IBI Watch 3/3/13

3 03 2013

Calling All Trouble Makers //

Sure, as the old song says, more “love sweet love” would be nice. But what the world really needs now is more trouble makers of a certain kind. On this week’s Moyers and Company, we meet two such contributors from different generations.

First, another example of why I hold out so much hope for the younger generation’s opposition to pignorance (pretend ignorance). Here is a young man who has already contributed mightily to the cause of science and thought in his home state of Louisiana. Advocate Zack Kopplin is a 19-year-old warrior against, as the episode’s title states, “creeping creationism.” He is also putting a scare into the creationism creeps, apparently. He’s the first winner of a new award for young upstarts, the Trouble Maker of the Year. Here is hoping this lad has many more years of trouble to come.

Moyers’ other guest is an author I have featured before – Susan Jacoby. Here is a recent post where I talked about her newest book about influential 19th-century freethinker Robert Ingersoll. (See the lead story, “The Land of Make Believe.”) I can recommend an earlier book by this tireless advocate of freedom from dogma-tainted policy – The Age of American Unreason

We need thinkers and activists like Kopplin and Jacoby more than ever. Want proof? Try this story linking a certain news network with pignorance around tobacco and climate change. Or maybe this piece on how three states are pushing a poison cookie-cutter bill from our friends at ALEC on teaching pignorance in public schools is more to your liking. Wait until you see the Orwellian name for this stupidity campaign.

Snoozing or Shocking?

The news is full of sequestration frustration – so much so that we have tired of this seemingly boring story. Yes, the gridlock in Washington right now is the consequence of two opposing political philosophies, compounded by the fact that one of the parties has eliminated the word “compromise” from its vocabulary. But I sense something more sinister, and I am not alone.

After last fall’s election, I had to laugh when I heard positive spinners speculate on the demise of the government-hating Tea Party. Here is one example.  The Republican warriors in the House – they who stand firm and are currently allowing formulaic budget cuts to take effect (hoping blame the president of course) – are actually a majority/minority party. How so? This Mother Jones article explains the gerrymandering that yields a House strongly in Republican hands, despite compiled popular votes for the other party.  In other words, people demonstrably did not vote for the GOP approach. And this David Horsey column in the Los Angeles Times explains how the sequester actually plays into the government-haters’ hands. Now consider that the Tea Party, often portrayed in the media as some sort of populist uprising, is really anything but.

I think former Labor Secretary Robert Reich gets it right with this post. And Walter Hickey of Business Insider also lays out the series of clashes that lie just ahead.

My opinion – this is just the most recent, and one of the most extreme and consequential – example of the Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. In short, her thesis is this – corporate interests use crises, real or manufactured, to cripple the government and destroy the public sector, which must then be “rescued” by corporate interests which take over what used to be run by the government.

So we have a government paralyzed by obstinacy from a majority/minority party completely in the thrall of an unelected power-monger.

What is the solution? Who knows? But I do know this – meaningful progress on behalf of the common good will not happen until we get the big corporate dollars out of elections. Here are several worthy groups pursuing that laudable goal:

Climate Sell-Out Looms – Unless We Act

I hate to admit it, but the stars are lining up for accelerating climate destabilization. You can just sense the rationalizations for approving the Keystone XL pipeline. It looks like the State Department environmental impact statement will give its qualified blessing. Though that report is not yet public, it is already generating controversy and anger. And that comes after Nebraska’s governor altered the route to eliminate the Ogallala Aquifer issue from the mix. And all this will mix with the usual self-absolving blather about “energy independence,” “we need to help our ally – Canada,” “if we don’t get that oil, the Chinese will,” and on and on along the road to environmental hell.

There are many reasons not to approve, and not just the 40,000 protesters who let their opinions be known in Washington two weeks ago. NASA’s James Hansen has long articulated the case. And Bill McKibben has dedicated his 350.org movement to the cause.

Of course, all those reasons are up against the most powerful one – money. But it is too early to give up the fight. These folks certainly have not.

The “Grand” Experiment Continues

Here are this week’s examples of why climate action is imperative. Check this Global Possibilities page for an eye-catching vertical info-graphic that is full of climate change facts. We often hear how it is “too expensive” to deal with climate change. This article points out the toll of not dealing with it. This 90-second video explains the melting permafrost threat. For more depth on the same topic, look to New Scientist. And finally, if you think King Tides are some kind of surfers’ heaven, think again.

Of Horses and Space Chaos

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart had too much fun with two recent news stories. Warning: it is strongly suggested that you put down any hot or fizzy beverages you might be drinking before watching these videos, particularly the Russian videos of the meteor explosion. First-here is Stewart’s take on the ongoing horsemeat caper. And second – these videos shot from Chelyabinsk dashboards would give any outrageous Hollywood action film a run for its money. Remember – you stand warned.

Think Green and Early

If we are to have any hope of saving this broken place we call home, we need to encourage young people to think environmentally. Here is a thoughtful list of books to help in that quest. It includes many personal favorites, such as Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

“I doubt that most people with short-term thinking love the natural world enough to save it.” – E. O. Wilson

Contributed links to this posting – Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy, Edrichus Sykes

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN





IBI Watch 1/13/13

13 01 2013

The Land of Make Believe  //

It’s a country where you’d better profess a strong religious belief if you hope to gain high office. It’s a country where nearly half of the public believes in a magical explanation of Earth’s and humanity’s origin. And it is the country where “doubt” around the critical issue of climate change, as reported by the overwhelming majority of scientists, just won’t go away.

It’s modern America, where that special brand of magical thinking, i.e., belief in the literal truth of religious stories, inexplicably endures. Not that several prominent authors haven’t tried to explain. Both Chris Mooney and Susan Jacoby have decried the harm that arises from our willful denial of inconvenient science. And Jacoby has a new book that looks promising. In The Great Agnostic, Jacoby tells the story of Robert Ingersoll – a Gilded Age freethinker who struggled to help America become more secular. Based on my reading of her excellent Age of American Unreason, I am putting the new book on my reading list.  Here is an interview with the author that ran on NPR.

Why is the work of authors like Jacoby important? Our national politics suffers from hypocrisy and exclusion – however brilliant a potential leader might be, if he or she has theological views too far from the conventional Christian mainstream, there is virtually no chance for election to major national office. And how a country whose economic dominance has been so defined by technological advance can allow itself to slip into such willful ignorance of scientific reality seems a mystery – until you realize that a public who believes unscientific baloney is much easier to marginalize and immobilize.

My son is an officer in an organization promoting secular society – the Secular Student Alliance.

Normalizing Climate Change in the Upper Midwest

When I moved to the Twin Cities, the annual “bottom-out” temperature range, as it happens, for this week in January, was high 20, low 2. But if you look in today’s Star Tribune, you will see a different story – 23 and 7. So what gives? Our friends at the paper are comparing today’s temps to a shorter range – when the temps had already warmed, thanks to sunspots or an Inhofian hoax or something like that. Of course, even with these ginned up numbers, what has happened over the last few days (yet another disgusting January rainstorm, culminating in a mess of snow remnants refrozen into crusty, treacherous ice) here in the Twin Cities would have been weird 25 years ago. Today, well, it’s just normalized weirdness of our local variety. Paul Douglas gives the context.

Why it is Called GLOBAL Climate Change

Though I have been following climate change since the late 1980s, I cannot recall a time when there has been such a confluence of aberrant weather occurring simultaneously around the world. Quite a roundup. Rampant bush fires and a heat wave so intense and persistent in Australia that they have had to concoct new colors for the weather map. Tornadoes in Italy, icy cold in the Middle East, drought across America. Extreme weather in the US, as reported in the Guardian.

Do you think all this mayhem could have something to do with the melting Arctic?  I am currently reading Mark Lynas’ Six Degrees. Although the book is five years old, I am learning a lot from it. The structure is intriguing: each chapter explains what researchers say we can expect for each Centigrade degree that we warm our home planet. What I am finding most interesting is this – predictions based on the existing science of 2008. In the chapter I am reading right now, Three Degrees, Lynas writes:

“One likely outcome of is that a reduction in Arctic sea ice will exacerbate the drying of western North America. Instead of ocean heat remaining trapped under surface ice during the winter, once most of the ice cap has disappeared, large areas of open ocean will remain exposed toe the winds, altering the usual pattern of winter weather over North America. In one modeling study, the rain-bearing systems get shunted farther north toward Canada and southern Alaska, and away from the drought-scarred plains of the United States.”

Eerie how that prediction is playing out. The most interesting thing of course is how much faster all these consequences are playing out, compared to the forecasts. And remember that all the extreme weather we are seeing are taking place on a planet that has warmed “only” just under one degree. The Onion has a nice satirical take. And here is a down-to-earth forecast of what is in store in the near future – this year.

Seems to me that, when a house is on fire, you don’t argue about what is causing the fire, and how bad it has to get before you take action. You get the damned fire extinguisher, start spraying and call for help. Isn’t it about time for a carbon tax? Thomas Friedman thinks so. (You have to read to the end.) So does a true hero of the people, Senator Bernie Sanders. And for depth on the political climate and inspiration for action, this NPR story featuring scientists Michael Mann and Katharine Hayhoe is very useful.

Pork Bung: It’s What’s for Dinner

Here is a guarantee. If you listen to this excellent This American Life story (audio available 7:00 PM EST 1/13/13), you will think twice before ordering that “seafood” appetizer at your local chain bistro. This story gives new meaning to that old pork industry adage – “we use the entire pig, everything but the squeal.” My take – just one more reason for avoiding factory-farm meat.

In the Name of Common Sense

The horrific Newtown school massacre focused public attention on gun violence. A new momentum has grown, and we can only hope that it builds toward common-sense measures to stem the tide of violence. And of course it continues, daily, in our country. This Slate site keeps track of the body count.  Vice President Joe Biden has been talking to groups with various perspectives this past week, and he now has an agenda. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly are speaking out, and have formed an action group. Jon Stewart’s take on the issue is funny, but packs a punch. Look for a cameo by Mike Huckabee, one of my favorite pignorant pundits.

Wolf Hunt Controversy Continues

Minnesota’s wolf hunt is over – for this year. But this hunt –which can only be described as a hunt for sport or fun – will continue to be a hot topic and something that groups will continue to fight. This group is worthy of support.

Jobs Drive the Economy

This interview with Paul Krugman is worth your time. Appearing on Moyers and Company, the Nobel economist argues for rebuilding infrastructure, and compares our current economic situation with the 1930s.

Corporatocracy

Big business and oligarchs rule. George Carlin had it right. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

25 Cheers

Truthout’s Peter Dreier says progressives have many reasons to celebrate. Count ‘em.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Contributed links to this posting – Christy Bailly, Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN