Machiavellian Whales

I am sure most of you were taught about Machiavelli … the most famous quip I remember was “might makes right.”  That always made me cringe.  The idea that might could be used to perpetuate a wrong was too fresh in my mind with the antics of Hitler and other dictators.

Well, you may have missed this in the recent news.  After all, it is not about Trump, Russia, North Korea.  Nor is it about Houston.  But, it is a terrible commentary about what is happening in the world.  Read about it for yourself: Anti-Whaling Activists Prove No Match for the Japanese Military Leviathan

We in this country relish the freedom of speech, the right to object, etc.  We also tend to root for the underdog and relish the opportunity to right some wrongs we see, even if they are ultimately futile.  I love the story of the little girl on the beach where thousands of starfish had washed up.  She was carefully picking them up and throwing them back out to sea.  When confronted by a realist asking, “Why are you doing that?  You can’t make a difference.  It doesn’t matter,” referring to the futility of the situation, we celebrate the child’s reply as she hurled the starfish back into the water: “Well, it mattered to this one!”.

But, now we face stark realities.  Where are we on the protection of species if this can happen?  I am not going to criticize the Japanese for their actions, but I would like an answer to the bigger question.  If we are going to protect anything, we can’t have a large group of people ignoring it because they can make so much money subverting the right thing to do.

We have an opioid epidemic in this country because there is too much money to be made contributing to it.  We have a food industry using harmful ingredients because of the same, even though the agency we all support to protect us turns a blind eye … see above for the reasons.  We have Medicare and Medicaid fraud that raises health care costs for all of us.  Why aren’t we working on these issues?  Why don’t they appear in the news?

Oh, I guess I just proved my point.

 

The Worst Storm in the Atlantic

Infrared satellite image of Hurricane Irma NOAA/The Washington Post

Well, by the time you read this we will all know just how bad hurricane Irma was.  As I write it now, it is still about four days from hitting the US.  But, the status of Irma has already been established by the media as the title of this blog implies.  It is being touted as the worst storm in the Atlantic, but the phrase is incomplete.  It should be, the worst storm we have observed in the Atlantic and our point of view is only as old as today’s satellite imagery.

Oh … perhaps there have been stronger storms in the past?  Gee … given this storm will not be a category 5 when it hits our shores, how would we have known that in the past?  Gee, perhaps even the number of storms is then only as good as our recent data.

This prompted me to look a bit further into just how recent our capabilities are. According to Wikipedia, the first satellite (orbital) photographs of Earth were made on August 14, 1959 by the U.S. Explorer 6.   The Blue Marble photograph was taken from space in 1972, and has become popular in the media and among the public. Also in 1972, the United States started the Landsat program, the largest program for acquisition of imagery of Earth from space. Landsat Data Continuity Mission, the most recent Landsat satellite, was launched in February 2013. In 1977, the first real-time satellite imagery was acquired by the United State’s KH-11 satellite system.

So, we should say the worst storm recorded in the last 40 years.  Still impressive, but not as frightening as the media uses to get your attention.  More importantly, it is not going to be the worst storm to HIT the US … period.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do appreciate the media emphasizing the preparedness messages.  Getting your attention is one thing.

The problem with the media is that their sense of accountability seems to end with that.