Not quite two years removed from Cliven Bundy’s moronic and dramatic showdown with the BLM (who were repo-ing his cattle for millions of dollars in unpaid fees, fines, and court ordered punitive damages) we find Cliven’s son Ammon forcing another showdown with government agents. This time over some ranchers who did bad things and got busted for it.
You have probably seen it splashed across your newsfeeds and made fun on of mercilessly on the late night comedy shows, but what does the showdown at a bathroom/gift shop at a remote wildlife refuge/bird sanctuary in the most desolate and sparsely populated region in the lower 48 have to do with anything (a well-sourced historical brief on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge)? Well, I am going to explain it to you.
In 2001 Lincoln Hammond, Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46 were illegally hunting on protected federal land. After making several kills of protected wildlife, “Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson.” According to court documents in the case. Later, in 2006, the Hammonds then began a backfire in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge despite being told that there were BLM fire crews battling the fires in the path of the winds of any backfires and were explicitly informed not to do so. Their problem was that those same BLM crews also bore witness to their crime
The Hammonds were convicted of arson on federal lands and given a short sentence. The Federal Prosecutor in the case appealed the sentence because arson on federal lands carries a congressionally mandated 5-year sentence. Upon appeal the 9th Circuit Court resentenced the Hammonds to 5 years minus time served. The Hammonds were to report to prison on January 4th of 2016 and have done so… So why all the militia dudes in Oregon?
The militia dudes are there because they are angry about something but they have no clue as to what that something is and are using the Hammonds as an excuse to express their anger. They claim that the Hammonds have been set up by the BLM so the federal government can take their land (which has a bearing of truth since it can happen if the Hammonds fail to pay some $200,000 in outstanding restitution owed for their criminal violations; the ranch is collateral on this fine). The conspiracy surrounding this ranges from: “Those whacko liberal environmentalists don’t want anyone to eat beef!” to “Obama owes our Chinese creditors and Hammond ranch is rich in diamonds, gold, uranium, and natural gas so he is giving it to them.” Pretty much all of this is beyond moronic.
As all of you who are familiar with this blog know, I am an expert on laws regarding access to federal lands; I kind of have to be when my livelihood depends upon it.
First, nope, there is no natural gas in this region since there is no shale to be found.
Second, gold is found in about four locations all about 15-30 miles from the Hammond Ranch and all of it is in miniscule recreational quantities. (You’ll remember that I detailed this geologically boring region this past summer: “This stretch of Oregon is the absolute worst. One giant, salty, flat, treeless, sun-baked, wasteland. Everywhere along the route is half-finished ideas, and crumbling dreams. Broken trailers here, roofless barns there… Anyone thinking of living in this uninhabitable hell-scape needs to just fill their tank and drive until it runs out of gas. Wherever you end up will be better than here.”)
Third, Uranium is so ubiquitous as to not even be interesting to anyone who needs it. I can hop into my truck and drive to Nevada and claim a few million tons of yellow cake uranium ore out of the desert on already existing federal lands. No one needs to steal the Hammonds land to gain access to significant uranium lodes.
Fourth, the rock here is just flood basalts. Flood basalts are pretty much the most mineralogically undeveloped igneous rock on the planet. If you’re lucky you will find some peridot (but not likely) and that is about it. This means there is no Lamproite or Kimberlite from which one can get diamonds. There are no diamond-bearing rocks in Oregon. Period. If there were diamonds in Oregon I would have staked claims there a long time ago (since I am the only person with commercial diamond claims in the lower 48, I am definitely the expert on this).
Now that we have debunked all of these conspiracies, what is it that Ammon Bundy and his militia dudes are so bent out of shape about that they have taken over a visitors center and gift shop in the dead of winter? As far as I can tell the Bundy-klan object to the feds owning land at all. They do not believe the federal government should own any land of any kind. Why? Beats me, federal lands are what this nation’s wealth is built on and for some reason the rightwing has been trying in recent years to liquidate our federal lands anyway they can.
Now lets look into the types of people who arm themselves and take over a bathroom outpost in the middle of nowhere when it is basically the most awful time of year to be there, or just like to join militias in general: these militias are comprised of men like Ryan Payne who claims to be a former Army Ranger, but who isnt; or Brian Cavalier who serves as Ammon Bundy’s personal body guard and who claims to be a former Marine and war veteran but isn’t either of those things (but is a convicted criminal).
Others who heed the call to militant action include or white supremacists and members of the Neo-Nazis and Aryan Brotherhood such as Rance Harris, a member of the “Oath Keepers” (a right wing paramilitary outfit who as a group made a show of force during the Bundy Ranch fiasco and who posed a threat to BLM employees this past Summer at the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon), whose arms and hands are covered in racist and Nazi tattoos (a friend of mine identified him from a news photo as a known white supremacist and I managed to hunt down his Facebook page and yup, a groovy heil Hitler “88” tattoo on his knuckles).
In general unregulated militias are largely populated by white supremacists and grew at previously unseen levels when Obama was elected president (Cavalier also has swastika tattoos on his eyelids, by the way [classy]).
These men claim they want the US government to give their lands over to someone, but whom? This I don’t know. What I do know is that many of the men in this movement are also members of groups who advocate race wars, secession from the government, sedition, and outright revolution against our democracy. These people are the worst of our society and I hope they become lily white frozen hate-cicles on the plains of the Oregon Outback.
I just got back from the Banff World Media Festival where I met some fantastic people and learned a whole bunch about the entertainment industry. One common theme most everyone seemed to relate to me was, “Be careful, don’t get screwed.”
Taking what I know about science, the Earth, and history to television is new territory for me and the education I am receiving from this adventure has its own parallels to my entrance into the world of gold and precious gemstones. In other words, there is always someone who is a terrible human being who is going to try and screw you over and ruin you in the process. Despite this risk you cannot let the prospect of terrible experiences keep you from reaching your goal. Yes, there are monsters out there, but you have to find a way to test the waters and see who your future friends are and who your future enemies are as well (and I don’t use the term “enemy” lightly).
What I have found in the gem and gold market is that those who advertise the most (especially to older demographics like the front page of the newspaper or on FoxNews) are usually the worst and most evil; I am still waiting for one just of these companies to prove me wrong. I used to, and still do at times, visit estate sales during the winters to find unique gems and jewelry to add to my mineral collection or to later sell for a profit. Depending on the gem or jewel you will need to do the footwork and research to see who wants what you have. Some jewelers will resell most everything, others want only world-class specimens, some only want specific styles and may say things like, “I only deal in Edwardian jewelry.” Your job is to take note of this and then keep such information in mind for when you do find that beautiful Edwardian filigree ring.
As far as loose stones and jewelry go do not ever expect to be the one to receive full market value for what you have. Yes, I know that engagement ring cost $5,000, but the most someone will ever give you for that ring is probably $2,000 (even then, that is not too likely). This is just the way it is. The only people who can sell jewelry for that much money are those who have beautiful storefronts with security systems, security guards, fancy glass cases, and women with huge boobs standing behind said cases.
The best deals for you will come from being patient and consigning your piece through a reputable, high-end jewelry broker or from a prestigious auction houses. Even then, you can only expect at most 80% market price in then end as everyone gets a commission. This usually only works with really rare, one-of-a-kind pieces though. Don’t expect to take your JC Penny tennis bracelet to Christie’s, Sotheby’s, or Bonham’s auction houses.
If you want to sell a gem or piece of jewelry for as much as you can there are a couple things you can do and chief among these is getting the stone (or stones) certified by a major laboratory like the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the AGL (American Gemological Laboratory), the EGL (European Gemological Laboratory), the IGI (International Gemological Institute), the IGL (International Gemological Laboratory), the GRS (GemResearch Swisslab), or the BGL (Burapha Gemological Laboratory) just to name a few. All of these labs are very honest and reputable, but some may offer a more in depth analysis and fancier report on your gems than others.
My experience with the GRS and the GIA are first class. That is probably why these are the two favorites of almost everyone in the industry. Most labs are very good with colored stone certification but when it comes to diamonds it is my experience that the only lab buyers trust is the GIA. This seems ridiculous to me as diamonds are so easy to identify in the first place, but if you want the greenbacks you have to do what it takes to present your wares in the way your buyer likes.
What does certification even mean? Well, when you spend a bundle of money to send a stone to a lab for certification what you get back is a detailed lab report as to the official color, cut, clarity, size, and overall quality of the stone. Essentially the lab is saying this stone is what it is and are certifying it as such and putting their reputation on the line at the same time. Sometimes, as with the GIA, they will even laser engrave a microscopic serial number into the stone upon request so that it can be tracked as it ventures through the markets.
Once a stone is certified the value of that stone skyrockets, and it can give you a negotiating tool. A certified stone has prestige and a stone that is its exact twin without certification will sell for only 10-30% the value of its certified counterpart. Also, if you are buying a stone it is a good idea to put a legal condition on the sale. Agree that you will only buy said stone if it can first be certified as what the seller says it is by a reputable lab. Don’t assume that since they have the fancy store with the security systems, glass cases, and hot babes, that they are not just selling you pretty pieces of cut up Heineken bottles.
The other thing you can do is be sneaky. Go to a jeweler who also buys or consigns stones or jewelry from estates or individuals and ask them to appraise it for you for “insurance purposes”. Once they determine the value of the stone come back later and offer to sell it back to them. When they low ball you, present them with their own appraisal. It’s kind of a dick move, but it can really protect you from charlatans.
We Buy Gold!
Anyone who offers to buy gold on TV or in the Newspaper are out to screw you. If they don’t list a “spot price” for your gold give them the finger and walk out. Spot price should be between 90-95% current trading market price. There are lots of mining shops, gold mutual funds, and investment funds who will pay you top dollar for your gold.
It helps if you refine your own gold first. Educating you how to refine your gold is a blog for another day, just know that it is easier to sell 24k 99.9% fine gold than it is to sell a 12k gold plated chain necklace.
The same goes for silver or platinum, or any other metal for that matter.
Porcello is a jewelry store in downtown Bellevue, WA who advertises on the front page of the Seattle Times almost everyday of the week and often has full page adverts found inside as well. They claim to offer top dollar for the purchase of estate jewelry. Let me sum up Porcello for you:
Fuck Porcello Jewelers. They owe me $100,000.
Here is my tale:
A few years ago (2011), I had about twenty fine gem rings I had purchased at various auctions and estate sales. The market value for the entire collection was in the $60,000 range and I was only interested in getting wholesale at a fraction of that price (I was hoping for $20,000, but would have taken as low as $10,000 since I had paid probably $2,000 for then entire lot). Included in the collection was a platinum 2ct blue diamond ring which was accented with over a carat of near flawless rubies and almost a carat of VVS G-color diamonds. This piece was worth about $25,000 alone. The man at Porcello said the ring was garbage and he would only give me $900 tops, and that was doing me a favor. I pointed out that he had a blue diamond solitaire from the exact same designer in the case behind me for $36,000. He held his ground. Okay, I won’t sell this ring today.
The blue diamond ring was nothing compared to what came next. The dude then gestured to a ring in my collection and asked, “What’s that?”
“That is a quarter carat enhanced red diamond in platinum. The diamond is natural but the color is from irradiation.” I replied. Irradiation is a common technique, the blue diamond above is a result of irradiation too.
“That’s not a diamond. That’s a garnet!” He almost screamed at me.
“No, that is a diamond.”
“I know a garnet when I see one, and that is a garnet. I bet you $100,000 cash that if I take out my tester it’s not a diamond.” He challenged.
“Shit, you’re on, buddy. I’ve my tester right here too.” I shook his hand and we both tested the stone. *beeeeeeep* went the testers affirming my statement that the stone was in fact a diamond. I put out my hand and said, “Thank you for the hundred grand, you’ve made my day!”
He had security drag me from the store and accused me of cheating. I reported Porcello to the Better Business Bureau and to the Washington State Attorney General. If this is how Porcello treats an expert in the field what are they doing to the man who just lost his job or to the widow whose home is in foreclosure? In other words, fuck Procello Jewelers.
Along your journey of making deals you will come across disreputable sorts like Porcello, and you will also come across sweet, knowledgeable, kind, trustworthy jewelers like K. Allen Smith in Seattle. Just like how I am learning to navigate the world of television trying to market “Get Your Rocks Off With Houston” I once had to do the same with the world of gems and jewelry.
Good luck on your journey, and swing on by Porcello if only to ask them for my $100,000.
Congress want to sell off all the land owned by the federal government. Up yours, Congress!
The largest landholder in the United States are the very citizens of the United States. We own, at last check, 28% of all the landmass of the entire nation. That’s about 636 million acres or just shy of 1 million square miles of land. If you look at a map of the United States showing federally owned and controlled lands you will see that said ownership is disproportionally distributed to the Western states starting at the Rockies on over to the Pacific. There are some big reasons for this:
1) None of this land was originally granted to individuals via the King of England. Most of the borders of East Coast states are the way they are because they were originally land grants to individuals from the King of England.
2) Mountains are hard to settle. Mountains have resources but it also sucks to try and live there if all the technology you have at the time is a mule and a shovel. When the original homesteading was taking place during the Western expansion of the mid 19th century people didn’t homestead the mountains simply because its hard to farm a mountain.
3) The desert doesn’t grow crops. Try as we might, salty soils with no rain don’t grow food. So, like the mountains, the deserts of the Southwest were not homesteaded.
This is OK, though. Thanks to the 1872 Mining Act citizens of the United States are allowed access to federal lands. It is here where we fish, hunt, hike, camp, rock hound/prospect, hold music festivals, and just enjoy the splendor of nature. This is why camping and hiking in the west is so much better than camping and hiking in the East. Unlike the East coast we aren’t trespassing anywhere to get to all the good spots.
As America moved West people staked mining claims, temporary renewable rights to minerals found in a particular location. As these mining claims grew into operational mines we would see temporary, tough-to-live-in, boom towns pop up around them. As the mineral resources waned so did the towns (leaving behind my beloved ghost towns). Only in the rare instance, when a mine may produce valuable ore for years to come, could the claim owner petition the US government for a deed to the land and assume ownership of said real property. The US government would then charge the company or person a nominal fee to buy the land from the Feds. This was known as a “patented mining claim”.
This system of obtaining real property was allowed up until 1994 when the Brush Wellman Corporation (now known as Materion), submitted a land patent application to assume somewhere near 4 square miles of land. This chunk of real estate contained somewhere in the neighborhood of (in today’s dollars) $50-150 billion dollars in beryllium. Essentially 90% of the of the world’s supply of this extremely rare, extremely useful, and extremely valuable metal. How much did Brush Wellman pay for tens of billions of dollars in minerals owned by you and me? About $41,000 (in today’s dollars). When the American people found out about how hosed we got on the land deal a roar echoed through Congress and a moratorium was established. Since 1994 no one has been allowed to patent a mining claim staked on federal lands.
Fast forward twenty years and I give the you 114th Congress. These people truly suck. The Republicans enjoy a large majority in the House and control the Senate. They accomplished this thanks to the gerrymandering of districts by Republican controlled state legislatures. Thus, Republicans control the House despite losing the general election by 1.37 million votes. What is one of the major things the 114th Congress want to do with their ill-gotten majority? Sell everything we own.
It is starting small. Essentially, Congress thinks that by turning all control of current Federal lands over to the states in which these lands are found then it will be easier for oil and gas, mining, and logging companies to then grease the palms of state legislatures to purchase vast quantities of state lands. The states do not have the resources to manage these lands as evidence by my own state (Washington) relinquishing control of dozens of state parks to city governments. If states do not have the budgets to manage the lands they have now, how are they going to manage the tens of millions of acres of new land they suddenly have thrust upon them by the federal government?
The ploy is simple, Congress wants to sell your lands to corporations who donate heavily to their campaigns. if we allow them to do this, we’re screwed. Why?
Here is why: The 1872 Mining Act allows us access to federal lands. If the lands are no longer federal our outdoor activities will no longer be protected by this Act. There is a moratorium on selling federal lands, but there is no moratorium on selling state lands. Congress is out to screw us over, and the moment we have a president in the White House who agrees with them and refuses to veto their sly moves, we boned.
I am both cynical and skeptical by nature. I think it is healthy for the brain to demand evidence when someone states something as fact. I always keep my face incredulous when presented with a “fact” that smells like bullshit. What is not healthy is to have your own world view you hold to be concrete and immovable that runs counter to the evidence. The job of science in our civilization is formulate working theories of the natural world. These theories are then often applied to different aspects of civilization by entrepreneurs, corporations, and governmental agencies.
Absolutism is not science. Science does not care about your faith or beliefs. It keeps on keeping on regardless of what you believe to be “true”. When one believes in an absolute they may say things like, “God made the Earth in six days 6,000 years ago and God is perfect with no flaws.” So when someone shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world was born some 4.55 billion years ago, the absolutist has two options:
1) Accept that their belief system is wrong, or
1) Accuse the evidence of being a lie.
Some people just cannot accept evidence even if they witnessed it themselves. There are millions of Americans who still think missiles and not airplanes hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11th, 2001 despite the millions of witnesses and the hours of recorded video of the events as they happened. These people choose to cherry pick evidence to support their claim rather than engage those who offer refutation of their beliefs. Many of these “911-Truthers” state that World Trade Center Tower 7 was intentionally imploded as it hadn’t suffered much damage and proceed to show an image of the building without much damage as evidence that it was fine and not in danger of collapse.
Then if I show them an image of WTC7 from another point of view where almost half the building face is destroyed with a raging inferno inside that is impossible for the already decimated NYFD to contain, the absolutist “Truther” ignores my evidence. They ignore it because they know deep down inside that they have tied part of their identity to the belief that 9/11 was a vast inter-agency conspiracy and if one piece of evidence eviscerates that belief then they are at a crossroads: either they are wrong about their beliefs, or the evidence is a lie! Thus, they believe the lie out of a fear that their pride will be crushed.
Science does not ignore evidence!
If one thing can poke a hole in your hypothesis then the hypothesis is wrong! Most Americans have little understanding of how science actually works; so here is a recap for those of you who are little fuzzy on the details:
Step one: Ask a specific question like, “Why is the sky blue?”
Step two: Do your research and see if anyone else has asked and/or answered that question. Compile existing data and see if you can’t formulate a possible solution to your question.
Step three: Make a hypothesis. This is where you state a possible answer to your question like, “The sky is blue because the Oceans are blue.”
Step four: Create an experiment to settle the matter. “I am going to travel to the most remote region of land on the planet where no point of sky above me has access to light reflected from the Ocean, like Siberia or something, and see if the sky is still blue!”
Step five: Conduct your experiment. Get your ass to Siberia and look up. Is the sky still blue? Yup.
Step six: Admit you were wrong (or in the rare instance where your hypothesis was right, cheer loudly and rub it in everyone’s face).
Step seven: Publish your results and share your findings with the rest of the world and invite other scientists to replicate your experiment, or modify it if necessary.
Step eight: Argue constantly, get drunk at conventions and argue, write letters to journals, comment on websites and feel the wrath of nerds all over the globe.
Step nine: Start over from the beginning and ask a new question, state a different hypothesis, or try a different experiment…
One day my (at the time) very religious sister got into a debate about the age of the Earth and possibility of the existence of evolution with two of my best friends at our local pub. One of my friends was an Evolutionary Biologist, the other a Geologist and (at the time) a candidate for a PhD Paleontology from Yale. She was about to lose this debate badly.
Every time one of my friends pointed out some fact like the age of the Sun, how radio carbon dating works, fossil evidence, geologic processes, etc… My sister would reply with, “But the Bible says… yadda, yadda.” Finally, my Paleontologist friend frustratingly gave the most beautiful reply I have ever heard, and I will keep this quote close to my heart for the rest of my life, he said, “Ashley, I can sit around and smoke doobies, listen to Pink Floyd albums, and think of stuff all day, but that’s not science!” Sitting around reading the Bible, listening to Jars of Clay albums, and thinking of stuff is not science!
Sitting around and thinking of stuff is the easy part. Aristotle did it constantly and became famous for it; although most the stuff he thought up was fucking wrong. The hard part is finding out if you are right or not. That is science. Developing experiments to see if we are right or wrong is where life gets hard and this is where most people stop. They are content to just keep thinking about more shit and never bother to see if what they thought up even passes a single trial. The dangers of thinking of stuff and not checking to see if you are right:
Astrology is not a science!
Astrology is pure, unadulterated bullshit. Yet millions of people live everyday of their lives gripped with what their horoscope reading tells them. Many of these people love to argue with me as to the merits of whether astrology is a science or not and spend many hours trying to convince me that it is. If in one case a repeatable experiment pokes a whole into a theory, the theory must be reworked. Case in point: “Gravity is always attractive.” If you conducted an experiment where you threw a ball into the air one million times, and just one of those times, rather than falling back to the Earth, the ball just floated away never to return, the theory of gravity would be wrong. Forever. If you are a Gemini and your horoscope says you are going to “have a 5 star day” and you have a five star day then astrology is right, yes? Well, what if another Gemini halfway around the world just got his head chopped off in Syria that same day? Then guess what, astrology is bullshit. If it is wrong once, then the entire theory must be reworked.
Astrology is wrong so much, that instead of reworking the theory, most “readings” tend to be vague and connotative (this means that the wording is so subjective that it can take on different meanings to different people). If astrology was a “science” then why has no one studied the mysterious force that the heavens obviously (to them) play upon human beings to apply their fate? Wouldn’t one of these “scientists” have bothered developing at least one experiment to try and discern the mysteries of the stars and planets?
As far as science knows there are four forces: Gravity, Electromagnetic, Weak Nuclear, and the Strong Nuclear. The later two are incredibly strong but only at infinitesimally small distances. So, if it is not those two, how are Gravity and Electromagnetism acting upon humans in a way that can determine how their day is going to go via a bunch of planets and stars that are at unimaginably great distances? Taking these four known forces into account, how can astrologer keep track of the quadrillions (or more) variables at play when the most powerful computer systems and the smartest minds in the world can only give a probability as to if it will rain tomorrow or not? Why are astrologers not predicting the stock market or betting on sporting events? That’s because it is because astrology is bullshit. What they are betting on is your ignorance and gullibility.
Gravity is the force that acts the strongest over great distances. If a glass of water one meter from you has more gravitational effect upon your body than the largest planet in our solar system (Jupiter) does at 800 million kilometers, then how is a star hundreds or thousands of light years away going to have any effect upon you? It doesn’t. Astrology is not science.
String “Theory” is not a science!
I fight my own uphill battle every day in Astrophysics. One of these is with regards to String “Theory”. You’ll note that I put theory in quotation marks. This is because it is not a theory, it is a hypothesis, and a disproven one at that. The idea behind String Hypothesis is novel, basically that all particles are made up of the same constituent parts, little sub-atomic strings that vibrate at different frequencies to inform a particle what kind of particle it should be. They created some fantastic math explaining all of this back in the sixties and made some grand predictions. Every experiment ever conducted has only disproved the predictions of String Hypothesis such that the ardent supporters of this hypothesis keep changing their math to make it fit with current physical phenomena.
Renowned astronomer Alexei Filippenko tells a tale of a major talk he gave shortly after he and his team at UC Berkeley made their discover of Dark Energy. Filippenko and his team proved that there was a mysterious force that is pulling/tearing the Universe apart. What we now know is that the Universe is not just expanding, but accelerating in its expansion. At this talk a prominent String Hypothesist stood up and accused Filippenko of conducting shoddy work because String “Theory” was not compatible with an expanding Universe.
Think about that a moment… Filippenko and his team conducted an observational experiment. An Experiment that has since been repeated and verified thousands of times. These scientists literally watched the Universe accelerate through telescopes observations over time; and this String “Theory” knob stands up and tells Filippenko that he has to be wrong because t dipshit’s “math” don’t jive with what the physical realities of the Universe are actually doing. The String “Theorist” was wrong then, and instead of scrapping the entire hypothesis and starting over, he just conveniently changed the math. String “Theorists” are not too different than astrologists, they just ignore the evidence against them and move the goal posts.
It gets even worse than that. To my knowledge I do not know of a single experiment proposed by a String “Theorist” to test their underlying hypothesis. Sting “Theory” is no different that sitting around, smoking a bunch of doobies, listening to Pink Floyd, and thinking of stuff. String “Theory” is not science.
Climate skepticism is not Science!
One of my favorite pastimes is arguing with those who militantly doubt man-made climate change. I honestly do not understand the psychology of the average climate change denier. What I do understand is that their data is terrible and their logic fatally flawed, but I don’t get why they cannot see (or, better yet, refuse to believe) that humans inherently change our environment and planet through our actions. My company is called “Noosphere” for a reason.
Climate deniers will make a whole litany of arguments as to why there is no climate change. Then when I show them that the climate is changing, the glaciers are melting, the oceans rising… they will change their argument to, “Well, yeah, the climate changes, but that is from natural causes.” So, then I show them that the current warming does not fit any trend of previous interglacial periods in the Earth’s history; that we should be cooling and headed toward glaciation, but instead we are warming while glaciers shrink. They will then say that we had warming in the past that wasn’t caused by increased CO2 content in our atmosphere, and then I show them that, thanks to air bubbles trapped for millions of years in the ice of glaciers, warming and cooling of our planet coincides exactly with the level of CO2 content in our atmosphere…
When it is exposed that a “scientist” like Harvard’s Willie Soon omitted that he received well over a $1 million in funding from the fossil fuel lobby to specifically deliver academic papers “disproving” anthropogenic climate change the climate deniers then try to turn the tables. They will then accuse the over 97% of scientists who demonstrate through experimentation that the climate is changing and that this is the cause of human activity of only being I the work for the money. Sure, these PhDs who earn a whopping $42,000 a year to live in expensive cities like London, Boston, and Seattle are in it for the money. Climate skeptics are not scientists.
Creationism is not science!
Evolution is real. We see it happen every day, we see examples of it in ourselves, we see it in the fossil record, it is the entire basis of biology and medical science.
As stated earlier, many religions are centered around an infallible God and his texts are also infallible works of his word. The fear that if one statement made by God, as interpreted by his most ardent followers, is wrong (thus, the God is indeed fallible) then everything they believe would have to be reevaluated and is wrong. If God is fallible then maybe the God they believe is does not exist. They cannot face the possibility that there is no God (or at least not the version of God they believe in) and that they would have to admit to wasting their entire lives in the pursuit of a false deity. This prospect scares the shit out of a lot of people. Billions of them in fact.
I’ve got news for you: all religion is wrong. The Universe is at least 13.8 billion years old. The solar system is at least 4.55 billion years old. The oldest currently practiced religions date to about 3000 BCE, or about 5,000 years ago. There is evidence of much older religious practices performed by early humans and Neanderthals up to 300,000 years ago… either way, no one saw the Universe pop into existence so we are all speculating at this juncture. Also, God only seems to talk to schizophrenics anyway, and you can’t trust those assholes.
Back to creationists. These people find the idea of an ancient Earth whose history differs from that of the scriptures of Genesis as being an intentional affront to their beliefs. They believe that God made the heavens and the Earth, the Sun and the Moon, Adam and Eve, all the animals and plants, and the entire Universe in six days. That we, and everything else on our planet, are no different now than what we were like 6,000 years ago when God made us in his image. That the giraffe is no different than how God created them when he snapped his fingers and they blinked in to existence that long ago as well.
How theologians of the Bible determined that Earth is only 6,000 years old has to do with the “begats”. Throughout the Bible there is a fairly consistent genealogy going from Adam all the way to Jesus. Many of the people mentioned also have their ages mentioned as well. From this they do a rough calculation and find that the Earth “must be” about this old.
The basis for this way of thinking involves the suspension of critical thinking skills. Many of these people in the Bible have stated lifespans that are not found in reality. Abraham lived to 175, Job (despite all his misfortune) live to be 210, Adam himself lived to be 930, Noah 950, and Methuselah all the way to 969 years old. These people are willing to believe that these men lived hundreds of years, but not that over the course of billions of years simple organisms can face hardships that would favor one trait over another. Sigh.
Also, all of these people who subscribe to the inflexible tenants of creationism do not even know their religious texts. God didn’t first create Adam and then Eve from his rib; he created Adam and Lilith at the same time. Lilith didn’t like Adam having authority over her (and didn’t like the missionary position all that much because she saw women as an equal and didn’t want to be placed beneath men) so she bailed on their marriage (the very first divorce) and hooked up with the archangel Samael. God was then forced to create Eve from Adam’s rib (kind of like using the spare tire in the trunk of your car). In other words Lilith was too much of a free spirit and chose her own path and God was forced to make another woman for Adam (who was also eventually corrupt). Way to go, God, fallible much?
So, if they can’t even get their religion right, who are they to tell biologists, geologists, paleontologists, and astrophysicists the age of the Earth? These scientists have conducted hundreds of thousands, even possibly millions of experiments that all point to an ancient Earth and an even older Universe.
Creationists will say things like, “We have never seen evolution happen.” Then a scientist explains to them that the cold virus evolves every year and becomes a genetically different virus which is why we all get a cold every year. Then they will say, “Well, we have never seen something evolve into a different species.” To which a scientist informs them that yes, we have. The goatsbeard flower of my own Washington State evolved from their native lineage that originated in Europe and now cannot reproduce with their ancestral flowers just 50 short years later. The Washington goatsbeards can now be considered a new species. “You see, it didn’t sprout wings and fly away!” eschews the creationist, to which the scientist just slaps their forehead and explains that this is not how any of this works. Creationism is not science.
Anti-vaxxers do not science!
“Vaccinations cause Autism!” those against vaccinations cry. Sigh, say the scientists. “Vaccinations made my kid a vegetable!” accuse the anti-vaxxers. That has never happened in the history of vaccinations assure the scientists.
I have a challenge for those against vaccinations: Find me one verifiable case of encephalopathy as a result of a vaccination, just one, and I will show you someone with Dravet syndrome, a genetic disorder. Anti-vaxxers are idiots, and if someone I know with a compromised immune system (from cancer, autoimmune disorders, because they are an infant, etc…) dies from a primitive disease that should have been eradicated fifty years ago that was passed on by someone who refused a vaccination due to their own ignorance of science, then said anti-vaxxer better hide and hope I never find them. Anti-vaxxers do not science.
Dark Matter is not science!
The majority of astronomers, physicists, and cosmologists attribute the weird gravitational things they see in the Universe to 90% of all matter being “dark”. Dark mater (a different thing entirely from “Dark Energy”) is assumed to be present as unseen little particles that are spread throughout the Universe. The only property of these particles is that they have mass, thus exert a gravitational force, but we cannot see dark matter (hence the “dark” part of it) as it does not react via any of the other three forces (electromagnetic, weak nuclear, or strong nuclear).
Scientists are lead to believe that dark matter is even in our own galaxy because stars in the galaxy rotate faster about the galactic center than expected when calculated using Newton’s classical mechanics. According to Newton, how fast an object orbits about a center of mass is dependent upon the total mass acting upon the center. The more mass, the faster it has to orbit to keep from falling into the center.
Years ago, this missing mass that makes stars orbit galaxies faster than they should was originally thought to be a result of countless black holes, black dwarf and brown dwarf stars known as MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects). These hard to see dense balls of matter were thought to float around a galaxy at its furthest reaches lending their unseen mass to the common center of gravity for the galaxy as a whole. When surveys were conducted to find as many of these objects as possible it was concluded that there were not enough MACHOs to make up for the “missing mass”.
Then came along the hypothesis of the aptly named WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). These are the particles described above; they are thought to float throughout the galaxies of the Universe in wafting clouds, even in our own solar system (even in the very room you are in right now!). Because these particles are not seeable, painstakingly and intricately designed detectors have been constructed and placed deep inside the Earth to measure these particles as they flow through our planet on their way about the Universe.
The depths of the massive Homestake Mine in Lead, SD is home to the most robust dark matter detectors (three by my last count). In the ten or fifteen years that these detectors have been online in various capacities scientists have found exactly zero particles of dark matter. Zero. Fucking nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Bupkis…
Tens of millions of dollars spent. Instead they could have just slapped that pile of cash into my hand and I could tell them that they wouldn’t find shit instead. Here’s why:
Dark matter fails the most simple gedanken (thought experiment; a favorite process of Einstein’s). Gravity is always attractive. There is no such thing as anti-gravity. If these particles were 90% of the mass of the Universe, and if these particles are distributed either evenly throughout our own galaxy, or even in vast clouds, then we should be able to easily measure these particles on a local or observational scale. If these particles are passing through our solar system, and their only property is mass (gravity), then any time they encounter a gravity well (a planet like our own, or the Sun) then these particles should be slowly amassing at the centers of such gravity wells. Our Sun’s mass should constantly be in flux as these invisible particles find themselves trapped in the solar core. Our own orbit would need to be in flux as a result as well as the rest of the planets orbiting the Sun.
If WIMPs existed as clouds of invisible matter floating about our galaxy (and that of every galaxy in the known Universe), then why have we not seen any objects in the Universe react locally to such a mass? Stars are categorized according to the mass and temperature. The hotter the star, the more massive it is. If a star is more massive the increased gravitational pressure pulling all of the particles of said star in toward the center of the star’s mass forces more interactions and collisions of individual atoms resulting in more collisions that end in nuclear fusion. Big stars fuse more hydrogen into helium than small stars (more nuclear explosions make the star hotter).
If these clouds of WIMPs were floating about the galaxy (and remember, these WIMPs consist of 90% of the mass, supposedly), then we should have seen at least once where an existing star (or stars) floated through one of these clouds somewhere, somehow. If a star floated through one of these presumed clouds of massive particles we would expect to see at least one star somewhere eventually change in mass by going from a mundane star to a hot one as gravitational pressure increased and it sped up the nuclear burning of hydrogen.
It has never happened, just like dark matter detectors have never found one particle of dark matter, we have never seen a star spontaneously change mass. It is because it dark matter doesn’t exist.
Here is another forehead slapper: adding more mass to the galactic halo does not increase the gravitational effect of any object inside of that halo. If I dig a deep hole thousands of miles deep inside the Earth and calculate how much gravity is acting upon me I can immediately discount the matter outside the radius of where I am standing inside the Earth. The same thing happens inside of a galaxy. The stars are gravitationally attracted to the mass within the radius of their orbit and nothing more. Stars, clusters, clouds of gas, and supposed dark matter outside that radius will have no effect upon the orbits of the stars closer to the center of mass. Period.
Now, if we apply Einstein’s General Relativity (something that was designed for massive bodies like galaxies) instead of Newtonian mechanics (something meant for much smaller interactions) we find that dark matter vanishes. Why don’t more scientists calculate orbits of stars in galaxies using General Relativity? They don’t do it because it is fucking hard. They are bad, lazy scientists, that’s why. It’s easier to put all of one’s faith into the fantastic and physically impossible “dark matter” than it is to do a butt load of tensor equations. See how good scientists do it. Dark matter is not science.
The moral of the story.
Question everything; even established science. Argue, debate, get red in the face, just don’t let pride and fear be the only reasons you believe what you believe. Make sure your beliefs follow some sort of logical test. If someone can poke a hole in your logic, reevaluate your beliefs. In the end, even smart people can be stubborn idiots. Strive to be better, to do better, and to live better. Be a good human and practice proper science. Misplaced pride is not science!
I try to keep this blog about the science of the Earth, and the adventure of discovery, but sometimes something just chaps my hide so much I have to get a little preachy. That ‘something’? A grand selfish asshole name Cliven Bundy. A greedy Rancher who has been stealing from the taxpayers for decades while pocketing millions in profits.
As an economic geologist I must follow certain laws when prospecting and staking claims on federal land. These laws require enforcement, and the lands require maintenance. For both myself and the public who owns the land to benefit, I am charged nominal fees to preserve the mineral rights to the claims I stake. My incentive to pay for these fees is that the government will protect my rights to the minerals, and if I don’t pay the fees my rights to the land are revoked and someone else then has the right to stake a claim where mine once was.
The same can be said for federal range land. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution states:
The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
Basically, the feds reserve the right to tell us what we are, and are not, allowed to do on federal land. This dates back to when the original thirteen colonies ceded the Western expanse of their territories to the federal government all the way to the Mississippi River. This is further supported by the fact that the 5th and 14th Amendments outlay how the government can even tell you what you can and can’t do on your own land (think “due process”, “zoning regulations”, and “eminent domain”).
In 1909 the National Forest started charging ranchers grazing fees. Later in 1934 the Bureau of Land Management followed suit. The purpose was two fold: To stop the rapid degradation of federally owned lands, and to stop the perpetual anguish of range wars. Without federal involvement ranchers were killing each other over who could graze their cattle where. When the feds started charging for grazing that established a regulatory process that controlled whose cattle could graze when and where. The federal lands improved in quality, and cowboys stopped dying stupid deaths.
For those of you unfamiliar with Cliven Bundy, he is an itchy little butthole who has become the selfish, greedy hero of Neo-Nazi affiliated militia assholes all over America. When Bundy asked a bunch of them to show up in camouflage and jackboots to threaten federal officers who were mandated by the courts to confiscate Bundy’s cattle, the militia fools were glad to carpool for the first time in their lives. You see, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on Federal land for decades and not paying his legally required grazing fees. Fees that amount to $1.35 per head of cattle per month. In essence Bundy is supposed to pay the Bureau of Land Management about $18.90 to feed each one of his head of cattle over the lifespan of said cattle. $18.90 to feed an entire 1500lbs animal over the course of its life; an animal that Bundy will then sell for more than $2,000. Bundy has never paid for grazing. He refuses. He owes the government at least $300,000 in back fees and another $1 million in taxes (over which a time Bundy has sold some $30,000,000+ in cattle all fattened on taxpayer-owned land).
Add to this, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on protected land illegally. Land that is supposed to be free from cattle in order to protect the endangered desert tortoise. What an asshole!
Bundy claims that his family has been grazing on the land for 140 years and has a special right to the range, but in the last 115 years there is no record of the Bundy clan ever paying a damned cent to the feds for grazing on our land. People lose the rights to mineral claims all the time even though a mine may have been in the family for generations. If they haven’t paid the BLM the $140 a year per claim it costs to maintain their rights to the minerals they will be shit out of luck when someone else poaches their claim out from under them. Cliven Bundy has no legal precedent, the federal government does.
The feds have managed to repossess some of Bundy’s illegal herd, but have run into a problem when a bunch of fat dip shits in camo carrying assault rifles impeded federal agents from carting away the rest of the lawbreaker’s herd. At this point in time the feds have backed down not wanting any bloodshed. I say screw them. Establish the Rule of Law and have the FBI go full Waco on this greedy piece of shit and his idiot followers. I have no problem with a bunch of racist militia members losing at a game of war with the federal government. Cliven Bundy is stealing from the American tax payers and making millions off of it. If these morons want to lay their lives down for him then so be it. Let them stand as an example of what happens when you steal from the taxpayers.
Grazing fees are no different than property taxes, or paying the license tabs on your car. If you aren’t willing to pay, you don’t get to play. It just pisses me off to no end when some greedy sack of crap breaks the law and a bunch of jerks with machine guns jump to his defense. I hope they all end up in prison.