Apr 13 2013

Lawrence Lessig on US election corruption

Kal @ 20:53

Bipartisan equal opportunity corruption.

There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.

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Category: Politics | misinformation | Morals | Climate Change

Apr 4 2013

Texans fear the term ‘climate change’?

Kal @ 23:11

Rebecca Leber in Climate Progress Texas Conservatives Start Fund To Battle Impacts Of Warming-Driven Droughts, But Won’t Mention Climate Change.

txdrought-300x195 Whether Texas lawmakers want to admit it or not, they are already planning for the effects of climate change.

Much of Texas has suffered a prolonged drought that has drained reservoirs to some of their lowest levels — this year could be even worst. The situation is so dire that the GOP-led Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a long-term “rainy day” fund that invests in water infrastructure to prepare for the more frequent droughts in coming decades, although they did not acknowledge the connection to climate change.

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Category: Climate Change | Politics

Jan 28 2013

The New York Times Recognizes Climate Change

Kal @ 18:30

The Climate Change Endgame by Thomas E Lovejoy:

WHETHER in Davos or almost anywhere else that leaders are discussing the world's problems, they are missing by far the biggest issue: the rapidly deteriorating global environment and its ability to support civilization.

The situation is pretty much an endgame. Unless pressing issues of the biology of the planet and of climate change generated by greenhouse gas emissions are addressed with immediacy and at appropriate scale, the matters that occupy Davos discussions will be seen in retrospect as largely irrelevant.

This week, in Bonn, out of sight and out of mind, international negotiators will design the biodiversity and ecosystem equivalent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A full eight years have passed since President Jacques Chirac of France acted as host at a meeting in Paris to create this "Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services."

Progress has been painfully slow. Only now is the "platform" and its work program - to assess status, trends and possible solutions - being designed. In the meantime, rates of extinction and endangerment of species have soared. Ecosystem destruction is massive and accelerating. Institutional responsiveness seems lethargic to a reptilian degree.

Environmental change is happening rapidly and exponentially. We are out of time. Only three generations back - in the same decade as the original scientific publication of the greenhouse effect - my great-grandfather chaired the commission that designed the New York subway system. How was he to anticipate the sea-level rise that contributed in part to the impact of Hurricane Sandy?

How will things look just two or three generations ahead? Can we avoid the greatest intergenerational environmental injustice of all time?

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Category: Climate Change | Politics | Resource Depletion

Dec 6 2012

Which side of the “culture war” are you on?

Kal @ 10:24

Read the article:

Remember, the recent election was not the core event, but a sideshow to the main battle. A "culture war" that was not chosen or started by those who side with science and reason and evidenc-based thinking But it has becomes clear, that kind of thinking -- and a civilization that supports it -- is fighting for its life. And as the great historian Arnold Toynbee said. When a society turns its back on its "creative minority"... that is when most kingdoms, nations, empires and commonwealths fail.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

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Category: Politics | Science

Nov 4 2012

Why Mitt Romney Lies

Kal @ 14:03

According to The Baffler Newsletter it is how Mitt gets them to see him as one of them. It is a somewhat long and interesting read. Thanks to Dan Gillmor for bringing this to attention.

the_baffler_subscribe_tout

In part the New York Times had it right, for as much as it’s worth: Romney’s prevarications are evidence of simple political hucksterism—“short, utterly false sound bites,” repeated“so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.” But the Times misses the bigger picture. Each constituent lie is an instance pointing to a larger, elaborately constructed “truth,” the one central to the right-wing appeal for generations: that liberalism is a species of madness—an esoteric cult of out-of-touch, Europe-besotted ivory tower elites—and conservatism is the creed of regular Americans and vouchsafes the eternal prosperity, security, and moral excellence of God’s chosen nation, which was doing just fine before Bolsheviks started gumming up the works.

A Romney lie in this vein is a pure Ronald Reagan imitation—as in this utterance from 2007: “In France,” Romney announced on the campaign trail, “I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up.” And just as Reagan was found to be reciting film dialogue and jump-cutting anecdotes from his on-screen career into his pseudobiographical reminiscences on the stump, so it turns out that Romney picked up the marriage canard from the Homecoming Saga, a science fiction series written by Mormon author Orson Scott Card. (Another reason for students of Romney’s intellectual development to queasily recall that he told interviewers during that same 2008 presidential run that his favorite work of fiction was Battlefield Earth, the sci-fi opus by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, a consummate shakedown artist in his own right.)

Closing the sale, after all, is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher. Sneering at, or ignoring, your earnest high-minded mandarin gatekeepers—“we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,”as one Romney aide put it—is another part of closing the deal. For years now, the story in the mainstream political press has been Romney’s difficulty in convincing conservatives, finally, that he is truly one of them. For these elites, his lying—so dismaying to the opinion-makers at the New York Times, who act like this is something new—is how he has pulled it off once and for all. And at the grassroots, his fluidity with their preferred fables helps them forget why they never trusted the guy in the first place.

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Category: Politics | misinformation | wingnuttery

Nov 3 2012

Are you better off now?

Kal @ 13:48

David Brin had a number of important points in this piece:  Last Minute "Big Picture" Political Snips & Snarks

== Abandoning a Sinking Ship ==


David Stockman – yes, Ronald Reagan’s budget director and top economic advisor, who now helps lead a rising movement to take back conservatism from the monstrous path it has been taken by Rupert Murdoch, shows how – from an entirely conservative perspectivePaul Ryan’s so-called budget-balancing plan, that has the backing of the entire GOP, is loopy to the point of jibbering incoherence.

I don’t agree with all of Stockman’s counter recommendations… he is, after all, a Reagan Conservative and I would argue with him over many of his proposals.

But I acknowledge them to be sane conservative proposals worth discussion by adults. Of the sort that Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley might have made. Back when top conservatives believed in intellect, in science and facts. And negotiating like adults.

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Category: Politics | misinformation

Oct 30 2012

Carbon Tax?

Kal @ 15:24

Taxes

by Bill Becker

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

That observation by Charles Darwin has interesting implications in these last weeks of the presidential election campaign. It suggests that both candidates may be missing what’s most important to keeping America safe, strong and competitive in the years ahead.

Jobs, education, tax reform and energy security all are important, of course. But the key to America’s success will be our willingness to adapt to the new realities of the 21st century.

One of those realities is that economic development as we have practiced it, and as it is now being replicated around the world, is rapidly pushing us toward several critical ecological boundaries and has already exceeded others. These boundaries are important not only because they threaten some species and some regions of the world; they’re important because exceeding them is an existential threat to continued peace and prosperity. These are not the relatively isolated and repairable environmental problems of the past. They involve global systems that support life, including the oceans, soils and freshwater resources. They also include the atmosphere’s ability to absorb man-made pollution without destabilizing the climate. The most available way to manage that risk is to reduce and eventually stop burning oil and coal to fuel economic development.

….

A central question in this election is whether we will be the architects of our future or its victims, to paraphrase Buckminster Fuller. The United States and its economy are not exempt from the fundamental laws of evolution. We must adapt if we wish to remain the fittest and the strongest of nations.

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Category: Politics | Resource Depletion | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability

Oct 14 2012

Are we in Phase Three of the American Civil War?

Kal @ 18:08

David Brin thinks so.

We are in Phase Three of the American Civil War, and nothing less than militant anger will live up to our ancestors who rose up against very similar kinds of madness (with similar geographic roots) in their day, standing up to save their nation and civilization, not from political opponents but from a madness that had taken over their neighbors. And yes, I might be exaggerating! I admit that - despite clear-eyed view of mountains of evidence supporting the "war" analogy, including the direct manipulation of "red" masses by multiple foreign billionaires, many of then based in the country that attacked us on 9/11. I respond by offering tests that pose Popperian/falsifiable questions: like daring folks to name one Bushite major endeavor that did not lead to monumental harm to either the American republic, its citizens or its indispensable world Pax.

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Category: Politics

Oct 10 2012

Is man-made capital a substitute for nature’s capital?

Kal @ 19:15

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and was one of the main proponents of his supply-side economics. I thought those policies were totally ridiculous at the time and paid him very little mind. For the past couple of weeks I have been reading his blog, PaulCraigRoberts.org. He has strong opinions and he knows a lot about economics. At least some of what he says is spot on. On Friday, 5 May he published the text of an interview by World Affairs Monthly. He talks about the evil of offshoring jobs and suggests something that could be done to alleviate it. Good stuff.

He then goes on to talk about the limits of growth, a topic rarely discussed by mainstream economists.

A more fundamental problem than economists’ ingrained misconceptions about jobs offshoring and free trade is the Solow-Stiglitz production function that is the basis of modern economics. The Solow-Stiglitz production function assumes that man-made capital is a perfect substitute for nature’s capital. This assumption means that there are no ecological limits to economic growth. When we run out of natural capital, man-made capital simply takes its place.

As Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen demonstrates conclusively, this assumption, which is the basis of modern economics, is “a conjuring trick.” Man-made capital and natural capital are complements, not substitutes. Production transforms resources into useful products and into waste products. Natural resources are what are transformed, and labor and man-made capital are agents of transformation.

What is happening in today’s world is that nature’s capital is being exhausted, both the resources and the waste sinks–the places that the waste products from production can be deposited. The air, soil, water, and oceans themselves are being polluted by the waste products of economic activities. As these “external costs” from pollution are not included in costs of producing GDP, economists have no way of knowing if an increase in GDP is worth more than its cost….

There is a lot more food for thought in the interview. Give it a read.

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Category: Accounting | Conventional Economics | Economics | Employment | Politics | Steady-State Economics

May 3 2012

Waco is Wacky

Kal @ 16:47

From Booman Tribune today.

But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: "God made two great lights -- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."

The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.

At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled "We believe in God!" and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they'd always suspected.

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Category: Politics | Morals