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Is the Tea Party wrong about global warming? Yes! And no.

11 May 2014

Summary: Climate change might pose one of the greatest threats to humanity in its history since the supervolcano Toba exploded 70 thousand years ago, almost exterminating our species. Or not. Managing this complex issue profoundly challenges our social and political institutions. We’re failing so far, with no signs of improvement. Here is post #50 in a series documenting this. There’s still time to do better. The stakes are high.

An hourglass for the world

By LucAleria; Wikimedia Commons image

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Contents

  1. A vital issue reduced to a cacophony
  2. Conservatives are right about global warming
  3. Conservatives are wrong about global warming
  4. Conclusions
  5. For More Information

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(1)  A vital issue reduced to a cacophony

Climate change powerfully illustrates America’s broken observation-orientation-action (OODA) loop, and how this cripples our ability to craft effective public policy responses to our changing world. It’s become politicized, with both sides focused on the success of their side — the truth a secondary consideration.

Comments frequently remind me of this. I posted a comment the skeptics at Jeff Condon’s The Air Vent about the benefits of properly citing the source of graphics. Amazingly, the folks there disagreed. “I don’t think references add much credibility to correlation sorted paleoclimatology..” After all, “climate scientists make plenty of errors on blogs just like the rest of us.” Worth a read of their tribal reactions.

I cited “In the Eye of the Storm“ by James Hanley (Assoc Prof of Political Science, Adrian College). His reply:

“Oh, lord, why did you have to reference me. I’m not on your side.”

This is a mild comment, not serious in itself, but typical of the public debate about climate. The tribe, the side, the team is what matters. Are you with the Kool Kids or against them? Articles are read to determine which side the author belongs to; all reactions follow from that. I doubt Prof Hanley knows anything about my views about climate change, but confidently guesses. That’s the rule seen in the thousands of comments to the 185 posts about climate change on the FM website.(summarized here)

After years of this the public debate about climate change has become a cacophony, leaving a large fraction of Americans with strongly-held but often factually incorrect opinions. For evidence today let’s look at conservative’s opinions about global warming (see links at the end for examination of the Left’s views). Here are two polls which, unlike most, ask fairly scientifically precise questions about global warming.

(2)  Conservatives are right about global warming

From a Pew Research poll conducted 9 – 13 October 2013. Red emphasis added.

From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not? Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels, or mostly because of natural patterms {sic} in the earth’s environment?

Bloomberg plots the results:

Bloomberg graph of Global Warming

Bloomberg, 9 May 2014

The detailed numbers from the Pew Poll:

Read more…

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How the 1% runs America. Runs us. The answer points to 2 futures for us.

8 May 2014

Summary:  How does the 1% influence the daily running of America? Not the high level politics and business, but the broad influence on our social institutions which is almost as significant. The answer says much about America, the New America quickly rising around us, and how to save what we have before it’s lost.

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Darth Vader

As the distribution of power changes in America, the shape of our society must change as well. So after 40 years of income and wealth concentrating, CounterPunch asks “Is the American social contract breaking?” Listen; you can hear the answer in the wind.

“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”
— Darth Vader, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

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America is changing. On the 4th of July 2006 I wrote about the death of the Constitution. And in the following years I wrote about the rise of the New America on the ruins of the Second Republic. Scores of posts discuss ways to reform America. This political evolution results from the rise of the 1%, as they  gather into their hands more of America’s wealth and income.

Taking this from the abstract to the specific was the July 2013 post described how I have seen the New America in my experience working with local social service charities. The power of the 1% exerts an invisible but overwhelming power over people. They rearrange a community like a magnetic field reorients everything metal in a room.

But how does this happen? How does the 1% exercise control in their community (beyond their direct commercial and political power)?

This is America. They don’t send the police (or their legions of private security) to lean on those who argue with them in the boardrooms of the local United Way or Girl Scouts. Except in cases of great importance, they don’t threaten reprisals. For those with real power, they seldom need use force.

They can reward cooperation. But the rich are famously stingy. Peons should be subservient, without the bother of rewarding them. Besides, it’s better style. So they routinely rely on another lever.

Read more…

Lessons from the failure of Occupy Wall Street, its lasting legacy

7 May 2014

Summary:  This is chapter 46 in a series about how to reform America. Today we discuss lessons from the Occupy Wall Street Movement. OWS was a standard peasants’ protest. Entertainment for participants, providing practice in infiltration and suppression by the police, ineffectual in results. Structurally and operationally they did almost everything wrong. They were large protests, but weak and inept — providing valuable lessons for the future .

Victory Is The Goal

Leadership and organization

A lack of strong leadership guarantees failure. Goals, structure, focus, discipline — everything that made the civil rights demonstrations of Martin Luther King’s era successful — comes from strong competent leadership. All were absent from OWS.

Large numbers of participants mean nothing if they’re attracted by the action, and come to promote varied agenda. They muddle the protest’s message, creating meaningless ephemeral street festivals.

A far worse effect: they prevent formation of effective leadership. Meetings become an endless pointless cacophony, without common goals or principles, which drives away competent people.

Seriousness

The Roman’s called it gravitas: dignity, seriousness, solemnity of manner. It visually conveys that these people warrant attention. On television it might be the most important characteristic of the protest.

A carnival-like attitude immediately conveys the opposite message. Costumes, slovenly dress, disorder in structure, wide range of messages from the participants (seen in placards and interviews) = street festival, people having fun seeking attention, but inconsiderately disrupting other citizens’ lives = appropriate subjects or police action. Like a party of drunks on the sidewalk at rush hour.

Security

Be transparent. Assume total surveillance by the police, so keep only secrets necessary for marketing purposes (e.g., like Apple does for new products). Between infiltrators and electronic surveillance, the police will know as much as they want to know.

Have an immune system, as external threats often work from within. Survival requires formal mechanisms to identify and manage:

Read more…

The last prosecution from the Occupy movement: guilty! Reformers beware – suppression works.

6 May 2014

Summary: As the last prosecution concludes from the Occupy Wall Street movement, now we can draw up lessons learned from OWS. Valuable lessons that must be learned to give a reform movement any chance of success. But first we look at the instructive case of Cecily McMillan, newly found guilty of assaulting a police officer as a protest was crushed (a show trial to discourage other protestors). Tomorrow we discuss lessons.

Army attack camp of the Bonus Marchers

Attack on the Bonus Army, July 1932

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Contents

  1. About the incident
  2. Casual police brutality
  3. Justice for Cecily
  4. Conclusions
  5. For More Information

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(1)  About the incident

It’s a pattern in America. Banks almost break America with their reckless and fraudulent actions. Only one small fry prosecuted. Massive police violence suppressing the Occupy movements; almost only the protestors prosecuted. It’s the two tiered justice system.

(a) The Outrageous Trial of Cecily McMillan“, Michelle Goldberg, The Nation, 14 April 2014

Two years ago, a young activist named Cecily McMillan attended a protest at Zuccotti Park marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. When police moved in to clear the demonstrators, a cop roughly grabbed her breast — photos show an ugly bruise — and she ended up being injured so badly that she had a seizure and ended up in the hospital. In a just world, she would be getting restitution from the City. Instead, in a grotesque act of prosecutorial overreach, she’s currently on trial for assault and facing up to seven years in prison.

According to prosecutors, McMillan, now 25, intentionally attacked her arresting officer, Grantley Bovel, by elbowing him in the face, and was then hurt when he tried to subdue her. She says that she instinctively struck out when she felt his hand on her breast, not knowing that he was a cop, and was then further assaulted.

Her story is more convincing for a number of reasons. McMillan, a veteran of the anti–Scott Walker protests in Wisconsin, was a dedicated pacifist; in Dissent, her masters thesis adviser Maurice Isserman writes about the “many and long discussions Cecily and I have had about nonviolence.” Her injuries, which you can see in this Democracy Now! piece, are indisputable, particularly the hand-shaped bruise on her right breast.

(b) NYPD officer embroiled in assault trial sued by another Occupy campaigner“, The Guardian, 4 April 2014

A New York police officer whose allegation of assault against an Occupy Wall Street activist could send her to prison for seven years is being sued by another Occupy campaigner, who alleges that the officer injured him on the same day. … {he} has faced several previous allegations of wrongdoing …

(c)  A charmingly naive but vivid account of the story: “The Silencing Of Cecily McMillan“, Kathryn Funkhouser, The Toast, 14 April 2014 — Also includes the videos of the incident.

Read more…

Pirate Bay points the way to a new political reform movement

4 May 2014

Summary:  Today’s inspirational message comes to you courtesy of Pirate Bay, the many other similar websites, and the open-source software movement. They point the way to new political reform movements that might revitalize the Second Republic (built on the Constitution), or pave the way to a Third.

Through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both in public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning independently from the state.
“Political Theory: The Classic Texts and their Continuing Relevance”, lectures by Joshua Kaplan (2005)

Pirate Bay

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Americans as a people are strong only to the extent that we stand together to make our political and social machinery work. This is the true sense in which America is extraordinary, as de Tocquiville saw in 1835.

Collective action won our freedom from Great Britain, and a century later built our vibrant voluntary associations (e.g., Boy and Girl Scouts), unions, and broad-based political parties — all of which coalesced after WW2 to build a society with a large middle class and high social mobility.

Some of that lies in ruins today. Much of the rest decays, steadily, year by year. This rising individualism, better described as atomization and alienation, is the 1%’s most powerful ally. Political reform efforts during the past 30 years have foundered on several rocks, but their inability to assemble a broad coalition has been their largest obstacle. The Tea Party and Occupy movements tapped the extremes, but left the large middle untouched.

Movements built on narrow self-interest thrive (often doing valuable work), such as the fantastic (but still incomplete) successes of the gay rights organizations. But deep political reforms require working for the whole, not just self-interest. Are we capable of that today? Some despair. Unjustly. There are examples showing that we’re capable of more. That the people of the free world have grown, and have become capable of more.

Read more…

About the warnings of a monster super El Nino coming to you this year

2 May 2014

Summary:   Today we have an example of America’s poor ability to process information. Weather reports become climate porn. Run for your lives, an El Nino comes! In fact, an El Nino appears likely in 2014-15. Perhaps a severe one, with substantial effects. But exaggerated warnings, often false, don’t help. Instead they dull our ability to assess and respond to dangers. This article describes the situation, with tips about distinguishing reliable sources from chaff.

This will be updated with additional links as the situation develops.

The World in our Hands
Contents

  1. El Nino: the climate giant
  2. The super monster meme
  3. Actual scientists talk to us
  4. NOAA shows the pictures
  5. Other posts about this story
  6. For More Information

(1)  El Nino: the climate giant

Climate change shows the way information — and memes — spread through America.

As a  ploy in the climate change debate, alarmists attribute large but commonplace (over decades or longer) events to CO2, exciting the public’s fear. A side effect, we’ve become weather hypochondriacs. Much like the 1950s Red scare, when people looked to sky in fear of Russian bombers — and saw many weirdly wonderful normal sights which they mistook for UFO’s (e.g., sun dogs, Venus).

Activists exaggerate, using catchy phrases and wild stories, which more mainstream people (e.g., journalists, scientists, professionals) — all seeking clickbait — adopt and spread. Sound analysis quickly drowns amidst the noise, reducing the debate to a cacophony.

It’s the golden age of climate porn. Today we look at an example of meteorology about a common climate cycle evolving into a horror story.

First some background about El Nino, by Bob Tisdale:

Because El Niño events are typically tied to the seasonal cycle, this El Niño, if it continues to develop and it likely will, would peak in November 2014 to January 2015. So you may be wondering why there’s all the interest in some slow-developing weather event that may happen to grow throughout the rest of the year.

In short, El Niño events cause massive changes in “normal” weather patterns around the globe and El Niño events can cause long-term changes in global surface temperatures. …

There are no other weather-related events on Earth that compare in magnitude to an El Nino.El Niño events are by far the largest of any weather-related phenomenon taking place on the planet, and they impact weather around the globe. If you think tropical cyclones (hurricanes) are big, sometimes it takes two cyclones straddling the equator in the western Pacific just to kick start the initial processes that might cause an El Niño to form. Only catastrophic explosive volcanic eruptions like El Chichon in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991 can counteract the global effects of an El Niño.

(2)  The super monster meme

News about the possibility of an El Nino started mildly with “An El Niño Coming in 2014?“, Michael Ventrice, Weather Underground, 21 February 2014 — Ventrice works for WSI Energy; he has a PhD in Atmospheric Science and Meteorology — Conclusions:

The Pacific Ocean is now in a state that could reconstruct the base state of the Pacific, favoring an El Niño to develop later this Spring. That being said, it’s not a locked in solution yet as we need to monitor the atmosphere for future westerly wind bursts to help push the Western Pacific Warm Pool along.

On March 6 NOAA issued an official El Nino Watch, after which there were a burst of articles about the effects of a possible El Nino in 2014. Most were reasonable, comparing likely impacts with the uncertainty of these forecasts. Like this: “Unusually Intense El Nino May Lie Ahead, Scientists Say“, Andrew Freedman (science writer), Mashable, 19 March 2014 — An excellent and deeply sourced piece of journalism. Excerpt:

Read more…

Cruel, deliberate, and unusually vicious. It’s us.

1 May 2014

Summary: Today, one of the bloggers that I follow regularly linked to Charles Pierce’s angry opinion piece on the State Of Oklahoma’s execution of Clayton Lockett: Barbarians In Oklahoma. Because I’ve recently been under a general anaesthetic for surgery, I was curious and decided on a whim to look up the drugs used in the “lethal injection cocktail.”  Shaken and upset, I hope that my interpretation of the pharmacological effects is wrong. I’m pretty sure I am not.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
— Eighth amendment to the US Constitution

Execution by Firing Squad

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The three drugs
  3. Putting it all together
  4. Death with Dignity
  5. Torture is a crime
  6. About the 8th amendment
  7. For More Information

(1)  Introduction

Let me state for the record that I am not an anesthesiologist or a pharmacologist. I am currently trying to vet this material with a few professionals and am already  gathering feedback that leads me to believe I am not wrong. I may be. If I am wrong, I will publish a suitably public correction/retraction.

(2)  The three drugs

The lethal injection package consists of three drugs given in sequence.

(a) The First Drug

The first drug is a mild hypnotic/disassociative. The subject would feel sleepy and dizzy, but it would not provide an anaesthetic effect. Hypnotics are often used in surgery because they tend to block the formation of long-term memories; subjects appear less likely to suffer PTSD symptoms as a result of surgery if their ability to remember the experience is blocked.

(b) The Second Drug

The second drug is Vecuronium Bromide – basically, Curare. Curare causes rapid and severe paralysis of muscles. The subject remains conscious and the curare does not block pain; it renders the subject unable to move, blink, speak – or breathe. Someone on curare feels as if they are being held down by impossible force, and they begin to strangle as their diaphragm muscles stop functioning.

Read more…

The NRA feeds our fears, the fast track to political power in America

29 April 2014

Summary: Both Left and Right motivate us by fear. They’re professionals at propaganda and manipulation. They choose fear as a theme for good reason: because it works. We’ve looked at many examples from the Left (see the links in the last section). Today we look at an unusually vivid example from the Right. Our weakness makes us easy to lead. But we can do better. Let’s not let fear so easily guide us. The path to reform starts with each of us, as individuals.

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
— Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757)

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Another day in America, another mass shooting. Today’s is in Cobb, GA. Six casualties, plus the dead gunman. This does not happen in other developed nations. The NRA’s CEO explains why it happens so often in America.

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Fear by Van Gogh

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Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA

Speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
6 April 2014

Much of this speech is inspiration and strikes home truths; I wish others would echo his call to action in defense of America. Much is factually incorrect (e.g., crime rates have been falling for 2 decades). Much is quite mad. It’s 100% professional-quality fear-mongering, by a powerful organization with a steel grip on an important piece of US public policy

See the video.  Excerpt from the transcript:

Freedom has never needed our defense more than now. Almost everywhere you look, something has gone wrong. You feel it in your heart, you know it in your gut. Something has gone wrong. The core values we believe in, the things we care about most, are changing. Eroding. Our right to speak. Our right to gather. Our right to privacy. The freedom to work, and practice our religion, and raise and protect our families the way we see fit.

… They are core freedoms. The core values that have always defined us as a nation and we feel them — we feel them — slipping away. All across America, everywhere I go, people come up to me and say, “Wayne, I’ve never been worried about this country — until now.” Not with anger, but with sadness in their eyes.

… We fear for the safety of our families — it’s why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards, laughter in the air, now sit empty and silent. In virtually every way, for the things we care about most, we feel profound loss.

Read more…

The 1% won a counter-revolution while we played. We forgot that we are the crew of America, not passengers.

28 April 2014

Summary: Now inequality has become too extreme to ignore. Now that the 1% has crushed all opposition, we begin to see the results of their successful counter-revolution. But we do not yet see the battle. Until we understand our past others will build our future. Here’s a first cut doing so.

The Universe was 5 miles long, and 2,000 feet across. Men scoffed at the legends of such things as stars, or the demented idea that the Ship was moving… for the Ship was the Universe, and there could be nothing outside. Then one man found his way into a forgotten room, and saw the stars – and they moved….

— Summary of Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein (1951; based on two 1941 short stories), one of the early stories about a generation ship

Phoenix

Somewhere in our future lies the Third Republic

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(1)  A recap of the plot so far

During the long halcyon days of the post-WW2 summer America forgot about economic classes — and their cousin, social mobility. The reforms of the New Deal, the post-WW2 social programs (especially the GI bill, the ample funding to education (from primary to graduate-level), the civil rights legislation, and sustained growth of GDP and wages — all these fertilized the rise of a middle class and modest degree of social mobility. We came to consider that our due as Americans. We came to consider that as America.

All this culminated with the long boom (the debt-fueled expansion from 1982 – 2000, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the late 1990′s tech boom. America was exceptional, a new moment in history. Marx became a comic figure. “The only Marxists live in Berkeley and Albania.”

We forgot the century-long struggle that laid the political foundations for the middle class, a slow low-violence revolution.  That meant we forgot that this was an unnatural state requiring work to maintain. We forgot we were the officers and crew of America, not passengers on the Love Boat.

But not everybody was happy with summer, and the core New Deal and civil rights reforms with made it possible.  They planned a counter-revolution. They had patience, long-vision, and vast resources.

(a)  Starting with Goldwater, the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” slowly returned the antebellum ideologies of racial separatism, States Rights, etc — to break the New Deal coalition, forging an instrument to wage the counter-revolution. There was no plan, just a “run to daylight” strategy of exploiting the internal contradictions and discontents that triumphant liberals had allowed to develop in their coalition.

(b) The Powell Memorandum: Sent by Lewis F. Powell, Jr. on 23 August 1971 (2 months before his nomination to Supreme Court) to Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman of the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Titled Attack On American Free Enterprise System, it outlined a strategy for large corporations to rollback much of the New Deal reforms on business and crush the unions (perhaps the key brick in the New Deal coalition and the middle class structure).

(c) The article creating the mythology of tax-cuts as the magic elixir: “Taxes and a Two-Santa Theory“, Jude Wanniski, National Observer, 6 March 1976

(d) In his 14 July 1978 testimony to Congress (9 years before becoming Fed Chairman), Alan Greenspan first described the “starve the beast” strategy: “Let us remember that the basic purpose of any tax cut program in today’s environment is to reduce the momentum of expenditure growth by restraining the amount of revenue available and trust that there is a political limit to deficit spending.”

The great New Deal coalition built a new America. But the flower children of the boomer generation forgot that they were in a vessel. They thought they were frolicking in a meadow. Their political activism was limited to groups working to benefit themselves — such as ending the draft, opening the work world to women, rights for gays. Issues the 1%, as a class, don’t care about. Nobody bothered with the boring work of staffing the engine and control rooms, and running the ship.

Read more…

Tell us how we’re doing! Post your suggestions.

27 April 2014

Today we again ask for reader feedback on important aspects of the FM website. Tell us how to do this better. Everything is open to fix. Excerpt for one thing. We’ll continue to annoy both Left and Right, looking for a path to reform America. It’s bad for business in our increasingly tribal society, but such is life.

Listening
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Questions

  1. Daily long posts, or more short posts?
  2. Promo our successful predictions, or just more on?
  3. Add your comments

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(1)  Daily long posts, or more short posts

The FM website does long-form analysis of issues on the cutting edge of the known. They’re usually 1,000 to 2,000 words long (vs typical posts on the web of 200 -400 words). With copious citations (usually links).  Complexes of posts, each a chapter closely examining a sliver of the geopolitical world (from an American perspective). Extensively cross-indexed.

The other side of the operation is the @FabiusMaximus01 twitter feed. Pointers to articles about the themes covered here, often with brief comments on them (1,135 followers).

Short and long. Is this the best way to do this?  Most importantly, should we do more and shorter articles — or stick with the one-per-day long-form articles. Other questions appear below the fold.
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(2)  Second question: do we promote past predictions enough?

Read more…

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