Saturday, November 12, 2016

white night

I am a white male American.  But I am struggling to think of white Americans as good people.

The catastrophe of a Trump presidency was produced by a majority of white Americans voting for him.  Everyone else did not.  Many whites of course voted against him, though a definite minority.  More white Americans did not vote at all, enabling his win.

Millions of non-whites now tremble in fear across the nation.  Immigrant families feel under siege.  Black Americans feel even more targeted for police brutality and vigilantism.  Women feel sexual predation and sexual violence are now normalized.  Gays feel threatened.   Schools are filled with newly enabled bullies.  Swastikas springing up.  An energized KKK plans rallies.  Journalists under attack.  A hateful antisemitism is now ordinary.  Muslims or anyone who even looks Muslim are attacked, harassed, intimidated.

Our allies and trade partners stare at us, transfixed.  Aghast.  Billions across the globe are now gravely concerned about a crumbling defense order that protects them against aggression and even nuclear war.  Democracies across the planet worry that the pattern set now by Trump and America will take root in their nations, unraveling their societies.  Autocrats and dictators across the world gleefully make plans patterned on Trump's tactics.  All the gains made against global climate change are being rapidly rolled back, ensuring misery for billions, generation upon generation.

Who made this possible?  Who caused this?  We did.  Angry, heedless, vengeful white American voters.  Lazy, uncaring, disengaged white American non-voters.
Are we good?  Are we good people?  Right now, it is hard to believe that we are.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

adobe and bricks

Do you remember California's extreme drought of 1977?  I remember walking to high school through my east Petaluma neighborhood, looking at the two-inch-wide cracks in the ground with amazement.  To a young and recent Midwestern transplant, the sight of the soil tiled up into polygons of the driest mud made me feel like I was living on Mars.  The cracks were so big you could easily trip on them if you didn't watch your step.

My family, trying to help, went along with the advice of the day.  We put a brick in our toilet to reduce the per-flush water use.  Also: "If it's yellow, let it mellow.  If it's brown, flush it down."

The 2013-14 California drought looks to be worse than 1977.  And different.  I don't remember the smell of wildfires during that winter.  But I smell wildfires every day now, whether I'm in Sacramento, San Diego or San Francisco.

We may be moving into a regional weather pattern not seen in modern times.   The behavior of the "ridiculously resilient ridge" of high barometric pressure suggests that this pattern could continue to endure on that time scale.   It's already lasted 13 months, when it normally lasts just a few months.  The RRR could persist for 13 more months...

Some climate change predictions suggest that this may be the new normal for the North American southwest.  What will 40 million people do if there is no new precipitation for a couple more years?  What if we built a corner of the country for 100 million people for which there is no water?

You can do something.   The hotter the world gets, the worse our drought troubles will be.  The more CO2 we put in the air, the hotter the world gets.  If putting CO2 in the air gets more expensive, we will learn to do less of it.  So, advocate for a carbon tax.

It doesn't have to hurt everyone.  It could be a Pigouvian tax, in which all the proceeds from taxing carbon get refunded to the populace on some basis.  Then, only energy hogs will pay more.  Those making good energy choices will earn more than they pay. Pricing carbon will incentivize the reduction of carbon emissions, without hurting the economy overall.

In the shorter term, you can support the few federal attempts to legislate carbon pricing in general.  Go to and search for "climate".  With a few mouse clicks, you can generate a letter of support for climate legislation that gets sent to your representatives.  Presently there is a Senate bill sponsored by Bernie Sanders to impose a federal carbon tax.  Here, I'll do it for you.

Pushing for political change on climate is ultimately more effective than sticking a brick in your toilet.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

population bomb bomb

This NYT opinion piece teaches us two things: (1) scientists can be ideologues; (2) just being a scientist doesn't mean that you know what you're talking about.

The main problem with Ellis' analysis is that the historical fact that we've remade the planet on some scales does not mean we can do it at all scales.  We've terraformed the Earth's land ecology for agriculture, changed the ocean by hunting whales to near-extinction, and industrialized and urbanized to regionally change much of the landscape. Those things are big, but they're not at the global and geologic time and space scales.  Ocean acidification, climate change, ozone depletion, are planetary scale changes. We are literally creating a different planet than the one we evolved to live in.  We cannot transform the Earth at this scale and still have a planet that we would want to live on.  

The other problem with this analysis is that the largest environmental challenges we face (indeed, the largest challenges we've ever faced) aren't things that we're doing on purpose. (Ellis lists as an example the revolution in agriculture.)  It's the fact that we're fundamentally changing Earth's atmosphere, oceans and climate in unintended ways that is the big problem.

And of course, both the scale and scope of these unintended environmental changes are correlated to world population growth.

Boo, Ellis.

Monday, October 22, 2012

McGovern story

I was really too young to know what was going on when George McGovern ran for president in the 1970's, though what I know now would have made me proud to vote for him, if I could have.

What I do remember from that time was the rage of a couple of elementary school mates when they discovered - purely by chance - that a school book I was reading was written by someone named McGovern.  I vividly remember them tearing it up in front of me.  I think the suburban Detroit town in grew up in was so reactionary that the anger of the local dads filtered down to the boys I went to school with.

Rest in peace, Senator McGovern.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

10 suggested names for new super-PACs

Uniformed Citizens for a Gauzy Future
Losing Our Past
Mustachioed Little Rich Guys from the board game Monopoly for a Dickensian America
Crossroads Ayn Rand
New Centrists for Rolling Over and Taking It
Lemmings USA
Attack Admen for an Attackier America
Futuring Our Future
Troglodytes United
Whitewash NOW

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Unions aren't people, my friend

So, the Supreme Court ruled today that (public sector) unions must first affirmatively get union members' permission to collect and spend money for political purposes. 

Meantime, thanks to the Speech Now D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision and Citizens United SCOTUS decision, corporations are free to take shareholder money and direct unlimited amounts of it towards lobbying without seeking any permission, before, during or after spending their money.

Corporations are people, I guess, with proliferating numbers and kinds of rights.  And unions, while definitely constructed to represent people, are having their rights steadily clipped.