Category Archives: Moral Outrage

A Tragic Stage Full Of Mousetraps

In response to today’s mass murder at an Oregon community college, my son posted something on Facebook mocking the NRA. In response, someone posted…

Unfortunately up to 10 dead due to the lack of ability to legally carry and defend themselves and prevent such a high number of casualties.

…and I thought, “Jesus Christ, are these people really this stupid?”

Let’s imagine a classroom with a high percentage of “good guys with a gun.” They’re safe, they’re secure. They’re Wayne LaPierre’s kind of guys!

Are they all keeping their weapons loaded, out on the desk, and ready for use every moment they’re at school? Even while they’re taking notes, or paying attention to the teacher, or taking a test? “Just in case?”

If so, I’m pretty sure that qualifies as clinical paranoia and they need serious, professional mental help. (And since they’re mentally ill, they really shouldn’t own a gun.)

Okay, let’s give this argument and the NRA the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s say we have a classroom (or a church, or a store, or a beauty salon) with twenty-five people in it, and five of them are armed. In our BEST CASE SCENARIO, the guns are loaded but properly holstered, the safeties are on, the users well trained – just like the NRA recommends. Everyone’s occupied with class, looking up at the teacher and the whiteboard, when someone bursts in behind them and starts shooting.

How long does it take any or all of those well-armed citizens to get their weapon out and use it? People are screaming, everyone’s diving under desks, people are dying, blood’s flying through the air – it’s total chaos.

This is almost certainly a situation none of our well-armed, well-trained citizens has ever seen. There might be one who is a veteran or police officer, but the odds of that are extremely low. The vast majority who might find themselves in this horrible situation will, within seconds, be in a crisis far beyond their worst nightmare, with no warning.

Do they freeze? Do they dive for cover? Do they charge the guy bare handed because they don’t have time to draw their weapons? Do any of our five well-armed and trained citizens even get their weapons out before they themselves are shot?

Think about it. If it’s common knowledge to the shooter that there is likely to be armed resistance in the room, after the first volley he’s going to start targeting those who look like they’re trying to draw their own weapons. Has carrying a gun for protection now made our well-armed citizens prime targets?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at least one protective weapon is drawn without the owner being killed, he’s able to use it without shooting his balls off, and the initial mass murder is shot and brought down. (Remember, this is still our best case scenario.)

Success! Right? The bad guy has been shot and while he may have shot a bunch of people by using the element of surprise, we’ve minimized the body count by taking him out. Right?

But…

This chaos has not occured in a vacuum. There are multiple classrooms. They might be off of a common, interior hallway, or they might all open to the outside of the building, as was the case in Oregon today. We’ve just had a massive gunfight, possibly with dozens of shots fired, multiple wounded and dying, bleeding, and most likely many people still screaming hysterically.

People in the classroom next door might have heard, don’t you think?

So if in that next classroom there are also multiple well-armed, well-trained citizens, do they respond by barring the door and preparing to defend themselves if a shooter comes into their classroom? Or does some “good guy with a gun” come rushing out and running toward the sound of gunfire next door, in order to help?

I’m thinking the odds are in favor of at least one of them wanting to be a hero.

So armed student #2 runs up to the door of the classroom which holds the initial attack. He sees bodies, blood, chaos, someone on the floor, and someone else holding a gun.

Is the guy holding the gun a good guy who just saved the day? Or is it the original gunman, waiting for armed student #2 to show up so that he’s the next prime target, just like the other armed students in the room were to begin with?

You have a quarter second to decide. It’s a life or death situation, and you also have absolutely zero-point-zero experience with this other than watching television and movies.

What are the odds that armed student #2 shoots armed student #1?

What if you’re armed student #1, in the classroom after shooting the mass murderer? You’re possibly injured, perhaps seriously, almost certainly in shock even if you’re not injured (have you ever been shot at or actually shot and in this kind of pain before; do you know what to expect?), you have enough adrenaline in your system to let you leap tall buildings in a single bound – and now someone rushes up to the door with a gun. Is he someone from down the hall who’s come to back you up? Or the second mass murderer, coming to back up the guy you just shot? (Remember Columbine?)

You have a quarter second to decide.

What are the odds that armed student #1 shoots armed student #2?

Either way, the probability is significant that more shots will be fired. More people may be injured.

Now armed student #3 comes from another classroom. Maybe there’s a classroom full of injured and dying with a guy standing outside the door with a gun, or maybe there’s a dead or dying guy in the doorway, with a guy inside the room holding a gun.

Repeat the previous confrontation between armed student #1 and armed student #2, this time for armed student #3 and whoever survived the previous confrontation.

Repeat for armed students #4, #5, #6…

Unrealistic? I think not. Furthermore, with every exchange of gunfire, justified or mistaken, those who haven’t yet gotten into the game get more motivation to shoot first and ask questions later.

At some point, the police arrive. There are multiple people with guns, people injured, people dead, perhaps shots still being fired.

Who do the police start shooting at?

You think that’s not chaotic enough? What if someone else in one of the classrooms, someone with a gun, perhaps someone wounded who has just regained consciousness and/or come out from hiding, what if they go off half-cocked when they see someone with a gun, someone not wearing a police uniform? Good guy or bad guy? A tough decision if you’re shot, in pain, and afraid that you’re going to die any second.

When there’s a lull in the shooting, panic can and will set in and there will be people, no matter how many times that they’ve been taught to “shelter in place” during such an event, people who will see their chance and take off running for safety. (And just how freaking horrible is it that we have to plan ahead for what to do if and when we’re caught in such an event? Jesus Christ!) You have a situation now where there might be multiple people with weapons drawn – now throw in screaming people running around, probably in all different directions. What if the crisis is not over and there are still bad guys out there? What if the bad guys are all dead but the good guys have no way of knowing it?

How many innocent, panicked potential hostages get killed or wounded running for safety?

How many of those are shot by bad guys and how many by good guys?

It’s now been a half hour. The police have control of the situation and the long line of ambulances, morgue vehicles, and television vans are clogging the roads.

How many dead? Less than the ten who died today?

If you believe that, there’s a river in Egypt that I would like to sell you. If you’re blind and ignorant enough to want a society where this scenario is realistic, my money says you’ll add at least 50% to the body count, probably more.

How many of the dead were killed by the mass murderer and how many by the “good guys”?


What does this scenario remind me of?

At first I thought of dominoes, but that’s too linear. This is chaos spreading out in random directions at random times, like the spikes in a bolt of lightning.

Then I remembered.

There’s a bit they do on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” where they have the stage covered in live mouse traps. The performers are blindfolded and barefoot. Once the first mousetrap goes off, others start going off at random as the performer hops around blindly and in panic. It’s a hilarious bit.

Now imagine that every one of those mousetraps is an innocent person dying, on an ordinary day when they thought they were just going to school. Or church. Or the grocery store. Or the mall. Or a political meet-and-greet.

Same model. Same chaos theory. Much less hilarity.


Anyone want to guess the over/under for how many minutes it is before I start getting responses (aka hate mail, aka attacks, aka threats) from loyal NRA members?

“That’s totally unrealistic, if someone’s well trained and well armed, they would gun the guy down immediately and save everyone!”

Bullshit. Pull your head out of the fantasyland that is your ass.

“Really, the good guys will get their guns out fast and protect everyone else and kill the bad guy! You just don’t know anything about guns!”

You mean, just like all of those armed military personnel at Fort Hood, the ones who have some of the finest professional training in firearms in the world? The ones who were attacked in 2009 with thirteen killed and thirty-three injured? Or the ones who were attacked in 2014 with three killed (not including the shooter) and fourteen injured?

“Yeah, but most of those Army guys didn’t have their guns with them on base. THAT’s why they got killed!”

Do you know why the military generally has severe restrictions on allowing people other than the MPs to wander around on base with weapons, especially loaded ones? Because it’s too freakin’ dangerous! But I forget, the NRA and their redneck sycophants know so, so much more than the US military about weapons and their use. Right?

“When the initial shooting stops, the good guys will put down their guns and there won’t be any secondary shootings!”

Yeah, right. You’re talking about people who are so gung-ho about “being prepared for anything at any time” that they’re carrying loaded weapons into a public place on the less than one-in-a-million chance that someone will show up and do something horrific and terrifying so that they can be the hero and save the day. Can you say, “trigger happy?” Sure. I knew you could.

“The good guys would recognize each other and not shoot other good guys.”

Really? Is that why police and military train to make snap decisions to distinguish shooters from victims? Would random citizens be able to make those decisions correctly without any training?

“In this world, yes, they’ll be well trained, they’ll have that kind of training! You can get it right now!”

I know that training exists for civilians. It’s been offered as a raffle prize at some events I’ve attended. It’s really, really expensive, only for the elite and wealthy. So if you want to argue that each of a couple dozen random folks in a random location at a random time will all have had it, or even something close to that, you might be full of shit.

“They’ll recognize each other because when we all start allowing and welcoming open carry and concealed carry regulations, those who are trained will wear a badge/uniform/hat/something!”

We already have a group that does that. They’re called the “police.” They generally wear those blue uniforms and drive those black and white cars. But even if you do have some symbol of recognition for the magical well-trained, well-armed, citizen militia, doesn’t that just make militia members the first target for the mass murderer instead of the second target during the initial ambush?

“But the police wouldn’t end up making it worse when they arrive! They’re trained!”

Yes, they are. The odds are better that they won’t accidentally shoot the wrong guy. Unless the “wrong guy” is a “good guy” who happens to be black. Or Muslim-looking. Or anything else that might be “suspicious” in a war zone. And the police wouldn’t ever accidentally shoot one of the good guys once he’s identified himself. Or shoot another policeman. That “friendly fire” stuff never really happens except in the movies. Right?

“The good guys won’t get shot, they’ll wear body armor!”

Right, not only are our “good guys with guns” going to have their loaded weapons with them 24/7/365 but they’re going to wear body armor all the time also. Just. In. Case.


Is that the world you want? A significant percentage of the general populace wearing body armor and carrying loaded weapons at every event you go to, at any time of the year or day, “just in case” some madman with a gun shows up? Think about that. Think carefully.

Would it not be easier, by at least a dozen orders of magnitude, to put in place some common sense regulations of guns?

Before you freak out, read what I just wrote. “To put in place some common sense regulations of guns.” Did I say, “repeal the Second Amendment”? Nope. Did I say, “take away everyone’s guns”? Nope. “Common sense.” “Regulation.” You know, the same way that cars and driving are regulated. Or zoning laws. Or building codes. Or the laws that say you can’t have a hundred stray cats living in your house.

Common. Sense. Regulation.

Gun ownership in the United States is a Constitutional right. Somehow it’s also become an obsession and a religion, and it doesn’t seem to matter how many innocent people get slaughtered in cold blood.

This isn’t television. It isn’t the movies. It’s reality, it’s incredibly messy, it can be chaotic beyond belief.

It’s time to stop mentally ill people from having access to guns.

If you honestly think the solution to stopping the slaughter is to have a significant portion of the general populace with loaded weapons in public places all the time, you’re the problem, not the solution.

 

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Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Moral Outrage

Waiting For Her Mom

While I spent my day discussing moral outrage (look for me using @momdude56 on Twitter, hashtag #IStandWithAhmed) and trying desperately to avoid having anything to do with the Republican debates, Jessie had much more basic demands on her time. With The Long-Suffering Wife out getting her nails done after work, Jessie has to sit out on the lawn and wait for her car to come around the corner.

File Sep 16, 21 50 28 smallYes, she had been fed dinner (by me). Yes, she had been taken outside (by me) whenever she needed to all day. Yes, she had gotten treats (from me) whenever she begged. Yes, she had dry food (which I gave her) if she was still hungry. Yes, her water bowls had been refilled all day (by me).

But I’m not “mom.” So we’ll just sit here and wait.

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Filed under Dogs, Moral Outrage

#GirlsWithToys

Last Saturday there appeared an NPR interview with Shrinivas Kulkarni. Dr. Kulkarni is the McArthur Professor in Astronomy & Planetary Science at the California Institute of Technology. I’ve never met the man, but based just on what he’s written in his CalTech bio and the way he expresses himself in the NPR interview, he seems a reasonable person with a good sense of humor. Granted, it’s a very limited data set.

In that interview, Kulkarni has a somewhat whimsical quote when talking about being a professional astronomer.

“We astronomers are supposed to say, ‘We wonder about the stars and we really want to think about it,’ ” says Kulkarni — in other words, think deep thoughts. But he says that’s not really the way it is.

“Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call ‘boys with toys,’ ” he says. “I really like playing around with telescopes. It’s just not fashionable to admit it.”

I probably would have never heard of this interview, or if I had, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention based on the article that NPR put online. But in the audio version broadcast on NPR, it’s a little different than that article makes it. In the interview that went on the air, after Kulkarni says “boys with toys,” the NPR host, Joe Palca, interrupts him twice to question the use of the phrase. But nothing comes of it.

Others weren’t so forgiving. Others who are among the vast (yet far too small) number of women who work in engineering and science. Others, perhaps, who might have young daughters who want to be an engineer or a scientist but now might have to re-emphasize to them that it’s possible for a girl to dream of those things, even if that guy on the radio doesn’t include them in his joke.

There’s a good article over on Slate describing what happened next. Kate Clancy, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois, went to Twitter and posted some pictures of herself using scientific equipment. She used the hashtag #GirlsWithToys. Other women scientists and engineers saw it and joined in. Then more. Then a LOT more. #GirlsWithToys was a trending topic on Twitter all weekend, and I’m still seeing some posted today.

“Boys with toys.”

No one has called for Dr. Kulkarni’s head, his job, or even an apology. If he’s made any further comment, I’ve missed it. (Please put something in the comments if you’ve seen it, I would love to know about it.) The only response has been a large crowd of women (as well as men posting about their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters) politely pointing out that a casual play on words is actually a sign of a much deeper problem. It’s a problem that runs so deep that for many people the first response was, “Really? They’re getting bent out of shape over that? It’s a joke, nothing more than a little rhyming phrase!”

Of course, there was a fair amount of pushback from the “men’s rights” advocates and rabid anti-feminist crowd. No surprise there, but the MRA crowd are the same pinheads and knuckledragging buffoons who were bent out of shape this weekend because they believe the new “Mad Max” film is a feminist propaganda film designed to emasculate the American male psyche. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a pretty accurate yardstick to show me how much credibility they have. Keep those clowns a long way away from me and we’ll be just fine.

But what about everyone else? If you’re a member of the first group, the “Really?” group, I would ask that you pause, avoid the instantaneous reaction, and give a closer look to the societal biases embedded so deep in a phrase like “boys with toys” that we don’t even see them any more. To make a quick quip, an alliterative play on words, 50% of the population got ignored, and when they point out the problem they get criticized for being thin skinned. Which is pretty meta if you think about it. Get casually dismissed with a turn of a phrase, protest, get told you’re wrong because you’re not being dismissed or silenced or ignored – and then get told to shut up and go away.

Yeah, maybe we might want to think about that just a bit.

Me? I’ve got two daughters who we’ve tried to raise to be as independent and strong-willed as possible. So I get it. I see why women were upset. I was upset.

Sunday, when the hashtag and tweets were still going strong, I started re-tweeting posts that I saw. Some were from women I know through Twitter, some were from colleagues of theirs, some were from total strangers. I limited myself to one example from each woman, and I stopped re-tweeting posts after the first sixty-six. I could have gone on all day, I could have posted six hundred and sixty-six. (More to follow after my tweets.)

I don’t want to live in a world where we can be punished for anything that comes out of our mouths. I don’t want us to turn into North Korea. I’m a huge fan of the First Amendment. I hate “political correctness.” I’m sure that I some times stick my foot in my mouth without realizing it.

None of that is what this is about. This is about realizing that there’s a problem in our society, and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. It’s a problem that is embedded unconsciously into our society and our language, and we have to see it and recognize it before we can change it.

Look back over the last few articles about the NASA Armstrong event and what I’ve written recently about our space programs. Did anyone notice how I refer to “remotely-piloted” planes or “uncrewed spacecraft?” A year ago I would have said a “manned plane” or “manned mission” or “manned spacecraft.” It’s still a very common term.

It shouldn’t be. It’s not that hard to use language that’s inclusive.

I’ll defend to the death your right to not be forced to make the change – but I’ll think you’re a dinosaur who’s incapable of adapting and evolving while I’m fighting. You’ll be wrong in my book. I’m not saying we have to religiously refer to “manholes” as “personholes,” or ” or “firemen” as “firefighting personnel” – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get into the habit of using a term like “maintenance hole” or “firefighter.”

There’s a whole list of words and phrases we don’t use any more (or at least we use much, much less) because those words and phrases hurt people. They make life hard for people. They subtly and subconsciously tell people that they’re less, that they’re not welcome, that they don’t deserve to think they’re the same as us.

Changing our language to consciously include everyone instead of subconsciously favoring a select group isn’t just a feminist intellectual exercise in outrage. It’s something that all of us should be putting an effort into to make the world a better place.

Especially if you’re being interviewed by NPR.

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Filed under Astronomy, Moral Outrage, Space

Take A Breath, Don’t Make Things Worse

Lots of shit going on in the world recently. Ebola. Global Warming. Ferguson. Congress. Rape Culture. GamerGate. Bigotry. Hatred.

Makes the head swim. Makes you frustrated. Makes you angry. Makes you wonder what to do, ’cause we’ve gotta do SOMETHING, don’t we?

I remembered something I was taught when I was learning to fly. I heard it echoed a couple of times last week at the Armstrong NASA Social.

In all of these cases, the category was “EMERGENCY!!!” Bad things were happening in the plane. Fire. Pieces falling off. Out of control. Ground getting bigger real fast.

In every instance, the first rule, of course, is, “Don’t panic.” It’s not just a buzzline from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. In a “situation”, you might be close to dying. If you panic, the odds of dying approach 1.00 very quickly. Your odds might not be great, but they can only get worse if you panic.

Which leads to the second rule – “Don’t make it worse.” Like the Hippocratic Oath for pilots, it reminds us that there’s no situation that can’t be made worse. Maybe you can make it better, maybe you can’t. Buy you can always make it worse. Don’t do that.

To assist in executing Rule One and Rule Two, Rule Three is to, “Take a deep breath or five.” This might be more of a suggestion than a rule, since there might be times when the fire is in the cockpit NOW, or the mountain in front of you as you come out of the clouds is RIGHT THERE. But those are the exceptions. Most crises build and grow, a chain of errors, poor decisions, and bad luck.

So when you realize you’re at the end of such a chain and it’s about to be a “bad day,” take a couple of deep breaths, don’t panic, and don’t make the situation worse.

The suggestion I’ve heard for the next step, when you’re evaluating the danger in your situation, is to see if you’re in mortal danger this second. For example, following an earthquake, if you’re trapped under rubble and you smell gas leaking, you’re in deep guano right this second. But for the vast majority of us, even if you got banged up a little, you’re probably safe this second. There could be fires to come, aftershocks, further damage, lack of food & water for days, looting… But this second, you’re okay. You can plan from there to make sure you’re still safe in a minute, an hour, a day, a week.

Viewing heaping piles of the idiotic, insane, and vitriolic shit that seems to sometimes fill the news and FaceBook and Twitter and the conversation around the water cooler, it’s natural and easy to get angry, to want to react, to want to strike out, to want to do something now to change things. The topic doesn’t matter. Ebola, global warming, Ferguson, Congress, rape culture, GamerGate, bigotry, or hatred.

I’m not saying that there’s nothing we can do about these things, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take action to change these things. Quite the opposite.

But… Don’t panic. Don’t make it worse. Take a few deep breaths. See if you personally are in mortal danger at this second.

Then let’s figure out ways to make these things better. Hopefully we’ll make things better by working together, but we’ll do it one individual at a time if necessary. We’ll do it while remembering all of the really good things in the world that balance out some of the really terrible things. We’ll get there, but it’s a marathon, not a spring.

Don’t panic.

Don’t make it worse.

Take a few deep breaths.

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Filed under Moral Outrage, Paul, Politics

Tonight, What If EVERYBODY…

July 20th

If you’ve read more than one or two of my rants here, you know what it’s the anniversary (45th) of. Last year I described where I was on that momentous day. Earlier this month I talked about why I love NASA so much, despite some of the recent political and bureaucratic decisions that have frustrated me.

I don’t know if the social media universe (Twitter, FaceBook, and so on) are actually making a big deal of the anniversary or if it’s just my timelines/feed/slice that is. Since I follow a lot of NASA, space, science, and science fiction folks, there very well could be a huge selection effect going on here.

(For the record, looking at Twitter’s worldwide, US, and Los Angeles trends, the two I see trending across the board are James Garner’s death and “Happy National Ice Cream Day”, but there’s no sign of anything related to NASA or Apollo 11. FaceBook shows Gaza, James Garner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the Open Championship, and Buzz Aldrin all trending. Finally, even if we do have to go to the “See More” button to find something.)

Within my social media feeds it’s about 75/25 between the, “Wow, wasn’t that fantastic & here’s where I was & it changed my life” comments and the, “WTF happened, why aren’t we living on the moon & walking around on Mars & heading toward the outer planets & mining asteroids & & & & &…” comments.

Jim Wright’s essay is spectacular (as they all are) and highly recommended. The best comment I’ve seen there (“Stonekettle Station,” John Scalzi’s “Whatever,” and Chuck Wendig’s “terribleminds” are the only three places where I dare to read the comments) is attributed to Andy Borowitz and says, “1969: America winning space race with the Russians. 2014: America keeping up with the Kardashians.” That’s far more true than I’m happy with.

But we can and should remember well what was accomplished on July 20, 1969, if for no other reason than to inspire us to yet again redouble our efforts to take the next small steps and giant leaps ahead. And it’s about time (literally) to do that.

It’s 13:00 PDT here in Los Angeles right now. Forty-five years ago, at 13:18 PT, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. At 17:56 PT, the first moonwalk began.

This evening, starting at 19:39 PDT (22:39 PDT) NASA-TV will show that original moonwalk telecast will be shown in its entirety just as it did forty-five years ago. Your cable or satellite company does (or should!) carry NASA-TV, or you can watch it here online.

At the conclusion of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” he asks the rhetorical question about what would happen if  one person a day, two people a day, three people a day, or fifty people a day would go to their draft board singing “Alice’s Restaurant.” Would they see it as a movement, or more bluntly, would any of the powers-that-be know or care?”

I don’t know if the Nielsen ratings system and software are even aware of NASA-TV’s existence. But I wonder…

Tonight, what if EVERYBODY watched the Apollo 11 replay? What if tonight, instead of getting two to three million viewers each, “60 Minutes,” “Big Brother,” “Rising Star,” “American Ninja Warrior,” and “The Simpsons” each got a few thousand viewers at most, while ten or twenty million televisions were tuned to NASA-TV all night watching a forty-five year old rerun?

Would that get anyone’s attention come tomorrow morning? Would that keep anyone’s attention through the next news cycle, or through the next election?

Wouldn’t it be really bitchin’ to find out?

I understand that it won’t happen tonight. But the fiftieth anniversary is five years away. That will be more of an attention getter than the forty-fifth anniversaryWith a little bit of planning and some grass-roots activism…

Spread the word. 1,827 days to go.

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Filed under Moral Outrage, Politics, Space

Flash Fiction: Board Room

This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge — is a repeat, because for the life of me, I can’t see where Chuck Wendig posted a blog entry or tweet with any mention of a contest this week. Okay, so the man’s entitled to take a week off. But I’m on a writing “mission from god”, so I picked a previous Challenge (this one from late April) and rolled the hypothetical, fifty-sided dice to get a 46, which gives me the character of  “the brutal businessperson.”

It turned out a little bit preachy, which I blame on flipping by “The Devil’s Advocate” on cable earlier today. This story was an interesting, dialogue-based scene to write as an exercise. As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.

BOARD ROOM

“I have to recommend against building this project,” Carson said. “The possible consequences could be catastrophic.”

There was silence in the board room as all eyes turned to the end of the table. The CEO did not appear to be bothered by the comment, but everyone knew that looks could be deceiving.

“What consequences, Carson? Every relevant department has concluded that this will be an enormously profitable venture.”

“I have no doubt that it will make money, sir. But I would bring your attention again to the report from our environmental consultant.”

The Chief Legal Officer turned his head slightly, not looking directly at Carson, turning only the minimal amount necessary to acknowledge his existence. “The EPA has already signed off on this project, Carson. You should know that.”

“Jason, I’m aware that the EPA has given the green light to this project. I’m also aware of how that approval was obtained, as is everyone else in this room.”

“Would you care to be more clear, Carson? I believe we’ve only followed our standard operating procedures.”

“I’m referring to the way the EPA was given only select parts of a highly edited report from our consultants, while both EPA personnel and our consultants were paid handsomely to ignore the discrepancies between the early versions and the final submission.”

“Is there any truth to that accusation, Jason?” asked the CEO.

“Sir, the EPA approved our final petition based on the information given to them by our consultants. The consultants were well paid by us. The information that was given to the EPA by our consultants and their testimony under oath at the EPA hearings were completely out of our control. If some of the senior EPA staff who recommended approval have careers with our consultant’s firm after they complete their careers at the EPA, that would not be unusual, nor would it be anything that we have any say in. It’s all completely legal and a normal state of affairs, as you know.”

“I understand, Jason. Christine, would you please remind Carson of the predicted financial return on this project?”

The CFO didn’t even need to look at her notes. “We estimate a minimum annual ROI of 25% beginning two years after construction, increasing to 40% or more by year ten. Our projected annual net profits over the first ten years are over one trillion dollars.”

The CEO turned back to Carson. “If we’re going to make that kind of return and nothing illegal is being done, what objections can you still have about this project?”

“Sir, the original environmental assessment, before Jason and his staff had it changed, warned that the drilling operations, refining facilities, and pipeline construction could have serious environmental side effects, particularly in terms of damage and accelerated melting of the permafrost across a region of hundreds of thousands of square miles.”

“Which is why we made engineering changes to allow for any civil engineering issues that might arise, which in turn led to changes in the final environmental report. The chances of an oil spill are infinitesimal.”

“Yes, sir, the odds of an oil spill are no more than one in fifty for any given year, and our engineering plan does allow for structural integrity of our facilities even in the event of changes in the permafrost. But that’s not the problem. There is a high probability that our facilities could cause massive melting of the permafrost, which will release trillions of tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The environmental damage of a major oil spill is nothing compared to that. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s even more dangerous than carbon dioxide in its effect on climate change. Melting of the permafrost at an accelerated rate like this could result in an accelerated rate of global temperature increase that will be impossible to reverse.”

The CEO’s stare had gotten steadily more intense as Carson had continued to speak. “I’m disappointed by your sudden passion for this fear-mongering and nonsense from the liberal press, Carson. This company’s position of so-called ‘global warming’ is quite clear, as are the multiple studies we have funded proving it false.”

“Sir, you and this board have surrounded yourselves with sycophants and yes-men who have told you whatever you wanted to hear for decades. The truth is that proceeding with this project will likely bring catastrophic climate change, not in two hundred years or a hundred years, but in as little as fifteen or twenty years. In your lifetime, the entire world economy will collapse as a billion or more people become homeless and start to starve. There will be wars, there will be famine, there could be the end of our civilization as we know it. You will not be earning hundreds of billions a dollars a year when the world collapses into chaos.”

The ticking of the clock on the fireplace mantle in the conference room was the only sound for long seconds.

“You are dismissed,” the CEO finally said.

“Sir, the facts will not change just because you choose not to believe them.”

“Carson, you may leave voluntarily or you may be removed from this meeting. I will speak with you privately later.”

“I’ll leave, but this needs to be said now and said to all of you. This project will be the tipping point that pushes the entire planet over into a runaway greenhouse. You personally are taking actions that will destroy five thousand years of human civilization. I hope that you all live to see the day you realize what you’ve done, and remember you had the power to stop it, but chose not to. As for you, sir, I hope you will live to see how the lives of your family, of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are destroyed by your actions.” Carson turned on his heel and left the meeting room, cold silence a wall behind him.

Everyone waited for the CEO to proceed. After a moment of staring absently down at the documents on the desk in front of him, he raised his head and looked around the room.

“I apologize for my son’s unreasonable outburst. Now, let’s proceed. When do we begin construction?”

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Filed under Disasters, Freakin' Idiots!, Moral Outrage, Politics, Writing

Yes, I Am A F$%king Asshole – You’re Welcome (NSFW)

Call it fate, if you will.

Normally I’m at the CAF hanger in Camarillo until about 3:00 or 3:15. Today I decided to leave early since I had a check to drop off, a deposit to make at the bank, and a stack of mail to go out.

Just before 2:00 I came out of the bank and went to my car. A woman had just parked in the space next to my driver’s side, a big, white, brand-new (no plates) luxury SUV. As I walked to my car I could see that she was talking to someone in the car. As I got to my car I could see two kids in the back seat of the SUV, an infant in a full-sized car seat and a toddler in one of the forward-facing toddler style car seats. The woman was closing the driver’s door and walking toward the bank.

I didn’t have time to think, I just said, politely, “Excuse me, ma’m? You need to take your kids in with you.”

She stopped, looked at me, and said, “What?”

“Your kids. It’s extremely dangerous to leave them in the car when it’s this hot. You need to take them in with you.”

It finally dawned on her what I was saying. “Mind your own business,” and she turned back toward the bank.

Now I raised my voice, just a bit, no longer convinced that  being polite and respectful was as useful a strategy as I had hoped. “Ma’m, I’m making it my business, sorry. You’re endangering the lives of your children.” I pointed at the time and temperature sign on the corner which said it was 105F. “You can’t leave your kids in the car like this.”

Now she was getting pissed, apparently not used to total strangers calling her on her behavior when she was being an idiot. She didn’t even stop, but yelled back over her shoulder, “Fuck you!”

I wanted to make really sure she heard me. I yelled. “STOP! If you go into that bank I will immediately call 9-1-1 and I will start breaking out the windows on your car to rescue your children.”

Now she stopped, storming back to get into my face. “Go fuck yourself! Who the hell do you think you are?”

I ignored the question. “It will be over 130 degrees in that car in less than five minutes.” OK, so I didn’t know the exact figures, but it was close enough for government work. Someone can correct me on the exact numbers later. “Your children will be unconscious, and they’ll be dead in less than ten.”

“I’m just going into the fucking bank! I’ll be out in five minutes!”

I knew that I had been in there closer to ten. “Simple choice, ma’m. Take your kids or I call the police.” I pulled out my phone, half expecting her to punch me.

She didn’t. She went around to the driver side on her car, opened the door, took the kids out, glaring at me the whole time. I just stood there watching. I was pretty sure if I got into my car and drove off, she would leave the kids.

As she slammed the door on her SUV and walked toward the bank with the kids in tow, she was furious. She yelled at me, “You’re a fucking asshole!”

“Yes, I am. I’m the fucking asshole who just saved the lives of your kids. When they graduate college you can remember this and thank me, assuming you don’t manage to kill them someplace else before then when I’m not around to stop you.” Okay, that last bit was a cheap shot, but she had earned it.

She flipped me the bird, but kept walking. It was apparently too hot to stand out there arguing, even though… Oh, never mind.

I waited until she was in the bank, then got in my car and left.

That was seventy-five minutes ago. The adrenaline shakes should stop soon.

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Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Moral Outrage, Paul, Weather