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Showing posts from June, 2014

Climate Change Forecasts

A report has been published discussing possible damage from climate change to various regions of the United States.  Everyone should be taking this very seriously because the changes are likely to be dramatic wherever you live. Not so here in the Pacific Northwest where I live though.  The report forecasts that Seattle, which normally has about 5 days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit a year (and never over 100), will experience an increase up to 15 days a year by 2050 and up to 40 days by 2100, and presumably many over 100.  That's nothing compared to what is forecast to happen in the American Southwest.

The important issue for the Northwest is increase in sea level.  The Puget Sound is surrounded by houses built on bluffs that front the beaches.  Even now houses are tumbling into the sound as the bluffs erode.  The report, however, forecasts, at least initially, a small increase in sea level due to countervailing factors.  This is short term good news.  In the long run, though, we ca…

Fighting Climate Change is Good For The Economy

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The World Bank has found that fighting climate change would boost the world's economy by 2.6 trillion dollars.  A carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions would increase employment, increase income, make us healthier, as well as help avoid the dire consequences of global warming.

The planet made a similar transition around 100 years ago as automobiles were introduced to replace horses. There was a huge investment in horses and associated support at that time.  But the increase in population of cities was beginning to make horses impractical.  If we had kept on with horses our cities would be knee deep in horse's excrement.  The transition to cars destroyed a huge part of our economy but in the end we prospered from it.

A transition to green energy would produce a similar economic benefit in addition to our avoiding rising oceans and the desertification of large parts of our planet.  The main reason the Koch brothers and the oil and coal companies are working so hard in oppositio…

Republican Fantasies, Part 2

Republicans and conservatives in general declare that freedom and liberty and small government is the hallmark of their politics. That declaration is grand hypocrisy at its worst because of the sad impact it has on the lives of people. Their position is that government is bad and freedom and liberty are good while at the same time they want this "bad" government to force women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Where is freedom and liberty for women? What about anyone being able to marry whom they love?   Conservatives talk about freedom and liberty and small government but they want the government to prevent men from marrying men, or women marrying women.

Sure men can live with men, and women with women now, but certain privileges come with being married, tax benefits, death and hospital benefits, etc.  Republicans and conservatives cannot claim to be for freedom and liberty when they place qualifications on it.  They cannot say, "well, freedom and liber…

The Last Age is Beginning

African refugees are pouring into Italy.  Syria is in civil war.  Global warming is contributing to these events, and it's just beginning.  These events are ultimately about the maldistribution of resources.  Africans are fleeing wars but these wars are really fights over resources which are being compromised by droughts. Burgeoning populations aggravate competition for resources.   Wars and migration are only going to increase until it becomes globally catastrophic.  Northerners are going to protect their access to resources, and at some point there will be thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and then millions, and then hundreds of millions of people starving at the protected borders of countries while  are refusing to allow them in.  Ultimately it will all come down to three things, access to food, water, and health care. And our future will come down to one group of people desperately holding on to what they have, and another group of people desperate to acquire it.  The cl…

Global Warming Skeptics and Deniers

There are two aspects of global warming that seem clear to me, the evidence for it is as overwhelming as for the theory of gravity, and we are already, at 400 ppm of CO2, well on our way to dire consequences.  I am joined in these conclusions by climate scientists, as well as by people and groups that are following these events very closely.

There are two groups that seem unable to come to grips with this reality, skeptics who believe we'll easily adapt to the changes, and deniers who reject global warming altogether.

The most important deniers are the oil and coal companies and their enablers, members of the U.S. Senate. One of the most important oil company activists are the Koch brothers who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars directly or through groups they support financially.  This group are the 21st Century analogues of the 19th Century Southern slave owners whose wealth and ways of life were threatened by the anti-slavery Abolitionists.  They are prevailing at thi…

The Beginning of the Last Age

Sometime soon, young people, the Millennials, are going to think about their future.  In my twenties, in the 60's, the future burgeoned with possibility.  Hippies, escape back to nature, join a rock band or a commune, anything seemed to be possible.  Sure there was the Vietnam war, a fight for black civil rights and equal rights for women, but it seemed we were on top of all that.

There were some worries, population growth, the nuclear bomb, but they passed eventually.  And soon we all settled down to careers, children, and now grandchildren.

But the Millennials, what are they thinking about their future?  My grandchildren seem to be aware of the uncertainties of the future, but they and their friends have not reached a flashpoint.

Let me describe what I believe that flashpoint to be.  In a few years, certainly by 2020, they will gradually become aware of the dire future awaiting them as the planet warms up.  So what will happen first?  First they will organize and demonstrate, j…

Republican Fantasies, Part I

Republicans cater to their base with positions on abortion, marriage equality, immigration, etc., but they claim their one big thing is opposition to government in general.  Putting aside for the moment the contradiction between this position and their wish for the government to force women to carry pregnancies to term against their will, that private enterprise is always good and government always bad, doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

My conservative friends reflexively trash government.  One friend worked for the EPA and observed some very bad hiring choices and some poor management.  That experience has scarred him for life about government.  My own experience, at the National Institutes of Health was of the very reverse kind, observing people working 12 hour days and getting Nobel Prizes.  Some government has some problems, but some government serves the people well, and some companies do poorly.

For example, in The New York Times this morning two articles appeared showing how ba…

Open Carry Guns

I have several nephews who believe strongly in the open carry of guns and assault weapons.  First they believe it is their right to do so.  Second, they believe they might need to protect themselves from a government turned tyrannical.  Third, that they might need to protect their family from an intruder.  Basically, they see the world filled with bad guys, and all that's standing between them and us are good guys like them with guns.

I've spent plenty of time flying around Vietnam during the late 60's as a crew member on C-130's.  The area around many of the airstrips we flew into were not completely under control of our military, and so we were constantly be shot at on approach.  Khe Sanh was the worst, waves of pinpricks of light from rifles aimed at us in the forests around there as we approached.  We'd land with bullet holes all over the fuselage.  It is very disturbing to be shot at.  A Marine friend of mine was at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive.  He had a…

Amazon vs Hachette

The New York Times, and Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report, both have cast the dispute between Amazon and the Hachette Publishers as involving Amazon vs. book authors.  They are portraying Amazon as a despicable monopolist crushing the ability of authors to sell their books.  They are ignoring other parties to this dispute, publishing corporations, and e-book readers like me.  And the New York Times and Stephen Colbert have not been speaking for me.

The marginal cost of an e-book is some electricity.  Amazon is working on behalf of readers like me by forcing publishers to realistically price their books on the basis that selling a thousand e-books cost them little more than selling one.  That should mean a seriously reduced price for an e-book.  I demand The New York Times and Stephen Colbert to speak for readers like me.