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July 27, 2006

Political heat
Posted by Teresa at 10:55 AM *

The death toll in California is up to 81, and the coroner’s office in Fresno is stacking bodies two to a gurney. If the region gets rolling blackouts, as still seems possible, people will start dying faster.

I know Jim’s writing something about hyperthermia, so I’ll lay off my Arizonan rants about people (especially all these bleeping Northeasterners) not taking heat seriously.

As always, I’m haunted by the number of people in this country who think that George W. Bush & Co. is on their side, when there are so many clues to the contrary. Wrecking FEMA, for instance. Large-scale disasters can strike anywhere. Katrina hit a city that voted Democrat, but a major disaster could just as easily have hit a red state, and the response would have been just as inept. Bush didn’t care. The election was over. He didn’t need their votes any more.

And then, obviously, there’s global warming. If the problem of greenhouse emissions isn’t addressed soon, it’s going to be like perpetually having a Katrina-magnitude disaster happening everywhere at once. We’ll all get nailed, no matter how we voted.

Bush & Co. have been systematically lying about global warming, getting caught lying about it, lying about it again, getting denounced by the rest of the world, suppressing data, suppressing reports, suppressing scientists, refusing to take action on it on the grounds that it’s not a big enough problem, refusing to take action on it on the grounds that it’s such a big problem that there’s no use doing anything about it, lying about it some more when they think no one’s paying attention, and generally being grossly irresponsible about this extremely serious issue, ever since they got control of the White House.

This abuse of public policy is temporarily beneficial to a small handful of top guys at automobile, petroleum, and energy companies. Those are Bush & Co.’s real friends. The additional money they get to suck up as a result is a teeny fraction of the collective costs of global warming the rest of us will get stuck with. (Corruption is another thing most Americans don’t get. They don’t understand how insanely wasteful it is.) And while those costs are almost literally incalculable, suffering that comes with them will be far worse.

We’ll all get nailed, one way or another.

It’s no news that Republicans and other right-wingers have an “us and them” mentality. What perpetually leaves me shaking my head is that 98% of the people who vote for “us and them” think they’re part of the “us” that benefits from Bush’s policies—and they’re dead wrong.

Comments on Political heat:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Exxon-Mobil just reported the second-highest quarterly profits ever for an American company.

Shocked, shocked.

#2 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:28 PM:

I'm absolutely not saying that climate change isn't something to worry about, but it's worth noting that, in Europe at least, there is every sign that the increased fatalities due to hotter summers (such as the one we are currently having in the UK) will be greatly outweighed by the decrease in fatalities due to less cold winters. A recent report in the Guardian had the ratio at fourteen to one by 2020 (ie decreased mortality due to less intense winters was fourteen times increased mortality due to more intense summers).

I'm not saying that warmer winters make climate change OK; just that climate change is complex and multifactoral. As it happens, I think the net effects of climate change are likely to be extremely damaging. Most of the damage will be done in developing countries where the ability to adapt to changing weather patterns is much less. The poor, both in developed countries and in the world at large, are going to get nailed a lot harder than the not-poor.

None of which is any help to people in Fresno.

#3 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:29 PM:

Thought this might interest you, Teresa:

#4 ::: JulieB ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:33 PM:

I live in the Dallas area and our governor has fast-tracked a plan to build a number of coal-burning power plants in the area. OF COURSE we're downwind. But the utility company says that these are the new and improved cleaner-burning plants. Odd that the fast-track status will get them approved just under the start date for new, stricter EPA guidelines. Hmm.

The pollution in Dallas is sometimes worse than you'll find in LA. The childhood asthma rate here is approaching Atlanta's. Yet, our local school districts insist on starting the academic year in early August - when ozone pollution is at its worst.

And don't even get me started about Bush. Yeah, he was our governor. No, I didn't vote for him.

#5 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:38 PM:

I'm waiting for the increase in food poisoning cases.

I had to go out to buy more milk this morning, because the bottle bought on Tuesday night had already gone off. I'm fairly sure it's because the chiller cabinet in the corner shop couldn't cope with the heat over the weekend. Some of the grocery stores in Silicon Valley were reporting that they were having to clear their chiller cabinets because the food was starting to go off.

It's pretty obvious when milk's gone off, and it usually isn't a serious hazard. But there are other things out there that might be more of an issue. Don't think I want to eat chicken this week unless it's still piping hot from being *thoroughly* cooked...

#6 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Wait, so Michael "global warming's a myth" Crichton's full of it? Say it ain't so!

On the "us and them" front, Patton Oswalt has a wonderful routine in which he talks about how shocked he is whenever he meets a Bush supporter and the guy turns out to be someone making $30K a year. He eventually ends up comparing such people to Michael Damien groupies. I wish I had a transcript of it (or, better yet, an audio file), as it's dead on (if not exactly obscenity-free).

#7 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Blackouts in CA are not just a heat problem, they're an infrastructure problem. There's not enough power in the grid, and the grid can't handle the demands, and it's old.

If we had anything approaching a sane government, there would have been a nationwide effort to keep ahead of major issues like the ones we've been seeing in Queens NY, because the problem there was a poorly maintained system, and a denial that there was a problem.

We seem incapable of learning from catastrophes like this and actually keeping our utilities and man made environment in line with our demands on it.

There's a near consensus in the climatological community that weather trends are for hotter summers worldwide. Climatologists expect more 'spikes' in global temperatures like the recent one in CA. We will have to get used to weather like this, and our infrastructure *will* fail if we insist it responds to an increasing draw on power.

Of course, I expect it'll take several disasters of a much larger scale for the nation as a whole to understand this. In large part, because doing so would mean admitting a mistake on behalf of the majority of the conservatives and libertarians in the US, who're the major global warming deniers. It will also require an economic shift on a grand scale, and corporations don't like change.

#8 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Oh, and BTW,

And then, obviously, there's global warming. If the problem of greenhouse emissions isn't addressed soon, it's going to be like perpetually having a Katrina-magnitude disaster happening everywhere at once. We'll all get nailed, no matter how we voted.

It allready is too late not to expect weather events of this magnitude on a regular basis. We're in the middle of it right now. All we can do is hope that conservation will reverse the trend.

#9 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Nothing surprises me about the Republican ability to deny facts anymore. To me, denying global warming is just a tiny step up from denying evolution. Perhaps this is just the latest in the long line of God's jokes on us - hey, if He planted dinosaur bones in the ground to trick us, He could temporarily melt the ice pack - it's nothing permanent! They'll all go back the way they were after we all learn...ummm...something.

#10 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:54 PM:

On the rolling blackouts:

Our energy usage in CA right now is higher than in the last heatwave, where we had rolling blackouts. The difference is that back then, Enron was taking power plants off-line, shuttling purchases around, and pretending it couldn't meet demand.

#11 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:21 PM:

In re California-related Viewing With Alarm, I'm a bit worried by this minor-league GOP hustle:

House eyes national toxics law GOP lawmakers would forbid states from passing tougher pesticide bills:

(07-13) 04:00 PDT Washington -- House Republicans are pushing new legislation that could wipe out the ability of California and other states to ban or strictly limit the use of pesticides and toxic industrial chemicals that can jeopardize human health.

I thought Republicans were supposed to be adamant about reserving all powers for states that aren't specifically delegated to the Federal government. I guess that's only true until they see they can pick up corporate bribe money by attempting to legislate the Constitution out of existence. If they can do that with the ability of states to regulate pesticides, maybe the next step will be to legislate this stuff out of existence.

#12 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Mythago - oh, trust me, I remember the energy-crisis-that-wasn't quite well. I was in CA for that. And it wasn't jsut Enron, it was about a half dozen to a dozen energy trading companies that screwed us due to deregulation.

But the grid problems are seperate. CA's grid is a bit more new than NYCs, but it will start failing without upgrades and maintainance.

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Is everyone's gorge-baffle firmly in place?

From a Peggy Noonan column:

If global warming is real, and if it is new, and if it is caused not by nature and her cycles but man and his rapacity, and if it in fact endangers mankind, scientists will probably one day blame The People for doing nothing.

But I think The People will have a greater claim to blame the scientists, for refusing to be honest, for operating in cliques and holding to ideologies. For failing to be trustworthy.

No, Miss Peggy, the scientists will blame you and the other dirt-smearing, F.U.D. spreading, lying, obfuscuating, talking-point-repeating pundits.

The greenhouse effect was hypothesized a frigging century ago. Scientists have been worrying about what all the CO2 could do for decades. A science fiction movie starring Charlton Heston that came out in 1973 mentions it.

You and other faithful lapdogs of industry have dutifully parroted the sophistry fed to you by the fossil fuel crowd and by free-market ideologues. As the evidence mounted, you moved on to the next set of bogus arguments.

For twenty years you did the denial dance . . . and you blame the scientists for being dishonest ideologues?

Once again, check your gorge baffles or cover your keyboards and nearby valuables:

I note here what is to me a mystery. It is that people with lower IQs somehow tend, in our age, to have a greater apprehension of the meaning of things and the reality of life, than do our high-IQ professionals, who often seem, in areas outside their immediate field, startlingly dim. I don't know why intellectuals--or cerebralists or eggheads or IQ hegemonists--seem to miss the most obvious things, floating on untethered by common sense. If you talk to a brilliant scholar at a fine university about social policy, chances are he will say with honest perplexity that he cannot understand--really cannot understand--why people would not want men to marry men, or women women. I wish there were a name for this, for the cluelessness of the more intellectually accomplished, the simpler but truer wisdom of those who are often less lettered and less accomplished.

Oh, I got a name for it. It's called "a pandering, smarmy lie of the sort we've come to expect from a professional bullshit artists like you."

#14 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:34 PM:
I thought Republicans were supposed to be adamant about reserving all powers for states that aren't specifically delegated to the Federal government.

That was a pretty good marketing ploy, don't you think? I mean, who'd be against that? Shame it was never true.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:41 PM:

Good lord. Peggy Noonan actually talks like a villain from an Ayn Rand novel.

Steve, thanks for the WSWS link. I added it plus one other to the main post.

#16 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:44 PM:

Stefan, what Noonan is doing is pure neo-con playbook. It's swift-boating.

If you're wrong on an issue, so badly wrong that only an idiot would agree with you, slime the living shit out of the other guy. Attack as hard and as strong as you can, because at the end of the day, it's not about who's right, it's about who made the other guy look worse. There is no sin, no bad act, no lie, and no crime that you can commit that the public won't ignore, as long as you make the other guy look bad.

It doesn't matter how noble the other guy is, because as long as you go through a proxy, any claim can be made. No matter how vile the attack, a significant amount of your base will be more interested in how badly you slime the other guy. Also, you'll pick up a bunch of gullible types who're more motivated by knowing who to hate than who's right.

#17 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Stefan, thanks for the link to the steaming pile of manure. my yard could use some fertilizer.

As an aside, what the heck is a gorge-baffle?

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:50 PM:

A puke deflection device.

#19 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Greg, I believe it would prevent the vomit from leaving your gorge by means of a set of baffles.

Puke is bad for keyboards.

#20 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Hi Teresa!

#21 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 02:55 PM:

But the grid problems are seperate.

Oh, indeed; we have all kind of infrastructure problems. But how interesting that with a *higher* energy load, we aren't having the rolling blackouts we did before.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:01 PM:

The Republicans (more precisely, the far-right within the Republican party) has over the past three decades perfected an extraordinary argument. Whatever they are for (be it tax cuts for the rich, or obliging science teachers to include mythology in their classer -- after all it ends in 'ology')is defined in terms of 'the little guy' who is contrasted to 'elitist eggheads who want to run your life for you'. So they can stand up and pretend that they are for ordinary Americans and their critics are seeking to control said ordinary Americans against their best interests. I'm amazed that people fall for this, but they do.

#23 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:04 PM:

"pure neo-con playbook"

Oh, I know.

The only thing that disgusts me more than the fact that this crap is being used as a political tool is the fact that my fellow Americans reliably fall for it, over and over and over.

There was, for a few years in the neighborhood where I grew up, a Mom who, when she wanted to get her toddler to come back home from his neighborhood rambles, would shout out the door that they were going to Carvel's*.

It worked, every time. Stupid, trusting, gullible, greedy little Marco! We despised his sour-faced, sullen, lying mother, but -- being nasty little kids ourselves -- we despised him even more, for never catching on.

I'm sure Marco grew up and eventually figured things out.

Will we?


* NE & Florida ice cream chain.

#24 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Sometimes I wonder if, statistically speaking, people like H.S. Noonan are somehow on the take and are paid shills to benefit their owners, or whether they're not financially benefiting in any direct way, and instead they're really, when it comes down to it, dumb as rocks and dangerous as nukes.

If the former, she's sold out mankind for thirty pieces of silver, but I can at least understand her motivation, even if I think she's an editorial equivalent of Judas or a cheap whore.

If the latter, she has been seduced by myth in the face of massive empirical evidence to the contrary. And that is beyond my comprehension.

Oh, and is 'gorge baffle' from a book? Street slang? I never heard it before.

#25 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:17 PM:

I made up "gorge baffle" on the spur of the moment.

It seemed funnier than "Swig some Pepto Bismal before reading."

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Peggy Noonan and others of the pundit class probably do benefit from their ideological loyalty.

Not through money, but valuable connections. It gets her invited to parties, to speaking gigs, and perhaps gets her writing assignments.

What puzzles me: The motivation of the tiresome trolls who speak-in-talking-points on, say, Slashdot, or Chris Mooney's blog, or anywhere else that global warming might get discussed.

#27 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:30 PM:

I made up "gorge baffle" on the spur of the moment.

sorry. my parser jammed up on the phrase. duly noted.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:37 PM:

"Puke is bad for keyboards."

I think, before rushing to conclusions, we should put away our fears and ignore the howling of the chicken littles and consider what good things might come from puke on our keyboards.

I haven't seen a single scientific study on the benefits of puked-on keyboards, a sure sign that scientists have put on ideological blinders and are ignoring evidence that challenges their lazy assumptions and attention-getting fearmongering.

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Peggy Noonan's a paid shill for power. There's no doubt about it.

#30 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Peggy may be a paid shill, but I think she actually believes the stuff she's spewing out. The gushy tones of admiration she reserves for Reagan (which are only occasionally lavished upon Dear Leader) are so over-the-top that she can't be faking it.

#31 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 03:58 PM:

she can't be faking it.

exactly what Harry thought until Sally ate her salad.


#32 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 04:04 PM:

And now, from the Central Valley, some local background on why it was worse here than it should have been. At least according to this resident of Merced.

First off, the Fresno County morgue story -- I have actually spent time in that building. It's not that they aren't overcrowded, it's that they are always crowded. Up until a few years ago, they only had space for 25 bodies in a century old building lacking air conditioning, serving a metro area of over a million. Unless it is urgent, you will wait a while for a autopsy. Recently they got a federal grant and expanded their capacity to 50, which is still not enough, and there is no prospect of replacing the building. (I could reflect on the use of Homeland Security funds being used to expand storage space for corpses, but . . . another day.)

That is just one little data point in what happened out here. Not only did we start having extreme temperatures sometime last week, there was forecast warnings well before that. Cooling centers, at least in Stanislaus County and some other places (Fresno too, I think), were not opened and staffed until Tuesday, two days ago (and some didn't open until yesterday). At that point known heat deaths in the Valley had already gone into double digits. Since they opened after they were needed, some sat nearly empty. And the emergency rooms are always packed here anyway -- 12 hour waits are routine. I've sat through it myself more than once.

The Valley is solid red, north to south, the core of Bush country in California. It's not that we don't understand heat -- this is not the first 110+ day I have experienced here. But local governments and social agencies do not appear to have had any effective plan for this kind of emergency. It may be due to our thinking we always have been able to handle this. But many more people live out here now, and social services have been pushed to the limit for years. Not that most of this area's residents will connect the dots as to why this happened . . . they aren't dumb, they simply don't want to be bothered with such issues. That's why they moved away from where ever they were and came here.

#33 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 04:28 PM:

Oliver Morton:I'm absolutely not saying that climate change isn't something to worry about, but it's worth noting that, in Europe at least, there is every sign that the increased fatalities due to hotter summers (such as the one we are currently having in the UK) will be greatly outweighed by the decrease in fatalities due to less cold winters. A recent report in the Guardian had the ratio at fourteen to one by 2020 (ie decreased mortality due to less intense winters was fourteen times increased mortality due to more intense summers).

There are a couple reasons why this doesn't really hold any water. First off, many heat related deaths are not recognized as such. The very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are far more likely to have their pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by extreme heat than cold. the resulting deaths are often blamed on the underlying condition, and not on the heat that turned said condition deadly. Also, many heat deaths occur in the segments of the population least likely to be accurately reported. The very poor, and the homeless, have the least access to air conditioning, and deaths in these classes are often not calculated into demographic reports, especially in second and third wqorld nations. There are more of these mistakes in NON-record heat waves since less awareness is focused on heat as a causal factor. I am familiar with these reporting errors on a first-hand basis. Any survey of health-care professionals who work primarily with street populations (as I do) will confirm them. Also, any review of Emergency Room admits for heat problems vs. a review of admits for cold-related illnesses will show that heat is by far the more dangerous.

Secondly, if the U.K. does suffer more deaths from cold than heat, then they need to be even more worried. One of the first effects from continued global warming will be the loss of the Gulf Stream "conveyor belt" which keeps the British Isles' climate moderated. The result will be longer, colder and more storm-intensive winters for Britain and Northern Europe.

There is no upside to global warming. Even if it is a natural process, we are making it worse and shortening the time we have to do something about it. George & Co. are villians out of an Ayn Rand novel, and he will go down as the most inept President in history because of it. The war in Iraq is a 2-year-old's temper tantrum compared to the damage we are facing to the environment.

#34 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 04:33 PM:

George & Co. are villians out of an Ayn Rand novel

I think those longwinded characters spouting nonsense were supposed to be the heroes.

#35 ::: Jay Lake ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 04:35 PM:

Suzette Haden Elgin recently posted on her lj, ozarque, a theory about why so many of "us" vote for "them." It was the first time I'd ever seen a speculation which made sense to me. Essentially, what she offered was the idea the stereotypical Red State/heartland voter is voting against their own economic and social interests because they're voting FOR people who share their worldview. For the first time, they feel empowered on the national and international stage.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 04:47 PM:

I think those longwinded characters spouting nonsense were supposed to be the heroes.

Ayn Rand's heroes are villains to me.

#37 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 04:58 PM:

"What perpetually leaves me shaking my head is that 98% of the people who vote for “us and them” think they're part of the “us” that benefits from Bush's policies—and they're dead wrong."

That's how conservatism works. "Vote for us and *you* could be rich one day--vote for the other guys and we'll all be poor for ever." Self-interest beats logic, every time.

#38 ::: Alexis ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 05:28 PM:

One thing I've heard about the "us" voting for "them" issue: that it's not that those who vote for "them" believe that they are part of the "them" currently, but that they believe, and hope, that they will be. (A vain hope, probably.)

Fortunately for the short term, it's much cooler here (in the Bay Area, at least) today.

#39 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 05:40 PM:

According to the weather report today, the cooling trend which has indeed hit the coast of northern California (fog, glorious fog!) will move into the Central Valley tomorrow.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

#40 ::: katster ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Also, I should add to Claude's report one other factor that wasn't accounted for as to why heat deaths are up in this state. I grew up in the far north end of the Central Valley, which is a small town called Redding. (I currently am around the Sacramento area.)

Anyway, in Redding, we get a few days of temps above 110, and spend the summer weeks on end with the afternoon temps above 100. It's no big deal.

The thing that happened this time that made it different? Not only were mid-valley cities like Sacramento hitting 110+ (which is unusual, it's really the extreme ends of the valley -- Redding and Bakersfield -- that hit those temps), but the dewpoint, instead of plummetting into the 20s and 30s, hung right around the 60 degree mark. And while all the Southerners might be laughing and saying "That's still nothing", we're not used to anything resembling the humidity that we had.

In Redding, at least, the dry heat means that swamp coolers are a valid means of cooling. But swamp coolers work by pushing chilled water vapor into the air, thus increasing the humidity in the air. Of course, this doesn't work on already humid days. I don't know about the rest of the valley, but that's just another datapoint to consider. Especially since high humidity along with high heat will lead to hyperthermia.

Just a few thoughts from here.

#41 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Portland had a dose of unexpected humidity to go along with the above-average temperatures. Also high, sun-swaddling overcast. An eerie, unseasonal lid on the world.

Upside: No awful penetrating glare. Cars didn't turn into mini-greenhouses.

Downside: Even the shade was no escape from the discomfort.

Sunset, Friday evening, had a creepy bruise-blue taint to it.

#43 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 06:41 PM:

I used to live in Quito, Ecuador. Every summer there'd be scheduled power outages; we'd check the newspaper to find out when our neighborhood would be out of power that week, and plan accordingly. Why were there power outages? Because the hydroelectric dam hadn't been dredged in years. Why hadn't the dam been dredged? Because the people given money to purchase the necessary equipment had embezzeled it, year after year after year, through multiple government officials, and so there was never the equipment needed to fix this obvious, predictable, well-known problem. Instead the government did the best it could by arranging the blackouts across the city in such a way that industry areas had power during the week but not on weekends, residential areas mostly lost power during the day when residents weren't home, and so forth. It was the best they could do, because they knew full well that if they allocated the money to equipment again, it would just be absconded with. Again.

And everyone dealt with it, because it was expected and known, and an annoyance that one simply coped with. My parents used to shake their heads, and let us kids know that this sort of thing wouldn't happen back home in the USA. Pity that these third world countries managed their money so badly and had so much government corruption, but we could at least rest assured it wasn't like that everywhere. No, back in the States real cities didn't have planned, predicted power outages. They just kept up with things and had enough power to go around!

Go figure.

#44 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 07:46 PM:

Actually, I think they may have a secret plan to take care of this: let the situation in the Middle East bring in the imminent apocalypse. Then global warming will be a moot point.

#45 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 08:13 PM:

So, if the Democrats were in power, does anyone really think Exxon-Mobil would not have had record profits this year? I think a lot of people are making the real problems we face into our side/their side issues, and they're *not*. Both parties care a great deal about getting elected and re-elected. Both parties care more about the people giving them money, directly or indirectly, to get elected, than they do about you or me. I think you can judge this by their actions.

The Democrats and Republicans have political ideologies, and this sometimes is very important--but it seems to have a lot less than you'd expect to do with how they govern.

The Republicans have been in complete power for six and a half years now. Their ideology favors balanced budgets, smaller and less intrusive government, a strong, well-maintained military, refraining from silly adventures in nation-building, school vouchers, getting rid of gun control, and making abortion illegal. So, after six years of complete, all three branches domination of the Republicans, surely we have a smaller government, balanced budget, a military in fine shape (not, let me add, being used to implement some kind of goofy liberal social engineering schemes, like imposing democracy on unwilling Arabs at gunpoint), widespread school choice (and devolution of control of schools to local governments, where parents still send their kids to public schools), little or no gun control, and few or no abortions. Right? Hmmm. Isn't it funny how that didn't work out? I wonder why not.

But Democrats are in favor of civil liberties, unlike Republicans. They care deeply about the plight of the poor, and of minorities. They worry about the unrestricted market trampling on little people.

So, the previous eight year Democratic administration must not have had a lot of initiatives to decrease civil liberties in favor of more surveilance. I mean, stuff like the Clipper chip, the CDA, authorizing the FBI to do more domestic surveilance of right-wing groups, those things surely didn't have the support of a Democratic administration behind them. And surely, the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, resisted the impulse toward free-trade accords like NAFTA. No doubt the horrible ghetto schools in the big cities were cleaned up and fixed under Democratic regimes, and the huge black/white test score differences substantially narrowed. Right?

Damn, that didn't work either. I wonder why not.

Ah, but it's okay. I'm sure Hillary Clinton will govern better than Bush (this isn't a high bar). And probably some of her rhetoric and her party's ideology will even be implemented. If it's convenient, doesn't offend any important interest groups, and doesn't interfere with campaign contributions or getting re-elected.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Albatross sounds like a concern troll. Ignore it.

Yes, the humidity is really nasty this summer in California. Los Angeles is not enjoying it. Even though it's cooled off a bit, it's still sticky outside. We'd like to send the weather back to Miami, or wherever.

They've been asking us to do conservation things this week at work: close the blinds to keep it cooler in the middle of the day, turn off electrical stuff we don't need, and turn up the thermostat on the airconditioning. (All the usual things, and it does help.)

One of my coworkers says that we've broken the planet, and it's going to do this again and again.

#47 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Nooners used to be a speech writer/aide to St. Ronnie. I don't think there's any room for doubt that Our Lady of the Dolphins has been on the take for a very, *very* long time.

Not that most of this area's residents will connect the dots as to why this happened . . . they aren't dumb, they simply don't want to be bothered with such issues. That's why they moved away from where ever they were and came here.

How, exactly, is this different from plain old 'being dumb'--? Willful ignorance is still ignorance, after all. "Dagnabbit, Gracie, I moved to the Keys for peaceful views of the sea, and we keep getting hit by hurricanes! I don't understand it!"

#48 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 09:16 PM:

In my experience, there is more scientific controversy surrounding whether an asteroid really killed off the dinosaurs than there is around global climate change. There's debate over what exactly global climate change will entail, yes, but not over whether the climate is changing. We know global CO2 is going up. [1] We know global temperatures are, too. We're not hypothesizing climate change; we're observing it.

A different trick used to argue the science-is-shifty perspective is that climate change is a natural process, and that we therefore cannot disentangle the natural causes from the anthropogenic causes to tell if humans are really causing it, and if we have a responsibility to fix it. In my opinion this argument is rather like punching someone in the nose and then claiming that it might not be your fault their nose is bleeding; nosebleeds sometimes just happen on their own, right?

(And even if we don't have a "responsibility" to fix it, you'd think we'd want to deal with the situation anyway. It's in our own best interests.)

Our models are getting pretty damn good. But we don't even need to rely on the complicated models the right wing likes to criticize to know that pumping the atmosphere full of CO2 will result in seriously bad things. We have the fossil evidence from the last time greenhouse gas levels jumped -- back during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum, probably due to a release of deep sea methane hydrates. [2] The climate got warm -- so warm there were crocodiles living in Greenland. There are some very nasty storm deposits from that time period. (Unfortunately, most of the stuff out there on the LPTM is pretty technical, but if anyone's looking for something there's a decent intro here.)

#49 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 09:39 PM:

You're right PJ, I'm a troll. How else to explain that I don't think we'll get our civil liberties back when we elect a Democrat in 2008, just as we didn't get a smaller government and federalism when we elected a Republican (well, sort-of elected him, anyway) in 2000? Place a bet on it? How soon after Hillary's innauguration will it be before she proposes repeal of the Patriot act? Or before the NSA turns off the version of Echelon that they've apparently turned on the US?

#50 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 10:00 PM:

I've seen at least a few open acknowledgements of conservative columnists being either explicitly paid (Armstrong Williams was receiving money from the feds to advocate for NCLB, I think) or losing their jobs with right-wing think-tanks based on opposing the Bush administration. I have no idea how widespread this is, but at least in the second case, I can see how it would happen--the think tank has to keep big donors happy, and if you're upsetting them, they have a strong incentive to get rid of you. And I'm guessing that conservative think tanks get a fair number of donations based on unwritten agreements with the administration or the Republican party--you can't give me $100 K for this, but you can sure help me out....

I assume the same happens with liberal commentators, but I haven't seen specific news stories about it.

#51 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 10:22 PM:

Jay, that's exactly the insight I had by reading "What's the Matter With Kansas"?

BTW... the book came out in the UK. It was retitled "What's the Matter with America?"

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 10:39 PM:

G Jules:

My impression from knowing some people who have studied this in depth is that there's no question that we're seeing rising temperatures, and strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that the cause is rising CO2 levels (basically, we see rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and rising temperatures tracking one another, and we have good theory for why this should happen--it's hard to do much better when you can't run any experiments).

I don't think anyone's got a model in which they can have confidence that tells us how much reduction in CO2 output will lead to what change in rate of warming. (Those models exist, but I don't think you'd want to bet a lot on their accuracy.)

The hard part of the global warming problem is deciding on the tradeoff between raising energy costs (probably the only way we really will reduce CO2 output is some kind of tax on carbon-based fuels) and slowing the damage done. I don't know how the heck we can do a good job with that one. It's really not clear how we convince lots of Chinese or Indians to not industrialize (or at least to do so with much more expensive nuclear power) to decrease the damage being done.

The Bush administration (and various conservatives) have been dragging their feet on the easy part of the problem, which is recognizing that this is an issue. Presumably because the real hard part of the problem is going to be no fun at all to deal with.

#53 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 10:57 PM:

You're right PJ, I'm a troll. How else to explain that I don't think we'll get our civil liberties back when we elect a Democrat in 2008,

Other than idiocy, I can't think of a good reason why you'd think Kerry, Gore, or even Hillary could be on par with Bush's disdain for the constitution, lust for power, general ineptitude, and bloodthirsty warmongering.

PJ was being generous. It's possible you're just a simp.

#54 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 11:13 PM:

albatross: is there a reason you mention the Democratic presidency of 1993-2001 without noting that Republicans controlled Congress for 6 of those 8 years?

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 11:26 PM:

I suspect that one of the reasons people vote for the conservatives is that they think the conservatives will put everything back the way they think it used to be.

My mother was smarter than that. She said the 50s were a good time to raise kids, but she didn't want to live in the 50s again.

(This might, however, be a good reason to set up those 'paid avoidance areas' that Brunner had in Shockwave Rider: the people who really think that those earlier times were better can go live in them. Of course, they'll have to give up a few things they're very fond of, like their large-screen TVs, but a little sacrifice is good for the soul, yes?)

#56 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 11:32 PM:

G. Jules, one of the more interesting things I heard about unexpected results of climate change is that poison ivy (and I suspect also its cousins poison oak and poison sumac) grow better with more CO2. Unfortunately, with more CO2, poison ivy also produced more urushiol (the 'poison'), so tangling with it will be itchier.

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 12:58 AM:

Albatross, just in case you're not a troll, I'm going to engage you on only one small issue: your assumption that Senator Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee in 2008 and that she's going to win. I don't think either of those is written in stone... and if it were up to me, she would not be the nominee.

The repeal of the Patriot Act would be up to Congress. Let's see what kind of Congress we get in 2006, and again in 2008.

#58 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:23 AM:

There's also the strawman argument that Democrats think that a 2008 win would instantly make things better.

Do you think we're stupid, Albatross? It is going to take years to undo the damage wrought by this administration. Things are going to be ugly in this country for a long time. But you have to start somewhere, and getting the most arrogant, irresponsible, and egregious pooch-screwers in the history of the country out of office is an obvious first step.

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:41 AM:

One point for the "Democrats are just as bad" types to consider: under even the most corrupt Democratic regimes, things got done. Infrastructure was built, jobs were created, the little guy could actually see some benefits in his day-to-day life. Under the current administration, infrastructure is decaying and jobs are going away; the only people benefiting are the top 1% or so of the wealthiest people in the country.

I think we have the right to expect at least COMPETENCE in a corrupt regime -- and we're not getting it.

#60 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:49 AM:

You could look around and see that I post here and on other weblogs pretty frequently, and work out whether that looks trollish to you. Or you could note that I'm posting reasoned arguments (whether they're right or wrong), not one-line zingers or "god wants all FITBs to die" sort of crap.

I don't know who will be the Democratic nominee. I think the Democrat is going to win in 2008, and it's hard to imagine they will be a worse president than Bush. But I don't think they're going to feel especially bound by the rhetoric they use to get elected. I will be pleasantly shocked when I see a Democratic president give back any of the claimed powers of the executive branch that Bush and company have grabbed. I just don't think people who get to high elected office are wired that way too often.

Do you expect the next Democratic president to push for the repeal of the patriot act? Do you expect them to decide on their own that the NSA shouldn't be doing extensive domestic wiretapping? I don't. I'll be very happy to be proven wrong.

#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 02:07 AM:

Is there some reason that my post was taken by so many people here to be an endorsement of Bush?

Look, we all like to root for our teams. It's fun, it's probably burned into us in some way. But corruption, willingness to ignore campaign promises, greater interest in getting re-elected than in doing anything good for the country--those aren't only Republican vices. I wish they were, because then we could vote the current batch of idiots and criminals out, and we'd have some kind of fundamental change. But we aren't going to have that, are we?

We'll get rid of Bush because he can't run again. I have a hard time imagining a worse president following him, from either party. We'll sweep a bunch of obviously corrupt Republicans who've been in power too long out of congress, and put in Democrats who will eventually (but not immediately) be in the same state. It's not like the game is going to change. It's not like there won't be lobbyists in those Democrats' offices, helping them write the bills that involve their industry.

#62 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 02:16 AM:

...or we might get Al Gore.

#63 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 02:27 AM:

Stefan: I'm puzzled by how you got that particular strawman out of what I wrote.

I'm more amused by the number of people who see speaking badly about the idealism and truthfulness of Democratic politicians (in the context of a much longer discussion of the recent failings of Republicans) as some kind of endorsement of Bush.

"Better than the current incompetent, corrupt regime" isn't the same thing as "good."

#64 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 04:03 AM:

Albatross, we see "there's no difference between them" as an endorsement of Bush because that's how it went in 2000 and 2004. The refusal to make distinctions feeds apathy or self-congratulatory detachment or whatever, and the election passes into the hands of the more motivated. It's possible that the Bush-Cheney machine was already well-enough established that the alternative, a fact-based acknowledgement that Gore was a better candidate than Bush, couldn't have tipped the balance. I'm sure that's true for 2004 - they were set to steal any election outcome. I'm not sure about 2000. But it certainly wouldn't have hurt for more of those who favor the rule of law and the protection of basic liberties to oppose the greater threat.

Here's the thing:

We almost never get to cast a vote for someone who will really, truly, honestly represent our highest aspirations for ourselves, our country, and the world and who has the slightest chance of winning. What we do get to do is help set the vector for power as used by that person and office for the next term. Will it point toward where we want to go, and at what speed will it move in that happy direction? Maybe there's no viable choice that will actually be any good...but will all the viable choices in fact lead to things getting worse at the same rate? It's almost never the case that candidates are genuinely indistinguishable.

The refusal to acknowledge the differences in vector and to support candidates who can arrest the decay and lay the groundwork for improvement later always serves the interests of the worst.

#65 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 04:09 AM:

Follow-up thought:

I'm certainly prepared at this point to say that as an institution, the Democratic Party is simply the junior varsity of the War Party, partly committed to total war and the destruction of the American legacy and partly too scared to oppose for fear of losing the perks that come with being also-rans. The party leadership is almost completely capitulated; many of the most influential elected officials are hopelessly compromised and cowardly.

But there are exceptions, and it's these I think it important to support.

Dean's doing good stuff as chairman. Feingold is taking the stances that ought to be middle-of-the-road. Lamont represents the good side of the moderate Democratic tradition. And so on. I won't give to some of the party organs, but I can and will support candidates doing the right thing and groups backing them in ways that either are delivering good results or seem to me to have promise. The party went bad one candidate and faction at a time; it can improve the same way.

That is, it can improve if people deal with the realities at hand.

#66 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 05:51 AM:

Politics aside, I'm starting to think the greenhouse effect is real -- and this only on the basis on observation. (Photos of shrinking glaciers, relatives abroad complaining on the unusually hot weather etc., reports of staggering industrial pollution in China, etc.)

The problem with mixing science and politics is that people get blinded by party affiliations.

You know how often the message is confused with the messenger: "If OUR party is blamed for ignoring the greenhouse effect, the greenhouse effect has to be lies and spin. If THEIR party talks up the greenhouse effect, the greenhouse effect has to be a political ploy..."

Unaffiliated scientists can (I hope) convince ALL candidates of ALL parties that a problem exists. But you must transcend party loyalty, or you'll just have activists shouting past each other...

Is the industrialized world overly dependent on burning fossil fuels? It's been that way ever since the Industrial Revolution began. Will alternative energy sources replace oil and fossilized coal? I am absolutely convinced this will happen...

...and frankly I don't care which party assumes credit for the near-inevitable.

#67 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 07:40 AM:

albatross: Yup. I used to be one of those people playing with the models (in my case, a very simplified one of the North Atlantic Deep Water), so I know just how difficult they are to work with, and how hard it is to get the right results out of them. (My math skills and interests just aren't in the right place for climate modeling, sadly, so I moved back into geology and environmental science.)

PJ Evans: Yup! Lots of plants grow better with more CO2, actually. It's never been my area of expertise, but I know one of the model predictions is for increased wheat yield in Canada. (Canada gets off pretty well in most models.)

More generally: People (sometimes on purpose, sometimes not) confuse "our models aren't perfect" with "so we don't really know anything's going to happen." We do know things are going to happen; we just don't know what they'll be. For example, a lot of estimates of sea level rise are based on just the thermal warming of the oceans. They don't take the ice caps into account -- because the melting of the ice caps is too hard to model. There's a lot of non-linear effects in there, and we don't know how they work.

It isn't even like "Somehow, use less carbon." is our only avenue. It's a good one, but there are other political changes we need -- political changes that would even be good for us in general, not just as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Real research money for alternative fuels, for one. Research money going into ways to sequester carbon emissions. Right now the "hydrogen economy" is going to produce just as much carbon as our current one, because the hydrogen is going to be produced from -- you got it -- fossil fuels. All it could do is move the source of those emissions.

If we were working on both the hydrogen-powered vehicles and ways of sequestering or stopping carbon emissions -- alternative energy sources, or even coal-burning plants that can somehow sequester their carbon emissions -- it might make sense. As it is now, it's a political sop that was never even intended to do any good. By promising a hydrogen economy, Bush & Co managed to put off the day when people feel the need to do real research into alternative energy and more efficient fuel use.

Hell, even little things like not taxing owners of hybrid cars extra money for paying less in gasoline road taxes could help.

#68 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 07:58 AM:

Ah yes, global warming. Climate change. Call it what you like, our native government over here in .au doesn't want to believe in it either. We have a minister for Energy on a national basis who is doing his level best to block plans for renewable energy systems (particularly wind power), a prime minister who appears to be powered by Dubya and co pulling his strings and writing his speeches, and an overal federal infrastructure which appears to be busy trying to ignore the evidence it's being handed on a regular basis.

Now, over here, we have any number of scientists who aren't going to shut up about things. We've had any number of years of perpetual drought (and just about every state capital in the country is on water restrictions - with the possible exception of Hobart - and has been continually for at least two years). We're starting to see the effects already - our weather is becoming much more extreme. Dorothea McKellar described Australia as a land of "droughts and flooding rains", and we're certainly seeing lots of both. Basically, we get less rain than we used to overall, and when it does arrive, it arrives in large loads, sparsely spaced. End result is that the water level in this country is dropping, slowly but surely.

To paraphrase another Australian: "You'd best start believing in climate change, Mr Howard: you're in one!"

What doesn't help is the current number one solution being mooted for a lot of this: more nuclear power stations. Yup, you heard right. Let's change from coal and gas fired power stations to nuclear, the one form of power which creates toxic waste which will outlast the greenhouse problems. What's even more annoying is that the majority of the Australian population voted for these knuckleheads... *sigh*

Now, given the following points about the current greenhouse problem:

* It has built up slowly, over the course of at least two centuries;
* It wasn't caused by single big actions, but rather by a compounding of multiple small ones;
* The actions taken were often on an individual level;
* The reasons for the actions being taken were often convenience and cost - it was easier and/or cheaper to do things thus rather than so;

surely this should point toward the possibilities of a number of solutions? Ones which accept that things won't get fixed overnight. Things which rely on small actions adding up to big changes; ones which ask for small changes from individuals; and where the changes required make things more convenient, or less expensive. An example I can think of for Australia (which has a high level of individual family home ownership, rather than condominia or apartment blocks) would be something like a subsidy for installing solar panels on the roof of your house to generate some of the household electricity loading. The amount of energy produced could be fed back into the grid, and taken into credit against the amount of energy used.

A similar scheme could be used to encourage the purchase of rainwater tanks (which are already starting to become something of a fashion accessory over here - we may be dumb enough to vote John Howard in for three successive terms, but we ain't stupid) or greywater treatment systems.

Putting more money into creating efficient and effective public transport systems would be another good move - or even just slapping some of the petrol excise into the costs of parking in the city, and thus getting people to *think* about whether they really need to drive their car all the way into town every day. Subsidised public transport fares, kept at below the cost of driving a car each way, would do it, too, now that petrol is getting so expensive (it's getting up near $1.50 per litre here, and people are bitching). Make it cheaper not to own a car than to own one.

There are so many things which could be done. Yes, there would be industry lobbies screaming blue bloody murder - but let's face it, there were industry lobbies screaming blue bloody murder when Henry Ford first made the automobile generally affordable. There were industry lobbies shrieking the house down when the original factories came into being (what else could you call the original Luddites?). It's hardly new. What about the *new* industries which will come into being to replace all of this? At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, nobody could have predicted the automobile. We can't predict what's likely to come out of a new industrial revolution - the knock-on effects are entirely too random. But I think we're starting to see what's coming of the current one, and it's up to us to do something about it.

#69 ::: Bruce ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 08:39 AM:

Here's some more bad news, as if any more were needed: Dying Forest: One Year To Save The Amazon.

Very happy reading.

#70 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 11:02 AM:

We appear to be thoroughly screwed.

Time to build an underground fortress in the Rockies, and load it up with as much ammo, bottled water, and canned goods I can grab. That way, I can preemptively claim the title of Lord Admiral of the Inner American Sea, once everything between Colorado and Kentucky is underwater.

#71 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Peggy Noonan: I don't know why intellectuals... If you talk to a brilliant scholar at a fine university about social policy, chances are he will say with honest perplexity that he cannot understand--really cannot understand--why people would not want men to marry men, or women women...

It's called education, you moron. Tends to be incompatible with parochialism and intolerance.

And nice work assuming the brilliant scholar is male.

#72 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 11:21 AM:

We find out what global climate change/global warming does by surviving it. It isn't going to be fun, and it isn't going to be pretty, and I rather suspect that most of us will be dead before the situation stabilizes (and may have to die, in order for it to stabilize).

There is, however, no reason not to try to fix things before they get any worse. That's what I object to: the assumption of the people running things that nothing should be done, because nothing can be done.

#73 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 11:59 AM:

I agree a lot with A.R. that I'm quite happy to give credit to anyone with useful ideas that can help. In fact, I like having reasons to think well of people, and come back to them with reinforcing praise and appreciation. It makes me glad. So I hope lots of people in every part of the social spectrum give me reason to feel it.

#74 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 12:36 PM:

There are two more reasons why people vote for the thugs.

One is pragmatic. If you vote with the thugs and the nice guys win instead, the nice guys will treat you well regardless, because they're nice. If you vote with the nice guys and the thugs win, you will regret it. Even if the nice guys are smart and good and you like them more, it isn't safe to vote for them unless they are sure to win. Even then, it might not be safe to vote for the nice guys if the thugs could win later, because thugs hold grudges.

The other is moral. The thugs draw clear distinctions between right and wrong. They are eager to use government to promote virtue and punish sin. People vote for the thugs even though it is not in their material self interest, because they are acting selflessly to save the souls of the unborn, and to protect the sanctity of marriage from evil hot gay sex. Meanwhile the nice guys, wanting to please everyone, say they are for the sanctity of marriage and evil hot gay sex, thereby managing to offend everyone.

The thugs are of course aware of these reasons and do everything they can to play them up.

The idea that only the rich and powerful authoritarian elite share the values of the common people, and that the liberals somehow don't, is wrong on its face and insidious. Unless the values we're talking about are racism, sexism, and jingoism. Then it's a fair knock.

#75 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:14 PM:

I'm uncomfortable with the knock against working-class conservatives "voting against their economic self-interest" simply because they -- har! -- share a moral worldview with the right.

Why can't we see that as a reasonable and valid choice? I earn enough money that Republican rule is probably good for my (short-term and narrowly defined) economic self-interest, but I vote Democratic because I share a moral worldview with them. I have no problem voting against my economic self-interest, and I don't begrudge anyone else the right to.

#76 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Highly recommended site that talks about solutions:

They're . . . bright electric cybergreens.

The "Worldchanging" book coming out this fall will have a forward by Al Gore and an introduction by Bruce Sterling and -- buried in back somewhere -- an essay by me on urban transportation alternatives.

* * *

Three things are needed to get the ball rolling on fixing the mess we've gotten into:

* Admit there's a problem.

* On the personal level, stop doing stupid, wasteful things. Not "ride a bicycle to work" or "move to a yurt and live on pine nuts and mushrooms." Just stop doing the egregious, wasteful stuff, like commuting alone to work in a vehicle that my Civic could fit in.

* On the national level, exhibit some frigging leadership for a change! Forget this whiny finger-pointing bullshit that requires that we do nothing unless India and China buy in. Let's have the balls to show them the way to do it right. Raise CAFE standards. Eliminate the small-business tax breaks for S.U.V.s.

#77 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:35 PM:

"A similar scheme could be used to encourage the purchase of rainwater tanks"

I'd make cisterns mandatory in arid areas of the U.S. west.

Developers -- and new home buyers -- are getting too much of a free ride. If they want to live in a desert, they should pay a premium that reflects all of the costs -- civic, infrastructural, and environmental -- of them being out there.

#78 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:36 PM:

To follow up on Meg's points: politically speaking, one problem with addressing global warming issues is that to the average person in the street every suggestion appears to point toward deprivation and inconvenience. Those corporations making money off the status quo are happy to point this up every chance they get. (They want to take away your cars!!) We need some smart, dedicated folks to come up with the green campaign which will frame the issue in the most positive light, and politicians who will fight like hell to implement a green agenda despite corporate opposition. Example: I would love to have solar paneling on my house, but cannot afford to do it even with the federal tax credit. I suspect that many people would be happy to put solar paneling on their roofs, especially when it could be presented as a way to cut utility bills AND make a difference in the great BAGW (Battle Against Global Warming.) A government supported program could make it cheap and convenient to do this and create jobs for solar-panel manufacturers and installers.

#79 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 01:57 PM:

There are two more reasons why people vote for the thugs.

er, uhm, wow. The reason the rest of that doesn't work is because you're trying to explain the point of view of someone else, but using your point of view. People don't vote for people they consider "thugs". Well, maybe some do, but the general rule is that people think their view is right in some way, and vote that way. The people they vote for are people you might consider thugs, but generally speaking, they don't.

If you want to explain the other person's point of view and why they vote the way they vote, you'll need to use their terminology, not yours.

As a simplistic example, some people voted for Reagan because they percieved Carter as weak towards the Iranian hostage takers and they blamed him for the recession and the oil crisis. They viewed Reagan as someone who would be tough to the Iranians and who had an economic idea that would fix the recession.

That's their point of view. That's their line of thinking. If you want to understand it, you have to see it from their poitn of view, not look at it with binoculars from a mile away.

I seem to recall around the time Carter lost the election seeing a T-Shirt showing a heavily muscled US military person with rifle and all the trimmings, holding a stereotypical shifty Arab by the throat. The bottom of the shirt said: "How much for oil, now?" The point of view seems to be that the high oil prices set by the Middle East caused the American recession, therefore they were to blame for our troubles, to the point that it justified using force to take their oil. Or, more simply, the shirt appealed to the simple idea of "Strength wins". Never mind that it translates into "might makes right".

Wish I could find a copy of that t-shirt image, if just to point to the kind of thinking going on.

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 03:00 PM:

And jsut to make things more interesting for the folks who can't afford air conditioning already, from

Republican leaders are willing to allow the first minimum wage increase in a decade but only if it's coupled with a cut in future inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, congressional aides said Friday.

So the folks at the bottom get a raise (probably small), but only if the folks at the top get one that they don't need.

#81 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 05:26 PM:

I'd make cisterns mandatory in arid areas of the U.S. west.

Might or might not be a good idea but notice that in much of the intermountain west of the U.S. of A the rainwater doesn't belong to the landowner. In the absence of a water right to the rainwater - and I can't think of an example, I suspect this was mostly ignored in the days before water rights were more than 100% allocated - stopping rainwater short of replenishing the aquafer is quite against the law e.g. in Colorado say.

There are guzzlers where water is accumulated for animals and of course quite extensive storage and drip irrigation for marijuana farming on government lands.

Falling water tables around the world - see e.g. Bangladesh - coupled with salt water intrusion associated with rising sea levels should give us all the traditional doom of water empires.

Obs SF The Luckiest Man in Denv.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 06:03 PM:

On the other hand, in cities and towns, where the rainwater might end up in a stormdrain that dumps it into the ocean or the nearest river, cisterns are probably a worthwhile idea. Even if you don't use it, you might have it set up to percolate into the ground.

#83 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Albatross, I know you didn't show up here for the first time to troll this discussion, but you aren't going to get far with the argument that there's no significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Stefan, I can't begin to convey how strongly I favor making Southwestern developers pay more of the infrastructural costs of their projects. The Southwest has historically talked a good conservative/libertarian game, but the place runs on water welfare funded by the federal government.

That said, cisterns and standing rainwater tanks are a dubious idea. There isn't enough rainfall to make small-scale household cisterns work. If you really want to save water, start by getting rid of all the water porn: purely ostentatious decorative water features like the Fountain Hills lake and fountain, the artificial lakes system at The Lakes, and suchlike insanities.

After that, mandate xeriscaping. A huge amount of water gets used to fetishistically maintain scratchy, unused patches of lawn that are as alien to the climate as lobster pots. If Midwesterners find that life without lawns is unsupportable and decide to go back where they came from -- well, good!

I'd give a grandfather-clause exemption to any dished and irrigated yard that has big shade trees.

Next, I'd tax the hell out of backyard pools, and use the revenue to aggressively build large pleasant public pools in every neighborhood that's big enough to warrant having one at all.

Then I'd introduce a sliding scale for agricultural water costs. If you wanted to raise water-intensive crops like alfalfa, you'd have to pay the real cost per acre-foot of the water you used.

If people want to live in the desert, let them damned well act like they're living in a desert.

While I was doing all that, I'd sneak through a rider abolishing the ban on using adobe for domestic construction. And another rider that severely limited the size of real-estate parcels the state could sell to developers. And another rider that gave tax advantages to development that infills rather than leapfrogs.

And finally, as long as I'm fantasizing: I'd impose school-support property taxes on the residents of Sun City equal to the rates currently being assessed in the communities the homeowners moved away from.

#84 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 08:21 PM:

I'm a little surprised nobody has pointed this out yet, but...

Rand heroes and Rand villains are annoying in different ways. You can tell that Noonan is a Rand villain because she's explicitly anti-reason.

#85 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 09:15 PM:

Lizzy L. -- I would love to have solar paneling on my house, but cannot afford to do it.

We used to have a solar-powered water tank, but the tank rusted out and we found out that a new one would be far more than we could afford. Just a few years ago, during the Clinton administration (which is starting to seem like a far-off Golden Age), we would have gotten a tax credit and been able to buy one. We learned all this from our plumber, who told us that pretty much no one buys solar heaters anymore.

"Water porn:" -- Nice phrase (especially to someone who grew up in Los Angeles).

#86 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 09:30 PM:

I'd sneak through a rider abolishing the ban on using adobe for domestic construction.

It's illegal to build an abode house? Why?

#87 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 09:35 PM:

If you want to explain the other person's point of view and why they vote the way they vote, you'll need to use their terminology, not yours.

Hi Greg. The terminology you quote is very much what I remember hearing from the time. I just think that what people say doesn't always have a strong relationship to why they do things. We have a strong inclination to explain our positions in ways that come across as more dignified.

What got me started thinking this way was reading how Athen's defeat by Sparta set back the cause of democracy by several centuries. When Athens fell, the other Greek democracies could see the writing on the wall, and elected kings. Here and now the contrast is not quite so stark, but I think the issues are the same. Would you rather be free, or safe? That's a tough choice. To some extent, all of us need safety and all of us give up a little freedom for it.

I could have expressed it better, but I meant to be respectful of voters who keep electing thugs. I utterly disagree with their choices, but it's not because they're all stupid. Many of them could simply be making rational decisions based on criteria that we don't talk about.

#88 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 09:53 PM:

Acctually, I think the city of LA is going to be fixing some of the flooding in one area by building underground percolation tanks (or that's how I understood it to work: I could easily be wrong).

I didn't know it was illegal to build with adobe. It may be a state-by-state thing: I think CA figures if it's reinforced and has a real foundation, you can use just about any material. (If haybales are legal, adobe should be possible; again, I could easily be wrong, because I haven't dug through the building code yet.)

Yeah, do something about all the green golf courses in the desert. They don't need to be all grass. I went by one yesterday, just east of the 210 in Big Tujunga wash, where the rough appeared to be boulder-lined runoff channels. The channels are necessity - there's a lot of water in that wash when it rains - and would appear to be at least as effective at hiding little white golf balls as the usual grasses and stuff.

#89 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 10:21 PM:

When Athens fell, the other Greek democracies could see the writing on the wall, and elected kings. Here and now the contrast is not quite so stark, but I think the issues are the same. Would you rather be free, or safe?

I would dispute that Kings are naturally more powerful than Presidents, or that Monarchies are naturally stronger than Democracies. I'll admit that centralization of power allows that power to be exercised with fewer hindrances, such as an annoying populace who'd rather have peace and get on with life. And I'll admit that there is a simple seduction to the siren call that untethered centralized power is stronger than democratic authority. But the thing is, and this is the sh*t, democratic strength is better than tyrannical strength.

People are generally seduced by the idea of untethered-strength-equal-safety, but that illusion can only be maintained in the short term. In the long term, untethered power corrupts, and generally inflicts a cruelty on both sides that creates more enemies and harms those who thought they would be safer.

The problem is getting people to see the longer view. And everyone, all flavors of politics included, can be notoriously short sighted.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 10:32 PM:

And having read the item at Digby's blog on this morning's press conference with Shrub and Blair, quoting two of the questions and Shrub's (rather inane) answers, I was wondering:
Are the only beneficiaries of this administration's policies in the Middle East the Israelis and groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda? Or, who exactly is running that show, and do Rove, Cheney, etc, realize that we're not gaining anything from it?

#91 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2006, 11:19 PM:

Some would say that tyrannical strength is greater than democratic strength, because in times of crisis democracies resort to dictators. I think that only proves a democracy is stronger. When the crisis is passed, citizens can depose their dictators (or pass a constitutional amendment limiting the terms their elected leaders can serve). When a tyranny is in crisis the best they can do is switch tyrants.

Getting people to see the longer view is difficult, especially given that in the longer view, democracies are short-lived experiments. I hope our current one is the exception, but if I recall correctly, we haven't even outlasted the Roman Republic yet.

#92 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 12:07 AM:

Some would say that tyrannical strength is greater than democratic strength, because in times of crisis democracies resort to dictators.

They don't always. The British, for example, changed PMs through democratic means during both World Wars.

#93 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 12:25 AM:

I agree that it's critically important to understand how others think. But it's just as important to return from that to my own judgment, to deciding what I think of the moral worth of what they're doing, and (when I find it "not much") figure out what to do about it.

One key to telling whether I'm out to persuade or interpret is person: I say "you" to people I want to persuade, "they" about people I'm interpreting.

#94 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 12:48 AM:

"The Southwest has historically talked a good conservative/libertarian game, but the place runs on water welfare funded by the federal government."

When you're powerful, "welfare" is spelled "God-given right."

RE cisterns, I wouldn't expect them to be good for anything like a year-round supply. More of an emergency buffer for dry seasons. Reducing the amount of what has to be pumped or channeled from far away even a bit is a win.

#95 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 12:50 AM:

I'm ignoring the political aspects of this...sort of. But there's something else lying in the weeds here, something quite fascinating, that some folks may not be noticing. If you'll indulge me a bit, I'll try to show you what I mean.

People think math is real. No, really. They do. And it causes interesting problems.

The thing about numbers is that we made them up. They're abstractions, and we make that distinction for good reason. Operations we also made up, and perform upon numbers, make these abstractions sort of interesting. But in real life, 1+1 rarely equals 2 in any meaningful sense. When I want to sit in a chair, one may be better than another, and two are never twice as comfortable. Even if there are two people involved, they and the chairs are unequal, and there's always a question of who gets which and...anyway, real life is always more complicated than the most obscure mathematics.

Never mind chaos theory and complexity for the moment. They almost lead somewhere useful, but are really more distracting (as far as this particular argument is concerned) than anything else.

So. Science is about building models that have predictive value. Generally (but not always) that involves math, and sometimes computers. Models that can be expressed mathematically, and lend themselves to straightforward computation, and are worked out (or even just played with) on a computer are often called "computer models" for some reason that I know I should understand but seems somehow murky to me when I try to pin it down.

Anyway. It's all very sexy, but these models still need to predict some real-world result with some measurable degree of reliability to be useful. Nothing changes because fancy toys came into play.

Have you ever noticed that predictions of next week's weather are often less than accurate? How about next month's? Ever hear of or see anything that struck you as reliable? Even fifty-percent reliable predictions, with actual tests?

Me either. Nor can I see why "climate" is any easier. We don't have a good track record there either.

So how can anyone talk about global warming as a trend _that will be carried into the future_ seriously? Sure, it could happen. Some people will tell you it has; others will say otherwise. Never mind all that for now. I could discuss coin-tossing and how a long string of "heads" doesn't make "tails" more or less likely on the next toss, but I think most of us can grasp the concept by reference rather than cudgel. You need more information to make predictions, like maybe your buddy has been using a double-headed nickel & is about to switch to one with two tails. Then you have a useful model.

Anyway. You know what the hidden-in-plain-sight secret is here? We don't actually _have_ a model of the Earth's weather that works. If we did, we'd be making accurate predictions all the time. We're not.

So the "global warming" thing is based on some "computer modeling." Neat, I guess. And "climate change" is neat in another very irritating way, because it's inevitable in _every_ location (look at the history of our, prehistory too). So it's hard to argue that it won't happen, and easy to get lost in semantic sludge.

But we simply can't predict what will happen weatherwise, with or without human "intervention," much less state with any sort of logical certainty that any particular change will be globally "good" or "bad."

Sorry. I know there's a lot of feeling out there on this issue. But all that feeling doesn't fuel accuracy or, well, utility. It ain't science if it don't predict.

Please believe me when I say that I find this blog to be extremely interesting and informative in many areas. I check it several times a week. I am _not_ engaged in emotional argument or whomever-bashing. It's just that there's a strangely popular lack of logical rigor surrounding this issue, and I sometimes wonder about it.

My $.02 only, and I suppose YMMV.

#96 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 04:20 AM:


Wow, I haven't heard posturing like that since I moved out of the college dorms. I'm afraid all you're illuminating is your own ignorance of math, of science, and in particular of meteorology and climatology. Perhaps it has escaped you that determining the relationship between mathematical models and reality - via prediction, experimentation, and confirmation or disproof - is precisely what science is all about?

In the '70s, when I was growing up, weather predictions were pretty laughable. However, if you actually pay attention to what's going on in the present decade, you may notice that they're not any more. Near-term - as in next few days - the weather service predictions are right about 9 times out of 10. They have gotten very good at predicting storm tracks with a range of probabilities mapped to endpoints; consider the "cone" predictions you'll get during hurricane season for instance. That's local weather, the specifics, and hence at the low end of the accuracy spectrum.

Climatology is another matter altogether. Events that are hard to predict in detail are a different story in aggregate. To take your coin flip analogy, the results of 100 coin flips will not tell you the results of the next flip, but a little statistical analysis will tell you the most likely distribution of the coming 100 flips with a mathematically predictable degree of certainty.

Now your claim that "we don't actually have a model of the Earth's weather that works" is I guess true, kind of, but only if you mean simultaneously predicting the weather in every precise location on the Earth's surface. If you are claiming that there's no model which predicts in a general way what the overall climate will be like depending on various input variables, that's not just bull, that's a sign of aggressive ignorance. Ten minutes Googling on some terms like "consensus climate model" will inform you, should you wish to actually be informed. As I have pointed out from time to time, the basic atmospheric model of CO2 effects on global warming is over 100 years old (Google "Arrhenius") and the last few decades have tested it rather thoroughly.

So - we know it's going to get hotter, and we know that it will get hotter at an increased rate the more CO2 is in the atmosphere. The specifics of what will happen in specific places - sure, we don't know that. I think it would be foolish to think we must know in detail the consequences of all the changes in every specific place before we can form a judgement.

#97 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 05:39 AM:

After that, mandate xeriscaping. A huge amount of water gets used to fetishistically maintain scratchy, unused patches of lawn that are as alien to the climate as lobster pots. If Midwesterners find that life without lawns is unsupportable and decide to go back where they came from -- well, good!

I'm busy de-lawning my house (in New England) and I get, hmm, not flak exactly, but skepticism, even from otherwise informed people, as to why exactly I think a lawn is a bad thing. I also get plenty of unwanted advice about how with the proper use of pesticides and such I could have a beautiful lawn. I don't want a beautiful lawn; I want beautiful ground cover. I'm about 1/4 of the way there; digging up grass is tough.

Ned Lamont's campaign came by and planted two large, beautiful political signs on my lawn yesterday afternoon. I like how they go with the shrubbery.

#98 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 07:36 AM:

I'd extend the mandatory xeriscaping to all places where unwatered grass turns brown in summer. I'd also require nighttime watering via drip hose, instead of noontime sprinklers.

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 08:54 AM:

Oh yeah, another thing: restrict water use. LA has water use restrictions, but they're ignored except when it gets really bad, and they shouldn't be.
If you have to water it every day, maybe you shouldn't have planted it.
Water early in the morning, or at night, as much as you can (and if it's watered enough at a time, it won't need it as often).
Automatic sprinkler systems should have moisture-sensors, to keep them from turning on if the soil is wet.
Use a rake or a broom instead of a hose for removing leaves.
Keep sprinklers from watering the walkways, because pavement doesn't grow. (And if there's a sprinkler head that needs replacing, replace it.)

#100 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 09:22 AM:

Some would say that tyrannical strength is greater than democratic strength, because in times of crisis democracies resort to dictators.

They don't always. The British, for example, changed PMs through democratic means during both World Wars.

Not quite. The replacement of Asquith by Lloyd George and of Chamberlain by Churchill was not the result of an election but of manoeuvres within parliament. The process was certainly carried out by constitutional means, but those means were not specifically democratic (even if we call Britain during the First World War a democracy, a position which would not have been held by, say, Christabel Pankhurst).

#101 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 10:14 AM:

We need some smart, dedicated folks to come up with the green campaign which will frame the issue in the most positive light, and politicians who will fight like hell to implement a green agenda despite corporate opposition.

Lizzy L, there was an essay at Grist last year that discussed a similar idea.

And while I'm reaching way back into the past, RealClimate thwapped Michael Crichton for making the weather-vs.-climate mistake some time ago.

#102 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 10:21 AM:

I like how they go with the shrubbery.

We shall say Ni! again to you if you do not appease us.

#103 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Greg: So the framing for this issue is a nice little path running down the middle?


#104 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Have you ever noticed that predictions of next week's weather are often less than accurate? How about next month's? Ever hear of or see anything that struck you as reliable? Even fifty-percent reliable predictions, with actual tests?

According to this, next-day forecasts of British weather were, circa 2004, accurate 6 times out of 7. Which is a heck of a lot better than fifty percent.

Me either. Nor can I see why "climate" is any easier. We don't have a good track record there either.

So if I offer a prediction that six months from now (far beyond the horizon of accurate daily weather forecasts), average conditions in Northern Hemisphere locations will be considerably colder than the current weather, you'd consider me a lunatic, right? I mean, if we can't predict the weather accurately more than a week in advance, general statements about the climate over periods of six months are clearly impossible.

As Electric Landlady pointed out, this is the (tired, old) "weather vs climate" confusion. Climate is not weather extended for a hundred years, and is not subject to the same uncertanties. See here.

#105 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 01:23 PM:

I boggle at the "Let's keep doing what we're doing because we're not sure that pouring greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere is going to have bad consequences" crowd.

Neither am I sure that leaving my door unlocked will result in my being robbed; or that I shouldn't drink the milk I left out on the counter for an undetermined amount of time; or that I should wear a helmet when I ride my bike. 999 times out of 1000, after all, I ride my bike and don't suffer severe head trauma. But the possibility of severe head trauma is bad enough that, well, why not err on the safe side?

Even if global warming were a total fiction, would it really be such a bad thing to consume a little less energy?

#106 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 01:41 PM:

David sez: My $.02 only, and I suppose YMMV.

If we keep going the way David says we should go, my mileage (and yours, too) won't vary at all -- we'll all be walking because no one built good, fuel-efficient transportation.

#107 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 03:38 PM:

I thought a little humor might help. But I guess it didn't, or at least not much.

No, local weather forecasts aren't right 9 times in 10. I live on my boat. Believe me, I'd notice useful forecasts. Though at least tides can be correctly predicted. I guess that's something. Seems to me that anyone who was making successful predictions, even locally, would actually advertise that fact, and publish the percentage. I've never seen that. Interesting, huh?

Nor is a belief that you "know" what will happen a defense for a model's failed predictions. Nor is consensus relevant.

At the very least, before we get excited about predictions, someone should be able to correctly predict rainfall, using other-than-statistical methods, over some specified area and some specified time. Any area, any time scale. Or wind speeds. Or, well, temperature. And you know what? It doesn't happen.

Good thing it's only republicans who have an "us or them" approach. Did you guys notice that not one of you responded substantively to albatross a while back? Ad hominem attacks are fun, though.

Guess I'm done. I'll go back to reading the interesting bits & skipping the political muck. And no, I'm not affiliated with, or even interested in, a political party. They all strike me as morally bankrupt.


#108 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 03:45 PM:

When Athens fell, the other Greek democracies could see the writing on the wall, and elected kings.

Um, not so much.
For more than one reason, too! (The Classical Studies Geek uncoils from her lair--be afraid!)
TomB, to the ancient Greeks of that period, a king was a somewhat different creature that we tend to think of--your post suggests something along the lines of Louis XIV in a chlamys.
First of all, most of the Greeks would have seen a king as someone who was from, traditionally, a specific kinship group; they weren't elected or appointed to the job, unless there was a large pool of viable candidates, in which case a suitable selection was made by the Responsible Authorities (as in Sparta) or by winner-take-all-methods (as in Macedonia and Epirus, who were only sort of Greek, really). In addition, by the era of the Peloponesian war, there were very few kings left in Greece; they'd been replaced by tyrranies, oligarchies, and sort-of democracies. The remaining kings, such as those of Sparta (but excepting Macedonia and Epirus--see the not totally Greek note above), had pretty limited fucntions, many of which were religious--when the Athenians moved into the Daring Modern Age of what they called democracy, they made sure they had a public office, called the Archon Basileus, who took over responsibility for those religious functions, because it would have been too risky to let them lapse--the gods would have done something about the failure to observe the proper rites in the proper season.

The Spartans did install either tyrannies (one-man rule, preferably through puppets, AKA Men We Can Count On) or Oligarchies (AKA A Group of Men We Can Count On) everywhere they could after they smacked the Athenians down*; they did it for the same reason we've had such an effection for the Despotes Dependabiles**--it's easier to make sure a single Man In Charge behaves the way we want, than to get along with a democracy, where people get ideas of their own, which may not be ideas we find convenient.

*The Athenians called their oligarchs the Thirty Tyrants, just to show how they felt about the whole thing; once the Spartans had gone back home to enjoy clean living uncorrupted by dangerous modern notions, they killed them, and then went after Socrates, because several of the Thirty had been friends of his, and he was suspected of giving them Dangerous Notions about how Democracy is Bad, because people of no particular family merit or wealth who aren't under the thumb of the upper classes will get dangerous ideas about their right to run things. YMMV as to whether he was guilty of this, but it's worth noting that The Republic does not describe a democracy, and that Plato was related to more than one of the Thirty.

**Yes, that was two dead languages at once. With poor choice of declension on the second word, too. I'm rusty on the languages.

#109 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 04:42 PM:

Fidelio & TomB: It should be noted that tyranny to an ancient Greek was not what we modern geeks would call tyranny. Tyrants, unlike kings and oligarchs, often courted popular support -- mainly, as far as I recall, by cancelling debt. They were hated both by democrats and oligarchs because they did not see themselves as subject to traditional laws. But many of them were very popular. The Thirty at Athens not so much, certainly. Nabis of Sparta, who rather annoyed Polybius, though was another matter.

#110 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 06:09 PM:

fidelio -- Yes you're right, of course. I was using king as shorthand for oligarch. I think the outcome was just as grim regardless.

Fragano -- The ancient Greeks seem to have been more precise in their terms, perhaps because they didn't have the benefit of centuries of obfuscation and propaganda as we do. Thank you for bringing up the popularity of tyrants. There are some interesting similarities with a leader who is recklessly cutting taxes and does not see himself as subject to traditional laws.

#111 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 08:03 PM:

No, local weather forecasts aren't right 9 times in 10. I live on my boat. Believe me, I'd notice useful forecasts. Though at least tides can be correctly predicted. I guess that's something. Seems to me that anyone who was making successful predictions, even locally, would actually advertise that fact, and publish the percentage. I've never seen that. Interesting, huh?

It's, um, "interesting" in that you apparently haven't bothered to find out if anyone actually does this. You need to move beyond the "if I haven't noticed it recently, it must not exist" mindset, though.

About half an hour with Google gives me the following, for starters:

Accuracies of UK weather forecasts (temperature, rainfall, gale warnings for shipping, etc.)

Commercial web site comparing weather prediction accuracy, from different services, for individual cities/zip codes in the US.

Press releases boasting about accuracy of CustomWeather forecasts.

Page promoting the forecast accuracy of Weather 2000 meteorology consulting firm.

Detailed discussions of technical approaches and methods for testing the accuracy of weather forecasts. (And a link to an upcoming scientific conference on the subject.)

et cetera.

(Oh, and tides are actually irrelevant. They're gravitational phenomena unrelated to weather or climate.)

#112 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 08:38 PM:

Not quite. The replacement of Asquith by Lloyd George and of Chamberlain by Churchill was not the result of an election but of manoeuvres within parliament.

The process was as democratic as the creation of any other PM. Certainly, it wasn't by direct vote of the British people, but it was by the same method as every other British government was created.

There would be no disputing the legitimacy (and democratic cred) of a PM held up by those same Parliamentary manoeuvres.

(even if we call Britain during the First World War a democracy, a position which would not have been held by, say, Christabel Pankhurst).

I agree that I wouldn't call WWI Britain democratic by today's standards. But I don't think Tom, in comparing American democracy and the Roman Republic, was being as strict as you or I would be in defining democracy.

#113 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 09:10 PM:

TomB: I can't imagine who in or out of Texas you might be thinking of.

#114 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 09:14 PM:

Keir: Parliamentary manoeuvring isn't necessarily democratic. I don't doubt the legitimacy or democratic credibility of Lloyd George or Churchill. Their democratic mandates, however, came long before they became prime ministers and the choice of their leadership was not put before the people (indeed, when given the chance, the people rejected it -- after the wars). You're confusing constitutional government and procedures with democracy. They're not quite the same thing.

#115 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 09:52 PM:

Something else to add is mandatory greywater irrigation. That way, all the water your household uses and discards, except from the toilet, goes out to the landscape.

#116 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2006, 10:39 PM:

Caltrans uses recycled water on their landscaping. The plumbing is lavender (or light purple) in color. (Seen it being installed alongside freeways.)

#117 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 06:50 AM:

The danger is that you can end up defining "democracy" so narrowly that it exists nowhere in the world, apart from a few New England towns that still hold town meetings.

Less pedantically, I think Keir's point is still valid: TomB's statement ("Some would say that tyrannical strength is greater than democratic strength, because in times of crisis democracies resort to dictators.") isn't always true. The British parliamentary democracy[*] wasn't replaced by a dictatorship during either of the two World Wars.

Other examples: the US during the Civil War; France during World War 1; Canada, the US, and Australia during World War 2, etc.

[*] You can certainly argue that the UK of 1910--1918 wasn't very democratic by today's standards, because women were excluded from voting (though Christabel Pankhurst apparently advocated extending the vote only to women with money and property)... but it was more democratic than, say, ancient Athens.

#118 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 10:11 AM:

David: Did you guys notice that not one of you responded substantively to albatross a while back?

If that's your read, it's not surprising you think weather isn't predictable; you're not very good at looking at facts. Several of us engaged with the substance of albatross's arguments rather than the person; e.g., I asked why he claimed Clinton was trivially different from Bush based on what happened in their presidencies, while ignoring the fact that they both had a reactionary Congress. Note also that your claim about the weather would be irrelevant even if true (and not biased by where you live -- some microclimates are just too volatile to predict); weather (at its worst) is how a particular flip of an honest coin will come down, where climate is the run of flips. cf everything from "why insurance companies make money" to why Hari Seldon specifically disclaimed any ability to calculate the behaviors of small numbers of people.

#119 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 12:05 PM:

I earn enough money that Republican rule is probably good for my (short-term and narrowly defined) economic self-interest.

<rhetorical>Just how much do you make/foresee?</rhetorical>. The heirs of the massively rich win later only, due to cuts in estate taxes; the people earning tons of money right now win because they got disproportionate tax cuts. (e.g. income 39.6% -> 36% and then more, vs 27(?)%->25%, and let's not talk about capital gains.) Everyone else loses because the tax cuts on {,high-}normal incomes are offset by the living costs escalated by Shrub's policies. Nobody blames the Shrubbery for gas prices, or interest rates, but both are consequences; gas obviously, interest because his deficit spending ("Pay for tax cuts? Pay?!?") is overheating the economy that the Fed is trying to get under control (~17 straight meetings with rate increases.) The idea that the upper-middle class wins under the Shrub, even short-term, is another of the lying memes that the Shrubbery (and its predecessors) has managed to foist on people who in theory have enough education to see through them.

#120 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 04:49 PM:

Peter Erwin: I define democracy as involving all adult citizens having a vote. Citizenship being predicated on birth or naturalisation, not gender, race, or income. That's not defining it out of existence.

#121 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Actually, I'd say that definition is both too broad and too narrow. Too narrow because I have the intuitive (if perhaps naive) idea that the US is a democracy, and in the US it is not the case that all adult citizens have a vote. Too broad because it overlooks the question of what happens after the votes get cast. How do the votes affect the composition and makeup of the government? Is the voting just the first step in some indirect process, so that influence from other sources is at least as important as the will of the electorate? Does the body that gets selected by voting have any power, or is the power held by some other group?

I've been thinking about those questions recently for the obvious reasons: trying to figure out whether it makes sense to say that Iraq in 2006 has a democratic government, and trying to figure out whether it makes sense to say that Iran in 2006 has a democratic government. If you define democracy by the existence of elections, then in both cases the answer is yes. To my mind that shows that something in that definision has gone wrong.

I don't have a very precise definition of democracy, but a crude minimum standard might be: the institutions that wield power in the society won't act in a way that grossly violates the will of the public at large.

#122 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 07:26 PM:

greywater irrigation: hm, never heard of that one. soap and shampoo and conditioner all work fine on the lawn?

I remember seeing something on TV like 20 years ago about waterless toilet. you just had to turn a crank in the basement once a day and you ended up with soemthing that looked and smelled like potting soil. (or so the TV man told me, so it must be true.) I'm surprised that never got developed into some sort of zero maintenence (auto/electric churn?), zero water, toilet.

Then again, wasnt there a recent thread or particle about some city installing waterless urinals and the plumbers union fought it?

#123 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 07:40 PM:

Greg: waterless toilet

I've seen ads (recently, in a horse magazine) for the 'Incinolet' which incinerates the waste and leaves (probably sterile) ash.

#124 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 07:50 PM:

Matt Austern: Any definition of democracy can only be procedural -- i.e., a state that follows procedures X, Y, and Z is a democracy. I can't go by an intuitive approach -- I get paid to explain what politics is -- so I have to have a definition that covers parliamentary, presidential, semi-presidential and direct democracies. If my definition excludes the United States (and I would make an exception for mental competence, that I didn't do and I apologise), then the United States (a country where in some states loss of the vote for life is a consequence for criminal conviction) is not a democracy (especially when that exclusion was part of a set of laws in a number of states designed to exclude blacks from voting).

Some scholars follow Robert Dahl and avoid the word entirely, preferring 'polyarchy'.

#125 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2006, 07:51 PM:

Matt Austern: Sorry. Take as given that the vote is effective -- that it is the means by which either policies are decided or the persons who decide on policy are chosen.

#126 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2006, 07:06 AM:

Fragano: OK, I see what you're arguing for, though from my point of view it's too narrow in that it seems to exclude all sorts of historical "democracies"; by your definition, there were essentially no democracies prior to the 1920s (except maybe New Zealand and Australia, though I don't know how much access Maoris and Aborigines had to the vote in the late 19th Century).

Is there a term you'd use for the general political systems of countries like the US, France (Third Republic and later), the UK, etc., in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries?

Matt Austen: the mere existence of "elections" can't count as democracy unless the elections are meaningful in some sense; remember that the Soviet Union and numerous dictatorships have had rigged elections (you know, where the Glorious Leader is re-elected with 99.8% of the vote). Iran is a partial case; my impression is that the actual elections are more or less "free", but the candidates are heavily restricted and filtered by the clerics.

#127 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2006, 07:22 AM:

Peter Erwin: By my definition there were no democracies except New Zealand (where the vote was extended on an equal basis regardless of sex or race in 1893) before the 1920s. Australia didn't get around to acknowledging the Aborigenes as citizens until 1967. The United States doesn't count as a democracy until after 1965.

#128 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2006, 07:25 AM:

Peter Erwin: Oops. Missed that question.

I'd call those countries semi-democratic (or liberal states with limited franchises). I really want to reserve the term 'democracy' only to universal adult suffrage with an effective vote.

#129 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2006, 08:04 AM:

P.S. to Matt Austern -- sorry about misspelling your name in my previous post!

#130 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Greg and PJ Evans:

Also composting toilet. I have seen and used one, at a summer cottage belonging to friends (on a tiny and rocky island where you really don't want to be generating more waste water than you can help). It seems to work very well, although obviously my experience is limited. Our former Governor-General apparently swears by hers.

#131 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Greg, regarding greywater irrigation --

While most would recommend using biodegradable soaps/conditioners and detergents with a greywater system, you can use the standard ones too.

Most garden sprays (insecticides and fungicides) contain some soap, it helps the chemicals stay on the plants.

#132 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2006, 08:09 PM:

Greg, most greywater systems have a tank where the non-water stuff is precipitated out. But if you use bio-degradable stuff in the house, it's not needed. As to composting toilets, I've used one, too. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation built a new office/educational building and put composting toilets in.

#133 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2006, 11:37 AM:

Composting toilets show up in some of the local rural parks around here. And one of the parks has the incinerating kind. The locations I know of are all located over sensitive aquifer in areas where a sewer connection would be, to say the least, impractical.

#134 ::: gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Hi. Since the conversation moved to solutions to global warming let me point to a site I've put up for my book "Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming" It specifically compiles things we know how to do now that can completely replace fossil fuels - without spending more than fossil fuels cost or reducing world GDP. There is a chapter by chapter summary on the site, and some excerpts as well. Also some short blurbs by prominent experts that may help reassure you that the information is good.

#135 ::: hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2006, 11:04 PM:

Albatross said: probably the only way we really will reduce CO2 output is some kind of tax on carbon-based fuels

I don't think that's the only way. I don't think it's even close to being the best way. I think the BEST way to reduce CO2 output is to develop economical alternate power sources and put the infrastructure in place to use them ASAP. There has to be some kind of economical advantage to reducing our use of fossil fuels and switching to alternate fuels before people will do it on a large scale.

#136 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2006, 11:20 PM:

hamadryad --

There are, but the risks of being the first to switch (and maybe getting it wrong) outweigh them.

The advantage to taxing emissions is that it doesn't attempt to proscribe what the alternative tech is, it just insists that there's going to be some, by changing the degree of risk involved in not switching.

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