Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

The Three Biggest Issues Facing America, What Do They Have in Common?

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In my considered estimation (I have a lot of time to think at work,) the USA has three issues facing it that dwarf other issues of the day. These would be the upwards transfer of wealth, the so called “War on Terror,” and global warming. What do these all have in common, aside from taking place on Earth? Easy, as I’m sure my astute readers recognized, all three were basically completely ignored during the election. Furthermore, they get short shrift in the mainstream media at the best of times. The upwards transfer of wealth is the most ignored, most Americans aren’t even aware that the middle class and poor have stagnated since the late seventies, while the rich got ever richer. Global warming gets some coverage, but it’s lame coverage that claims there is still scientific controversy about the topic. And the War on Terror gets lots of coverage, all of it ranging from sickening adulation to criticism so tepid it’s embarrassing in a  so called free society. This is why we’re doomed, the agents of our destruction are running amok, and our national debates are about abortion, gay marriage, and marijuana.

The first of the big three would be the upwards transfer of wealth. This isn’t debatable, anymore than Evolution or Young Earth Creationism are debatable. Since the 1970s the rich have gotten ever richer, while the poor and middle class have stagnated. A process that continues to this day, over 90% of the gains from the last few years of “economic “recovery” have gone to the 1%. This is both a recipe for disaster, and the complete opposite of what made America great in the first place. Sure the richer the rich get, the more they figure out ways to make even more “wealth,” but none of that money goes anywhere. Having trillions of dollars sitting in financial instruments may make the rich very very rich … but it not only does nothing for the economy, it’s a brake on the real economy. This is why interstate banking shouldn’t be allowed, along with a host of other now-gutted laws and regulations that kept money circulating locally instead of piling up in offshore accounts. The Occupy movement at least succeeded in getting more people aware of this, but unless it is stopped, we will eventually (and maybe sooner than later) be a land of poor serfs with a  few fabulously rich overlords. History teaches us that this isn’t the road to national prosperity, it’s the road to national disaster.

Then there’s the endless “War on Terror.” OBL gave the people who want to maintain western hegemony over the planet, IE the upwards transfer of wealth on a planetary scale, a blank check. And they have spent it on building a vast “security” state and creating an overt world wide empire. This is crazy on several levels, not the least of which it’s the greatest over-reaction to a threat in history even on the face of its putative rationale. It in essence is a staggering waste of resources that would be far better spent on infrastructure, education, and health care. The US is lagging well behind the rest of the developed world in all three, just to maintain a military larger than the rest of the world combined? A military largely designed to fight a war with a country that no longer exists? And yes, building a giant security state is a threat to our liberties; it’s both unnecessary  and will eventually be misused when the wrong person gets in power. Lastly, waging war around the world and the ever increasing use of flying death squads, aka drones, isn’t making us safer, it’s creating new enemies. Look how well that policy has worked for Israel, they live inside of a fucking giant wall in complete isolation from their neighbours, yeah, that’s peaceful co-existence.

And lastly, the elephant in the room so big that it’s started flattening whole states, global warming. The facts behind this are overwhelming, the world is rapidly getting warmer, and human activity is contributing in a major way. Yet the energy industry’s legions of well funded think tanks, not to mention their just plain overt influence on the mainstream media and politics, continue to confuse the issue and create the illusion that there is some sort of scientific debate. And this process is made worse by a religous-political party that is actively denying all sorts of science, not just global warming. And when they aren’t denying it, they are claiming we can adjust. That makes about as much sense as “adjusting” when your house catches on fire. When your house catches on fire, you put out the goddamn fire, you don’t “adjust” to it.

Sadly I don’t see much chance of any of these issues being addressed any time soon. I hope I’m wrong.

(Noah’s Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846 Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since it was painted in 1846, under current US copyright law this image is public domain. It’s a painting of Noah’s Ark, a Bronze Age myth that apparently many adults still literally believe in.  I still find it hard to get my mind around the idea that functioning adults believe in the reality of something in the same category as Santa Claus. Kinda scary really. Maybe I should have listed religious fundamentalism as the fourth crisis facing America, but I dunno, in some ways it over-arches all the others. Hell, in some way all of the crises facing America, and much of the world, have their roots in religious fundamentalism. A topic for another day.)

Injured kittens, elections, and worse stuff

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On the way to work today the bus got mired in traffic. Then I saw emergency lights ahead, the police were routing traffic into one lane. Getting closer I saw why. There was an injured kitten in the road, a half grown little stripey guy. One of the cops was standing so as to keep him in the shade. For some reason the sight just about to broke my heart, I cried on and off all day. So much sadness in the world, this just put me over the edge I guess. I hope the little guy made it.

I’ll be glad when the election is over. It’s been one of the uglier elections in my memory, if not the ugliest. I still honestly don’t give a crap who wins, both candidates have aspects that are so so creepy it makes my flesh crawl. Both candidates are a tool of the bankers, militarists, and energy cartel. Obama’s social policy window dressing is a bit better, but living in a theocracy might actually make Americans snap out of their revery. More on point, I think if Superman got elected, we’d still be hosed. America is like a stately old oak tree … completely rotted out inside. It looks majestic, but one of these days there will be a stiff breeze and down it goes. It’s not going to be pretty.

Obama. Barrack “kill list” Obama. I find it more than disturbing that the POTUS maintains a kill list, a list that can and has included Americans. It’s disturbing in and of itself, but that no one is upset about it is just plain scary. Nixon had an enemy’s list, and was excoriated for it; Obama has a kill list, and no one cares? People went wild over non-existent “death panels,” but don’t care that Obama has set himself up as a death panel of one? I am not reassured.

Then we have the rapist’s right’s party. Think about this: We have a Senate candidate Mourdock claiming that a rape  pregnancy was a gift from God and couldn’t be aborted. He said he anguished over this question before coming to that conclusion. I’m a little unclear what he anguished over. He couldn’t have anguished over how he would feel if he were raped and impregnated, since that can’t happen to him. So he must have anguished over how he would feel if he raped and impregnated someone. And he concluded that whoever he, or any man, chooses to rape;  if the woman is impregnated, she must bear the child. The rapist gets to choose, the raped victim doesn’t. Right. Romney endorsed this guy. Ryan holds similar view. This is crazy, a perversion of Christianity, and an example of rape culture. Again, not reassured.

I like Jill Stein, but nothing short of a miracle will get her in the White House. It might make a good science fiction story, or an unlikely Hollywood movie. I think they put Ron Paul back in cryogenic suspension, I don’t know where he went. Probably conveyed to media purgatory. There’s other stuff on ballots. I’m cynical about it all. The special interests have it locked up, even when they lose, they have the lawyers and the money to fix it. Legalized corruption on a scale never before seen in history. See, the USA is still number one! On the other hand, unlike so many people, I’m not going to freak out no matter who gets elected. Whoever gets elected has my support, at least initially. Whoever wins has an unholy mess to contend with, and the last thing America needs now is sore losers. My studied neutrality may only last to the acceptance speech, tomorrow is another day.

Lastly, so as not to be accused of excess negatively, can I envision an encouraging outcome on election day? Yes. Yes I can. I hope the winning candidate sees an injured kitten in the road, and his heart is softened and his mind is cleared, and he gives an acceptance speech that resonates with all Americans, and opens a dialog that begins to heal this fractured land. See, I can still dream.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Not being used for profit, it’s just such a lovely image, I couldn’t resist. I got it from this site. It’s destruction from Hurricane Sandy. The image says a lot to me. Who is this woman? Where is she going?)

Written by unitedcats

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Hurricane Sandy and Related News

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This close to the election, everything seems to revolve around the election. At least if one is a hard-core Republican. Or more on point, everything seems to revolve around hating Obama. The bodies weren’t even cold in Benghazi and Romney was heaping criticism on Obama, and he never let up. Odd, I don’t recall the GOP ever criticizing Bush for his military fiascoes, but once Obama was in charge, nothing but criticism. Hurricane Sandy appears to be the same. A Republican governor praises Obama for his prompt and effective response to Hurricane Sandy, and right wing pundits are foaming at the mouth. Classy, real classy. I used to be a Republican, but the party I knew at least acknowledged that we were all Americans, and that it was the politician’s job to work together to run the country.  Now Republicans seem to be trying to outdo themselves at reaching ever more ridiculous levels of partisanship. Granted there are voices on the left falling into the same trap, but I’ve yet to hear any liberals criticizing Obama for helping out a Republican governor. Plenty of them have praised Governor Christie though, I was impressed. Yeah, the storm was a break for Obama, but the Republicans could have handled the situation with far more dignity, instead they made it clear no matter how bad things get, no matter how many Americans die; Obama and the people who support him, tens of millions of Americans, can go f**k themselves. I’ll be glad when the election is over and Romney can move on to being a rodeo clown.

Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, or Superstorm Sandy as some are calling it, it was quite the storm. At least 90 dead in the USA, far more in the Caribbean. It wasn’t a super powerful storm, but it was super huge, one of the biggest hurricanes on record, it affected 24 states in the USA and numerous nations in the Carribean. Sandy wasn’t unprecedented, but it was certainly unusual. It’s already on track to be the second most damaging USA East Coast hurricane ever. Still, several times a century a storm like this can be expected to hit New York. And the frequency will be going up as the tropical seas get warmer. The real damage was caused by the storm surge. A storm surge is a pile of water pushed ahead of a storm by winds, surges of over 30 feet have been recorded. Think a tide thirty feet high. Not a pretty sight, storm surges are the big killer in hurricanes and cyclones. On the plus side, they can be prevented. A storm surge killed thousands in Holland in 1953, giant coastal defenses were built to prevent it happening again. Such were suggested for New York long ago, the idea is being revisited in the aftermath of Sandy. We’ll see.

A discussion of Sandy wouldn’t be complete without some mention of global warming. Was Sandy caused by global warming? It’s impossible to say, global warming is about climate, not weather. A fact that global climate change deniers conveniently ignore pretty much every time there is a severe snowstorm somewhere. Granted plenty of global warming activists are claiming that Sandy is clear proof of global warming. I feel their frustration, the globe increasingly is having the kind of extreme weather events that global warming predicts, the fact that it’s not possible to conclusively say that a particular event was caused by global warming is very difficult to explain to people who want to resist science they don’t approve of. However, even if global warming didn’t cause Sandy, it made it worse. That seems to be pretty clear to the climatologists. And at least it got the topic back on the news, that’s a good thing. Good for everyone except the coal and oil industry, sadly they own a lot of think tanks, politicians, and journalists … and they’re not afraid to use them.

In other Sandy  news, a Brazilian model, Nana Gouvea, thought it would make a nice backdrop for a photo shoot. One pic helpfully posted above. Her pics went viral. She got heaps of criticism and outrage. Granted it is a tasteless and tacky thing to do. On the other hand, she got tons of publicity. No harm, no foul. It’s not like she’s aspiring for political office, and she didn’t actually hurt anyone. I think it’s a clever idea. Ya, people are outraged. So what? On a scale of one to ten when it comes to outrageous items in the news, this is a zero. There’s tons of sleaze and crime every day far more deserving of outrage than a tasteless photo shoot. Priorities people, priorities. Heck, as my friend Steve Burke said: “Some guys will be seeing the damage for the first time thanks to these photos.”

Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, they aren’t being used for profit and are central to illustrating the post. I don’t know who to credit the top one to, the second I assume is owned by Ms Noumea herself. Since I linked to her site and praised her photo shoot, hopefully that’s attribution enough. It would be nice if someday copyright law could be re-written to reflect reality, alas industry is easily the slowest element in a culture to adapt to changing times, and often uses its influence to impeded progress.  Another blog post for another day.)

Sliming Towards Babylon

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I’ve been involved in a  work project the past four days that has kept me tired and covered in sawdust. Neither is terribly conducive to blogging. I did get one post sort of written, but it stalled. So here I am, churning out a random post. Well, not entirely random I suppose. In fact generating a post by random would just yield gibberish in virtually all cases. No, these are the disjointed and tired thoughts of an aging hominid on the surface of an unremarkable planet orbiting an unremarkable star. OK, mostly gibberish.

Well, Romney looks like he’s going down in flames. He can’t even make a joke anymore without getting pilloried. He does seem to have a way of putting his foot in his mouth. I’m back to my original 2012 election analysis of some time ago, The Repubs will field a weak candidate because no one in their right mind wants to take on Obama. And the Repubs are also paying for four years of obstructionism; I mean, for four years, if Obama did it, they were agin it. Their programmed core voters of course all know Obama is a socialist who is destroying the country, the same way Liberal core voters think Obama is some sort of liberal humanitarian, but to win the election the Republicans needed to appeal to middle of the road voters and just in general people who don’t strongly identify with either party. And not only have the Repubs failed to do this, they seem to have gone out of their way to alienate a number of demographics. Right now I’m calling the election for Obama.

In science news, scientists have been studying how slime mould might take over the world. Helpful illustration above. Yes, scientists really did cover a globe with agar and corn flakes to see how a slime mould would spread. For those unfamiliar with slime mould, it’s a mould that grows branches in search of food. Is there any practical use for this research, or are scientists just wasting money? Of course there is! People who think scientists should study useful things are idiots. Idiots in the sense that their opinion shows they know dipsquat about science. There’s nothing stupider than someone who holds an opinion about something they are ignorant about. Why is it idiocy? Because there’s simply no way to tell in advance what research may lead to useful advances. In this case scientists are interested in slime mould’s pathfinding ability, and this research someday might contribute to designing transportation systems. That’s a pretty practical application from growing mould on a globe.

Speaking of the global scene, the chances of war have gone down, though it’s still ugly. And it’s already war, so I mean a bigger war. It is fascinating to me how we have drifted from being more or less at peace to being in constant war. In the eighties if a US serviceman died overseas, it was front page news. Now they die all the time and no one cares. (Political posturing doesn’t count.) Syria is in full armed insurrection. It’s not really a civil war, but the media’s use of war terminology is muddy at best. Ahmadinejad showed that his international diplomacy skills are on par with Romney’s. A lot of what he says makes perfect sense, but if he’d leave out the egregious insults to Israel and Jews he’d make a lot more headway on the world scene. His term is almost up, that should be interesting. Afghanistan: We’ve surrendered to the Taliban, but aren’t going to admit it until after the election. IE all joint training and exercises with the Afghan army have been halted. It’s over folks.

BS aside, world drought and climate changes are the elephants in the room. My contacts in the Midwest say they’ve never seen anything like it before. There’s been serious global drought issues for a number of years now, and it may get worse. Arctic ice is at unprecedented lows this fall as well. World wide bacon shortage unavoidable at this point. Some sort of secret plot of Obama’s no doubt. I think humanity may survive, but the global civilization we have built has foundations of sand. And a Wind is Rising.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is being used for educational purposes. The fine scientist who holds the copyright: Professor Adam Adamatzky. I’ll end with a science nerd joke: We don’t allow faster than light neutrinos in here, said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.)

Aren’t we too puny to rival the great forces of nature that shape our planet?

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Aral Sea 1989-2008I was wondering the other day how much human activity is altering the plant, erosion specifically was what got me looking into the subject. I mean, humans have converted vast amounts of forest and prairie into farmland or worse, and erosion rates must have gone up significantly over normal background  rates of erosion. Well, turns out geologists have calculated that the global erosion rate is about 10 billion tons of sediment moved from mountains to sea every year. Since the onset of agriculture, this has risen to about 28 billion tons per year. And we also move tens of billions of other material around in the form of mining, concrete production, etc. There’s not any question that humans are now the dominant force shaping the very surface of the Earth by a huge margin. The numbers a so huge that geologists are seriously considering defining the human era as a whole new geological era, the Anthropocene Epoch.

Then there’s the impact of humans have on the atmosphere. Let’s look at volcanoes. Every year volcanoes erupt and dump copious amounts of CO2 and SO2 (sulphur dioxide) into the atmosphere. Humans? We dump about 100 times and five times respectively as much CO2 and SO2 into the atmosphere every year as volcanoes. This is not chicken scratch. In fact the amount of CO2 released by humans and absorbed by the oceans has increased ocean acidity by 25%. This is a huge increase, and has changed the geological processes on the ocean floor in ways we don’t begin to understand.

Let’s just look at it from an energy standpoint. The heat energy released by the Earth every year is well understood. It’s about 44 trillion watts a year. This is what powers volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics. Human activity is about 16 trillion watts per year. Yes, human energy output is now about 1/3 the energy output of the Earth itself! And if it keeps doubling every 34 years, the current rate of increase, by about 2060 humans will be generating more energy than the Earth! Puny my ass.

It gets worse. As CO2 builds up in the atmosphere it increases the greenhouse effect, IE it traps more of the Sun’s heat on the Earth, warming the crust, the oceans, and the air. If the CO2 in the atmosphere doubles, it will add about 1300 trillion watts of heat energy to the Earth every year! That’s about 28 times the energy the Earth generates every year. And we’re well on the way, humans have increased the CO2 in the atmosphere by about 40% so far with no end in sight. Humans are literally cooking the planet’s crust, atmosphere, and oceans. Literally.

And these are just the big picture items. Little picture items, though the term is misleading, include deforestation, habitat destruction, over-fishing, and groundwater depletion just to name a few. Then there’s the dizzying array of chemicals we make and dump. Any of these could fill volumes with their effects, at least their known effects. My point here is very simple, humans not only are having a huge impact on the nature of our planet, we have no clue what the end results of these will be.

We are deliberately and literally geoengineering our planet, our only planet, with little to no understanding of the long term consequences of our actions. This is why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, and this is why I question the idea that humans are an intelligent species. We are transforming the globe in ways we don’t even begin to understand, in the name of greed, ideology, and religion.

This isn’t going to end well.

(The above image is a NASA image and is being used legally, essentially it’s a Public Domain image as long as it is used in such a way that does not imply that NASA is endorsing a product or service. NASA does not endorse Doug’s Darkworld. It’s the decline of the Aral Sea in central Asia, once the world’s fourth largest lake. It’s now about 10% of it’s former size, entirely due to human activity and the results have been catastrophic. Lastly, much of the information on this post came from Our effect on the earth is real: how we’re geo-engineering the planet.)

Written by unitedcats

July 10, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Doug’s Angryworld

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fall of the Rebel Angels

Part of the reason my blogging has slowed down recently is that so much of what is going on today makes me mad. So I decided to vent about it, maybe it will be cathartic, maybe it will just make me madder. In no particular order, and in no way comprehensive, here are ten things I spend my time seething about. Be warned, I may use some harsh language as the situation warrants.

1. The rich are ass raping us all, and tens of millions of Americans are clamouring for more. The rich have been getting richer in the USA since the 1970s, while the middle class has slowly and steadily lost ground. This is not debatable. They’ve moved our factories to foreign lands, slashed their taxes, taken over our government and mainstream media, and stolen trillions from the public till. And most Americans are so brain-washed and propagandized that they blame immigrants, liberals, conservatives, atheists, shriners, whatever. Anyone but the people who have actually gotten us into this mess.

2. The debt, an extension of number one. The Federal government  has been running in the red a record breaking 33 months now. State and local governments are no better. How in the name of God did the richest country the world has ever seen run up debts so insane that there is no conceivable way to ever pay them off? The infinite greed of the rich and the apparently infinite stupidity of the great unwashed masses is my guess.

3. The Pentagon. There was a reason the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to a standing army. Armies get involved in politics, and then get the country involved in wars. All of which costs the country blood and money. And it just keeps getting worse, while tens of millions of Americans regurgitate the crap that our legions overseas are fighting to “defend our freedoms.” No, they are fighting and dying to make the rich richer and create endless new enemies for the USA. Frankly the US army needs to be disbanded it’s so out of control.

4. The historic last flight of the space shuttle. Good riddance. The space shuttle was one of the biggest boondoggles in history, it should never have been built in the first place, and it most certainly should have been canned after the first one blew up. Yet Americans are celebrating the lives lost and the billions wasted on this flying cash cow.

5. Iran is going to have nukes soon! Yes, another right wing think tank claims that Iran is going to be building nukes soon! Yes, the exact same claim that has been made by Israeli and American war mongers since the 1980s! Yes, for nearly thirty years Iran has been “just about to” build nuclear weapons! Meanwhile Israel and the USA have massively increased their war spending, including the creation of an Israeli nuclear arsenal. The USA spends more money on air conditioning for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the entire Iranian military budget, yet we are supposed to quail in our boots because Iran might someday acquire a few fifties era nukes?

6. Casey Anderson. A woman was acquitted of a terrible crime in a fair trial … and millions of Americans are braying for her blood. Literally. How does this make them any different than stone throwing Muslims? It doesn’t.

7. Health Care. France spends 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with cradle to grave health care of the highest quality. The USA spends 16% of its GNP on health care and provides its citizens with the worst health care in the industrialized world. Anyone who isn’t mad about this is a fool.

8. Fucking the globe. From climate change to deforestation to over-fishing humans are making widespread and unprecedented changes to the surface of our fine planet. Humans are now the greatest force for change operating on the surface of the Earth in numerous realms, in most cases either ignorant of what the end result will be, or worse, deliberately proceeding even though our best minds say the end result will be catastrophic. Collectively we are no smarter than ants.

9. Religious nuts. Even the Romans understood: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) And here we are two thousand years later blowing each other up, destroying the planet, and breeding like rabbits because people think it’s a great idea to do stuff because of what someone’s imaginary friend said. Jesus wept.

10. We’re all little better than monkeys. Yes, science has now shown that our brains are hard wired to be stupid. When most people are confronted with logical and scientific evidence that refutes some stupid idea they have, it reinforces their beliefs! This wouldn’t be such problem if our leaders weren’t all too eager to promote dumb fuck ideas because it makes them richer and more powerful.

In conclusion, speaking globally, this isn’t going to end well. Speaking locally, despite a missing lime and a recalcitrant pull tab, it’s going quite well and will end up nicely. And when I wake up, maybe the last 31 years will have all been a nightmare. A man can dream.

(The above image is of a painting made in 1562, so it’s currently Public Domain under US copyright law. I expect that to change soon as corporations twist the law to their own purposes. It’s titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Brueghal the Elder. I believe it’s self evident why I thought this was an appropriate image for this post.)

Arbeit macht frei, global warming, Mary and Joseph, and trouble at TESCO

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Well, the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign over the Auschwitz Death Camp gate has been stolen. The words mean “Work sets you free.” A spokesman for the holocaust museum called it an “act of war.” No, it was an act of vandalism and theft for God’s sake. Frankly, there are times when I think that holocaust remembrance has crossed the line into holocaust worship, and when someone calls a simple act of vandalism an “act of war,” that line has been crossed. Or at least the line between considered response and hysterical overreaction. The same spokesman also said he assumed it was stolen by neo-Nazis. I dunno, maybe it was stolen by people who think that the goddamn camp should be bulldozed instead of memorialized? The holocaust was a terrible thing, but do we really need to make the Death Camps into what are almost  shrines to remember that?

Moving right along …

… speaking of shrines, the above image was sent in by a long time reader. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, so I’m posting it for general interest. As far as I am concerned, as soon as someone brings up Al Gore in any discussion about AGW (human caused global warming,) they have admitted they either know nothing about the science involved, or are afraid to actually debate the science involved. Mostly the former, I’ve been studying climatology for years now and still don’t understand the half of it. Not to mention that when someone uses mocking in a debate, they are pretty much admitting they don’t want to debate. Still, I guess some will be amused by it.

And while we are on the topic of odd pictures, there’s this little gem from New Zealand:

This was a billboard put up by a church in New Zealand aimed at “challenging stereotypes” about the birth of Christ. Within hours it had been defaced by some enraged local, and came under heavy flak from Catholics among others. Since the brew ha ha about “The Last Temptation of Christ” I have been puzzled by the fact that some Christians basically get extremely upset about even the suggestion that the birth of Christ might have actually involved normal human beings. In the movie they were upset by the idea that Christ might have human doubts and feelings, he was portrayed as imagining while nailed to the cross that maybe he should have just married Mary Magdalen and settled down and had a family instead of becoming a preacher. I don’t really see why the idea that the divine might experience human thought s and emotions is all that threatening, I thought we were made in his image? Maybe someone can explain it to me.

And since weird images seems to be the theme of this post, I’ll conclude with this one:

This was a Christmas card sold by a big chain store in the UK. The company in question, TESCO, withdrew the card and apologized after people complained. To me this falls under the “what were they thinking category?” Yeah, on the one hand it’s just light hearted fun and maybe even is trying to make a point. On the other hand, kids were actually physically assaulted on the recent Facebook “kick a  ginger day,” so I can see why some people were upset. My main thought is that anything that serves to stereotype people is at least part of the problem. Since stereotyping people by the colour of their hair has to be one of the stupidest stereotypes around, and has resulted in physical violence, I see no problem with the store in question withdrawing the card and apologizing. And with a  lot of stuff like this, even though it purports to be humorous, I don’t get the joke.

Is there any theme to these images? Not really. The first one is simply an illustration, and unless you’re a  holocaust denier, I can’t see it causing any offence. The second one, about global warming, is meant to be belittling and mocking. Since I can’t think of a better way for AGW deniers to proclaim that they don’t  have any real scientific arguments, I don’t have a problem with it. The Mary and Joseph image was produced by a  liberal Christian church, ostensibly to promote discussion. I’m not surprised that people took offence though, there are Christians just as irrational about “insults” to their saviour as some Muslims are about insulting Mohammad. You’d think a Christian church would have known that, but c’est la vie. The last image, who knows what the motivation of the card’s creator was, though I kind of suspect that only someone who was genuinely prejudiced would come up with something like this.

Next week, I change my mind about Obama, I rethink the threat of fascism in America, and Gran Torino. Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above images are all claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. None of them are being used for profit, some of them are arguably important images, and by definition they illustrate what the post is about, themselves. I actually thought the Joseph and Mary one was really funny. Poor guy, can you imagine, he’s like: “You had a one night stand with who?“)

Written by unitedcats

December 18, 2009 at 11:09 am


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Climategate. I haven’t written about climategate yet. In fact I haven’t written about global warming at all for awhile. There’s reasons for that, but it is an important topic, so it deserves the occasional glance. Important, but depressing. OK, climategate. In short, someone hacked into a major centre of climate research, stole a vast amount of stuff including email, and published it. Some of the emails are pretty embarrassing, careers may be hurt or ruined. And there’s certainly evidence that some scientists engaged in less than ethical conduct to prove the case that human caused global warming is a problem. People sceptical of AGW (anthropogenic global warming, the idea that human activity is warming the globe) are making this out to be a very important development, some have even gone so far as to claim that this is the final proof that AGW is a hoax.

Before I go further, I have a problem here. If I understand it correctly, the sceptics are claiming that essentially the entire field of climatology is conspiring to “hoax” the world about AGW, presumably in order to keep the research grants coming. This alone gives me pause, has there ever been a case in history where an entire scientific discipline conspired to mislead the planet?  We’re talking tens of thousands of people in every country on Earth, and we  are talking all of them. Climatologists, the scientists who have actually spent their entire lives studying climate, are essentially in 100 percent in agreement that AGW is a reality. I find it very difficult to swallow that an entire branch of science is so corrupt and/or ignorant that they would perpetrate and/or fall for a hoax on this scale. Finding even a handful of people to conspire with is a tricky business, but thousands of them? Now maybe I’m overstating my case, but for the sceptics to be right, the entire field of climatology has to be wrong. Right?

Back to Climategate. I have a problem here too. Climategate isn’t about the science.  IE Even if we grant the worst case scenario, that a handful of scientists used unethical (and possibly illegal) means to promote their case, what does that have to do with the science? Well, nothing. The stolen and released emails do not show that any data was falsified or  that any studies need to be withdrawn. So no matter how damaging they are to the authors of the emails, what the stolen emails don’t address is the data and science itself. So what, exactly, does Climategate tell us about AGW? Nothing. I’d go more into the nuts and bolts of the whole mess, but others have done it better. In fact as far as I can tell, the AGW sceptics are operating the same way that a lot of people who have “maverick” beliefs are operating. They latch onto anything that appears to support their case, and claim that it discredits everything that doesn’t support their case. Um, one can support any belief in this fashion.

Moving right along, I’m actually not even going to address AGW, because it doesn’t matter. that’s right, it doesn’t matter if AGW is proved beyond any doubt. This is because whether or not one believes that humans are changing the climate, there isn’t any doubt whatsoever that the climate is changing. Even worse, the changes are much worse than the models predicted just a few years ago. The ice caps are melting, the glaciers are melting, and sea ice is disappearing at a much greater rate than anyone predicted. The evidence for this is documented in hundreds of studies world wide, by scientists from every country. Sea levels have risen an inch and a half in the last decade alone, and the rate of change is actually accelerating. These two links both address the actual science and its relevance to Climategate. I highly recommend them: What happened to the evidence? and The Reality of Climategate. I also find it interesting that the global warming sceptic’s position could have been written by the PR department of any major oil company. Interesting company to keep.

Another point that rarely gets mentioned, is that the people who think that human produced CO2 is part of the problem aren’t advocating “doing something” about it. They are advocating that the people who are doing something, slow down what they are doing. IE the sceptics who claim that CO2 isn’t part of the problem need to demonstrate that what is being done is perfectly safe. By dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate,  we are conducting the greatest scientific experiment in history using our own planet as a guinea pig! Um, if there is even a 1% chance that AGW is a reality, isn’t this a terrible risk to take? I wish some of the sceptics would explain just why they think we should conduct this sort of planetary experiment, what, exactly, is the point?

Which leads us to my last point, what, exactly, is so wrong about cutting CO2 emissions? Making things less polluting is going to create plenty of jobs, it’s not like the environmental movement of the 60s and 70s shut down the planet’s industries. Eating less meat, relying more on walking and public transit, recycling, buying locally produced products, growing a vegetable garden … this is not exactly waterboarding now, is it? In fact I would venture to say that most people either wouldn’t notice the difference, or would actually be healthier and happier if these changes were to take place. Even if the oil companies and car companies make fewer profits, it’s not like the money is vanishing, it just means it’s circulating somewhere else in the economy. And pretty much has to be circulating somewhere lower down by definition, nu?

Lastly, the final point, and the reason I don’t write about this very often. (Well, aside from the fact that I don’t think any of the remaining AGW sceptics are particularly interested in debate, but I digress.) The reason I don’t write about AGW much is that we aren’t going to do anything until it is way too late. The governments of China, the USA, and  Canada are completely suborned by corporate/business interests, and their is zero chance they will do anything to inconvenience their masters. The rich and the powerful have historically always pursued their own interests at the expense of everyone else, that’s how you get to be rich and powerful in the first place. Global warming may be the second greatest threat the human race has ever faced, but as long as the planet’s wealth is ever flowing upwards, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for change.

And anyhow, at this rate I’ll be living in a beach front apartment soon enough. I can live with that. Coming soon, why I hate Al-Jazeera.

(I believe the above image originated with NASA and is thus public domain under US copyright law. In any event it’s not being used for profit and its use here is central to illustrating the post. It’s an illustration of just one of the many dramatic changes that have taken place on Earth in juts the past few years. Yes folks, the canary in the coal mine is stone cold dead.)

Written by unitedcats

December 7, 2009 at 11:18 am

Another fly in the ointment: Global Drought

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The economy is in free fall, we are involved in two endless wars,  people are rioting. Could it get worse? Yes, that’s what I have been saying since last July. Pay attention people! I got the map above from this fine site. And as far as I can tell, it’s pretty darn accurate. (click on the image for the full size view.)  What does it mean? It means that we are going into 2009 with a substantial percentage of the world’s agricultural regions experiencing drought, in some cases severe and historically unprecedented drought. Rivers and lakes are drying up in Australia for example, it has been suffering severe drought since 2004.  The author claims that not only locally, but in a global sense the current drought conditions are historically unprecedented. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I wouldn’t argue with him. I checked he’s not making this up. And whether historically unprecedented or not, it’s definitely a period of unusually widespread drought.

So, what does this mean? There are a number of unpleasant aspects to this situation. The first thing is that food prices should continue to rise through the year. In the west this will be annoying, though most of us in the west don’t spend a huge percentage of our income on food, so it won’t be debilitating. Poor people, and other people in the world who spend a larger percentage of their income on food are going to be hurt very badly by this. And if food shortages get bad enough, people will starve. Again though, it’s the third world poor who will starve preferentially. This is because much of the food exports from the third world are their governments main source of hard income, so for the most part they will keep selling food to the west while their own people starve. Our dollar menus in the USA may become five dollar menus, but at least we won’t be starving. Granted some of us will feel bad about eating food that was effectively stolen from the third world, but since that’s been true all our lives, I suppose it won’t bother too many.

We’re not completely off the hook in the west though, this is problem will also compound the world’s economic problems. Agriculture related businesses like farms and food processors are already hurting, the USA’s largest chicken processor folded in December. Any business in these drought struck regions that depends on water will have trouble.  At the very least the price of water is going to be going up, and that’s going to come out of everyone’s pockets. And in fact shortages of water are already limiting growth and development in some parts of the world, including the USA. The point here is that these droughts are going to affect all of our wallets in a number of indirect ways, it won’t just be the price of food that goes up because of this.

Lastly, this is not going to help the world politically. Everyone knows what a food riot is, widespread food riots are a definite possibility this year. And oddly enough, this likely will translate into further political instability and unrest. Which, as the discerning reader has already realized, is going to also have negative economic impacts. I suppose the makers of police riot gear may experience boom times (I expect royalties if anyone makes a killing on the stock market because of that tip) but everyone else is going to again suffer in the pocketbook if there is wide spread food shortage related instability.

I should also point out, this global drought is not terribly surprising. Even ignoring global climate change, the world experienced unusually good weather for much of the last half of the twentieth century. So it’s not terribly surprising that we are experiencing some bad times, sooner or later one draws a bad hand in any poker game. And as far as science is concerned, not only was this a statistical inevitability, it’s more than likely part and parcel of global climate change. (They aren’t calling it global warming anymore because they got tired of explaining that climate and weather are two different things, and that global warming didn’t mean the world was going to warm up everywhere.) No, global climate change means just that, as the worlds average temperature increases, the world’s weather systems will change and destabilize, resulting in more extremes. Some might have noticed that while some parts of the world are experiencing drought, other parts of the world are experiencing record rainfall and flooding. And too much water is almost as bad as too little water in terms of agriculture, so again, the problem is worse than it appears.

The worst case scenario is that this could get really really bad. We are already heading into the most problematic summer since the thirties in terms of widespread risk of economic calamity, instability, and even war. It would not be surprising if millions starved to death, in fact that may be the best case scenario. The world has very limited food reserves, and if these drought conditions do cripple agricultural output as much as they might … tens of millions or hundreds of millions could starve. Half the human race starved in the 535-536AD global crop failure, while we may be more advanced now, there are a lot more mouths to feed. And there is no technological substitute for food, it’s not like we can quickly convert the world’s mind numbing arsenal of weaponry into food.

Well, not directly at least. Would people and nations use their weapons to steal food? As a formerly famous politician once said “You betcha.”

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I think Eric de Carbonnal may have even prepared the graphic himself, I highly recommend his site and will be linking to it regularly. Credit and copyright:  Market Skeptics/Eric de Carbonnal. A fly in the ointment is of Biblical origin: “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” — Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Written by unitedcats

February 11, 2009 at 9:58 am

Senator Inhofe’s report, the last word in the global warming debate?

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I haven’t posted on global warming much recently. I didn’t want to get into endless repetition of the science on a point by point basis, other people have done it better. However, as I was wandering around on Yahoo Answers I saw someone had posted a December 2007 report from the US Senate that listed 400 prominent scientists who think anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is bogus: U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007 Check it out, could this be it, proof that I and so many other people are wrong about the human role in global warming?

I admit at first I was a little dismayed, could 400 prominent scientists be seriously disputing AGW theory? Then I started reading. First it lists all the news outlets that carried the report. What does that have to do with anything? Then it launches into a breathless explanation about how all these persecuted scientists think AGW is a hoax and that there really isn’t any consensus. I couldn’t help but notice that it made a lot of claims, but didn’t really say anything about AGW. Then…the report quotes all sorts of people whose claims the report is going to refute, who are these people? Media folks, columnists, TV personalities, and Al Gore. Um, shouldn’t this report be refuting actual scientist’s statements?

Then, the meat. The 400 “prominent scientists” listed with a select few quotes from each of them. OK, I don’t have time to refute what appear to be a tired collection of the same old long refuted arguments, so who are these guys touted as international experts on the subject? I googled a few near the top of the list…and gee, turns out that a certain obscure west coast blogger has a vastly greater web presence than world renowned experts in global warming. So either I am a far more popular and influential writer than I imagined (and all the blog statistics indicate) or there was something fishy about this list.

Now I didn’t have time to look up 400 hundred guys on google, so off to the web to see what other people thought of this report. And boy was that tiresome. Every global warming denier on the planet had reproduced the report and was making a huge deal out of it, so I had to wade through a lot of that. I did eventually find other people who had taken the time to check out these 400 “prominent scientists.” Guess what?

  • 85 are on the oil/gas industry payroll.
  • 49 are retired.
  • 44 are television weathermen.
  • 20 are economists.
  • 7o have no expertise in climate science whatsoever.

Now granted on a case by case basis this wouldn’t be reason to dismiss these people’s views. I mean, some experts may be retired or what not…but going by these standards, there have to be millions of “prominent experts” in the field of climate research. This is the best 400 scientists they could come up with? This is not just sad, it’s almost silly. 400 most definitely obscure climate scientists (in only the loosest sense of the term climate scientist) dispute human caused global warming, and this proves there is no scientific consensus on the subject? No, this is the exception that proves the rule. In any event, read all about the debunking of this alleged debunking here.

So if anything, I have to thank Senator Inhofe for producing this lovely document. This is written proof beyond any doubt that the global warming debate is over, because the global warming denial side of the argument is reduced to shooting blanks. I doubt that was the good Senator’s intent, since he (predictably) is the second biggest recipient of oil money in Congress. As for his scientific acumen, the good Senator thinks that humans don’t need to worry about the environment: since God gave it to us, God will take care of any problems that arise. In other words, Inhofe’s Senate report is pure propaganda, a blatant hoax, and a hit piece meant to fool people into thinking that there is still scientific debate when there is none. A list of similar “experts” could be produced to deny evolution, continental drift, or the theory of relativity.

I rest my case.

(On the left is a photograph of Muir Glacier taken on August 13, 1941, by glaciologist William O. Field; on the right, a photograph taken from the same vantage on August 31, 2004, by geologist Bruce F. Molnia of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Image Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center, W. O. Field, B. F. Molnia )

Written by unitedcats

February 5, 2008 at 11:52 am


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