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Monday, February 20, 2017
Southern Weather Radar


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  • Writer Login


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    Dave Pruett

    Dave Pruett
    Dave Pruett, a former NASA researcher, is an award-winning computational scientist and emeritus professor of mathematics at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, VA. His alter ego, however, now out of the closet, is a writer. His first book, Reason and Wonder (Praeger, 2012), a "love letter to the cosmos," grew out of an acclaimed honors course at JMU that opens up "a vast world of mystery and discovery," to quote one enthralled student. For more information, visit reasonandwonder.org
    Number of posts: 72
    Email address: email
    Linkedin: Linkedin
    Facebook: Facebook
    Twitter: Twitter

    By Dave Pruett:


      black shirts or brown?

      Is America Ready for Fascism?

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Feb 13, 2017
      Is America Ready for Fascism?

      “— mind you, the corridors of power are littered with Fascist leanings; anything to save the upper classes through disenfranchisement of the common man while allowing the common man to think you are on his side.” — Dr. Trevor Petit, a character in Jaqueline Winspear’s mystery A Lesson in Secrets

      Recently, I’ve stumbled upon two articles on fascism that are chillingly relevant as political darkness envelopes the nation.

      cherished ideals

      An Open Letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Feb 9, 2017
      Weloome Your Neighbors

      Yesterday I attended a wondrous event: democracy in full-throated action.

      Congressman Bob Goodlatte chairs the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives. It’s a position of considerable power, for good or ill. Congressman Goodlatte also represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, which just happens to include Harrisonburg, Virginia, where I live, the home of the national Welcome Your Neighbors movement.

      appealing to baser instincts

      Wrong Man, Wrong Time

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Jan 16, 2017
      Wrong Man, Wrong Time

      I’m no historian, but from the perspective of advancing age, I find fascinating that certain societies produce just the right leaders at just the right time. Think Abraham Lincoln, for example, who evolved during his presidency from defender of the Union to emancipator of the oppressed, a transition marked by the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the greatest oration in American history. Think FDR, who, despite his infirmities, shepherded the U.S. through back-to-back crises: the Great Depression and the Second World War…

      catastrophe unfolding

      Is America a Failed State?

      by | 5, Add your Comment | Dec 21, 2016
      American flag upside down

      Immediately following the 2016 presidential election, I emailed four German friends: “After 240 years, the great American experiment has ended, badly.”

      It’s a grim assessment. I arrived at this discomforting conclusion while raking leaves and talking to a neighbor who served in the Peace Corps in a former Soviet republic. She’s seen failed states firsthand, and America, to her, has that “feel.” And she’s worried her children will grow up in an oligarchy.

      can i hear an amen?

      Has America Lost Its Mind and Its Soul?

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Oct 2, 2016
      Has America Lost Its Mind and Its Soul?

      Shortly after the advent of Christianity, the Church Fathers adopted a set of seven “Cardinal Virtues”: humility, charity, temperance, diligence, kindness, patience, and fidelity. These universally desirable traits, which establish the gold-standard for character, were borrowed partly from Greek philosophy and partly from the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.

      Mirroring the Seven Cardinal Virtues are Seven Deadly Sins: pride, greed, gluttony, sloth, malicious envy, wrath, and lust…

      earth and its peoples

      Standing with Standing Rock and Sacred Stone Camp

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Sep 21, 2016
      Standing Rock Indian Reservation

      “Resistance to high-risk extreme extraction is building a global, grassroots, and broad-based network the likes of which the environmental movement has never seen.” Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything (2014)

      Something extraordinary and unprecedented is happening within the environmental movement. The epicenter of this “Earth”-quake is Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. For some time, a small group of Standing Rock Lakota (“Sioux”) has gathered on the banks of the Cannon Ball River to protest the continued development of the “black serpent“…

      the laws of nature

      What Economists Don’t Know About Physics — And Why It’s Killing Us

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Jul 2, 2016
      What Economists Don’t Know About Physics — And Why It’s Killing Us

      Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. — Kenneth Boulding

      The mantra of classical economists is “growth.” So fixated are they on growth that recessions are often referred to as periods of “negative growth.”

      The dominant economic paradigm: If we can keep growing the pie, everyone’s piece will get larger. Never mind that, as the pie grows, the greedy cut monstrous pieces for themselves and slivers for the rest of us. The foundational assumption itself is flawed. The empty promise of perpetual growth is based on folly …

      our collective mood is foul

      America’s Ghost Dance with Trump

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Jun 3, 2016
      America's Ghost Dance with Trump

      “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”Matthew 7:15

      In watching aghast the incomprehensible ascendancy of Donald Trump, I am struck with a sense of déjà vu. Where else have I heard of a people, drowning in despair, who clutch for a life raft of false promises? And then it comes back to me.

      beast in the darkness

      We’re All in the Sacrifice Zone Now

      by | 2, Add your Comment | May 4, 2016
      A digger in one of the Rhineland open-pit coal mines

      Sacrifice zone: a geographic zone that has been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment. These zones are commonly found in low-income and minority communities. (Wikipedia)

      I grew up in the shadow of Appalachia. My hometown, Bluefield, wasn’t Appalachia, but you could see it from there. Just twelve miles from home the coalfields began: Pocahontas, VA; then Anawalt, Gary, and Coalwood, WV, in rapid succession, the latter made famous by native son Homer Hickam in his trilogy Rocket Boys, The Coalwood Way, and Sky of Stone.

      dog-whistle racism

      From the Party of Abe to the Party of Donald

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Mar 24, 2016
      Trump in the lap of Lincoln

      There’s poetic justice in Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP presidential field. The GOP is reaping precisely what it has sown.

      One might indulge in Schadenfreude if the stakes weren’t so high. America teeters on the brink of fascism, and no one can confidently predict which way the chips will fall.

      Trump has essentially effected a “hostile takeover” of the Grand Old Party. How the GOP enabled Trump is the subject of Time‘s March 21 feature story “The Party’s Over.” The article – by Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center – is surprisingly candid…

      racism, militarism, greed

      America’s Alternate Political Universes

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Feb 22, 2016
      America's Alternate Political Universes

      The Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire Primary, and South Carolina GOP Primary are now in the rear-view mirror. Jeb Bush has bailed from the presidential race. It’s time to pause and take political stock.

      Of the four leading candidates — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from the GOP, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders from the Dems — three are anti-establishment.

      Only Clinton is an establishment candidate. The others surf a giant wave of voter anger that rises from a sense of betrayal.

      spooky action at a distance

      Ripples in the Cosmic Pond

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Feb 17, 2016
      Ripples

      I am now exclusively occupied with the problem of gravitation, and hope, with the help of a local mathematician friend, to overcome all the difficulties. One thing is certain, however, that never in my life have I been quite so tormented. A great respect for mathematics has been instilled within me, the subtler aspects of which, in my stupidity, I regarded until now as pure luxury. — Albert Einstein

      The year was 1906. The previous year, Albert Einstein, a lowly examiner in the patent office of Bern, Switzerland, had laid five golden eggs in the form of scientific papers…

      healing what ails us

      Science and Mysticism

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Jan 25, 2016
      The Vitruvian Man – Endangered

      “We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are between stories.”Father Thomas Berry

      Our species — Homo sapiens — is endangered. Never has humankind faced simultaneous crises on so many fronts: over-population; a rapidly deteriorating biosphere; competition for oil, water, and arable land; wars and rumors of wars; proliferating nuclear weapons; failed nation states; unprecedented extremes of wealth and poverty…

      feeling blessed

      My Encounter With Pope Francis

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Oct 1, 2015
      My Encounter With Pope Francis

      “A new mentality is needed, and this implies above all a recovery of ancient and original wisdom. And a real contact with what is right under our noses.” — Thomas Merton, in a letter to Thich Nhat Hanh

      On Thursday, September 24, I saw Pope Francis with my own eyes. That’s the gospel truth. Now the confession. I was attending the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate rally — organized to support the Pope’s call to action on climate change. That’s me on the right of the photo. That’s Doug, my Buddhist friend and climate troubadour, on the left.

      less carbon = jobs + lower taxes

      Taming the Elephant on Wall Street

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Aug 31, 2015
      Taming the Elephant on Wall Street

      Wall Street likes it simple: promote bull markets; avoid bear markets. But there’s now an elephant on Wall Street, and few are daring to talk about it.

      In you hadn’t noticed, the market has been essentially flat for a year; that is until it cratered last week, losing 18 months worth of gains. Unlike the crash of 2008, there’s no obvious smoking gun.

      long slide into fascism

      The Demise of American Democracy and the 2016 Election

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Jul 30, 2015
      Citizens-United-Money-Globe by DonkeyHotey via his flickr photo stream and used under a Creative Commons license

      On this Americans agree: There’s too much money in politics, and it’s eroding our democracy.

      A recent poll (New York Times, June 2, 2015) reveals 85 percent of Americans believe we must either make “fundamental changes” or “completely rebuild” how campaigns are financed.

      The United States can no longer claim to be democracy. Instead of one person, one vote, it’s now one dollar, one vote.

      laudato si'

      Francis’ Momentous Encyclical: On Care for Our Common Home

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Jun 19, 2015
      Click for full text of Laudato Si'

      “We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are between stories.” — Father Thomas Berry

      I’m not Catholic. Nevertheless, fond of this pope, I’ve eagerly awaited the release of Laudato Si’, Francis’ encyclical on ecology and climate. Immediately after its June 18 release, I paged wildly through it and was blown away. Laudato Si’ is absolutely stunning in sweep, depth, and wisdom. It is exactly the right document, at the right moment, by the right person.

      environmental paul revere

      Lester Brown and The Great Transition

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Jun 17, 2015
      National Renewable Energy Laboratory

      “You just can’t burn in one night, a million years of buried sunlight, and think you got it all for free.” — from lyrics of Long Has the Earth by Doug Hendren

      Discouraged by the demise of democracy and the rise of oligarchy? Incensed that our “leaders” don’t lead and won’t even follow the will of the vast majority, so beholden are they to the 1%? Demoralized that, as the earth’s climate spins out of control, Americans pretend to debate science that’s been settled for two decades?=

      call for revolution

      Pope Francis’ Integral Ecology

      by | 1, Add your Comment | May 28, 2015
      Pope Francis' Integral Ecology

      “The age of nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth.” — Teilhard de Chardin

      There’s a new term being bandied about, and it’s high time we paid heed: integral ecology. Whenever the same notion arises synchronously in a number of different contexts — in this case the Catholic Church, the Occupy movement, the climate movement, and the new-economy movement — it’s an idea whose time has arrived.

      tending the garden

      The Fallacy in the Culture Wars: The Individual vs. the Collective

      by | 1, Add your Comment | May 18, 2015
      The Fallacy in the Culture Wars: The Individual vs. the Collective

      “Nothing is precious except that part of you which is in other people, and that part of others which is in you. Up there, on high, everything is one.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

      At the root of the culture wars lies a fundamental dichotomy in worldviews. Which is more essential to humanity: the individual or the collective?

      great sucking sound

      A Multinational Trojan Horse: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

      by | 3, Add your Comment | May 7, 2015
      The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy about 1760 by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo via Wikipedia.org (public domain) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_Horse

      “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” – James Madison in The Federalist Papers.

      You don’t have to know much about the “trade” deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be more than a little suspicious. First, there are the very peculiar bedfellows. Supporting the TPP are President Obama and most Congressional Republicans, the same Republicans who’ve vehemently opposed his every initiative for the past six and one-half years.

      efficient and painless

      The Great Transition

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Mar 20, 2015
      My home with our new solar array

      “The Stone Age came to an end not for a lack of stones, and the oil age will end, but not for a lack of oil.” — Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Saudi Arabian Minister of Oil, 2000.

      The Great Transition has begun. I know, because our household is part of it. I speak of humanity’s transition from the bondage of addiction to fossil fuels — addiction that has fouled our air and water, disrupted our climate and ravaged our earth — to the liberation of renewable energy.

      enlightening

      Beyond Reason

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Mar 17, 2015
      Beyond Reason

      Sometimes the universe surprises you. A few months ago, I received an email from independent filmmaker Frank Huguenard. Having read some of my posts on the science of consciousness, Frank wanted to know if I’d consider being interviewed for a film on that subject. Cautious (and camera-shy), I was a bit wary and politely asked for more information. Frank suggested that I view his three previous films — Beyond Me, Beyond Belief, and Beyond Reason, each available through his website BeyondMeFilm.com.

      only sane course

      The Greater Danger: Precipice or Slippery Slope?

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Mar 10, 2015
      Lower Crabtree Falls, Virginia, National Forest Service image

      I’m a boomer, so I missed the greatest existential crisis of the 20th Century: The Second World War. My Dad, however, was in the thick of it, helping mop up after the Battle of the Bulge.

      In my lifetime, though, the human family has stared down the barrel of two additional crises of existential proportions: the Cuban Missile Crisis and climate destabilization, the latter of which is ongoing. Which crisis has posed the greater threat?

      climate destabilization

      Global Warming or Climate Chaos: What’s in a Name?

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Mar 6, 2015
      Ice Floes, Kamchatka Coast, Russia (NASA, International Space Station)

      This winter has set record lows in many states, a fact the editor of our conservative local newspaper, and others of his ilk, must be relishing. “There’s no global warming,” I can imagine him crowing. “It’s all a liberal hoax.” Such distorted logic reveals either an appalling ignorance of the meaning of “average,” or a cynical attempt to intentionally mislead.

      Truth is, the names bestowed on various scientific phenomena are often whimsical in origin. Nobel laureate (1969) Murray Gell-Mann, for example, appropriated the term quark — one of three elementary particles and fundamental constituents of matter — from a nonsensical line in Finnegan’s Wake: “Three quarks for Muster Mark!”

      not scientists

      A Party of Judases

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Feb 14, 2015
      The Kiss of Judas by Giotto di Bondone, Padua, c. 1306

      “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists — that we don’t have enough information to act [on climate change]. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.” — Barack Obama

      You’ve got to give the GOP credit: its members sure know how to tow the party line.

      divest/reinvest

      Global Divestment Comes of Age

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Jan 27, 2015
      xford Fossil Free Future demonstration

      “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.”Desmond Tutu

      The climate battle is heating up. At a January 16 press conference, NASA and NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) jointly released independent analyses that confirm 2014 as the hottest year on record. Last year broke records set previously in 1998, 2005 and 2010. Except for 1998, the 10 hottest years have all occurred since 2000.

      demand an end to excuses

      What Have We Become?

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Dec 15, 2014
      CIA floor via HumanRightsFirst.org

      “A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it.” — William Penn

      The iconic images of recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri — after the police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen — have left Americans of all ilks wondering: Is this America? Military Humvees, still in camouflage and mounted with machine guns, in the hands of municipal police. SWAT teams of police in full riot gear, bristling with automatic weapons, pointed at a lone protestor with hands up. Have we become a police state?

      you are the enemy

      What Ferguson Says About America

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Dec 8, 2014
      Michael Brown Sr. with Rev. Al Sharpton as Attorney Benjamin Crump leads a call and response of "Hands up, don't shoot," at the St. Louis Peace Fest.

      “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” — John F. Kennedy, 1962

      One might think that, by turning Martin Luther King, Jr., into a cultural icon and electing a black president, America has bid farewell to its racist past. Recent events in Ferguson, MO, New York, and Phoenix, however, blow holes in that fantasy. Only by neutering King could America iconify him. Virtually anyone can resonate with the “I Have a Dream” King of 1963. But the “Beyond Vietnam” King of 1967 makes us squirm in profound discomfort.

      climate change is real

      A Line in the Tar Sands: Naomi Klein on the Climate

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Nov 26, 2014
      A Line in the Tar Sands: Naomi Klein on the Climate

      I was to have been one of 400,000 protestors gathered for the People’s Climate March in New York on Sept. 21. Alas, a knee injury sidelined me. As a consolation prize, a friend bought me Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. So wowed am I by Klein’s singular accomplishment that I dedicate this post to an unsolicited review. For those who may be unfamiliar with Naomi Klein, she’s a brilliant, 44-year-old Canadian journalist and activist. Two of her previous books — No Logo (1999), a critique of globalization, and Shock Doctrine (2007), an exposé of “disaster capitalism,” neoliberalism’s dark underbelly — were international bestsellers.

      are we so gullible

      The GOP Simultaneously Cries ‘Wolf’ and ‘The Sky Is Falling’

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Oct 26, 2014
      Big Senate Race 2014 by DonkeyHotey

      Despicable. That’s the only word for it. I refer to the recent official email “Responding to the Ebola Crisis” of October 17 from my congressional representative, Bob Goodlatte, of Virginia’s 6th District. It begins by stating that “Ebola now spreading in the United States is of extreme concern [emphasis added].” The update then goes on to imply that millions of Americans have lost or will lose their health care under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)…

      damned facts

      Toward a Post-Materialistic Science

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Oct 2, 2014
      "Eye of God:" Hubble Telescope image of Helix Nebulaby NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

      The latest issue of Explore — the Journal of Science and Healing — contains a bombshell of an essay. It’s titled “Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science,” and it could be to science what Luther’s 95 Theses were to religion. All eight co-authors are eminent; all but two hold PhDs. Their fields include biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and psychiatry. One of the two MDs is Larry Dossey, a pioneer of mind-body medicine and a regular contributor to Huffington Post.

      media fail

      Tipping Point: The People’s Climate March

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Sep 30, 2014
      People's Climate March New York

      “If the planet dies, all causes are lost causes.”Anonymous

      Humanity’s fate hangs on a tight race between two tipping points: a scientific one and a cognitive one. Scientists use the term “tipping point” to refer to a runaway feedback loop that, when triggered, abruptly and irreversibly changes the behavior of a system, such as the climate. For example, when permafrost melts, it releases methane, 50 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Thus: global warming, melting permafrost, more atmospheric methane, more global warming…

      de facto heresy

      When Faith and Facts Collide

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Aug 25, 2014
      When Faith and Facts Collide

      “… if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming … You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe than man controls something he can’t create.” Rush Limbaugh

      Conflict between faith and science is as old as science itself. In 1543, Copernicus’s great work, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, laid the groundwork for a new model of the cosmos, with the sun, rather than the Earth, at its center…

      better angels of both parties

      Watergate: American Democracy’s Finest Hour

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Aug 9, 2014
      President Richard Nixon speaks before awarding the Apollo 13 astronauts the Presidential Medal of Freedom

      “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” — Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert

      When was NASA’s finest hour? Most would say, “The Apollo moon landing.” As a bit of an insider, I have a different take. NASA’s finest hour, hands down, was the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Two and one-third days into the nominal nine-day voyage, a ruptured oxygen tank left the spacecraft crippled, the mission in shambles, and the lives of three astronauts in jeopardy. Mission controllers, engineers, technicians and astronauts worked around the clock to stabilize a dire situation and work the impossible, bringing Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise home alive.

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