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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

BPSDB Disempowering ourselves again

It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

Disaster Needed for U.S. to Act on Climate Change, Harvard’s Stavins Says

The argument that people will not do anything until it starts to affect them has probably been around for all of history. Certainly it is an old one with respect to climate change. The most recent iteration by Harvard economist Robert Stavins.

I was not able to find  much response to Stavins in the climate science blogosphere, perhaps because we have repeatedly been here before. However, there were two which illustrate several of the false assumptions that tend to get associated with this argument:

  1. What do we mean by “affect”?

  2. “Act” or react?

  3. Why catastrophe? Why Wait?

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Let’s start by noting that what is being referred to is what is known as “trigger events” in discussions of political activism. Trigger events are things that spike public awareness of a particular issue, for good or ill.

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As long as we’re on the topic  (for the last time, at least for a good long while) I decided to move this post up (and several others still to appear).

The context is this video by Katie Goodman of Broad Comedy. It’s a little ditty that uses “f**ked” as a hook and to entertain, but that nonetheless touches on some important points relevant to mobilizing the public.

For most of the points I am going to do no more than note them in the expectation of returning to them at some later time. You may argue that I read too much into a comedic song, but I think that the lyrics resonate with the audience because they touch on truths regardless of the light nature of this particular context.

OK, that’s understated. In a microcosm it pretty much sums up where we are and why we are stuck here.  Kudos to Katie for raising those points, but the really scary interesting  scary thing about this video is the comments people made about it.

First watch the video if you care to (and are not too offended by the F-word) and then we can get to my points.

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When I first saw the video my immediate thought was that it should be the anthem for the youth climate justice movement. Let’s take a quick walk through some of the lyrics:

There’s never been a time
as fucked up as this

No argument there, not for humans anyway. Maybe the Toba eruption, and I understand the PETM was pretty nasty for most species, but that’s pedantic quibbling.

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BPSDB

Fuddle Duddle

Chamberlain, Trudeau or … ?

Flotsam

A couple of weeks ago Michael Tobis shocked the delicate, refined sensibilities of the climate change Deniers by stating unambiguously what is at stake and what he felt were the unhelpful contributions of Steve Mosher.

Michael was blowing off some steam and may have used some language that he generally doesn’t. The incident would warrant only passing remark except for some of the fall out and follow up.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Getting past the irrelevant, the incident raises some important questions about how we engage in the debate, what our goals are, and what the implications are for our struggle, as individuals and as a collective.

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Fuddle Duddle

Text of what Tobis actually said

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake. And if we narrowly fucking miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own fucking personal individual fucking self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of fucking nerve saying you are on my “side”.

Unless and until you find it within yourself to understand that you have major fucked up, big time, by throwing big juicy meat to the deniers to chew on and spin paranoid fantasies about for years, even decades,”

What I heard as significant:

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake.

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BPSDB On April 29th a person using the twitter account “@septscelles”  released a large file to Barrett Brown that purportedly contained secret US Chamber of Commerce documents. ~ Muskegon Critic

If you hadn’t heard about this it’s because there’s nothing to hear. The data dump seems to contain nothing that wasn’t already publicly available and/or of no interest. “a big nothing-burger.”

That works for me since I want to talk about the context rather than the content, and now can do so without the distraction of what the hacked information may or may not mean. Call this a preemptive discussion for if and when there is some sort of “real” release of information from one of the Denier monoliths.

I think there are three important issues to consider:

  1. The validity of the content;
  2. Our response to the content;
  3. Our response to the nature of the release.

The validity of the content

Of the US Chamber of Commerce release The Atlantic Wire reports:

“Suspicions? Well, yes–Brown has reason to believe the new cache of documents isn’t totally on the level. Recall that when Anonymous released a bunch of documents from the cyberintelligence group Team Themis, those files described various strategies for discrediting watchdog groups–including creating “false documents” and “fake insider personas.” So Septscelles may be a concerned citizen who values transparency, or, as another posting at AnonNews puts it, he or she may be trying to “discredit Anonymous through a campaign of misinformation.”

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BPSDB

Recently Joe Romm was very impressed with Dave Roberts’ Policy in an age of post-truth politics” where “the referees have left the building” and for the most part I have to agree (hint, read it).

However, I think there is one significant disagreement, less so with Roberts than Romm I think, who summarized Roberts’ article as:

“It speaks to what happens when the referees — the media — don’t call balls and strikes anymore but mainly report the play-by-play.”

The referee metaphor is indeed Roberts’, and he does say “But the referees [media] have left the building.” He is talking about a broken system, ie civic society generally, and the dysfunctional dynamic between the Republicans and the Democrats in the US specifically. The media reference is about the medias’ failure to play a watchdog role.

To which I say, what? Since when has the media been an impartial referee? Below is a sampling (and it is merely a small sampling) of quotes about the press over the past two and a half centuries. Use a search engine to find ‘Quotes “the press”‘ for many hours of more like them.

“The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where their interests are involved. ” – Henry B Adams

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BPSDB

Method without Science,

or method

… “Opps!”

Seeing the recent “Science without method” post at Climate Etc I opted to first read the Nicol paper it was discussing before reading Dr Curry’s discussion of it.

The article alleges to highlight failures of climate change science, and in an obviously unintended way both it and Curry’s discussion of it does.

To give credit where credit is due, the exercise led me to rethinking how we frame the question of our current impasse. How it is possible for drivel like Nicol’s to somehow be taken seriously by anyone, never mind winding up actually influencing policies of countries.

First let’s get some context. In his paper Nicol said:

Yet in contemporary research on matters to do with climate change, and despite enormous expenditure, not one serious attempt has been made to check the veracity of the numerous assumptions involved in greenhouse theory by actual experimentation.

greenhouse theory“, seriously? Has he not read any scientific literature post-1860?

That aside, this is just idiotically wrong as a general statement. Can he cite any specifics? Loaded as it is with qualifiers he would no doubt cite all of the relevant reserach (which he is clearly not familiar with, or simply doesn’t understand) as not “serious” attempt(s) (ie No True Scotsman fallacy).

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BPSDB

(hat tip to Quark Soup and Climate Progress)

Maybe you celebrated Earth Day, maybe you ignored it. Maybe you share the cynicism that has been becoming overt on more than a few environmental sites, or at least noticed it.

For the international celebration of a cause that we are working for, articles like (just a sampling):

don’t exactly seem to be caught up in the spirit of it.

Or how about this group email?:

“It’s that time of year again: Earth Day, a singular day when the faithless are moved to buy reusable grocery bags.

At #######, we get pretty rankled at all the Earthapalooza shenanigans. What’s next, Ye Olde Mattress Sale? Honestly.

Let’s face it, we’re all just doing the best we can. And we do the best we can every stinking day. Not just on some tarted-up, feel-good, strum-your-guitar day of glowing holiness …

I want to talk about something far more important than Earth Day, more important than saving endangered species,  or “the planet”, or humanity.

First a little context.

Continue reading at News Junkie Post:

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SOA Quebec City 2001

BPSDB In the dim mists of time hundreds of us were gathered by a foundation to discuss how we were going to move from our then state of impending environmental crisis to a sustainable society. Demographically we were a sampling of politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business people, NGO staffers, and community organizers.

We talked and worked over three days in ever changing combinations that always had representation from each sector. By the last evening we were a much smaller, exhausted group consisting almost exclusively of the NGO staffers, community organizers and scientists, with only a handful of the others still present.  The organizers then revealed our last task, which was to answer:

  1. What needs to happen?
  2. What will it take?
  3. Who will pay for it?

There was a long silence, and then finally a voice (an environmental consultant) said in a calm, measured manner “Revolution … Blood in the streets … Eat the rich.”

There was another long silence as we all looked around to see how the others were reacting to this.  What we saw was a room full of people calmly nodding. We then spent the last few hours translating that answer into language that the Foundation could actually publish in it’s report.

Make no mistake, this was not a gathering of radical activists. The participants were drawn from quite mainstream, moderate organizations and institutions. Nor, I think, would that have been the answer given when we first gathered, even by the subset of us still there at the end.

Although the group had an abundance of experience trying to make change, the day long sessions of quibbling over trivia and dross had brought into stark relief just how inert “the system” was. Apparently imminent catastrophe was simply not sufficient reason to fiddle with the price of gas, or anything else for that matter.

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BPSDB

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Head

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Heart


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Hands


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If by any remote chance you have not heard of them, Koch Industries is a major funder of many right wing agendas including climate change Denial (The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science) and a core driver of the Tea Party movement.

Of course it is unlikely that you haven’t heard of them, which begs the question of what the point of this post is? I want to suggest that it is not enough to simply  know about them, what are we going to do about it?

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BPSDB  “…we manipulate the medium … that’s how you control the online dialogue.”

American Majority trainer

This clip exposes one of the many tactics that the right wing is using to control the information that the public gets, the information that you get.

This is how The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science is operationalizing the corporate agenda, just one tactic of many being used to subvert democracy.

The clip is from the documentary (Astro)Turf Wars that was released last October

Trailer for (Astro)Turf Wars:

We are drowning in propaganda, drowning in it. And I’m not speaking figuratively, it’s threatening our lives, it’s cutting off our air. It’s making real democracy all but impossible. It has brought the planet to the point of ecological destruction.” [emphasis added]

Mark Crispin Miller, New York University, (Astro)Turf Wars interview

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BPSDB

Last week John Mashey did an excellent talk on “The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science” at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. John is an incurable geek (my highest praise) who has been a tireless bulldog in going after the power networks that support the professional world of climate change denial (and just a really nice guy).

The talk is well worth it, so watch it:

Video of John Mashey’s talk and the pdf of the presentation.

Thanks to Tim @ Deltoid and Deep Climate for the heads up.

Some things to watch for

1) This is not a summary and will not substitute for watching the presentation itself, it’s just a sampling of some of the things he talks about that I have my own agenda for drawing your attention to, so go watch it already 😉

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BPSDB

I feel a little awkward in that M’s comment on the post “Sciencey Spice Etc” is such a perfect set up for the post I was intending to write regardless that even I am a bit suspicious about it’s authenticity (it is a real comment nonetheless).

In a nutshell, the comment reveals a naive and dangerously simplistic notion about what both science and politics are, but which I believe is fairly common in the science community.

The post in question discusses and seeks to understand the phenomenon of Judith Curry and her blog Climate Etc as a social and socio-political event within the broader context of climate change Denialism, and begins to examine some of the gender and other dynamics which appear to be in play.

M says “I find the gender-based speculation in this post highly unnecessary, and even inappropriate. Stick to criticizing the lack of science in JC’s blog rather than attempting amateur psychoanalysis.”

Stick to criticizing the lack of science in JC’s blog

Right.

That’s worked really well for us.

We simply document the bad science and lack of rationality in the climate change Denier arguments and they simply go away, c’est touts.

Not.

Obviously.

For those who missed it, climate change Denial has been increasing, not decreasing. Our strategy is not working. When are we going to acknowledge that while documenting the absence of science or rationality in the Denialosphere may be necessary to making our society a reality based one, it is clearly not sufficient.

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Simple people,people who don’t exist,prefer things which don’t exist,simple things.

e.e. cummings; six nonlectures

Al Gore had a few minor errors of no particular consequence in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth“, but his book “The Assault on Reason” was wildly wrong in at least two important respects:

i) The internet has proven to be a far more useful tool for the climate change Deniers than it has for the science fact community. This is undoubtedly because it is easier to tweet simple things such as “If evolution climate change is real, why are there still monkeys snowstorms?” than it is to understand the facts.

Not that the explanation is that complex, just that it takes more than 140 characters to say and a bit of actual thinking to understand.

ii) What we are witnessing is not an “Assault on Reason”, it is the wholesale abandonment of reason. Democracy requires dialogue, a dialogue that simply isn’t happening, and quite possibly cannot happen when one of the camps has chosen paranoid delusions and willful stupidity as their coping mechanisms.

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BPSDB

Dilbert.com

Parse that carefully because it can be too easy to become focused on the “Stupid” part. It’s S-t-u-p-i-d W-h-i-t-e M-e-n.

For completeness we should add “Old”, and “Rich” (and probably some other adjectives as well) because of course in addition to being a race and gender issue climate change is a class and generational one. Having said that, it is a very particular brand of ‘Stupid’ that we are dealing with and it deserves dissection.

Nowhere is this clearer than the recent U.S. Congressional House Energy and Commerce Committee vote that denied the existence of climate change. As has been noted elsewhere, they may as well have voted to deny the existence of gravity. While I have been known to compare climate change Denier‘s intelligence to that of lobotomized rodents it is still breathtaking to see them literally taking it to that level.

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Machinima is?

BPSDB

a) a technique for video production that progressives barely use;

b) a German cyber-goth band;

c) a name for pit-bull/doberman hybrids;

d) videos produced using computer game engines.

Recently climate blogger (and scientist) Michael Tobis posted Dogs and Deniers, a post illustrating the similarity between a particular Far Side cartoon and real life with the climate change Deniers (with their typical inability to detect irony, a Denier immediately posted comments illustrating the truth of the post). To illustrate his point Tobis had actually used a rather crude Denier produced example of machinima.

Machinima is of course both a) and d), that is it is a technique for film making using computer game engines that progressives barely use.

Machinima apparently began in the 1990s with game players simply screen capturing their play and then distributing it. From there someone had the notion to tell a little story within the game story and have the game characters act it out.

Then someone had the realization that you could control game characters to do more than simply hack and slash and kill everyone within the games’ storyline. If you had them strike a pose and say “To be or not to be, that is the question … ” and then hack and slash and kill everyone, you had Hamlet.

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PSDB On the advice of many Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame” has been on the ‘should read’ list for years, but somehow I have never gotten around to it. More recently a youtube clip of him reading an excerpt was brought to my attention, so I watched that, and then checked out sections of the books that are available online.

The clip in question is a reading of the apparently infamous “The enviromentalist version of Star Wars” analogy (text from book here). Many apparently feel that this is a wonderful encapsulation of all that is wrong with “mainstream environmentalism.” Actually it’s a pretty good encapsulation of all that is wrong with Derrick Jensen’s arguments.

The short version (if you want to save 9 min of your life) is that Jensen uses a Star Wars analogy to mock nonviolent activists. eg:

In a surprise move that will rivet viewers to the edges of their seats, other groups of rebels file lawsuits against the Empire, attempting to show that the Environmental Impact Statement Darth Vader was required to file failed to adequately support its …

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YouTube – Day 42 Message to fasters BPSDB

Bringing Moral Force to COP15

by Anna Keenan

DEC 17 – Copenhagen

1000 people will join fasters who have reached the 42nd day of a hunger strike for climate justice, in a Candlelight Vigil for Survival.

We will gather in the Øksnehallen space for a solemn and powerful event recognising the urgency and gravity of the moment–and urging leaders to rise to the world’s call to action.

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Copenhagen: One World – Keep Us Safe! BPSDB

from Avaaz.org

With 4 days to go and leaders arriving tomorrow, planet-saving negotiations are failing to deliver. Hopes now rest on a tidal wave of public pressure from ALL of us — as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu said at our summit vigil, “We expect a Real Deal in Copenhagen!”

No-one can now ignore the need for all of us to act — every single name is actually being read out at the summit and we’ll deliver this message directly to leaders there — so let’s join together, sign below and spread the word — and together we can build an overwhelming mandate for change:

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Humanity is Hungry for Survival

BPSDB The Climate Justice Fast activists have been on hunger strike for 40 days in support of climate justice. Now in the closing days of the Copenhagen Conference they are calling on all of us to Fast for one day …


Dear Friends,

by Anna Keenan

This week an unprecedented 115 world leaders will converge in Copenhagen to forge a global agreement on climate change. It is thanks to the efforts everyone concerned about climate change that these decision makers will all be in the same room. However we, together as a global community, need to ensure they make the right decisions.

The bad news is that with only one week left, the international climate negotiations are still deadlocked. The good news is that this is our opportunity to step things up.

The science is clear, and the technological and social tools to reduce carbon pollution are ready and waiting.  Our movement has the moral high ground.  Now, we must unite and make the moral declaration that nothing short of an equitable science-based treaty is acceptable. Humanity is hungry for survival.

We are therefore calling for all people across the world, to join a single global day of fasting – voluntarily going without food, drinking only water – on Thursday 17th December.

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BPSDB CJF Press Conference in Copenhagen – Tuesday 8th Dec

Only Day 6 for me and I am shocked at how lethargic and dull I have become. Is this a passing phase in the bodies response? or does it reflect underlying health conditions? (there is some diabetes in the family history, so maybe?).  Regardless, Anna and Sara seem a lot more energetic and sharp than I currently feel, which I am very glad to see (Sara struggles with her English a bit, but that was true a month ago).

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