Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Real Deficit

...has nothing to do with US government revenues and expenditures.  The real deficit is environmental:  we are essentially consuming the very planet that sustains us.  
 In a recent article in the journal Science, researchers at Oregon State University and Harvard explained how they used marine fossils to piece together a rough temperature record going back 11,300 years to the most recent ice age. That record indicates that the Earth warmed as it emerged from the ice age, followed by a long-term cooling trend. The cooling continued until the industrial revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest — and pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Then the temperature spiked. With the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, models suggest, the Earth’s average temperature in 2100 will surpass that detectable in any of the millennia studied.
The most dramatic implication of the study is not the magnitude of the current warming but its extremely rapid pace. The authors note that the Earth has warmed over the past century as much as it cooled over several millennia before that, with no similar spike detectable in the data.
A government deficit we can deal with in varying ways.  We can't make up the environmental deficit.  Once it's gone, it's gone.

Do that long enough and someday it's us that will be gone.

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A Papal Confession

These days of papal succession remind me that my first great ambition in life was to be Pope, maybe even the first American Pope.  This all came about during my years in Catholic grade school, most notably in 1958 when I was ten years old, in fifth grade, an altar boy and clearly very impressionable.  1958 was the year Pope Pius XII died so the whole papal succession thing was a big deal for us wee small Catholics.  Earlier that same year the Bishop of Richmond died which further highlighted the hierarchical transition and opportunities to move up in that hierarchy.  

The nuns at our school had convinced me that the only true vocation in life was the priesthood.  Since girls were not even on my radar at the time, I certainly bought into the whole shtick and the idea of being Pope seemed pretty cool.  When I was confirmed later that year, I took the name Pius (after St Pius X) because I figured that would give me a head start toward my destiny.  Knowing now about X's extreme conservatism and XII's checkered record during the Holocaust, the choice is no small embarrassment.

My ambition did not survive growing up.  Ideas of the priesthood had fallen by the wayside by the time I finished Catholic school in grade 8 and my Catholic faith dissipated during my high school years.  By then my interest had turned to politics and my new ambition was to be the first Republican governor of Virginia since Reconstruction, an idea that seemed as farfetched as the idea of a non-Italian Pope.  I grew out of that one, too, even before a Republican was elected governor of Virginia in 1969.

By then I was very much focused on figuring out a way to avoid being sent to Vietnam.  Like those earlier big ambitions, that one didn't come off, either.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

"I had a job to do. I was a nurse."

Once again, the obituary page has taught me a history I did not know.  This time the history is of the  nurses taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of the Philippinesin 1941.  The last known survivor of that orderal  Mildred Dalton Manning, has died at age 98.  She was one of 77 military nurses captured when American forces surrendered to the Japanese.

Mrs. Manning spent three years as a prisoner of war during which she and her fellow nurses continued to perform their duties and maintained military order and discipline under difficult and extreme conditions.  All 77 survived the ordeal.  I have to think that their dedication to their duty is what saved them.

Godspeed, Mrs. Manning. 

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