Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Best Thing You Can Do to Forestall Global Warming

Or another way to consider the question. What's the worst thing you can possibly do to contribute to global warming?

Is it to procreate?

The average American causes 18 metric tons of CO2 emissions. That's the equivalent of flying from LA to New York and back 3.4 times per month. If you flew that route 3 times a month rather than have a child you'd be doing the world a favor.

The comedian Bill Burr is onto something here (language warning).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Defending Obama From the Left

An amazing satirical defense of Obama from leftist criticism from Charles Davis of The New Inquiry via Greenwald. It's worth reading to the very end if you want to understand how someone like me probably won't be able to vote for Obama. Not that voting matters all that much, but getting fired up for Obama over Romney makes no sense to me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Right Wing Suggestions Regarding Climate - Do Nothing That Stands In The Way of Profit

Right wing economist Robert Murphy, who works for right wing think tanks that receive substantial donations from the likes of Exxon Mobile and the Koch Brothers (that is, groups that profit handsomely from fossil fuel consumption) has suggestions for mitigating global warming. Suggestions that we've heard before. Do nothing that impedes profits.

Murphy makes two major arguments. He argues that the mainstream scientific consensus is global warming will provide net benefits up until around the year 2050. Here Murphy is very trusting of the science (when it favors profits). Later in the article he becomes very distrusting of science. He is dubious of the accuracy of climate models. His conclusion is one that once again is in the best interest of his corporate backers. Trusting of science when it is profitable. Distrusting it when it is unprofitable. Big surprise.

As I've pointed out before corporations will pursue any rhetorical strategy to enhance profits, even when today's rhetoric contradicts yesterday's rhetoric. Global warming isn't happening. It is happening but man is not the cause. Actually the globe is cooling. No wait, it is warming, man is the cause, and there's no reason for concern.

How often has the right wing been wrong in these types of matters? The right wing think tanks told us there was no reason for concern with tobacco, but we beat them back and took steps to reduce smoking, saving many lives. They told us there was no reason for concern due to lead in gasoline, but we beat them back (at least in the US. Other parts of the world still suffer with lead for profit.). Don't worry about the ozone layer and don't require different kinds of refrigerant that are too expensive and harmful to business. We beat the profit interest back once again, for the good of the planet. The stakes are even higher with global warming. We must beat them back again.

And what's frustrating is that the purveyors of lies for profit in tobacco and lead will probably go unpunished, though their rhetoric lead directly to the death of many. We have to beat them back again and live with the fact that they will go on to peddle the next lie for profit.

Just a couple of points in reply. When Murphy says that global warming has "net benefits" what he's saying is a reference to this paper. Initial warming will increase GDP. So let's say we thaw some tundra in Canada and increase the amount of arable land. Let's say that this increases Canadian GDP 5%. Canadians, like Americans, are relatively rich already. Nobody is starving there. They get a bit richer. But at the same time in Africa some formerly arable land is now a dust bowl and 100,000 people die. If their deaths cause a reduction in GDP but that reduction is less than the increase in Canada, then what we have here is a "net benefit." Already rich people are a little richer. Poor people have died in droves. This is a good thing for Murphy. I don't agree.

Let's also note that there is a growing acceptance of the idea that 2°C of warming is not just bad. It's extremely bad. Much worse than the consensus position concedes. Granted, this is a minority view. But the idea that we should do nothing that impedes profits is predicated on the notion that we have high confidence that some global warming is actually good. We do not.

And I would suggest that the incentives push scientists towards drawing conclusions that are extra conservative. Meaning we have reason to think that the more alarmist positions should be taken seriously. Michael Mann was hauled before a Congressional inquiry as a result of global warming denial hostility for publishing charts that were later confirmed to be accurate by multiple independent studies. An error in the IPCC report claiming the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, which is a claim that is not based on published scientific literature, results in endless derision by the science denial community. Then the fake scandal called Climate Gate. All bogus as independent studies have confirmed. But scientists know they must be cautious and not go too far or they will get destroyed. The incentives cause them to err on the side of less alarmist claims. So claims are qualified, not too bold, and often the uncertainty is emphasized.

Murphy then seizes on this uncertainty in the later part of his article to pooh pooh the climate models. It's true that the models on average predicted a little bit more warming than what we actually experienced. It's also true that the sun, which has a fairly consistent periodic cycle of activity and inactivity, in fact had a bit of an extended period of inactivity over the past 15 years. So we had a bit less solar heating than the models would have predicted. That's not particularly surprising. And even with this inactivity the earth experienced the hottest decade ever. I believe 10 of the 11 hottest years ever recorded were recorded during the last decade. Now the sun is re-entering it's active phase. And it's getting hot.

One side of this debate always seems to get it wrong. They tell us to not worry about it. If they're wrong again, like they always are, and we listen to them, there will be hell to pay.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Iceland Arrested Bankers Instead of Bailing Them Out

Cenk discusses how it turned out.

The Inadequacy of 401k's

A good article on the looming catastrophe here via Mark Perry of all people. As Mark points out, nearly 3/4 of near retirees (aged 50 to 64) have an average retirement account balance of $26K.

Right wingers of course want to kill off Social Security. They can talk about personal responsibility all day long, but they have to answer this question. What are you going to do about the MANY people that for whatever reason just will not save enough on their own? You can react like the tea party types at the Republican debate. "Let 'em die." But massive inequality and suffering has a tendency to become everyone's problem. Even the rich.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Abortion Pays for Romney

McCain of course nominated Sarah Palin and after spending about 5 minutes watching her do interviews it was clear that this was a horrible choice for reasons that most people understand. Did he not understand what he was doing?

The same question occurs to me now as we consider the fact that the Republican party is set to select Mitt Romney. This is an extremely bad choice. OK, the base denies science on the environment and empiricism when it comes to what works to improve an economy. You expect them to nominate someone that shares that view, or at least pretends to.

And yeah, his capitalistic methods may seem cruel, but the base has become convinced that this creative destruction is for the best. Sure, some people lost their jobs, but what we don't hear about is the many people that benefited because resources were routed to more efficient uses.

I think it's bogus, but you expect the base to accept it. But they draw the line on abortion. Making profits is fine. But morality still matters.

It happens I'm getting physical therapy these days after my bicycle accident and this truck was outside the door. I spoke with the guys unloading it. "Stericycle? Mitt Romney? Bain Capital? Aborted fetus disposal?" Yep they told me. We're the devil they said.

Mitt Romney made money by investing heavily in a company that specializes in the disposal of aborted fetuses. Really. How does a pro-life Republican justify pulling the lever for a guy like that?

Sure, the same question could be put to me on Obama due to his many evil actions, including the seizure of the power of kings. That is he singles out Americans for death and kills them with no check on that power. The idea of voting for a dictator like that for me is of course repellant. I'm hoping that Michigan isn't close and my vote for President is entirely irrelevant. If it's close I'll have to make a very difficult choice, and I really don't know what I'll do. I imagine pro-life Republicans feel similarly. What horrible choices these are. I wish we had democracy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Watch Republicans Get It Wrong On Taxes

Knowledge of the history of their errors is the key to preventing their future errors. You can watch in this video Republican John Kasich in 1993 lamenting the just passed Clinton tax increases. He's not worried about the rich he tells us. It's the poorer people that are going to suffer from this. Yeah right.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Always Wrong, Never Learning

Looking back in history on major issues confronting our nation I'm struck by how frequently the right wing has been just so colossally wrong and liberal types (not necessarily Democrats, but liberals) have been right.  Let's review some of them.

Many liberals emerged during the activism of the 60's.  They wanted expansion of Social Security and Medicare, programs that have been astoundingly successful.  The programs combined have run a surplus, thereby reducing overall US debt.  And probably nothing else has done more to alleviate elderly poverty and suffering.  Liberals at the time also said that the Vietnam War was a totally travesty.  I think that's pretty transparent at this point, defended only by hard core neocons and the ignorant.

Milton Friedman propounded theories related to privatization, reduced social spending by the government, and deregulated finance.  Richard Nixon was wary of testing these theories in the US, but he was willing to try it in Chile.  So it was in 1973.  Unemployment soared from 3.8% to 25%.  Children were passing out in the classroom for lack of nourishment.  Finally by 1982 the banking system collapsed and required state bail out.  All the rosy predictions Friedman offered, defended by right wing elements, were pretty much wrong.

The expirament failed to help the poor, but did help the rich, so it was expanded to neighboring countries.  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia.  All with similar results.  Catastrophe for most people, pretty good for the super rich.  The right was wrong again.

Reagan entered office and accelerated the war on unions.  He also cut taxes for the rich.  These supposedly were going to help average Americans.  They didn't.  Wages stagnated for those that aren't super wealthy.

Clinton raised taxes and we were offered dire predictions by the right.  The effect on the economy would be catastrophic, so they claimed.  It wasn't.

Bush reversed Clinton's tax increases and the right expected wonderful things.  The economy collapsed.

The right told us that Saddam Hussein needed to be overthrown violently.  For one reason he was involved in the 9-11 attacks.  He also had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons.  The war was foisted on the American people on the basis of various errors, including the transparently false claim that Muslim foreigners resist the US violently because they hate our freedom and religion.  A couple of months into the war conservatives concluded it was already over, and the weapons programs would soon be found (the shift from finding weapons to finding weapons "programs" had begun.)

With the track record in mind let's turn to one of the most serious issues facing humanity today; global warming.  The right sometimes will tell us that it really isn't happening.  But if it is it wasn't caused by man.  But if it is, so what?  Don't do anything about it.

Unfortunately there is a large enough segment of the population that does not learn from mistakes.  They do not notice how wrong the right has been in the past and the enormous suffering that has resulted.  Today we are faced with the prospect of further enormous suffering, suffering that has already begun.  The longer people continue to listen to the people that are always wrong and ignore the people that are always right the more suffering will occur.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Social Conventions & Profit

How many of us would actually buy a house for $250K that was twice as big as the one we grew up in if it weren't for social convention?  Then subsequently fill that house with bedroom sets and china cabinets that we don't really care about?  How many of us would by a $4K wedding ring and throw a wedding that cost $25K or $30K, going into debt to finance a celebration that people have been doing for thousands of years without anything approaching that kind of cost (except for nobility)?  Really what is a diamond ring?  It's a sparkly rock.  I have no problem with it.  But do I really care enough about it to spend $4K?  Why are we doing this to ourselves?

It's no conspiracy.  It just happens that there are varied interests that benefit from these decisions that often put consumers into debt.  Those interests seem to converge into these kind of actions that in my view look a little strange when you try and step outside of our bubble.  Admittedly that's not easy and maybe I'm deluding myself.  But are these actions rational?

It's like what was said in the Tedx Talk in my prior link.  Animals often build shelter in about a day.  Sometimes it takes a bit longer.  For humans it takes 30 years.  Is this necessary?

I'm trying to extract myself from these conventions.  I'm proud to say that I think the car I drive is the crappiest car in the whole parking lot where I work.  I've bought too many things in my lifetime, but years back I had a realization about cars.  A friend of mine spent big money on a big cool truck and he took me for a ride.  As we approached it it looked very impressive.  All shiny and new.  But when I got inside it I looked around inside and realized it didn't do anything for me.  Nothing more than the beater car I was driving at the time.  Ever since that point I realized I didn't care about the fancy car.

But I'm now learning there's a lot more I own that I don't care about, primarily my house.  It's nice.  I like it OK.  But do I like it enough to send the bank that big chunk of money in interest every month and all the property taxes?  Wouldn't I rather be free of that burden and free to travel.  Maybe make the cost of my children's college tuition a lot easier?  Or other things.

I kind of wonder what our world would look like if people didn't adopt these social conventions, trying vainly to keep up with the Jones's.  Maybe people would work 10 years, then stop working altogether.  Stay close to home, ride a bike most of the time.  Spend 15 minutes a day working on a garden.  Tend a few chickens.  Play with the kids.  Instead we run from here to there fulfilling job requirements.  All to pay for things we don't really need and don't care about.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Life Is Easy-Why Do We Make It Hard

A Tedx Talk that resonates for me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Obama the Right Wing Extremist

Only the most extreme right wingers defended Israel when they invaded Gaza in 2008, dumping chemical weapons on two hospitals among many other egregious crimes.  Only the extremists are ready to defend the execution of people on the aid flotillas.  One American was shot in the back of the head execution style.  Normally you expect America to defend it's own citizens from these type of things, but extremist right wingers cheer on the foreign government in this case.  Watch Obama below espouse the litany of extremist right wing positions on these issues, and also watch Finkelstein's commentary, which is very interesting in exposing Obama's cynicism.

As Finkelstein points out, at least conservatives believe what they say.  With Obama it seems he's a right wing extremist when that's where the money is, and who knows what he might say tomorrow if the money shifts.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Follow Up Email to Dutko on Global Warming

I sent Bob this email just now regarding the phone call I made into his program earlier:
I want to document one more of your errors in our discussion on global warming. I said NOBODY in the scientific community denies that we are in the midst of a warming trend. You said they do and asked me to look up "global cooling". I've done so. You're wrong again. Here's a fairly comprehensive list of scientists that disagree with the main IPCC findings. NONE OF THEM deny that the earth is warming. They deny that man is the cause, think the consequences aren't large, etc. None deny the obvious fact that we are in the midst of a serious warming trend. If you are going to claim that your views are based on science, logic, and intellectual reasoning and yet you are going to reject the UNANIMOUS conclusions of the scientific community I think you have to admit you have to drop the "science" part in your "science, logic, and intellectual reasoning." You do not follow science. Feel free to ignore science. Just don't pretend your views are based on science.