general.  The Marcellus news and information will be in a new blog, which will start on blogspot for convenience.

Right now the Marcellus news will appear only on twitter until the new site is up and running. Once that happens the twitter updates to the right will disappear.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Catholic contraception nontroversy

According to the media and the right-wing, the so-called culture wars are back due to the federal healthcare guideline that Catholic affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities pay for contraception. Supposedly Catholics (which implies the laity as well as the clergy) are enraged at this attack on their religious freedom. Ironically, the ones other than the bishops and Republican-catholic pundits that make this charge are fundamentalists Protestants that historically have been extremely hostile to Catholicism and Catholics.

Such articles and comments that follow talk about Catholic attitudes rather than listen to commentators who actually are Catholics. How about asking Catholics, we're not hard to find as we make up a large portion of the country. The idea that most Catholics are up in arms about this is ludicrous. I don't know a single Catholic couple not practicing birth control and the biggest issue for most is the hierarchy's obstinance in failing to take real responsibility for the abuse cases.

The people who claimed to be outraged can be put in the following groups:
1) Certain blue-collar ethnic Catholics who will never vote for Obama. I know a number of these types around Boston: they only show up in Church on Christmas and Easter, are bigoted against anyone not of their ethnicity, and pretty much ignore any church teaching. They'll claim this as an excuse not to vote for Obama, but they never were going to. This would be the largest group of the "outraged."
2) Wealthy suburban Catholic Republicans who will never vote for Obama. May be outwardly more observant than type 1, but it's mainly for show. Know a lot of these in SE PA/Northern Delaware. They definitely ignore every social teaching of the Church and ignore the admonition against birth control. Again they'll claim this as an excuse not to vote for Obama, but they never were going to in the first place.
3) Santorum type social conservatives who seem to be more theologically fundamentalist Protestant than Catholic. They may indeed not practice birth control but are a small group.
4) The church hierarchy, which has sold its soul to American Social Conservatives as a mechanism to deflect questioning of their authority because of the abuse issue. Many Catholics see through this protection of their temporal institution over spiritual matters and are appalled. They know their flocks ignore the contraception prohibition and this case may give them a sense of control.
4) Talking heads who have no real influence but whose opinions are taken as the sentiment of Catholics as a whole but a lazy media eager to create a culture war.  It makes could copy, gets lots of hits and comments.  It is definitely a case of sound and fury signifying less than nothing.

So this is a nontroversy. In the end all it will do more to drive the wedge between clergy and flock further than it will hurt Obama.  It also demonstrates that the GOP has 'nuthin and is falling back on what supposedly worked 18 years ago.  It's not even a Hail Mary pass, pardon the pun. It's trying to start a brawl when they see the game slipping away.

One more thing. Stewart and Colbert were off this week (again, must be nice). Once they weigh in the media will back off and this will be then end of the "issue".

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Random Observations

Which is what this blog is turning into.

This is weird, an unusual southern migration of Snowy Owls from the Arctic is occuring:
A certain number of the iconic owls fly south from their Arctic breeding grounds each winter but rarely do so many venture so far away even amid large-scale, periodic southern migrations known as irruptions.
"What we're seeing now -- it's unbelievable," said Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana.
"This is the most significant wildlife event in decades," added Holt, who has studied snowy owls in their Arctic tundra ecosystem for two decades.
Based on the uniforms, the first Star Trek movie should be called Disco Trek. That's the type of things I learn  from an HBO free preview weekend showing movies from the late 70s.

Sure it's been a warm January in the lower 48, but not the warmest.  That was way back in 2006.

Occupy Oakland jumped the shark. Kiss the union money goodbye. Meanwhile the number of private-sector union members has increased, so labor may be regaining some strength.

News USGS report, Severe Declines in Everglades Mammals Linked to Pythons. So I guess USGS no longer stands for US Geological Survey, kinda like the TLC no longer means The Learning Channel.

The Fox-Muppet battle continues to rage: 
At a London press conference to promote The Muppets‘ UK release, Kermit D. Frog, himself a former TV news personality, defended the film against the charge, but it was Miss Piggy who delivered the coup de grace, calling the accusation “laughable as accusing Fox News as being News.”

Other Pursuits Have Kept Me Busy

I know, no new posts in a while and the rumored Marcellus blog has yet to materialize.  It all has to do with how my days go right now.  Up in the morning, take care of the dog.  Little Joe now rarely goes back to sleep when Mama leaves and since he's now very active and curious he wants out and I have to put in either a safe crawling area or his exersaucer.  Then breakfast. Bottles were simple, now I have to plop him in the high chair and get him some finger foods, juice, and usually mash some banana.  Then I get some on-line time and maybe some time to contact contractors etc. Then off to the park, lunch, naps etc. Finally in the evening I can do some work myslef on the house. Big developments this week, finally got all the joists resting properly on support beams, just have one area left to expose that has some movement. This time next year it should be pretty cool. Then there is the outside part of the property.

So that's what I've been up to. Maybe at some point I will try to get something going with my so-called advanced degrees.