Kris an’ Murphy: Channels

Murphy: “Ah, there you are, Kris! It’s almost 5:30. I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it to the faculty club tonight. And since classes aren’t in session, so I didn’t think that students would be barricading you in your office demanding what was going to be on the next test, I was getting ready to send out a search party.”

Kris: “Well, Murphy, you were half right. I got barricaded, but not by students. It was Hank, the groundskeeper. And man, was he hot! I thought he was going to freak out and run me over with the riding mower!”

Murphy: What? This the Hank I know? The one who wouldn’t hurt a mosquito that gave him malaria? Why?”

Kris: “Yeah, I made the mistake of asking him that. My ears have paid the price.”

Murphy: “And …?”

Kris: “You know that their maintenance shed is falling apart, right?”

Murphy: “You mean, like the dilapidated, dysfunctional cesspit they call the Classics building?”

Kris: “Worse. Far worse. We joke about how we’d make more money flipping hamburgers. They lose staff to the burger joints on a daily basis, on account of their miserable working conditions. Hank is practically on speed dial to his superiors, reporting the problems with their facilities and staffing.”

Murphy: “To no effect, of course.”

Kris: “He should have been so lucky. Today, he got written up for insubordination!

Murphy: “He flipped somebody off?”

Kris: “He didn’t do a thing! Somebody else went up the chain and bitched about the facilities crisis to some university toady. Who bitched down to Hank’s immediate supervisor, who whacked Hank for not controlling his people!

Murphy: “One of his gardeners had finally had enough …?”

Kris: “It wasn’t even any member of his crew! Apparently he’s supposed to have the power to make sure anybody who knows anything about the situation with the maintenance facilities reports any issues strictly through channels! Or else. One more such report, Hank yelled at me, and he loses his job! I don’t think he’s a gun nut …”

Murphy:Bite your tongue!”

Kris: “Well?? You know as well as I do how to spell ‘channels’.”

Murphy: “Only too well. S – T – O – N – E – W – A – L – L – I – N -G.”

Kris: “And if you can’t go through channels to get stuff done, and you can’t go around, what else have you got but to be a slave, or go postal?”

Murphy: “And what choice have the people who are charged with managing the channels got?”

Kris: “… huh?

Murphy: “You been following the telescope crap on Hawai‘i Island?”

Kris: “Kinda sorta.”

Murphy: “Pay attention. You and Hank both. Scientists and business interests are trying to get a big telescope built on one of the best places in the world for doing so. People who think women should stop eating coconuts because they look a little bit like testicles, according to the tenets of the Hawaiian kapu system, are trying to stop the telescope from being built. Don’t get me started on the social damage done by any religious system, of any type, anywhere.

“The combatants agreed to go through channels. The channels were duly followed. Compromises were proposed. Endless hours, and ridiculous piles of money, were spent. The decisions were finally taken. They didn’t go the kapu people’s way. And the telescope isn’t being built. The only, the only thing that those people will accept is for the telescope people to pack up and go home. They will disrupt until they get their way. Or until they are destroyed, Battle of Kuamo‘o fans.

“I talked with Dan in Genetics about this, and asked why scientists didn’t threaten to disrupt things the same way, by demanding that they get the telescope built, or leave Hawai‘i and blacklist it. He laughed in my face. ‘Scientists threaten any such thing, they’ll be told to get the hell out, and don’t let the swinging door bash your ass. Not even we scientists live by the scientific method except when we absolutely have to. Most of the time we play politics just like everybody else. And that politics tells us that it’d take too long for people to realize the damage they’ve done to themselves by booting the scientists off the rock. Meanwhile, we starve. So, there’s no point.’ Yeah. And it’s not as if scientists have never been arrogant fools, have never done anything to bring this down on themselves. Hah!

Channels has nothing to do with order, and sure as hell has nothing to do with service. It’s all about power. You have it, or you don’t. Eventually, those with power will abuse it; those who depend on that power for their livelihoods will insist on nothing less. Those without power can suck it up, leave, or fight. Sooner or later, the mass of people without power will find that they have no choice but to fight, or be eliminated. This is why I spit in the faces of the so-called ‘peace’ people. Their very ‘peace’ actions make war inevitable, and they either cannot see this, or they do and willfully ignore it – of course, in the pursuit of their own power.”

Kris: “I suppose you have a way to fix this, Oh Most Knowledgeable One.”

Murphy: “I wish. The only thing I can suggest is to knock everything down and start over, with everyone agreeing to keep their quest for power in check and work together for the good of the whole. It’s been tried countless times through history. When it works at all, it works only so long as those who fought and died to trash the old and bring in the new remember what the ‘old’ ways were, and how they’ve improved on them. Meanwhile, they’ve achieved power, and their descendants will put maintaining that power, increasingly, over all other objectives. Including that service to others that will keep those others in the system. The wheel turns. The same spoke keeps showing up. I don’t know what else to do.”

Kris: “I do.”

Murphy: “You do? Spill!”

Kris: “Do I look like Eric Burdon? While you were yammering away, paying attention to nobody and nothing but yourself, I opened the wine bottle. Which I purpose to pour from, and not spill.”

Murphy: “Do that. And when the glasses are full, I’ll propose a toast.”

Kris: “To …?”

Murphy: “To the Thirty Meter Telescope protestors.”

Kris: “The ones you’ve just spent the past half hour slamming?

Murphy: “The very same. Because more of them have gone to jail protesting a useful telescope than have gone to jail protesting the most toxic President and Legislature in the history of these Untied States of America. These Hawaiians can teach the rest of us in this country a few things about honor, integrity, commitment, and gumption. We can only hope we adopt the lessons before it’s too late – and then, if we survive, learn how to identify just causes to which to apply them, and so apply them.”

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Amoeba’s Lorica: The Greatest Hits of Your Life

On a Monday morning not too long ago, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was driving to work, pretty much on the usual Monday morning autopilot, when he tuned to his usual drive-time “classic rock” radio station and …

… it’s different …

The “always rippin'” guy is gone. So is the morning-drive guy’n’doll pair. And all of their usual, cheesy, brain-teasy bits and gimmicks. Practically all of the chatter of any kind that used to go down. Not even the surf report! How the hell can you have a radio station in Hawai‘i nei without a surf report?!?

All replaced by a single, endlessly-repeated tag line.

The Greatest Hits of All Time!

“Fer real, OC? All Harold an’ Kumar, alla tha time?!”

Dudes. Jeez. ‘Scuse us a moment… Yo, dudes. Harold and Kumar can’t hold a bong to Cheech and Chong. Not that kind of hits!

“Then howcum yer seein’ CBD stuff all ovah ever’place, huh, OC? So, Legion a Boom?”

Steel Curtain. No.

B. J. Penn, then?!?”

Muhammad Ali. Willya get a clue, dudes? SportsCenter doesn’t work over the radio! We’re talking music here!

“Classic rock?!? Man, OC, tha’s givin’ music a bad rap!”

That’s giving music no rap! Which just might mean you can stand to listen to it!

“Ya reckon, OC? Ya listen ta them greatest hits fer awhile, an’ then come tell us what ya think, yeah? See ya …”

[Sigh …]

After a couple of weeks of listening (and yes, there was a sale), YFNA could nail down other changes besides the announcers and the tag line.

Previously, the station had featured some of the most musically-accomplished acts of the Classic Rock era. Led Zeppelin. Rush. The Allman Brothers. Yes. Jeff Beck. Bowie. Supertramp. Stevie Ray Vaughn. Pink Floyd.

All gone.

In their place? The Dixie Cups. Nancy Sinatra. The Monkees. Jebus, the freaking Monkees!

Thanks a pile, folks, for the sharp (and flat) reminders of how come twenty-first century wannabe pop stars aren’t allowed within 500 kilometers of a recording studio without Auto-Tune.

But there’s something else that the station did previously: play music that reminded Baby Boomers of who they thought they were, back in the day. “For What It’s Worth“. “Long Time Gone“. “Ohio“.

All gone.

Now, we’re going to the chapel of love. Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. Lava rock? More like pillow talk.

“Hey, Amoeba!”

Yeah, Man? What do you want?

“To know what part of ka-ching you don’t get. This format is killing it in Honolulu!”

Yeah, yeah. And you have to compete with radio stations that are playing this song 40 times a day, that has “in the middle” as its sole lyric, repeated 17,000 times in three minutes. Go away.

“OK. But remind me again how you’re managing to pay the rent each month …?”

Damn. Where is that Marquess of Queensbury when he’s needed?

Many, many moons ago, not quite when homemakers and sailors were knitting winter coats out of elephant fur, but perhaps when they still remembered when they could, YFNA was wandering around Cape Cod, Massachusetts for somereasonorother, and happened upon a radio station playing the “Music of Your Life” format.

The format unabashedly targeted the “over 50” market, playing the hits from the 1940s and ’50s: Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers, Eddie Fisher, (who else) Frank Sinatra. “Music that was popular … when you were.” Popular enough to get shot at, World War II and Korea fans. But never a mention of either. Not “In the Mood” for that …

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba, who was not yet 50 at that time, and was looking forward to the event only because the alternative had no appeal whatsoever, wondered how it was that a format that went out of its way to remind its audience how old it was could possibly succeed.

“Retirees have money. And they like to remember what it was like to, ah, screw around. Ka-ching!

Shut up.

He also wondered what the formats that targeted the 50-plus audience would be like when he got there.

Behold, he is now there. And we have The Greatest Hits of All Time.

At a time in the political history of the nation which, had it happened when the target audience was in their twenties, would have induced that audience to a level of fighting in the streets that makes the riots of the 1960s look tame, now has its members singing do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.

Posted in Amoeba's Lorica, Dude and Dude, history, music, We the People | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Amoeba’s Lorica: Of the Titanic and its Deck Chairs

This morning (27 July 2019), while he was supposed to be doing something else (as usual), Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba read about the plight of the all-but-extinct vaquita. And how wonderful this is!

Perhaps you’ll be so kind as to give YFNA a chance to explain that.

The vaquita is a tiny (read “cute”; this will be important later) marine mammal, found exclusively in (“is endemic to”) the northern part of the Gulf of California, in Mexico. Over the past twenty years, the vaquita population has declined precipitously – far more so than that of the Salish Sea “Southern Resident” orca population that’s been so much in the news lately – to the point that there may be fewer than 10 animals left alive. Anywhere – there are (YFNA reads) none in captivity, and the prospects for survival, never mind breeding, of the vaquita in captivity are poor.

This now threatens (twenty years after it was too late, of course) to become A Cause. “Save the Whales!” on whatever the opposite of steroids is (given how small these creatures are). A documentary film on the subject, Sea of Shadows, has either just been released or is about to be released (YFNA is unsure which). This documentary, and The Cause it highlights, have attracted the attention of some of the most toxic committed pundits on both the extreme Right and the extreme Left of the political spectrum in these Untied States of America, and won the support of both.

This is the wonderfulness of the imminent demise of the smallest surviving (for now) species of cetacean (“whale”) on the planet, #roomforagreement hashtag fans. That the political extremes can agree on a Cause – any Cause – and use that agreement as a basis for building far broader agreements and progress on Things That Matter.

Alas, as readers of this blog surely know by now, YFNA has the nasty habit of trying to peer behind the blinding light. He will now attempt to examine some of the things that have caused the vaquita to reach the brink of elimination in the March madness tournament of life, and whether any of those things promise either to help save these whales or serve as true building blocks for reconciliation of the armed political camps in the USA.

The agreed-upon principal cause of vaquita death is gillnetting. No, there isn’t a vaquita fishery, and apparently has never been one. The whales are a bycatch of fishing for totoaba, a fish species that is endemic to the Gulf of California, and which is, like the vaquita, also on the brink of tournament elimination. (These two cases are just the tip of the iceberg that human pressures on the unique Gulf of California ecosystem have created.) The Mexican government recognized what was happening to the totoaba fifty years ago, and banned the fishery.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba has up-close-and-personal experience with the consequences of this ‘banning’ sort of thing. Starting in the late 1980s and culminating in the early 2000s, the fishery for Atlantic clawed lobster in Long Island Sound collapsed. It has not recovered, and has poor prospects for ever doing so.

One of the symptoms of this collapse, as YFNA and numerous colleagues themselves discovered, was infestation of animals by an amoeba – the very Amoeba in the handle “YFNA”, and which he used as an avatar, on this blog and elsewhere, for many years. The true cause, though, recognized by scientists then and more generally today, is that the waters of Long Island Sound are now too warm to support a lobster population. Yes, global warming fans, this means you.

However, the folk involved in the (now-lost) lobster fishery rejected this explanation, in favor of one, explicitly rejected by the scientists, that blamed pesticides applied to Long Island Sound coastal communities to control mosquitoes (and the West Nile virus outbreak associated with them) for all the dead and dying lobsters. As was succinctly stated to YFNA at the time:

You can’t sue an amoeba. Or climate change.

You can sue a pesticide manufacturer. And you might even win, scientific evidence or common sense notwithstanding.

Consider. The lobster fishery is lucrative. But the investment in gear and expertise needed to enter and remain in the fishery is [ahem] not trivial. Adhering to the regulations governing the fishery, so that one may reap the harvest and stay out of jail and/or bankruptcy via fines, is [ahem] not trivial. Add normal human cupidity to the mix (YFNA was regaled with tales of the ‘all-chrome’ SUVs that one fisherman had bought with the proceeds of his work, prior to the collapse) and … well, you don’t just yank all the lobster out from under you without causing immediate financial disaster for the people in the industry. Who have a desperate need to find someone, right now, from whom they can Demand Compensation.

Were they going to get it from We the People, whose governments, driven by public opinion regarding “safeguarding our environment”, put all those costly regulations in place, and who thereby (one could argue) entailed a moral obligation to protect those so encumbered, in the event of calamity?

heh … heh … hehe … heheumhehi <snort>BWAAhahahahahaaaaaa!

Indeed, the scientists – including YFNA – were regarded as agents of Government, whose mission was to absolve We the People of any responsibility – especially financial responsibility – for the situation, and the plight of those affected.

What did We have to offer those in the lobster fishery in compensation for lost livelihood? Jobs in retail and tourism. We can ask citizens of Maine how well such options have served to replace high-paying jobs in textile and paper mills – sixty years after such jobs disappeared! See LePage, Paul.

Can We the People be surprised that We have trained people to ignore facts in the quest for survival, never mind advantage? Can there be any further questions about how We the People elected Donald Trump and his cabal to the Presidency and majorities in the houses of Congress, in part on a platform of gutting the programs responsible for those environmental regulations?

Dammit, Amoeba, what does all this have to do with saving those cute vaquita?”

Just this. Vaquita die as a consequence of totoaba fishing. Stopping totoaba fishing makes formerly prosperous people desperate. You compensate, relocate, or eliminate those people, at the cost of the government whose actions have contributed to the loss of income, or suffer the consequences. That cost to government means that you’ve lost, right then and there, any hope of support from the political Right for saving the vaquita, never mind for any Things That Actually Matter.

But wait, there’s more. The totoaba fishery was stopped by political action, not (yet) by a fishery collapse as with lobster. There were still fish to be caught, and strong financial incentive to keep catching them – more than US$20,000 per fish strong. The focus of the US lobster fishery could move to Maine (don’t even think of getting a lobstering license in Maine unless you stand to inherit one), but the focus of the totoaba fishery had to remain in the northern Gulf of California (see “endemic”, supra). The Mexican government made the fishery illegal, but removed neither the now-desperate people involved in the fishery nor the financial incentive for it.

So the Mexican government merely succeeded in driving the fishery ‘underground’ – and, of course, even further removed from regulatory constraints than before the prohibition. $20 grand per fish pays for a lot of ‘consideration’ to keep nosy regulators out of your business – and muscle to deter those whose noses nevertheless got too big.

Unlike vaquita, totoaba can be reared in captivity, and fish farms now exist. To what extent these farms do, or can, satisfy existing markets, YFNA has not found out. The farms, moreover, likely profit a totally different set of people from those engaged in the wild fishery, either directly for totoaba or who ‘inadvertently’ obtain totoaba (and, perhaps, vaquita) as a bycatch from legal fisheries, for other finfish or for shrimp. Moreover, the farm movement risks coming to a swift end if it runs afoul of the same prejudices that afflict efforts to farm salmon. The ideal would be to rebuild wild stocks to the point that an efficient catch can be made using gear that does not entrap vaquita, and the intent of some farming operations is to attempt restocking of the wild population.

Alas … the link between totoaba and salmon is not entirely random, or entirely based upon the perils of fish farming.

For, just as salmon live primarily in salt water but migrate to freshwater to spawn, totoaba do best when they spawn in water that is less salty than that in which they spend most of their lives. To accomplish this, today as in uncounted years past, adult totoaba attempt to swim to the estuary of the Colorado River where they will find the brackish water that they need for spawning.

Unfortunately, there are formidable land barriers between the northern end of the Gulf of California and Santa Monica Bay, where the Colorado River currently exits via the Los Angeles sewer system. The water in the former Colorado River estuary is now no less salty than the rest of the Gulf of California.

Soooo … in order to reestablish a population of totoaba in the northern Gulf of California, sufficient to establish fishing practices that are safe for vaquita without costly compensation to, or draconian removal of, the current totoaba fishing industry, one would need to restore water to the Colorado River estuary by removing most dams and water rights claims from the river, thereby:

  • Abandoning most of southern California to the San Andreas Fault
  • Eliminating Las Vegas
  • Gutting agriculture and electricity generation required to supply most of the rest of the US Southwest

The removal of its major population base, and its principal propaganda operation (Hollywood), alone would guarantee removal of Left support for the Save the Whales project.

What vaquita?

“Amoeba, as usual, you understand nothing!


“The vaquita are cute! Cute is good. Anything that whacks cute is evil. Sweet and simple. The Right gets to whack crime, Mexicans, and Chinese. The Left gets to whack people who do environmental damage. It doesn’t matter that neither side gets what’s really going on, the tropes are out there, and both sides get to play to them. Win win. Especially if we can use the whales to make it look like we can play nice if we wish to, even though we know, not only that we can’t, but that our peeps don’t want us to when the chips are down. Meanwhile, we get publicity! And you know what that means.”


“Precisely. And because you haven’t learned to frame your narrative and insist on these long discourses on what you foolishly believe to be the facts, and therefore nobody reads your stuff, we don’t have to kill you for realizing this.”

Right. Thanks a pantload.

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