Good news: the warming pause finally appears in the news as journalists learn about science.

Summary:  Telling the public about climate change is among the most difficult challenges for journalists, ever. Complex, rapidly changing, no consensus among scientists beyond a few basics about mechanisms and history, and highly politicized. Here we look at two examples, good and not-so-good. These show progress, and also how the Left’s dogmatic adherence to its narrative has forced them to abandon science (a commonplace in history for both Left and Right).

Community Climate System Model

Community Climate System Model

(1)  Good journalism

Sample #1: “Scientists now know why global warming has slowed down and it’s not good news for us“, Jeffery DelViscio, Quartz, 27 February 2015.

They accurately report two studies. They quote scientists — not activists. They often put things in context. Most important, they break the Left’s narrative of denying the pause, which for several years been one of the hot topics in climate science.

Roberts told Quartz that this all suggests our current warming pause is unique, but, despite the low probability, it is also “very possible” that the pause could continue a few more years. And that wouldn’t be inconsistent with what we know about the effects of the heat-trapping ocean oscillations at work in the Science study.

… >Some even say that 2014, the hottest year on record, already marked the end of the hiatus. But Roberts of the Met Office advised caution before calling it officially off. “I would argue that we need a run of several unusually warm years to be able to definitively identify the end,” he said.

All of the researchers who spoke to Quartz about the two studies agreed that the warming pause was just that. “Eventually we expect temperatures to ‘catch up,’ but it may take longer than five years for that to happen,” Roberts told Quartz.

The article’s overall frame is, however, incorrect. Individual scientists have theories about the cause(s) of the pause. But there is as yet no consensus on this. See for yourself by reading abstracts of (and links to) 37 articles describing of the major 12 theories about causes of the pause, many by leaders in this field.

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At last economists see the robot revolution. Here’s why they worry.

Summary:  When I first warned about the “robot revolution” (the 3rd industrial revolution) 3 years ago, I was one of a minority. Experts assured us it would produce quick benefits without much disruption (unlike the previous 2). Time has brought new evidence, and now concern has replaced confidence. Today we review the problem. The next few posts will consider solutions. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“An increase in the productivity of labour means nothing more than that the same capital creates the same value with less labour, or that less labour creates the same product with more capital.”

— Karl Marx’s “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (1857/58).

Robot Evolution

Matthew Yglesias gave a strong rebuttal to people blaming automation for the slow growth in jobs and wages since the recession ended. But it’s happening nonetheless, slowly but accelerating. People tend to underestimate short-term change, and over estimate it over the long term. But now people are noticing the drumbeat of announcements, as automation affects more jobs of all kinds. Even economists are doubting their easy confidence that the future must be like the past.

Previous posts list scores of examples. Every month brings more, such as …”The computer will see you now. A virtual shrink may sometimes be better than the real thing.” “Here come the autonomous robot security guards.”  Robots help deliver meals for patients.  “Eerily lifelike androids join staff at Tokyo tech museum.Journalists reporting the end of journalism as a profession,  “Watch out, coders — a robot may take your job, too.

The problem is structural on three levels, and just beginning. First there is the shift of rewards from labor to capital (those who own the machine), as we see in the workers’ falling share of GDP, and the rise in corporate profits as a percent of GDP.

The second structure factor: technology changes the distribution of income in many fields. We’re shifting to a winner-take-all economy, as explained in “Welcome To Extremistan! Please Check Your Career At The Door.” Excerpt:

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Read like a conservative to see the world in a new way!

Summary: Today’s exercise might open your eyes and raise you consciousness, hopefully in a good way. Here’s what a conservative, of the extreme variety, reads over the course of a week, stories describing a terrifying world of powerful enemies, foreign and domestic, poised to attack (or already subverting America from within). It’s about our weakness and their strength. But more importantly this distorted news flow has tilted the nation’s mental in an unbalanced and fearful way.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
— John 8:32. Yes, but lies told the weak are more politically useful.

Truth Will Make You Free

How have so many Americans become so fearful and militaristic since 9/11, urging an ever more belligerent foreign policy (despite its repeated failures)? There have been studies showing a large fraction of people with a bias or tilt towards these things, such as “Tea Party Members Cultural Dispositions ‘Authoritarianism, Fear Of Change, Libertarianism And Nativism’“.

But there’s more to it. An industry has arise to feed our fears. The information “diet” we consume exacerbates these traits, so that we see a distorted view of the world, with every threat exaggerated in size and immanence. The repeated failure of these threats to affect us does change their views, mysteriously.

Here’s a sample of stories from just a few days — most from respectable sources (it’s much worse in the shadowy corners of the Internet). Only a few from Fox News and the Washington Times, as that would be too easy. Nothing here from the flow of racism; we discussed that yesterday.

Some of these stories are accurate, but lack context. Some are exaggerated. Some are fanciful. It’s the selectivity of the diet that produces the desired effect, making the subject easy to rule. Imagine credulously reading these every day for years. Terror and a kind of paranoia are natural results, plus a desire to strike before they get us.

Foreign Enemies

How the Military Will Fight ISIS on the Dark Web“, Patrick Tucker, Defense One.  “Al-Qaeda morphs into a new movement since 9/11“, AP. AQ has gone thru more changes since 9/11 than Lady GaGa. Always threatening yet seldom acting.  “The U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State is underpowered“, Washington Post editorial.  “Islamic State group’s war chest is growing daily“, AP. Perhaps in a decade or so it will equal that of Liechtenstein ($420 million per year).

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We live in the America Bush Jr created, a break with our past.

Summary: Dazzled by Nobel Peace Prize President Hope and Change, people (including historians and political scientists) and have only slowly recognized that Obama has largely continued the policies of his greater predecessor — a man who truly changed the course of American history. Until we understand our past we cannot effectively cope with our future.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Bush on Mt Rushmore

Passing years make it ever more clear that Bush Jr was one of the few transformative Presidents in US history, decisively changing the course of both domestic and foreign policy. Consider just a few of his major policy initiatives. The roots of these policy changes lie in the past, but he brought them to maturity.

  • His tax laws shifted the burden of Federal taxes from the rich to the middle-class (only slightly rolled back by Obama; State and local taxes were already regressive), continuing the work of our previous transformative President — Ronald Reagan.
  • He shifted the US from its post-WWII policy of containment and support for international law (largely a US-driven creation) to one of militaristic aggression — quite mad for a world in which new power centers are arising).
  • He decisively broke with the New Deal patterns, weakening the regulatory apparatus ability to interfere with corporate profits — and diminishing the influence of other interests, such as unions and environmentalists.
  • He decisively broke with  generations-old legal precedents (e.g., torture, preemptive war, indefinite detention without trial) or centuries-old (e.g., use of mercenaries).

As with many such key moments in time, historians only slowly recognized the change in course if America, and even more slowly explore the factors that made it happen. In the New York Review of Books Mark Danner continues his work reviewing books about this remarkable story (one reason the NYRB should be on everybody’s subscription list). Here we examine the person most responsible for crafting America’s new grand strategy. The origins of Bush’s domestic policies remain to be explored, on another day.

Excerpt from “In the Darkness of Dick Cheney

By Mark Danner
New York Review of Books, 6 March 2014 (red emphasis added)

Reviewing:

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A graph showing the end of America as we know it.

Summary: This is third in a series showing that we’re losing America. This post examines rising inequality of income, one of the major forces reshaping our society and politics. It’s not a class war if we don’t fight back.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The one graph that ties together the strands making a New America.
Click to enlarge.

The Great Decoupoling

Andrew McAfee, 12 Dec 2012 — Click to enlarge.

This one powerful but dense graph shows the transformation of what we know of as America — born in the fires of the New Deal, WWII, and the civil rights revolution — into the America of the Gilded Age. The top 2 lines (blue and grey) show America’s increasing economic strength: rising labor productivity and GDP. The bottom two show what we get from that (private sector jobs and median household income).

Here you see the slowly widening break in the early 1980s — the Reagan years, an inflection in so many American political and economic trends — as the 1% siphoned off an increasing fraction of America’s income. That growing gap gives them ever more power, allowing them to restructure America’s institutions to better serve them.

Labor unions were crushed. Workers increasingly became contingent, disposable — either “independent contractors” (often de facto employees without the protections of formal employment), or temps, or just pawns to be fired as needed to boost profits. Open borders brought in more workers to drive down wages (e.g., H-1B visas for skilled workers). Enforcement of labor regulations were gutted, allowing growing exploitation of workers, such as illegally treated cheerleaders in professional sports, plus dubiously legal “managers” (no overtime), unpaid interns, and not-independent independent contractors.

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Stories about a rising tide of black mob violence!

Summary:  Obama’s election brought hope for a new era of race relations in America. Instead we appear to be starting another downward part of the long cycle. As usual, these things just don’t happen — and bad relations work well for the 1%. Today we look at some of the ugly propaganda that guides American in the 21st century (so similar to that of the 19th and 20th C).

This is the 2nd in a series of posts showing how we’re losing America.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

The aide {Karl Rove} said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism.

He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

— Karl Rove, as quoted in “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush” by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.

Divide and Rule

One of the momentous and astonishing aspects of our time is that conservative leaders have erected a Potemkin village for their followers, and gotten them to move in. A fake history (e.g., the failures of FDR, we won in Vietnam excerpt for a “stab in the back” by peaceniks). A fake economics (e.g., cutting taxes usually increases tax revenue).  A fake science (e.g., creationism, climate science is fraud).  Over time they’re moving further away from reality. Divorcing people from mainstream and authoritative sources is a reliable tool of social control (effectively used, for example, by cults).  This probably will not end well for America.

διαίρει καὶ βασίλευ.
— ‘Divide and rule’, attributed to Philip II of Macedon (332-386 BC)
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Today we look at an example showing they build myths in the minds of their flock, and lead  them. In this case, playing on people’s deep fear of the “other”. The  economic stress on blue collar demographic creates pressures with no outlets, as they don’t see the 1% in its protected enclaves — and have been taught that their gradual impoverishment is just — as their ancestors believed in the divine right of Kings. If the pressure grew without outlet we might get new political alliances and perhaps even change.

So they’re given myths (ideally based on exaggerations instead of fiction) creating enemies to fear. Such as Islamic fundamentalists abroad (rebelling against their corrupt, oppressive western-backed governments), so they can feel vicarious satisfaction from our bombing and killing.

But who to use as enemies at home? We don’t have the long deep history of antisemitism that’s served European elites so well. But America has an almost as deeply rooted racism, that’s served the same role as well for so long. It’s easily exploited using tried and proven methods, but the process is not pretty.

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More evidence that we’re losing America. It’s not too late to act.

Summary: I have long discussed what might make Americans rouse themselves to retake the reins of the Republic and reverse its evolution into a new regime. Clear warnings, descriptions and diagnosis of the problem? Anger at ourselves and what we’ve allowed America to become? None of these seem plausible. Perhaps fear will do it, produced by recognition that there is a class war — and we’re losing. A few posts will review the depressing news.

Will these spur you to act? Time is not our ally. Lots of groups talk about building a New America; the people doing so act in the shadows — visible only if you look. But the results of their work have become obvious.

Despair at losing

We discuss the progress of our foreign wars in great details, just as we track every vibration of the economy and the political machinery in Washington. The big things get less attention, such as the class war by the 1% against us. We’re losing. It’s like slowly boiling a frog; it’s happening so slowly that we don’t notice. But there’s still time to act.  {Also: zoologists consider this a myth; please don’t test it at home.}

(1)  COIN comes to America

As I and so many others warned for so long, the techniques of surveillance and oppression developed during our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan would eventually come home. As we see at the crushing of the Occupy protests and on the streets of Ferguson. Here’s another example. Even I, who has chronicled so many horrific stories about America at this website, was shocked. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’“, Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian, 24 February 2015 — Secret interrogation facility reveals aspects of war on terror in US. Protester details 17-hour shackling without basic rights. Accounts describe police brutality, missing 15-year-old and one man’s death.” Excerpt:

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