Jul 2 2009

What If I am Wrong on Global Warming?

Kal @ 09:21

Publisher: Robert Rapier posted at Thursday, 02 July 2009 07:15:12 Writing in The Oil Drum

Another question I think a lot about is "What If I am Wrong on Global Warming?" I come down on the side that human activity is contributing to global warming, yet the scientist in me reminds me that "conclusions are tentative." But each camp has elements that feel – all too often with religious fervor - that the other side’s position will lead to either environmental or economic devastation. So we get a lot of vitriol in this discussion, which I don't like.

If the Al Gore contingent is correct, then we are facing some very major problems. As I have written before, I don't expect us to be able to rein in carbon dioxide emissions, so I see a future with ever higher atmospheric CO2, and potential environmental devastation if Al Gore is correct.

On the other hand are those who believe that human activities play little or no role in global warming. They view the opposition as putting global economies at risk by putting a price on carbon emissions. While I think environmental devastation is a much worse consequence than economic stagnation, the impact of that could be pretty severe as well.

What I would prefer to see – instead of two opposing camps dug into bunkers and tossing verbal grenades at each other – are more open minds on both sides. I would like to see the sides posing the question “What if I am wrong?” Another good question to ask in these sorts of debates is “Is there any evidence that would convince me that I am wrong?” I don't know what scientists will say when they look back at this issue a hundred years from now, but I don't want to see the debate squelched by those who shouted the loudest.

In conclusion, I never discount the possibility that I could be wrong about any number of things. I would say that precious few of my views are embedded in granite. That's why I write; to discuss, debate, learn, and change my mind when reason dictates that. But before you decide to respond to this essay with a strongly worded opinion, ask yourself the question “What if I am wrong?”


Category: Climate Change | Resource Depletion | Sustainability

Jun 25 2009

Waterboarding vs Beheading

Kal @ 21:51

This is another in my WingNut Email series; this one came in a couple of days ago.

Doesn’t appear to meet the same criteria that qualifies as torture that Terrorists use such as BEHEADING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Total Fear Factor - 

For those who have never really seen how waterboarding is done, this is an incredible video.  A Playboy journalist bet $1.00/sec that he could withstand waterboarding for 15 seconds.

Watch and see if he won his bet. [the torture porn link was deleted for this post]

P.S. Of the three jihadists known to have been waterboarded, the one who lasted longest was well under one minute.  No injuries, no marks, no scars, and incredibly quick and effective.  Makes you wonder why our enemies resort to the barbaric things they do instead, and you can only conclude that it is because they derive real pleasure out of being the vicious animals that they are.

Well yes, beheading is not nice either.

There is no obvious reason to think beheading is practiced as an alternative to waterboarding, rather it is a slightly more gruesome version of the capital punishment that many conservatives find so attractive. The general idea seems to be that it is a deterrent. I am not aware of any research that shows that capital punishment actually deters anyone. Properly done, beheading does not appear to be more barbaric than any other form of capital punishment.

This email seems to imply that torture is fine as long as there are "No injuries, no marks, no scars, and incredibly quick and effective". It entirely misses the point that the reason we do not torture is because we do not choose to be "the vicious animals that they are." It is not about them, it is about us.


Category: Morals | Politics | wingnuttery

Jun 9 2009

Al Gore - Putting his house in order

Kal @ 16:32

This is another in my WingNut Email series, and once again, hat tip to Greg for sending it along. Another came from Murray yesterday, but it was just to bizarre to even try to make sense of so I did not bother to write about it. Something about how the Obama Cairo speech failed to indict all Muslims for the invasion of Europe in 732.

The email lays out in great detail various facts about Al Gore's large house in Tennessee, including that it is large and old and uses a great deal of electricity and natural gas to keep it going. I have not been able to find the date of building. Or of the email either, it is also apparently badly out of date.

The email then points out that the former Bush ranch near Crawford, TX is very energy efficient. What it does not mention is that the Bush ranch was purchased just in time for the presidential election as a stage prop, was never lived in by the Bush family, and was abandoned/sold even before the Obama inauguration. It was used for vacations and photo sets.

The point of this and other attacks on Gore seems to be that 'if Gore is not a saint, then global warming is a hoax', and besides, Al Gore warmed up the planet single handedly, so na, na, na-na, na. Of course global warming is not about Al Gore, or even George Bush, but it is still kind of fun to poke holes in the hypocrisy of pieces like this. 20090609 gore solar panels

This photo is of the solar panels on the roof of Al Gore's house and was found in Tree Hugger dated 6/12/2007. So anyone circulating the current email has had plenty of time to get it right.

The following is from Drew Johnson On Al Gore’s House

The Gores honored Earth Hour by shutting off the lights at their residence. The heating and air conditioning were turned off as well. But more importantly, the Gores live in a Gold LEED certified home, powered by geothermal power. They have undergone renovations to put solar panels on the roof and participate in all of the renewable power programs offered by their local utility. They aren’t perfect, no family is, but they do their best, year-round to try to make a difference at home and across the country to make a difference on the climate crisis.



Category: Climate Change | Morals | Politics | Solar | Sustainability | wingnuttery

Jun 8 2009

Food Not Lawns

Kal @ 12:00

Yesterday as I was driving here in Santa Cruz, there was a large banner on a wall with the slogan, Food Not Lawns.

This is not exactly a new concept, after all, there is now an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn. And thoughtful people everywhere are planting a bit more in their home gardens this summer. But what if the front lawn fell out of fashion? What could be done with all that sunshine, fertilizer, and water?

I found an article in the Orange County Register written by Cindy McNatt: Cities and businesses, how about losing the lawn?

We've been asked as homeowners to cut back on water use, lose the lawn, get greener, reduce green waste and go organic. The California Friendly Garden Contest acknowledges some of these efforts.

I'm not sticking up for front lawns here, but think about this: Many homeowners use their lawns for family fun and entertainment. For possibly half the population of people who keep a lawn, it serves a function —- at least in the backyard where games are played and canines romp.

Compare the family lawn to the acres of grass planted around commercial buildings, public medians and retail stores. No children playing kick ball, no dogs rolling in the sun, no one catching a nap or picnicking under a shady tree.

Nick Mrvos of the Irvine Ranch Water District tells homeowner groups, "If the only feet that make contact with grass are the guys that mow it, it might be time to consider alternatives."

It doesn't matter how large or small the commercial landscape is, you will no doubt find a strip of grass that needs to be mowed each week. Some swaths we saw were so large they might equal 25 or more typical homeowner lawns. Others were so small they didn't even make sense.

I doubt there is a way to measure how many acres of "silly strips" are planted in grass, but if you spend any time in HOA neighborhoods, or the commercial areas of your town, or even drive through the local takeout restaurant and notice the stupid strip of grass in the planter, you wonder how it adds up in resources. 

Greenbelts are not "green" anymore. Tom Larson, adviser to the Metropolitan Water District said these parkways were designed on the East Coast in the 1800s for storing excess snow. Don't you think it's time to move on?

Commercial building owners could save thousands a year in maintenance fees if they lost their lawns. Ditto for homeowner associations where shrubs and ground covers could be maintained once a month instead of weekly. Cities that need to cut back expenses could lose the grass in purposeless places.

Ron Vanderhoff said, "These greenbelts are from a bygone era. Water, chemicals, runoff, excess fertilizer, green waste, herbicides, air pollution, fossil fuels used all add up to a big mistake in today's era of using less resources and protecting the resources that we do have."

So how 'bout it then? Can cities, HOAs, and commercial property owners pitch in?  [emphasis is mine]

Let's use this estimate, half the population of people who keep a lawn, and try to guess how much productive land could be freed up.



Category: Employment | Morals | Recession | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability

Jun 7 2009

Sea Levels Are Rising: It's Time to Decide Which Coastal Cities Are Worth Saving

Kal @ 12:02

For many purposes, April 17 would be ancient history. Unfortunately, climate change is likely to be causing us problems for a good long while, and precious little is being done about it.

By Scott Thill, AlterNet. Posted April 17, 2009.

Since April Fool's Day expired, there has been nothing but bad news about Earth's various ice shelves circulating through the news. Antarctica's Wordie and Larsen ice shelves? The first is simply gone, and the second is disappearing fast. How about the Connecticut-sized Wilkins shelf? It has fragmented into polar pieces after the ice tether holding it to the Antarctic peninsula snapped this week, signaling that the Earth is undergoing some profound changes.

... "Sea-level rise will change the character of the California coast," Pacific Institute Senior Research Associate and study co-author Heather Cooley, told AlterNet. "My sense is that there are areas we will protect and areas we will abandon. We need to begin the process now."

The Pacific Institute's analysis is a sobering combination of science, statistics and maps illustrating the ravages of inevitable sea rise that will result once the Antarctica and Arctic melts pass their tipping points, so to speak.

But scanning its Google Maps mash-up of California's drowned cities feels like something out of science fiction. A Californian myself, I noticed more than a few areas housing my relatives and friends inundated by the Pacific Ocean, but that's just a personal tragedy.

... Wall Street, a few meters above sea level, will also be swallowed, along with much of New York City, as ocean circulation winds down in the Atlantic, subjecting the Northeast to hyperviolent storms and surges.

... Whatever we decide to do with the Golden State, Cooley and crew suggests we do it quickly. There’s no time to waste, given that we've already wasted so much energy, money and atmosphere living our lives outside of the reality dictated by our natural environment.


Category: Climate Change | Resource Depletion | Sustainability

Jun 6 2009

The Misapplied Trillion Dollars

Kal @ 21:08

This is another in my WingNut Email series. Greg sent along a PowerPoint slide show titled What_is_a_Trillion.pps. It is a rather cute slide show that purports to show how much a trillion dollars is. If this hit piece is to believed, then one trillion in hundred dollar bills is a large number of pallets full of currency. So far, so good. A little education never hurt anyone.

But then the last slide has the attack:

Obama Trillion-600

The clear implication is that President Obama is responsible for all of the trillions of dollars of debt that the US has accumulated, and is in the process of accumulating.

However, Obama has only been in office since January 20, 2009. And at least some of his expenditure proposals will actually help the US and the citizens of the US. That is surely a nice change.

It appears to me the new currency should have looked like this:

Bush Trillion-600 The first stimulus package was under President George. W. Bush.

The first 700 billion dollars, that is 3/4 of a trillion dollars, was spent before Obama was even elected. The Bush Treasury sent that package to congress on Sept 20, 2008.

George W. Bush wasted several trillion dollars on empire building.




 Bush Disaster Photo from Sky News.


Category: wingnuttery

Jun 5 2009

From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

Kal @ 10:15

Excerpted from a post on The Oil Drum.

A steady-state economy is incompatible with continuous growth—either positive or negative growth. The goal of a steady state is to sustain a constant, sufficient stock of real wealth and people for a long time. A downward spiral of negative growth, a depression such as we are entering now, is a failed growth economy, not a steady-state economy. Halting an accelerating downward spiral is necessary, but is not the same thing as resuming continuous positive growth. The growth economy now fails in two ways: (1) positive growth becomes uneconomic in our full-world economy; (2) negative growth, resulting from the bursting of financial bubbles inflated beyond physical limits, though temporarily necessary, soon becomes self-destructive. That leaves a non-growing or steady-state economy as the only long run alternative. The level of physical wealth that the biosphere can sustain in a steady state may well be below the present level. The fact that recent efforts at growth have resulted mainly in bubbles suggests that this is so. Nevertheless, current policies all aim for the full re-establishment of the growth economy. No one denies that our problems would be easier to solve if we were richer. The question is, does growth any longer make us richer, or is it now making us poorer?

I will spend a few more minutes cursing the darkness of growth, but will then try to light ten little candles along the path to a steady state. Some advise me to forget the darkness and focus on the policy candles. But I find that without a dark background the light of my little candles is not visible in the false dawn projected by the economists, whose campaigning optimism never gives hope a chance to emerge from the shadows.

We have many problems (poverty, unemployment, environmental destruction, budget deficit, trade deficit, bailouts, bankruptcy, foreclosures, etc.), but apparently only one solution: economic growth, or as the pundits now like to say, “to grow the economy”-- as if it were a potted plant with healing leaves, like aloe vera or marijuana.

But let us stop right there and ask two questions that all students should put to their economics professors.

First, there is a deep theorem in mathematics that says when something grows it gets bigger! So, when the economy grows it too gets bigger. How big can the economy be, Professor? How big is it now? How big should it be? Have economists ever considered these questions? And most pointedly, what makes them think that growth (i.e., physical expansion of the economic subsystem into the finite containing biosphere), is not already increasing environmental and social costs faster than production benefits, thereby becoming uneconomic growth, making us poorer, not richer? After all, real GDP, the measure of “economic” growth so-called, does not separate costs from benefits, but conflates them as “economic” activity. How would we know when growth became uneconomic? Remedial and defensive activity becomes ever greater as we grow from an “empty-world” to a “full-world” economy, characterized by congestion, interference, displacement, depletion and pollution. The defensive expenditures induced by these negatives are all added to GDP, not subtracted. Be prepared, students, for some hand waving, throat clearing, and subject changing. But don’t be bluffed.

Second question; do you then, Professor, see growth as a continuing process, desirable in itself-- or as a temporary process required to reach a sufficient level of wealth which would thereafter be maintained more or less in a steady state? At least 99% of modern neoclassical economists hold the growth forever view. We have to go back to John Stuart Mill and the earlier Classical Economists to find serious treatment of the idea of a non-growing economy, the Stationary State. What makes modern economists so sure that the Classical Economists were wrong? Just dropping history of economic thought from the curriculum is not a refutation!

It is well worth reading the full post.


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

Jun 3 2009

Torture US Citizens - The goose and gander question

Kal @ 11:25

From Jack M. Balkin in his blog, Balkinization on June 1, 2009.

The assassin who killed Dr. George Tiller at his church, murdered Tiller in order to keep him from performing therapeutic abortions for women. The murderer is one of a long line of religiously inspired radicals who have tried to shut down abortion providers through bombings and murders. They are not the mainstream of the pro-life movement; they are a fringe sect who are not content to protest abortion or even to engage in non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, they believe that they are justified in bombings and killings to prevent great evils that they regard as contrary to God's fundamental law.

Using violence-- like bombings and murders-- to intimidate people in this way is terrorism. It is so in common language, it is so defined in U.S. law. The terrorist in this case and the terrorists in previous abortion clinic bombings and murders are, as far as I am aware, not foreigners. They do not have Arabic or Islamic names. They are American and they live in the United States. However, just like Islamist terrorism, this terrorism is driven by fanatical religious belief. Many religiously inspired terrorists live in other countries; some, however, (who include both Christians and Muslims among their number) live in the United States and are U.S. citizens or resident aliens.

...In particular, consider the following questions:

(1) Should the United States be able to hold Roeder without trial in order to prevent him from returning to society to kill more abortion providers? If we believe that Roeder and other domestic terrorists will plan further attacks on abortion providers and abortion clinics if we let them free, can we subject them to indefinite detention?

(2) The Obama Administration is currently considering a national security court to make decisions about the detention of suspected terrorists, with the power to order continued preventive detention. Should this court be able to hear cases involving U.S. citizens, whether they are Muslim or Christian?

(3) The U.S. government has argued that at least some terrorists should not be tried through the criminal process with its various Bill of Rights protections but instead can and should be tried through military commissions, where the standards of proof and various procedural protections are lowered. If Roeder is a domestic terrorist, can the U.S. government subject him to trial by a military commission instead of a criminal prosecution? Although the current version of the 2006 Military Commission Act does not bestow jurisdiction to try citizens, could we or should we amend it to include citizens who we believe are likely to commit or have committed terrorist acts?

(4) One of the most important reasons for detaining terrorists (suspected or otherwise) is to obtain information about future terrorist attacks that may save lives and prevent future bombings. To procure this information, can the government dispense with the usual constitutional and legal safeguards against coercive interrogation? Should it be able to subject Roeder to enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and other methods, to determine whether Roeder knows of any other persons who are likely to commit violence against abortion clinics or against abortion providers in the future? Would your answer change if you believed that an attack on an abortion provider or a bombing of an abortion clinic was imminent?

(5) Terrorists and terrorist organizations need money and resources to operate effectively. Often the only way to stop them is to dry up their sources of financial and logistical support. Can the U.S. government freeze the assets of pro-life organizations and make it illegal to contribute money to a pro-life charity that it believes might funnel money or provide material support to persons like Roeder or to organizations that practice violence against abortion providers? Can the government arrest, detain, and seize the property of anti-abortion activists who helped Roeder in any way in the months leading up to his crime, for example by giving him rides or allowing him to stay in their homes?


Category: Morals | Politics

Jun 2 2009

Strange Bedfellows - Eschaton and Sara

Kal @ 13:24

20090602 Eschaton and Sara - 500



Category: wingnuttery

Jun 2 2009

Calling all Nuts, Flakes, and Hippies

Kal @ 12:53

Verbatim quote from a "funny" email I received today. I have decided to highlight some of the strange stuff that comes into my email box.

20090602 Barocky

In honor of the 44th President of the United States, Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream has introduced a new flavor: " Barocky Road ." Barocky Road is a blend of half vanilla, half chocolate, and surrounded by nuts and flakes. The vanilla portion of the mix is not openly advertised and usually denied as an ingredient. The nuts and flakes are all very bitter and hard to swallow.

The cost is $100.00 per scoop. When purchased it will be presented to you in a large beautiful cone, but then the ice cream is taken away and given to the person in line behind you. You are left with an empty wallet and no change, holding an empty cone with no hope of getting any ice cream.

Are you stimulated?

This one is really pretty mild as these things go. I haven't actually seen any hippies surrounding Obama, and there are precious few liberals either. But I guess it gives the right wing something to do while contemplating the evening news.

I checked on the Bakin-Robbins website, and found no mention of this new flavor. Do you suppose someone just made this up?


Category: wingnuttery