Dumbfuckery du Jour

I wish Cons would settle on a century.  Some of them seem to want to return us to the glory days of the Middle Ages.  Some yearn for the days of the robber barons and child labor.  Some seem to be pining for the halcyon days of the Puritans, or burning for Revolutionary War times.  This is a new one on me, though:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), he of “terror baby” fame, is fond of wandering onto the House floor at odd times and sharing odd thoughts that pop into his head. Last night, Gohmert offered this gem:

“We have people on welfare and I know there’s some that just don’t wanna work, but there’s some that do. How ’bout if instead of the welfare, we give ’em an alternative. We’ll give you so many acres that can provide land where you can live off of it, make a living and we’ll give you seed money to start, but you have to sign an agreement that you’ll never accept welfare again. How ’bout that? We got plenty of land.”

He really said that. It’s on video.

Ye gods.  This fucktard thinks we can return to the good ol’ days of the Homestead Act.  He really thinks city dwellers can eke a living out of subprime farmland (because let’s face it, all the good shit’s in the hands of agribusinesses).  I suppose it’s better than the dumbshit who advocates a return to the days of debtor’s prison, but not by much.

Louis.  Louis.  Louis.  I have to explain something to you.  This

is a fantasy.  It’s not reality.  It’s nostalgia for an era that never really was.


is reality (.pdf).  Notice that 60% of all farms make less than $10,000 per year.  And a fair number of those that make more do so with government subsidies.  Go have a look, Louis.  I know these numbers may be hard for a brain dead fucktard like you to understand, but get someone on your staff to write it up as a Dick and Jane book for you.

Either that, or go try to make your own living on a few miserable acres of substandard farmland, and let’s see how long it is before you start screaming for help.  I’m a generous person, and I understand you have your pride, so I’ll give you a week.

What a dumbass.  And to think we’ll have a whole new crop of little Louies running around Congress come next January.  Fanfuckingtastic.

Hey, Hoosiers!

There’s actually interesting natural history in Indiana.  No, really!  And David Orr’s out to prove it.  His new blog, Under Indiana, has an ambitious mission:

After I’d grown up a bit, I learned to appreciate my home state on its own terms. I think it’s a common experience for lovers of natural history: a deepening appreciation of the world that goes beyond the biggest, the splashiest, the most touristy. From the fossiliferous limestone of the south to the glaciated landscapes of the north, from the humblest crinoid fragment to Arcdotus simus, Hoosiers have plenty of natural history to be proud of, to share with the rest of the world, and to inspire new generations. [emphasis added to denote my emphatic agreement with this statement.]

I have to admit, it’s exciting to see my birth state getting some respect.  It certainly never got any from me.  Every time I go back there, I end up suicidally depressed.  It takes about 20-30 minutes before I’m willing to do something, anything, to get the fuck out of there and get back home to me mountains.   But my own dear mother lives there, and I’m fated to visit her, so it’s good to know I’ll have interesting things to look forward to.  Between Lyle and David’s new blog, I do believe I’m set!

Go over and give David some love.  Don’t forget to drop by his other home, Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, too.

Dumbfuckey du Jour

It proved difficult to choose a bit of dumbfuckery today.  There’s just so damned much of it.  Sen. Jim “Witless” DeMint takes top prize for shitting all over the Senate:

Stan Collender speculated over the weekend that Senate Republicans may very well try to shut down the pre-adjournment legislative schedule, and possibly even try to shut down the government, this week. As it turns out, Collender was onto something. Roll Call reports on a new GOP scheme that the newspaper accurately describes as “remarkable.”

Sen. Jim DeMint warned his colleagues Monday night that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been “hot-lined” by the chamber or has not been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday. […]

Traditionally, the Senate passes noncontroversial measures by unanimous consent at the end of most workdays, a process known as hot-lining. DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others have fought against the practice for years and have dedicated staff members to reviewing bills that are to be hot-lined.

As a result, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have generally given DeMint, Coburn and others time to review legislation before proceeding with unanimous consent agreements.

But in a terse e-mail sent to all 100 Senate chiefs of staff Monday evening, Steering Committee Chief of Staff Bret Bernhardt warned that DeMint would place a hold on any legislation that had not been hot-lined or been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.

Roll Call added that aides from both parties were “stunned” by DeMint’s stunt, which effectively amounts to “a unilateral decision to end legislative activity in the Senate.” If he doesn’t personally approve of a measure, DeMint will kill it.

If this doesn’t force a reconsideration of Senate rules and procedure, nothing will.  When one squalling infant can stamp his little feet and bring the entire body to a howling halt, it’s time to ensure that there are methods in place to paddle said squalling infants right on their bottoms.

And speaking of Senate dumbfuckery, it appears that the entire Con contingent, plus Baucus, Nelson, Tester, Warner, and Lieberman, have all decided that shipping jobs to foreign countries is a fine old American tradition that must not be interfered with. Remember them, especially if your job ends up in India next week.

But according to Senate candidate Ron Johnson, those jobs that do stay in the United States should come with the optional extra of corporate immunity if the kiddies get hurt.  That’s right.  He’s totally against holding businesses accountable if they coulda woulda shoulda prevented their employees from abusing children.  Can’t let a little thing like liability (or common human decency) stand in the way of commerce!

Anyone get the sense that if these folks emigrated, America’s collective morality would suddenly rocket up by about 100%?  Maybe we should offshore Senators….

The Columns Became

Inspired by an incipient meme.

Columns were things that happened to other people.

That was the impression I got growing up in Arizona, anyway.  I thought they were rare and exquisite creatures, too exotic for my lowly home state.  I’d see images of things like Devils Tower and Giant’s Causeway in textbooks, and figure that was about it for volcanic columns in the world.  I could see things like block-and-ash flows, aa, pahoehoe, and cinder fields, but as far as crisp columns marching through a lava flow, I had no luck at all.  To this day, I’m not even sure if there’s anywhere in Arizona where you can see such a thing.  They certainly weren’t in evidence in the areas I tromped as a child.

So you can imagine my surprise when I moved up here to the Northwest and discovered columns are pretty much a dime a dozen.  Throw a rockhammer at a lava flow, and it probably won’t land too far away from a nice group of columns.  I’m still excited when I see them, though.

Ye olde introduction to columns has been a process of gradual revelation.  First came basalt.  Basalt was another revelation.  I’d known in a vague sort of way about things like the Deccan and Siberian Traps and our very own Columbia River Basalts, but for some reason, I hadn’t thought much about the appearance of flood basalts.  We had trickle basalts if we had anything, so I was used to basalt flows being small, thin creatures (though, believe me, they don’t seem small and thin when you’re scrambling around the aa at Sunset Crater.  My granddad lost his leg to that lava – true story.  It can be serious stuff indeed).  So early this summer, I stuffed ye olde intrepid companion in the car and went to have a look.

One’s first impression of Washington’s basalt provinces is massive.  Followed closely by, “I didn’t know there were so many columns in the entire world!”

Columns in the Columbia River Basalts, Columbia River, Vantage, WA

And what I saw at Vantage didn’t even begin to prepare me for the overwhelming columnness of the coulees.

Lake Lenore Caves, Grand Coulee, WA

Columns march into the distance on both sides of the coulee, layer upon layer of columns.  Columns, columns everywhere, and nary a Greek temple in sight.  It’s a bit overwhelming to someone who’d only seen such things in pictures before.

And what will really blow your mind is to realize that all of these tough columns of basalt got ripped, torn, gouged, maimed, and transported by Glacial Lake Missoula’s gargantuan floods.  Those caves up there?  They were plucked.  Water just yanked handfuls of columns right out of the walls. 

Consider my mind boggled.

And no school textbook had ever told me about the shenanigans columns get up to. 

Entablature, bent columns, and hanging waterfall, near Banks Lake in Grand Coulee, WA

All the pictures of columns I’d ever seen were straight, neat polygons that looked like they’d been carved by an overly-ambitious stonemason.  Not the stuff in Grand Coulee’s walls, nosir.  You had your textbook examples, but you also had bends, curves, and bizarre patterns that mystify me still:

Weird and wonderful columns, near Banks Lake, Grand Coulee, WA

And if only I’d had my excellent new camera then, I’d have actual good photos to show ye.  Ah, well.  You should really go see for yourselves anyway – there’s nothing like being surrounded by massive columns of basalt mile after mile to really pump you full of wonder.

So, okay.  I can just about get my head wrapped round this.  Take a big, thick sheet of basalt, let it cool; as it cools, it contracts.  Cracks form due to the contraction where bits are coolest and continue right down.  Geometrically, polygons make sense in this situation, so you end up with sometimes perfect hexagons, sometimes not – columns can be anything from 3-12 sided depending on the needs of the cooling mass.  It helps to imagine mud cracks, actually – as mud dries, you’ve probably noticed it forms particular shapes.  Imagine those shapes going down for many meters, and you’ve got a pretty good mental model of how columns formed.  The entablature’s a region where cooling went a little crazy, but it still makes sense: it’s still just hot stuff cracking as it cools.  Simple!  Except when you get right down to it, it’s not that simple.  If it was, it wouldn’t have taken people a great many years and a lot of scientific headscratching to begin to grasp.

Because, seriously, when you’re first faced with things like this, it’s all too easy to think giants must’ve done it.

The columns form some pretty bizarre shapes.  There’s one between Multnomah and Latourell Falls in the Columbia River Gorge that looks like a ginormous mushroom, in fact:

Mushroom on the scenic route

And Latourell Falls fall over some pretty crazy colonnades:

Latourell Falls carves its columns

So, there we were.  I’d just about gotten my head wrapped around the fact that large basaltic lava flows on land could and often did form columns during the cooling process.  But no one ever told me that other lava flows could form colonnades, and what really blew my mind was the fact you sometimes get them in welded tuff.  We’re talking hot volcanic ash, here.  Nothing like a lava flow.  ZOMG WTF?!

Columns in what is very probably the Stevens Ridge Formation, Mount Rainier, WA

Opportunistic little buggers will take any excuse to form up, won’t they just?

Then, just today, I find out they can be found in places like Shenandoah National Park, where they’re just about the last things I’d expect.  Seems they’re not so rare, after all.

In fact, I ran into some on our latest trek, when Lockwood hauled us up Mary’s Peak (see his photos and writeup of the following).

Columns in road cut on Mary’s Peak, OR

Here we were in the middle of a bunch of Eocene seafloor basalts, and suddenly, columns.  Pillows, I expected.  Breccia, natch.  But columns?  In seafloor basalts?  For some reason, I’d come to think of columns as exclusively landlubbers. 

Yet, here they were, born at the bottom of the sea, just like Spongebob Squarepants.  Amazing.

Another view of the roadcut

What’s astounding about this group is that some are seen side-on, in the more traditional orientation, and right next to them you’ve got what for all the world looks like a top view:

Columns on end

I’d love to tell you how that happened, but my mad geology skillz aren’t quite up to that task.

You even get some bonza spheroidal weathering up there that looks for all the world like pillows:

Not pillows, but erosion.

Now I know not to be deceived.

Regularity in nature fascinates us.  When good Mother Earth comes up with things that look like they were carefully chiseled by human hands (or giants’ hands, for that matter), we sit up and take especial notice.  There may come a day when I don’t squee with delight when confronted with yet more columns, but perhaps not.  Knowing those little bastards, they’ll have some new surprise in store just when I think I’ve seen all there is to see.  What Louis Kahn wrote of architecture can just as easily be applied to geology:

“Consider the momentous event in architecture when the wall parted and the column became.”

Dumbfuckery du Jour

What rocks do the Cons turn over to find these idiots?

Millionaire businessman John Raese, running as the GOP Senate nominee to fill Robert Byrd’s West Virginia seat, wants to take the state back to the 19th century. Not only does he want to return capitalism to the era before child labor laws, Social Security, and civil rights laws, he also promotes a pre-industrial vision of science. In an interview with Real Clear Politics, Raese said he has “zero” trust that “human activity is contributing to climate change”:

The oceans that surround the world produce 185 billion tons of CO2 per annum. Man per annum only produces six billion tons, so what could possibly be the concern? One volcano puts out more toxic gases-one volcano-than man makes in a whole year. And when you look at this “climate change,” and when you look at the regular climate change that we all have in the world, we have warm and we have cooling spells.

Although Raese is well-versed in conspiracy-theory talking points, they’re as nonsensical as his desire to abolish the Departments of Energy and Education. Human activity puts about 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, well over 100 times as much as all the volcanoes in the world. The oceans actually vent about 332 billion tons of CO2 per year, but also absorb that much. 

There seems to be an exam you have to pass in order to become a Con candidate.  Questions include:

  • Are you terminally insane?
  • Are you a frothing fundie fucktard?
  • Are you completely ignorant of science?

If you answer yes to all three, you are qualified to win the hearts and ostensible minds of the Teabagging masses.  Our government is poised to be filled with people who make my dear maternal uncle, who once went off his meds and decided to hold up a bank in order to obtain the funds for a boat so that he could become a pirate, look completely rational and scholarly.

I think I should begin stocking up on alcohol.  I’ll need bathtubs full come November.

Captain’s Log Supplemental: Mary’s Peak I

Boy, I’ve got a lot to learn.  This is the takeaway lesson from going into the field with Lockwood.  I know a fair amount more about geology than the average layperson, but what I know is a thimble of whiskey compared to a distillery when you set me alongside someone who’s actually done this shit for a living. 

I wish now I’d recorded audio while we were out there, because I didn’t retain much of what he said – I’m one of those people who needs to read and write as well as do before I’ve really grasped something.  Good thing, then, that he’s writing up our adventures.  I shall be stepping into the role of faithful assistant, letting him do the talking whilst handing up useful supplemental photos.

He’s begun with one of the most fascinating bits of big black rock I’ve ever seen: hyaloclastite.  Look, I’m from Arizona, people.  There haven’t been oceans there in nearly a hundred million years.  A good number of our rivers haven’t even got water in them.  As far as basalts erupted on the sea floor, you won’t get a good many exposures, if there even are any.  Hawaiian-style volcanic island complexes accreted to the continent?  Don’t make me laugh.  We get the occasional pillows, and that’s about it as far as basalt meets water goes.  Suffice it to say, my knowledge of what basalt does when confronted with large bodies of water is a bit lacking.

I’d never even heard of hyaloclastite before Lockwood took us to touch some:

Is that or is that not lovely?

Here’s an even closer-up closeup:

As Lockwood mentioned, this particular block of explosive basalt goodness stands at the intersection of two faults.  As if it’s life hadn’t been hard enough already!  This is the first time I got to touch something I knew beyond doubt was slickensided, which I have to say was probably more exciting than it strictly should be.  There’s just something about tracing the striations on a rock that’s been polished by a fault that delights.

Here’s the left side, which has the dipping striations:

And a closeup of the more horizontal side:

And if you look really, really closely around the hyaloclastite, you might find a baby pillow or two (thumb for scale):

So precious!  I still think we should’ve collected one to send to Callan.

And, just for perspective:

You can see how very nearly square this outcrop is.  Okay, rectangular.  And it’s one of those things most travelers will drive past without a second glance.  It’s just a big chunk of boring black rock – until you get to know it.

A little ways down, you can find the sill Lockwood mentioned.  I did get a good shot of the columnar joints overlying it:

And here’s the contact between the basalt sill and the sediment that tells us we’re not dealing with a flow:

Clean and sharp, that is – aside from the fact it’s old, weathered, and has got lichen growing all over it.  But if you enlarge, you can still see how nicely they contact each other, without a trace of basal breccia to be seen.

(And, my dear George, if that rock hammer looks familiar, that’s because it’s yours.  It finally got to go pound rocks!  An excellent job it did, too.)

So, there ye go – a tiny portion of a day in the field with Lockwood, in which I mostly gave him deer-in-the-headlights looks every time he asked a question.  It will be a long time before I can stare at an unknown rock face and speak with confidence on its possible origins.  It’s a good thing he’s got more field trips in store, because the only way to truly learn this stuff is to get out and do it.  Someday, when I’m rich and famous, I shall even drag him to Hawaii, where we can see the kinds of basalts that form so much of Mary’s Peak’s volcanic features erupting right before our very eyes.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Oh, yes.  At last.  The Smack-o-Matic’s coming off the wall, baby, yeah.

And what better way to begin than with a classic bit of dumbfuckery, proving the Senate has always contained politicians who have some difficulty confronting Really Serious Issues and are terrified of change:

June 25, 1930
Senate Considers Banning Dial Phones

Senator Carter Glass of Virginia
Carter Glass (D-VA)

In the spring of 1930, the Senate considered the following resolution:

Whereas dial telephones are more difficult to operate than are manual telephones; and Whereas Senators are required, since the installation of dial phones in the Capitol, to perform the duties of telephone operators in order to enjoy the benefits of telephone service; and Whereas dial telephones have failed to expedite telephone service; Therefore be it resolved that the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate is authorized and directed to order the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. to replace with manual phones within 30 days after the adoption of this resolution, all dial telephones in the Senate wing of the United States Capitol and in the Senate office building.

Magpiemom posted this as a comment on the DFDJ deriding Senate Cons for valiantly defending the incandescent bulb, and she’s right – I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Be sure to read on, my darlings.  Stupidity never goes out of fashion.  It just finds different issues to be stupid about.

(Note to new readers: the comment system doesn’t hate you, it’s just set to moderate comments after X days to stymie spammers.  Sorry ’bout that!)

On to modern dumbfuckery, then, and nothing’s entertained me more this week than watching Cons unveil their Pledge to America to near-universal derision.  How desperate are they for some sign, any sign, that somebody somewhere doesn’t think their Pledge is a ridiculous fucking waste of time?  So desperate they’re pretending Stephen Colbert is who he pretends to be:

House Republicans have had a tough time getting anyone — even fellow conservatives and Republicans — to endorse their new gimmicky “Pledge to America” they rolled out yesterday. Newt Gingrich, David Frum, Erick Erickson, the Club for Growth, conservative radio hosts, and even some GOP House candidates aren’t too thrilled with the recycled Republican pledges.
It seems Republicans are so desperate for someone to endorse the Pledge that they are now touting the fake support from a fictional character. Today, Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert testified — in character — before Congress on migrant labor issues. During the hearing, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) noted that Colbert supports giving lawmakers 72 hours to read bills before they’re voted on and extrapolated that Colbert must support the entire Pledge because that “idea” is within it. Later, Colbert reassured Smith with this satirical response:

COLBERT: By the way I do endorse your policies. I do endorse your policies. You asked me if I endorse Republican policies. I endorse all Republican policies without question.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was so happy someone announced support of the GOP’s “Pledge” that he promoted Colbert’s (fake) endorsement on twitter:


That’s just too pathetic for words.  If they truly don’t understand that Stephen Colbert’s schtick is just a schtick, then we’re in uber-pathetic territory and accelerating as near-light speeds towards epic stupidity.  Put it like this: I probably won’t die of shock if that proves to be the case.

We cannot end today’s delving back into the realms of dumbfuckery without highlighting this extraordinary bit of Con hypocrisy:

The Washington Post ran an item the other day that, at first blush, doesn’t seem especially political, but is worth considering in a larger context.
The issue is the spread of the brown marmorated stink bug through the mid-Atlantic states. They’re harmless to people — the don’t bite, sting, or carry diseases — but for the first time on the continent, they’re doing significant damage to crops, ornamental shrubs, and trees. And as homeowners are discovering, as the bugs begin moving inside as temperatures drop, “when squashed or irritated, the bugs release the distinctive smell of sweaty feet.”
The insects reached the U.S. in Allentown, Pa., in 2001, apparently as stowaways in a shipping container from Asia. Now they’re spreading, they have no known natural predators, and there’s “no easy way to kill lots of the bugs at once.” Complicating matters, “the invasion is only going to get worse.”
So, where’s the political angle?

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who represents Maryland’s rural 6th District, sent a letter Friday, signed by 15 members of Congress, asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to take immediate action to limit damage caused by Halyomorpha halys.

Of the 15 members who signed the letter, eight of them are Republicans — all from states between West Virginia and New Jersey, and all fairly conservative members of the GOP caucus. The group of lawmakers are looking for “coordinated federal government assistance” from the Obama administration to help farmers and local economies deal with the bugs.
There seems to be a bit of disconnect here between Republican ideology and real-world problems. On the one hand, conservative lawmakers like Bartlett hate “big government,” the EPA, federal regulations, and government bureaucrats. This year, plenty of GOP candidates are talking about eliminating the EPA, firing parts of the federal workforce, scrapping regulations, and slashing spending on various agencies.
Shouldn’t conservative lawmakers, right about now, expect the free market to offer a solution to the stink-bug problem? Why hasn’t the GOP offered everyone a tax credit for fly swatters and facemasks? Why aren’t Tenthers running around demanding to know where, exactly, the Constitution empowers the federal government to deal with an insect infestation?

Apparently, when confronted with the potential horror of smelling sweaty feet in their very own homes, Cons can be persuaded to abandon their principles and scream for Mommy.  So here’s an idea for you, my darlings.  Go collect yourselves some brown marmorated stink bugs.  They should fit easily in a match box or some such container.  Then bring them to your Con politician’s next town hall.  When they start frothing at the mouth over the evul gubmint, remove the lid from your container, present the contents to the Con, and ask in calm and reasonable tones, “Then why did you scream for the ‘evul gubmint’ to eradicate these poor little pests?”

It’s probably just a matter of time before the Teabaggers start parading around with signs saying “Keep Your Government Hands Off Our Agricultural Pests.”