IBI Watch 1/27/13

27 01 2013

An End to Inertia  //

We hear frequently that “the only thing constant is change.” But unless more of us start paying closer attention, and soon, changes effected by powerful industries and political parties will move ahead unhindered . These changes mean big payoffs for some, but NOT for the general good. Surprised?

The next three articles are examples of changes that have several things in common:

  • They are happening in the public sphere
  • They are ignored for many reasons, but mostly because they affect things many of us take for granted
  • A certain segment of powerful people benefit from these changes – and therefore have a vested interest in continued inertia

Antis that are Bad for Your Aunties (and Uncles too)

Antibiotics have been controversial for some time. The wonder drugs have been over-prescribed, and used out of “necessity” by the factory meat industry. The result is resistant pathogens that are proving to be an increasing challenge – as described in this recent Los Angeles Times story.

Now there is news that another class of much-loved “antis,” antibacterial concoctions, has its own consequences. Cleanliness is good, but new research shows that a commonly used antibacterial agent – triclosan – is causing growing problems when it ends up inevitably in rivers and lakes. That consequence – dioxins.  If you read the story at that link, you will see there is an easy solution – just stop buying the “miracle” products using this stuff. That includes just about all the antibacterial soaps you can find. But note a key quote in that piece – aside from health benefits in toothpaste, U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found no evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provide any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”

The message – pay attention, or the inertia of “better life through chemicals” will continue, regardless of health or environmental consequences. We will talk about Monsanto at another time.

The Theft Strategy

The Republican Party faces demographic challenges going forward. The nation is becoming more diverse, but the party’s membership has been overwhelmingly white. One of the party’s vaunted rising stars – Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – has a prescription for future success – stop acting stupid.  I think the governor is wrong. Aside from gaffes, I think many pronouncements by prominent Republicans – right up to national standard bearers Mitt Romney and before him George W. Bush – are what I call pignorance, i.e. pretend ignorance. Two good examples are President W suggesting that students should be taught both evolution and creationism and “let them decide,” and Governor Romney stating that we really don’t know if human greenhouse gas activity is changing the climate. That’s not stupidity; that’s strategic pignorance.

So with pignorance fading as a strategy, Citizens United offered an alternative – spend big on attack ads, especially on super-PACS, where disclosure is limited. A quick look at spending by the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson shows that big money was indeed in play in 2012. Oops. That didn’t work any better than pignorance, at least for this cycle. No, a bigger strategy is needed.

This strategy is to systematically deprive the people of what they want. Everyone knows about the Red/Blue divide. Most think about that in terms of states. Examples of consistently Red states include Oklahoma, Wyoming and Kansas.  Consistently Blue states include California, Hawaii and Vermont. But thinking about the Red/Blue divide only in terms of states misses an important point.

The real divide is between rural and urban. And with rural areas concentrated more in the south and the Rocky Mountain west, those states tend Red. That said, the system already has a Republican bias. Those big, thinly populated states in the western Great Plains and mountain west – think South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming – all have an electoral advantage – two votes for each Senator, just like the populous Blue states of New York and California.

But that advantage is not enough. Consider what is afoot in a key swing state, Virginia. If this plan were to succeed, it could potentially tip the state Republican despite a Democratic majority of votes. (And Virginia is not the only state where this game is in progress.) And in the “no surprise here” department – check who has been pushing this – our friends at ALEC. James Fallows also talks about the theft game in his commentary on Saturday’s All Things Considered. Unfortunately, the host, Robert Smith, seems to suggest this is just more “business as usual.”  That is, if business as usual includes systematic disenfranchisement.  And don’t forget as well – Congress is already effectively gerrymandered in both houses through different strategies – the House through the creative realignment of districts across the country has a 30-vote Republican majority, though Democratic candidates received more votes in 2012. Huh?  And then there is the Senate, where recent changes to the filibuster rules do not go nearly far enough.

It is clear that with the Senate locked down by record filibusters, and the House not representative of the popular vote, we have moved further away from the basic principles of representative democracy. And that is before this new vote-twisting scheme takes hold.

The message – we must pay attention to these changes and stop them if we are to preserve anything that resembles democracy.

Sleeping on the Road to Hell

The monster issue where public inertia rules is climate change. I see this close-up in Minnesota, where we are experiencing yet another not-so-brave-new winter, Hey – maybe this is a trend, eh? More on that in a moment. But today when I was out and about, I saw a sign outside a bank. It was a marketing come-on that started with “Tired of the snow?” Say what?! There is maybe two inches on the ground – in January! In Minnesota! And what is there is not really snow, but thoroughly melted and refrozen treacherous ice. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers have had maybe two weeks since late November when there was enough real snow on the ground to enjoy their sports.

And I promised to report on whether we actually had the promised cold weather this past week. Yes, we did. On one solitary day, we had a sub-zero high temperature for the first time in four years. That of course smashed the old record for time between very cold days.

More evidence of inertia in thinking. I overheard several conversations that went along these lines – this “cold snap” means global warming is not really happening. Makes you want to bang your head against the wall. At least people in the know are studying what climate change is doing to Minnesota winters. This short segment on MPR’s Daily Circuit digs in well, even though Paul Huttner in my opinion downplays the unfolding disaster.

The inertia of public opinion on this topic is around the idea that things will change, but it won’t be that bad. That is, the scientists are making a bigger deal than the matter deserves. Au contraire. I am finishing up reading an important book on climate change, Mark Lynas’ Six Degrees. To be honest, none of the dozens of books I have read on the topic have quite scared me as this one has. The author walks us through what happens at each degree Celsius of warming. At six, needless to say, we are cooked – unstoppable changes melting virtually all the world’s ice will be well under way, deserts will be massively expanded, methane hydrates released from melted permafrost and the warmed ocean bed. The crucial point is this – all the changes we have seen – extreme weather events, the melted Arctic ice cap, Hurricane Sandy’s hybrid behavior and atypical route, Australia’s off-the-chart heat event this year, are all happening with a little less than one degree of warming. Worse, we probably have another degree already in the atmosphere, thanks to the climate lag effect of carbon dioxide emissions.

And unfortunately many of the trends are not moving in the right direction. For instance, there is no let-up in tar sands oil production. There will in fact be a big surge in that climate-wrecking enterprise if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved. Yes, that is the project that James Hansen has labeled the “game-over” point for preserving a livable climate. And yet we have to have hope. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Designate John Kerry are talking a good game on dealing with the issue. (I am concerned that Kerry would not answer the question about whether XL will be approved.)  And then there is the fact that Exxon Mobil footed some of the bill for the inauguration. That can’t be good.

Here are a few more points. As if we needed any further confirmation, NASA says that global warming is here and now. Yup. This Washington Post opinion piece suggests a high-payoff strategy – mobilize scientists on the issue. If we did that, we might be able to massively build alternatives, as explained in this Daily Climate piece.

The message – public inertia on climate change allows Big Coal and Big Oil to continue with business as usual. This can’t happen. If you can go, this massive rally on February 17 is a good way to make a difference. And it is always a good time for a real carbon tax.

Born to Teach (Not to Shoot)

Speaking of rallies, residents of Newtown demonstrated on behalf of reasonable gun regulation in Washington. And then there were the unfortunate gun enthusiasts shot during Gun Appreciation Day events. I like the administration’s proposals.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Heinous

I wrote last week about the connection between blinding, choking smog in Beijing and all the manufacturing of products for the American market.  Here is another view. A Chinese oligarch can and will ride in style in a machine like this. What’s not to like? Conspicuous consumption in the land of Mao, no gas mileage ratings in sight, and- no matter who you might crash into, you win. That is, you are the killer, not the killed. And a question -how far removed is that monstrosity from this?

A Pignorant Education

The best way to preserve pignorance for posterity is to learn them young-uns right. Here are some lessons that PBS gleaned from texts that do just that.

Gun Appreciation or Gun Worship? What Would Jesus Say?

Obama is Coming Out on Climate Change

These are two guest posts written by Rolly Montpellier of Ottawa, Ontario. Rolly blogs at BoomerWarrior.org    Recommended.

“Climate change is real. The science is compelling. And the longer we wait, the harder the problem will be to solve.”  —  Senator John Kerry

Contributed links or content to this posting – Allyson Harper, Rolly Montpellier


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN




2 responses

27 01 2013

Re that extra degree of heat that’s “in the pipe” … Using a simple “adding up” technique and the low end of projections, Dr. Peter Carter has calculated that we are already committed to an extra 2.2ºC of global heating (see his paper, which is going to be published in the next International Climate Change Impacts and Responses Journal, here: http://www.climate-emergency-institute.org/committed_climate_change.html – box in top right corner).

Carter adds up warming that we can expect from things like the ocean heat lag, the deferred warming of unmasking aerosol cooling, and positive climate system feedbacks. It’s all very alarming, but we’re still called alarmists for sounding the alarm. Hey, why don’t they call us alarmERS? After all, we were polite enough to start calling them deniALISTS (although I have to admit, I’ve gone back to DENIERS, since they’re denying the biospheric holocaust that has already begun).

31 01 2013

This is chockful of a lot of good stuff, but a few things jump out at me. First, I’ve known triclosan is absolutely useless since the 80’s when the studies first came out that triclosan was absolutely useless. Or maybe it was the 90’s. The soap companies must get a tax credit for using it otherwise why are they still using it? Kickbacks from triclosan manufacturers?

Yes, California is a Blue state, but that “blue” state also gave you Ronald Reagan, Proposition 13, Proposition 8, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now Darrell Issa. Even Jerry Brown is more Republican than Democrat this time around. So, how blue is Blue?

With all the recalls of Japanese cars and trucks that still continue to this day (Toyota–I’m talking to you), isn’t it time we start importing Latvian luxury tanks–I mean, NON tanks? Yeah, the DARTZ’s not armored but I bet that’s available as an option. And this thing darts in and out of traffic on the backs of 557 horses and goes 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds. With the optional armor-plating and with the optional front-mounted tank cannon, whatever you can’t pass you can blow away.

And ending on a serious note, no matter what the effing right wing media sites try to dishonestly claim, Neil Heslin, whose 6 yr oid son was killed by a head shot from an assault rifle in Newtown, was heckled by 2nd Amendmenters, to coin a term. Watch the video. So a few seconds pass between the moment Heslin asks why those weapons are needed before the gun nuts start parroting “2nd Amendment”. They were out of line, and displayed themselves as total and heartless morons. They are the best argument for gun control out there.

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