Save the humans

As I write this post, a presidential candidate who thinks global warming is “bullshit” has a fair chance to burn his way to the White House door. A fire is burning in Canada that no one knows how to stop. Oceans are rising, AND they are becoming more acidic, AND parts of the ocean are holding less oxygen than they used to. Conflicts in the middle east are made worse by drought. Rain forests are being cut down to make palm oil, and profitable carbon-energy companies receive huge direct and indirect subsidies.

The science on climate change actually IS clear, and frankly it is terrifying. There is a realistic civilization-ending scenario. And in the face of that risk, corporations and political interests dither and spread misinformation. I keep hearing a bell tolling; this is not a drill.

I’m about to step on some toes here, but bear with me for a couple more paragraphs: climate change is the most important issue facing humanity right now. It is more important than health care. It is more important than Black Lives Matter. It matters more than GLBT inclusion. It utterly eclipses the supposed threat of terrorism – and the much more real threat of police militarism. But it is not isolated from or antithetical to any of those issues.

It really irritates me when people say; “How can you care about issue X when issue Y is more important?” The obvious answer is that we don’t confront issues one at a time. Yes, we want to save the planet*, and we want economic equality and people should not have to be afraid of the police. Solve the first one, but make sure humanity is worth saving by solving the rest of them too. It really doesn’t seem like that hard of a concept.

I remember GW Bush saying that efforts to combat climate change were OK with him, as long as they didn’t hurt the economy. I wondered at the time what planetary-scale catastrophes would do to his precious economy. Today, because of the Alberta fire, the economic forecast for Canada has been scaled back from projected growth of 1.5% this year, to zero. The US could face similar scale catastrophes: imagine entire cities evacuated in Florida. And I just wonder, what’s it gonna take for people to wake up?

Never give up

What to do now? Go out and vote for the most radical environmentalist you can find? We both know how that turns out: GW Bush becomes president and we spend 8 more years denying climate change at the highest level. We did not have 8 years to waste back in 2001, and we sure as hell don’t have any time to waste now. My prescription – and I hope it is the right one – is to keep the deniers out, and put pressure on the moderates who DO win to focus on climate change. Without forgetting about… humanity. Otherwise, why save anything?


Catholic conference questions “Just War Theory”

National Catholic ReporterVatican City – The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence…”

From descriptions of war in the Old Testament, this conference errs in thinking war has become anachronistic on account of the power of modern weapons. War has always been about cruelty and the infliction of suffering. Some of the most horrible wars are fought with machetes and rape. There is one going on right now that is fought with bulldozers. Drones do nothing to sanitize war, only to isolate one side from the cruelty.

The conference is exactly right however that the solution is to think more courageously about the consequences of our actions, and how we might instead wage peace. Warfare is playing a short game in which one side has more power; the citadels of power can ignore the resulting suffering, the asymmetric warfare, and even the loss of generations. It is thousands of years past time that we began to play a longer game.

Powers Of Ten, a look at our world and universe

I probably re-post this video every five years. It absolutely blew my mind the first time I saw it, and has shaped my thinking ever since. It was created for the IBM corporation in 1977; I would love for someone to re-make it for a new generation.

Here’s a more recent take on the theme, but I think it would be more meaningful with scientific narration like the 1977 original.

Why Man Creates – a pair of short films

Wow. I haven’t seen these since I was a kid. I think my dad was showing them to a bunch of his students at the University of Iowa, and I was watching from the wings. But here’s a note of interest: these were put out by the Kaiser Aluminum corporation.

Part One:

Part Two:

Next post, if I can find the video, is of about the same vintage, from the IBM corporation.

Good reasons for all 3 Democratic candidates

Once upon a time, the US had to choose between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower. It was a nice problem to have. But lest we succumb to pessimism, we do have some pretty good candidates on the table even today:

I support Bernie Sanders, and I’m not stupid or unrealistic
“Allow me to let you in on a little secret: I, like presumably most Americans who support Bernie Sanders, do not expect miracles.”

It’s time to take a serious look at Martin O’Malley
“He’s a serious person, with serious things to say, and it’s a travesty that he hasn’t gotten more coverage.”

Why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton, with joy and without apology
I believe she’s evolved back to be the progressive Democrat she used to be, more progressive than her liberal husband.”

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Saying what no liberal wants to hear

The click-bait headline reads “Hillary Clinton: single-payer health care will never, ever happen.” But that isn’t quite what she said:

“People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.”

Much of the reaction to her statement has been to re-hash the reasons why single-payer is a good idea. Which it is, and it’s important to talk about it. But she knows the arguments for single-payer better than anybody. Here, she’s talking about defending the ACA against attempts to destroy it. She is not saying that single-payer is a bad idea, only that getting there involves a walk into Mordor. Think for a moment about the steps on that walk:

  1. After generations of propaganda demonizing socialism and socialist medicine in particular, a clear majority of Americans would suddenly have to elect representatives who will support it.
  2. The courts will have to be ready to fend off an endless series of attacks from insurance companies and related industries – and they’re not.
  3. Hundreds of laws will need to be changed regarding everything from drug pricing to private hospital policies. Picture our congress doing that.
  4. All while the propaganda machine is turbocharged by virtually unlimited money from vested interests.

Political realism is a bitter pill. I recall that Hillary does have some experience with this specific issue. She tried to institute single-payer back when Bill was President. It was a damn serious effort on both sides. The drug companies, the insurance companies, and any number of conservative orgs mounted what until then had been the biggest lobbying effort in history to stop single-payer. And that was before Citizens United.

On that bitter experience she is saying: you can’t get there from here. And sadly, I agree. First you will need to replace a few Supreme Court justices, and overturn Citizen’s United. That alone may take eight years, before starting the other steps. There are a lot of people who can’t wait that long. Yes, the ACA is a mess, but our country is not politically ready for what it will take to accomplish a clean, Canadian-style system.

The brilliance of a better idea often blinds us to the many painful realities that lie between us and realizing the idea.


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  • Vote for Bernie, vote for Hillary, I don’t care; but vote for a Democratic congress! Bernie Sanders himself has said that electing him won’t be enough; an outright revolution in Congress would be needed as well. It’s way too easy to think that because we see the need for change, everyone else does too.

Beware of software bearing gifts

SUPPOSE WE TURN THAT WINDOWS MESSAGE INTO A CONVERSATION between me and Windows. Earlier this morning…

Me: (Taps spacebar, preparing to log in for a quick FB check)
Win: “Hi”
Me: Oh crap. What have you done now?
Win: “We’ve updated your PC”
Me: I can’t wait. No, literally, I only have a couple minutes here. Can we get to the desktop please?
Win: “All your files are exactly where you left them”
Me: Thank heaven for small favors. Were you even thinking of messing with my files?

*Three minutes go by – and this is a really fast computer*
Win: “We’ve got some new features to get excited about”
Me: Maybe you’re excited about them. What did you move around to make room on my screen for the new crap?

*Two more minutes go by*
Win: “Let’s get started”
Me: Yes, let’s. By all means.
Windows: “Updates were installed”
Me: Oh, goody. Is this update going to brick my computer like last time, right before a conference, so I had to spend hours fixing it?

(Clicks on Chrome browser)
Windows: “How do you want to open this?” (Microsoft Edge browser pre-selected)
Chrome: “Chrome is not your default browser. To get the best experience…”

This happens every time Microsoft decides to dink around with my computer. When some piss-ant malware company hijacks your browser, we load up Malwarebytes and nuke it.  But professionally, I have to use Windows, or I would have burned this machine down and rebuilt it in Linux long ago. The very least M$ could do is assume that if I went to the trouble to download a different web  browser, and set it as default instead of their browser, that was how I wanted my machine to be.

So then I write a blog post about it, and go to edit a photo for the header. Only to find that Windows has switched the default handler for .jpg files from XnView to their crappy picture viewer.

It’s gonna be a long day.