Water

From a Google Image Search – The Arizona Republic

We should all be getting a bit worried about America’s fresh water supplies and the distribution of fresh water. Tempted by pleasant year-round temperatures, or at least the lack of snowy days, and plenty of sunshine it sometimes seems that too many people have decided to move to locations with limited fresh water supplies. The pictures we saw on the media this week of the rock-face record of changing water depths on the Colorado River, which serves as a main source of water for dry states and western states, was quite shocking. A long drought has been forcing states to look at how they will supply water to a ballooning population and a vitally important agricultural area, all drawing water from sources that are drying up. 

I remember reading a book, popular in the seventies, called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, which warned that climate change would bring drought to America in the future. That was 40+ years ago now. Climate change is, of course, unpredictable. It is entirely possible that western states could be seeing torrential rains and flooding, or that the dwindling snows in the Sierras could be replenished to offer the snow melt that bodies of water and wells rely on. But none of our meteorological experts would predict that such a turn of events is imminent.

If you live in a state with plentiful water, you must have at least given a thought to whether water pipelines will send some of the water you rely on to drier areas, or to areas like Florida which may run out of potable water. Will we willingly share our freshwater resources? Remember the water cycle. There is no new freshwater being added to our reserves. Most water is simply recycled. While it is true that salt in water does not evaporate and storms that arise over oceans do change salt water into fresh water, the water falls so fast that flooding happens and this is often more of a nuisance or even a disaster than a replenishment. In a normal water cycle water evaporates into the air and is returned to the earth as rain or snow. 

The problem is that the rain that is evaporated is not always dropped on the same place it evaporated from. In fact, it is hardly ever dropped back in the same geological location. There are predictable patterns of where water will condense as clouds and fall back to earth. These patterns are never 100% predictable. Ask the farmers. 

Those of us who agree that climate change is real accept that patterns of water and wind and temperature that humans in America (and of course the world) have depended on for decades, perhaps even centuries, are becoming even less reliable than usual. There are more dry years in some places, flash flooding in others, weather events are sometimes more devastating than usual. The fires on the west coast have been fierce and human communities have been burned to the ground. Fire fighters have been faced with almost insurmountable danger and the constant battle with fire has left people exhausted. Landscapes often recover, but for humans, recovery is more problematic.

So, do we send water from relatively water rich areas so that people can continue to live in deserts, or in areas prone to a cycle of disasters and rebuilding, like our beaches? We have all that water sitting in our oceans so it is difficult to believe that water shortages ever will be a problem. However, apparently, desalination is a problem, not just because it’s expensive, but because there is nowhere to put the resulting brine where it will not threaten freshwater supplies. Will we be given a choice? Humans are generous, but when supply is limited are we still inclined to share? People who agreed to tough it out in areas with four seasons, when snow makes it so difficult to get around, might resent shipping water to snowbirds and sun seekers who tried to recreate the green lawns of northern suburbs without a thought for future shortages. How can we capture water that drowns an area prone to hurricanes and send it off to where would be useful? Nature still overwhelms us.

It seems we always see things coming but we never exercise foresight in order to create workable plans. Political divisions make action difficult, giving states more power and then dealing with 50 different policies from 50 different governors doesn’t help, and so we drift through the years with plenty of ideas offered by experts but no plans to stave off crop failures, fires, destruction of habitats, destruction of homes, and possible dystopian water wars. Who gets water, what can people in different biomes use water for, how can we keep our creature comforts and use much less water if we need to, should we transport water from one region of American to another if rains become ineffective for moving water around? Do we have a federal commission to control the use of freshwater resources in American, to husband our freshwater and collect it where rainfall is wasted in order to preserve enough water to always take care of the needs of farmers and citizens? Isn’t it about time we formed such a commission, separate from the EPA to concentrate on managing our freshwater resources?

Since the world is a much smaller place these days and movement of people around the world will return to normal someday if we can stabilize COVID, we cannot afford to just consider the distribution of water resources in America. We must also think globally. People may have to migrate to follow freshwater availabilities. Currently, the world’s nations frown on migration. If you live in a desert, that’s your problem. If one country’s industrial pollution ruins farming in another country, oh well. Look what has happen to the Uyghurs in China, as their desert home became even drier and less livable. They lost their autonomy and have attracted the attentions of President Xi, who is being accused of genocide. Look at what is happening to South Americans as drought affects crops and they are not allowed to migrate north. Water management may not be able to wait if we want to avoid mass migrations and even water wars.

On January 31, 2012, I wrote an article called “How Likely are Water Wars?  You can find the post in my books, Loving America to Death. There is a book that just covers 2012 and there is an omnibus edition that covers 2010 to 2016.

https://www.amazon.com/author/nlbrisson

We mourn for lives lost in Afghanistan – photo- Newport News

Two Anniversaries: China and America

From a Google Image Search – The Guardian – China celebrates 100 years of Communism

China

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2021/china-communist-party-100-anniversary/

July first in 2022, was the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and photos showed Chinese citizens looking at President Xi with smiles and what looks like true pride. China had Chairman Mao as its leader for many years and Mao tried to create a true Communist state by turning over the Chinese social hierarchy like a farmer with a pitchfork turns the earth to enrich the soil. It was a disaster. Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ which ousted top officials and gave farmers and other ‘lower caste’ Chinese people authority to make change, was a failure because it left untrained people with grudges to bear in charge of manufacturing, food production, and distribution. Simple village people who had never worked in governing positions were making laws, enforcing laws and meting out justice. After a time, China broke down and did not function to feed its people or govern its people. Mao took the title of President, but he made a good case for doubting that Communism could create a functioning society. Communism in the USSR was also having similar problems producing enough food and generating a prosperous economy.

America, after World War II, set about making the world safe for democracy. Instead of missionaries selling religion, America was peddling democracy, and along with democracy, capitalism. Sometimes American motives were resented by European nations and by Russian nations and eventually in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Established leaders could not help but find Americans intrusive. With army and air bases all over the world America was perceived, once the grief and tragedy of the war had worn off, as an occupier, attempting to make itself the boss the world. Many nations had never been democracies. They had been monarchies and then authoritarian states. They may or may not have had connections to the Roman and Greek ideas of republican government, but centuries had intervened. These connections, if they still existed, were mostly academic.

However, capitalism had proven to be a great driver of the American economy. As communism failed to provide a sustainable society, America was enjoying general prosperity that was widely spread throughout the population. Democracy might not be winning around the world, but capitalism was. We were generous. We taught nations who showed an interest how to make capitalism work for them. We sent in corporate experts and government experts to get businesses up and running. We exported some of our businesses to interested nations, and sometimes to nations that were not quite so interested.

Spreading capitalism worked better than our wildest dreams, except not so much for America. We found that we had created rivals not friends. We found our own workers were losing their jobs to nations on other continents. For America, sharing economic tactics has not been quite as beneficial. Labor was much cheaper in emerging economies. Our corporations saw opportunities in emerging markets. The Great Factory Migration left America reeling. It has also thrown our republican democracy into a long period of introspection and recriminations, jealousy and fear, hate and division, forcing us to deal with issues prosperity covered over, such as our inability to rid ourselves of our racism.

But on the 100th anniversary of communism, China is looking as if they might be taking America’s place on the world stage. Go and see the photos in the article referenced at the beginning of this essay. They show the greatest asset that China possesses, its people, its enormous population. It is looking like Communism, when it combines authoritarianism with capitalism, is a great big winner. So much easier to lead a nation when no one can dissent, when everything does not have to be discussed and argued ad infinitum. With authoritarianism becoming, seemingly, the world’s most popular form of government, and with America torn apart by political strife, democracy is not exactly selling itself to nations the way that capitalism has.

We have been dabbling in our own experiments in autocracy. If we cannot make our democracy function, we could lose our freedoms, freedoms which are looking like an enormous flaw when it comes to running a state. It could find us no longer merely flirting with authoritarianism but succumbing to it. Picture an American President in front of an audience of American citizens, arrayed in perfectly straight lines staring with adulation at our Leader. Even Trump’s rallies hardly happened in straight lines. It is not only a stretch of the imagination to picture Americans as puppets controlled by ‘Big Brother;’ it is against everything we have been taught to fear and loathe. However, as we celebrate our own 245th anniversary, it is not as big a stretch as it once was.

China feels our loathing of communism and of unfair business practices and it makes China more angry and more competitive. It may be making them more militarily aggressive. If we go back to those pictures of celebrating Chinese people and picture them again as legions of soldiers, an air force, a navy it is enough to make us tremble. So many people. Is it enough to unite us? If we get too weak as a nation, America will be a great temptation to countries that are flexing their muscles now that they have stable and even growing economies.

Watch some of the documentaries about the Great Wall of China and some of the excavated ancient cities and you will meet archeologists, anthropologists and other academics on Disney+ at National Geographics, who equal or surpass experts around the world. Authoritarianism under Xi is not causing the kinds of disruptions we saw under Mao. Xi runs an orderly, productive China. Xi does not run a free China though. He uses fear to keep people in line but for the most part he uses progress and national pride. Right now, it would be senseless to get some bug in our brain that says we must free the people of China. Right now, we need to get our own house in order.

Whether or not we can work out our problems with white supremacy and racism and get on with the business of fighting climate change remains to be seen. It seems, though, that we do not have the luxury of time. We need to hurry. Oceans are rising, heat waves are more extreme, fires are more frequent, droughts are deeper and last longer. Most contemporary arguments come back to the exigencies of a warming world; a world drenched in extra carbon dioxide. These changes are affecting every nation. If we ever needed a ‘new world order’, a body of cooperating countries on every continent, it is now. If Americans keep listening to racist old reactionaries, keepers of the Confederacy, old men hanging on to power in order to hang on to wealth; men like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Tom Cotton, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, we will not be in the forefront of the global movement to find ways to live on earth without destroying the planet that is our home. We may not even be able to remain a sovereign nation.

Xi cannot live forever. An authoritarian government’s quality depends almost solely on one person. As we saw in the case of Mao, bad leadership, no matter how well-intentioned can lead to disaster. Who will lead China next? Will China’s fortunes continue to rise if their new leader is less able than President Xi? Democracy, a republic was supposed to avoid the instability of being ruled by one dynasty after another. Our democracy is meant to withstand debate and to be a forum for hashing out philosophical differences. It is also supposed to support creativity and academic rigor to find solutions to social problems. We cannot be divided for long, given the challenges we face, without losing what we all should value most, and that might not be freedom as it is being defined right now. The most important thing might be that we find a way to live up to our American creed and unite to live up to our American potential.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/china-innovation-house-senate/

Biden and Putin, America and Russia

From a Google Image Search – ABC News

Our President, Joe Biden, is meeting with Vladimir Putin, who is either the Prime Minister or the President of the Russian Federation, depending on which year it is. Our history with Russia is fraught with fear, threats, intimidation, competition, cooperation (rare, but it does happen). As I write, Putin’s press conference is on my TV. Putin tells us that his people and our people will be dealing with the items that Biden is concerned about. What this means is that most of America’s concerns that involve Russia will be delegated to other lesser government entities. 

Crimea was discussed, as was control over nuclear proliferation. The Start Treaty is being considered for a five years extension. Putin denies that Russia is mainly responsible for cyberattacks and computer hacks. Hacking has been investigated by outside groups, he says, and the US and Canada are far higher on the list of active computer attackers than Russia is. He says that, in fact, cyberattacks on Russian health care that occur in some areas of Russia are originating in the US. 

When asked about Navalny Putin laughed and said he didn’t hear that question and that it was the journalist’s second question and he only was allowed one. He explained that Ukraine is operating outside of the Minsk agreements and it is obvious he does not plan to stop his activities in Ukraine. Then he did talk about Navalny just to say that Navalny broke Russian law. He says that the US is supporting policies that are against Russian laws and government organizations and that they are doing this because Russia is the declared enemy of America. It is not up to the US to decide how the law operates in Russia.

Recently I have been trying to learn more about Putin’s history. We already know that he was in the KGB for 17 years; that he was born in St. Petersburg, also known for a time as Leningrad; that he has changed the Russian constitution several times to allow term limits to be bypassed or changed; and that he now can legally lead Russia until 2032. What several sources mentioned was something I knew but had never put into words. Russia has no history of democracy. The Russian people have never lived in a democracy. Russia was a monarchy and then a communist state and after the heady days of victory in WW II Russia turned inward, locked its doors and came under the iron fist of Stalin with his bloody reign of terror. 

Russia and America were allies in WW II which makes our current stance as mortal enemies, sadder and more foreboding. We are enemies almost in the comic book sense of the superheroes and the villains they contend with. In fact, comic books originated as a way to have a symbolic fight against communism and authoritarianism. However, it turns out that Russia sees itself as the superhero and the US as the villain; levying sanctions, meddling in Russia’s economy. We, on the other hand, wonder how we can trust a nation that poisons dissenters, fixes elections, gives power and wealth to friends of Putin, and has to keep its borders tightly closed so that citizens will not leave. When we used to shelter under our desks in grade school in the 50’s, it was not domestic shooters we were threatened by, it was Russia. We were raised to see Russia as our adversary and I still, with fuller knowledge of our own nation’s failings, see Russia as an intimidating nation that would destroy our democracy in a heartbeat if they could do so without destroying the planet in the bargain.

It seemed as if Trump was popular with Russia and other authoritarian states because it was clear to these leaders that he had/has his own authoritarian tendencies. With President Biden we are back in our hostile corners with some incentives to try to negotiate solutions in some modern problem areas, as long as we don’t argue about what Russia can and cannot do on the world stage. Having shown the world our own civil rights transgressions, Putin feels that he is in a strong position to match evil for evil with no winner in sight. US purity is undeniably a meme of the past and we deal with the world without the hubris of our glory days. This makes us more authentic, and that authenticity is what makes us stronger than the mask of perfection that the world could see past ever made us. Both countries flaws are visible for all to see, which makes our struggles honest, at least.

The world will need Russia to fight climate change. Melting permafrost in Siberia is releasing carbon dioxide but it is also changing the climate equation in the Russia Federation. The Russia economy, almost completely dependent these days on gas and oil will need to diversify. Putin can be as proud and as rigid as he likes but at some point a lack of flexibility will come back to haunt Russia and the Russian people. The world will need Russia as a counterpoint to the rising power of China. Two authoritarian leaders with the pride and power of Putin and Xi cannot collude. Who would be the prime mover? So Russia will eventually have to team up with its old WW II allies once again to face down China’s power grabs. Let’s hope this can occur without war. 

Russia and America already cooperate in space and that relationship may also help us remain allies. If all nations could ally to save the planet and if there was a new imperialism, a kinder imperialism, in the search for resources and new land in space it would be astonishing what could be accomplished. America will hopefully continue to fight against and reject totalitarianism at home, but we may have to accept it abroad and try to make deals about the existential things, the things that could kill all life on earth. What would it take for such an alliance to coalesce and function. I would like to live long enough to see that. Meanwhile (with apologies to Steven Colbert) baby steps will have to do, any small give and take to avoid animosity so deep and rageful that it will drive us all to kingdom-come with nuclear war.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates – Book

From a Google Image Search – Gates Notes

If you like a level-headed, carefully researched roadmap to ‘get to zero’ (zero greenhouse gas emissions), tapping into the mind of a man who brought on the age of technology can’t hurt. Bill Gates in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, is exactly the unemotional problem solver, backed by a team that has helped collect data and facts (you remember facts) who could foment the kinds of changes the humans on our planet need.

Did you know that 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere in a year? How do we get that number to zero? Gates comes as close to showing us how we can do this, without making our lives unrecognizable, as any one has. “I came to focus on climate change in an indirect way – through the problem of energy poverty,” says Gates. (pg. 8) Eventually Gates divested of all stocks in coal, gas, and oil.

Gates offers plenty of graphs and charts but not to prove that carbon dioxide and methane are heating up the world and causing global warming that is great enough to affect climate. He begins with the assumption that this correlation is real and spends his time exploring every thing humans do that creates emissions and how we get each to zero global warming emissions. He uses one graph and some dramatic examples to show how warming affects the earth and some people more than others. He admits that ‘getting to zero’ will be hard. The effects of warming will be worse in poorer countries that are not responsible for emissions. The changes will have to be made in rich nations who will be most reluctant to change their ways.

“To sum up: we need to accomplish something gigantic we have never done before, much faster than we have ever done anything similar. To do it we need lots of breakthroughs in science and engineering. We need to build a consensus that doesn’t exist and create public policies to push a transition that would not happen otherwise. We need the energy systems to stop doing all the things we don’t like and keep doing all the things we do like – in other words, to change completely and also stay the same…But don’t despair. We can do this.” (pg. 48)

Gates starts us off with a chart on page 51 which shows “How much greenhouse gas is emitted by the things we do?” Making things (cement, steel, plastic) – 31%, Plugging in (electricity) – 27%, Growing things (plants, animals) – 19%, Getting around (planes, trains, trucks, cargo ships) – 16%, Keeping warm and cool (heating, cooling, refrigeration) – 7%

Using this chart every greenhouse gas producing activity is assigned a Green Premium. That green premium needs to go to zero. Gates, with the help of his research groups (Gates Ventures and Breakthrough Energy) takes each greenhouse gas emitter and shows how we get to zero carbon emissions. This is another climate book you really need to read. In fact, if you are an inventor, there are any number of areas where you could follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates and perhaps get in on the revolutions in energy that we all need. Will you end up skyrocketing to fame and fortune? Perhaps, perhaps not, but you could end up in some future history books. Help Bill Gates, help yourself.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson – Book

A Book, but also Politics – From a Google Image Search – Entertainment Weekly

In order to profit from The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson you must get through the first chapter – the catalyst for all that follows. Frank May is the only survivor of an extreme heat wave event that kills 20 million people, an entire village, in India. We don’t even learn his name until much later in the book. There are reasons.

Robinson skips around a lot which helps move this fictional/nonfiction book, full of what could be very dry science, along. India, in reaction to that enormous heat wave tragedy tries to recreate the ashy clouds of the Pinatubo volcanic eruption which blocked the sun for almost two years. The strategy India settles on of creating a layer of  a reflective substance (several are under consideration) which would reflect some sunlight back into space thus cooling the earth’s atmosphere temporarily is an actual tactic being considered by climate scientists. The Children of Kali, also in India, decide to go ‘dark’ and use more violent strategies.

In order to make the billionaires listen up and force these greedy souls to give up fossil fuels, massively effective plans will be required. The Ministry of the Future, a UN project headed by Mary Murphy from Zurich, Switzerland, never openly supports violent action. But Mary’s Assistant Chair, Badim, has no such compunctions and he has Mary’s permission to head a ‘dark’ arm of the agency. It is so ‘dark’ that even as the book ends we have no clues about the tactics used by Badim’s group, but you might want to learn about Pebble Mobs.

Mary Murphy’s machinations are not secret at all. Through the Ministry, Robinson’s book offers up one idea after another – the state of the art ideas, the far out ideas and ideas unpalatable to many – that could be used to lower the temperature raised by global warming and for sequestering the carbon dioxide (carbon) that is to blame. A story that is basically a climate textbook is made readable by making it a personal story with characters who interest us, and by flashing around the globe. We might be in India in one short chapter, or in China, or at a committee meeting, or experiencing the kidnapping of Mary Murphy, or in Antarctica, or Russia, or in the Alps, or San Francisco, along the new wildlife corridors, presenting an audacious financial plan to the world’s central banks. It’s a whirlwind for the most part, belying how slow actual change may be, but it’s exciting and it makes the reader believe that we could do this; we could save the planet.

The Ministry for the Future is a fiesta of climate ideas. If it gets a bit Kumbaya near the end, after all our recent coronavirus isolation, some communal esprit might be welcome. Mary Murphy’s mantra is “lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, win.” We might need to stop losing and use some of Robinson’s pirated ideas if we want to have any hope of winning. Every person on the planet should read this book.

Immigration: “We Are Better Than This”

From a Google Image Search – The Cut

Immigration: “We Are Better Than This”

A warehouse full of children. An air conditioned warehouse full of children with concrete floors, no beds, only two scratchy wool blankets. An air conditioned warehouse full of cold, anxious children with too few adults to care for them – children sleeping on concrete floors who have not been given clean clothing or a chance to shower or even a bar of soap, a towel, and a toothbrush. Does any of this sound like America to you? But it is happening in America. It is happening right now in America.

We have a President who has told us that the people coming across our southern border are animals. Do you believe that he is telling the truth? Are these people dangerous? Are they less than human? Why are they coming? The President thinks it is a planned challenge to his immigration policies, that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle countries) are “pranking” him somehow. Reporters who have visited these three nations tell a different story however. They tell a story about a once fertile triangle of farm land shared by these three nations. They tell us that the land is no longer fertile because the rainfall, once predictable, is now erratic. There are long periods of dry weather in recent years followed by too much rain all at once. This disruption in the usual water cycle could be temporary, but it could be due to climate change. The area is also threatened by gangs of men who snatch girls for trafficking purposes or for their own use and who snatch young men to increase memberships. These gangs are at war with each other and innocent citizens are killed in the ensuing violence. 

People usually love the country they were born in. They don’t want to leave it. If large numbers of people are migrating from one country to another country far away there is always a reason for it. People migrate when their home nation cannot offer enough food, or enough safety, or any opportunities for a better life. People of means may travel out of a sense of adventure, or to broaden their experiences, to enjoy other cultures and the beauty of foreign places. However, unless they stumble into a place they know is unstable and hostile, tourists do not end up sleeping in warehouses with concrete floors. And neither should people who are seeking asylum from a nation that no longer offers a viable life to its people. 

We cannot solve problems that arise from climate change, especially with an administration in charge of America that does not believe in climate change. But offering aid to a nation in need is something that we do know how to do. We cannot get rid of local gangs. We are not even doing well with keeping our own gangs under control. But we do know that when people are offered opportunities to learn a trade or get a college degree and find employment violence tends to decrease and the influence of gangs declines.  Aid can also be perceived to be nation building, can be seen as imperialistic interference done for personal gain rather than altruism, so the way help is offered matters. While giving aid it is not polite to see what resources you can steal from a nation that is suffering.

If one way to tackle the flow of migrants is to improve the conditions in the home nations, another way is to streamline our procedures for handling migration when it happens. Denying migrants access to the laws that govern immigration does not seem to stop people from immigrating. Separating children from parents does not seem to discourage the flow of immigration. Denying children showers and soap and toothbrushes may make them miserable but it doesn’t make them disappear (unless they die). Is that the plan? To let squalor do its work. Is that a plan Americans can live with?

“We are better than this.” Whenever I listen to panels of experts talk on my news channel (MSNBC) someone always says this. We can do better than taking children who came here with a parent or who have a contact who is a relative already in America, than housing them in a cold soulless shelter, leaving them in wet diapers and dirty clothing, allowing them to live with lice, and sending them to bed hungry with only a scratchy blanket for company. We are America. We are organized. We are humane. We are a can-do nation. If the system is overwhelmed then hire more people. Warehouse supplies, not people. Better yet, don’t detain children at all. Set to work immediately getting them to their destination if they have one, or finding them a family to act as a temporary sponsor. 

What the President would like to do is immediately deport them, but the law says they have a right to a hearing. He says that if they are released with a hearing date they will not return. Statistics say that the return rate is really good for adults. How do you give a hearing to a toddler who may be nonverbal? Applying the same practices for children that we have for adults makes no sense. HHS (Housing and Human Services) is full of experts in the care of displaced children. They should be called upon to suggest ways to handle minors separated from parents or guardians. Many experts have been making valid suggestions without getting much attention.

The chaos we are seeing in the immigration system is due to this administration’s attempts to solve the problem by circumventing immigration laws, in other words by using approaches that are lawless, approaches for which there are no precedents and no organizational plans. Orders are given and they must be accomplished although no resources are offered to accomplish what the administration wants. If everyone is to be sent back home why aren’t they loaded immediately onto planes? Because no logistics have been designed to make this possible. So migrants seeking asylum are caught between a rock and a government-engineered hard place and they cannot solve their own dilemma. But we can. “We are better than this.”

The United States of Earth

earth Blue Marble Review

Republicans go on and on about the evils of globalization as if liberals want to demolish nations and become the United States of Earth. I do not believe that the modern movement towards globalization is about anything of the kind.

The globalization of which we libtards speak has two parts. One is for the nations of the world to work together globally to be better caretakers of our planet. We have plundered our planet, trashed our planet, and moved harmful chemicals from places where they did no harm to places and in combinations where they threaten our clean water supplies and the layers of air above us that protect us so well from the airless space beyond. What will our planet be like without our ice caps? The very fact that they are melting is proof that earth is warming. As the earth warms our weather appears to grow more severe. Whether we caused this uptick in global heating or not, doesn’t it make sense to explore ways we could slow it down or reverse it? Climate deniers say earth is too big to be affected by human activities, but our planet seems smaller every day.

The other way that us liberal snowflakes use globalization relates to fighting poverty, illiteracy, disease, and lack of opportunity worldwide, especially in nations that may be challenged by harsh climate conditions or constant power struggles that savage land and people. The world has had to contend with at least two or three new diseases that seemed to emerge from these very same challenged areas. HIV had roots in Africa, Ebola virus did also, and West Nile virus, which holds horrors for pregnant mothers, seems to also have come from the tropics. In the past, when travel was difficult these diseases mostly stayed put (although previously some diseases were spread through shipping). Now they threaten everyone on the planet. Keeping people around our planet healthy may be altruistic, but it is also quite selfish. Although drugs can be and are developed to treat these new diseases, raising the standard of living for all people everywhere on earth will offer the best protection of all.

As I listened on this Tuesday, September 25, 2018, to Trump give his speech (Steven Miller’s speech) to the UN and tout the glories of the new nationalism, it did not escape me that the sense of barriers going up around states all over Europe arose from the very Pandora’s Box that the Republicans insisted on opening in Iraq (which they now blame on the Democrats because of Libya). The wave of war spread across the Middle East from Iraq until it arrived at Syria and sent migrants outward into Europe. People leaving a war torn nation where their leader used chemical weapons on his people; that’s a thing we should all comprehend. But the fear of people arriving in a settled nation in large numbers, the timing of these migrations after a long spate of terrorists activities in European nations, and the lack of a good plan for how to offer hospitality to traumatized families has set up new opportunities for power for those who give voice to anti-migrant speech.

Trump can sense fear in others because he feels it himself, hence his support for white supremacists. Trump can sympathize with the rise of dictators in Europe who promise to keep migrants out of their nations. By turning to policies of “our nation first” “earthlings” will lose the very important outcomes of the dual goals of globalization. As a result, Nationalism could destroy America as we know it, but it could also destroy our entire little planet out here in a lonely corner of space. Please keep the destruction down all you powerbrokers, until we find Earth B out there in the void.

Globalization, as us lefties define it, is not completely at odds with Nationalism, so stop making it look like we can only have one or the other. The New World Order is not a real thing. It is a made-up political construct, a conspiracy theory, to deliver a message that the left has extreme and diabolical plans for global domination. If anyone has such plans however, it is the right.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Blue Marble Review

Keep an Eye on the News, Summer 2018

The news is coming fast and furious right now, probably because of the coming midterms and there are so many interesting stories that I will not be able to write in depth about each one of them while they are still relevant. So here are a few things you might want to keep an eye on.

21contractors-01-jumbo

Immigration:

We still have to watch what will happen to those children we have stolen, the ones we now don’t have enough information to give back to their parents. Will we find a way to reunite these families. These children have disappeared into the foster care system or into centers run by charitable organizations who have been taking care of immigrant children for some time now. There is also a private business called MVM which is being paid $750/day for each child in their program.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/intelligence-contractor-makes-millions-flying-immigrant-kids-to-shelters

https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2016/09/15/nearly-500-immigrant-children-call-fort-bliss-home-temporarily/

We also have to keep an eye on Congress in the matter of immigration. Trump is very angry at Democrats and is saying some pretty terrible things about them, such as calling them child traffickers because they will not vote for the hardline Goodlatte immigration bill favored by Trump and the extremists on the right-wing in the House – The Freedom Caucus. Goodlatte version 1 failed to pass the US House vote – today, 6/19/2018. Is there a bill that can pass and what will it mandate at our southern border?

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/393460-hardline-immigration-bill-fails-in-the-house/

Leaving Our Allies

leaving un human rights Getty images

Human Rights Council of UN – We left the Council.

“After more than a year of complaints and warnings — some subtle and others a little less so — the Trump administration has announced that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced the decision in a joint statement Tuesday.”

“’I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments,” Haley told the media. “On the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.’”

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621435225/u-s-announces-its-withdrawal-from-u-n-s-human-rights-council

Are you feeling the isolation yet?

China and Plastics

plastic waste big nyt.com

China will no longer collect the world’s plastics.

“An estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced by 2030 as a result of China’s recent ban on the import of most plastic waste, according to new research.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/06/21/china-ban-plastic-waste-recycling/721879002/

Climate Change and Immigration:

draught in Honduras, etc big

Apparently climate change is making matters worse in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which may be a partial explanation for the tensions and gang activities in those nations and in the number of immigrants we are seeing. The Northern Triangle, the dry corridor, consisting of these three nations, has been experiencing long draughts and then long periods of torrential rains which has caused crops to fail and raised prices on food and made choices scarcer.

“One factor causing migrants to risk everything—even potentially losing their children—to travel through the heat of summer in the dangerous desert and towards the barbed wire fences and tent cities springing up just south of the United States border: climate change.

Many of the migrants being detained here now hail from what’s referred variously as the Dry Corridor or the Northern Triangle, which consists of the three countries immediately south of Mexico: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/climate-change-sparked-the-border-migration-crisis

Reorganizing Government

Mick Mulvaney nyt big

There is plan afoot to combine some government departments to help make government smaller, supposedly. Mick Mulvaney would like to combine the Departments of Education and Labor. (Do we see how this might lead to an emphasis on vocational training, over a more college bound approach to education, in order to remake the goals students will tend to pursue after leaving high school.) This reorganization includes changes in our social safety net. Read all about it.

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/393479-white-house-releases-sweeping-proposal-to-reorganize-government/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/white-house-to-propose-merging-education-labor/2018/06/21/8f5e8e54-7561-11e8-bda1-18e53a448a14_story.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/us/politics/trump-welfare-department-reorganization.html

Will An Authoritarian Leader Be Unseated

Muharrem Ince big Turkey

Erdogan is the leader of Turkey and, if you have been paying attention, he has grown more and more authoritarian in his approach to governing Turkey. There was a coup, which many think Erdogan may have engineered. When Erdogan ended the coup he got to do some pretty brutal purging.

On June 24ththere is an election in Turkey. Mr. Ince is running against Erdogan and he is attracting crowds, surprisingly. The world is kind of waiting with some hope that Ince can unseat Erdogan on June 24th. That’s pretty close to now. Keep an ear bent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/opinion/ince-erdogan-turkey-election.html

 

In Other News

Behind all the trending news of the week, the news that is so interesting and full of implications about the Trump White House (Hope Hicks is leaving, Jared has no security clearance, Trump v Congress and the NRA on guns, shades of the DACA summit) news which we love to speculate about – and behind the news today of the tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) –  there is plenty of other news about subjects I have been following that gets little coverage on television. Some great articles have been written recently on these topics.

First topic: Unions

The decision in front of the Supreme Court is about something called an agency fee which allows unions to charge fees in lieu of dues to non-members of the union (because  non-members also benefit from the wins unions get on behalf of employees). In this case the unions we are talking about are public employees unions, although there would be implications for all unions.

The opponents of the unions, mostly Conservatives, right-wingers, the Koch brothers, contend that they favor “right to work” laws, laws which get rid of the possibility of charging an agency fee to non-members. Right to work laws hurt unions and, in the long run, employees by robbing the unions of power, of funding, and of leverage. Right to work laws sound like they favor employees but they actually favor employers. This matter was argued in front of the Supreme Court on Monday, 2/26/2018.

An interesting article in The New York Times describes the matter as more heated than one would think. The lawyer presenting the case for the unions is a former colleague and friend of Neil Gorsuch, a member of the same law firm. That suggests some black-robed drama right there as they are believed to be on opposite sides in this case.

The Conservative Supremes accused unions of bringing cities to the brink of bankruptcy to which the unions responded that this is not the point of the case. But evidence of the Freedom Foundation and other right wing groups meddling in the business of the court suggests that the fix is in. If this doesn’t highlight the partisan nature of this Supreme Court then you are clearly blinded by you own political (right wing) bubble.

“Confronted with such briefs and articles, some judges might pull back and think twice about overturning a 40-year-old precedent for reasons so obviously grounded in policy rather than law. But if the effort was to shame the five justices who now hold the upper hand, I think it most likely backfired. The voice that came through to me was one that said: “Oh, yeah? Save your breath. We’ve got the votes and — in case you’ve forgotten — life tenure besides.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/opinion/supreme-court-labor-unions.html

Second Topic: Sinclair Broadcasting – Conservative creep

Sinclair Communications/Broadcasting is still pursuing its merger with Tribune Media even though this puts them over the current limit of  ownership as set by the FCC.

The FCC admits that they are custom-building their policy for Sinclair as we are told in this article from The Daily Beast.

http://thebea.st/2CIv4LZ

But Variety calls out Sinclair’s proposed scam of selling off the media outlets which put it over the FCC limit but signing management agreements with those same outlets so as to maintain control over those markets. If the FCC is forced to stick to existing rules Sinclair has strategies they hope will make their merger happen anyway.

http://variety.com/2018/politics/news/newsmax-sinclair-broadcast-group-fcc-1202713846/

“Newsmax, the conservative news outlet, says Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans for station sales are a “sham” to gain FCC approval for its proposed   acquisition of Tribune Media.”

Third Topic : Changes at the New York Times

The New York Times has made editorial changes which have created “an op-ed crisis.” NYT was reliably left-leaning and moderate – but after the 2016 election the op-ed section has turned more activist, as have most readers on the left. James Bennet seems to be unhappy with that slant and is trying to introduce “balance”, which means more right wing input, and he is also moving to give new authors coverage, but the new authors he is choosing do not please the traditional NYT reader. The right wing, which has its own 24/7 television channel and plenty of talk radio coverage has been whining about unfair coverage by mainstream media. It is my contention that if the right said anything that could be mistaken for good policy then they would not have to whine and tattle. I am thinking about switching my subscription to the Washington Post.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/new-york-times-op-ed-crisis-james-bennet

Fourth Topic: Deportation

ICE and the mayor of Oakland, California are involved in a conflict over deportations because she keeps warning residents about upcoming deportations.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-oakland-mayor-ice-20180228-story.html

150 to be deported in California is a story reported in the UK press.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5444129/ICE-arrests-150-illegal-immigrants-California.html

From Syracuse, NY, another sanctuary city, we have more news about deportation.

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2018/02/once_tolerated_now_targeted_illegal_immigrants_in_cny_caught_in_crackdown.html

This article asks what happens to family members left behind after deportations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/opinion/american-families-immigrants-deportation.html

Fifth Topic: New Study on Segregation (and it is not good news)

A new study shows that segregation and inequality are worse, and makes the argument that these issues will not be solved by privatization. This article includes excellent graphs and charts.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/28/opinion/the-unmet-promise-of-equality.html

Sixth Topic: Climate Change

The New York Times adds to its Climate Change series with another article headed by a spectacular video showing permanent changes on the Louisiana Delta caused by rising seas.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/24/us/jean-lafitte-floodwaters.html

Seventh Topic: Conspiracy Theories (How they go mainstream)

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/01/how-right-wing-conspiracy-theories-grow-mainstream-pundits-give-them-power/

 

I could go on but I won’t. Clearly there are stories about the White House and then there are the other news stories that describe the aftereffects of what goes on in the White House and Congress. Keeping an eye on how Conservative policies are working is a must if we someday hope to overturn these policies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Earth Day, 2017

 

Sea Sick

This article was originally posted on 5/21/2015 after an oil pipe leak onto a beach in Santa Barbara, California but I think it is quite appropriate for Earth Day in 2017. This article can also be found in my book, Environmental Diary, The Obama Years with a link at http://notabene718.com/

We sort of view our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes as a giant purification system. We can empty any dirty old thing in there and it will come out clean. But we have been fooling ourselves with this science of wishful thinking. When our population was smaller and the waste we emptied into our water was mainly organic, this faux water science sort of worked. But with 7 billion plus people on the planet even organic wastes are taxing our water systems, fresh and salty.

When we were at the peak of the Industrial Age we put heavy toxic chemicals and more complex organics like oil into our water systems routinely. This was done so slyly that we can conclude that businesses were aware of both the true science of their acts and of the moral quicksand they were standing on, but this was the standard procedure in industry at that time and many sins were hidden under our waters.

I’m sure local government leaders and other government people on up the chain were at least peripherally aware of what businesses were doing but industry was so important to an area’s economic health that secrets were kept. When our factories left us in The Great Industrial Migration, which began in the 80’s and 90’s and is still going on, these same governments suddenly found themselves stuck with the toxic waste left behind in local water systems (and in the earth too, in many cases). In some cases local governments were able to hold a business’ feet to the fire until they mounted some kind of clean up.

I have seen this whole dynamic play out in my own town which has had the honor of being host to Onondaga Lake, the dirtiest lake in America. Between Allied Chemical and Honeywell dumping heavy metals and other toxins into this small and scenic urban lake and the sewage that overflowed the city water treatment plant whenever it rained, our beloved lake practically glowed in the dark. We could no longer fish or swim in it and if you were boating you shared tales of what would happen to you if you fell in.

There are reasons our planet’s surface is three-quarters water. Without a water cycle that repeats predictably life could not exist on our planet. We are 90% water. We only survive a short time without water to drink. Water is life. Water supports marine life which we enjoy eating but which could prove essential to life if we ever do descend into survivalist mode. Primitive man treasured fish because it added variety to their diet and healthy Omega-3’s, which they did not have a name for, but which they instinctively knew to be good for them. Even if you don’t eat seafood, I’m sure derivatives are in many products you do use.

Now we watch in horror as the petroleum industry expects us to believe that the earth’s water system, including the wildlife in it, can absorb oil spill after oil spill and that the negative effects will be purely temporary. But that queasy feeling we get each time a new oil spill sullies another pristine spot is our inner primitive survivalist telling us that we don’t believe a single disclaimer from these planet-trashers.

Honeywell may be able to help clean up my community’s small lake, but the oil companies cannot clean our oceans. There will be a tipping point eventually when the seas, river, lakes, oceans cannot take the toxic onslaught anymore. I hope we don’t wait that long. I applaud efforts to find new energy sources, but we need safeguards for oil drilling and oil delivery that really work and we need them now. (Hint, hint; oil people, stop operating on the cheap.)

Without clean water we will die, rich or poor, we will die.

Here’s a few links to lists of oil spills:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills

http://www.itopf.com/knowledge-resources/data-statistics/statistics/

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001451.html#ixzz3amWW16pK/

Of course it is no longer 5/21/2015 and the list of spills is much longer as we get ready for Science March this weekend 4/22/17 and the Climate Change March next weekend 4/29/17.