Monday, April 26, 2010

Authentic American Traitors

The financial crisis of 2007-2009 has made Jefferson [Thomas] a little less out of fashion.
(13 Bankers by Simon Johnson and James Kwak)

Ira Glass' This American Life on National Public Radio is one of the best listening experiences you'll likely have. Glass takes specific American themes on each of his segments and usually provides a compelling story, one that often lingers long after the program is over.

In particular is the one on the creation of a hedge fund that contributed to our global financial disaster and caused considerable pain for a great number of ordinary Americans.

While the program provides a "clear" explanation of the arcane world of credit default swaps, bundling, shorting, and equity tranch it is much more about astonishing greed, stupidity and, yes, betting against America itself. Those nasty terrorists couldn't have done it better. Is the system dysfunctional?

As well, while not discussed on the program, the question easily comes to mind whether or not our present political system is capable of making radical changes. No, markets are not self-correcting ... nor are they "efficient."

We Americans are angry in a general sense but clearly many of us are not really certain in a specific way about what exactly we are angry about. We may "throw the bums out," but we may also regret what we have created. This 40 minute segment is well worth listening to. Go to
Eat My Shorts

Friday, April 23, 2010

Red Herrings & MacGuffins

It's more than a game. It's an institution.

(Thomas Hughes, 1822-1896)

President Ronald Reagan, the “Gipper,” took his lines seriously. It was just like a movie script, when he told Americans that trickle-down economics would be the secret of America's success. Let the markets be free!

Of course this gibberish has been uttered periodically throughout our history. It wasn't Reagan's idea, but he apparently believed it with all his heart in the 1980s, when he mouthed every cliché that was handed to him. It's been a great movie ever since.

William J. Astore's article, “Democratic Kleptocracy,” in Asia Times is worth the read. See Imitation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Snake-Oil Show (1)

For a great many people facts, especially the scientific kind with peer reviewed studies and extensive analysis, will never get in the way of dearly held beliefs, especially if the facts might foreshadow significant change and of course inconvenience.

Climate change is one of those complex issues that befuddles and confuses a lot of us. Add a large dose of deliberate confusion by the fossil fuel industry and a broad lack of scientific understanding by the public in general and you get climate denial.

Lord Monckton, a character out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta or a Monte Python sketch, is a popular figure on the climate denial circuit. It is worth revisiting his road show periodically to understand that climate change is not comedy. See Pure Imagination.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ask the Weatherman

Some things are worth repeating over and over again. As we have learned lately from various polls and surveys, most Americans get their "understanding" of climate change (or not) from their local weatherperson. Climate science and meteorolgy are not the same thing. It becomes even more confusing for most people when denialists deliberately attempt to mislead. Once again:
Raining in Mutchkin Land.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Climate for All

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well
(Julian of Norwich, English mystic, 1342-1416)

Dear, Mr. President,

So, we're going to start drilling for oil and gas along some of our coastlines or at least seriously examine the possibility. Just what is your “grand” climate and energy policy to be? Will it actually be an authentic policy? Is America at this point capable of producing a climate and energy policy?

I have read a lot of the views from assorted pundits, “experts,” and interested observers as to why you're implementing this policy. It's to provide political cover, some have suggested, if peak oil really slams into us within the next few years.

You bet those old Chinese communists and ambitious technocrats in the politburo don't want angry peasants coming after them. Kill a rain forest for job security. India's one billion plus just wants its day in the sun. Brazil is merely tired of the gringos and, well, Japan wants to continue killing whales and dolphins, and who needs tuna anyway. It's only cultural cuisine, you meat eaters you. Did you know that it sometimes takes more than an hour for a whale to die a horrible death after being harpooned by one of those state-of-the-art spears?

Yeah, no one wants to contemplate a barrel of oil closing in on $200. It's going to be hard though to reduce our foreign oil import of 12 million barrels a day, even if we dig up America extracting shale oil. Michael Lynch, an energy consultant, said if you were “really” serious you'd open up the entire California coast. Hell, let's just drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Someone once said there's nothing in Alaska anyway but deadbeat fathers escaping child support payments.

We understand you have to give the opposition something if you want a genuine climate bill within the next few years. But I bet in your heart-of-hearts you know we ain't going to drill our way out of this, even if the cowboy plunderers that run the western states start drilling under Brigham Young University. Well, that's a thought....

A sort of a problem is that there is no rational opposition political party, Mr. President. There is a nasty, not very bright political cult. I know you want to break bread with Senator Lindsey Graham, who passes for an enlightened member of the Republican cult these days. Seemingly he believes climate change may be genuine. That's a dangerous position to take. Truly he's demonstrated a profile in courage.

I'm glad we now have some fuel efficiency standards, better late than never, maybe. I've heard that this could reduce oil consumption by 1.2 million barrels per day by 2020. But then, why does Senator Murkowski from Alaska want to roll back those fuel efficiency standards? Well her father, a former governor, was not terribly bright either. Maybe Senator Landrieu from the progressive state of Louisiana told her that fuel efficiency was encroaching on state rights. And who the devil is the National Automobile Dealers Association? They want to block the government's ability to regulate global warming emissions. Are they fronting for Islamic terrorists?

This naturally brings us to the U.S. Congress, specifically the United State Senate, little more than a dysfunctional debating society. Now if we ignore the members of the Republican cult, boot out a dozen or so Democratic senators, we may just have a quorum to begin debating climate change legislation and some energy issues.

I know, I know many environmentalists have said no drilling, no nukes, no biofuels, just get that alternative energy on line right now. Yup, better hitch up old Ned to the buckboard and head into town for some kerosene. In the meantime I'll be working hard at creating my resilient community.

No, I don't want us to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the northern coast of Alaska, and I don't trust the fossil fuel industry, the night crawlers that have funded the climate deniers, and I'm well aware of the deep confusion among perhaps the majority of the electorate, and I'm angry at what I think is you having wasted more than a year screwing around with bipartisanship and a lot of timid incrementalism, but you're it right now.

You clearly have a lot of educating to do. Convincing Americans that it's never going back to the good ol' days won't be easy. Telling Americans that tearing up the planet and killing all life on it won't get them economic prosperity, job security or a future for their children is not something they want to hear. After all, we Americans are exceptional. Best hire some very smart behavioral science specialists and get on with the business of talking to average Americans, the sooner the better. Just maybe we've a 50-50 chance.


A Citizen