Babylon is Babel

The internet is a click-bait whore. After more than two decades of living in this digital realm, I can say that with confidence. Everything on the internet is composed to get you to follow the link and find out what AMAZING, STUPENDOUS, GLORIOUS things are waiting for you on the other side of that provocative come hither looking text. Unfortunately, the reality that awaits on the other side of that click is rarely worth the energy it takes to click the link.

Take this promotion for Unexplained on Gaia for example. It popped up on Facebook for me a few months ago. Dramatic music. Good-looking talking heads tell you things you want to believe. What isn’t to love about that trailer?

You know what I can’t find in a shareable form? The trailer thrown in my face on Facebook, promoted by the Gaia streaming service. I can’t find it anywhere to post to the blog so that I and my readers may laugh at it. The curious will have to go to Facebook and see it there (click the clickbait. You know you want to) because no keyword search that I’ve come up with so far can produce the actual trailer promoting this episode of Ancient Civilizations produced two years ago. If you want to see it, you have to pay for it. I guess the charlatans are getting smarter. You can’t get the rubes to give you the money if you blow your load in the first teaser trailer.

…and that link to Facebook. Just watch the repeating video at the top. That looping video is really all you need to understand the confidence game that is being played on the believers who pony up to pay for this streaming service. Ancient aliens are among us? Please.

There was no Tower of Babel, just as there was no real Atlantis. Just as there was no Ark built by Noah. I shouldn’t have to explain the difference between religion and history to people smart enough to know how to work a camera and create a documentary. There was no Tower of Babel where god looked down and cursed man with many languages for its construction. That Tower of Babel is myth. If you believe otherwise, you are a fool.

Like Atlantis, the Tower of Babel is a storytelling device. Atlantis was embroidered in the imagination of Plato, a mythical place created to hearken back to earlier, more prosperous times. This storyline should sound familiar to anyone currently immersed in US politics. But like the lies of the Orange Hate-Monkey, Plato created the illusion of Atlantis to paint a picture that his students would want to strive for, and still people think they can find it. Noah’s Ark is similar.

The Ark of Noah is encased in ice on Mt Ararat

Prove it. Go to Ararat yourself and take pictures of it, yourself. I’ve taken the same trek that you’ve taken so far; which is to say, a vicarious trek. I listened to the stories told to me by elders and I believed. I read In Search of Noah’s Ark in the seventies. That book had me convinced. I just knew there was an Ark somewhere under all that ice. Just like the child shoveling out the stables. Then I started reading the works of other religions and other believers, and that’s when I discovered that it’s a common prehistoric myth. 

flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who “represents the human craving for life”.[1]
The flood myth motif is found among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrativePralaya in Hinduism, the Gun-Yu in Chinese mythologyBergelmir in Norse mythology, in the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca, and Cañari Confederation, in South America, and the Aboriginal tribes in southern Australia.

Flood myth From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The myth is so common as to be pointless to attempt to verify any one claim. Like the virgin birth of Jesus reflects the virgin birth of other godlike creations, flood myths pervade early religions everywhere. All of these myths may be based on some historic flood that the local population remembers, none of them spanned the globe and destroyed all human civilization. What I’ve seen in several decades of curiosity about this subject is that there is no proof, none whatsoever, for Noah’s Ark. The story was someone else’s before it was Noah’s, and Ararat is just the nearest peak to where the myth of the Ark was located.

Also, Mary was probably having it off with someone about nine months earlier and didn’t want to die at her father’s hands. This is a practice still pathetically commonplace in many regions of the world. She got caught by being the sex that carries the young of the species (humans, in case you are wondering) a problem that the fertilizing sex doesn’t have. She couldn’t hide the belly anymore, so she claimed that god visited her in the night and that’s how the baby got in there. This is another common occurrence, lying to save your own life. It goes hand in hand with death penalties wherever you find them. You’d think parents would be happy to have grandchildren to raise, rather than worrying about selling off a virgin daughter to the highest bidder. She ended up being fobbed off on the carpenter, someone who was happy to have a few extra hands around the jobsite with all the work he had to do.

There are probably evangelicals reading this right now, or they were reading it until they got to that last paragraph. They probably aren’t reading it anymore. But if they were they would insist that we can’t find the ark on Ararat because if there was a wooden boat under the ice on Ararat for all those millennia it would of been ground to a pulp centuries ago and pushed down the mountain as debris. Myths are not realities. There was no boat, because flood waters cannot rise that high even if all the ice in the world melted. How high would it rise? 70ish meters. Numbers vary. We should see 9 feet of rise in the sea levels over the next couple of decades based on current CO2 levels. More if we don’t moderate emissions that produce warmer temperatures.

But all of that is beside the point that the Tower of Babel is a myth.

What’s that I hear you saying? The tower of Babel existed? Well yes. There were ziggurats in Babylon, one of them near the Gate of God (Marduk) so the history experts say (some of them even say it in breathless tones) and if you talk to language experts they will say that Babylon renders out as Babel or Bavel in Hebrew. So there were several towers in Babylon, one near the gate of Marduk that the Hebrew scholars of the time elbowed each other in the ribs over. Every discipline has their weird inside jokes.

But there wasn’t a tower where god sundered the languages and caused strife across the world. That would be kind of pointless since he had drowned the world just a few years earlier because of all the strife in the world. Or are you suggesting that god condemns his people for things that he created them to do? That he holds us all accountable for the things that he makes us do? Well that figures.

Facebook comments expanded for the blog.

Raw Milk is Woo. Goat’s Milk is Not. And Yes, Plastic is Bad

This week on the SGU Cara decides to trash all things Hippy and all things Austin with the following line,

These are the places where they sell, like, raw goat milk because apparently cow milk is unhealthy. And they have only organic free-range bleah.

Cara Santa-Maria SGU #705

Cara deciding to trash all things Hippy isn’t surprising. There is little at the typical health food store that warrants a special trip there. Little, unless you happen to have special dietary needs. If you have food allergies. If you are lactose intolerant. If any number of food-related issues bother you, the health food store used to be the only place you could go to find relief. Considering that skeptics would claim you couldn’t be allergic to foods, until those allergies could be demonstrated, and still flame-on when anyone mentions the word gluten, panning all things health food related is completely understandable.

I just happen to not react to goat’s milk like I do cow’s milk. So I can drink goat’s milk and suffer little or no ill effects. I still can’t eat pizza, that is too much cheese of any kind, but at least I can put a slice of goat cheese on my hamburger and not have to worry about reacting to the lactose in the cheese. And the best place to get that kind of food is still at a health food store. I buy my oat milk, my Nada Moo, goat cheese and goat milk, and try to restrain myself as I walk past the chocolate and liquorice on the way to the register.

The Wife, who can consume all the cheese she wants because she was descended from Mongols who were raised on yak’s milk, has some very unflattering things to say about us Mediterranean types whose ancestors tended goats and sheep, but I also have some insults I could hurl in return considering she’s pretty much 100% Irish. I won’t utter them because I don’t feel like being beaten up by any Irish who might read this and take offense. I have to be able to sleep sometime. It all comes down to genetics and how your particular gut came to be in the here and now.

Which brings me to the idea of drinking raw milk. If you are drinking raw milk and you don’t milk the cows (or goats. Or sheep) yourself, you are just asking to get sick and possibly be killed by the naturally occuring bacteria found on the udders and in the milk of any animal. And I laugh every time I read the label on cheese and it trumpets made from raw milk. This is just another marketing ploy like organic or natural, since the process of making cheese kills most of the bacteria that lives in the milk. That is why we started making cheese from milk in the first place. If you are still concerned about the possibility of food poisoning, don’t get the cheese made from raw milk. Pasteurization is a good thing. It’s why we have milk on supermarket shelves today.

I mean, we could irradiate the milk and skip the pasteurization flavor change problem, but the fantasists who think that pasteurization is bad also think that irradiation of food is bad. There really is no way to win over everyone. There’s always going to be one or two of them that have to stick their fingers in the electrical outlet before they’ll believe that electric shocks are painful, and there will be at least one guy that swears electrical shocks make him feel better and so recommends you shock yourself two or three times a day.

Steve’s suggestion that bulk foods were useful, while the other offerings at the health food stores were not, is also slightly off-cue. The reason that goods are offered in their own sealed containers should be readily apparent to anyone who gives this much thought. But for those who don’t think a lot, I’ll spell it out. Adulteration or contamination of the product, which was a problem back in the days when everything was offered in bulk quantities. Some nefarious grocers would dilute the products offered and charge the same rate. This is essentially how all vodka is made, but very few people know that their vodka was distilled to 190 proof at the distillery and then cut in half with water at the bottler. There is also the problem of some anonymous others tampering with the bulk products and no one noticing (think Tylenol) as an Austinite, and someone who frequents health food stores for his oat milk and goat’s milk products, I could buy a lot of products in bulk. I just don’t.

Austin is the birthplace of Whole Foods and a few other now-defunct health food chains. I’m an owner at Wheatsville Food Co-op. I could shop in bulk products if I wanted to. I don’t shop in bulk products because I don’t want to have to trust every person who passes by the bulk products bins not to drop their chewing gum in there with my morning steel cut oats. I’ll take the time to recycle the packaging, that is fine by me. I like branded, labeled products in sealed packages. It’s probably the most American thing about me.

I would rather the packaging not be plastic packaging, plastic packaging being the reason that health food stores came up at all in that Skeptic’s Guide episode. I try to avoid plastic packaging when I can, but it is nearly impossible to avoid plastic when it comes to food packaging. You can count me in for testing new packaging that isn’t plastic. Oh, and Jay? You want plastic that breaks down on its own? That also existed once upon a time. They tested plastic bags that degraded in the sun faster when they first rolled out plastic bags, back when everyone was worried about paper demand destroying all the forests. That plastic turned into micro plastics too, just like regular plastic. The only way to avoid this is to create disposable items from something other than plastic. Say, compressed corn starch.

Global Warming Versus Global Greening

For Jason Pratt

Climate science. Climate science features highly in my laundry list of reasons for why I no longer consider myself a libertarian. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in libertarian gatherings without hitting a conspiracy fantasist or a climate denier when I left the Libertarian Party in 2008.

I find the phrase knows just enough to be dangerous to be quite apt when it comes to most things climate science. This applies even more strongly to those within the scientific fields than it does to the man on the street who is just trying to get by in life working three jobs and sharing an apartment with 3 other people.

The video (and transcript) below were shared by a friend the other day. I tuned out of watching the video when I realized that the article beneath it was just a transcript of the video presentation. The fact that my friend didn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change the last time I checked influenced my dismissal of the video as Not. Real. Science. There was also the looming risk of being sucked into another conspiracy fantasy to factor into the weight I would give any data found within the article.

Everyone has a bias. Especially people who disagree with science.

My friend insisted that I had to watch the video or at least read the transcript, so I bit the bullet and watched. I’m not making any promises on producing insights that would be accepted by anyone who would deny climate changes, the determinable causes of climate changing, but I’ll give it my best shot.

There is a transcript available at this link.

First off, if I had realized that the video was from the GWPF I would have been a little slower to dismiss it. I don’t write about climate change on this blog very much because, quite frankly, I’m one of the dangerous people. I know just enough about the subject to get myself into trouble and can be (demonstrably have been with other subjects) lead down rabbit holes unless I keep my guard up.

I was slow to buy in to the idea that climate change was a thing because of this, and for a brief time was in the same camp as several of my friends (and the late author Michael Crichton as another example) that climate change was some kind of conspiracy. It wasn’t until I ran across this argument presented on 350.org that I realized just how demonstrable AGW was,

Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.

Ice cores demonstrate that throughout human history (several hundred thousand years in fact) CO2 levels have remained low. What CO2 was prior to human history is hard to determine. Hard to determine because discovering clues to that data in geologic strata is hard. However, as this study notes,

The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has varied cyclically between ~180 and ~280 parts per million by volume over the past 800,000 years, closely coupled with temperature and sea level. For earlier periods in Earth’s history, the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) is much less certain, and the relation between pCO2 and climate remains poorly constrained. We use boron/calcium ratios in foraminifera to estimate pCO2 during major climate transitions of the past 20 million years. During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels. Decreases in pCO2 were apparently synchronous with major episodes of glacial expansion during the Middle Miocene (~14 to 10 million years ago) and Late Pliocene (~3.3 to 2.4 million years ago).

If you need help converting meters to feet, it’s about 3 feet to 1 meter. About floor 9 of a beachfront Miami condo for those still not getting the impact of sea level changes in our modern world. Manhattan will eventually be right on the water, which will mean it will take quite a trick to keep water out of those subways in the future.

In any case the speaker, Matt Ridley,  agrees with virtually everything the IPCC concludes are science. The one verifiably true thing aside from these concessions of agreement I heard by the 20 minute mark is that,

“We should take predictions of doom with a pinch of salt.”

Well, that is a no-brainer. I was reading books like ICE when I was in my teens. I was well aware that we were supposed to be caught up in a returning ice age by the time we got to 2000, according to the doom & gloom types, as the speaker goes into in the video (this is a myth, just FYI. A myth that I believed) I never bought into Al Gore’s propositions of global disaster from global warming; but the science is pretty solid as I noted above, and it is just the models which fail to predict outcomes in any meaningful way.

As far back as 2010 I was noting things like this,

Trees in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the last two centuries in response to Earth’s warming climate, a new study finds.

For more than 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker, based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center outside Washington, D.C., has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland.

Parker’s tree censuses over this period have revealed that these forested areas are packing on weight at a much faster rate than expected; on average, the forests are growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That works out to the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet (0.6 m) sprouting up over a year.

And this in 2014,

Recent research has revealed that trees across the world continue to grow significantly faster than they did before the 1960s, but what’s the cause? Experts from Technische Universität München (TUM) provide evidence and speculation about this mysterious phenomenon in a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, details how the rate of tree growth, particularly in Central Europe, has increased by up to 70 percent over the last few decades.

These findings were based on an analysis of long term data from experimental forest plots that have been in observation since 1870. The plots of forest were designed to serve as a representation for average soil and climate conditions throughout Central Europe.

I replied with this article in the facebook comment thread where this argument started,

Earlier this month, NASA scientists provided a visualization of a startling climate change trend — the Earth is getting greener, as viewed from space, especially in its rapidly warming northern regions. And this is presumably occurring as more carbon dioxide in the air, along with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, makes plants very, very happy.

Now, new research in Nature Climate Change not only reinforces the reality of this trend — which is already provoking debate about the overall climate consequences of a warming Arctic — but statistically attributes it to human causes, which largely means greenhouse gas emissions (albeit with a mix of other elements as well).

The roughly three-decade greening trend itself is apparent, the study notes, in satellite images of “leaf area index” — defined as “the amount of leaf area per ground area,” as Robert Buitenwerf of Aaarhus University in Denmark explains in a commentary accompanying the study — across most of the northern hemisphere outside of the tropics, a region sometimes defined as the “extratropics.” Granted, there are a few patches in Alaska, Canada and Eurasia where greening has not been seen.

Washington Post – Thanks to climate change, the Arctic is turning green

Before being pestered into watching the full video, commenting on the full transcript. The greening argument is old news for me. I’ve already looked into it. It is an interesting development. Its full impact is still unknown.

What I found most interesting in the talk was Matt Ridley’s note that most dire projections are based on RCP 8.5. I can agree with him on the lunacy of projecting based on this worst-case-scenario outcome. It just makes you look foolish when your predictions turn out to be so incredibly wrong.

Then he goes off the reservation and never returns.

No renewable energy subsidies? Fine. You first. Get the entirety of the rest of the fossil fuels industry to give up their subsidies and we’ll talk. Worse than being disinterested on the subject of Global Warming or Climate Change (which ever label you prefer) Matt Ridley is invested in coal. Lives and dies by demand for coal. I suggest, as I have about a dozen times, that we either remove subsidies from all ventures, or encourage all sound ventures with subsidies.

Sound ventures. That doesn’t me we subsidize ethanol, which I have never understood being considered a green product. However, creation of wind farms across the windier areas of the world, and solar cells on every rooftop that gets moderate sun are completely reasonable propositions and should be subsidized if other forms of energy production are subsidized.  I can generate electricity and to spare with solar cells on my roof, and that includes charging my electric car. That is a benefit to me and the planet in general.

He also never mentions that while sea level rise isn’t as bad as projected, any rise in sea levels produces larger disasters than we’ve seen in the past, as both hurricane Sandy and Katrina demonstrated. I’m still betting we are surfing through the ruins of Miami long before the arguments about climate change are settled, and I’m willing to bet the current residents of Miami would find that outcome pretty disastrous.

For what it’s worth, The next to last video loaded on the GWPF stream is the one I find most relevant.

GWPF Report: Why scepticism about peer-reviewed research is essential

This is the problem with modern science. Findings are reported as if they are science by most journalists, when the complete opposite is the case, as the short video goes into. Findings are not science. Findings are discoveries. Duplication of findings is science, the drudge work of science that far too few people show any interest in doing, to the detriment of us all.


With time comes addendum and additional information. After watching the GWPF feed for awhile and tracking the general tone of their reportage, I have to agree with the assessment of others who dismiss them as a nexus of science denial.  The name of the group itself screams of astroturfing and their latest video goes out of its way to defend Breitbart and their unapologetic science denial on the subject of global warming. I was really hoping for a group that I could rely on for reportage that wasn’t gloom and doom on the climate change front, but the GWPF doesn’t appear to be that group.

This episode of Inquiring Minds fits the hopeful bill pretty well.

Inquiring Minds 159 David Grinspoon – Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future

Even in the face of the triumph of climate deniers and outright economic criminals (the looming election of the OHM) the astrobiologist David Grinspoon sounds a hopeful note for the future, pointing out that we are already moving in new directions climate-wise with or without our governments attempts to influence our behavior. 

Robert Reich’s Big Picture for Fixing the Economy

The series of  linked videos below highlight ideas to fix the economy, the top 11 12 points on Robert Reich‘s mind when it comes to our current economic problems.  These aren’t rocket science or socialism, just some pretty hard-nosed factual recommendations; and we’d do well to follow them.  They run contrary to the long debunked refrain of Reaganomics or trickle-down economics that has held sway in the US since Ronaldus Maximus was President, long before most of the people currently breathing on this planet were born.

They also run counter to most current libertarian economic theory. It is painful to say this, but most libertarian thought on the subject of economics is so woefully uneducated that I almost balk at calling them out. Doing so is not likely to be profitable based on the standard of keeping old friends. As I was crafting this article a post from a good friend on Facebook showed up, trumpeting the flat tax proposals of Libertarian darling Rand Paul.

A flat tax will do nothing to recapture the ill-gotten gains of the wealthiest Americans, the people who profited from the latest boom and bust, as well as the previous boom and bust cycles. Cycles that have grown shorter and shorter since deregulation went into effect under…  Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by libertarian ideas of his time.

Recapturing this cash and redistributing it to the vast majority of Americans through increased pay and investment in infrastructure is essential if we are going to build a functioning economy and not fuel the next cycle of boom and bust.  It is the outrageous amounts of cash that allow the 1% to engage in risky stock market betting like we’ve seen since the 1980’s.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A word about the composition of this post. Linking videos that are native on Facebook is a stupidly fiddly process, and Facebook is where I found these videos first. Consequently the text intro for each is a Facebook link, while the videos are from Youtube, giving me the ability to watch and comment on each video while it is running.

#1 is raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There are several common misconceptions about the minimum wage. He hits most of those points in the video. The free market types who object to minimum wage laws on the basis that it interferes with employer/employee contracts, or that it could cause inflation, only see part of the bigger picture which Reich addresses in the video.  Commerce relies on the majority of the population being able to afford the goods generally available to that population.  That means paying the working class enough for them to live on.

#2 is to make work family friendly.

I quit my regular job to raise our second child. We could not afford to put our child into expensive daycare; and really, I wanted to spend time at home with what I knew would be our last baby, having missed seeing much of our firstborn’s early years due to the demands of an architectural career in the job climate prevalent in the US.  Had it been possible for me to take on outsource work at home, work from home, etc. the impact on our families’ finances would have been less drastic. Had it been possible for the Wife to spend meaningful time with the baby while still working in her tech career, I might not have had to give up architecture for a few years longer, might have enjoyed my final years in my chosen profession before being sidelined with a disability.

#3 is to expand Social Security.

As a current Social Security beneficiary, I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this video. Still, it bears mentioning that the the cap that he focuses on is far too low (because of past inflation) and that rather than set a dollar figure cap, if a higher cap is the compromise solution, there should be a median income calculation involved in determining what the cap should be.  Inflation will continue. Wages will continue to rise. Upper range incomes will continue to get higher unless we re-institute confiscatory income tax (90% as it was when introduced) for high wage earners. Might as well write laws that take it into account.

#4 is to bust up Wall Street.

How I wish this one stood a chance of happening.  I only do business with a bank when I’m required to; unfortunately that happens more today than it did in decades past. The reason for this is the lax rules on banks that should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Most of what is happening today is reminiscent of what occurred at the turn of the last century.  One of the books I’m currently reading is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism much of the battle the occurred then is re-occurring now.  Nearly daily I get a sense of deja vu reading the news.  I recognize this struggle.  It is a shame that more people do not learn from history.

#5 is how to reinvent education.

This one carried no real news for me. Having gotten one child through college and working on getting the second one through high school, and being an involved parent, has left me with few delusions about the state of US schools.  They are pathetic.  So pathetic, in fact, that I paid for private school for my children (Montessori) until their needs weren’t met by the school. Then I took the time to make sure they went to good charter schools, magnet schools, etc.  Anything except the standard schools offered to average Texans.

The objection often raised to charter schools is that they are religious in nature.  While it is true that some alternative schools are religious, the schools I selected for my children have actually had less religious content (generally) than the public schools in Texas promote.  Sometimes people seek alternatives for very good reasons.

#6 is to end corporate welfare.

This is an old favorite of mine.  If corporations get handouts then everyone should get handouts; because the corporations demonstrably don’t need anything to continue existing.  They have no physicality to maintain, being figments of law in the first place.  We would be much better off handing money to every citizen rather than handing it out to corporations.

#7 is to strengthen labor unions.

I’ve never been a fan of unions; still, it is hard to argue against the positive effects that collective bargaining can bring to the employment side of the equation.  Collective bargaining levels the playing field when negotiating with large employers.  Unionization lead to days off, 8 hour work days, breaks for meals, extra pay for overtime, etc, etc, etc.

When capitalists spit at socialism in my presence these days, I point out the benefits that have come to the working masses due to the influence of socializing forces like unionization.  If you don’t want to go back to working nude in the same place you sleep, with your children huddled around you at night for warmth because your employer is too cheap to heat the workplace (read The Bully Pulpit as mentioned previously) unions are a good thing to have.

#8 is to raise the estate tax on the very wealthy.

Everyone who can work, should work.  The existence of a wealthy class who feel entitled to live off of the earnings of their parents and grandparents is contrary to the ideals that the US was founded on. Contrary to the Midwestern work ethic most of us grew up with. It is hard enough for me as a disabled person who is lucky to get from the bed to the chair some days to justify not working.  I can’t even fathom the thought processes of the 1% who wouldn’t dream of working for a living.

Or to quote Chris Rock ‘If poor people knew how rich the rich are, there would be riots’.

This isn’t one of the series I’m commenting on here, but it bears reposting;

It and the other videos in the playlist talk about this same subject, how wealth inequality is worse than it has been in almost a century, and the last time it was like this, the economy didn’t improve until after we fought the second world war.  That should not be a direction we should head in this time around.

Also in that playlist is a trailer for Robert Reich‘s excellent film Inequality for All.  I have viewed the film several times on Netflix and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a feel for the problems America currently faces.  This as opposed to repeating trickle-down mantras in the hopes that they will self-correct and prove themselves true in the long run.

#9 is to make polluters pay US.

I can still hear the screaming raised against the carbon tax back when President Obama first took office and suggested some of these very things.  Six plus years later, it is even clearer that the only solution is to do exactly what this video suggests. Make the oil companies and energy companies pay to use carbon producing fuels.  Incentivize the use of green technologies.  CO2 is over 400 now.  We can’t keep adding it to the atmosphere.  We just can’t, if we want our species to continue.

#10 End mass incarceration, now!

This is probably the biggest point of agreement with libertarian/anarchist thinking on the subject of governance and the economy. The kind of thinking I was most frequently exposed to while active in the LP of Texas for about a decade. The business of keeping prisoners has been a target of small government types for years, long before the average American or the re-emerging liberal majority took notice of it. It is a serious embarrassment that the US has 2.5 million members of its population behind bars; more than any other nation on the face of the planet.


Needless to say, as soon as the 10 were out, there was a glaring need for one more item on the list (isn’t that the way it always works?) So here is the latest one;

#11 Medicare for all.

The problem with most free market approaches to healthcare is that modern medicine is too complex. It’s ability to function, to deliver its product (if health is even a product that can be sold) is tightly linked to corporate structures that are themselves an imposition on free markets. Price gouging is a part of the calculation of every new drug introduced to the market, how much can we get away with charging for this drug? And testing and development of these drugs requires large staffs, deep pockets, wide access to the population. The only way to counter the corporate nature of modern medicine is to either subject them to public control directly (which would be socialism with all the baggage that a state-run organization brings to the table. This would stifle innovation) or to leverage the pricing of the drugs and services produced with collective bargaining. It has to be one way or the other. Neither solution is pretty, but the group purchasing option that medicare provides leaves the companies free to do what they do best, produce goods for the general public.


He swears this is the last one.  Makes an even dozen.

#12 Get Money Out of Politics.

I’ve been on this bandwagon for about a year now.  Maybe longer.  I blogged about this subject after reading several scholarly articles on the subject of campaign finance, and reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It which is free online now. In my article from last November, following the election, I list the various groups working to get money out of politics.  If you want to get involved in politics, if you want to see any of these many points acted on and made policy, then I suggest you contact one of those groups or get involved in your local precinct for whichever flavor of the two major parties that you prefer (D or R) if you object and say “I want more choices than that” then I need to be frank with you.  Including more choices than those two on ballots requires more work than even the 12 points addressed here would require.  You’re welcome to engage in that struggle if you have the strength for it. Or just go vote when the time comes. If you don’t know where that is, go here.

His book Saving Capitalism should be in bookstores (if you can find one) soon.  You can vote on which one of these 12 ideas will be a new campaign for Moveon to promote here.  Has to be #12 for me.

Years of Living Dangerously & Katharine Hayhoe

I’ve been watching “Years of Living Dangerously” every week (it’s moving to Monday this week) since it first aired. It’s free for the rest of today on Showtime online.

I like the presentation of the episodes through the eyes of the various personalities (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, etc) but I especially can appreciate the careful approach they’ve taken to show just how far climate denial is from the reality of climate change, and taking the time to talk to some of the more vociferous climate deniers, as well as including the wide range of people who want to act to prevent further harm to the climate, including climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

Katharine Hayhoe was also the featured interview last week on what is rapidly becoming my favorite podcast; Inquiring Minds. Here is a snippet of the blurb from their Soundcloud page;

Why is Hayhoe in the spotlight? Simply put, 25 to 30 percent of Americans are evangelical Christians, and their belief in the science of global warming is well below the national average. And if anyone has a chance of reaching this vast and important audience, Hayhoe does. “I feel like the conservative community, the evangelical community, and many other Christian communities, I feel like we have been lied to,” explains Hayhoe on this week’s episode. “We have been given information about climate change that is not true. We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it’s entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values.” 

I highly recommend both the podcast and the show. Give them a try, you may learn something.

(Originally posted here)

Religion/Spiritualism? How about Pragmatism.

I updated my ghost story yesterday because I was engaged in a long running conversation on this thread on Facebook.  Started with a meme image composed mostly of the text “Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, Spirituality is for people who have already been there” can we say “false dichotomy”? I knew that you could.

I’m sticking to my guns on the subject.  Skepticism (and through it pragmatism) is how you live in the real world, not getting sidetracked by all the woo we encounter in our daily lives. If you disagree, prove any of the stuff that skeptics question. Should be easy enough if it’s true. If you know of a medium that you think of as reliable (a mediumship conference being where the image that started the thread was found) I would recommend you send them to The Million Dollar Challenge, or one of the other testing challenges (this is one of the points I’ve changed my opinion on since jotting down my ghost story the first time.  There is a value in exposing the vast number of charlatans out there who prey on the believing. The number is growing, even) They are looking to find someone with a genuine talent, and not someone engaged in cheap theatrics.   Haven’t found anyone yet.

On a related note (in case you are confused on the subject) Climate deniers are not skeptics; they are peddlers of woo as certainly as any charlatan medium who claims to speak to the dead. Deniers in general are not skeptics any more than religious people can be Objectivists; there is a standard for evidence which must be met for a belief to be established as fact in both those systems. Denying science disqualifies you from claiming the label skeptic or the label objectivist.  I only wish I could stop people from claiming labels that they don’t deserve.  The most I can do is pushback against their unwarranted claims, exposing the manipulation behind the curtain.

I don’t embark on this course because I see no value in a good yarn, or the thought-provoking nature of a good parable.  I put the brakes on this journey down woo avenue because, in the end, science is the only method we’ve ever discovered for determining what the truth is. An anecdote (like my ghost experience) remains exactly what it was. You cannot pile up anecdotes and create evidence. You simply have a pile of anecdotes.

Scientists are not altering what is acceptable evidence, or the scientific process. Those that do fall prey to false patterns and charlatans, Randi proved this by recruiting shills into some of the early paranormal studies, demonstrating that a good magician can create the illusion of paranormal activity quite easily.

The problem with any psi phenomenon is that there is no known mechanism which can explain how these things happen. Without a mechanism, there is no basis on which to gather evidence. That is where psi research has been stuck since the 60’s.

The best defense, for the flawed pattern recognition machines that we are, is to remain skeptical. Had I accepted what believers told me back when I had my experience, I’d be deep in the woo now, trying to defend photo and sound anomalies as legitimate signs of paranormal activity (probably desperately trying to prove that rods exist) rather than looking into the machines used to capture this ‘evidence’ and discovering that the machines themselves are the cause of them.

The experiences remain exactly what they always have been. Inexplicable experiences, until we find a mechanism that might cause them. Then they aren’t paranormal experiences anymore. You might say, of your own experiences “I wasn’t hallucinating” and yet it remains entirely possible. The human brain is quite an amazingly adaptive organ. The process of remembering the experience alters the experience in memory. The more times you remember it and recount it, the stronger the memory can become, lending more reality to the images you think you saw. At some point the memory ceases to be a true recollection and becomes a story you tell yourself about the event(s).

Without scientific rigor, there isn’t anything we can say we know.

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

I was watching Deadliest Catch on Tuesday (We’ll miss you Phil) and during After the Catch they brought on fishermen from the gulf to talk about the impact of the oil spill. During that discussion, the captain of the Time Bandit pointed out that 25 years later, the fisheries affected by the Exxon Valdez have still not recovered.

This does not bode well for the future of the gulf. Here’s a TED talk on the subject.

TEDxOilSpill June 2010 Carl Safina The oil spill’s unseen villains — and victims

It’s been my opinion that “the other shoe” hasn’t dropped yet as far as the gulf spill goes. No one knows what the long term impact of this event will be, but judging from the aftermath of the much smaller Alaska spill I’d be surprised if there’s much fishing left in the gulf, at all. Which begs the question, what are we going to eat, and how are those people going to make a living? Something to think about.


December 2018 – Deadliest Catch is about the only television show that I miss watching since I cut the cable almost three years ago now. There really isn’t a place for it in my current daily routines. I could anchor it in time watching it on TV. The show was telling a story about last year’s catch on the Alaskan crab grounds. Having to wait until it is available elsewhere means the show is disconnected in time. It no longer has the immediacy, the implied shared experience that broadcast TV brought to us, the viewing public. Without that I don’t have a good reason to watch anymore.

If you are interested in the subject of the corporate malfeasance that resulted in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, check out the film of the same name, Deepwater Horizon. The film very adequately portrays the heartbreak of the survivors and the penny-ante betrayal of acceptable safety standards, the kind of business practices that are all too common in today’s world of big business.

Common Sense 120 – the Environment again.

Common Sense 120 get’s two posts. Mukasey’s Paradox deals with the first half of the show. This one is about the second half. Dan Carlin continues to talk about global warming, even though polls have shown that Global Warming now world’s most boring topic.

Seriously, I’ve gotten back into my forum addiction of late, and they’ve been beatin’ the dead horse of environmentalism over at Dan Carlin’s forum for quite awhile now.

The news article that inspired show 120’s second half (the source of which Dan won’t reveal) sounds like it was written by the average socialist turned environmentalist. Anyone who can use the phrase culture of growth as a negative is someone whose opinions can be discarded. Sorry, that’s how I feel.

In Dan’s defense, he doesn’t buy into this article either. In fact, the tough question is really about global warming supplanting the real environmental concerns of the average citizen. Cleaner water, cleaner air. Out of control consumption. Let’s deal with the problems we can handle, hope that we won’t have to give up our freedom in order to save the planet. Which is what the promoters of combating global warming are really asking for.


Some examples of the arguments I’ve been in lately.

Quote:
Anyway, just becasue all of these things are true, I don’t understand why this means we shouldn’t begin changes in our society to lower GHG emmissions. Not only do these contribute to climate change, but they also affect health, air quality, and visibility.


Because there isn’t any way to do it with current technologies without top down command and control type scenarios. If you take all the cars off the roadway and force everybody onto buses, the impact on pollution would not be that significant. Studies have show (in Austin, anyway) that it’s not vehicle exhaust that causes the majority of pollution these days, it’s businesses (that gets back to the EPA and the disconnection that was put in place to keep people from being able to sue polluters directly) which are given license to do so. These studies don’t stop the EPA from requiring expensive vehicle inspections, all the same. There is already too much command and control, and it’s not working.

If new technologies emerge (and if gas prices continue to climb, they will) that produce cleaner burning fuels, or transportation options that are superior (read as more convenient) for the individual, then the GHG problem becomes a moot issue. Any attempt to reduce GHG (as the study shows) with current technologies will not yield a net benefit. The developing nations are always excluded from these plans, and the majority of new emissions are going to come from those countries.

We are at a crossroads, just as civilization was at a crossroads in the late 1800’s, when whale oil drove industry, and consumption projections showed that there weren’t enough whales to provide the oil to sustain growth. Some people ran around screaming about the end of the world, proposing scenarios of doom and gloom for the world’s future. Other people went out and developed crude oil as a replacement.

Put me in the latter camp this time around as well.
http://ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2005/11/peak-oil.html



One of the threads dealt with a news piece over at Fox News. I would have disregarded it, but it’s by an author that I respect that I first ran across at CATO.

And then you get these sorts of responses:

Quote:
Scientific American has an excellent article entitled ‘The Physics of Climate Change” published about a year ago.

One way of viewing the AGW debate is to treat the problem of cost like buying insurance. If we’re incorrect about AGW and all the carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere doesn’t act as a blanket the way the laws of physics have demonstrated it does, we’ve bought insurance we haven’t used. If however, CO2 and other greenhouse gases block reflected infrared light, as is almost certainly happening, we’ll be very relieved to have stated mitigation earlier. Ounces and prevention, you know.

…except that we can never afford the cost of the insurance required. That is the point Lott is actually echoing (rather than the title of the thread) which is the main argument in Goklany’s paper. That even if global warming is occurring (which isn’t proven) and even if humans are causing AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming, which also isn’t proven) that we can’t know for certain that a fractional rise in temperature isn’t a good thing (and we don’t) and that we can’t make the kind of impact that the laymen thinks we can simply by passing laws and sacrificing comfort. That negating human impact on the climate is a pipe dream.

No one is talking about stopping innovation and not having cleaner air, water, whatever. There are too many armchair environmentalists out there who are willing to pay extra for the knowledge that they aren’t hurting the environment. Innovation in these areas will occur anyway. What Lott and Goklany are saying (and I agree with) is that let’s get the best return on investment, let’s only pay for the insurance we need, rather than bankrupt society trying to return the world to a natural state that never existed in the first place, which is the goal of the hardcore environmentalists.

Lott at CATO: http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=3996
Indur Goklany’s policy paper What to Do about Climate Change: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9125

These are the pieces that need to be argued against, if you are going to argue.

…and businesses are innovating all the time trying to catch that elusive environmentalist dollar.

REI, anybody? How about Whole Foods? What about the fact that you can’t find a carpet, flooring or paint manufacturer these days who doesn’t push their recycled low-VOC minimal environmental impact products?

Businesses follow the dollar, and the average dollar is green.


Quote:
Plants indeed use carbon dioxide, but the flaw to your point is deforestation.


From Brown University:

Demand for wood may lead to forest growth, not decline, study says

Increased demand for forest products was a cause of increased forest cover in India during the last three decades, according to a joint study by researchers at Brown and Harvard University in the May 2003 Quarterly Journal of Economics. The finding contradicts the idea that economic development inevitably leads to deforestation.

Not buying the doom and gloom. Not even vaguely.

When I was growing up, we burned our garbage in an ash can in the back yard. The city would come by once a month to collect the ashes and metal, and dump it in a big hole just outside of town. We would go out there with our .22 rifles on occasion and shoot rats. No one ever checked their gas mileage (other than to guess when they’d need to fill up again) and emission controls were unheard of, as were seat belts.

I was a poster child of environmentalism not long after that. Recycling cans and bottles, recycling paper (which has largely proven to be a wasted effort. Paper recycling has a negative impact on the environment) I was chewed out by more than one person at my first office for being too militant about recycling.

Then the government got involved, and the socialists (or statists if you prefer) saw an ‘in’ for their recently discredited political movement, and shifted their focus to pushing for environmental concerns, needing more government to fix the environmental problems.

Global Warming is a socialist’s wet dream, because there is no way to fix it without handing all control over to the state, and relying on the elite to tell us what we can and can’t do. Carbon footprints and consumption monitoring. I’ve refused to call myself an environmentalist since then.

If the only choice I have is between my choice and no choice, I’ll take my choice and the possible end of the world as we know it, for a thousand, Alex.

Common Sense 116 – Voting for Cake & It’s Not the Environment, Stupid

Going through the backlog of Common Sense (with Dan Carlin) episodes that I wanted blog on.

I had to go digg up the article that Dan referenced in the first half of the show, it’s that good:

The big lie of campaign 2008 — so far — is that the presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, will take care of our children. Listening to these politicians, you might think they will. Doing well by children has now passed motherhood and apple pie as an idol that all candidates must worship.

A moral cloud hangs over our candidates. Just how much today’s federal policies, favoring the old over the young and the past over the future, should be altered ought to be a central issue of the campaign. But knowing the unpopular political implications, our candidates have lapsed into calculated quiet.

read more | digg story

This guy is ‘spot on’ (as the English say) and he doesn’t pull any punches. Not even Ron Paul has had much to say on the subject, because what is there to say? Hey, old people, you’re going to have to give up your benefits? Hey, young people, we’re going to raise your tax rates another 40%? No, neither of these solutions work, and yet one of them will have to be imposed; and sooner rather than later.

The sad thing about the Social Security situation is the same story as the situation with foreign policy. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows the system is “broke and broken” but no amount of pointing this out to the politicians for the last 20 years or so has made any difference.

Bush’s half-hearted attempt to introduce ‘private’ (they weren’t, but that’s what they were referred to as) accounts early in his first term met with such a backlash from seniors and Democrats that I doubt anything will be done to solve this problem. It looks like the ‘third rail’ of the political arena will simply be allowed to ‘go to ground’ (bankruptcy) where it will be effectively be rendered harmless to the politicians who remain. Good luck with that.

The second half of the show involved the introduction of the Tata Nano, and the effect that industrializing the third world will have on the environment.

All the issues in this show are presented as having to do with can people vote against their own short term best interests, in favor of long term best interests of the world as a whole; or at least, a larger group than the single person casting a vote.

As far as Social Security goes; as the population ages, and as the taxes start rising on those who are still working, you will see cuts in benefits to the elderly. That move will benefit the people who hold the power at that point in time, and the citizenry they cater too. No amount of whining by the then shrinking pool of boomers will matter that much. Considering it was the boomers who failed to act when the problem became apparent, I’m not going to shed too many tears over the prospect, even if it’s my benefits that get cut.

However, the case for environmental degradation resulting from third world industrialization is hardly a cut and dried matter. Expecting the rest of the world to stay undeveloped just so that we in America can continue to enjoy massive levels of consumption is building castles in the sky. People are going to do anything to improve their lives, and if that means they need a car, they’ll be buying Nanos. Consequently, we may be growing crops in Greenland again in the near future, and sea levels my rise a few inches. Global warming isn’t what we should be worrying about.

I realize the average person prefers to be scared rather than informed; however, the briefest step back from agreeing to whatever draconian measures the enviro-whackos want to impose on us, will reveal several rational objections that make good arguments for doing something else entirely. Arguments like this one from CATO and Indur Goklany:

The world can best combat climate change and advance well-being, particularly of the world’s most vulnerable populations, by reducing present-day vulnerabilities to climate-sensitive problems that could be exacerbated by climate change rather than through overly aggressive Green House Gas reductions.

read more | digg story

The report is written in college level English, I’m sorry. I’ve listened to the audio, and the average person shouldn’t have a problem understanding that targeting greenhouse gas emissions (what environmentalists are doing when they worry about more cars on the roads) will produce a less positive result than targeting things like Malaria prevention, for example.

So, I wouldn’t ask the Indains and others to forgo buying automobiles; it’s a waste of time anyway. Either individual liberty (the ability to make choices for oneself) leads to long term survival for the species, or the species is doomed no matter how you slice it. Pretending that smart people (read as environmentalists) can save us from ourselves, if we hand our freedom over to them, is just another form of magical thinking.

It won’t work.