No more water, but fire next time…

Well, maybe water and fire….

Starting this fortnight’s news at the top, we can report that things are looking a little squishy up there at the top of the ancient oblate spheroid we all call home.

It’s early in the season, but according one authoritative source,* the extent of arctic sea ice is now lower than it was in 2012, and has been since mid-February. That’s not good, since 2012 holds the record for minimum sea ice.

Members of the Party of Lincoln may choose to refute this, but it’s widely believed that ice melts as a result of higher temperatures. Another phenomenon associated with higher temperatures is more frequent thunderstorms.

Violent thunderstorms overhead can be unsettling enough. After reading a report in Wired Magazine, now we’re worried about thunderstorms 3,200 miles away.

Matt Simon wrote, “The Arctic has gone so bizarro that lightning—a warm-weather phenomenon most common in the tropics—is now striking near the North Pole.” We’ll skip over the details, but those who read Simon’s “More Lightning in the Arctic Is Bad News for the Planet,” will recognize the usual pattern: lightning causes fires, fires burn vegetation, burning releases gasses, gasses cause more heating, yadda yadda yadda.

We gloss over the rest because there’s also news from the nether end of the big blue ball. Yes, it’s bad news. Of course it’s bad news. What did you expect? Do you need a refresher course in News 101? Very well, then.

Researchers from Northumbria University in the UK—which technically, we believe, makes them “boffins”—have developed a technique for modeling ice flows which allows them, for the first time, to identify tipping points in an Antarctic ice sheet. The Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica are already producing about 10 percent of global sea level rise.

“The potential for this region to cross a tipping point has been raised in the past, but our study is the first to confirm that Pine Island Glacier does indeed cross these critical thresholds,” Dr. Sebastian Rosier told SciTechDaily.

“[I]dentifying whether a period of retreat in these models is a tipping point is challenging,” Rosier said. “This is a major forward step in our understanding of the dynamics of this area.” So, cool—all we have to do now is something about it.

We’d best hurry, though. Emily Ury wrote yesterday in The Guardian that rising levels of seawater along the Outer Banks of North Carolina are killing off trees and creating “ghost forests.”


Oxen in front of a sugarhouse, in Washington, New Hampshire, 1978 or ’79. The sugarhouse might have been built by Perley Crane, early in the 20th century. Perley’s son Donny trained the oxen; once hitched to the sledge, they plodded along without any need of further command. Atop the sledge sat a huge, covered wooden tub. Perhaps five feet across at the base, it was considerably smaller at the top. The shape gave the tub a lower center of gravity—an important consideration in such hilly terrain. Donny carried the buckets through the snow, from tree to tub, and poured the sap into the tub through a hatch. Other than gathering a few dozen cords of wood, and boiling nearly ’round the clock for a couple of weeks, that’s all there is to it. Donny sometimes represented New Hampshire maple syrup producers at the Big E—the Eastern States Exposition, in Springfield, Mass. It’s the largest agricultural event in the East, and the sixth-largest fair in the nation, according to the all-knowing socialist endeavor, Wikipedia. “People always want to know,” said Donny, the day this photo was taken, “what does tapping do to the tree? No one has ever asked me, though—what does it do to the man?”


Cut Down in the Prime of His Dotage

Britain’s Sky News reported this morning that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died.

“Take it back to the beginning for us, Alastair,” said a woman with a posh-sounding voice, “and tell us how the young Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark met the then-Princess Elizabeth.”

Alastair replied, after a three-second pause, “Well…they were…related.”

We checked, it’s true the Queen and her late consort were third cousins.

The world will be more boring but less abrasive without him. In 1966 he said to the matron of a Caribbean hospital, “You have mosquitoes. I have the press.” Consoling a woman who lost two sons in a fire in 1998, he said “[Smoke alarms are] a damn nuisance—I’ve got one in my bathroom and every time I run my bath the steam sets it off.”

Pardon us, please, if our coverage of this tragic loss seem insensitive. We’re just trying to balance out the unctuous coverage of the allegedly royal family coming from Fox News. One of the dimmer bulbs at the Republican Party’s on-again, off-again official media platform implied that a Black woman played a role in the death of the 99 year-old figurehead. Brian Kilmeade—who is not, to our knowledge, a certified medical examiner—suggested that the stress of a televised interview of Meghan Markle and her husband, whatever his name is, may have been the final straw for the Duke.

Relatively speaking, the Duke got off easy. In 1936, King George V was killed by his own physician with an injection of cocaine and morphine. According to a 2017 article in The Guardian, the murder—what else to call it?—was almost certainly carried out with “the consent of that monarch’s successor. That successor, Edward VIII, hated his father—and the feeling was mutual. This was an era when treason was still punishable by execution. Means, motive, opportunity—the prerequisites were there. Dawson’s [Bertrand, 1st Viscount Dawson of Penn, the Royal Physician] notes are the signed confession that puts the seal on the entire deal. There is no such concept as euthanasia in law to this very day, and what Dawson did was unquestionably murder.” Edward VIII succeeded his father, but later abdicated so he could spend more time with his wife, an American divorceé. Both seemed inordinately fond of Adolf Hitler. Dawson timed George V’s death so that it could be reported in the more-dignified morning newspapers, rather than the evening rags.

The King’s last words, “God damn you,” were directed not at the man who killed him, but at his nurse, Catherine Black, who had just given him a sedative. Black had served as a nurse in France and Belgium during World War I. She wrote in her autobiography, King’s Nurse, Beggar’s Nurse, “you went into [a casualty-clearing station] young and light-hearted. You came out older than any span of years could make you.”


A wildfire recently forced the evacuation of 400 homes in South Dakota, and shut off access to Mt. Rushmore. That fire has since been contained. Given the hardness of the granite from which it is carved—it only erodes at a rate of one-tenth of an inch per century—the argument over that unique and peculiar feature of the American landscape is likely to last as long as Homo Americanus. Is it a hallowed monument to American greatness, or just an enormous example of sacrilegious schlock? That depends on one’s point of view. @Ruth_HHopkins, aka Red Road Woman, wrote on Twitter, “It’s not Mount Rushmore. It’s a Lakota sacred site called the Six Grandfathers that was defaced by a White supremacist KKK supporter. The Black Hills rightfully belong to the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation). Give it back. We’d protect it. #LandBack.” Hopkins is right about Gutzon Borglum. Before he attacked the Black Hills he was defacing Stone Mountain, Georgia with a huge tribute to the Confederacy. This aerial view of the Black Hills, part of Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, available in full color at the Library of Congress’ website, puts the matter into perspective. Borglum’s vision, however grandiose and grotesque, is dwarfed by the natural world.


Happy Appomattox Anniversary Day

Seven score and 16 years ago today, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, West Point graduate and alpha-level traitor Robert E. Lee threw in the towel and admitted that U.S. Grant had whupped his rebel ass, and that Abe Lincoln could beat up Jefferson Davis.

We regret the necessity of reminding certain persons of these facts, but the sooner they are assimilated, the happier we all will be.


Bezos’ Wish Is DeJoy’s Command

It now appears that a few hundred Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama were unsuccessful in their efforts to overcome the combined powers of their bosses, their bosses’ boss, the richest man in the world.

This is not all that surprising, considering that the above-mentioned powers were abetted by local police, other local government officials, the state government, the Republican Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Postal Service, and an unholy host of right wing propaganda mills. Other complicit parties include every gutless news medium which uncritically accepts the inherently dishonest label “Right to Work” applied to legislation.

The workers’ loss in Bessemer does not prove that people don’t want unions. It proves that unions are what workers need. Just ask a union buster.

“Union busting is a field populated by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war against the truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack. Each ‘union prevention’ campaign, as the wars are called, turns on a combined strategy of disinformation and personal assault.” That’s Martin Jay Levitt in his 1988 book, Confessions of a Union Buster, quoted recently by Jane McAlevy in The Nation.

The rest of the country has seen U.S. Postal Service facilities closing down around the country. In Alabama, it seems to have gone out of its way to do Amazon’s bidding.

Amazon wanted a mailbox installed at its Bessemer warehouse, specifically for the union election.

 “…[T]he NLRB definitively denied Amazon’s request for a drop box on the warehouse property. Amazon felt it was above the law and worked with the Postal Service anyway to install one. They did this because it provided a clear ability to intimidate workers,” according to Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum.


This Just In: Union to File Charges Against Amazon Over “Blatantly Illegal Conduct” in Bessemer Election

by Jake Johnson, staff writer,

Common Dreams

As Amazon on Friday received the votes needed to defeat a unionization effort at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union [RWDSU] announced that it intends to formally object to the election results and file unfair labor practice charges against the tech behemoth for “unlawfully interfering” with employees right to organize.

“We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception, and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU, the union that attempted to organize the roughly 6,000 Bessemer warehouse workers.

“Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union,” Appelbaum said. “That’s why they required all their employees to attend lecture after lecture, filled with mistruths and lies, where workers had to listen to the company demand they oppose the union. That’s why they flooded the internet, the airwaves, and social media with ads spreading misinformation. That’s why they brought in dozens of outsiders and union-busters to walk the floor of the warehouse.”

“Amazon’s conduct has been despicable,” added Appelbaum. “We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election.”

The RWDSU’s statement came as an initial tally showed that Bessemer workers voted decisively against forming a union following a monthslong process that saw Amazon deploy a variety of aggressive anti-union tactics, fearing that a union victory would galvanize similar organizing efforts nationwide.

Nearly 1,800 of the 3,215 total votes cast went against the union while 738 ballots were in favor, according to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) count.

If RWDSU challenges the election results, there will be “a hearing to investigate the union’s claims against Amazon,” as HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson explained Friday.

“NLRB officials could potentially set aside the results and order a new election if they find Amazon’s behavior to be as egregious as the RWDSU has portrayed it,” Jamieson noted. “A lengthy dispute could eventually go before the NLRB’s board in Washington, which President Joe Biden could reshape in Democrats’ favor as early as August.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Friday that he supports “RWDSU’s filing an objection to the conduct of the election and related unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board—a right that they clearly have under the National Labor Relations Act.”

“Amazon’s workers deserve to be treated better than they have been on the warehouse floor,” added Pocan, “and better than they have been during this election.”

In a statement on Friday, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka applauded Bessemer workers for courageously fighting for collective bargaining rights in the face of “systematic bullying and intimidation by one of the largest companies in the world.”

Trumka argued that Amazon’s “outrageous behavior” throughout the Bessemer election spotlights the urgent need for Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a proposed revamp of U.S. labor law that would strengthen union rights and crack down on employers’ coercive activities. The bill won House approval in March but has run up against the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate.

“Our rights have been steadily eroded by a handful of powerful elites,” said Trumka. “We can’t allow this societal failure to deprive one more worker of the freedom to organize. This is the fight of our time, and it starts with passing the PRO Act.”

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